Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Philosophie

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Institut für Philosophie | Studium | Fachschaftsinitiative | SVR18-19 | SVR: WenMin Ji: “What Do You Mean, You Don’t Love Me Anymore?”—Love, Heartbreak, and Morality

SVR: WenMin Ji: “What Do You Mean, You Don’t Love Me Anymore?”—Love, Heartbreak, and Morality

Students’ Lecture Series
  • Wann 02.11.2018 von 18:15 bis 19:45
  • Wo Dorotheenstraße 24, room 1.406
  • iCal

Attention please: Unlike most SVR talks this one is on a Friday evening. And we are at another location too.



“A boat was sinking in the middle of the lake. Your lover was in the boat with five other passengers. You were standing on the shore and, for some ridiculous reason, you were the only one around who could help. What was worse is that, you could only save one person from that boat. You wanted to save your lover. You could not watch her die. But was it fair for the other passengers in the boat? They deserved to live, as much as your lover. If you saved your lover, would it be a moral decision? Should you not throw a dice and at least give everyone a chance to survive? No, love demanded you to save you lover without a second thought. Were you making an immoral decision if you followed what love demands? Is love immoral?” –A Fiction of Love and Morality on a Lake


What is love? When I say “love”, you know what I am referring to, but none of us will say that we know what love is. Why do we love? Why do we want to love? And how can we love? Some people believed that love will “just happen”, but in fact it never happened. Some people craved for love, but still love never seemed to come along. Some people were in romantic relationships and were “supposed” to love and be loved, but they never felt loving and loved.


And then there is heartbreak. Why does it hurt so badly? Were we deprived from something—from the love—that we “had” when we experienced heartbreak? Did we own the love of our lover? We do not want to be possessive about our beloved. We do not want to be possessed by our lover. If we never own, should we then be embarrassed by our feeling of lost when we break up? What happens when we do not love and are not loved anymore?




In philosophy of love, romantic love is often perplexing and problematic. It is perplexing because it seems to happen for some reason (that we are attracted to our romantic beloved) and yet for no reason (because (1) our “falling” in love is not and should not be fully in our conscious control and (2) we want to be valued in an irreplaceable way). Romantic love is also problematic because its partial nature seems to be incompatible with morality.


In the first part of my presentation, I will propose an account of love, inspired by Harry Frankfurt’s no-reason view of love, arguing that love as a good will (in Kantian sense) posits final value in the beloved object and becomes the law to the loving subject itself, and therefore is not incompatible with morality. Unlike Frankfurt’s thesis, my account of love can also explain why, in a romantic scenario, we seem to come to love someone for at least some reason. I argue that our love for romantic partner is sometimes in tension and conflict with our love for other objects (e.g. ourselves, other human beings, tradition). When we find someone attractive, it is easier for us to love them, but the attractiveness does not entail love.


In the second part of my presentation, I want to use my account to analyze a too often undermined issue in our love life: heartbreak. If love is the good will that posits moral systems, then the end of love is not just a loss of a relationship or a company, but also a loss of an entire moral system and all the values derived from this moral system. The loss of love, and hence the loss of a moral system, is thus unintelligible within that moral system itself. This is why we are unable to think of the end of a relationship while we are in that relationship. The loss of love is therefore horrifying, unthinkable and devastating.



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