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True Love

What is the relationship between Utilitarianism, Agape Love, and True Love?

I define Agape Love as being a will to maximize the happiness of the beloved, where the beloved can be anyone. (Replace happiness with preferences if you're of that persuasion).

Utilitarianism recommends to maximize the happiness of everyone.

Thus, there appears to be an interesting relationship between the two.

In essence, Utilitarianism is Agape Love applied to everyone equally.

I define True Love as being a will to maximize the happiness of the beloved. Where the beloved is a single person in the universe who you choose to love more than any other.

This makes things interesting.

At first glance, True Love and Utilitarianism seem to conflict. If you choose one person to value above all others, you're not maximizing happiness fairly.

So can a Utilitarian have True Love?

I think the answer is actually yes!

How? Because of the practical realities of putting Utilitarianism into practice. The practical reality is that we human beings only have a limited time in the world. To Agape Love someone in practice requires more than just satisfying their basic needs through charity. It requires knowing them so well that you know what will make them happy, and to be in a position to bring about those world states that would create that happiness. The practical reality is that this requires a considerable amount of time and energy to achieve. Further, any time you invest in understanding one person, is time you are not investing in understanding another.

So in practice, we can either make many people a little happy, or make one person, very happy.

Does the second option not sound like True Love?

Some would argue that diminishing marginal utility would make the first option much better. But they don't factor in the advantages of a division of labour. If each person were to try to make everyone happy, the net effect would actually be worse than if each person just focused on one person to specialize in. After all, to make everyone happy, you'd have to travel a lot, and relearn for each person the basics of what preferences they might have. On the other hand, if you just focused your efforts onto one person, you wouldn't have to split your attention and be in so many places at once. As with specializing in a field of work, you would become an expert in how to make this one person happy.

It would also make sense given the amount of time you were spending together, for the other person to do the same for you. It would make even more sense if both of happened to share interests, and generally liked each other's company a lot. It would be much easier to want to make this person happy, if you valued this person a very great deal.

So what if everyone did this? The world would probably look a lot like one with lots of monogamous couples.

Does this mean we should spend all our time on just one person? Well, maybe not. Practical issues of people's desire of autonomy and independence might creep up. So really, it probably makes more sense to find a balance between focusing on your True Love, and making everyone else in the universe happy as well. But don't think that just because you are a Utilitarian, that you can't or shouldn't have True Love.

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Page last modified on July 23, 2014, at 03:24 PM