Love's Constancy and Neil Jordan's The Crying Game


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Love's Constancy and Neil Jordan's The Crying Game
Luc Bovens

London School of Economics

Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Constancy is a mark of love—“love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” as the Bard writes1. There are three aspects to love’s constancy. Love is not subject to trading up when someone more desirable crosses one’s path. Love persists even though a beloved may change in various ways. And love does not vanish when one learns something about a beloved that is not to one’s liking. The constancy of love is a focal point in philosophy of love and in romantic literature and, of course, it receives a good share of attention in popular culture. Neil Jordan's film The Crying Game (1992)2 is particularly rewarding in this respect. While the plot presents an intriguing tale of the persistence of love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the dialogue and the soundtrack can be mapped onto centuries of philosophical attempts to account for love’s constancy.

1. Love’s Constancy

There are all kinds of things that we like to have in our lives, ranging from ice cream and cruises to jobs and lovers. When the object of our desires does not live up to our expectations, the reasonable thing to do is to turn our backs, say by returning the item or by exchanging it for a better one, preferably no questions asked. But somehow love does not fit this ticket. Jimmy's love for Dil persists after he finds out about her sexual identity, even though he is portrayed as being strictly heterosexual. Dil's love for Jimmy persists after she finds out about his involvement in the death of her former lover. This is love’s persistence in the face of unwelcome information—an aspect of love’s constancy.

One might object that the situation is not any different outside the realm of love. After all, sometimes our tastes change, and we may come to enjoy the ice cream, the cruise, or the job that we would have detested beforehand, had we known all of its features in advance. But notice that in this case we must appeal to a change of tastes to save us from the verdict of being unreasonable. This is not so in love. Dil does not come to detest the role of the IRA in the death of Jodie any less. Jimmy does not come to develop latent homosexual desires in the course of his relationship. Their desire structures remain virtually unchanged. And, given their respective desire structures, Dil and Jimmy would never have fallen in love, had they known what there was to know about each other. But somehow, once their relationship has gone some distance, this knowledge does not stand in the way of continuing it.

One might also object that in the realm of love it is no less reasonable to retract one's affections when one is getting something different than what one had initially bargained for. What come to mind are issues of domestic abuse, codependency, etc. There is no doubt that sometimes lovers must part ways and to do anything else would be sheer stupidity. But still, there is a difference. Outside the realm of love, the sheer fact that I learn about certain features (however trivial) of the object of my desire that do not live up to my expectations may be enough to extinguish the desire. This does not cast any doubts on the genuineness of my earlier desire. But in the realm of love, constancy does count for something. For instance, in Polanski's film Tess (1979) (after Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles), when Tess's husband deserts her upon finding out that she has had a baby out of wedlock, we come to doubt whether he ever loved her. In matters of love, the lack of constancy creates at least a presumption that there was no genuine love. How much weight this presumption should carry and what sort of considerations may trump it, is unclear. But what is important is that there is such a presumption, and this is what sets love apart from other matters of taste.

2. Models of Love

Philosophers and philosophical authors have sketched various models of love. These models can be assessed for their capacity to warrant—or, in other words, to provide adequate grounds for—love’s constancy. I will introduce such models here and place them into a simple matrix (Table 1). In the remainder of the paper I will illustrate and expand on these models by means of materials from The Crying Game. The matrix contains a dimension of straight versus sceptical models and a dimension of feature-based versus non-feature-based models. Furthermore, there is a hybrid straight model—a model that is somewhat feature-based and somewhat non-feature-based—and similarly, a hybrid sceptical model.











