The Menlo Roundtable

Love Thyself: The Ethics of Self-Interest In A Loving Relationship

The Bible commands us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” In this way, we often turn to love as a guiding virtue that motivates us to be kind and show others respect.

However, we seldom consider how ethics apply to love. While there is no doubt that a loving approach to life can lead us to be virtuous, the line becomes blurry when we consider to what extent love is ethically justified and when. The ontology of love has been a topic of philosophical contention since the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Philosophers largely agree love is intrinsically part of the human experience, although each period of philosophical history offers varying definitions of love. These characterizations range from the Pre-Socratic view of love as a conflict against strife given to us by Empedocles to the Socratic terms for love, Eros and Philia, coined by Plato and Aristotle. In postmodern times the discussion has become increasingly complex. Rather than solely defining what love is, we ought to determine the role each agent plays in a loving relationship.

Photo: Photo by Mayur Gala (courtesy of