Despite love’s pervasiveness in literature and its presence in many of our lives, widespread disagreement about its nature persists. In fact, there’s a dizzying array of plausible views on this matter that can be found in the philosophical literature and everyday life. According to many of these views, for example, love is an attitude or a collection of attitudes. One such attitudinal view is the purely affective view that construes love as a mere feeling of affection toward the beloved. There are also conative views, which construe love as a set of desires that we have toward the beloved (Green 1997: 209, 216; Nozick 1989: 70; Reis & Aron 2008: 80), as well as cognitive ones, which instead construe love as an appreciation or an awareness of the beloved’s value (Ehman 1976: 99; Velleman 1999: 360, 362), or primarily as a way of seeing the beloved (Jollimore 2011: 4, 30). Other views seem to construe love as a collection of affective, conative, and cognitive attitudes (Soble 1990: 149; Helm 2010: 152).1
By contrast, some laypeople construe love as a behavioral phenomenon: love is something that lovers do, or rather some set of behaviors or actions that they perform. Similarly, Harry Frankfurt famously maintains that love is primarily a volitional phenomenon, or a “configuration of the will” in his memorable words (2004: 55, 87). It has less to do with believing, feeling, or mere desiring than with having a practical, disinterested concern for the beloved’s welfare, where this consists in having a certain set of volitional dispositions and constraints geared toward the promotion of the beloved’s welfare (Frankfurt 2001: 5, 8; 2004: 42–43, 79, 87).2 Other accounts construe love as a kind of attachment (Abramson & Leite 2011: 677; Harcourt 2017: 43; Wonderly 2017: 235, 243), where attachment, as I shall understand it, minimally consists in affective dispositions to experience feelings of security or comfort when in sufficient proximity to the beloved, as well as feelings of distress due to extended separation from the beloved or to the mere prospect thereof.3 Still other accounts construe love as a disposition (Naar 2013: 344, 352) or as a collection of dispositions (Franklin-Hall & Jaworska 2017: 22–23; Smuts 2104a: 511), while others construe it instead as a complex of different attitudes and dispositions (Hurka 2017: 163–164) or as a state of valuing both the beloved and a personal relationship shared with them that’s constituted by a complex set of attitudes and dispositions (Kolodny 2003: 150–153).
Rather than delivering a clear answer to the question of love’s nature, then, all of these plausible views lead to confusion on this matter. Nevertheless, they offer some direction here by suggesting that love is an enormously complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon—one that’s attitudinal, dispositional, affective, conative, cognitive, volitional, and behavioral. Accordingly, we should regard this fact about love’s multi-dimensionality as something that theories of love must capture. Another theoretical constraint here, however, is that of extensional adequacy: theories of love must do a good job of capturing cases of genuine love. A third and final one is what I shall call data vindication: theories of love must vindicate every clear, pre-theoretical truth about love.4
My aim in this paper is to make progress on resolving the confusion surrounding love’s nature by presenting and defending a theory of love that, I shall argue, has a strong yet defeasible claim to satisfying the three theoretical constraints outlined above. As my title indicates, this theory construes love as a psychological syndrome, or as a complex psychological condition of the organism accompanied by a set of symptoms that flow from that condition.5 More specifically, it understands love as an enormously complex, psychological cluster of attitudes and dispositions that (1) varies in certain ways across cases due to significant changes in love’s object; (2) contains an essential, ever-present core of affectionate loyalty, which allows us to univocally categorize the various cases and kinds of love as love despite the variation in love across cases and kinds; and (3) is accompanied by some set of behavioral and emotional expressions that flow from it, where this set of expressions also varies across cases because their manifestation is a function of several factors that vary across cases. I shall have much more to say about these aspects of the view in Section 3, but for now some clarification is in order.
First of all, my use of the term “syndrome” here might be a bit unorthodox: it does not refer to some set of characteristic symptoms, but rather to an underlying, complex cluster of conditions that expresses itself in terms of some set of symptoms that flows from that condition-cluster. In other words, the term “syndrome” might typically be used to denote some set of characteristic symptoms, such that there’s no difference between the syndrome and its symptoms—the symptoms just are the syndrome. By contrast, I do not use the term “syndrome” in that way, but rather use it to denote only the underlying, complex condition that’s responsible for the manifestation of certain symptoms, such that the syndrome and its symptoms are conceptually distinct—the symptoms are expressions or manifestations of the underlying, complex syndrome inside the organism. I believe that other commentators use the term in this same way, although I must admit that it’s not entirely clear to me if Pismenny and Prinz (2017) use “syndrome” in the sense of equating it with symptoms or in the sense described here where it refers instead to the underlying condition that manifests itself in some set of symptoms. If they are understanding love as a syndrome in the same way that I am, then the skeleton of love under the view offered here—that love is a syndrome rather than an emotion or a sentiment—is no different than what they offer. However, while they are concerned with arguing that love is a syndrome rather than an emotion or a sentiment, I am concerned here with putting meat on those theoretical bones by offering and defending a substantive account of the underlying, complex, enduring (yet variable) psychological condition that constitutes love.
Furthermore, while the syndrome view offered here is similar to Kolodny’s relationship view and Hurka’s view in that it understands love as a complex cluster of attitudes and dispositions, including some of the same ones that they include as constituents of love, my view is importantly different by maintaining that the attitudes and dispositions that constitute love can vary in specific ways across cases due to differences in its objects across cases and that love nevertheless has an essential, ever-present core of affectionate loyalty that includes as constituents, among others, some of the attitudes and dispositions of love that other commentators, including both Kolodny and Hurka, have asserted as constituents of love. Moreover, my syndrome view doesn’t require love to have all of the constituents that the relationship view includes as parts of love. My view, for example, does not require love to be partly constituted by the belief that the lover shares a personal relationship with the beloved or by sophisticated beliefs about the reason-giving force of that relationship. Finally, although Hurka’s view similarly maintains that love constitutionally varies across cases—in particular, it maintains that love can be complete by having every constituent he lists or incomplete by lacking some, though not all, of them (2017: 164)—my view offers a different, more substantial analysis of love’s constitutional variability across cases that ties this variability to significant changes in love’s objects across cases and that attempts to offer a more specific picture of what this variability substantially looks like across cases, where this picture includes some variable constituents of love that do not explicitly appear on Hurka’s list. My view also differs by maintaining that love has an essential, ever-present core of affectionate loyalty that encompasses the benevolent desire for the other’s welfare and the corresponding emotional vulnerability to their welfare states that appear on Hurka’s list, which effectively specifies these as essential constituents of love despite love’s constitutional variability across cases.
Now my discussion thus far has drawn a distinction between attitudes and dispositions, but if attitudes are to be given dispositional analyses, which would collapse my distinction here, then the skeleton of love under the syndrome view offered here—that love is fundamentally a syndrome to be cashed out in terms of a complex cluster of attitudes and dispositions that can manifest itself in different ways and at different frequencies across cases—may be no different than Naar’s dispositional view. Even so, however, my syndrome view offers a substantive account of the nature of love and its corresponding expressions that can again be understood as putting meat on the theoretical bones that his view puts forth. Furthermore, while the collapse of the distinction between attitudes and dispositions would make the skeleton of love under my syndrome view—that love is a collection of attitudes and dispositions—similar to what it would be under Smuts’s dispositional view of love as a collection of affective dispositions, my syndrome view is importantly different by construing love as more than a set of such dispositions. In fact, under my syndrome view, both love’s essential, ever-present core of affectionate loyalty and love’s variable constituents include—yet are not exhausted by—affective dispositions.
Finally, the collapse of the distinction between attitudes and dispositions would make the skeleton of love under my syndrome view—again that love is a collection of attitudes and dispositions—the same as it is under Franklin-Hall and Jaworska’s dispositional view of love as a collection of different kinds of dispositions. My view also agrees that caring about the beloved’s welfare for its own sake is an essential part of loving them and that love constitutionally varies across cases. Nevertheless, my syndrome view offers a different, more substantial analysis of love’s essential elements by construing them as the ever-present core of affectionate loyalty that includes, among other things, the essential constituent of caring about the beloved’s welfare for its own sake. My view also again offers a more substantial account of love’s constitutional variability across cases by tying this variability to significant changes in love’s objects across cases and attempting to offer a more specific picture of what this variability substantially looks like across cases, where this picture includes some variable constituents of love that don’t explicitly appear as such constituents of ideal love under Franklin-Hall and Jaworska’s account of such love.
Generally speaking, then, while the syndrome view offered here will overlap with other views to varying extents (which is no surprise given that it’s informed by these other views), it still offers a unique account of the nature of love by both (a) insisting that the syndrome of love—or the complex psychological cluster of attitudes and dispositions that constitutes it—varies in certain ways across cases due to significant changes in love’s objects and yet contains an ever-present core of affectionate loyalty, which is itself to be uniquely cashed out in terms of a complex cluster of attitudes and dispositions that weaves together several important strands of love located by other commentators, and (b) claiming that love is accompanied by some set of corresponding behavioral and emotional expressions that flow from it, where again this set of expressions can vary across cases given that the manifestation of these expressions is a function of several factors that can vary across cases.
