Philosophy and Love

Philosophy and Love: From Plato to Popular Culture

Linnell Secomb
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r2b6t
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Philosophy and Love
    Book Description:

    Philosophy and Love introduces historical and contemporary philosophical reflections on love.It brings together philosophy with cultural analysis to provide an accessible and engaging account of conventional theories of love as well as the controversial reformulations evident in same-sex desire, cross-cultural love and internet romance. Starting with Plato, but focusing especially on contemporary European philosophy, this book introduces figures such as Nietzsche, Beauvoir, Irigaray, Derrida and Fanon. Explaining these philosophical approaches in clear and accessible terms, Philosophy and Love also engages with cultural productions - ranging from Sappho to Frankenstein, and from Hiroshima Mon Amour to Desperate Housewives – enabling an exchange between philosophical and cultural theories.Love stories are also central to this interdisciplinary book, revealing the ethical and the political as well as the personal implications of lover’s discourses. Embracing both the sentimental and the political this deconstructive reading discloses the paradoxes, conflicts and intensities of the love relation.Features* Introduces and explains the philosophies for beginners. * Focuses on current controversial issues.* Provides a philosophical overview alongside examples from popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3776-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    A montage of disparate excerpts from commercial and independent films, Tracey Moffatt and Gary Hillberg’s video collaboration, Love, tells the iconic story of love gone wrong. From its initial enraptured obsession, depicted through recurring scenes of passionate embrace and tender caress, love quickly degenerates into argument, accusation, hatred and finally into violence. Editing together similar scenes from diverse films, the video represents men berating their partners, shouting degrading and insulting abuse. The women then retaliate with ineffectual slaps, slamming doors, throwing objects, and pounding the chests of their impassive lovers before falling, broken, at their feet. In the following sequence...

  5. 1 Sapphic and Platonic Erotics
    (pp. 10-23)

    Writing over two and a half thousand years ago, Plato points to the similarities between the experience of love and the desire for knowledge. The arts of seduction are central in each case – to induce the beloved to accept and reciprocate the lover’s approaches parallels the art of charming the uninitiated into the ways of philosophy. Plato’s Symposium, perhaps the most enduring and influential philosophical reflection on love, describes not only the experience of erotic love but also the passions of the mind. It reveals links between the erotics of sexuality and philosophical inquiry and demonstrates how we are...

  6. 2 Paradoxical Passions in Shelley and Nietzsche
    (pp. 24-39)

    Mary Shelley, daughter of influential feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote Frankenstein Or The Modern Prometheus in 1818. Reiterated and popularised in theatre, film, and song from James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (1931 and 1935) to hybrid adaptations such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Blade Runner (1982), Frankenstein evokes the horror of vengeful progeny and anxiety about misdirected passions. Not simply a living-dead horror narrative, Frankenstein also raises the spectre of tragic and unrequited love: searching in vain for friendship and rejected by a world repulsed by his difference, the creature reciprocates his persecution murdering those...

  7. 3 Simone de Beauvoir’s Desperate Housewives
    (pp. 40-57)

    The hit TV series Desperate Housewives depicts red-haired Bree as the model retro-1950s housewife and mother who cooks gourmet meals and keeps the house in perfect order. This ideal is, however, gradually exposed revealing turmoil beneath the superficial harmony. Refusing to allow her all too human family to mar her perfect, shiny life, Bree denies their feelings and represses her own, smiling her way through marriage break-up, and her children’s rebellions, papering over disharmony and distress. While for husband, Rex, married life is made intolerable by Bree’s controlling behaviour – even packing his suitcase when he decides to leave –...

  8. 4 Levinas: Love, Justice and Responsibility
    (pp. 58-74)

    Ethical frameworks are generally formulated on the basis of reason, duty, or the greatest good; or even, for some, in terms of self-interest. Love seems to have little direct relevance here. Yet, the relation of love emerges as a crucial element in the ethical reflections of the French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. For Levinas the personal, ethical and political relation between the self and the other is central: these relations are founded on or conditioned by love. For Levinas the inter-human relation, named by him the face-to-face relation, is the most important philosophical issue – the first issue that philosophy should...

