A Philosopher's Blog

Love, Voles & Kant

Posted in Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Relationships/Dating by Michael LaBossiere on March 14, 2014
Español: Intercambio de anillos entre los novios

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my previous essay I discussed the current theory that love is essentially a mechanical matter. That is, what we regard as love behavior is merely the workings of chemistry, neurons and genetics. This view, as noted in the essay, is supported by Larry Young’s research involving Voles. This mechanistic view of love has some interesting implications and I will consider one of these in this essay. To be specific, I will consider the matter of the virtue of fidelity.

While most of human history has involved polygamous relationships (such as those enjoyed by the famous King Solomon), the idea of romantic fidelity has been praised in song, fiction and in the professed values of contemporary society. Given Young’s research, it could be the case that humans are biochemically inclined to fidelity—at least in the sense of forming pair bonds. Sexual fidelity, as with the voles, is rather another matter.

While fidelity is praised, one important question is whether or not is worthy of praise as a virtue. If humans are like voles and the mechanistic theory of human bonding is correct, then fidelity of the sort that ground pair-bonding would essentially be a form of addiction, as discussed in the previous essay. On the face of it, this would seem to show that such fidelity is not worthy of praise. After all, one does not praise crack heads for their loyalty to crack. Likewise, being addicted to love would hardly make a person worthy of praise.

One obvious counter is that while crack addiction is regarded as bad because of the harms of crack, the addiction that composes pair bonding should be generally regarded as good because of its good consequences. These consequences would be the usual sort of things people praise about pair bonding, such as the benefits to health.  However, this counter misses the point: the question is not whether pair bonding is good (it generally is in terms of consequences) but whether fidelity should be praised.

If fidelity is a matter of chemistry (in the literal sense), then it would not seem to be worthy of praise. After all, if I form a lasting bond because of this process it is merely a matter of a mechanical process, analogous to being chained to a person. If I stick close to a person because I am chained to her, that is hardly worthy of praise—be the chain metal or chemical.

If my fidelity is determined by this process, then I am not actually acting from fidelity but rather merely acting as a physical system in accord with deterministic (or whatever physics says these days) processes.  To steal from Kant, I would not be free in my fidelity—it would be imposed upon me by this process. As such, my fidelity would not be morally right (or wrong) and I would not be worthy of praise for my fidelity. In order for my fidelity to be morally commendable, it would have to be something that I freely chose as a matter of will.

One obvious concern with this sort of view is that it would seem to make fidelity a passionless sort of thing. After all, if I chose to be faithful to a person on the basis of a free and rational choice rather than being locked into fidelity by a chemical stew of passion and emotion, then this seems rather cold and calculating—like how one might select the next move in chess or determine which stock to buy. After all, love is supposed to be something one falls into rather than something that one chooses.

This reply has considerable appeal. After all, a rational choice to be loyal to a person would not be the traditional sort of love that is praised in song, fiction and romantic daydreams. One wants to hear a person gushing about passion, burning emotions, and the ways of the heart—not rational choice.  Of course, an appeal to the idealized version of romantic love might be a poor response—much like any appeal to fiction. That said, there does seem to be a certain appeal in the whole emotional love thing—although the idea that love is merely a chemical romance also seems to rob love of that magic.

A second obvious concern is that it assumes that people are capable of free choice—that is, a person can decide to be faithful or not. The mechanistic view of humans typically does not stop with the emotional aspects (although Descartes did seem to regard emotions, at least in animals, as having a physical basis—while leaving thinking to the immaterial mind). Rather, they tend to extend to all aspects of the human and this includes what we would regard as decision making. For example, Thomas Hobbes argued that we actually do not chose—we simply seem to make decisions but they are purely deterministic. As such, if the choice to be faithful is merely another mechanistic process, then this would be no more praiseworthy than being faithful through a love addiction. In fact, as has long been argued, this sort of mechanistic view would take care of morality by eliminating agency.



My Amazon Author Page

My Paizo Page

My DriveThru RPG Page

Enhanced by Zemanta

24 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. T. J. Babson said, on March 14, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Mike, you are losing me. Of course there are chemicals in the brain that affect our moods, feelings, etc. But so what? It changes nothing.

    For example, it has long been known that running produces serotonin and dopamine, which makes people feel good after a run. But does this really change anything you have written about running? I think not.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 14, 2014 at 9:12 am

      A key point of concern is the matter of reductionism. As you note, there are obviously chemicals in the brain that have a causal effect. The important question is whether or not something like love is completely reducible to such processes. That is, is reductive mechanistic materialism true or not?