After I’ve presented my syndrome view of love in more detail—its account of love’s essential, ever-present core of affectionate loyalty, its constitutional variability across cases, and the variable ways that it expresses or manifests itself—I will offer a modest defense of it. First, I shall argue that the view has a strong yet defeasible claim to satisfying the three theoretical constraints outlined above. Then I will defend the view against two objections that target its extensional adequacy. Although this defense will be far from comprehensive, it hopefully shows that the syndrome view offered here is a promising, defensible one that has clear advantages over others.
2. Extensional Adequacy and Data Vindication
Before I can present my syndrome view of love in more detail and argue that it has a strong yet defeasible claim to satisfying the three theoretical constraints outlined earlier, I must first put the extensional adequacy and data vindication constraints into working order so that they can be provisionally satisfied here. I propose that we locate a reasonable range of cases of genuine love that our theories must accommodate along with a healthy set of clear, pre-theoretical truths about love that our theories must vindicate. If a theory can accommodate this range of cases and can vindicate this set of truths, then it has a strong yet defeasible claim to satisfying the constraints of extensional adequacy and data vindication.
Let’s begin with locating a reasonable range of cases of genuine love. While there will be reasonable disagreement on what constitutes such a range, I think that we should focus on cases defined by object and adopt what Shpall (2017: 57) calls a “commodious” view of love’s objects. In contrast to what he calls a “humanist” view, which unjustifiably restricts these objects to other persons, a commodious view countenances both non-human and inanimate objects of genuine love. At the same time, however, we should be careful of being too commodious here because many linguistically legitimate professions of love (e.g., “I love pizza”) will only reflect an intense liking that doesn’t really amount to genuine love. To strike the right balance here I propose that we be conservatively commodious about love’s objects, as this will supply us with a reasonable range of cases that steers a nice middle course between the implausible extremes of restricted humanism and unrestricted commodiousness.
Let’s begin by looking at those cases that tend to animate other theories of love. Some commentators focus on the love between romantic partners to theorize about romantic love (e.g., Giles 1994; Green 1997; Nozick 1989; and Wonderly 2017), while others focus on romantic love along with the love between close, non-romantic friends to theorize about interpersonal love (e.g., Abramson & Leite 2011; and Jollimore 2011). In opposition to this, however, is Harry Frankfurt’s (2001: 6; 2004: 43) insistence that parental love for children offers the most illuminating paradigm for theorizing about love. Rather than focusing exclusively on any of these cases, we should include all of them in our range. In fact, these three cases—while certainly of central importance—are merely a subset of what I shall call paradigmatic cases of interpersonal love, which also includes those relevantly similar cases of love for parents, siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, or other traditional family members. These paradigmatic cases, however, should not be the only cases of interpersonal love included. While we must be careful of being too inclusive here, in order to avoid being overly sentimental about love we should include what I shall call fringe cases of interpersonal love, such as those with meddlesome aunts, cranky grandfathers, smothering parents, over-competitive siblings, or other people that we evaluate negatively as the beloveds (Frankfurt 2004: 42; Velleman 1999: 353; Zangwill 2013: 302, 306).6 Let’s also include cases where the relevant parties don’t share a personal, intimate relationship, such as cases of unrequited romantic love.
Besides these various cases of interpersonal love, we should include cases of self-love and then venture beyond the bounds of humanism and include cases of love for non-human animal companions along with cases of love for countries.7 We should also include at least some cases of love for inanimate objects, yet in the spirit of conservative commodiousness I’m only going to include cases of love for commodities with special significance in this final category, as commodities often acquire such significance because of their connection with other people that are genuinely loved, and there’s no reason to think that these commodities cannot be genuinely loved in this derivative fashion.8 Restricting love for inanimate objects in this manner may end up leaving out some cases of genuine love, but what I’m including here seems sufficient for present purposes.
Next let’s nail down our set of clear, pre-theoretical truths about love. Once again there will be reasonable disagreement on what truths we should include here, but I think that we can get a sufficient set for our purposes by collecting some central, clear truths about love that other commentators have suggested. Let’s begin with what seem to be the most central and agreed upon truths. One is that care or concern for its object is an essential part of love.9 Now we of course can care about things without loving them. However, we cannot truly love something without caring about it or, more specifically, about its welfare or its good (Brink 1999: 273; Frankfurt 2004: 42–43, 59, 61, 79; Franklin-Hall & Jaworska 2017: 23; Wonderly 2017: 236). Furthermore, this caring takes a special form when it’s a part of love. First, a lover cares about her beloved’s welfare non-instrumentally: instead of caring about her beloved’s welfare only out of self-interest, or because of the benefits that the lover accrues from the beloved when she’s faring well, the lover cares about her beloved’s welfare as a final end, or for its own sake (Abramson & Leite 2011: 677, 688; Brink 1999: 252–253; Brown 1987: 28; Frankfurt 2004: 42, 59, 79; Franklin-Hall & Jaworska 2017: 23; Helm 2010: 2; Kolodny 2003: 156; Shpall 2018: 112; Smuts 2014a: 510, 513; 2014b: 511, 522; Soble 1990: 263; Wonderly 2017: 236). Second, a lover cares about her beloved’s welfare partially: compared to how much she cares about the welfare of non-loved objects, the lover especially cares about her beloved’s welfare and will be disposed to prioritize and otherwise privilege it in her deliberations and actions.10 A central truth that viable theories of love must vindicate, then, is the fact that an essential part of love is caring about its object’s welfare in a special way, where such caring is non-instrumental and partial.
Two additional, intimately related truths are the following. As some commentators agree, an essential part of loving something is to have a non-instrumental desire for it to fare well (Frankfurt 1998: 4–5; 2001: 5; 2004: 42; Green 1997: 216; Hurka 2017: 163; White 2001: 59; Wonderly 2017: 243, 248). Even though such a desire, like non-instrumental caring, can occur without love, love cannot occur without desiring as an end—or for the sake of nothing else—that its object fare well. Also, many commentators correctly point out that an essential feature of love is what Kolodny (2003: 152) calls emotional vulnerability: loving things makes us especially susceptible to certain beloved-focused emotional experiences or reactions (Frankfurt 2004: 61; Franklin-Hall & Jaworska 2017: 22–23; Helm 2010: 152; Hurka 2017: 163; Nozick 1989: 68–69; Shpall 2018: 91, 112; Smith 2017: 150–151; White 2001: 7; Wonderly 2017: 243).11 So for example, the beloved’s happiness, along with events that will or might make her happy, will tend to elicit the lover’s happiness. Similarly, the beloved’s safety, as well as things that will or might promote it, will tend to elicit the lover’s satisfaction, comfort, or relief. Conversely, the beloved’s sorrow or suffering will tend to trigger the lover’s sorrow or compassion, while events that will or might promote these negative states in the beloved will tend to trigger the lover’s hostility, anger, or indignation. Likewise, the beloved’s being in actual or potential danger will tend to trigger the lover’s worry, fear, or panic, while events that will or might put the beloved in danger will tend to trigger the lover’s hostility, anger, or indignation. In a nutshell: when we love something, we’re necessarily disposed to experience a certain pattern of beloved-focused emotional reactions, where this pattern consists, on the one hand, of (a) certain positive emotional reactions in response to the beloved’s positive welfare states as well as to events that will or might promote them, and on the other of (b) certain negative emotional reactions in response to the beloved’s negative welfare states as well as to events that will or might promote them.
Besides those already mentioned, another important truth that seems to enjoy agreement among commentators is that love must be partly constituted by regarding the beloved as non-fungible and being unwilling to accept substitutes for the beloved.12 While we can be unwilling to accept substitutes for things that we don’t love and can see them as not replaceable without loss, we cannot love something without regarding it as non-fungible and being unwilling to accept substitutes for it. To truly love something, you must treat it as a special object, yet if you were open to accepting a replacement for your “beloved” or regarded it as replaceable without loss, then you wouldn’t love it because you would be treating it as a mere fungible commodity whose only value lies in its ability to benefit you or serve your own purposes rather than as a special object. Now we can of course admit that our beloveds might be fungible in certain respects: other like objects could deliver comparable personal benefits to those our beloveds deliver or instantiate good generic qualities comparable to those our beloveds instantiate, and so our beloveds might be replaceable without a loss of personal benefit or good generic qualities. Even so, however, we still must, qua lovers, see the replacement of our beloveds as necessitating a sense of loss. Unlike replacing our mere commodities (e.g., vehicles) with others that fill their roles just as well or better, we know that replacing our loved ones with other like objects—even exact qualitative duplicates—would inevitably leave us lovers with a sense of loss.