Table 1: Six Models of Love

Let us start with the distinction between straight and sceptical models. A straight model of love provides an account of love that one can accept as an accurate description of one’s own love and this does not stand in the way of continuing to love in this fashion. A sceptical model of love provides an account which is such that if one accepts this account as an accurate description of one’s love, then this would cast doubts on one’s love—it would at least to some extent block one from continuing to love in this fashion. In other words, straight models provide accounts of love that lovers can self-reflectively endorse, sceptical models provide accounts that lovers cannot self-reflectively endorse.3

Let us start with straight models. On the Socratic model love is not substantially different from other desires. Just like we like ice cream for its sweet flavor and its creamy consistency, we love for the wonderful features that we encounter in a beloved. Value is what elicits our love and hence Socratic love is feature-based love. However, to secure constancy one needs to restrict those features to features that are maximally unique to the person and are maximally immutable. It is notoriously difficult to determine what features are proper grounds for love.

To avoid this difficulty there is the following radical turn in St. Paul. Paulinian love is modeled on God’s love. We do not love a person for his or her wonderful features. Paulinian love is non-feature-based love. Rather it is through loving that we will come to make the beloved shine. Value does not elicit love but rather love is what elicits value.

We find a sceptical variant of feature-based love in Descartes. Descartes relates an autobiographical episode in which he comes to love for a feature that is entirely irrelevant to what he consciously and autonomously values in a beloved. If such irrelevant features are sufficiently unique and persistent, then constancy is warranted even though the features that we consciously and autonomously value may be in flux.

There is also a sceptical variant of non-featured-based love. Great romantics do not actually fall in love with a person, but rather, they are in love with love itself and the person is a mere placeholder. Now placeholders may come and go, but if one is in love with love and with all of its features, then constancy is part of the package, even though the beloved is a mere placeholder for one’s affections. Augustine reflects on his wretched state during his student days in Carthage and writes in his Confessions “I was not in love as yet, but I was in love with love.” (Book III, chapter 1) Granted, Augustine does not take constancy to be an aspect of this model of love and takes it to be a model of immature love. Nonetheless, let us attach his name to it for want of an author who defends a variant of the model that warrants constancy.4

On feature-based views it is something about the beloved that provides the ground for love, whether this is a reasonable or an unreasonable ground. But the cost is that it is hard to account for constancy. Non-feature-based views avoid this problem but at the cost that we have little to say when our beloved asks why we love him or her rather than someone else. So we could try to secure the best of both worlds by constructing hybrid models. On the straight side we find Robert Nozick’s two-tiered model. Love starts with feature-based infatuation and matures into a non-feature-based bond—a shared we—between both lovers. On the sceptical side we find Stendhal’s delusion model. When asked about our beloved we are eager to provide a long list of features, and in so far our love is feature-based. However, upon closer inspection the match with reality is quite minimal. Hence, our love is not based on genuine features and in this respect it is non-feature-based.

We will now turn to The Crying Game and show how almost all of these models (I could find no examples of the Augustinian model) can be traced in the dialogue, the story line and the soundtrack of the film.

3. Stendhal and Percy Sledge

The opening song of The Crying Game is Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." The lyrics express a model of love as delusion. The lover cannot see the flaws of his beloved: "if she is bad, he can't see it—she can do no wrong" and "if she plays him for a fool, he is the last one to know—loving eyes can never see." There is a romantic and a not-so-romantic view of love as delusion. The not-so-romantic view blames the hazards of love on the incapacity to see clearly upon falling in love. The delusion is bound to avenge itself some time. But there is also a romantic view of delusion. A person who is in love is able to turn a blind eye to his or her beloved's vices and to glorify his or her beloved's virtues. This romantic view of delusion in love suggests a response to the problem of constancy. Love is immune from the vicissitudes of everyday life because it can take its flight from them through the imagination.

