'Love and Self-love in Descartes'
24th March 2021
Descartes’s conception of love is notoriously obscure. He famously defines love in the Passions of the Soul as an emotion that inclines the soul “to join itself willingly” to the beloved object or person. Joining oneself “willingly” to something or someone is spelled out as “the assent by which we consider ourselves henceforth as joined with what we love in such a manner that we imagine a whole, of which we take ourselves to be only one part, and the thing loved to be the other” (AT XI 387, CSM I 356). Descartes’s emphasis on volition is unusual, as love is typically taken to be a paradigmatically passive emotion, not at all under our control. Moreover, the nature of the “imaginative whole” that Descartes takes love to involve is also unclear. Things get even more puzzling when one takes into account Descartes’s remarks about self-love. Given the above definition, what exactly is self-love supposed to be? What is the self that is loved, who is the loving subject, and what kind of imaginative whole are they forming? In my talk, I will examine Descartes’s accounts of love and self-love and connect them with questions surrounding the human being understood as mind-body union. I will not focus primarily on metaphysical themes but will rather emphasize the moral aspects of Cartesian personhood. I support my reading by drawing on what I take to be so far largely overlooked historical antecedents of Descartes’s view.
Date: 18th January 2021
Time: 6pm-8pm (GMT)
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