Another central truth about love is that it’s affectionate (Abramson & Leite 2011: 677; Brown 1987: 32; Jollimore 2011: xiii; Noller 1996: 100; Shpall 2018: 91, 114). While feelings of affection without full-blown love are surely possible (if not rather common), love without affection isn’t possible—you cannot love things that never elicit feelings of affection. If love is anything, we might say, it’s affectionate. One might truly care about or be devoted to something, but if that person never feels affection for it, then they don’t love it. However, love cannot simply be mere feelings of affection for the beloved or otherwise require a constant stream of affection for the beloved because, unlike the love that actual lovers have for their beloveds, the affection that they feel for their beloveds isn’t continuous; it rather comes and goes. What lovers as such continuously have is instead a disposition to feel affection for their beloveds, and so another central truth that our theories of love must vindicate is that an essential part of loving something is to have a disposition to feel affection for it.13
Two final, related truths that I will include here are the following. One is that love is not shallow or fleeting, but rather deeply rooted and stable (Naar 2013: 352; Wonderly 2017: 239). Love need not last forever, but if what you experience doesn’t last long or is easily quelled, then, no matter how powerful, it just isn’t love. Moreover, love’s depth is scalar: we can and do love some things more deeply than others (Frankfurt 2004: 46). So besides the above truths pertaining to the necessary constituents of love, viable theories of love must vindicate the fact that love is a deep and stable phenomenon, where its depth varies across cases.
3. The Syndrome of Love
We’re now ready to take an in-depth look at my syndrome view of love. As mentioned earlier, on this view love is a psychological cluster of attitudes and dispositions that varies in certain ways across cases depending on love’s object yet contains an ever-present core of affectionate loyalty, where this love-constituting cluster is accompanied by some set of corresponding behavioral and emotional expressions that also vary across cases. To get a better understanding of love under this theory, then, we must dig deeper into love’s essential core, its constitutional variability across cases, and the ways in which it can express or manifest itself.
Let’s begin with love’s essential, ever-present core of affectionate loyalty, which is the conjunction of (1) a disposition to feel affection toward the beloved and (2) loyalty toward the beloved.14 The first constituent here is important because it captures the common sense idea that love is affectionate, yet it specifies that it’s the disposition to feel affection that’s an essential constituent of love and that this disposition is merely such a constituent of love rather than the whole of it. And the loyalty constituent here, which captures the true but vague idea that love involves “commitment” or “devotion” to its object (Frankfurt 2004: 87; Jollimore 2011: 41; Lamb 1997: 28; Shpall 2018: 91, 104, 108), is, like love itself, an enormously complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon that varies in principled ways depending on love’s object. It requires quite a bit of unpacking.
Let’s start with the fact that to be truly loyal to something is to have a curiously mixed orientation toward it. On the one hand, the subject of loyalty regards its object in the property-like way of belonging to her (Oldenquist 1982: 175). It’s always my life partner, my friend, my child, my country, or my god to which the loyal subject is loyal. On the other hand, the subject of loyalty sets its object as a final end, or as something of ultimate, non-instrumental importance to them (Oldenquist 1982: 175). Moreover, objects of loyalty are regarded as special both as perceived belongings and as final ends. As perceived belongings, objects of loyalty are, unlike mere pieces of property, regarded as non-fungible. Those that are truly loyal to other people or their countries, for example, will necessarily see these “belongings” as ones that cannot be replaced without loss and will necessarily be unwilling to accept substitutes for them. As final ends, objects of loyalty are privileged: compared to our other final ends, our objects of loyalty receive privileged treatment. They’re generally regarded as more important ends and tend to be treated with priority and partiality in deliberation and action.15
Love’s loyalty, then, consists of two overarching dimensions: the “belonging” dimension consists in the lover regarding the beloved as a non-fungible belonging and being unwilling to accept substitutes for it, while the “final-end” dimension consists in the lover setting the beloved as a privileged final end. Now this latter dimension requires its own unpacking, as it is quite complex and varies in principled ways depending on love’s object. To set something as a privileged final end amounts to different things depending on its nature. If, for instance, it’s a sufficiently developed person or non-human animal, it amounts to setting both its welfare and its will as privileged final ends. So when something with both a welfare and a will is an object of love, the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty consists in two analogous sub-dimensions, where one of them—which is none other than special caring about the beloved’s welfare that other commentators stress as central to love—is all about the beloved’s welfare, while the other is all about the beloved’s will.16 However, when love’s object is a country or a commodity with special significance that lacks a will, then setting it as privileged final end only amounts to setting the object’s welfare as such an end. So when an object with no will is an object of love, the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty effectively collapses into special caring about the beloved’s welfare.17
Spelled out in more detail, the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty should be understood as follows. When love’s object lacks a will, this dimension collapses into special caring about that object’s welfare, where this caring is to be analyzed, at least largely, as follows. First of all, it’s partly constituted by the lover regarding her beloved’s welfare as a privileged final end, or as something of ultimate and comparatively superior importance that must be promoted. Love’s caring is also partly constituted by a heightened attentional sensitivity to the beloved’s welfare states and to how events will or might affect these states.18 In other words, because of how the lover regards the beloved’s welfare, the beloved’s welfare states and any events that will or might affect them take on a special salience for the lover across at least a wide range of circumstances. Furthermore, in virtue of regarding the beloved’s welfare as a privileged final end that must be promoted, the lover will be cognitively disposed to certain normative perceptions. In particular, the lover will be disposed to perceive (a) facts pertaining to how actions will or might positively impact the beloved’s welfare as reasons to perform those actions, and (b) facts pertaining to how actions will or might negatively impact the beloved’s welfare as reasons to refrain from those actions (Frankfurt 1998: 9; 2001: 3; 2004: 37; Jollimore 2011: 112–113).19 Sometimes the lover will even see these facts as requiring that we perform or refrain from those actions (Frankfurt 1998: 5).20
Besides these cognitive constituents, love’s caring is partly constituted by affective, conative, and volitional components as well. Starting with the affective, love’s caring is partly constituted by the set of affective dispositions that define the emotional vulnerability outlined above (Franklin-Hall & Jaworska 2017: 22; Shpall 2018: 112; Smuts 2014a: 511; Wonderly 2017: 243). As for the conative, love’s caring is partly constituted by a non-instrumental desire for the beloved to fare well and flourish (Wonderly 2017: 243), as well as the related desires for others to show the beloved goodwill and to know how the beloved is actually faring. Finally, since mere desires aren’t enough to dispose the will to action, we must further include here a set of volitional dispositions geared toward the promotion of the beloved’s welfare that Frankfurt thinks are central to love.21 So love’s caring, under my syndrome view, is partly constituted by a set of volitional dispositions to (a) non-instrumentally promote the beloved’s welfare and (b) privilege the beloved’s welfare over the welfares and wills of non-loved objects.
However, when love’s object has a will, the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty consists in two analogous sub-dimensions, where one of them is love’s caring, while the other—let’s call it love’s service—is oriented toward the beloved’s will and is analyzed in an analogous fashion. So first of all, it’s partly constituted by regarding the beloved’s will as a privileged final end, or as something of ultimate and comparatively superior importance that generally must be respected and served.22 Consequent upon this is a heightened attentional sensitivity to the beloved’s wants, preferences, aims, goals, or decisions as well as to things that do or might relate to them. Also consequent upon it is a set of cognitive dispositions to perceive (a) facts pertaining to how actions will or might aid the fulfillment of the beloved’s wants, preferences, aims, goals, or decisions as reasons to perform those actions; and (b) facts pertaining to how actions will or might frustrate these things as reasons not to perform those actions (Ebels-Duggan 2008: 155, 162; Jollimore 2011: 112–113). Sometimes these facts will appear to require performing or refraining from those actions.
Next there are the analogues of the affective dispositions that constitute the emotional vulnerability of love’s caring as well as those of the conative and volitional elements of this caring. So as part of love’s service, the lover is disposed to experience a certain pattern of beloved-focused emotional reactions, where this pattern consists, on the one hand, of positive reactions in response to the fulfillment of the beloved’s will as well as to events that will or might promote this fulfillment, and on the other of negative reactions in response to the frustration of the beloved’s will as well as to events that will or might promote this frustration. So for example, the beloved getting what she wants or prefers, or her carrying out a decision or achieving a goal, will tend to elicit the lover’s satisfaction, happiness, or even relief, as will those things that help the beloved. Conversely, the beloved not getting what she wants or prefers, or her being prevented from carrying out a decision or achieving a goal, will tend to elicit the lover’s dissatisfaction, disappointment, frustration, or sadness, while those things that promote this prevention will tend to elicit the lover’s dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or even hostility. As another part of love’s service, the lover has non-instrumental desires for (a) the general fulfillment of the beloved’s will, (b) people to generally respect and serve this will, and (c) knowing the beloved’s will. Finally, love’s service also contains a set of volitional dispositions to non-instrumentally respect and serve the beloved’s will, and indeed to privilege this will over the welfares and wills of non-loved objects.23
Now let’s venture beyond love’s core and look at how love’s overall constitution varies across cases depending on love’s object under my syndrome view. Consider first the difference between cases in which love’s object is a sufficiently developed being with a will that can affect the lover through action versus those cases in which it isn’t. In the latter cases, love’s object cannot be trusted or distrusted; it’s just not the kind of thing that can be either because it lacks the requisite will. In the former cases, however, love’s object can be trusted or distrusted because it has such a will. My syndrome view maintains that love will behave differently across these cases because of the difference in the applicability of trust: when and only when love’s object can be trusted or distrusted is love partly constituted by (3) some level of trust in the beloved.24 Of course, this level of trust toward the beloved will vary across these cases, but it seems that at least some level of trust is an ontologically foundational constituent of love in these cases (or at least a necessary, enabling condition of it), as it’s hard to imagine having any of love’s core constituents toward something that you don’t trust whatsoever.
