Why don't philosophers philosophize about love more? Is it not a good philosophical topic?

Perhaps it is worth pausing to ask: What is it to "philosophize"? What sort of questions or puzzles or worries call for "philosophizing" as a response? You might say: philosophy is a motley business, embracing Plato's Symposium and Kierkegaard's Works of Love as well as Aristotle's Physics and Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic . We might count too Montaigne's Essays , or Sartre's Nausea . Very different styles of thought, reflected in very different literary forms, but all counting as philosophizing in a broad sense. Or you might say: we really do need a label for a narrower kind of business (which has always been a key department of philosophy in the broader sense), where we aim to investigate fundamental conceptual questions and foundational assumptions with a distinctive kind of rigour and clarity, depending on sharp conceptual distinctions and tight logical argument, and where the preferred literary form is now the academic paper or monograph written in very cool, analytic,...

I am a 39 year old married woman. I recently attended an adult party (a.k.a. pleasure party) hosted by one of my friends. I did not ask my husband's permission to attend, thinking it wasn't a big deal. I did not purchase any "toys" but nonetheless, my husband is furious at me for attending. He says I "violated" our relationship and socially embarrassed him by going. He has called me a liar, hypocrite (because I don't allow our children to swear, watch porn, etc. but I went to this party) and a whore. I don't understand what is happening. He says I must "admit my guilt" or live a lonely, sex-less life. He also doesn't think he will ever be able to have sex with me again. I want to stay with him but I don't know what I did wrong. Is it morally and ethically wrong to attend a party like this without my husband's consent?

Good heavens, indeed. This isn't, as Charles said, really a question for philosophers. But just on an ordinary human level, it will strike most people that your husband is behaving pretty appallingly, in a way that probably reveals a deep fear or even horror of female sexuality. His response is that of the frightened emotional bully. In the face of his absurd reaction, it must be difficult not to feel crushed, and begin to doubt your own good sense. But of course it wasn't a big deal to go the party (with all the female banter and amused teasing and gibes at male inadequacies -- or so I'm told!); and you need to hold on to that thought in the face of the bullying, and not start to doubt your own sense of moral proportion. To echo Charles again, good luck!

How do you know when you are in love?

As I've noted here before , we should surely distinguish loving someone from being in love with them. I might delight in the "sheer goodness and well being of" my daughter, miss her presence, especially when I'm feeling low -- that's evidence of love, but not of being in love. It is only too easy to be in love with someone you don't really love in Charles's sense (which is why I don't think his reply will do as an answer to a question about being in love). You can be obsessed, lustful, unable to get the other person out of your mind, your heart leaps at their glance, you are wildly jealous of glances bestowed elsewhere, but for all that you don't really care for the other in the right way, or delight in their well-being etc. ("If you really loved her", we might have to say to the man in love, "you wouldn't treat her like that.") Being in love, as Romeo memorably says, can be a "madness ... a choking gall and a preserving sweet". Proust is depressingly good on this!

Is it possible for two people to love each other without meeting? For example if two people were to meet on the Internet and fall in "love". Scientifically speaking love is based on pheromones and physical attraction so how can one love someone when physical and chemical attraction is taken out of the picture? According to scientists it should not be possible yet people claim that it happens all the time.

As a footnote, I'd perhaps want to press for being more careful with the distinction between loving another person and the state you are in when you fall in love with someone. After all, you can love someone without being in love with them: that's how most of us -- other than Oedipus -- are with our mothers! And it is only too easy to fall in love with someone you don't really love -- you are obsessed, lustful, can't get them out of your mind, your heart leaps at their glance, but you don't really care for them in the right way. ("If you really loved her", we might have to say to the man obsessively in love, "you wouldn't treat her like that.") But indeed, it doesn't seem that you have to get up close and personal either for genuine caring or to engender more obsessive states.

The love shared between two individuals (romantic love) is often thought of as the most ineffable and sublime of human connections, but I can't help but feel that there is something less than satisfying at its foundations; an element of extreme frivolity. The fact is that love is dependent upon factors and conditions which one may think of as being somewhat superficial. Most conspicuous in my mind is the physical attractiveness of the object of one's love. We consider it to be highly superificial to let our judgement of a person be effected by our estimations of said person's physical appearance, yet this very quality is of extreme importance when it comes to who we fall in love with. Does it in anyway sully the integrity of love that its foundations are so superficial?

"But love is blind and lovers cannot see/The pretty follies that themselves commit", as Jessica says in the Merchant of Venice. "But if thy love were ever like to mine/How many actions most ridiculous/Hast thou been drawn to by thy fantasy?" Silvius remarks in As You Like It . Oh yes, love can make you foolish. It may be sublime, but it can grip us in the most inapposite ways. Even proud Titania falls for Bottom with his head turned into that of an ass (so much for physical appearance!). Such is the way of it. But does it make romantic love any the less wonderful that it is all rather arbitrary, depends on the happenstance of a meeting and the chemistry of an underlying physical attraction, and makes us a little bit mad? I don't see why! Why shouldn't we place a high value on love -- find it "sublime" though also delightfully human -- even if it is the result of such earthly accidents? After all, an Alpine landscape is thrown up by an underlying clash of tectonic plates and sculpted by the...

