Philosophy of Love: From Plato to Pragmatism - PL658

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 30 (15) PROF JR Carrette







This course brings together a range of theories of love from the history of philosophy and from various traditions, including analytical philosophy, feminism, pragmatism and continental thought. It will explore questions of love, beauty and friendship in Plato, religious models in Aquinas, ars erotica in ancient Indian and Chinese philosophies of love, Romantic traditions of love, the logic of love in Peirce and James, feminist politics of love and maternity, and cognitive models of love. The course will also examine a range of analytical questions of love, including debates about the different types of love (eros, agape and philia), the problems of talking about love in philosophical language, distinctions between self-love and relational love, the relation of love to literature and poetry, love as embodied instinct and mental idea, the relation between love and sex, and connections between love, compassion and caring. The aim of the course is to combine a philosophical history of love with critical analytical skills to think about love as a dynamic feature of human relationships.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Teaching will be taught by means of a one-hour lecture and a two-hour seminar for ten weeks.
Total Contact Hours: 30
Private Study Hours: 270
Total Study Hours: 300
The lectures will provide students with the overall framework and an understanding of the central issues to be covered. Seminars will involve class discussion, directed onto specific issues by the seminar leader, which will enable students to engage in in-depth analysis of concepts and texts and to develop their skills in philosophical analysis.


Also available at Level 6 (PL659)

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by 100% coursework:
For the essay, students will choose from a set of questions. Level 6 students will be expected to make explicit reference to articles, books and parts of the main text that require discussion.
The summary assessment will be based on one of the topics discussed (indicative list supplied by convenor). The topic must not be the same one as chosen for the essay. The summary may be completed either as a written assignment, or it can be made as an oral presentation during seminar. Whether the presentation is made on an individual or group basis will be dictated by both the topic chosen and the number of students choosing this option.
Marks for seminar performance will be awarded as per SECL's policy on participation. Students will be assessed throughout term and will typically be given feedback on how they are doing half-way through the term.
Students are also required to complete a literature review which is intended to establish extended critical and analytical skills.

Preliminary reading

Frankfurt, H. (2006) The Reasons of Love (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)
Nussbaum, M. (1992) Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
Howatson, M.C. & F. Sheffield, (2008) Plato: The Symposium (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)
Soble, A. (1993) Eros, Agape and Philia: Readings in the Philosophy of love (New York: Paragon)
Singer, I. (2009) The Nature of Love: Plato to Luther (Cambridge, MA: MIT)
Soble, A. (1993) Eros, Agape and Philia: Readings in the Philosophy of love (New York: Paragon)
Secomb, L. (2007) Philosophy and Love: From Plato to Popular Culture (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 5 students will be able to:
8.1 demonstrate a critical understanding of love in the history of philosophy and the diversity of theories and conceptions of love;
8.2 identify the philosophical problems of love in relation to eros, agape and philia;
8.3 reflect critically on the nature of love as a philosophical problem across a variety of traditions;
8.4 show enhanced critical ability in using abstract concepts in relation to the idea of love;
8.5 demonstrate an ability to carry out additional research for essay and seminar topics.

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