Possessing Love’s Reasons: Or Why a Rationalist Lover Can Have a Normal Romantic Life

The rationalist lover accepts that whom she ought to love is whom she has most reason to love. She also accepts that the qualities of a person are reasons to love them. This seems to suggest that if the rationalist lover encounters someone with better qualities than her beloved, then she is rationally required to trade up. In this paper, I argue that this need not be the case and the rationalist lover can have just about as normal if not a better romantic life than anyone could hope for. This is because we often do possess most reason to love our beloveds. To see why this is so, we have to think more carefully about (i) how we come to possess reasons for love and (ii) the higher-order reasons that govern whether we should seek or refrain from possessing said reasons. Reflection on these issues leads to what I call the Possession-Commitment Account of Love’s Reasons. I use this account to address additional worries for love rationalism and highlight how being rational about love can potentially get us out of romantic messes. I conclude that if being a rationalist about love is plausible after all, then we have reason to hope that being rational about other areas of our practical lives is plausible as well.

Lau, T., (2021) “Possessing Love’s Reasons: Or Why a Rationalist Lover Can Have a Normal Romantic Life”, Ergo 8: 13. 

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Rethinking Low, Middle, and High Art

What distinguishes middle, low, and high art? In this paper, I give an ameliorative analysis of these concepts. On what I call the Capacity View, the distinction between low, middle, and high art depends on the relation between an artwork’s perceiver (specifically her aesthetic responsive capacities) and the perceived artwork. Though the Capacity View may not align perfectly with folk usage, the view is worth our attention due to three attractive upshots. First, it explains how an artwork’s status level can be elevated or lowered in status over time and why biases can lead to mistaken judgments about such statuses. Second, it sheds light on the idea of a cultural inheritance and why certain forms of aesthetic deference may be justified. Finally, it explains how high, middle, and low art each make distinctive contributions to the good life.

Forthcoming in Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2022)

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How to Choose Normative Concepts

Matti Eklund (2017) has argued that ardent realists face a serious dilemma. Ardent realists believe that there is a mind-independent fact as to which normative concepts we are to use. Eklund claims that the ardent realist cannot explain why this is so without plumping in favor of their own normative concepts or changing the topic. The paper first advances the discussion by clarifying two ways of understanding the question of which normative concepts to choose: a theoretical question about which concepts have the abstract property of being normatively privileged and a further practical question of which concepts we are to choose even granting some concepts are thus privileged. I argue that the ardent realist’s best bet for answering the theoretical question while avoiding Eklund’s dilemma is to provide a real definition of this property. I point out the difficulties for providing such a definition. I then argue that even with an answer to the theoretical question, the ardent realist faces a further dilemma in answering the practical question. In sum, though I see no knock-down argument against ardent realism, it may nonetheless die a death by a thousand cuts. I close by considering a deeper reason for why ardent realism is so difficult to defend: every argument starts somewhere. It is unclear how there can be an Archimedean point that makes no reference to any normative concepts that can nonetheless be employed to convince everyone to adopt ours. I then briefly propose two options for someone still inclined towards realism: (i) accept that our normative concepts are normatively privileged without attempting to explain why this is so, or (ii) be less ardent and accept a perspective-dependent account of normativity.

Forthcoming in Analytic Philosophy (2022)

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Papers in Preparation

A paper in action theory on failure and grit.

A paper in metaethics on commonsense morality and the relationship between oughts and reasons.