      It might seem like a fine hair splitting distinction, but it is the difference between being influenced by such factors and being entirely reducible to those factors. To use another example, it is the difference between a person being influenced to chose drink because of her addiction and a person being caused to drink because of her addiction. In the first case, the person is a moral agent that is subject to influence. In the second, the “person” is a biological machine engaging in “programmed” behavior.

      Because of my usual arguments for buying into free will and choice, I’m against the mechanistic view. However, I do accept the obvious: we are at least influenced by mechanistic factors.

      • T. J. Babson said, on March 14, 2014 at 9:42 am

        Mike, so what determines which other person triggers the chemicals? And where do homosexuality and gender identity fit in?

        Attempting to reduce human love to a chemical reaction seems rather blockheaded. Anna Karenina says “Nyet!”

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 17, 2014 at 2:43 pm

          Presumably it is a matter of a chemical reaction. To use an analogy, one person might be like baking soda, another like vinegar-so they react to each other. Naturally, human biochemistry would be more complex, but the basic principle would be the same, according to this sort of theory. It is all, as they used to say, matter in motion. As far as homosexuality, that would presumably involve having the neuromechanics aligned so that the same sex triggers the love machine. With gender identity, that would presumably be a mix of neuromechanics and sociomechanics.

          Note: I’m not a materialist, so I don’t buy into reductionist materialism.

          • magus71 said, on March 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

            Apparently I too am a dualist.

            “Interactionism is the theory in the philosophy of mind which holds that, matter and mind being distinct and independent, they exert causal effects on one another. As such, it is a type of dualism. It can be distinguished from competing dualist theories of epiphenomenalism (which admits causation, but views it as unidirectional rather than bidirectional), pre-established harmony, and occasionalism (which both deny causation, while seeking to explain the appearance of causation by other means).”


  2. magus71 said, on March 14, 2014 at 8:49 am

    ‘That is, what we regard as love behavior is merely the workings of chemistry, neurons and genetics.”

    This type of thinking does not take in to account how the external world effects our chemistry as does our thinking. Mike, sitting here right now I can make my adrenaline surge and my heart rate rise by merely thinking about certain things. How can a man at 30 decide he doesnt want be obese anymore and become fit for the rest of his life? Why are people twice as prone to depression than were our grandparents ? Hormones?

    These ideas are dangerous and a recipe for nihilism and eventual destruction, a process already in place in our society.

    But I realize your belief in deterministic reality is a necessary aspect of your politics .

    • WTP said, on March 14, 2014 at 8:52 am

      But I realize your belief in deterministic reality is a necessary aspect of your politics

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 14, 2014 at 9:06 am

      Mechanistic determinism and mechanistic randomness both entail moral nihilism, I agree. After all, if there is no choice (either because everything is random or determined), then there are no good or bad actions-stuff merely happens.

      However, you have read me completely wrong. I have consistently disagreed with the mechanistic theories and materialism. In the essay, I am considering the implications of mechanism rather than supporting the view. As I note, if fidelity is merely a matter of chemicals, then it is not a laudable thing-anymore than being “loyal” to food is a laudable thing. It just is.

      • WTP said, on March 14, 2014 at 9:38 am

        I am considering the implications of mechanism rather than supporting the view.

        As I said elsewhere, TJ/Magus, do you notice how Mike frequently starts an essay pointing out how he has been a strong defender of free will in the past, yet more often than not the conclusion of the essay tends to undermine the concept of free will?



        • apollonian said, on March 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

          Free Will Hubris Is Doctrinaire ZOG Programming–Reason Works Against ZOG For TRUTH

          Moralism/Pharisaism, hubris, and absurdist pretension to perfectly “free” will (and Godliness, don’t forget) is how ZOG programs the poor, victimized people, infused w. inferiority-complex–only the extremely healthy of mind can possibly free themselves of this initial programming.

          So all people begin w. false premise of “good-evil,” hence subjectivism, made for obedient children, dogs, and willing tax-payers–the truly and healthy human struggles to free themselves consistent w. reality and self-interest, hence embrace of objectivity and determinism. So reason naturally works to rejection of hubris, absurdity, and perfectly “free” human will.

      • apollonian said, on March 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm

        Determinism And “Randomness” Are Contradictory Concepts/Notions

        Yes, let me vouch for Mike’s always being consistent for his obsession/addiction to moralism/Pharisaism–it’s his whole game, so to speak, heavily and deeply ingrained and programmed into him, inferiority-complex being necessary element.

        Note however, determinism is the demonstrable fact, only possible conclusion to objective premise. “Randomness,” on the other hand, is totally different, utterly without any causal premise, opposite of determinism–merely a product of question-begging. “Randomness” is mere synonym for Platonist subjectivity, mere version/variation.

