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Romantic Love and Personal Autonomy


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Chapter 6 of Marylin Friedman's Autonomy, Gender, Politics

Published in: Health & Medicine, Education
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Romantic Love and Personal Autonomy

  1. 1. Romantic Love & Personal Autonomy From Autonomy, Gender, Politics. P.115-139
  2. 2. Preface Who deserves the title page of the book Rediscovering Love? • 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.
  3. 3. Arrangement Merger Mania One, Two, or Three? Problems with Romantic Mergers How Romantic Mergers Can Diminish Personal Autonomy Asymmetric Mergers and Women Changing Trends Possible Objections (& Responds)
  4. 4. Merger Mania The idea of a merger of identities between two lovers: • 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, Neil Delaney. • ( 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.
  5. 5. 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 separate IDs)? • 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.
  6. 6. Merging Features • 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.
  7. 7. 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.
  8. 8. 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.
  9. 9. Asymmetric Mergers and Women Gender norms and ideals of romantic heterosexual love do historically lean to men’ interests. (Ex. Marital traditions) 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 enslaved. • Women are socialized to shoulder more of the burdens of sustaining close personal relationships then men. It might generate unreasonable contributions and impede women’s independency. Women tend to give more than receive in return and be diminished autonomy than men. This asymmetry is a moral problem.
  10. 10. Changing Trends 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 with another. 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.
  11. 11. Possible Objections 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. Response : • 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.
  12. 12. Possible Objections 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 for autonomy. 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 autonomous.
  13. 13. Possible Objections 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. Response : • It does not follow that we must derive these identities from any particular romantic love relationship. • The male-dominant model of marriage is given up, there is no reason to derive ideals of romantic love from it.
  14. 14. Possible Objections Response : • The data give us only statistical correlations between gender and the degree of personal investment in close relationships. This do not show, 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 do. autonomy. • 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. • 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 research.
  15. 15. 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 value.