Next consider cases in which love’s object is another sufficiently developed being with an independent will and the capacity to act and speak. In these cases, the lover is completely subject to the beloved’s actions and words; and compared to those that issue from non-loved people, the lover is especially sensitive to her beloved’s actions and words. Generally speaking, the beloved’s positive actions or words will tend to have greater positive impacts on the lover than they would have if they came from the non-loved, while negative actions and words will tend to have greater negative impacts. Of course, there are exceptions to this general tendency: your parents or longtime spouse telling you, for instance, that you’re attractive may not be anywhere near as uplifting as a stranger or a casual acquaintance saying so. Nevertheless, your beloved’s words and deeds tend to carry extra power for you, especially when they’re negative. It just cuts deeper when our beloveds disrespect, wrong, or otherwise mistreat us compared to when the non-loved treat us in comparable ways. And since none of this can apply to cases where the beloved lacks an independent will or the capacity to speak and act, my syndrome view maintains that love will again behave differently across cases due to differences in its objects’ wills: when and only when its object has an independent will with the capacity to speak and act is love partly constituted by (4) an emotional sensitivity toward the beloved’s words and deeds such that they tend to have greater emotional impacts on the lover compared to those from the non-loved.25
Consider next cases of self-love versus all others. Because we cannot be disposed to experience distress due to separation from ourselves (which I assume to be different from being disposed to experience distress due to the prospect of qualitative identity change that runs counter to our current values), attachment cannot be a constituent of self-love. By contrast, when the beloved is not identical to the lover, love can be and sometimes is partly constituted by attachment to the beloved, yet it isn’t always so. Accordingly, my syndrome view maintains that love is partly constituted by (5) attachment to the beloved, yet only in cases where the beloved isn’t identical to the lover and only in some—not all—of these cases.26
Lastly consider cases of romantic love, whether it’s unrequited or the glue that holds together a romantic partnership. Either way such love cannot exist without a desire for such a relationship with the other person, so this desire must be part of romantic love.27 By contrast, no comparable desire can be part of self-love, love for countries, or love for inanimate objects because we can’t have personal relationships with the relevant objects. Also, a desire for a personal relationship will be a constituent of other kinds of love besides romantic love, such as parental love or non-romantic friendship love, although the specific relationships desired across these cases will be different. However, such a desire will surely be absent in at least some of the fringe cases of interpersonal love because at least some people will desire no personal relationships with their negatively evaluated loved ones. Accordingly, my syndrome view maintains that love is partly constituted by (6) a desire for a personal relationship of the appropriate type in all cases of romantic love and only some cases of non-romantic interpersonal love, yet never in cases of self-love, country love, or love for inanimate objects.28
To summarize briefly, then, my syndrome view of love claims that love is always entirely or partly constituted by the two core constituents that compose affectionate loyalty, and sometimes it’s partly constituted by some combination of trust, emotional sensitivity, attachment, or a desire for a personal relationship of the appropriate type.
This brings us to the emotional and behavioral expressions of love. Since love is always partly or entirely constituted by the two core constituents and is sometimes further constituted by some combination of the other four constituents, the expressions in question will consist of certain emotional experiences and kinds of behavior that flow from these constituents. So for example, the disposition to feel affection toward the beloved that partly constitutes love’s ever-present core will result in actual feelings of affection toward the beloved, where this affection will typically lead to affectionate glances, soft shoulder punching, hugging or kissing, or other behavioral expressions of this affection. And love’s loyalty, which also partly constitutes love’s ever-present core, is perhaps the most fruitful source of the expressions in question. The affective dispositions of love’s caring and love’s service, for instance, will typically manifest themselves in the emotional reactions outlined above. Likewise, the heightened attentional sensitivities of each sub-dimension here will often result in the lover literally paying attention to the beloved, while the volitional dispositions of each will typically manifest themselves in behavioral patterns of non-instrumentally respecting and serving both the beloved’s welfare and its will at the expense of competing considerations. Something analogous will then apply to the other, non-core constituents as well.
Also, even though the set of love’s emotional and behavioral expressions will, barring very unusual circumstances, be non-empty, there can be considerable variability within this set across cases because love’s manifestation is a function of several factors. First of all, love will manifest itself differently across cases due to variability in both the lovers and their beloveds. So for example, some lovers may shower their beloveds with affection while other lovers may not express nearly as much affection, and because of differences in the wills of our beloveds and what it takes to promote their well-being, the loyal serving of the beloved’s welfare and will shall of course look different across cases.
Furthermore, the frequency of love’s manifestation will differ across cases because this frequency is a function not only of the lover’s love, but also of other psychological conditions and environmental factors. So for example, even though the disposition to feel affection toward the beloved that partly constitutes love’s core will manifest itself to some degree, if the lover is very angry at the beloved, then the lover’s disposition to feel affection for the beloved may not trigger as it would have without the anger. And other psychological conditions, such as depression, will have more extensive effects on love’s expression since it negatively affects cognition, emotion, and the will.29 Besides not feeling affection for the beloved as much as the lover otherwise would, depression may lead to the lover not feeling as much happiness in the beloved’s happiness as she otherwise would, or not paying as much attention to the beloved’s needs as she otherwise would, or not doing as much to non-instrumentally serve the beloved’s welfare and will as she otherwise would. As for environmental factors, if, for instance, the lover does not live in close proximity to the beloved, then her love may not manifest itself as much as it would if she lived closer and could see the beloved more often. Finally, cultural factors may also influence how much and in what ways lovers express their love.30 So for example, I recently watched the third episode from season 1 of Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! entitled “The Ideal Woman” in which a mother claimed that expressing love with affectionate behavior and by telling others that you love them is not encouraged by Japanese culture, which is a significant departure from American culture, where expressing love in these ways is not only encouraged and prized, but generally expected of lovers to the point that people might criticize or doubt lovers for not doing so. Also, while the characteristic lover in American culture often tells their beloved that they love them, some lovers may not feel very comfortable doing this and may instead express their love through other actions.
4. Satisfying the Constraints
Now let’s look at how my syndrome view has a strong yet defeasible claim to satisfying the three theoretical constraints that viable theories of love must meet. Let’s begin with the multi-dimensionality constraint, which again says that love must be an attitudinal, dispositional, affective, conative, cognitive, volitional, and behavioral phenomenon. While some of the other views of love stress certain aspects here as either central to love or, more extremely, as the entirety of love, my syndrome view treats them all as equally important parts to include in the complex phenomenon of love. Of course, my view does make an important distinction between the aspects here that characterize love itself versus those that characterize its expressions: love itself, under my syndrome view, is attitudinal, dispositional, affective, conative, cognitive, and volitional, while its expressions are affective and behavioral. However, I see no good reason to make any particular aspect here central or to leave out any of them as part of the phenomenon, and I think that any attempt to do so runs the risk of failing to do justice to this complex phenomenon.31 Now this isn’t to say that none of these other views can meet the multi-dimensionality constraint; my interest here is not in being overly combative and hopelessly arguing that my view is the only one that meets this constraint. Instead, I’m interested in arguing that my view meets this constraint without running the risk of oversimplifying or misconstruing love because, rather than construing love as (1) solely attitudinal, dispositional, or behavioral, or as (2) merely affective, cognitive, or conative, or as (3) primarily cognitive or volitional, my syndrome view construes the phenomenon of love as all of these things, where none of them in particular is primary or the entirety of love. Let me say a bit more about how my view satisfies this first constraint.