The romantic delusion model is developed in detail and with an eye on the constancy of love in Stendhal's crystallization thesis. Stendhal compares the delusion of love to the crystals that are deposited on a small twig thrown into a Salzburg salt mine, resembling "a galaxy of scintillating diamonds." This crystallization first occurs in constructing an ideal image of the beloved upon falling in love: "What I have called crystallization is a mental process which draws from everything that happens new proofs of the perfection of the loved one." (Stendhal: 135) A second crystallization occurs when the lover tries to calm his fears that his beloved will leave him. He gives his imagination license to construct proof that his beloved still loves him. The relationship is able to continue through a continued process of crystallization: "whenever all is not well between you and your beloved, you crystallize out an imaginary solution." (Stendhal: 137) Falling in love, assuring oneself of the love of one's beloved, staying in love,... are all aided by that delusion that is present in the process of crystallization. Love is constant precisely because it finds the resources for crystallization in the lovers' imaginations.

"Can't you pretend?" Dil asks, when Jimmy declines her invitation to come up to her apartment on their first date after he came to learn about Dil's being transgendered. Jimmy responds that he is not sure he can pretend that much. Pretense is the use of the imagination to smooth out or cover up some undesirable features in a relationship. Notice that Jimmy does not object in principle to Dil's appeal to the Stendhalian strategy—only, he fears that he cannot pretend that much. Pretense is a means to keep a relationship afloat and Dil construes the extent to which this pretense can be pushed as a test of the genuineness of Jimmy's love for her.

4. Meet the Cartesian Bartender

Delusion cannot be the whole story of love. Sometimes love manages to face the truth with sheer incomprehension—we do not know why we love or fail to love someone. Love may be mysteriously immune to rational argument, but this need not rest on delusion. Lovers may be fully aware of the ill-fated nature of their bond. And though they can see a million reasons for not loving each other—and sometimes even for hating each other—they are unable to escape their respective fates. This may be so because the features that trigger our love may be hidden deeply in our mental lives and have little to do with the features that we would consciously affirm as being relevant to our love. Descartes' views about love in his Letter to Chanut address this feature:
...when I was a child, I loved a little girl of my own age, who had a slight squint. The impression made by sight in my brain when I looked at her cross eyes became so closely connected to the simultaneous impression arousing in me the passion of love, that for a long time afterwards when I saw cross-eyed persons I felt a special inclination to love them simply because they had that defect. At that time I did not know that was the reason for my love; and as soon as I reflected on it and recognized that it was a defect, I was no longer affected by it. (302-303)

Descartes story illustrates that “the structure of our emotional lives is influenced by the forgotten events and pre-rational experiences of early childhood” and is “in some respects at least, a striking anticipation of the Freudian line” (Cottingham, 1998: 93). But if our affections are formed on such highly contingent grounds, the question of why we love and fail to love understandably meets with scepticism. There are reasons for our affections, but to look for them is like looking for a pin in a haystack. And even if we do uncover these reasons, our affections are typically not as corrigible as Descartes suggests. Bartenders are quite on a par with psychotherapists in witnessing arcane loves. When Jimmy asks Col, the bartender in Dil's club, about her involvement in an abusive relationship with Dave, Col joins ranks with Descartes and responds: "Who knows the secrets of the human heart?"

If love's reasons are hidden then it is not surprising that the most dismal relationships come about and survive. What looks like a mismatch to both outsiders and the parties involved is a match on the level of the hidden reasons that ground love. But this view also holds the key to the tragedy of love. The players in the game of love are like customers in a used-car lot who are doomed to pick and choose on grounds of the color of the car and are partial to such a small range of colors that it leaves them few other features to consider. It is no wonder that they end up with lemons, and moreover, that they invest their last dime to keep those lemons running.

There is no telling why Dil and Dave might once have been in love—“he's what she should run a mile from,” as Col says. There is no telling why Dil and Jimmy fall in love and why they continue their relationship. Cartesian reasons for their match are inaccessible from both first-person and third-person perspectives. Their continued relationship requires serious emotional investments. Dil has to come to terms with the reality of living with a man who was at least partially responsible for the death of her former lover. Jimmy has to redefine his sexual orientation in order to carry on his relationship with Dil. It would be much easier for Dil and Jimmy to walk out on each other. For Cartesian lovers there need be no match between love’s investments and its expected payoffs.

5. "Details, Socrates, Details..."

