Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Committee Members

John Greenwood

Noël Carroll

Berit Brogaard

Subject Categories

Other Philosophy | Philosophy | Philosophy of Mind


romantic love, emotion, sentiment, syndrome, rationality, love


What kind of phenomenon is romantic love? Many philosophers, psychologists, and ordinary folk think it is an emotion. I challenge this assumption and argue instead that romantic love is best characterized as a syndrome ⎼ a pattern comprised of different kinds of mental states and behaviors that tend to co-occur. An examination of major emotion theories in philosophy and psychology demonstrates that romantic love does not fit into any of them. Likewise, the commonly endorsed but increasingly controversial categories of basic and nonbasic emotions do not account for romantic love. While both culture and evolution have shaped the phenomenon of romantic love, the dominant evolutionary story about romantic love does not stand up to scrutiny; neither is romantic love simply a social construction. The norms of rationality we are accustomed to apply to standard emotions also fail to apply to it. This lends further support to the thesis that romantic love is not an emotion. The category of sentiments comes close to adequately capturing the nature of romantic love but still falls short in several crucial ways. Because romantic love is not intrinsically rational, moral, or prudent, the usual normative assumptions such as sexual and emotional exclusiveness made about it should be re-examined.