Union, Autonomy, and Concern

In: Roger Lamb, ed., Love Analyzed (Westview Press, 1997), pp. 65-92.

27 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2014

See all articles by Alan Soble

Alan Soble

University of New Orleans

Date Written: June 1, 1994


While studying the history of the philosophy and theology of love, we frequently come across the "union theory" of love in some version or another (in the writings of Plato, Montaigne, Kant, Hegel, Paul Tillich, and Robert Nozick, among others), according to which the two lovers become one, or merged, or unified in a significant way. While studying that same history, we just as frequently come across account of love that make "robust concern" central to the essence of love – the sort of benevolent concern for the flourishing of the beloved person that Aristotle included in his philia and the Christians took to be characteristic of agape among humans. The essay argues that no theory of love can, without contradiction, join "union" together with "robust concern." The reason for this incompatibility lies in the autonomy of the loving couple. It is argued that robust concern plus autonomy is a better state of human existence than merging with another person and the loss of both autonomy and robust concern.

Keywords: love as union, merging, benevolence, robust concern, eros, philia, agape, autonomy, Immanuel Kant, G. F. W. Hegel, Plato, Aristotle, Robert Nozick

Suggested Citation

Soble, Alan, Union, Autonomy, and Concern (June 1, 1994). In: Roger Lamb, ed., Love Analyzed (Westview Press, 1997), pp. 65-92., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2396921

Alan Soble (Contact Author)

University of New Orleans ( email )

2000 Lakeshore Drive
New Orleans, LA 70148
United States

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