What’s New in Philosophy of Sex and Love, Fall 2017

What’s New in Philosophy of Sex and Love, Fall 2017


Luke Brunning and Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, “How Complex is your Love: The case of Romantic Compromises and Polyamory?” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, forthcoming.

Eric Cave, “Playing with our Hearts? Boorishness and the Practice of Pickup Artistry.” The Critique.

Eric Cave, “Liberalism, Civil Marriage, and Amorous Caregiving Dyads,” Journal of Applied Philosophy. DOI: 10.1111/japp.12282.

Gary Foster, “The Priority of the Good Over Right in Love: Challenging Velleman’s Kantian View,” Etyka 52/2016, 47-57 (the journal of the Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw), in the special issue titled The Ethics of Close Relationships. (*This article was picked as the “Editor’s Choice” for this volume).

Gary Foster, “Persons and Properties: A Sartrean Perspective on Love’s Object,” European Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming. Published online in “Early View” December, 2016.

Robin Kar, “Transformational Marriage: How to End the Culture Wars Over Same-Sex Marriage,” in The Contested Place of Religion in Family Life (Cambridge University Press 2018) (Robin Fretwell Wilson, ed.), Forthcoming.

Lara Karaian, “Are Nudes the New Sexual Rumour Mill?

Brett Lunceford, “Mommy and Daddy Were Married, and Other Creation Myths in Children’s Books about Sex.” In The Rhetorical Power of Children’s Literature, edited by John H. Saunders, 55-75. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016.

Patricia Marino, “Love and Economics,” in Christopher Grau and Aaron Smuts, eds, Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Love, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Timothy F. Murphy, “Children, Bioethics, and the Environment,” Bioethics 2017 (Sept 5). Open access.

Michael Strawser, “Love is the Highest Good,” in Kierkegaard’s God and the Good Life, edited by Stephen Minister, J. Aaron Simmons, and Michael Strawser. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2017.

Helga Varden, “Kant on Sex. Reconsidered: A Kantian Account of Sexuality: Sexual love, Sexual Identity, and Sexual Orientation,” Feminist Philosophy Quarterly (forthcoming).


Sarah LaChance Adams, Christopher Davidson, and Caroline Lundquist eds., New Philosophies of Sex and Love: Thinking Through Desire (Rowman Littlefield International, 2016).

Our amorous and erotic experiences do not simply bring us pleasure; they shape our very identities, our ways of relating to ourselves, each other and our shared world. This volume challenges some of our most prevalent assumptions relating to identity, the body, monogamy, libido, sexual identity, seduction, fidelity, orgasm, and more. In twelve original and philosophically thought-provoking essays, the authors reflect on the broader meanings of love and sex: what their shifting historical meanings entail for us in the present; how they are constrained by social conventions; the ambiguous juxtaposition of agency and passivity that they reveal; how they shape and are formed by political institutions; the opportunities they present to resist the confines of gender and sexual orientation; how cultural artefacts can become incorporated into the body; and how love and sex both form and justify our ethical world views. Ideal for students both in philosophy and gender studies, this highly readable book takes us to the very heart of two of the most important dimensions of human experience and meaning-making: to the seductive and alluring, confusing and frustrating, realms of love and sex.

Gary Foster, editor. Desire, Love, and Identity. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press Canada, 2017.

An engaging and accessible introduction to the subject, this text explores love and sex as defining features of our identity. Through thirty-nine classic and contemporary articles, as well as original contributions written by emerging voices in the field, Desire, Love, and Identity covers a wide range of topics, such as sexual objectification, the ethics of sex work, love and sex online, friendship, polyamory, and BDSM.

James Giles, Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure

In his new book, Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure, James Giles gives an account of the experience of sexual attraction. Despite its vital role in daily life, it is something that scholars have all but completely ignored. Various factors surrounding this experience have been studied, even in depth, but the experience itself remains an uncharted region of human life. Thus, although the causes and effects of sexual attraction have been studied, no clear account has been given of sexual attraction itself. In presenting his account Giles argues that the essence of sexual attraction is what he calls “allure”, namely, a sense of being helplessly drawn to the attractive person that involves a sexual fantasy of intimate contact. He then goes on to show how allure is widespread, taking different forms in a variety of human relationships. This is because a person who is seen to be sexually attractive is, as Giles puts it, “fundamentally entangled in the relationship we have to him or her”. Consequently, the experience of allure differs according to whether it is allure felt for a stranger, a cross-sex friend, a sexual friend (or “friend with benefits”), or a romantic partner. The book is full of concrete examples, personal accounts, analyses of literature and film, philosophical analyses, and the latest social psychological research. It is guaranteed to be an exciting read for anyone who has ever wondered about the nature of sexual attraction.

Christopher Grau and Aaron Smuts, eds, Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Love. Still in press, but many articles are available online.

Raja Halwani, Alan Soble, Sarah Hoffman, and Jacob M. Held eds., The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings, 7th ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

With twenty-five essays, fourteen of which are new to this edition, this best-selling volume examines the nature, morality, and social meanings of contemporary sexual phenomena. Topics include sexual desire, masturbation, sex on the Internet, homosexuality, transgender and transsexual issues, rape, and promiscuity. New chapters discuss polyamory, transgender issues, queer issues, paraphilia, drugs and sex, objectification, BDSM, cybersex, and sex and race. Updated and new discussion questions offer students starting points for debate in both the classroom and the bedroom.

