The Freud Museum

Events Archive

14 January 2015 - 25 February 2015
6.30-8.30pm

THE PHILOSOPHY OF EROTIC LOVE

Six week evening course

Erotic love – earthy and gross yet transcendent and spiritual, wild yet exclusive, natural yet artificial, spontaneous and conventional. This course examines the Western tradition of erotic love, looking at key philosophers from Plato to the present, and touching on anthropology, literature and neuroscience. In doing so, it examines related ideas about the self, and what it is to be a human, and to be a man or a woman.

The course is led by Jane O’Grady, who co-edited Blackwell’s Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations with A. J. Ayer, and writes philosophers’ obituaries for the Guardian, and reviews and articles for various papers and journals. She has been a Visiting Lecturer at City University for the last twelve years, and is one of the seven founders of the London School of Philosophy.

1. Introduction: What is love – how far is it a matter of feeling, disposition, or behaviour? Exactly who or what do you love – the beloved’s attributes, body, essence? a projection or fantasy? How far is erotic love biological and universal, or cultural and concocted?

2. Love of (and by) immortal, body-clogged souls. (Ancient Greece to the European Middle Ages) Eros as aspiration in Plato’s Symposium, and a brief glance at the Stoics and love-sickness, medieval theologians’ strictures on women, and Augustine on lust.

3. Love transfigured, involving body as well as soul. (Medieval France and the European Renaissance) Courtly Love, chivalry and gardens. A brief glance at developments out of Courtly Love – Montaigne, Donne, Shakespeare: 'None our parts so poor but was a race of heaven'.

4. Love of (and by) a sort of animal. (Romanticism, Darwinism and their 20th century legacy) Hume and Rousseau on ‘natural man’, Schopenhauer on the secret agenda of romantic love, Darwin on ape-descended emotions.

5. Love and It. Freud's id, J. B. Watson's behaviourism, and Futurist energy -- the authenticity of 'itness'. 1930s primitivism and free love exempt from jealousy – the impossible Utopias of Margaret Mead, Wilhelm Reich, and the anthropologists.

6. Love’s solipsism (20th and 21st century) Sartre: the intransigent Other and the impossible project of erotic love. Erotic love as a battle of genes or as pleasure-producing brain-chemicals – the reductionisms of evolutionary biology and neuroscience. As opposed to Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument, Levinas and being led beyond the I.

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