You Owe Me an Argument

Rachel Fraser in the Boston Review:

Love hungers for knowledge. For someone newly in love, nothing is better than learning about the beloved, nothing better than revealing yourself to them in turn. “The talk of lovers who have just declared their love,” writes Iris Murdoch in The Bell (1958), “is one of life’s most sweet delights. . . . Each one in haste to declare all that he is, so that no part of his being escapes the hallowing touch.”

At times, such hunger makes for epistemic crisis. When someone falls in love, Alasdair MacIntyre notes, they are “apt to rediscover for themselves versions of the other-minds problem.” How, exactly, can one know what another person is thinking or feeling? In ordinary life the question feels forced and sterile. Most of the time the minds of others are simply open to us: I can see that you are in pain, say, just by looking at you. Then one falls in love, and suddenly things are different: no question is more urgent. One searches, desperately, for a sign, a trace, a clue of what one craves—that one’s love is returned—all whilst being tormented by the certainty that any such sign is mere suggestion. It might hint at the truth, but it cannot reveal it. The beloved’s mind is hidden; only an avowal of love will do.

More here.