Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up (Irving Singer Library) Hardcover – 6 Mar 2009
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Philosophy of Love is marvelous... a needed defense of humanism when the world seems to be growing more pragmatic and less reflective. In addition to introducing some important themes in the philosophy of love, the book should remind humanistic philosophers why they do what they do, and it should whet the appetites of a broader audience for further reading. Notre Dame Philosophy Reviews Nearly everyone can learn something from this book. Library Journal
About the Author
Irving Singer was Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He was the author of the trilogies The Nature of Love and Meaning in Life, P hilosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up, Mozart and Beethoven: The Concept of Love in Their Operas, all published by the MIT Press, and many other books.
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ps. in mbti terms, singer is INFJ
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According to Singer, our concept of love has developed primarily under the aegis of two imaginative giants: Plato and Shakespeare. No doubt influenced by Nietzsche's quip that "Christianity is Platonism for the people", the MIT Professor of Philosophy argues that out of Plato "came not only Christianity but also the reaction against Christianity" (13). No surprises there. Yet perhaps more original is the claim that Shakespeare is a thinker whose "mentality issues out of courtly love and against courtly love" and thus "anticipates, but does not fully announce, what will later become Romantic attitudes toward medieval philosophy of love" (3). Although Singer provides a creative reading of Much Ado About Nothing to support this claim, he could just as easily have gone to the bard's collection of sonnets.
Of course, Singer does not fail to mention a number of other important figures who helped shape the Western conception of love: Luther, Hume, Nietzsche, Freud, Schopenhauer, Dewey, Santayana, Sartre, Ortega y Gasset, and James, along with several others from outside of the literary tradition, including Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner (where is Liszt?). For the most part, Singer moves among these giants with ease, but he does stumble in a few sections, particularly when he dreadfully misreads Nietzsche's amor fati through the lens of epistemology.
In the end, however, the most infectious thinker in the book is Singer himself, whose intellectual modesty should be held up as an example for all nascent scholars: "I do not consider philosophy to be a subject that can have a culminating outcome or comprehensive solution to the varied questions it poses" (xiv). Singer's book is a "partial" summing-up of love because Singer is well aware that the task can never be completed--as Emerson wrote, there is always another circle that will be drawn around our own. The strength of Singer lies in the fact that for more than five decades he has been pushing forward with his undertaking to understand love without falling prey to the belief that love can be understood. What greater proof can there be that Singer's lifelong project is truly a labor of love?
Part of me wants to hear more directly the authors thoughts, but I guess that the method of discovery through other peoples work is truly the authors thought.
As the title suggests, this book is a summing up of three other bigger works of the author on the philosophy of love. Yet, as a supplementary text, I don't see any new insights and amusing thoughts. I feel like I am reading the York notes of the trilogy. Why bother publishing this one? The references in the books are never cited. Readers therefore may feel lost if they are interested in going back to the original texts. Moreover, the structure of the book is another problem. Most of the time, Singer just rumbles on the subject matter without doing thorough explanation.
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