        Randomness (as in imaginary “quantum physics”) is impossible for conclusion in any “experiment”–as experiment is necessarily founded upon objectivity and determinist cause-effect premise(s).

        • T. J. Babson said, on March 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm


          Let’s say you have a uranium atom sitting in a bottle on your desk. Someday that atom will undergo fission, but it is absolutely impossible to predict anything other than the probability it will fission. In other words it is impossible to predict when a given uranium atom will undergo fission.

          A a very deep level the universe is based on chance and probability and is therefore non-deterministic.

          • apollonian said, on March 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm

            So who/what are u, TJB?–God? ho ho ho ho. All u do is assert subjectivism, u being god unto urself, evidently.

            Don’t u get it?–reality is either objective (Aristotle) or subjective (Plato), PERIOD. If everything is subjective, then anything goes and nothing matters. But if things are objective, then they’re necessarily determined.

            Only way u could grasp or understand anything in verifiable fashion would be by means of objectivity and determinism–EVEN if things were random, there’s no way u could know it, or observe it, or verify it. Randomness is subjectivism–get a clue.

            • apollonian said, on March 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm

              Not only that, TJB, but observe the question-begging u engage in: (a) u say the uranium atom will undergo fission?–HOW do u know this?–it could only be known by objective, prior cause-effect (hence determinist) principle(s). (b) “Impossible to predict”?–how do u know?–perhaps based upon lack of info u presently have, but not necessarily impossible in theory IF other info was at hand.

              Observe u can’t even define “chance” or “randomness”–is there any causal principle?–what is it? “Chance” and “randomness” have no meaning but for the strict cause-effect we already know, ur “chance” and “randomness” then mere variations of that determinism.

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 14, 2014 at 7:34 pm

              “But if things are objective, then they’re necessarily determined.”

              Not according to quantum mechanics.

            • apollonian said, on March 15, 2014 at 11:15 am

              As I’ve already noted, TJB: (a) u don’t seem to really know anything about quantum mechanics (question-begging), and (b) as I’ve explained now for the 4th time, at least, any experiment, and all science is founded upon objectivity, by definition–perhaps u should ck into that. So no experimental conclusion could possibly contradict that basic premise–that’s logic, in case u haven’t hrd.

            • T. J. Babson said, on March 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm

              What do you think Einstein was referring to when he famously said “God doesn’t play dice”?

              This video explains. I won’t argue any more. If you don’t understand, you don’t understand.

            • apollonian said, on March 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

              TJB: what’s problem?–can’t u explain it in ur own words and answer simple questions?

              Newsflash: Einstein was a fraud–see http://www.jewwatch.com/jew-leaders-einstein-hoax3.html

            • apollonian said, on March 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

              Ho ho ho ho–I just watched the vid–ho ho ho ho. TJB: all u got is someone w. English accent, w. a drawing, asserting without substantiating, no less than u, ho ho ho ho ho. I guess u figure if u get someone else to assert, in addition to urself, all of a sudden u’re now proven true for ur assertion, eh? Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho

  3. magus71 said, on March 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

    No offence , mike, but I’m going to destroy this article in a blog post tomorrow . Because it needs destroying.

    • apollonian said, on March 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      That should be interesting.

  4. apollonian said, on March 14, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Fidelity Should Be Moderate, Like Any Virtue

    Note the question is whether reality is objective or not–if it’s objective then it must be determined (absolute cause-effect, no perfectly “free” will–which is the HUBRIS of pretending to being God). And thus St.s Paul and Augustine affirm we’re such sinners impelled towards self-interest.

    And falling in love then is just another circumstance, and the only issue for human will, such as it is, is how to be most consistent, most integral w. everything else. So fidelity is loyalty–like RACISM, hence anti-semitism–and is thus virtuous–at least as long as they’re all kept within reason.

    Mike’s addiction/obsession for moralism/Pharisaism, hence “free” will, is result of inferiority-complex instilled, evidently, at an early age–but Mike ought to understand this Pharisaist indoctrination is mere item for ZOG big-bro. programming–they do it to everyone. Mike is thus TOO loyal to this hubristic programming and would only be remiss if he didn’t finally consider it in all reason, finally to rejecting it.

  5. Love Potions | Rolling Hot said, on March 16, 2014 at 6:37 am

    […] my friend, Dr. Michael LaBossiere, wrote a series of articles concerning determinism. In these articles he examines the possibility that all animal behavior, including human behavior, […]

  6. […] Love, Voles & Kant March 14th, 2014 — “In my previous essay I discussed the current theory that love is essentially a mechanical matter. That is, what we regard as love behavior is merely the workings of chemistry, neurons and genetics. This view, as noted in the essay, is supported by Larry Youngs research involving Voles. This mechanistic view of love has some […]” 21 Comments […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: