The Priority of the Good Over Right in Love: Challenging Velleman’s Kantian View

In Love as a Moral Emotion David Velleman rejects the conative analysis of love arguing instead for a conception which is modelled after Kantian respect. The general problem associated with conative views of love according to Velleman is that they cut love loose from morality, sometimes characterizing its aims as in conflict with morality.
In this paper, I argue that Velleman, although perhaps identifying an important corrective to views such as Freud’s where overvaluation distorts the love relation, goes too far in being “more rather than less high-minded on the subject.”  In ignoring the historical dimension of love, Velleman also severs the connection between love and the Good.  Love, I want to argue, is best understood as a form of desire informed by the Good. Orienting love towards the Good allows a central place for caring and beneficence – two aspects of love which Velleman sees as frequently accompanying love – but not being part of its essential nature.  I believe that his view conflicts with the intuitions of not only many who have written about love, but also many who have loved.

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