Consider first love’s core under my syndrome view, which again must always be present and is constituted by a disposition to feel affection for the beloved along with loyalty toward them. The former disposition is an affective one, so in virtue of it love is already dispositional and affective. And when we dig deeper into the loyalty constituent, we find, in the belonging dimension, regarding the beloved as non-fungible along with the unwillingness to accept substitutes. So in virtue of the former feature love is attitudinal and cognitive, while in virtue of the latter feature it is volitional. And looking over to the final-end dimension we find at least love’s caring, if not also love’s service, where they are partly constituted by attitudes toward the beloved’s welfare and will, heightened attentional sensitivities, perceptual dispositions, affective dispositions, desires, and volitional dispositions. So in virtue of these features love is attitudinal, cognitive, dispositional, affective, and volitional all over again, yet it’s also conative as well. And if we go beyond love’s core to its other possible constituents we will find more of the same. Trust is an attitude that’s cognitive or affective, while the heightened emotional sensitivity to the beloved’s words and deeds appears to be affective and dispositional. Attachment is at least dispositional and affective, if not conative, while the desire for a relationship of the appropriate type is straightforwardly conative. The only part of the constraint that we haven’t yet satisfied is the behavioral part, but this is captured if we go beyond the syndrome or underlying condition-cluster that just is love to its symptoms, which again are emotional and behavioral expressions of the underlying psychological condition-cluster that constitutes love. Though these expressions aren’t, strictly speaking, part of what love is, they’re nevertheless necessary parts of the phenomenon of love because they must, barring very unusual circumstances, be present to some degree when love is present. This is a very important part of the theory because it correctly captures the behavioral aspect of love that inspires the behavioral view of love, yet it doesn’t misconstrue love, as the behavioral view does, as an outward behavioral performance rather than an internal psychological condition of the organism. My syndrome view of love thus corrects the behavioral view of love by specifying that love isn’t constituted by certain kinds of behavior, but is rather something inside the lover’s psyche that, barring extremely unusual circumstances, will manifest itself to some degree in certain kinds of behavior and emotions.
Next we have the working constraint of extensional adequacy, which again refers to the need for our theories of love to accommodate the cases of genuine love that we earlier located. It doesn’t seem like my syndrome view founders on any of them. For starters, it doesn’t founder on cases of interpersonal love where the lover correctly believes that they don’t share an intimate, personal relationship with the beloved, cases of self-love, and cases of love for countries or special commodities by making love partly consist in the belief that you share an intimate, personal relationship with the beloved.32 Also, my syndrome view doesn’t founder on the fringe cases of interpersonal love by implying that love always involves attachment or that it always involves valuing a relationship shared with the beloved. Instead, this view seems to capture our range of cases very well in its postulation of a love-constituting condition-cluster that, on the one hand, can vary in principled ways depending on love’s objects and yet contains, on the other hand, an ever-present core of affectionate loyalty that can also vary in principled ways depending on love’s objects. Starting with cases of love for countries or special commodities, where the object lacks a will, my syndrome view maintains that love in such cases is constituted by at least the two core constituents that make up affectionate loyalty and that the final-end dimension of this loyalty collapses into love’s caring. This view also says that love in these cases may be, yet need not be, further constituted by attachment, whereas the trust, emotional-sensitivity, and relationship-desire constituents will not be present because they aren’t applicable to love’s objects.
Consider next cases of self-love. Because lovers have wills that can affect them, my syndrome view maintains that such love is constituted by trust and affectionate loyalty, and that this loyalty’s final-end dimension consists of both love’s caring and love’s service.33 However, since lovers don’t have independent wills and can’t be separated from themselves or enjoy personal relationships with themselves, the view claims that the emotional-sensitivity, attachment, and relationship-desire constituents will not be present because they aren’t applicable to love’s objects.
Now consider cases of love for non-human animal companions. Since they’re separate from us and have independent wills that can affect us, they can be objects of trust, attachment, and desires for intimate relationships of the appropriate type. But since their wills aren’t quite developed enough to make them a possible object of the emotional-sensitivity constituent, this constituent cannot be present in these cases. Accordingly, my syndrome view maintains that love for non-human animals is constituted by affectionate loyalty—where this loyalty’s final-end dimension again consists of both love’s caring and love’s service—along with trust and, at least in some cases, attachment and a desire for an intimate relationship of the appropriate type.
Last, we have the various cases of interpersonal love. Since the beloveds in these cases have independent wills, my syndrome view claims that love in these cases is at least constituted by affectionate loyalty and that, once again, this loyalty’s final-end dimension consists of love’s caring and love’s service. From here, though, things get a bit complicated because there will be considerable variability in the beloveds’ wills across these cases. When the beloved is a neonate or the like with a very rudimentary will that’s capable of wanting but not full-blown acting or speaking, it cannot yet be an object of the trust or emotional-sensitivity constituents. However, it can certainly be—and probably will be—an object of attachment and a desire for a personal relationship of the appropriate type. Accordingly, my syndrome view claims that love in these cases is constituted by affectionate loyalty and probably attachment along with the relationship-desire constituent. By contrast, when the beloved instead has an independent, sufficiently developed will to make it a possible object of all of the non-core constituents, my syndrome view claims that love in these cases is constituted by affectionate loyalty along with the trust and emotional-sensitivity constituents; and that, more often in the paradigmatic cases compared to the fringe cases, love is further constituted by attachment and the relationship-desire constituent, where this last constituent must be part of romantic love.
Now we can move on to the working constraint of data vindication, which again refers to the need for theories of love to vindicate the central, pre-theoretical truths about love that we located above. My syndrome view vindicates them all. In fact, the first six of these truths—that special caring for the beloved, the non-instrumental desire for it to fare well, emotional vulnerability toward it, regarding it as non-fungible, the unwillingness to accept substitutes, and a disposition to feel affection for it are all essential parts of love—are all vindicated by how the view construes love’s essential, ever-present core. The disposition to feel affection is again one of this core’s two constituents, and as such it’s an essential part of love. And since loyalty is again the other constituent of this core, where this loyalty includes the perception of the beloved as non-fungible, the unwillingness to accept substitutes, and special caring for it that itself includes the non-instrumental desire that it fare well and emotional vulnerability toward it, these things likewise are essential parts of love. As for the remaining two truths maintaining that love is deep and stable and that its depth varies across cases, my syndrome view vindicates them as follows. On this view love is, once again, always partly constituted by true loyalty, and such loyalty is deep and stable. The disposition to feel affection for the beloved, which also always partly constitutes love, is also deep and stable. Furthermore, some cases of love may be deeper than others when the affection felt is more intense, and they will certainly be deeper than others when the loyalty involved is deeper, where “deeper loyalty” occurs when the objects that it sets as privileged final ends are more privileged, or more important, compared to other objects of loyalty. Finally, trust can also vary in depth, while the presence of attachment and a desire for a personal relationship of the appropriate type make love deeper as well.
Before considering the two objections to my syndrome view, it’s worth mentioning how the view (1) vindicates some other plausible ideas about love and (2) easily explains a phenomenon that I’ll call “love’s fragmentation.” For instance, my syndrome view vindicates the idea that there’s an inconsistency between love for things and regular, severe mistreatment of those things that isn’t a function of massively mistaken beliefs about how to properly care for them. For under this view, such regular mistreatment at least implies a lack of loyalty. In particular, such regular, severe mistreatment flows, in part at least, from volitional dispositions to mistreat the other, which runs counter to the volitional dispositions of respecting and serving the other’s welfare and will that partly constitute love’s loyalty.34 Furthermore, my view vindicates the idea that, when we love other persons romantically, we do not (a) merely use them for consensual sex, (b) view them as people to merely settle for until better people come along, or (c) regard them as personal servants. Treating others in any of these ways is inconsistent with romantic love, and under my syndrome view it’s not hard to see why: these orientations toward others imply a willingness to accept substitutes and no belief in their non-fungibility, and more generally a lack of loyalty towards them. These orientations also imply no desire for a romantic partnership and no attachment. Someone who’s oriented toward another in any of these ways, then, simply cannot love that person romantically because he lacks most of the constituents of such love.
As for “love’s fragmentation,” the phenomenon that I have in mind here is how we lovers are sometimes pulled in conflicting emotional or behavioral directions by our love.35 I experience this, for example, every time that I take my beloved cats to the vet. I know that they don’t want to go, and because of this I don’t want to take them and feel terrible for doing so. At the same time, though, I’m only taking them there to promote their welfare, and it’s precisely to promote their welfare that I want to take them and feel somewhat good about taking them. I imagine that loving parents experience analogous situations in which they want to give their human children whatever they want just because they want it, while simultaneously wanting not to give their children what they want because doing so would be bad for them.36 Now under my syndrome view the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty, which again consists in love’s caring and love’s service, readily explains these unpleasant experiences: the former is all about promoting the beloved’s welfare and the latter is all about serving the beloved’s will, and even though serving the beloved’s will and promoting her welfare are typically in harmony, at times they will be at odds with each other and will therefore tear the lover in conflicting behavioral or emotional directions. Other instances of such fragmentation occur when we want to be in a personal relationship with the beloved and are inclined to pursue or sustain one, yet simultaneously want to not be in such a relationship and are inclined to end or not pursue it because it’s not good for the beloved (Abramson & Leite 2011: 698). Under my syndrome view, these other instances are explained by the lover’s loyalty toward the beloved and the desire to share a personal relationship with them of the appropriate type pulling the lover in conflicting directions: the desire inclines the lover to pursue or sustain the relationship, whereas the loyalty inclines the lover to not pursue or end it.