When it is Socrates' turn to speak in the Symposium, he relates how he learned about love from Diotima, the woman from Mantinea. On Diotima's model, the lover can come to love his beloved only in so far as the beloved reflects an ideal of beauty and “the beauty of the mind is more honorable than the beauty of the outward form.” [210b] Love has its basis in the features of the beloved. This is the eros model of love. Feature-based love poses an obvious challenge to constancy. If the lover encounters someone who reflects his ideal of beauty (broadly conceived) to a greater extent than the beloved, then what stands in the way of trading up? If the beloved comes to lose some desirable features, or the lover comes to learn some undesirable features about his beloved, what could there be to keep love alive?

One route is to restrict the features that ground love to essential features and not to accidental features about a person. Then, in line with Socrates, one could say that true beauty is to be found in these essential features. But what makes for the difference between accidental and essential features? Stories like the one in George Cukor's film My Fair Lady (1964) (after George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion) abound. An upper-class protagonist has a life style that carries with it a commitment to segregation by class. Due to circumstances he comes to know a lower-class character, befriends her and almost against their will a romance ensues. Unwilling to acknowledge it at first, they find themselves in love. What the protagonist comes to learn is that a feature that he would previously have considered to be an impediment to any relationship beyond mere acquaintance really does not matter at all any more. What once seemed to be a feature of huge proportion turns out to be a mere detail. What was once mistaken for an essential feature turns out to be a merely accidental feature. The story can be retold in terms of race with equal persuasion.

The Crying Game is meant to make a similar move for sexual preference. Jimmy takes himself to be strictly heterosexual. Due to circumstances he finds himself in love with the transgendered Dil. The unfolding of their love is aided in various ways. Jimmy's ignorance of Dil's (biological) gender permits him to cross a barrier. His involvement in Jodie's death gives him the incentive to look after Dil as an unusual form of restitution. And, their entrapment in the IRA scheme locks them in a common fate. What seems to be an essential obstacle to Jimmy's love—Dil’s gender—comes to lose its prominence as their relationship continues. And this is precisely the point of Dil's pointed comment about her gender: "Details, baby, details..." There is an interesting foreshadowing of the weight that Dil's gender will come to play when the somewhat coy Fergus has to help Jodie urinate during the kidnapping since Jodie's hands are tied behind his back. Jodie remarks: "It's amazing how these small details take on such importance." At that point the remark merely takes its meaning from the fact that a small detail like helping a man urinate can become a source of embarrassment within the scheme of a political kidnapping. But it is also a visionary remark in that the importance of a small detail like Dil's penis is precisely what will take on such importance in the unfolding of the relationship between Dil and Jimmy.

The constancy of Dil's love is no less fascinating. When Dil finds out that Jimmy was engaged in the kidnapping of her former lover Jodie, she ties him up and threatens to shoot him. But then she partially unties him and comes to solicit endearments from him. In the final scene, we witness the playful interaction of lovers when Dil visits Jimmy in prison. How can Dil's love persist through finding out about Jimmy's involvement in the death of the man she once loved and still mourns for? The repeated references to a person's nature are relevant here. During the kidnapping, Jodie tells the well-known story about the scorpion and the frog to Fergus. The scorpion hitches a ride on the back of the frog across the river, convincing him that he will not sting him since it would not be in either one of their interests. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog followed by an apology that he cannot help it—it is in his nature. The story is supposed to warn Fergus that he has become engaged in an endeavor that does not befit his nature, but the recurrent reference to a person's nature may also be taken to be relevant in understanding the persistence of Dil's love. Dil comes to see Fergus's involvement in the death of Jodie as an accidental feature about him. A series of unfortunate contingencies put Fergus at the wrong place at the wrong time. What is essential and what will come to carry Dil's love for Jimmy is the purity of his character, his virtuous nature,… notwithstanding the moral misstep he made. Jimmy's involvement in Jodie's death takes on the role for Dil that Dil's biological gender comes to take for Jimmy: details, baby, details...

