Volume 12, Issue 1, January 2011
Love and Reasons
The Possibility of Love Independent Reasons
In his recent work, Harry Frankfurt has defended a theory according to which an agent’s practical reasons are determined by what she happens to love. In the first section of this article, I will describe some of the awkward consequences of this view. For instance, it would turn out that not all rapists would have reasons not to rape their victims. The second section of the article explains in detail Frankfurt’s argument for his theory of reasons. The crux of this argument is that, because reasons have to be attached to significant life-changes, any attempt to show that there were love independent reasons would need to be based on a prior evaluation of significance. However, such evaluations can only be based on what we already love, or so Frankfurt argues. From this threat of circularity, Frankfurt concludes that there cannot be reasons outside the realm of the objects of our loves. The rest of the article is a critical examination of Frankfurt’s argument. It first constructs an analogical argument for reasons for beliefs. In that case, both the unacceptable consequences of the argument and its basic flaws are more transparent. It is clear that our prior beliefs are not the only epistemic standard by which the justificatory role of new experiences is to be evaluated. In the end of the article, I argue that, likewise, our prior loving attitudes cannot be the only relevant standard for assessing the significance of life-changes. This is why our reasons are not constrained by what we love.