5. Extensional Adequacy Revisited
Despite everything that my syndrome view may appear to have going for it, it still faces at least two objections that target its extensional adequacy. The first objection is based on worries about the view’s ability to accommodate cases of genuine love for the dead, such as my love for my dead cats.37 In particular, my view implies that love for the dead is at least partly constituted by the attitudes and dispositions of loyalty toward them, including (a) the attitudes toward their welfares and wills to the effect that these things are of ultimate and comparatively superior importance that must be promoted and served, (b) heightened attentional sensitivity to their welfare states and their wills, (c) non-instrumental desires for them to fare well and for their wills to generally be satisfied, and (d) volitional dispositions to non-instrumentally promote their welfares and serve their wills. But how can I still hold these attitudes and dispositions toward my dead cats if they no longer exist? My beloved cats, Marla and Bubbles, are tragically and really dead—they do not have welfares or wills that can be promoted or served anymore. They can no longer capture my attention or activate my will in the relevant ways. How, then, can I still believe, as I must under my syndrome view of love, that their non-existent welfares and wills are important things that must be promoted and served? How can I still desire that they fare well and that their wills be generally satisfied?
Fortunately, my syndrome view doesn’t founder on these cases of love for the dead. For even though my dead cats are no longer here to trigger my volitional dispositions to non-instrumentally promote their welfares and serve their wills, these dispositions are still there because they would be reliably triggered if my cats were miraculously resurrected from the dead (or if I came to believe that they were). The same is true for the heightened attentional sensitivities to their welfare states and their wills: although my cats are no longer here to capture my attention or demonstrate that their welfares and wills have a particular salience for me, this would be the case if they were miraculously resurrected. These features of my love for them are still there; it’s just that they exist in obsolete form. As for the other attitudes, we can of course desire things that we believe to be impossible (e.g., world peace), and so the fact that my cats can no longer fare well or generally get what they want because they’re dead doesn’t mean that I no longer desire this. Quite the contrary: I very much want them to be alive and to fare well and generally get what they want, even though I believe that this is not a live possibility. Finally, even though I know that their non-existent welfares and wills cannot be promoted and served anymore, this doesn’t preclude me from regarding them with the same importance that I did when they could be promoted and served, as I still wholeheartedly believe that their welfares and wills are things that would have to be promoted and generally served if my beloved cats were still alive. Moreover, when I entertain pleasant thoughts about them being alive or have dreams about them still being alive, these loving attitudes toward their welfares and wills have a chance to reaffirm their existence in my psyche. I would also still feel quite angry at other people if they treated the welfares and wills of my dead cats as unimportant things, or as things that are not as important as I think they are (e.g., if someone were to criticize me for the resources spent and efforts made while they were alive to keep them alive and healthy, which I would do all over again if given the chance). At any rate, it should be clear that my syndrome view can accommodate these cases of genuine love for the dead.
The second, and indeed much more troublesome, objection maintains that this view is extensionally deficient—and therefore false—because it doesn’t capture genuine cases of love in which the lovers are very small children or non-human animals because such creatures aren’t sufficiently developed to house the requisite, complex psychological machinery of love. While it’s hard to say when a creature is sufficiently developed in terms of this psychological machinery to qualify as a potential subject of love under my syndrome view, it seems clear enough that really small children and at least most non-human animals, including our companion animals, will not qualify, yet there are surely (1) many genuine cases of parental love throughout the non-human animal kingdom, (2) many genuine cases of very small children loving their parents and other relatives, and (3) at least some cases of non-human companion animals loving their “owners.”
Although intuitively forceful, this objection doesn’t necessarily sink my theory because it’s not entirely clear that it has located genuine cases of love that need to be captured. For one thing, we should admit that newborns and other young children that haven’t progressed much further are not developed enough to genuinely love others. The same is surely true for at least many non-human animals. Moreover, while it’s understandable—perhaps even irresistible—to interpret certain behaviors of young children or of non-human animals as indicators of love for others, the fact that love seems to be a very complex, multi-dimensional psychological phenomenon coupled with their lack of mental development casts serious doubt on the idea that very young children and most non-human animals can genuinely love. While I admit that it would be very nice if my cats genuinely loved me as I do them, and if genuine love could be found throughout the non-human animal kingdom, and if very young children could love others as they presumably say or act like they do, the reality may very well be that (a) most non-human animals, including our companion animals, cannot genuinely love because they cannot reach a sufficient level of mental development to do so, and that (b) many young children, though capable of telling others that they love them and acting like they do, are lovers-in-training that have something that merely resembles true love for others and must yet develop into genuine lovers. It is entirely possible that full-blown loving, like fluently speaking a language or being virtuous, can only be found in creatures that have reached a rather high level of psychological development, and that those who fall below this level can only possess something that merely approximates genuine love.
Furthermore, even if there are some genuine cases of love in which the lovers are very young children or non-human animals, it’s not clear that my syndrome view cannot capture them. Starting with the former, the only potentially problematic cases of a very young child loving others that I can cite here with virtual certainty are personal ones: I’m pretty sure that I loved my biological parents, for instance, at least by four years of age. However, my syndrome view might be able to capture these cases. For starters, I definitely possessed at least many of the defining features of love toward them: I was disposed to feel affection for them, I trusted them, I was especially vulnerable to their words and deeds, I was attached to them, and I wanted to spend time with them having fun and wanted them to care for me (which maps on to the desire for a relationship of the appropriate type). Furthermore, although I lacked the concept of non-fungibility, I still possessed at least the belonging dimension of love’s loyalty toward them both: they were both my parents, and I wouldn’t have accepted replacements, as the thought of replacing them would have been accompanied by a horrifying sense of loss. The most difficult aspect of love under my view to secure here is the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty, as I don’t remember being particularly concerned with promoting their well-being and serving their wills. This, however, doesn’t mean that the attitudes and dispositions of this final-end dimension weren’t there; perhaps they were there but just didn’t have much by way of memorable opportunities to express themselves. Had my parents been sickly and needed my care, or if they had been disabled and needed my help accomplishing their aims, then perhaps I would have memorably experienced the loyalty that I had for them even at such a young age. In any event, while I make no definitive claim that my view vindicates these cases as genuine cases of love (and thus that I was a full-blown lover at such a young age instead of a mere lover-in-training), I do claim that my view might be able to do so, and that at the very least it would evaluate these cases as very close to genuine cases of love, which may be the right result given how young, selfish, and psychologically undeveloped I was back then.
As for cases of non-human animals loving others, which deserves much more treatment than what I shall give it here, I surmise that the most plausible cases here are of dogs loving their “owners”. But once again, even if we count such cases as ones that our theories of love should capture, my syndrome theory might be able to capture them. After all, dogs are often portrayed as loyal to their “owners”: they reliably serve the wills of their “owners”, protect their “owners” from harm, and show concern for their “owners” when their “owners” are hurt. Though they probably lack the concept of non-fungibility, these loyal dogs would surely not accept substitutes without feeling loss. Furthermore, at least some of them surely feel affection quite often for their “owners,” trust their “owners,” exhibit emotional sensitivity to their words and deeds, and want to spend time with them doing fun stuff or getting petted. They may even become attached to their “owners.” In any event, while I again make no definitive claim here that my view accommodates cases of dogs genuinely loving their “owners,” what I’ve briefly argued here should be sufficient to show that my theory has a pretty good shot at being able to do so, or at least that we cannot conclude that my theory fails because it cannot capture them.
In this paper I’ve presented and defended a theory of love that construes love as an enormously complex cluster of psychological conditions that’s accompanied by emotional and behavioral expressions that flow from it, where this constitutive condition-cluster varies across cases depending on love’s object and yet contains an ever-present core of affectionate loyalty. On this theory, love is always, in part or completely, constituted by a disposition to feel affection for the beloved along with loyalty toward them, where this loyalty is itself an enormously complex phenomenon that weaves together various components of love that other commentators have located. In addition to regarding the beloved as non-fungible and being unwilling to accept substitutes, this loyalty includes the special caring about the beloved’s welfare that, in turn, includes the non-instrumental desire for the beloved to fare well, an emotional vulnerability to the beloved’s welfare states, and volitional dispositions to non-instrumentally promote and privilege the beloved’s welfare. Furthermore, love is always, when possible, partly constituted by some level of trust in and emotional sensitivity toward the beloved, and in many cases, it’s further constituted by attachment to the beloved or a desire to share a personal relationship of the appropriate type with them. And just like the varying constitutive condition-cluster of love, the emotional and behavioral symptoms that flow from it can vary across cases due to multiple factors.
In defense of this syndrome theory, I’ve argued that it has as strong yet defeasible claim to satisfying the theoretical constraints of multi-dimensionality, extensional adequacy, and data vindication. I’ve also argued that the theory vindicates some other plausible ideas about love that aren’t included in the data vindication constraint, easily explains the phenomenon of love’s fragmentation, and can tentatively withstand two objections targeting its extensional adequacy, including a rather troubling objection based on alleged cases of genuine love in which the lovers are very young children or non-human animals. Of course, the theory should be subjected to further scrutiny and requires further development, but in virtue of what I’ve argued here I’d say that we have good grounds for being optimistic about it.
I would like to thank David Brink and Dana Nelkin for their useful feedback on a very early version of this paper. It has also benefitted from feedback from Richard Arneson and three anonymous reviewers. Lastly, I owe a very special thanks to Monique Wonderly, who gave me valuable feedback on two earlier versions of this paper.
