Philosophy of Love

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 1180
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course will provide students with an introduction to Philosophy by considering the nature of love and sexual desire. The main focus of the course includes fundamental questions regarding how love is to be understood, questions such as: is love one phenomenon with several different forms, or do we misleadingly name entirely different experiences with the same word? What is the relationship between love and sexual desire? Does erotic love require exclusivity and faithfulness? Why is erotic love identified with the social institution of marriage? Is love a powerful emotion which overtakes us, or can we rationally choose the person we love? Why do we sexually desire persons other than the person we love? Is love an expression of self-sacrifice or self-affirmation? What is the relationship between love and happiness? The course will consider answers to questions such as these, questions provided by both contemporary philosophers, as well as thinkers representative of the great traditions in Philosophy.
Course Content

The course content may be structured in one of two ways, although these approaches need not be mutually exclusive, but could be combined:

  1. A survey of some of the major statements in the philosophy of love such as found in selections from: Empedocles' Purifications, Plato's Symposium, Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Ovid's The Art of Love, Augustine's The City of God, Spinoza's Ethics, Rousseau's Second Discourse, Hegel's Fragment on Love, Schopenhauer's World as Will and Idea, Freud's Civilized Sexual Morality, Horney's Love and Marriage, Sartre's Being and Nothingness and de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.
  2. An exploration of some of the major themes in the philosophy of love, such as:
    • The Nature of Love
      What is the essential nature of love? Does love have an essential nature? What is the meaning of love: is there one concept or several? Is there any basis for agreement about the meaning of love, different conceptions of the same phenomenon? Is love entirely emotional, or also a cognitive experience; is love rational or irrational? Are there specific behaviours which express love? Is love a biological (genetically inherited) phenomenon, or is it cultural and societal? What is the relationship between love and sexual desire? Between love and friendship? What is romantic love? Does sex require love? Does love require sex? Is there essentially only one kind of love, or is love one name for a number of disparate experiences? What is meant by love of God? by love of humanity? by self-love? Is love transcendent or mundane? Is it possible to love everyone? What is the nature of desire? Is there any other kind of desire apart from sexual desire?
    • Love and Knowledge
      Does love require self-knowledge? To what extent are love relationships characterized by self-deception? Why do people make fools of themselves in love? Is love a feeling which overpowers us (as in the expression, "falling" in love), or do we choose to love the beloved? Does it make sense to promise to love someone? Is love temporal or eternal? fleeting or enduring? Does love require coming to "know" the other? Does love grow, or is it spontaneous? Is love fostered or repressed by circumstance? Do we love the whole person, or specific attributes and properties a person may possess? Do we love someone for a reason (or set of reasons) or does love require no reason (is it absurd)? Is love "blind," or does one love the beloved knowing their faults and imperfections? Does one love the beloved in their sameness or in their alterity? Does love seek to unify, or is love the basis of fostering difference? Is love an experience of union, or an experience of celebrating uniqueness?
    • Love and Ethics
      Is love a beneficial or detrimental aspect of being human? Is love self-improvement or self-degradation? Is love virtuous or vicious? What is the relationship of erotic desire and love to ethics? Why is erotic love identified with notions of exclusivity? What is the relationship between love and marriage? Is it possible to love others without loving oneself? What is the relationship between love and self-sacrifice? between love and selfishness? Is love idealizing? Is love always love of the good and the beautiful?
    • Love and Socialization
      Does love require equality? Are love relationships characterized by domination and submission? Are love relationships charactered by gender-based societal roles?  Is there male love and female love? Is love social construction? What is the relation between love and the nuclear family? Why is sexuality conceived in moral terms? Why is incest considered to be immoral? What is the relationship between love and ownership? Is it possible to love what is not yours? Is love commodifiable? Is love a discrete quantity so that one person is loved more than another? Is love prostitution?
    • Love and Well-being
      What role does love play in the idea of a well-lived human life? Is it important to be loved by others? Does love require reciprocity? Is it possible for people to love one another in the same way, or is love individualized? Is sexual desire found only in the other's desire for you? Does happiness require being loved? Can love be pathological? Is love a sickness? What is the relation between unfulfilled sexual desire and psychopathology? Do people require love to be normal? Can there be an excessive or a deficient amount of love? Is there sexual perversity? What conceptions of love and desire inform ideas such as pedophilia or necrophilia as perverse?

Methods Of Instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar. Some classes may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material. Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.

Any combination of the following totaling 100%:

Essays      30% – 80%
Tests      20% – 50%
Instructor's General
(Evaluation participation, improvement,
quizzes, short assignments, etc.) 
    10% – 20%






Learning Outcomes

The general objectives of the course are:

  1. To introduce students to some of the main philosophical issues surrounding the conception of love, including the relation between love and sexual desire, love and friendship, love and well-being;
  2. To develop a better understanding of the place of love and sexuality in human relationships;
  3. To develop a capacity for philosophical analysis and self-reflection in the context of understanding the nature of loving and sexual relationships, their cognitive, emotional and ethical components.

Specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the concepts employed in the philosophical analysis of love, such as essence, rationality, emotion, desire, self-identity, human nature, socialization, benefit and harm, reciprocity, equality, exclusivity, commitment, self-sacrifice, selfishness, self-deception, and human relationships
  2. Explain and analyse competing theories of love, such as the Platonic conception of love as eros and the Christian conception of love as agape, as well as love as socialized sexual instinct, love as cosmic order, and love as desire for one's own and the other's human self-completion
  3. Distinguish between the theoretical account of love as part of a coherent philosophical worldview, as opposed to the practical nature of writing about love, i.e., writing which expresses the nature of subjective experiences, or cultural accounts of love that include a moral or religious purpose for loving and sexual relationships.
  4. Develop an ability to employ aspects of philosophical analysis and reasoning, as well as critical thinking skills, in the context of writing about the philosophy of love;
  5. Recognize and explain some of the basic philosophical problems that surround any philosophical account of love, including problems such as: the pathology of excessive love; the subjectivity of love; the basis for love; the universality and individuality of love; the insatiability of desire; love as the expression of both compassion and cruelty.
Textbook Materials

Sample texts (one or more of the following):

  • Armstrong, John. Conditions of Love: the Philosophy of Intimacy. (London: Allen Lane, 2002)
  • Baker, Robert, Kathleen Wininger, Frederick Elliston (eds.) Philosophy and Sex. (NY: Prometheus Books,               1998)
  • Brown, Robert. Analysing Love.(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987)
  • Norton, David and Mary Kille (eds.) Philosophies of Love. (Lanham, MD: Littlefield Adams, 1989)
  • Soble, Alan (ed.) Eros, Agape and Philia: Readings in the Philosophy of Love. (NY: Paragon, 1989)
  • Soble, Alan (ed.) Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2002)
  • Solomon, Robert and Kathleen Higgins (eds.) The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1991)
  • Stewart, Robert (ed.) Philosophical Perspectives on Sex and Love. (NY: Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Treves, Robert, Arthur Zucker, Donald Borchert (eds.) Philosophy of Sex and Love: a Reader. (NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996)
  • Verene, Donald (ed.) Sexual Love and Western Morality: a Philosophical Anthology. (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1995)
  • Wagoner, Robert E. (ed.) The Meanings of Love: an Introduction to Philosophy of Love. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997)



No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PHIL 1180
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU PHIL 1XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PHIL 1XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PHIL 1XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PHIL 1XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PHIL 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO PHIL 1st (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PHIL 1st (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PHIL 1XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 1XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PHIL 2XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU PHIL 1st (3)

Course Offerings

Fall 2022