From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on the philosophy of love, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s worth noting that there is no single best book on the philosophy of love. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or pick up one of the classics.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best philosophy books on love in no particular order.
Love: A Very Short Introduction – Ronald de Sousa
Publisher description: Although there are many kinds of love, erotic love has been celebrated in art and poetry as life’s most rewarding and exalting experience, worth living and dying for and bringing out the best in ourselves. And yet it has excused, and even been thought to justify, the most reprehensible crimes. Why should this be? This Very Short Introduction explores this and other puzzling questions. Do we love someone for their virtue, their beauty, or their moral or other qualities? Are love’s characteristic desires altruistic or selfish? Are there duties of love? What do the sciences – neuroscience, evolutionary and social psychology, and anthropology – tell us about love? …
Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-up – Irving Singer
Publisher description: The author of the classic philosophical treatment of love reflects on the trajectory, over decades, of his thoughts on love and other topics.
In 1984, Irving Singer published the first volume of what would become a classic and much acclaimed trilogy on love. Trained as an analytical philosopher, Singer first approached his subject with the tools of current philosophical methodology. Dissatisfied by the initial results (finding the chapters he had written “just dreary and unproductive of anything”), he turned to the history of ideas in philosophy and the arts for inspiration. He discovered an immensity of speculation and artistic practice that reached wholly beyond the parameters he had been trained to consider truly philosophical. In his three-volume work The Nature of Love, Singer tried to make sense of this historical progression within a framework that reflected his precise distinction-making and analytical background. In this new book, he maps the trajectory of his thinking on love. It is a “partial” summing-up of a lifework: partial because it expresses the author’s still unfolding views, because it is a recapitulation of many published pages, because love―like any subject of that magnitude―resists a neatly comprehensive, all-inclusive formulation. …
Publisher description: For centuries, popular writers and respected scholars have written about and analyzed the phenomenon of love without exhausting its potential for contemporary debate. By representing the three major traditions in the philosophy of love–Platonic eros, Christian agape, and Aristotelian philia–editor Alan Soble has not only examined the intellectual problem of what “love” is, but has designed a dialogue among the three traditions in genuine philosophical style. …
The Routledge Handbook of Love in Philosophy – Adrienne Martin
Publisher description: The Routledge Handbook of Love in Philosophy collects 39 original chapters from prominent philosophers on the nature, meaning, value, and predicaments of love, presented in a unique framework that highlights the rich variety of methods and traditions used to engage with these subjects. …
Publisher description: This collection features Plato’s writings on sex and love in the preeminent translations of Stanley Lombardo, Paul Woodruff and Alexander Nehamas, D. S. Hutchinson, and C. D. C. Reeve.
Reeve’s Introduction provides a wealth of historical information about Plato and Socrates, and the sexual norms of classical Athens. His introductory essay looks closely at the dialogues themselves and includes the following sections: Socrates and the Art of Love; Socrates and Athenian Paiderastia; Loving Socrates; Love and the Ascent to the Beautiful; The Art and Psychology of Love Explained; and Writing about Love.
Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
Publisher description: A student of Plato and a teacher of Alexander the Great, Aristotle is one of the towering figures in Western thought. A brilliant thinker with wide-ranging interests, he wrote important works in physics, biology, poetry, politics, morality, metaphysics, and ethics.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, which he is said to have dedicated to his son Nicomachus, Aristotle’s guiding question is what is the best thing for a human being? His answer is happiness. “Happiness,” he wrote, “is the best, noblest, and most pleasant thing in the world.” But he means not something we feel, not an emotion, but rather an especially good kind of life. Happiness is made up of activities in which we use the best human capacities, both ones that contribute to our flourishing as members of a community, and ones that allow us to engage in god-like contemplation. …
The Art of Loving – Erich Fromm
Publisher description: The renowned psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm has helped millions of men and women achieve rich, productive lives by developing their hidden capacities for love. In this astonishingly frank and candid book, he explores the ways in which this extraordinary emotion can alter the whole course of your life.
Most of us are unable to develop our capacities for love on the only level that really counts—a love that is compounded of maturity, self-knowledge, and courage. Learning to love, like other arts, demands practice and concentration. Even more than any other art it demands genuine insight and understanding.
In this classic work, Fromm explores love in all its aspects–not only romantic love, steeped in false conceptions and lofty expectations, but also love of parents, children, brotherly love, erotic love, self-love, and the love of God.
Existentialism and Romantic Love – Skye Cleary
Publisher description: This book is an existential study of romantic loving. It draws on five existential philosophers to offer insights into what is wrong with our everyday ideas about romantic loving, why reality often falls short of the ideal, sources of frustrations and disappointments, and possibilities for creating authentically meaningful relationships.
What Love Is: And What it Could Be – Carrie Jenkins
Publisher description: A rising star in philosophy examines the cultural, social, and scientific interpretations of love to answer one of our most enduring questions
What is love? Aside from being the title of many a popular love song, this is one of life’s perennial questions. In What Love Is, philosopher Carrie Jenkins offers a bold new theory on the nature of romantic love that reconciles its humanistic and scientific components. Love can be a social construct (the idea of a perfect fairy tale romance) and a physical manifestation (those anxiety- inducing heart palpitations); we must recognize its complexities and decide for ourselves how to love. Motivated by her own polyamorous relationships, she examines the ways in which our parameters of love have recently changed-to be more accepting of homosexual, interracial, and non-monogamous relationships-and how they will continue to evolve in the future. Full of anecdotal, cultural, and scientific reflections on love, What Love Is is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand what it means to say “I love you.” Whether young or old, gay or straight, male or female, polyamorous or monogamous, this book will help each of us decide for ourselves how we choose to love.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Philosophy of Love and Sex – University of Oregon
- Love and Sex – University of Rhode Island
- Philosophy of Love – Temple University
- Philosophy of Sex and Love – William Patterson University
- Bibliography to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Love
- Bibliography to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Love
- Books/essays on love?
- What are some good philosophical texts on “love”?
- Some book recommendations for Love?
- Good books on the philosophy of love
- What are the important works in the philosophy of love?
- Recommend me books/papers on the Philosophy of Love (beginner)
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Philosophy Books on Friendship
- The Best Philosophy Books on Well-being
Or browse this collection of over 100 philosophy readings lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
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A Collection of the Greatest Philosophical Quotations
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