Philosophy of Love: From Plato to Pragmatism - PHIL6580

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40


Also available at Level 6 (PL659)

Method of assessment

Essay (3,000 words) – 70%
Summary Assignment (1,000 words) – 20%
Seminar Performance – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

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)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 5 students will be able to:

demonstrate a critical understanding of love in the history of philosophy and the diversity of theories and conceptions of love;
identify the philosophical problems of love in relation to eros, agape and philia;
reflect critically on the nature of love as a philosophical problem across a variety of traditions;
show enhanced critical ability in using abstract concepts in relation to the idea of love;
demonstrate an ability to carry out additional research for essay and seminar topics.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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