The Philosophy of Love

Dear Friends,

In celebration of the month of Saint Valentine, our next salon will be on the wonderful topic of love. We will explore philosophical ideas on love through the ages and reflect on what love means today.

Simon May,  Visting Professor of philosophy at Kings College London  and senior research fellow at Birbeck College London, will be our speaker. His research focuses on ethics, the philosophy of emotion, and questions of identity, particularly in the work of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Heidegger. On the subject of love, he has written Love: A History published by Yale University Press in 2011. He has broadcast on BBC radio and television, and written op-eds for newspapers such as the Financial Times and the Washington Post.
You can listen to his ideas on love in this Philosophy Now podcast.

Abstract of presentation:  I will briefly trace the origin of our prevailing Western conceptions of love and argue that they constitute the last genuinely universal religion in the contemporary West. I identify six distinct conceptions of the nature of love since Plato and Hebrew Scripture before suggesting that none of them does justice to what love is primarily about, which is not possessing beauty or goodness, or achieving reciprocal goodwill between people of similar virtue, or finding sexual satisfaction, or procreating, or unconditional and selfless giving.  Rather love is the rapture we feel for, and the consequent desire to care for, those who inspire in us a powerful feeling (or hope)  of “ontological rootedness” – that is, the feeling that our life is indestructibly anchored in a reality whose value we take to be both supreme and stable.

To begin the salon we will read some of the great love letters of history. Please bring your favourite letters to share at the salon!

We look forward to an enchanting evening!

If you are new to the salons and would like an invitation to this event please email Justine, jk554@cam.ac.uk