The Socratic model warrants the constancy of Dil and Jimmy’s love by distinguishing between types of features—their love is grounded in features that are more essential than gender and than an accidental misstep.

6. St. Paul and Lyle Lovett

However we conceive of essential features, they may still come short of warranting constancy since these essential features may be present to a greater extent in others, may be open to misinterpretation or may simply be variable. If one wants to safeguard the constancy of love, then it is a natural solution to let love not have its grounds in any of the beloved's features. But the alternative to any feature-based love is mysterious. The possibility of non-feature-based love is the theme of W.B. Yeats’s For Anne Gregory and it reserves this type of love to God’s love: "I heard an old religious man; But yesternight declare; That he had found a text to prove; That only God, my dear; Could love you for yourself alone; And not your yellow hair."

The Christian route is indeed to model personal love after the love of God. This is love as agape or caritas. God's love is unconditional. He does not love because He values certain features in us. On the contrary, it is through God's love that value is bestowed upon us. God's love is not responsive to value, but rather, it creates value. The value of persons is contingent on God's love for them. God's love is directed at the complete person and remains constant in the face of sin. St. Paul urges us to love our neighbor with the same kind of love as God's love for us: charity (love) "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (Cor. 13: 7) Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) takes this love to be a model as well for conjugal love. Conjugal love is for the complete person and is independent "of [his or her] virtues and in spite of [his or her] faults. The strength of such a love emerges most clearly when the beloved...stumbles, when his or her weaknesses or even sins come into the open. One who truly loves does not then withdraw his love, but loves all the more, loves in full consciousness of the other's shortcomings and faults."5 On this model, the constancy of conjugal love is commanded. Love is placed under the control of the will. Paulinian lovers do not merely hope that the mutual passion will endure over the years but rather they will love’s continuation.

The Crying Game repeatedly hints at this Christian model of love. There is the curious scene in which Jodie asks Fergus to tell him something—just anything. Fergus is at a loss and murmurs: "When I was a child, I thought as a child; But when I became a man, I put away childish things." Now this abbreviated version of Corinthians, 13: 11 comes four verses after St. Paul’s oft-quoted passage on Christian love—i.e. Corinthians 13:7—above. In the relationship between Dil and Jimmy there are repeated references to "caring" and "wanting to take care"—a conception of love which is closest to Christian love or caritas, both etymologically and in content.

The following curious interchange underlines unconditional commitment in a relationship:

Dil: The thing is, can you go the distance?

Jimmy: Depends what it is.

Dil (murmurs): Depends on nothing.
The willingness to form a lasting relationship does not depend on the sort of obstacles the relationship will encounter on the road. It is a categorical willingness—a willingness that depends on nothing.

Most pointed is a particular choice in the soundtrack. The song accompanying the final scene in which Dil comes to visit Jimmy in prison is Lyle Lovett's version of Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man:

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman and all you love is just one man

You have bad times, you have good times

Don't think that you don't understand

But if you love him, you forgive him, even though he's hard to understand

And if you love him–oh, be proud of him, 'cause after all he's just a man

Stand by your man and show the world you love him

And give him all the love you can.

The core elements of the ideal of Paulinian love—viz. love’s unconditionality and commandability—are packed into these few lines.

On the Paulinian model, the constancy of Dil and Jimmy’s love is warranted because their love is unconditional. Once a commitment was made, there can be no grounds for reneging on this commitment—neither Jimmy’s learning about Dil’s gender which clashes with his sexual orientation nor Dil’s learning about Jimmy’s missteps that deeply affected her life constitute such grounds.

7. Nozick and Boy George

What is it about the song The Crying Game? The film ends with Boy George's version of this Dave Berry song. Dil does a Karoake on Kate Robbins's version in the club she frequents. It is a song that is close to Dil's heart considering how she repeatedly expresses her fears of being left behind by someone with whom she has had a relationship:
I know what there is to know about the crying game

I've had my share. First there are kisses, then there are sighs,

And then before you know where you are you're saying goodbye

One day soon I'm gonna tell the moon about the crying game

And if he knows, maybe he'll explain:

Why there are heartaches

Why there are tears...

