Thursday, February 17, 2005

Easy Love

It's easy to feel boxed in by the standard psychological definition of Love; all the more so during this brief yet amorous month. But, as with most standard definitions, Aristotelian logic doesn’t cut the mustard. Writing in The Philosophers’ Magazine, Peter Goldie complicates our bucolic concept of love:

An emotion Рsuch as Mary's being in love with Paul Рis typically complex, episodic, dynamic, and structured. An emotion is complex in that it will typically involve many different elements: it involves episodes of emotional experience, including perceptions, thoughts, and feelings of various kinds, and bodily changes of various kinds; and it involves dispositions, including dispositions to experience further emotional episodes, to have further thoughts and feelings, and to behave in certain ways. Emotions are episodic and dynamic, in that, over time, the elements can come and go, and wax and wane, depending on all sorts of factors, including the way in which the episodes and dispositions interweave and interact with each other and with other aspects of the person's life, so that the complex array of interlocking dispositions can evolve over a long period. (Indeed, they ought to evolve; as the contemporary American philosopher Am̩lie Rorty nicely puts it, contradicting Shakespeare, love is not love that alters not when it alteration finds.) And, finally, an emotion is structured in that the emotion's unfolding sequence of thoughts, feelings and actions is narratable: it can fall into a kind of narrative structure.

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