Love and Agency

In Adrienne Martin (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Love in Philosophy (forthcoming)

Kyla Ebels-Duggan
Northwestern University
Our ordinary talk reflects a deep tension in the way that we think about love. On the one hand, we regard love as an especially important expression of our agency. Yet, on the other hand, we also think of love as something that happens to us, in the face of which we are passive and can be powerless. While it’s hard to see how to hold these two ways of thinking of love together, in this paper I argue that we must find some way of doing so. I argue that we must think of love as a contentful attitude attributable to its agent, an expression of our selves. But familiar ways of understanding agency sort love into the category of things that happen to us, rather than that of things that we do: You cannot love at will, nor is love an attitude to which you could reason. I conclude that questions about the relationship of our agency to what we love are not superficial, but stem from deep tensions about the relationship between love and reasons. A resolution to these difficulties would provide important insight not only into the character of love, but also the nature of agency, and its relationship to values, reasoning and reasons.
Keywords Love, Activity, Reasona
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