Love is a crucially important notion in morals. Moral philosophy, then, should give attention to this notion, and some of that attention should be concerned with how people might develop or improve as lovers. However, when the author tried to think through some rather obvious suggestions relating to love and becoming a lover, it became clear that much moral theory gives love short shrift. Assumptions inherent in rationalistic moral theory prevent most moral philosophers from letting love be the central concept in their work.
This dissertation has two aims: to suggest four things which may contribute to moral progress by helping individuals love better, and to defend such suggestions against standard moral theory. Positively, the study suggests: overcoming narcissism enables a person to love: the basic element of love, clear and compassionate attention to individuals, can be practiced; a vision of love, given through narrative, can direct the moral pilgrim; and healthy communities can help would-be lovers. Negatively, the study argues: some of these positive suggestions would be classed as a non-central adjunct to moral philosophy by most rational.istic moral philosophers; this (mis)classification of these suggestions reveals that standard moral philosophy is deficient; these deficiencies flow from the wrong use of the "myth of autonomous reason;" and rationalistic moral theories are rooted in an untenable picture of human nature as essentially rational. Further, questions surrounding the concepts of pluralism of goods and relativism are discussed in one chapter.
Smith, Phil, "Learning to Love: Philosophy and Moral Progress" (1991). Faculty Publications - College of Christian Studies. 186.