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Erotic Love and the Value of the Beloved

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Else Voigtländer: Self, Emotion, and Sociality

Part of the book series: Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences ((WHPS,volume 17))


The phenomenon of love is an oft-discussed theme in early phenomenology. Scheler, Hildebrand, Husserl, and others approached this theme in their own ways. Among them, the psychological analysis of love by Else Voigtländer is characterized by focusing on what she calls “erotic love” - the equivalent of what most contemporary philosophers of love call “romantic love.” This chapter introduces and discusses her psychological observations and arguments about love, centered on her 1933 paper “Bemerkungen zur Psychologie der Gesinnungen” (Notes on the Psychology of the Sentiments), where Voigtländer conceives of love as a kind of sentiment (Gesinnung) in Pfänder’s sense. Therefore, I will briefly introduce Pfänder’s theory of sentiment as a backdrop. Then, I will show how Voigtländer conceived of erotic love, with a focus on her claims about the relationship between the experience of erotic love and the value of the beloved. According to her, the value of the beloved is a complex consisting of qualitative values rooted in the objective properties of the object and subjective values projected onto the object through our experience of love. After the explication of Voigtländer's account, its historical and philosophical significances will be evaluated.

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  1. 1.

    The Munich Circle has its roots in the Academic Society for Psychology in Munich founded by Theodor Lipps and was later called the Munich Circle of Phenomenology, due to the activities of the Society’s members (Pfänder, Moritz Geiger, Johannes Daubert, Adolf Reinach and others) who were influenced by Edmund Husserl’s Logical Investigations.

  2. 2.

    For an attentive survey of Voigtländer’s philosophical psychology of emotion in general, see Vendrell Ferran (2020).

  3. 3.

    When Pfänder uses the term “sentiment” without qualifications, he means actual sentiments, and most of the descriptions in Pfänder (1913) are about them.

  4. 4.

    On Pfänder's characterization of sentiments in general, see also Uemura and Yaegashi (2020).

  5. 5.

    For Voigtländer’s intellectual biography, see Heffernan (2021). After publishing a book based on her doctoral dissertation (Voigtländer, 1910) that deals with feelings of self-worth (Selbstgefühl)—I am following Vendrell Ferran’s translation of the term (see Vendrell Ferran, 2020: 102fn.)— relying on various literary works, Voigtländer published a paper criticizing Freud for his neglect of the role of the character (Voigtländer, 1911). From about 1918 at the latest, she was engaged in clinical research on parental neglect with the psychiatrist Adalbert Gregor in Leipzig, and in the study of sexual differences (Gregor & Voigtländer, 1918 and 1922; Voigtländer & Gregor, 1921; Voigtländer,1923a). Her view on the character is also expressed in Voigtländer (1923b). Pfänder also had a strong interest in “characterology.” See e.g., Pfänder (1924).

  6. 6.

    Voigtländer clearly holds that not only a person but also a thing can be an object of a sentiment, as Pfänder does. She says, for example: “This affiliation (Zugehörigkeit) is particularly evident in relation to the objects I love, such as the garden at home or a favorite commodity” (Voigtländer, 1933: 144).

  7. 7.

    In fact, for Scheler, love has a role beyond mere value-cognition. According to him, the “order of love” (ordo amoris) is the core of personality, the fundamental moral form that defines what is good in and of itself for each person (Scheler, 1957). Therefore, we must admit that Voigtländer’s formulation of Scheler’s position here contains at least some simplifications.

  8. 8.

    In his later writings, Pfänder also takes the realist position that the human mind has an objective value in itself, and that the conformity to it makes sentiments such as love appropriate (Pfänder, 1933). (This point was suggested by Genki Uemura.)

  9. 9.

    The equivalent of the value of illumination has already appeared in Voigtländer (1910), where it is called the value of impression (Eindruckswert).

  10. 10.

    Voigtländer does not forget to add that Plato himself was not a vulgar Platonist about love (Voigtländer, 1933: 161fn.).

  11. 11.

    On Scheler’s notion of personal love and its role in his personalist ethics, see Kelly (2011), esp. 217–221. For an introduction to Hildebrand’s view on ethics and love, see Crosby (2002).

  12. 12.

    For Husserl’s account of love and the “value of love”, and their roles in his later ethics, see Melle (2002) and Heinämaa (2020).


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I would like to thank Alessandro Salice and Genki Uemura for kindly reading and giving helpful comments on an early draft of this chapter. This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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Correspondence to Toru Yaegashi .

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Yaegashi, T. (2023). Erotic Love and the Value of the Beloved. In: Vendrell Ferran, Í. (eds) Else Voigtländer: Self, Emotion, and Sociality. Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences, vol 17. Springer, Cham.

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