Are there different intensitites of "falling in love" as there are in "liking", i.e. could a person fall in love with person A with a much higher intensity than with subsequent persons, B and C or is "falling in love" a specific state of intensity experienced by all?

How clear are we about the very idea of "falling in love"? When we talk about different cases of falling in love are we always talking about the same single kind of experience? Or are we perhaps talking about some quite complex pattern or syndrome of thoughts and feelings, which might come in different mixes in different cases (so that different instances of falling in love have a family resemblance to each other, though there perhaps needn't be any one core experience in common to all cases)? Well, even if one person's own experiences might have a common thread, the anecdotes of friends and relations and the witness of however many novelists and poets do suggest that the experiences people call "falling in love" are indeed actually rather complex and many-stranded. And as a matter of fact, it seems that at least some of the components of these complex experiences come in degrees (so "falling in love" isn't really an all-or-nothing business). Of course, noting this is, in part, to make a general ...

Suppose that a neuroscientist is studying love, and she discovers that romantic infatuation is caused by high serotonin levels, while attachment is caused by oxytocin. Has she actually learned anything about love? More generally, what is the significance of discovering neural or hormonal correlates to particular human emotions or behavior?

An interesting question. Of course, our neuroscientist has learnt something about love, for she has learnt something about the neural causes of certain feelings bound up with love. But you might well feel that there is a sense in which her discoveries don't help us understand what really matters about love as part of human life (hasn't in the important sense learnt about the nature of love). That needs a quite different sort of enquiry, pursued by poets and playwrights and novelists down the ages. Compare: someone who tells us about the chemical composition of the pigments used in Botticelli's Primavera has told us something about the painting. But again such discoveries don't help us understand the painting in the way that matters, as a work of art, as part of the human world: understanding that requires something quite different from chemistry. We could stop there. But perhaps there is a bit more that needs to be said. For there can remain a nagging feeling that the neuroscientist...

Can a guy REALLY love you if he comments on other girls saying that they're cute?

Well, of course he's going to notice cute girls. Love might make you blind, but not in that way. But it is, to say the very least, tactless to notice too obviously, let alone to point them out. I suppose his being an insensitive jerk might be compatible with his loving you ... in his way. But whether you want to love a jerk is another matter. I'm struggling though to extract any philosophical juice from the question! I suppose we might, as philosophers, remark that the concept of love is surely analytically tied up with notions of care andconcern for another (love isn't just a "feeling"): so genuine love is incompatible with behaving in too uncaring a way,too unconcerned for the other's feelings. But is commenting on cute girls being "too uncaring" ... or is it just being a thoughtless idiot who can't join up the dots ("he's a man, honey")? Depends on the guy and how he comments, I guess.

I have just found out today that the man I have been dating for 6 months is mildly autistic. I had no idea about this until just a few hours ago, so this realization left me shocked. I understand autism and that it is nothing like mental retardation, or anything to that extent. But still I feel like I am doing something morally wrong by continuing to date him. Should I end the relationship because it isn't fair to him, seeing as he may not fully understand his feelings or mine? Or should I continue the relationship because his autism is only mild? Please let me know what you think, I am completely torn and cannot figure out whether I am doing something horribly wrong or not.

I'm sure that you won't be doing something "horribly wrong" by continuing the relationship, if you both can acknowledge and work with your boyfriend's cast of mind. And it's hardly an uncommon situation you are in (as I'm sure many partners of male academics in the mathematical sciences could ruefully tell you!). Though the situation will probably be harder for you than your boyfriend -- for there will be occasions when his lack of ready perception of your more subtle emotional needs will, almost inevitably, be hurtful (for that is as natural reaction for you as his failures will be for him), and be upsetting however much you can explain things away as due to his mild autism. Can I add to your reading list (this is certainly one for both of you!)? Simon Baron-Cohen's The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain is very readable and very insightful by a leading researcher into autism-spectrum conditions.

At school we had a discussion about our motives to do certain things. The concrete example was Antigone. Antigone buries the corpse of her brother, which is against the law, and risks her own life by doing so. Finally she gets caught and is sentenced to death, but before that can happen, she kills herself. At first I thought this was the greatest love one can prove to another. But a classmate said everything we do has an egoistic motive. Antigone didn't bury her brother to give his soul rest, but to give herself a good feeling. My question is: What we experience as love, is it really caring about someone or just trying to feel better?

It is worth commenting further on that idea that "everything we do has an egoistic motive". We need to distinguish here a truism from a falsehood. The truism is that, when I act, it is as a result of my desires, my intentions, my goals. After all, if my arm moves independently of my desires, e.g. because you want it to move and push it, then we'd hardly say that the movement was my action (it was something that happened to my body despite me). But even if everything I genuinely do (as opposed to undergo) is as a result of my desires etc., it doesn't follow that everything I do has an egoistic motive. For to say that I do something for an egoistic motive is to say something about the content of my desires -- i.e. it is to say not just that the desires are mine but that the desires are about me or directed towards me or something like that. And it is just false that all my desires are like that. I can want to bring about states of affairs in which I just don...