Course code:



MA - Intermediate/Advanced

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Typically offered:

Upon occasion

This course investigates the intellectual history of concepts of love that provide origins for notions of it central in our time.  Is love the key to giving meaning to our individual lives? Is it a transformative power that can empower and heal us and our societies? How are the many different concepts of it related? To what extent are these concepts grounded in biological, historical, philosophical, or spiritual truths – or mere reflections of collective myths, self delusions, or manipulative deceptions?  How can we as individuals most fully realize ourselves? How can our society best promote flourishing lives and how can this be brought about?

The theme of love winds like an Ariadnean thread through the labyrinth of  the history of ideas about the nature of  self, Other, community, knowledge, reality and ethics. The class uses overview materials from intellectual historians like de Rougemont, Singer and May. It picks away through central passages in that labyrinth by reading key selections from Plato,  New Testament writers, medieval poets, Nietzsche, de Beauvoir, Irigary, Gandhi, King, Levinas, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mortimer-Sandilands, pop culture, and others.

Class format relies on seminar discussion with occasional short lectures. Goals of the course are to advance students’ abilities to critically analyze texts in context in intellectual history, and to advance understanding of nuanced ways key ideas in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and social-change theories inform and are informed by concepts including: eros, philia, agape, courtly love (fin amour), love force/satyagraha, romantic love, ahimsa, and compassion. Students will be responsible for leading seminar sessions.

There will be one problem set, two short papers, and a term project presented in class as well as developed in a final paper of 15-20 pages. Includes a lab session for viewing films and television and discussing student work.


At least one prior course in intellectual history, philosophy, or a comparable class in human studies.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.