Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Matthew Strohl


aesthetics, agency, attention, beauty, care, romantic love, volition


University of Montana


This professional paper investigates and questions the extent to which romantic love is a matter of agency. Toward this end, I draw a distinction between two contrasting conceptions of romantic love—the “agent-external” conception and the “agent-centered” conception. In this paper I make the assumption that the agent-external conception is pervasive and commonplace in contemporary culture, and that it conceives of romantic love as being involuntary and without agency. My investigation then questions the accuracy of this agent-external conception by juxtaposing it with what I consider to be an agent-centered conception of romantic love. An agent-centered conception, I claim, conceives of romantic love as being a purposive and voluntary endeavor constituted by certain practices on the part of the lover indicative of agency. In order to justify this claim, I examine various practices involved in romantic loving that instantiate this agency. In doing so I not only suggest that romantic love is, to an extent, constituted by practices indicative of agency but that the agent-external conception fails to account for these instances. By examining a commonplace appearance and belief—which holds that the romantic lover is involuntarily compelled to love her beloved—I suggest that an agent-centered conception of romantic love can explain that while this appearance does exist, it is nevertheless wrong in its assertion that romantic love is without agency. By investigating some important features of romantic love I propose that an agent-centered conception is better suited to account for this commonplace appearance, which is often used as evidence for the agent-external conception. The upshot of this investigation suggests that an agent-centered conception more accurately recognizes the extent to which romantic love involves and is a matter of agency.



© Copyright 2013 Richard Edward Swatek