Troy Jollimore, "Love's Vision" (Princeton UP, 2011)


Love - being loved and loving in the way two otherwise unrelated persons can be - is a kind of experience that just about everyone values intrinsically. As we say, or sing: love makes the world go 'round, and all you need is love. But what sort of experience is loving? What more can we say about it that will illuminate the kind of experience it is? In his thought-provoking new book, Love's Vision (Princeton University Press, 2011), Troy Jollimore, Professor of Philosophy at California State University at Chico, argues that love is a matter of vision in that it literally transforms the eyes - it is an emotion that is partly but essentially characterized by the special kind of visual experience that it brings about. This visual-experiential view of love makes love a kind of emotion that is partly responsive to reasons and to the claims of morality. To Jollimore - who is also an award-winning poet - we do love for reasons, that is, because we see that the beloved has certain valuable features. But the rationalism of love seems to conflict with other features it also has. For example, if Brad loves Angelina because she possesses some set of features, then isn't he rationally obligated to love anyone who has those features, and rationally obligated to stop loving her if she loses any or all of those features? If he did either of those things, it would seem that he did not really love Angelina. Love as a visual-experiential phenomenon also raises special epistemic and moral problems. If love's vision makes us blind to the flaws of the beloved, doesn't that violate basic epistemic norms under which we are supposed to seek the truth as best we can? If love's vision is a kind of tunnel vision in which the beloved is the center of our universe, aren't we apt to ignore the legitimate moral claims on us of other persons? Jollimore considers these and other curious aspects of love as he explains his intriguing view in this interview.

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Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

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