I had the delight to get back to my original interests and read some metaphysics of love.
This is the way she frames it. “At its core is the idea that romantic love has a dual nature: is it ancient biological machinery embodying a modern social role” (82). The analogy is an actor embodying a character: William Shatner embodying the role of Captain Kirk is her analogy. If you take out one, then you miss out on the other.
Admittedly, I’m having trouble seeing this. As I was reading this and came across the notion of dual nature, I was half expecting the result would be love qua biology and love qua social construction as two sides of the same coin. Or that one would be the emergent property of the other. Indeed, I’m inclined to think that with any sort of metaphysics about social construction, it is the way we value the facts. So love qua biology is simply the fact about humans. Love qua social construction is how we value those facts. For example, love for Victorian women is much different than modern love because society back then had different values than we do today. However, they had the same biology. So it’s the same fact but different ways of valuing those facts. Now one problem I have with Jenkins’s process is that I’m not so sure it really is a dual nature. Suppose early humans had no robust culture or a very rudimentary society. Any social constructionism would be very minimal. Let’s suppose that it’s so minimal that it is non-existent. Yes, they would be very early humans. Yet, their biology would be the same. Would we say they are in love? Well, biologically yes, but social constructively no. In my mind, this makes sense. These early humans would love each other, but there aren’t any valuations about this love. It’s a heavily biological process.
But now let’s suppose there are some rudimentary creatures that are very complex (perhaps early mammals) but do not have the biology that can bring forth love. It seems that they are incapable of love because they don’t have the biological processes to do so. Thus, the biological process needs to be there in order for love to happen, and then the social constructionism can take place. Without the biology, the social constructionism is moot. Therefore, the biology is prior to social constructionism. Therefore, the dual nature of the metaphysics of love is faulty. And yet, when we think about the dual nature of love, we can either see it as either biological or social constructionist. This recognition, however, doesn’t seem to be based on the reality of the situation, but more on our perspective of the situation. Thus, I think the dual nature of love is more epistemological rather than metaphysical. If there is no Captain Kirk, we can still have William Shatner. But if there is no William Shatner, there is no Captain Kirk that we wold recognize. Thus, William Shatner is prior to Captain Kirk. “Ah,” a critic might say, “couldn’t we say that even if William Shatner didn’t exist, someone else could simply embody Captain Kirk? We could simply have an actor embodying the character.” Now this is true, but suppose, along with my example, there was no biology. By analogy, there are no humans but just simple creatures (early mammals, let’s say). In that case, nothing could embody Captain Kirk. With my analogy, the biological aspects need to be there for the social construction to take place. As I mentioned before, social constructionism is how we value the facts (in this case, biology). But without the facts, there is nothing to value. No biology, no constructionism. Likewise, no William Shatner (or no humans, let’s say), no Captain Kirk.
The metaphysical implications of Jenkins also needs to be addressed. Here’s a thought that may have troubling consequences. Jenkins argues that we need both biology and social constructionism to make sense of love, but the biology doesn’t necessarily have to be human. We can imagine aliens or advanced robots being in love as long as they go through the romantic-love-like behavior. This speaks to what is known as functionalism in the philosophy of mind. Now, there’s a debate within functionalism about whether philosophical zombies are logically possible. Let’s suppose there are. If that’s the case and if Jenkins theory is correct, then these philosophical zombies are not really in love. They just exhibit romantic-love behaviors. So at the very least, they can be in love qua social constructionism. But hold on. If love has a dual nature, and these philosophical zombies can be in love qua social constructionism, then they have to be in love qua biology. If that’s the case, then this implies that philosophical zombies cannot be logically possible. If, however, philosophical zombies are logically possible, then the dual nature theory that Jenkins proposes cannot work since they can only love qua social constructionism. I’m not sure if Jenkins considers this a high stake implication. Perhaps she’s willing to embrace the idea that philosophical zombies cannot logically be possible, but it’s an issue that grabbed my attention.