- Two things should be noted here. One is that Green and Nozick provide accounts of romantic love rather than love in general (even though Nozick countenances other, non-romantic objects of love). The other is that Jollimore, who’s concerned only with interpersonal love, sometimes suggests that such love may not be purely cognitive. However, his labeling of his view as “the vision view” and his claim that love is a kind of perception (Jollimore 2011: xi), along with his repeated claims that love is largely an appreciation of the beloved (Jollimore 2011: xv, 6, 25, 99), warrant placing him in the cognitivist camp. [^]
- Noller (1996: 101) similarly claims that love isn’t primarily about having one’s own needs fulfilled, but rather about caring for the other person. Also, Frankfurt’s volitional view would count as attitudinal if we analyze “a configuration of the will” in terms of desires and other attitudes, such as regarding the beloved as intrinsically valuable or important. Many of the divisions drawn here are admittedly artificial, but they still seem theoretically useful in that they appear to capture real differences among theories of love and among the many constituents of love. [^]
- It’s worth noting that Abramson and Leite are only concerned with “reactive love” between romantic partners and close friends, which they construe as an affectionate attachment that’s typically expressed in good will and other characteristic ways, while Harcourt and Wonderly, like Jollimore, are only concerned with interpersonal love (although Wonderly virtuously acknowledges non-person objects of love). [^]
- Harcourt (2017) claims that there are two other theoretical constraints here in addition to what I’m calling the constraint of extensional adequacy. One is that theories of love must not construe it in a way that makes love ideal or good by definition, but must rather construe it neutrally in order to preserve the important distinction between membership in a kind and excellence of that kind and thereby allow for the possibilities of both good and bad love. Although I find this constraint to be quite plausible, it is too controversial to rely upon without defense, as some commentators believe that love has a positive value that theories of love must vindicate. The other constraint is that theories of love must recognize the importance of autonomy in love, but I must admit that I have no idea what this means. Accordingly, I will set aside these constraints on theories of love and only use the three above to defend the view offered here. [^]
- I owe the basic idea of treating love as a syndrome to David Brink. I later came across the same idea in Kolodny (2003: 136), Franklin-Hall and Jaworska (2017: 22), Hurka (2017: 163), and Pismenny and Prinz (2017). [^]
- Some cases of professed love for the kinds of people that Velleman mentions will surely not be genuine, but it seems a bit too strong to write every such case off as inauthentic. [^]
- Although they mostly focus, respectively, on parental love and romantic love, Frankfurt (2001; 2004) and Nozick (1989) countenance these objects of love. Also, the ultimate expression of love for other people is standardly taken to be literal self-sacrifice, so the fact that many people who profess love for their country are willing to die for it strikes me as a pretty good reason to include countries as objects of genuine love. [^]
- Of course, commodities with special significance do not have to acquire this significance from being connected with others that are loved. The character Linus from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts cartoons surely loves his blanket, for example, but his love for it does not have to derive from his love for another person; he could have found it at a store or received it anonymously in the mail. [^]
- Something along these lines is found in Brown (1987: 28–29), Soble (1990: 172, 263), Giles (1994: 345), LaFollette (1996: 19), Noller (1996: 100–101), Brink (1999: 252–253, 272), Frankfurt (2001: 5), White (2001: 4, 6), Kolody (2003: 136), Frankfurt (2004: 42–43, 59, 79), Helm (2010: 2), Jollimore (2011: 29), Smuts (2013: 4), Smuts (2014a: 510–511, 513), Smuts (2014b: 511, 522), Franklin-Hall and Jaworska (2017: 22–23), Wonderly (2017: 236), and Shpall (2018: 112). Abramson and Leite (2011: 677, 682) appear to reject other-regarding concern as an essential part of reactive love itself and instead treat it as merely a characteristic expression of such love, while Zangwill (2013: 308) clearly denies that caring is an essential part of loving. Velleman (1999: 351–354) might be expressing agreement with Zangwill in his criticism of analytic philosophers of love. [^]
- This aspect of loving care seems implicit in Brink’s criticism of impersonal accounts of love and friendship (1999: 266–271). He argues that such accounts cannot adequately explain why we are justified in having special concern for loved ones or friends, which seems to presuppose that lovers have such concern for their beloveds, where such concern, while explicitly non-instrumental, is presumably partial as well (otherwise it would not be special). Soble (1990) is probably presupposing the same thing in his chapter on concern and the morality of love: love’s concern is explicitly said to be non-instrumental earlier in the chapter, yet it is later described as special, which presumably means that it is partial as well. Jollimore (2011: 29), too, probably has the same thing in mind when maintaining that love, by nature, involves special concern for its object. [^]
- Hurka (2017: 163–164) doesn’t explicitly make anything an essential constituent of love, but he does include the benevolent desire for the beloved to fare well and this emotional vulnerability as essential elements of what he dubs “complete love.” [^]
- Something along these lines is endorsed by Ehman (1976: 99), Brown (1987: 24), Kraut (1987: 425), Nozick (1989: 76), LaFollette (1996: 8), Lamb (1997: 43), Velleman (1999: 368), Frankfurt (2001: 6), White (2001: 4), Solomon (2002: 6), Kolodny (2003: 140–141), Frankfurt (2004: 44, 79), Grau (2004: 113, 119, 127), Landrum (2009: 435), Helm (2010: 180, 205), Jollimore (2011: 127), Smuts (2013: 10), Smuts (2014b: 520), Zangwill (2013: 303–304, 308, 310), Pismenny and Prinz (2017), and Wonderly (2017: 239, 243). For dissent, see Soble (1990: 290–297). [^]
- Pismenny and Prinz (2017) make similar claims when they explain that, while love is often felt, it isn’t always felt, and as a result love cannot simply be a feeling but must instead be dispositional. My syndrome view here agrees with these claims but specifies that lovers sometimes, but not always, feel affection for their beloveds, and that as a result love should be understood as partly constituted by a disposition to feel such affection. [^]
- My view of love’s core is very similar to Shpall’s (2018) view of meaning-conferring love, which construes such love as a vulnerable-making devotion to something that the lover likes, where this devotion is cashed out in terms of volitional dispositions to promote the beloved’s interests. My syndrome view of love, however, is importantly different because it recognizes other constituents of love besides the core in many cases. It also offers a meatier analysis of loyalty that weaves together several important strands of love—including emotional vulnerability and volitional dispositions to promote the beloved’s interests—located by other commentators. [^]
- It’s worth noting that this loyalty captures the attractive idea from Jollimore’s vision view that love is a way of seeing the beloved: an essential part of being loyal to something, and thus of loving it, is seeing it as a special belonging and a special final end—more specifically, as a non-fungible belonging and an especially important final end—which is certainly a way of seeing it. [^]
- My dualistic conception of the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty is similar to Shpall’s (2018: 107) idea that love involves devotion to the beloved’s flourishing and her ends. My view, however, specifies that this is so only when the beloved has a welfare and a will. Furthermore, my view doesn’t include devotion to spending time with the beloved as central to love, as there can be cases of genuine love where loyalty to the beloved—or devotion to her welfare and her will—requires the lover to keep their distance. [^]
- I want to address two things here. First, one may object that countries do have wills of some kind, perhaps in the form of “the will of the people” or, alternatively, in the government’s will. But in neither case do we clearly have a country’s will. Since citizens never agree politically, there will only be the conflicting wills of individual people, political organizations, or governmental factions rather than “the will of the people” or “the government’s will.” In any event, I will continue to assume that countries have welfares of some kind—ones that are probably somewhat different from those of individual people and non-human animals—yet no wills. For even if I’m wrong about this, my syndrome view could still capture love for countries by treating it as akin to love for persons and non-human animals with welfares and wills. Second, it may sound odd to talk of special commodities as having welfares or even of loyalty to such objects, but the oddity here evaporates upon reflection. For even though these objects won’t have welfares in the same sense as persons, non-human animals, and countries do, their physical integrity and overall physical condition still function as their welfares. Also, since it isn’t odd to talk about caring about these objects, it isn’t odd to think of them as having welfares because such caring would be unintelligible without something that can function as their welfares. Finally, because the final-end dimension of love’s loyalty simply collapses into love’s caring in cases of inanimate beloveds, it makes just as much sense to talk about the former as it does the latter. [^]
- This claim is inspired by Franklin-Hall and Jaworksa’s (2017: 23) idea that part of this caring is having your attention constantly “on the lookout” for changes in the beloved’s welfare, or in the circumstances surrounding it, that trigger the emotional expressions of the emotional vulnerability that constitutes part of such caring. Being actively on the lookout for these things, however, sounds more like an expression of the heightened attentional sensitivities of loving’s caring under my syndrome view. If the heightened attentional sensitivities to the beloved’s welfare states and to how things affect them isn’t enough to dispose the lover to be on the lookout for the kinds of changes to which Franklin-Hall and Jaworksa point, then perhaps we should include in love’s caring a cognitive disposition to be on the lookout for these changes when the circumstances seem to warrant it. [^]
