Kant, Sartre discussed on The Philosopher's Zone


A very proustian claim. What do you make of that? So I think that there is something, especially I'll say noble about unrequited love. So I think that all kinds of love are sublime in the kantian sense. Now, what does this mean? It means that love, gestures, at something, beyond our understanding. Beyond our capacity to make sense of, so Kant, when he talks about the sublime, he talks about the mathematical infinity or about mountainous landscapes. Looking at nature and recognizing that it cares nothing for us. And feeling awe and terror in its presence. And I think that love is exactly this kind of thing. And I think that unrequited love, the very fact of having one's love, not returned, makes this feature, this sublimity, even more palpable, now why should this be? Well, this is because you might think that having our love not returned would be a reason not to love. Right. If someone doesn't love us back, this might give us a reason if anything does. To stop loving them. And yet we don't. We need it. Our love can continue even against the reasons. And this reveals something really interesting about love. Namely, that it is a rational that it doesn't operate according to reasons. What do you mean exactly by a rational? Is that the same as irrational or is it something different? Irrational, typically suggests against the reasons. So knowing that a certain course of action is correct and doing something different anyway. Whereas a rationality implies not pertaining to reasons whatsoever. Reasons are irrelevant here. Something like that. Okay, right. And so this takes us back to Kant because we can't write about a faculty which surpasses every standard of sense. Is that what you're getting in there? That's exactly right. I think that love is exactly that kind of faculty. That love, the reveals exactly that kind of faculty that is. Well, I know from your work that you have experienced unrequited love yourself. Let's get back into the phenomenological description. What does it feel like? How would you describe that experience? Oh, it's torturous. I think anyone who has loved someone and not had their love returned would agree. But I'm inclined to say that it is a sublime torture. Because it has this immensity, this incredible feeling you are just powerless in the face of it. And this is what I mean when I say that love is sublime in the kantian sense. It's got this just incredibly overwhelming power. I get what you're on about here, but there's also the question of just how good for you is unrequited lover. I mean, there are lots of things that are sublime, but not necessarily healthy. And given that unrequited love can lead to poor health outcomes, it can affect your judgment and lead you to make regrettable decisions. Am I being just very unromantic in thinking about it like that? Or is there a persuasive argument to the effect that in spite of everything you're saying we should still try as hard as we can to get over unrequited love? Because it's just not good for us. Absolutely. So unrequited love hurts. It causes us to do things that we may regret. It may have, as you say, poor health outcomes, all kinds of things. It pains us. Surely these are reasons for us to get over our love if anything is. But I think that if we're able to endorse our love rather than reject it, what we can do is avoid a kind of self alienation. So I've said that love is the kind of thing that we can't help, but do. And this is due to its a rational nature. If we reject it, all we're going to cause is a kind of alienation of self. We've got this emotion. We can't help but feel it. And yet we wish we didn't. If instead, we can endorse this attitude with a kind of radical acceptance to use the language of mindfulness. Then we can avoid that kind of difficulty. That alienation that to use Sartre and language, bad faith, that inauthenticity. Right, we're feeling it. It's there. It's part of who we are. So we just have to honor us in some sense. That's exactly right. If we think about the ways in which love can grow and I guess here I'm dipping back into the relationship directed attitude. Love starts out as attraction and then over time it deepens, then as a relationship develops, it continues to go through various stages. And all of that might happen over decades, or it might happen over a very short period of time. It could happen over a single day or a single night. But the conventional picture is that it's that process of development that makes love what it is. In the case of unrequited love, which, by virtue of the fact that it's unrequited, hasn't been able to grow or develop in that way. Aren't we talking about something more in the order of infatuation, perhaps? Is that a meaningful distinction to draw? Is the phenomenology of infatuation different from the phenomenology of love? So I think that the phenomenology of infatuation is going to be much more closely analogous to the phenomenology of desire, so desire for the other person, desire to spend time with them, desire to form a relationship, all of these things. Whereas the phenomenology of love is going to be at least sometimes characterized by that experience that I've called arrested attention..

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