We Forge the
Conditions of Love

in Linguistic Luck: Essays in Anti-Luck Semantics

eds. Carlos Montemayor & Abrol Fairweather, OUP

Georgi Gardiner

University of Tennessee

  • This research is not about what love is.

  • It is about what people think love is. And the effects of those thoughts.

... Those effects matter.


Selected Media

Podcast Episode (Link)

  • Discusses how words shape our feelings and relationships

  • 50 minutes, for a popular audience

Talk on Love and Limerence (Link)

  • Sketches "We Forge the Conditions of Love" in an informal way

  • 60 minutes, for popular and academic audiences

See the Public Philosophy page for all media coverage

Topics of Particular Interest.

a.) For non-philosophers:

  • The “people should be queer” stuff is section 6.

  • The other LGBT content is sections 4 and 7.

  • For a miscellanea of love-like ideas, see section 9.

  • For limerence (i.e., obsessive infatuation with a person), see sections 10-12.

b.) For philosophers:

  • LGBT philosophy (§§ 4, 6, & 7).

  • Limerence (§§ 10-12).

  • On conceptions, see section 5.

  • This essay takes three mainstream philosophy ideas and makes them weird.

  • Love (and/or the permissive flexibility arising from some concepts) complicates how we should theorise these three things:

i.) Maker’s knowledge (§ 3).

ii.) Epistemic luck (§ 8).

iii.) Transformative experience (§ 12).

Key Terms:

Love limerence infatuation romantic attraction

Concepts transformative conceptual shifts linguistic luck conceptual engineering

Maker’s knowledge attention self-interpretation

Polyamory the gay agenda the social construction of sexuality

“I will think of men as graceful,
so my son can think of them as beautiful,
so his son can fall in love with them.”

Core Ideas

A. The Power of Self-Ascriptions of Love

  • Self-ascriptions are powerful

  • Self-ascribing love can change emotions, attitudes, and values.

o They can even be self-fulfilling.

  • Self-ascriptions of love depend on what the person thinks love is.

B. Permissive Flexibility

  • People can disagree about what love is, and yet both be right.

o Example: In love with a celebrity.

  • Language shapes our conceptions.

o This suggests potential for conceptually engineering emotions, using language.

C. The Constraints of Thinking Straight

  • Sometimes emotions occupy a borderline between platonic and non-platonic.

  • In some cases, thinking of yourself as straight or queer affects whether you see your own emotions as platonic or non-platonic.

  • Those judgements can be self-fulfilling.

  • In some cases, these forces steer one’s sexuality.

o In some cases, person can make herself straight or queer, owing to her belief that she is.

D. Conceptual Tourism

  • Conceptual tourism is trying on different interpretations and categorisation schemas.

  • This can be empowering.

o Example: Protect against pick up artist's negging.

The Gay Agenda
Sections 6&7

E. It is Better if More People are Queer

  • Summary of reasons:

o What matters about a person? We should be attracted to character, not physical shape.

o Being attracted to character leads to more sustainable relationships and is more inclusionary.

o It is biased to exclude people from consideration based on gender. (Compare to only having friends of one gender.)

o If more people are queer, it is easier to satisfy preferences and find sympatico lovers.

o Diversity of experience and opportunities to learn.

o Epistemic benefits of diversity for society.

o Improves society's signalling conventions for romantic interest.

F. Cunning Linguistics

  • Conceptions can encourage (or tamp down) queerness in individuals

  • It is better if linguistic practices (gradually, over the course of generations) increase the prevalence of queer sexual orientations.

  • Openness to being queer can help people become queer, through the self-fulfilling power of self-interpretation.

G. Curious or Queer?

  • The terms “bi-curious” and “queer” illustrate how language might help to gradually increase the prevalence of queerness in a population.

o “Bi-curious” associations: A temporary phase, behaviour-based, public kissing, not “full sex”, default of heterosexuality; seen as a way of being straight.

o “Queer” associations: Emotional investment, relationship-building intimacy, stable orientation, not a set of mere actions.

  • A person who sees herself as “bi-curious” might thus become straight. A person who sees herself as “queer” might thus become queer.

  • Other terms: alterous attraction, quoiromanticism, greysexuality, abrosexuality, sexual fluidity…

Sections 10, 11, & 12


  • Limerence is obsessive infatuation.

  • I analyse it as an attentional addiction: Addiction to thinking about the person.

  • I describe differences between love and limerence (section 10).

How does learning about limerence change your conception of love?

  • A “transformative conceptual shift” transforms how you interpret the world, including how you interpret your own thoughts and feelings.

Three Examples:

(Note that I don’t endorse these claims; they are merely illustrations.)

i. Polyamory about Love

  • Perhaps limerence is monogamic. We can only be limerent for one person at once.

  • And (so the person thinks) love is not: We can be in love with more than one person at once.

  • Learning about limerence makes space for polyamory about love

ii. Is Love Good?

  • Limerence is unhealthy and is characterised by false beliefs about the person.

  • And (so the person thinks) love is healthy and involves knowing the person truly.

  • In the subsequent schema, limerence is blind; love is not.

iii. Addiction, Rumination, and the Unmet Need

  • Limerence is an addiction to thought patterns.

  • It is similar to non-romantic cognitive or attentional addictions.

  • Perhaps, at core, limerence is a platonic tool for deep emotional processing.

Tripartite Clustering of Limerence Kinds.

o Romantic limerence, stemming from romantic unmet needs.

o Limerence for authority figures (bosses, teachers, virtuosos), from unmet needs for approval.

o Alterous limerence, from the unmet need for emotional processing.

Teaching Note

  • Consider assigning sections 1-7 for one lesson, and sections 8-13 for the following lesson.

  • The essay uses the same foundations to first explore queer sexuality and then limerence.

Also in the Neighbourhood

Holiday romance, puppy love, being in love with a celebrity, squish, alterous attraction, “holibae”, “zucchinis” in “queerplatonic relationships”, erotic friendships, companionate love, comet relationship, “eintagsleibe”, “carrying a torch”, yandere, trauma bonds, Stockholm syndrome…