- These reasons, of course, will be particularly strong ones for the lover compared to other reasons, where the relative strength here will be proportional to the relative importance of the beloved’s welfare as a privileged final end. Also, the particular facts I mention here are surely not the only ones that lovers as such are disposed to perceive as normative reasons for action. If your beloved cat needs fresh water, for instance, then you will be disposed to see the fact that dumping fresh water in the cat’s fountain will meet this need as a good reason to dump fresh water in the fountain. At the same time, though, you will also be disposed to see the fact that the cat needs fresh water as such a reason as well. [^]
- Franklin-Hall and Jaworska (2017: 23) appear to have something similar in mind by maintaining that part of truly caring about—and thus loving—something is to be disposed to (a) see actions that promote its welfare as “to be done” and (b) be reluctant to even consider performing actions that would harm it. [^]
- This isn’t to say that these volitional dispositions are to be analyzed in the way that Frankfurt would analyze them. I’m not really sure how to analyze these dispositions, but I agree with Frankfurt that these volitional dispositions are essential components of love and that they might include, yet go beyond, the non-instrumental desire that the beloved fare well. [^]
- Notice the inclusion of the qualifier “generally” here, which is not included in love’s caring. For unlike the beloved’s welfare, which is always something of ultimate and comparatively superior importance that must be promoted, the beloved’s will is only generally so. Certain things here, such as a desire to commit suicide or engage in other self-destructive behavior, such as drug addiction, or a decision to cheat on one’s significant other, need not be graced with the same treatment enjoyed by the relevant elements of the beloved’s will more generally. Of course, as my example of the loving mother of her drug-addicted son in Footnote 36 suggests, even these aspects of the beloved’s will can take on this importance for the lover. [^]
- It’s worth noting here that these sets of volitional dispositions constitutively involved in love’s caring and love’s service under my syndrome view appear to map on to the “standing intentions to act in the beloved’s interests” that Kolodny (2003: 151) includes as constituents of love. [^]
- Helm (2010: 160–161) similarly maintains that trust is a characteristic feature of love. [^]
- This emotional sensitivity—and perhaps the emotional vulnerability defined above—could be part of what Giles (1994: 345) has in mind when he claims that vulnerability seems to be a central feature of romantic love. Velleman (1999: 360) may also have either or both of these in mind when he suggests that love is an arresting awareness of an object’s inherent value that disarms our emotional defenses and thereby renders us vulnerable to that object. Kolodny (2003: 152) might also be including this emotional sensitivity as part of the emotional vulnerability outlined above. [^]
- My view here is thus in agreement with Pismenny and Prinz (2017) that love need not include attachment and also with Wonderly (2017) that attachment is nevertheless a constituent of love in some cases (e.g., in paradigmatic cases of romantic love). The following thought needs further exploration, but one reason for including attachment as a constituent of love in some, but not all, cases is the plausible idea that attachment explains why lovers sometimes, but not always, feel grief when their beloveds die (e.g., I grieved when my beloved cats, Bubbles and Marla, died, but I didn’t grieve when a beloved friend of mine died, even though I did miss him and sometimes still do). [^]
- This isn’t to say that romantic love requires the pursuit of a romantic relationship, as there may be compelling reasons not to pursue the objects of our desire. All I’m claiming here is that, in agreement with Nozick (1989: 70) and Green (1997: 216), the desire for a romantic partnership is a constituent of romantic love, because I for one can make no sense of the idea of romantic love for another that lacks the desire to be romantically involved with them. In fact, without such a desire, it’s hard to see (a) how romantic love reliably motivates people to participate in romantic relationships or even (b) how there can be any particularly romantic form of love at all, since such a desire seems like a plausible candidate for explaining why such love reliably motivates our participation in romantic relationships and for differentiating romantic from non-romantic love. [^]
- This desire can be understood as a set of desires for all of the various things that constitute the appropriate type of relationship, such as desires to spend time with the beloved and for the beloved to love back. My syndrome view can thus capture the idea that part of love is desiring to be with the beloved (Hurka 2017: 163) and desiring that they desire or love back (Green 1997: 216; Hurka 2017: 163; Nozick 1989: 70). However, my view specifies that these desires are part of love in only some cases of non-romantic interpersonal love yet must be part of romantic interpersonal love. [^]
- I borrow the example of depression from Naar (2013). [^]
- The point here is similar to that made by Pismenny and Prinz (2017), who claim that the same syndrome, such as depression or love, can look different across cultures. On my syndrome view, however, love itself is not different across cultures; rather, the way that it expresses or manifests itself can differ across cultures. [^]
- To appreciate this point, consider the following analogy. I believe that the musical group Tool is the greatest band in the history of the universe, and that the lead singer, Maynard James Keenan, has the best voice in the history of the universe. I also think that it would be a mistake to pinpoint any aspect here—even Maynard’s divine and unbelievably powerful singing—as the most important or most defining aspect of their music. Doing justice to their music requires, in my estimation, seeing their songs as magical wholes where every aspect of them is just as important or defining as every other. Love, I am suggesting, is the same way: it is a magical whole composed of many parts, where none of them are most central to or definitive of it. Maintaining otherwise seems to misconstrue the phenomenon. [^]
- Stump (2006) offers the literary example of Dante’s unrequited love for Beatrice, with whom he shares no personal relationship whatsoever, as a counterexample to Kolodny’s relationship view. However, for this to be a true counterexample to the relationship view, Dante must love Beatrice even though he doesn’t believe that they have a personal relationship. If Dante incorrectly believes that he does have such a relationship with Beatrice, then he can still love Beatrice under the relationship view so long as he has the other attitudes and dispositions that constitute love toward her under this view. However, if Dante correctly believes that he has no relationship with Beatrice, then he cannot love her under the relationship view because he lacks the belief that he has a relationship with her, which is a constituent of love under that view. So if Dante both correctly believes that he has no relationship with Beatrice and yet still loves her, then this is indeed a counterexample to the relationship view, as are all cases of interpersonal love for another in which the lover correctly believes that they share no personal relationship with the beloved. Something similar then applies to cases of self-love and cases of love for countries and special commodities: the relationship view might be able to capture strange cases of such love where the lover mistakenly believes that they have a relationship with themselves, with their country, or with special commodities, but it cannot capture sober cases of such love where the lover correctly believes that they have no personal relationship with themselves, with their country, or with special commodities because, in these cases, the “lover” cannot really love under the relationship view given that they lack the requisite belief that they share a personal relationship with the beloved. [^]
- It’s worth touting here that my syndrome view’s construal of self-love has the added virtue of harmonizing and explaining two fundamentally opposing ways of thinking about self-love that one finds in Harry Frankfurt’s interesting discussion of self-love in The Reasons of Love. There he distinguishes between self-indulgence, which is typically but mistakenly taken to constitute self-love, and true self-love, which is constituted on his view (at least at first) by self-care. On my syndrome view, however, self-love is partly constituted by self-loyalty, which in turn is constituted by self-care and self-service, where part of the latter involves at least the occasional foray into self-indulgence. Both self-indulgence and self-care, then, are parts of self-love, and those who construe self-love as either exclusively self-indulgence or self-care are merely picking up on different strands of true self-love. [^]
- I am not absurdly maintaining here that loving something is inconsistent with any mistreatment or abuse toward it, or even with serious wrongdoing toward it, as that would falsely render “love” an extensionless term. Lovers can—and almost certainly will—mistreat, abuse, or wrong their beloveds. Some lovers will wrong their beloveds in severe ways (e.g., by cheating). However, there are limits to this mistreatment—love cannot co-exist with any kind or pattern of mistreatment. Regular, severe abuse that isn’t due to massively mistaken ideas about how to care for the other, such as the domestic violence that drives women to battered women’s shelters or leads to their death, is not consistent with love—domestic abusers that regularly harm or eventually kill their spouses don’t love them. Stalkers that regularly torment their objects and that have no real devotion to the well-being and wills of those objects do not love them. Lovers don’t literally torture their beloveds for fun. Now I admit that I cannot draw a hard and fast line between the mistreatment toward others than can co-exist with loving them and that which cannot, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some kinds or patterns of mistreatment toward others that cannot co-exist with loving them. There is, I maintain, such mistreatment that’s inconsistent with love, and my syndrome view easily vindicates this idea. [^]
- This maps on to what Abramson and Leite (2011: 698) call “conflicts internal to love” in their criticism of Velleman’s Kantian cognitive account of love. [^]
- I probably witnessed a rather stark example of this years ago when watching a TV show about drug addiction. The addicted person was a young adult male, and he wanted money from his mother to buy more drugs. Before giving it to him, the mother was clutching it tightly in her hands and, while crying, was praying for him. She clearly didn’t want to give it to him because she knew it would be bad for him by fueling his addiction, but she did it anyway because he wanted it. [^]
- I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for pointing out the need to address this worry about accommodating love for the dead. [^]
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