On Loving Our Enemies: Essays in Moral Psychology

On Loving Our Enemies: Essays in Moral Psychology

On Loving Our Enemies: Essays in Moral Psychology

On Loving Our Enemies: Essays in Moral Psychology


This book explores moral questions that go beyond the issues commonly considered in the ethics of action. Can there be an ethics of emotion or an ethics of fantasy? If what we feel and what we think are beyond the direct control of our will, does it make sense to set norms or standards for us to aim at in those spheres, or does anything go? What are the limits of our freedom? And what are the sources of our standards? Are they themselves a matter of arbitrary feeling or do there exist authorities we might turn to in order to find our way? We are told that authenticity is valuable, that we must be true to ourselves. Is the self and what it wants the ultimate source of value? (Even the nastier parts of our natures?) How are we to determine which aspects of ourselves are essential and demand and deserve expression? Are there competing and conflicting sources of value? The claims of Plato, Freud, Sartre and other important thinkers are considered, criticized, and brought into play in the service of greater self-understanding and understanding of what matters and what is up to us. Throughout, the insights and approaches of law, psychoanalysis, anthropology, and other disciplines in addition to philosophy are put to use. The essays included in this collection draw on and develop the author's earlier work on emotions and moral identity in the Spinozist hope that greater self-understanding, because of the special features of reflexive-knowledge, can lead to greater freedom, making us better able to live with others and with ourselves.

"Philosophy of emotion and Freudian theory are now thriving areas of philosophy, but they were not when Neu began; he was instrumental in making them so. His essays on emotion, particularly the classic papers on jealousy, helped pave the way for the rehabilitation of emotion that has transformed moral philosophy. There is every reason to believe, then, that the present collection will stand as a significant contribution to scholarship on Freud, Emotion, and Morality." - John Doris, Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis

"Jerome Neu is one of the most insightful contemporary writers on the philosophy of emotions. His first essay collection, A Tear is an Intellectual Thing, was a major contribution to our thinking about the nature of emotions (in general and with respect to particular emotions) and their important implications in the actual texture of our moral lives. This essay collection is a worthy successor and provides a rich analysis of particular emotions (love, for example), an exploration of the relationship between emotions and authenticity and freedom, enlightening discussions of Freud and his critics, and the role of emotions in the law." - Jeffrie G. Murphy, Law, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University


The scripture for today is Matthew 5: 43-48:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour,
and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the chil
dren of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise
on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the
unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do
not even the publicans the same? and if ye salute your brethren only,
what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Christ’s message is that, despite its difficulty, loving one’s enemy is valuable, indeed, that the value is evidenced by the difficulty. One might well wonder why difficulty should be thought valuable—is there something morally defective about living in undemanding temperate climes, such as California’s, where one does not need to shovel winter snow? But aside from the question of the nature and evidences of moral value, there is an issue of psychological possibility. Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a, 109–12, 142–43), famously ridicules Christ’s commandment of universal love. His complaint is that loving one’s enemy is not merely difficult but psychologically impossible, and perhaps even morally dubious. After all, what has one’s enemy done to deserve one’s love, and, assuming that love affects what one actually does, doesn’t it have costs in terms of the favor or preferential treatment that one owes and will have to deny to those who have loved one and treated one well? He suggests impartiality in love may be a kind of injustice. Crucially, for . . .

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