The Nature of Love, Volume 3: The Modern World

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9780226760995: The Nature of Love, Volume 3: The Modern World
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"In this concluding volume of his impressive study of the history of Western thought about the nature of love, Irving Singer reviews the principal efforts that have been made by 20th-Century thinkers to analyze the phenomenon of love. . . . [T]he bulk of the book is taken up with critical accounts of the modern thinkers who have systematically called into question the possibility itself of love as a union of distinct human selves. For the most part, these critiques are effectively executed, and they bring a high level of critical acumen to bear on skeptical theses about love that are now too often accepted as truisms."—Frederick A. Olafson, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Irving Singer . . . has developed a method of historical analysis flexible enough to deal with all kinds of love, from Greek homosexual love in Plato, to the philia and agape of the New Testament, to the courtly love of medieval romance, to the Romantics, for whom love was magic. . . . [This] final volume brings us to the present. In 'The Modern World,' Singer offers readings of Freud, Proust, and Sartre, among others. He shows how their work was formed in reaction to the 19th-century ideal of 'merging' of the identities of lover and beloved. More often than not, the great modern writers portray love as impossible, as a field of failure and regret. . . . This masterpiece of critical thinking is a timely, eloquent, and scrupulous account of what, after all, still makes the world go round."—Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor

"This is the third of a three-volume history of the philosophy of love. It begins with Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche in the nineteenth century and treats Freud, Proust, Bergson, D. H. Lawrence, G. B. Shaw, Santayana, Sartre, and others in the twentieth. Although the author's approach is primarily historical, he intersperses critical remarks throughout. Most of the major themes which are discussed by philosophers of love make their way into this history, including friendship, sexual love, and the distinction between love that is based on the value of the beloved and love that bestows value on the beloved. Singer devotes a number of pages to his own views on falling in love, being in love, and staying in love. . . . Singer's exposition is lucid and organized; his criticisms are insightful."—Ethics

"In this third volume of historical overview of the development of the Western conception of love, Singer uses writers, philosophers, and psychologists to provide the reader with an overview of love in the late 19th and 20th century. . . . Analyzing authors such as Tolstoy, Proust, D. H. Lawrence, and Shaw and philosophers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Santayana, as well as Freud, Singer . . . links each contributor's thoughts to the influence of previous writers and also provides some psycho-historical insight into their personal lives that might have been either a source or direct result of their views. In this final volume, Singer proceeds to look at not just the 'great men' influence but also provides a chapter overviewing scientific contributions to our understanding of love. . . . Singer's work is a significant contribution to understanding the social construction of important, abstract social and personal values. By tracing love through different historical periods through a variety of voices, Singer has created a rich history of the struggle between the ideal and the real, between the dreams of what love should provide and the reality of what relationships have been in each historical period. By personalizing the voice through psychohistorical analysis, Singer also provides insight into the shaping of ideas through the intimate struggles of the shapers."—Mark V. Chaffee, Contemporary Psychology

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Irving Singer is professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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