The most prominent reasons for love would seem to be properties or qualities of the beloved, such as beauty, wit, or kindness. Among many problems with this proposal, three have attracted especially close attention. First, some find the proposal fetishistic, or at least misdirected. It appears to represent Love as focused on the beloved’s accidental properties, rather than on that person’s essence. Second, if one’s reason ought to ware as the beloved loses those properties, then, one’s love ought to ware as the beloved loses those properties. Finally, if one’s reason for loving the beloved are properties, then insofar as one’s love is responsive to those reasons, it will soon migrate to another person with those properties in sufficient proportion.
Love is a structure of desire for which there is no antecedent justification. Love is focused on the particular person whom one loves, it is not a response to some generalizable, justifying property that the person has. Since Angela, say, is the particular person she is and can neither lose this trait nor share it with anyone else, one’s love for her does not alter as it alteration finds, nor does it transfer to her twin.
To suggest that love is a response to the reasons provided by one’s shared history with the person one loves would explain why one’s love does not alter as the beloved’s wit or beauty fades, and why one’s love does not accept a substitute with whom no such history is shared. However, the appeal to shared history again threatens to make love focused on the beloved’s accidental properties, rather than on that person’s essence. Love seems to precede many relationships, rather than develop with them.
Love and similar attitudes such as friendship, are in tension with morality, this thought to arise because these moral perspectives –most notably, doing what will produce the greatest happiness of the greater number of people and treating people as ends and not means to an end –requires one to be impartial, that is, to give equal weight to every one’s interests. Love, in contrast, seems to impel one to be partial: to give greater weight to the interests of one’s beloved. While there may be producing the greatest happiness of the greater number of people and treating people as ends in themselves justification for permissions, or even requirements, to act as love direct, deliberating in terms such justification seems incompatible with love. This incompatibility makes these moral perspectives seem self-defeating or overly demanding, or it reveals that they fail to take into account something of genuine value.
Indeed, there may be strong greater happiness for greater number of people reasons for not so deliberating. Treating people as end in themselves have similarly observed that the moral agent needs not always be guided by specific reflection on what it is morally permissible to do.