Spousal Love and the Relationship between Eros and Agape

JPI 927

Though it is generally evident that the other is to be loved “for his own sake,” what is not so clear is what this evidence has to do with the love of self which stands so much at the heart of the most basic of natural inclinations. And were these two aspects of love held together in a unity, one would still have to give an account for such unity.

This course will attempt to give such an account by taking up the thorny problem of love at its various levels: the relation between love itself and its alternative (“rational self-interest”); the relation between love as inclination (amor naturalis) or passion, and love as an act (amor rationalis); the relation (within amor rationalis) between “love of concupiscence” and “love of friendship;” the relation between the various “objects” of love (between the self and the other, both God and neighbor); and finally the relation between Eros and Agape.

In order, the course will begin with a consideration of the affective dimension of human love. Under this dimension, it will consider Eros (Plato); the natural “desire for happiness” (St. Thomas); the “enjoyment” of the ultimate object of that desire and the “use” of everything else (St. Augustine); and finally love as the first of the passions (St. Thomas). It will then turn toward the effective dimension of love, by considering the “objects” of love (God, self, and neighbor), as well as the central question about the hierarchy of friendships (ordo amoris) relative to love of self (Aristotle and St. Thomas). Next the course will take up the modern and post-modern claim about the fundamental incompatibility of Eros and Agape (Luther, Derrida). With that problematic in view, the course will, finally, consider elements from the theology of the Trinity (Richard of St. Victor, Balthasar) as well as from recent thought on sexual difference and spousal love (John Paul II, Scola) that could be brought to bear on the question.

Course Texts for Spring 2015

  • Scola, The Nuptial Mystery.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005. 802828310
  • Plato, Symposium
  • Plato, Phaedrus
  • Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
  • Bernard, St. On the Love of God and Other Select Writings. Edited by Charles Dolan. Alba House, 1996. ISBN 13: 978-0818907319
  • Nygren, A. Eros and Agape. Translation, Philip S. Watson. London: SPCK, 1982. ISBN. 281040060 Pieper, J. Faith, Hope, and Love. San Franciso: Ignatius Press, 1997.  898706238.
  • Rousselot, P. The Problem of Love in the Middle Ages. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1998. 874626234.
  • St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine.  Translation D. w. Robertson, Jr. New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1958. ISBN 0-02-402150-4.
  • Dionysius the Areopagite, The Divine Names. Translated by C. E. Rolt. London: SPCK, 1940. ISBN 0-281-01255-5
  • Richard of St. Victor, The Twelve Patriarchs, The Mystical Ark, Book Three of the Trinity. Translated by G. Zinn. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8091-2122-0
  • Balthasar, Glory, VII: Theology: The New Covenant. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989.ISBN 0-89870-249-6


Associated Faculty

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