Introduction: The problems  pp. 1-13

Introduction: The problems

By Robert Brown

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We seem to possess all the information that we could possibly wish to have concerning love as a relationship between people; and yet some apparently simple questions on the topic have received rather different answers; and in some cases no clear answer at all. If A loves B, must A, as a matter of definition, want to benefit and cherish B, wish to keep company and communicate with B, and have B reciprocate this beneficial interest? ‘Yes’, says Gabrielle Taylor, for ‘we view love as a give-and-take relationship, so the essential wants will have to reflect this feature’. (1976, p. 154) ‘No’, remarks J.F.M. Hunter, ‘some are able to love without their love being reciprocated while others can only love those who love them’. (1983, p. 70) Curiously enough, however, Hunter does not mention the fact that the former might wish their love to be reciprocated. David Hamlyn agrees that reciprocity is not required and suggests that neither is the wish for association and communication. ‘Suppose’, he writes, ‘that someone has got to the point of recognizing the absolutely disastrous character of a relationship. It is possible for them to renounce it and any desire for its continuance while still loving the person concerned’. (1978, p. 13)

Again, we can ask whether A must love B – or usually loves B – for what A takes to be worthwhile qualities or features. More generally, we can ask whether anyone ever loves another person simply because he or she values certain qualities of the beloved.