Love and Sex: Philosophical Perspectives

Course Code

PHIL 2005

Academic Year


Love and sex are central to human life, but they provide us with complex experiences and desires that are difficult to comprehend or control. Philosophy encourages us to question our attitudes and assumptions about love and sexuality, in order to think more critically, choose more consciously, and live more fully. This course will introduce students to the philosophical study of love and sex through classic and contemporary readings and resources. The materials range from ancient Greek philosophy to current debates on evolutionary theory and internet pornography.
Though love and sex are not mutually exclusive categories, the first units of the course will focus more directly on sex. Students will consider a number of questions including: What are the best ways to understand sex and the multitude of sexual behaviors? What are the purposes of sexual experiences? Can we determine what is sexually natural or unnatural, normal or perverse, moral or immoral? Which aspects of our sexual desires are caused by biology and which are constructed by culture? The latter units of the course will focus on love and consider a number of other questions including: What is love and what are the different types of love? What is revealed to us when we experience these loves? Do men and women experience love and sexual desire differently? Can love make us happy or virtuous? Do we love someone because he is good or beautiful, or do we see him as good or beautiful because we love him? Can we and should we love unconditionally? In asking these questions throughout the course we will explore issues related to sexual orientation, sexual relationships, romantic relationships, friendship, family, charity, compassion, self-love, and philosophy - the love of wisdom.

Warning: Some of the materials in this course contain descriptions and depictions of explicit sexuality. Potential students who may be offended or disturbed by such materials should take this into consideration before taking this course.