I Don’t Believe in Not Believing in Love

The above Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon offers a clever rejoinder to the “I don't believe in love” claim. It led me to think of another. One can respond to the claim to disbelieve in love by pointing out that that state of disbelief, and the reasoning that drives it, is every bit as much “just a bunch of chemical reactions” in the brain. And so isn't that stance self-contradictory, akin to saying that one doesn't believe in thought?

One could easily reason from love to one's own existence along the lines Descartes did: I love, therefore I am. And denying that one is oneself a thinking thing – including a thing that thinks thoughts of love – is not being rational, but about as irrational that it is possible to be.

Thoughts? (Or loves, or pains?)


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  • arcseconds

    Considering your own existence has a necessary relationship with thinking which it does not have with being in love :-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      Well, Descartes got there by doubting, and realized that he couldn’t deny that a doubting-thing exists, since the very act proved what was being doubted. He then realized that it could be widened to all thinking, and since love has a cognitive experiential component, I think it works as well as doubting.

      • arcseconds

        Not everyone who doubts their existence is in love, so I don’t think it works quite as well!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

          But then again, far more people love than doubt their existence! :-)

  • arcseconds

    And yes, I agree, dismissive reductive physicalism (and epiphenomalism, which might really be a species of dualism…) is self-undermining.

    One could go further and say that any analysis that depends solely on efficient causes is self-undermining. That one is caused to believe something obviously doesn’t entail that one is justified in believing it, and if causes are all there are then all one can say is one is caused to believe in physicalism (or whatever), whereas others are caused to believe in other things.

    I think Hume recognised this reasonably clearly.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    Ran Prieur writes about this, in his most controversial essay, “Science the Destroyer.” An excerpt follows:

    The death-based or “mechanistic” view is a religion, the dominant religion of our time. It is far stronger than Christianity, which has totally adopted the machine model, but just tacked souls on top and personified the objectively true detached perspective as an omnipotent sky father deity, manipulating the world from a safe distance.

    Both mechanistic science and mechanistic Christianity were popularized by the philosopher Rene Descartes, who really believed that the scream of a tortured dog is no different from a bell ringing on a machine. “Putting Descartes before the horse” is deservedly the most common pun in philosophy, because that’s what Descartes did. “I think therefore I am” means that something cannot be aware unless, beneath that awareness, it has mindless objective existence. Also the saying narrows existence and awareness to the egocentric forms of “I am” and “I think.”

  • histrogeek

    I wish I could remember the source but the quote is something like, “To say humans are just chemicals is like saying Shakespeare’s plays are just letters.”

  • C. Bauserman

    Well, Descartes also had a slightly flawed argument. Remember, he was logically trying to prove his own existence, the “I am.” But … he had to presuppose an “I” to do the thinking in the premises. So … he used his own conclusion within the premises of his argument. It would have been more appropriate to say, “Doubting, and therefore thinking, IS OCCURRING,” without presupposing an “I” to attach to the doubting or the thinking processes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      That’s precisely how he puts it in his Meditations on First Philosophy. He could not in the act of doubting deny that a doubting thing exists. So is your objection to the shortened and more memorable phrase that summarizes the longer argument? Or are you treating the latter as though it were the entirety of Descartes’ treatment of the topic?