Transcript of "Romantic Love and Personal Autonomy"
Autonomy, Gender, Politics.
Who deserves the title page of the book
• In Willard Gaylin’s view, Love involves the
“merging of the self with another…creating
a fused entity.”
• However, this man took all the public credit
for what actually the joint endeavors of him
and his wife.
• Patriarchal relationships: the two shall
become one, and that one is him.
One, Two, or Three?
Problems with Romantic Mergers
How Romantic Mergers Can Diminish Personal
Asymmetric Mergers and Women
Possible Objections (& Responds)
The idea of a merger of identities between two
• Several contemporary philosophers regard the
merger of two selves or identities into a “we” as an
important feature or aim of romantic love,
sometimes even the defining aim.
• Ex. Roger Scruton, Robert Solomon, Robert Nozik,
• ( For them, it seems that the merger of two selves
is good. )
Friedman: There might be a problem for
diminishing personal autonomy,
i. in some specific ways of merging.
ii. In heterosexual romantic love to gender noms.
One, Two, or Three ?
How many entities are there after the merger?
What does “we” means?
• A new additional entity or a metaphor (still 2
• Friedman: a merger of identities means a flexible
interpersonal equivalent to a federation of states.
Each lover remains a separate self with her own
capacities for the exercise of agency. And the
Romantic merger produces a new entity out of
them, but only to some extent, only to some
times, and only for some purposes.
• Can not be so thoroughly as to obliterate
their separate individual embodiments.
(proof: sometimes there would be
disagreement between lovers. )
• What is shared must be important enough
to a lover so as to pertain to her very
identity. It must somehow constitute or
define who she is. Ex. in subjectivity,
agency, and objecthood.
• Flexible: Can vary in degrees of stability
and modes of action.
Problems with Romantic Mergers
Alan Soble regards the merger is bad:
• It diminishes the autonomy of lovers.
• It makes “robust concern” impossible.
Main response: Lovers retain their
separate IDs still. ( fallacy of straw man )
• DA- wrong reason but right concern.
• The real problem: The joint commitments
might actually be his commitments.
Friedman: the merger can be good.
How Romantic Mergers Can
Diminish Personal Autonomy
There are variety of features can be
manifested to mergers of ID.
Is it a mere merger of identities or a mutual
or fair merger ?
• A merger might become “a enlarged self”.
• By way of: p.124-126.
Asymmetric Mergers and Women
Gender norms and ideals of romantic heterosexual love
do historically lean to men’ interests. (Ex. Marital
Go deep into the norms and ideals:
• “merry up” with a man who has more personal resources ,
and this imbalance means “overrule or overpower” her.
• Simone de Beauvoir: women long for her own “ecstatic
union”, yet engage in profound bad faith – choose to be
• Women are socialized to shoulder more of the burdens
of sustaining close personal relationships then men. It
might generate unreasonable contributions and impede
Women tend to give more than receive in return and be
diminished autonomy than men. This asymmetry is a
The trend from Role to Self :
Deemphasized individual freedom and self-development :
• Marriage means self-discipline, not for the individual.
• A set of moral duties. Ex. for procreation.
Women’s selves are important, but serve for the moral role :
• Self-development is a capacity for genuinely loving people .
• The only fulfillment of self through romantic love that counts as a moral value is the
development of a self who makes a deep commitment to an enduring family life,
thereby making concern for it a part of her identity.
Women’s selves are important :
• Self-fulfillment ideals are based on the premise that the deeply self-defining
commitments of individuals should have substantial priority in governing how they
interact with romantic partners.
Women experience more cultural pressure than men to change what is deeply
defining of who they are, for the sake of heterosexual love, rather than simply being
permitted to build their heterosexual relationships in accord with whatever happens
already to define their identities.
The lover whose preexisting independent selfhood is more highly socially valued will
be able to exercise greater control over whatever romantic merger she might forge
The romantic merger would undervalue both women’s personal autonomy and those
female aspirations that are not aimed at caring for others, when the merger involves
some problematic norms of gender and love.
Objection #1 :
• Autonomy is not a zero-sum game.
• One lover’s gain in autonomy might have nothing to
do with her partner’s loss of autonomy.
• Autonomy in love is not always or necessarily a
zero-sum game overall.
• But, if one lover gave up more of her preromance
commitments than her partner did in order to
achieve their joint projects, that exhibit a zero-sum
dimension of autonomy in love merger.
Objection #2 :
• Over time, romantic love might enhance
someone’s capacity for individual autonomy, and
this could offset whatever loss of autonomy she
experiences in virtue of merging with the identity
of her lover.
Response : (agree)
• Romantic love can,
i. Promote self-knowledge, a competency needed
ii. Increase the degree of my attentive focus on
myself. （self- reflection）
iii. Promote the growth of competencies for
autonomy by emulate the more autonomous lover.
The less autonomous lover does not by itself
preclude one from ever growing more
Objection #3 :
• Autonomy may simple not be an important value
for romantic love relationships. Thus, it might not
be a moral problem.
• Relationships are necessary conditions for the very
having of a stable self-identity. In order to sustain
them, we may have to sacrifice some of our own
desires, in particular those that would interfere with
our efforts to preserve our relationships.
• It does not follow that we must derive these
identities from any particular romantic love
• The male-dominant model of marriage is given up,
there is no reason to derive ideals of romantic love
• The data give us only statistical correlations
between gender and the degree of personal
investment in close relationships. This do
Objection #4 :
i. all women make love relationships so
• Women themselves simple central to their identities.
do not value personal
autonomy as much as men ii. Women would unanimously reject personal
• What is more important for
them are human ( love relationships do define who they are)
relationships and their
preservation. iii. The personal autonomy is unimportant for
• Women who lose more
personal autonomy in Seeking to sustain relationship is the
romantic love than do men expression of autonomy. She shows a
would not regard this loss significant degree of it.
as a real sacrifice.
• Supported by empirical
Pursuing love doesn’t conflict with her autonomy.
Instead, autonomy “makes her dream comes true.”
Ex: a neglect-their-relationship man
• Promote his interests: deferring to her lover all the
time would undermine their close relationship.
• Modify those of her lover’s commitments that
conflict with the maintenance of their relationship: it
is in accordance with her own deepest self-defining
values, and opposing his concerns in the process.
In order to sustain the relationships she deeply
cares about, she must possess some minimal level
of autonomy competency that she is actively
capable of deploying at least for its instrumental