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Title: What we talk about when we talk about love : an essay in the philosophy of social science
Author: Hamilton, Richard Paul.
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2004
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This thesis is a discussion of erotic love considered as a problem in the explanation of social action. Its primary focus is on attempts to create a general social scientific theory of love. I detect a tendency in theoretical discussions of love that see their task as one of providing an account of what love really means. I argue that such projects persistently misconstrue the nature of our talk about love by failing to see that love is a contested nonnative concept and that saying what love really means itself forms part of our moral disagreements. I discuss several current philosophical attempts to define love before moving on to a discussion of Descartes' Passions of the Soul. I suggest that Descartes' theory highlights the problems of attempting to fonnulate a self-consciously scientific theory of love but also that his ultimate recognition of limitations of mechanistic science offers the possibility of a non-reductive naturalism. I then proceed to discuss a currently fashionable attempt to explain love in reductive tenns in the fonn of evolutionary psychology. I locate evolutionary psychology within the individualist utilitarian tradition described by Talcott Parsons and suggest that it confronts ali the problems Parsons highlights in this tradition. More specifically, it has difficulties explaining the routine co-operation associated with love. I attempt to show how none of the versions of evolutionary psychology currently on offer deal with this problem effectively and that the only one which comes close, does so by breaking with key evolutionary psychological commitments. I conclude that evolutionary psychology cannot explain love since it cannot provide a robust account of nonnativity while maintaining its persistent individualism. In the concluding section, I discuss a group of approaches to the emotions which seem to take the normativity of love seriously. These are social constructionist theories. I distinguish between a defensible, mnemonic constructionism and an untenable ironic variety which denies the reality of everyday experience of human loving. I conclude that the best way to see love is as a matter of practical reason in the context of a contested moral form of life and discuss the relationship between love and virtue.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available