Hege Dypedokk Johnsen, Erôs and Education: Socratic Seduction in Three Platonic Dialogues. 2016, Malmö. ISBN: 978-91-7649-496-7.

Plato’s Socrates is famous for claiming that “I know one thing: That I know nothing” (see e.g. Ap. 21d and Meno 81d). There is one subject that Socrates repeatedly claims to have expertise in, however: ta erôtika (see e.g. Symp. 198d1). Socrates also refers to this expertise as his erôtikê technê (Phdr. 257a7–8), which may be translated as “erotic expertise”. In this dissertation, I investigate Socrates’ erotic expertise: what kind of expertise is it, what is it constituted by, where is it put into practice, and how is it practiced? I argue that the purposes this expertise serve are, to a significant extent, educational in nature. After first having clarified the dissertation’s topic and aim, as well as my methodological approach, I present an initial account of erôs and Socrates’ erotic expertise. While discussing what constitutes Socrates’ erotic expertise, I account for two erotic educational methods: midwifery and matchmaking. I further argue that these methods tend to be accompanied by two psychological techniques, namely charming and shaming. I argue that these methods and techniques are systematically applied by Socrates when he puts his erotic expertise into practice. In the dissertation, three dialogues where Socrates practices his erotic expertise are scrutinized: Lysis, Charmides, and Alcibiades I. I focus on Socrates’ encounters with the eponymous youths of the dialogues, and each dialogue is devoted a chapter of its own. I show how these dialogues are erotically charged, and also how Socrates in these dialogues demonstrates his erotic expertise. I argue that Socrates’ expertise on erôs plays an essential role in his attempts to engage the three youths in the processes of self-cultivation, learning, and the very practice of philosophy. In the final chapter of the dissertation I turn to some questions that arise in light of my readings, and summarize the results of my investigation.

Anna Malinowska and Michael Gratzke eds., The Materiality of Love. Essays on Affection and Cultural Practice (Routledge 2017).

Drawing on love studies and research in material cultures, this book seeks to re-examine love through materiality studies, especially their recent incarnations, new materialism and object-oriented philosophy, to spark a debate on the relationship between love, objects and forms of materializing affection. It focuses on love as a material form and traces connections between feelings and materiality, especially in relation to the changing notion of the material as marked by digital culture, as well as the developments in understanding the nature of non-human affect. It provides insight into how materiality, in its broadest sense, impacts the understanding of the meanings and practices of love today and reversely, how love contributes to the production and transformation of the material world.

James Petrik and Arthur Zucker, eds., Philosophy: Sex and Love, Farmington Hills, Mich.: Macmillan Reference USA, 2016.

Philosophy: Sex and Love is composed of fifteen chapters covering topics relevant to sex and love, including friendship, gender, marriage, adultery, and virtual (online) relationships. The use of film, literature, art, case studies, and other disciplines or situations/events provide illustrations of human experiences which work as gateways to questions philosophers try to address. Chapters are written by eminent scholars, are peer reviewed, and offer bibliographies to encourage further exploration. Photos and line art help illuminate the text. The volume concludes with a glossary and a comprehensive index.

Michael Strawser, Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love. Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Paperback edition published 2017.

Ironically, the philosophy of love has long been neglected by philosophers, so-called “lovers of wisdom,” who would seemingly need to understand how one best becomes a lover. In Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love, Michael Strawser shows that the philosophy of love lies at the heart of Kierkegaard’s writings, as he argues that the central issue of Kierkegaard’s authorship can and should be understood more broadly as the task of becoming a lover. Strawser starts by identifying the questions (How should I love the other? Is self-love possible? How can I love God?) and themes (love’s immediacy, intentionality, unity, and eternity) that are central to the philosophy of love, and he develops a rich context that includes analyses of the conceptions of love found in Plato, Spinoza, and Hegel, as well as prominent contemporary thinkers. Strawser provides an original and wide-ranging analysis of Kierkegaard’s writings—from the early The Concept of Irony and Edifying Discourses to the late The Moment, while maintaining the prominence of Works of Love— to demonstrate how Kierkegaard’s writings on love are relevant to the emerging study of the philosophy of love today. The most unique perspective of this work, however, is Strawser’s argument that Kierkegaard’s writings on love are most fruitfully understood within the context of a phenomenology of love. In interpreting Kierkegaard as a phenomenologist of love, Strawser claims that it is not Husserl and Heidegger that we should look to for a connection in the first instance, but rather Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Emmanuel Levinas, and most importantly, Jean-Luc Marion, who for the most part center their thinking on the phenomenological nature of love. Based on an analysis of the works of these thinkers together with Kierkegaard’s writings, Strawser argues that Kierkegaard presents readers with a first phenomenology of love, a point of view that serves as a unifying perspective throughout this work while also pointing to areas for future scholarship. Overall, this work brings seemingly divergent perspectives into a unity brought about through a focus on love—which is, after all, a unifying force.

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