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On Loving Some People More than Others

  • Author(s): Mead, Aaron Michael
  • Advisor(s): Hieronymi, Pamela
  • et al.
Abstract

Augustine makes the following argument:

(1) The degree to which we love something should be proportional to the value it has.

(2) Every person has equal value.

(3) Therefore, we should love all people equally.

It seems there is something wrong with the argument since its conclusion conflicts with the intuition that, for example, we should love our own children more than a new friend. Premise (1) seems like the source of the problem, though it is not obvious what is wrong with it. Indeed, it seems there is some connection between appropriate love and value. Thus, even if premise (1) is false, it is worthwhile trying to say what is wrong with it, since that effort promises to illuminate the connection between appropriate love and value. The first aim of the dissertation, then, is to identify the central problem with premise (1), which I take to be an unstated assumption that underlies it: that love for a person should be a response to the value possessed by that person as such. I argue that love need not be a response only to that value; rather it may also be a response to the value of certain qualities of the beloved, or of a relationship to him, neither of which necessarily constitutes his value as a person. Thus, I argue that Augustine's view of love's connection to value is too narrow. The second aim of the dissertation is to give an account of why we should love some people more than others. I begin with a basic principle of practical reason: when faced with a forced, mutually exclusive choice between two goods, we should choose the more valuable over the less. I then argue that preferential love for those relationally close to us is (in part) a tendency of will to choose a more valuable relationship over a less valuable one. Thus, in the end, I claim that we should love those close to us more than those more distant from us since such love is (in part) a tendency to choose in just the way that practical reason dictates.

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