  9. 5 Colonial Love in Fanon and Moffatt
    (pp. 75-92)

    While love has been represented variously in Western cultures, it has received a predominantly positive press. Unrequited love and love gone wrong may cause pain, and early-stage love may mimic a certain delirium or perform a particular madness, but, in general, love in all its forms is perceived as a good associated with intimacy, romance, family and friendship, and ultimately with fulfilment and happiness. Yet, as Simone de Beauvoir suggests in The Second Sex, inequality can create distortions that destroy the benefits of love, turning women into slaves and tyrants desperately seeking the recognition and love of men. Men, for...

  10. 6 Irigaray: Re-directing the Gift of Love
    (pp. 93-109)

    Virgina Woolf’s novelistic homage to her lover, Vita Sackville-West, traces the adventures of the ever-young Orlando who, defying convention – and biology – lives for 400-plus years, changing sex from man to woman in the course of a turbulent and varied existence. The novel charts his, and later her, travails in the pursuit of love, in the worlds of politics, society, and the law, and in the experiences of death and birth. Starting life male, Orlando becomes female, though she continues to switch identities with a change of costume, and to consort with ladies and archdukes, professors, poets and prostitutes....

  11. 7 Barthes: A Lover’s (Internet) Discourses
    (pp. 110-125)

    Waiting to meet for the first time her anonymous email friend, You’ve Got Mail’s heroine Kathleen places on the café table the objects that will identify her to him – a single red rose and the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. Kathleen’s rose is more than a natural object, undisturbed by cultural connotations – it also signifies, of course, romance and passion. As Roland Barthes (Barthes 2000: 113) explains, red roses are the emblem of love and within cultures that associate roses with love it is impossible to ignore this inherent message. Kathleen’s rose is also, though, a passport...

  12. 8 Butler and Foucault: Que(e)rying Marriage
    (pp. 126-141)

    The debate about same-sex marriage has polarised not only the straight community but also the gay and lesbian community. Same-sex marriage provides the extension of rights available to heterosexual couples to those previously excluded because of discrimination and prejudice and so appears, at first, an unquestionable good from a progressive viewpoint. Yet many radical gays and lesbians reject marriage, arguing that it imposes a heterosexual institution on a queer lifestyle thereby constraining the difference signified by homosexuality. Moreover, they argue, marriage, as an institution that regulates both citizenship and kinship relations, functions as a means of excluding the alien, the...

  13. 9 Amorous Politics: Between Derrida and Nancy
    (pp. 142-156)

    Lars von Trier’s film Dogville (2003) stages the paradoxical possibilities and impossibilities of hospitality and forgiveness. A young woman, fleeing gangsters, seeks refuge in a small town. Concerned about the risks involved, the townsfolk reluctantly agree to offer her refuge or hospitality. A time limit is set and she offsets the risk by giving something in return: her initial ‘helping out’ turns into arduous labour and finally sexual exploitation as the town places increasing conditions on their welcome.

    Jacques Derrida, elaborating Emmanuel Levinas’s theory of the feminine hospitable welcome of the home, traces the relation between a conditional welcome that...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-162)

    From the time of the Symposium the association between love and philosophy has been evident: philosophy is love of wisdom. Jean-Luc Nancy, acknowledging this association in Plato’s work, has elaborated this linkage suggesting not simply that philosophy is love of thinking but that thinking itself is love (Nancy 2003a: 247). This hints at the depth and complexity of the connection: philosophy and thinking are not the attainment of a final wisdom but the movement toward, or the movement back and forth between knowledge and its lack. Philosophy is not wisdom itself – for the attainment of wisdom, if it were...

  15. References
    (pp. 163-169)
  16. Index
    (pp. 170-176)