Posted by: Dan | May 23, 2007

Eagleton on Love's Objectivity

Objectivity can mean a selfless openness to the needs of others, one which lies very close to love… To try to see the other's situation as it really is is an essential condition of caring for them… The point, anyway, is that genuinely caring for someone is not what gets in the way of seeing their situation for what it is, but what makes it possible. Contrary to the adage that love is blind, it is because love involves a radical acceptance that it allows us to see others for what they are.
~Terry Eagleton, After Theory, 131.

I am often told that I am “biased” or “blinded” by love relationships that I have with people who are experiencing poverty and oppression. I like the way in which Eagleton's argument, quoted here and developed in more detail in After Theory, reverses the charge. According to Eagleton (and I am inclined to agree), those who do no love people who are experiencing poverty, cannot judge the situation of the poor with any sense of objectivity.

Of course, “loving” the poor, means actually caring for the poor, as Eagleton says later on:

Love for the Judaeo-Christian tradition means acting in certain material ways, not feeling a warm glow in your heart. It means, say, caring for the sick and imprisoned, not feeling Romantic about them (146).

Furthermore, Eagleton argues that this means that objectivity means taking sides. He writes:

Objectivity and partisanship are allies, not rivals… True judiciousness means taking sides (136f).

From this we can conclude that only those who take the side of the poor, concretely loving the poor in various ways, are in a situation where they can hope to speak objectively about the poor.

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