As he stands next to the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, the light across the lake that shines her house is now covered by the mist, sealing away his life’s darkness of being alone....
One way to understand the question of why we love is as asking forwhat the value of love is: what do we get out of it? One kind ofanswer, which has its roots in Aristotle, is that having lovingrelationships promotes self-knowledge insofar as your beloved acts asa kind of mirror, reflecting your character back to you (Badhwar,2003, p. 58). Of course, this answer presupposes that we cannotaccurately know ourselves in other ways: that left alone, our sense ofourselves will be too imperfect, too biased, to help us grow andmature as persons. The metaphor of a mirror also suggests that ourbeloveds will be in the relevant respects similar to us, so thatmerely by observing them, we can come to know ourselves better in away that is, if not free from bias, at least more objective thanotherwise.
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In addition to this epistemic significance of love, LaFollette (1996,Chapter 5) offers several other reasons why it is good to love,reasons derived in part from the psychological literature on love:love increases our sense of well-being, it elevates our sense ofself-worth, and it serves to develop our character. It also, we mightadd, tends to lower stress and blood pressure and to increase healthand longevity. Friedman (1993) argues that the kind of partialitytowards our beloveds that love involves is itself morallyvaluable because it supports relationships—lovingrelationships—that contribute “to human well-being,integrity, and fulfillment in life” (p. 61). And Solomon (1988,p. 155) claims:
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This means that the concern, attraction, sympathy, etc. that wenormally associate with love are not constituents of love but arerather its normal effects, and love can remain without them (as in thecase of the love for a meddlesome relative one cannot stand beingaround). Moreover, this provides Velleman with a clear account of theintuitive “depth” of love: it is essentially a response topersons as such, and to say that you love your dog is therefore to beconfused.
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In articulating the kind of value love involves, Velleman, followingKant, distinguishes dignity from price. To have a price, asthe economic metaphor suggests, is to have a value that can becompared to the value of other things with prices, such that it isintelligible to exchange without loss items of the same value. Bycontrast, to have dignity is to have a value such thatcomparisons of relative value become meaningless. Material goods arenormally understood to have prices, but we persons have dignity: nosubstitution of one person for another can preserve exactly the samevalue, for something of incomparable worth would be lost (and gained)in such a substitution.
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Velleman (1999, 2008) offers an appraisal view of love, understandinglove to be fundamentally a matter of acknowledging and responding in adistinctive way to the value of the beloved. (For a very differentappraisal view of love, see Kolodny 2003.) Understanding this morefully requires understanding both the kind of value of the beloved towhich one responds and the distinctive kind of response to such valuethat love is. Nonetheless, it should be clear that what makes anaccount be an appraisal view of love is not the mere fact that love isunderstood to involve appraisal; many other accounts do so, and it istypical of robust concern accounts, for example (cf. the quote fromTaylor , ). Rather, appraisal views are distinctive inunderstanding love to consist in that appraisal.
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In contrast to Velleman, Singer (1991, 1994, 2009) understands love tobe fundamentally a matter of bestowing value on the beloved. Tobestow value on another is to project a kind of intrinsicvalue onto him. Indeed, this fact about love is supposed todistinguish love from liking: “Love is an attitude with no clearobjective,” whereas liking is inherently teleological (1991, p.272). As such, there are no standards of correctness for bestowingsuch value, and this is how love differs from other personal attitudeslike gratitude, generosity, and condescension:“love…confers importance no matter what theobject is worth” (p. 273). Consequently, Singer thinks, love isnot an attitude that can be justified in any way.