So why are there heartaches, why are there tears? Clearly, there is sorrow when love is unrequited. But the more puzzling question is why it is no less true that there are heartaches and tears when love goes sour and the parties break off their relationship by mutual consent. Even if there is no love lost between them, the emotional pain is still there. This is why people tend to be hesitant about falling in love. Sometimes they distrust their suitors' sincerity and are afraid to become duped. Sometimes they are unclear about their own sincerity and do not want their suitors to become duped. But even if sincerity is not an issue, falling in love remains a risky gamble and not least because of the emotional costs involved in a break up. But if love is not worth having anymore, then what is so terrible about casting it away? What is so risky about falling in love if all one can lose is to be back where one was before?

Nozick tries to reconcile feature-based love and non-feature-based love in a two-tiered theory. A lover becomes infatuated and falls in love on grounds of certain features that happen to strike a chord. But as infatuation turns into love, one comes to invest one’s identity or at least part of one’s identity into a shared we. One softens the boundaries of one’s private self to construct an extended self with one’s beloved. One no longer conceives of oneself independently of one’s union with the beloved. And once a shared identity is formed, the continuation of love is no longer feature-dependent.6

This two-tiered view takes care of the standard objections to feature-based love and non-feature-based love respectively. If love is feature-based, then it may not be constant since it is contingent on the continued display of these features in the beloved. If love is non-featured-based then it is hard to see what is special about one's beloved since anyone else could just as well have taken her place. Constancy is gained on grounds of having formed a shared identity with one’s beloved. Privileged status is gained on ground of the conditional character of the infatuation that is present in falling in love.

Let us return to the problem raised by the title song of the Crying Game. Why would there be heartaches and tears when a couple breaks up by mutual consent? Falling out of love is the death of an extended self. Depending on how much space the extended self was allotted relative to the private self, it leaves the parties without an identity or at best with a bruised identity. Note that Dil does a Karoake of this song at a time when she is disengaging from an abusive relationship.

The role of the construction of an extended self also helps us understand the social dimension of love.7 New lovers must redefine their identities. They adapt their private selves and make room for the beloved in the construction of an extended self. There is a curious interchange when Dil's coworkers are cheering for her and Jimmy. Jimmy wants to know whether her coworkers know that she is a man. Why does he want to know? He is concerned about his social identity—how he is being perceived by others through his relationship with Dil. This poses a challenge to Jimmy. He has to radically redefine his own self in creating this space for a shared we with the transgendered Dil, and this redefining occurs within a social framework. This is why for Jimmy the cheering is more than just cheering. If Dil's coworkers know that Dil is transgendered, then the cheering addresses Jimmy's newly-to-be-defined identity—a task that Jimmy is still reluctant to face.

8. Conclusion

The Crying Game is a curious story about an aspect of the constancy of love—it is about continuing to love after learning about a beloved’s features whereas such knowledge would have most definitely stood in the way of falling in love. A central challenge in the philosophy of love is to give an account of the constancy of love.

We first looked at two sceptical models on which love can retain constancy but is not fully what we like it to be. Either we can go with Stendhal and Percy Sledge and invoke delusion. Though love cannot be all pretense, a conversation between Dil and Jimmy suggests that some measure of pretense may be healthy to keep a relationship afloat. And if, as Stendhal claims, love is a process of continued delusion, then, once again, constancy has a chance. Or we can go with Descartes and Col—the Cartesian bartender—and ground love in features that are irrelevant to what we autonomously and consciously value in a beloved. And if these irrelevant features are persistent, then constancy is secure even though the features we value may be in flux.

