The paradoxes of love
some theological remarks on the work of Harry Frankfurt
On Harry Frankfurt's account of love, love not only has its own "reasons", in that love generates a powerful source of motivation for actions, but also its paradoxes. This chapter considers three paradoxes in Frankfurt's portrayal of love: (1) love frees the lover insofar as it delimits and binds the lover's will; (2) self-love is the highest form of love and yet is always "indirect"; and (3) love creates value and worth in the beloved rather than finding it. Each of these paradoxes has its ready equivalent and counterpart within religious and theological discourses concerning love, and they are thus worth interrogating from a theological standpoint. This chapter's questioning of Frankfurt focuses on the third paradox, but what this interrogation will uncover generally is that Frankfurt's account of love and care is compelling in its stark portrayal of love's "whylessness' and overlaps with a certain understanding of Christian agape, but finally remains inadequate as a Christian account of love. It is inadequate as a Christian account, firstly, because it seems not to take stock of the systemic perversions of, or obstacles to, love which Christian theology considers under the heading of the fall and its effects. The second inadequacy of Frankfurt's account lies in his unwillingness to say that our loves, and the moral and aesthetic commitments they ground, have an objective basis, or that there might be some normativity guiding what we can or ought to love. Finally, in a Christian account of love, the condition of possibility for our loves—and so a source of normativity—is that we have been loved first, and even that the world itself is loved long before.
Oakes, K. (2019)., The paradoxes of love: some theological remarks on the work of Harry Frankfurt, in B. M. Mezei & M. Z. Vale (eds.), Philosophies of christianity, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 217-235.
This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.