Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sick Love?

Welcome readers! This is my new blog devoted to the unconscious and irrational elements of love. If you are more technically inclined and love philosophy and psychology, you might want to visit my blog Lemmings. If love is your passion, stay put.

My view on love? You can love another person for just about any reason. Sounds strange? It’s not. You can kill for just about any reason, though very few are good reasons. Coral Eugene Watts strangled several women because he saw evil in their eyes. Belle Sorenson Gunness slaughtered her husbands because she believed men were evil. Ed Gein mutilated, skinned and gutted his graveyard goodies and his only live victim because he wanted to be a woman and believed he needed body parts for a sex change (or maybe to make a replica of his mother). None of these reasons are good reasons to kill, and not all reasons are good reasons to love. Still true love can, in principle, be love for any reason.

This idea that true love can occur for any reason is at odds with the view that true love is love for a good reason. In his acclaimed article "Love as a Moral Emotion” NYU professor J. David Velleman writes: "Being loved does not entail being valued on the basis of our distinctive qualities, such as our yellow hair; on the contrary, it entails being valued on the basis of our personhood, in which we are no different from other persons" (1999: 366).

In my humble opinion, our loved ones must possess particular physical attributes or personality traits in order for our love to be rational but they need not possess any particular physical attributes or personality traits in order for love to be true love. Or to put the point differently: Not all love is rational but rationality is no more of a constraint on love than rationality is a constraint on action.

Love is an emotion. Emotions can be rational. Your fear of Ted Bundy whispering in your ear that he is going to continue to have intercourse with your corpse until it putrefies is rational. So is your anger at the two 10-year old British boys who kidnapped 2-year old James Bulger and took him on a 5 kilometer walk, only to throw blue paint in his eyes, kick him and hit him with bricks, stones and a 10 kg iron bar, molest his tiny penis, place batteries in his mouth and anus and leave him on train tracks where he died before his corpse was cut in pieces by a goods train.

Like actions and beliefs emotions can be irrational. Ethan’s fear of flying is irrational because he knows that flying is safer than walking from the pool table to the restroom at the local pub in Detroit. Your anger when you first met John and he said, “Awright me old fruit, what gender are ye?”, is irrational because you know that half the people you meet are below average, that John is too stupid to be a smart-ass, and that his remark was meant as good-spirited humor. Anger in this circumstance is like borrowing cash from a pessimist because you believe that they won’t expect it back.


  1. Wow! When you get an take action! I love that! I can't wait to speak again. You are a breath of fresh air and have a lot of wisdom to offer!


  2. Thanks Catherine! Can't wait to speak again either. I really enjoyed our conversation!


  3. The couple squabbles constantly, neither one is satisfied with the relationship- inertia is the only thing keeping them together. They were mismatched from the start, but for a host of bad reasons they can't seem to end it. On those rare occasions when things work out, they profess love for each other, but still the doubts linger. Finally, the woman breaks away- females are usually braver when it comes to such things- licks her wounds, and eventually starts over again with another guy. This time, thank God, everything works out: not a smidgen of craziness and before you know it they are standing before the altar. Do you mean to tell me that, from that perspective, it would be incorrect for her to think, if she thinks of it at all, that her old relationship wasn't anything close to love precisely because it made no sense in comparison to what she has now? 'Sick love' seems like an oxymoron to me. Love makes us happy, but irrational relationships only cause misery.

    p.s. If you are with a guy who knows his way around, the local pubs in Detroit are no less safe than the those in any other major American city. You are the second female philosopher after Alyssa Nye to express a low opinion of my hometown.

  4. Thanks for your great comments! I don't have a low opinion of your hometown. But it was rated the most dangerous city in the US one year. Saint Louis was a close follow-up.

    "Sick love" is just a popular term for irrational love. Irrational love doesn't make us happy. It's a mental disorder. Rational love, on the other hand, can contribute to our well-being.