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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L046-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 17, 2018, from

Article Summary

Love is usually understood to be a powerful emotion involving an intense attachment to an object and a high evaluation of it. On some understandings, however, love does not involve emotion at all, but only an active interest in the wellbeing of the object. On other accounts, love is essentially a relationship involving mutuality and reciprocity, rather than an emotion. Moreover, there are many varieties of love, including erotic/romantic love, friendly love, and love of humanity. Different cultures also recognize different types of love. Love has, as well, a complicated archaeology: because it has strong links with early experiences of attachment, it can exist in the personality at different levels of depth and articulateness, posing special problems for self-knowledge. It is mistake to try to give too unified an account of such a complex set of phenomena.

Love has been understood by many philosophers to be a source of great richness and energy in human life. But even those who praise its contribution have seen it as a potential threat to virtuous living. Philosophers in the Western tradition have therefore been preoccupied with proposing accounts of the reform or ‘ascent’ of love, in order to demonstrate that there are ways of retaining the energy and beauty of this passion while removing its bad consequences.

Citing this article:
Nussbaum, Martha C.. Love, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L046-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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