Volume 12, Issue 1, January 2011
Love and Reasons
The Unity of Eros and Agape
On Jean-Luc Marion’s Erotic Phenomenon
This essay evaluates Jean-Luc Marion’s claim in The Erotic Phenomenon that eros and agape are “two names selected among an infinity of others in order to think and to say the one love” (221). I will defend his attempt to unite agape and eros against Jacques Derrida’s claim that we must love without any desire for reciprocity. Additionally, I will indicate what implications Marion’s account of love has for a discussion of love and its reasons. Marion correctly identifies the paradox at the heart of love: that in order to truly love, I must give up my demand for assurance, although I may still maintain the hope that another will love me. While Marion offers an important corrective to Derrida’s account of pure agape, I will argue that his account of love that includes both eros and agape ultimately resembles Derrida’s pure agape too closely because Marion does not sufficiently acknowledge the role of reciprocity in love.