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Topic: Love
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Guest: noël merino
Noël Merino, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Humboldt State University
What is it? Is love just a (second-hand) emotion?  Is it a feeling?  A disparate group of feelings, glandular responses, and ill-considered commitments called by a single word so that poets will have something to write about?  A poor substitute for true friendship imposed upon us by lust?  Or the deepest and most satisfying of human conditions?

About the Guest

Noël Merino's most recent publication is on the topic of romantic love. “The Problem with “We”: Rethinking Joint Identity in Romantic Love,” Journal of Social Philosophy 35 (Spring, 2004): 123-132. Besides having research interests regarding romantic love specifically, and emotions more generally, she is interested in multiple areas of normative ethics. One area of her current research involves an exploration of the normative parallels among cosmetic surgery, sexual reassignment surgery, and voluntary amputation by people with body integrity identity disorder. Another project underway is an exploration of our duties to children without parents and, in particular, how this duty cashes out at the individual level.


Listening Notes


What is love? Is there any one thing we call “love”? John describes three paradigms: romantic love, family love, and love for friends. Ken says that in each you take the desires and goals of the other person as your own. How can one love one's neighbor as oneself? Does love entail extra obligations? Ken introduces Noël Marino, professor at Humboldt University. Marino agrees with Ken's idea that love of people broadly is adopting their goals as your own. She says that romantic love is a difference of degree rather than a difference of kind. Do lovers complete each other? John says that it sounds dangerous to lose your own identity in a relationship.


How is loving your romantic partner different from loving a child or friend? Marino thinks that they are similar, although romantic love includes sexual desire and a greater intensity. Is there some quality of the person that you love has, as in the example from the Symposium, or is it just an accident of history that you love one person rather than another? Marno supports the historical idea of love. Love takes on a relational component over time that deepens the relationship. How can one love humanity? Does the possibility that love can be reduced to the interaction of endorphins undermine the worth of love?


Is everything we do out of self-love? Do we love solely out of self-love? Ken asks if we have special obligations to our loved ones, then does that interfere with our obligations towards complete strangers? How does love interact with moral theories? Most moral theories ignore love and Marino thinks this needs to be addressed. Why should we be moved by views, such as Schopenhauer's, that say that the purpose of love is solely to reproduce?


  • Amy Standen the Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 04:30): Amy Standen interviews several San Franciscans about what they think love is.


  • Ian Shoales the Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 49:58): Ian Shoales looks at the history of love in philosophy, from Socrates to Mill to Heidegger.



Additional Resources


  • Wikipedia
















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