chapter  10
17 Pages

The Philosophical Power of Hume’s Notion of Love

WithChristine Swanton

According to Mary Midgley (1983) “there are two things which can make a preference reasonable, value and bonding.” Yet modern moral philosophy in the analytic tradition emphasises responsiveness to value, ignoring the centrality of bonding, even in the case of love. Hume’s analysis of love as an indirect passion is a forerunner to attachment theory where love is understood as a bond. I shall argue that Hume’s understanding of love solves two problems. The first is a paradox of love according to which love cannot both be reasonable and yet be love of a person for herself, and the second problem is that the mechanism of sympathy by no means guarantees humane treatment of others. I resolve the first problem by distinguishing reasons for love—features which make love fitting—and loving for reasons. In the second I show the importance of various forms of (virtuous) love, including self-love, for excellent working of the mechanism of sympathy.