We turned to the Socratic eros model to account for constancy by thinking of love as a desire that is feature-based like any other desire. Constancy is achieved by placing restrictions on the kind of features that ground love. In the Crying Game, gender follows the route of race and social class—these features are not essential features and should not be impediments for love. Also Jimmy’s involvement with the IRA can be bracketed because it does not reflect his true nature. Love rests on something that is more profound or more essential about a person than her gender or earlier missteps. Subsequently we turned to the Paulinian agape or caritas model on which love is not value-responsive but value-bestowing and hence radically different from other desires. There is a curious seemingly throwaway reference to a passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that is a few verses apart from St. Paul’s central view on love. There is a thoroughly agapistic Tammy Wynette song. And there is lots of short dialogue that underlines various features of the Paulinian model.

Finally we turned to Nozick’s formation of an extended self in love. This helps us understand why Jimmy cares whether Dil’s coworkers know that she is transgendered—he cares about his social identity. It also helps us understand the heartache at the end of love in The Crying Game song—it is a form of grief for the death of the extended self that was constructed throughout the relationship.

Is there a single true model of love? Is there a single model of love that provides a true account of constancy? I do not think so. People love in different ways. People love different people in different ways. People love the same people at different times in different ways. And people love the same people at the same time in different ways. Jimmy and Dil’s love is a blend of modes of loving in the face of a love that seems doomed from the start and yet displays constancy against all odds. While the strongest emphasis in the film is on the Paulinian model, clear references to the Socratic, the Cartesian, the Stendhalian and Nozickian models surface throughout. Browning’s Sonnet from the Portuguese XLIII opens “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”—I have counted a few ways to shed light on the constancy of Dil and Jimmy’s love.8


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1 Shakespeare, W. Love Sonnet 116

2 The screen play can be found at (accessed on March 27, 2007).

3 I take the terms ‘straight’ and ‘sceptical’ from Saul Kripke’s Wittgenstein: On Rules and Private Language (1982). Following Hume, Kripke takes a straight solution to a sceptical problem to be a solution which shows that “on closer examination the scepticism proves to be unwarranted,” whereas a sceptical solution concedes that “the sceptic’s negative assertions are unanswerable”, but “[n]evertheless our ordinary practice or belief is justified because—contrary appearances notwithstanding—it need not require the justification the sceptic has shown to be untenable.” (Kripke, 1982: 66) Now we could formulate the following sceptical problem concerning love. The sceptic claims that the constancy of love cannot be warranted by an account of love that one can self-reflectively endorse. A straight solution is to deny the sceptic’s claim and to spell out such an account. A sceptical solution accepts the sceptic’s claim but provides an account of love that does warrant constancy but cannot be self-reflectively endorsed.

4 In Sonnets from the Portuguese XIV, Elizabeth Barrett Browning enjoins her lover to love her not for any of her features, but asks that love should be “for nought except for love's sake only” and this precisely because it warrants constancy—the danger of feature-based love is that “love so wrought, may be unwrought so.” Browning might be thought of as someone who presents the Augustinian model in a more positive light, but it is not clear that a person who loves “for love’s sake” is in love with love, or rather, whether he or she loves with the unconditional love of the Paulinian model.

5 Quoted in Soble, (1990), 213. References are to Wojtyla, 135

6 Nozick attributes the view of love as the formation of a we to Robert Solomon (1981). The position has its roots in Aristophanes' myth in Plato's Symposium.

7 William Wyler's classic film Wuthering Heights (1939), after Emily Brontë's novel by the same name, presents an interesting case in which the reluctance to embrace the social identity of the extended self leads to the demise of both the extended and the private self. Cathy expresses her ill-fated love for Heathcliff by exclaiming, "I am Heathcliff." thereby acknowledging that an extended self has formed. At the same time, she is hesitant to fully embrace this extended self as her social identity because she fears that it would imply a loss of social status.

8 I am grateful for the helpful comments by Ward Jones, Alice Obrecht, Samantha Vice and Alex Voorhoeve.


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