Philosophy of Love and Sex Paper #1

Due date: February 26, handed in electronically by midnight Central Time.


Paper topics

Topic A.  Diotima's ladder (hard to do well)

Describe Diotima’s ladder.  What does one want to do with the beloved?  Does this change depending on what step of the ladder one is on?  When one gets to higher stages on the ladder, do you think Plato (or Diotima) thinks that one ceases to have the loves that the lower stages involve?  Why or why not?  How might deep knowledge of what true Beauty is and the attainment of the top of the ladder help one with relationships with other human beings?

Topic B. Lysis and Nicomachean Ethics

How does Socrates argue against that the theory that like loves like?  Why does Socrates think need enters into friendship?  Is he right or not, and why or why not?  Aristotle thinks that even a happy and virtuous human being needs to have friendship.  How would Aristotle respond to Socrates’ argument?  Do Aristotle and Socrates agree or disagree on this issue?  Why or why not?

Topic C. Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle thinks that friendship always has a reason.  What three kinds of reasons for being friends with someone does Aristotle recognize?  Do you think Aristotle means these three kinds of reasons to be always separate or do you think he would allow them to intermix?  (Quoting some texts will help here;  the first part of Cooper’s paper is also helpful.)  Do you think there are any additional reasons one might have for being friends with someone?  Why or why not?  Do you think that some of the reasons can be reduced to one another (e.g., pleasure to usefulness).  Why or why not?  Is there any difference between reasons for being someone’s friend and reasons for becoming someone’s friend?

Topic D. Character friendship (hard)

What do the views of Aristotle and Whiting about friendship have in common?  What sorts of differences are there between the two views?  For each difference, give the arguments that each could give on behalf of his or her version.  Who is right about each one, in your view, and why?

Topic E. Love and divinity (difficult!)

Suppose that there are two or more divine persons, who are perfect, and who lack nothing.  They are all-powerful, perfectly virtuous, perfectly good, all-knowing, etc.  Would there be any room or value for erotic love between them on Plato’s view?  How about for friendship?  How about for friendship on Aristotle’s view?  You might have to make room for a distinction between what Plato or Aristotle says about the issue and what you think he should say given his basic views about the nature of love and friendship.  Are Plato and Aristotle right about this, given what they think love is?  Why or why not?  Are they right, period?  Why or why not?  Does thinking about this kind of a case do anything to make their account of love and/or friendship more plausible?  Less plausible?

Topic G. Repeatable features vs. loving people as individuals

You’ve seen two radically different accounts of love.  In Aristotle and Whiting, one always loves someone for a reason, because of some repeatable feature.  In Kierkegaard’s view of romantic love, love either has no reasons or is its own reason.  Do you think there any important distinctions between (a) the reasons why one starts loving, (b) the reasons why one continues loving, and (c) what one loves a person for?  What would such distinctions be, if there were any?  What kind of an argument can one give for the view that one loves a person not for having any repeatable feature?  What kind of an argument can one give for the opposite view?  Is it possible to come up with an account of love which both accepts the insight that the repeatable features of the person one loves matter to the lover and that accepts Kierkegaard’s focus on a commitment that is not conditional on any changeable features of the person?

Topic H. C. S. Lewis and Aristotle

Summarize C. S. Lewis’s four loves and his three components of love (Appreciative, Gift- and Need-love).  Summarize Aristotle’s three forms of friendship.  Are there any correspondences between any of C. S. Lewis’s classifications and Aristotle’s?  How would C. S. Lewis classify Aristotelian character-friendship?  Which of the four loves does it fall under, if any?  What are its components?  What would Aristotle think of the whole range of things that C. S. Lewis considers to be “Friendship”?