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Irving Singer

Irving Singer is Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He is the author of the trilogies The Nature of Love and Meaning in Life, Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-Up, Mozart and Beethoven: The Concept of Love in Their Operas, all published by the MIT Press, and many other books.

Titles by This Author

Philosophical Perspectives

In this philosophical exploration of creativity, Irving Singer describes the many different types of creativity and their varied manifestations within and across all the arts and sciences. Singer’s approach is pluralistic rather than abstract or dogmatic. His reflections amplify recent discoveries in cognitive science and neurobiology by aligning them with the aesthetic, affective, and phenomenological framework of experience and behavior that characterizes the human quest for meaning.

The Concept of Love in Their Operas

Music, language, and drama come together in opera to make a whole that conveys emotional reality. In this book, Irving Singer develops a new mode for understanding and experiencing the operas of Mozart and Beethoven, approaching them not as a musical technician but as a philosopher concerned with their expressive and mythic elements.

The Creation of Value

With a new preface by the authorWhat is meaning in life? Does anything really matter? How can a life achieve lasting significance? How can we explain the human propensity to struggle for ideals? How is meaning related to contentment, happiness, joy? Is meaning something we discover, or do we create it? What is the nature of value, and what are its sources in human experience? Can there be a meaning in life without religious faith? What is the meaning of death? Is life worth living?

The Pursuit of Love

With a new preface by the authorIn his widely acclaimed trilogy The Nature of Love, Irving Singer traced the development of the concept of love in history and literature from the Greeks to the twentieth century. In this second volume of his Meaning in Life trilogy, Singer returns to the subject of his earlier work, exploring a different approach. Without denying his previous emphasis on the role of imagination and creativity, in this book Singer investigates the ability of them both to make one's life meaningful.

The Harmony of Nature and Spirit

With a new preface by the authorThis final book in Irving Singer's Meaning in Life trilogy studies the interaction between nature and the values that define human spirituality. It examines the ways in which we overcome the suffering in life by resolving our sense of being divided between them. Singer suggests that the accord between nature and spirit arises from an art of life that affords meaning, happiness, and love by employing the same principles as those that exist in all artistic achievements.

A Partial Summing-Up

In 1984, Irving Singer published the first volume of what would become a classic and much acclaimed trilogy on love. Trained as an analytical philosopher, Singer first approached his subject with the tools of current philosophical methodology. Dissatisfied by the initial results (finding the chapters he had written “just dreary and unproductive of anything”), he turned to the history of ideas in philosophy and the arts for inspiration.

The Modern World

In the third volume, Singer examines the pervasive dialectic between optimistic idealism and pessimistic realism in modern thinking about the nature of love. He begins by discussing "anti-Romantic Romantics" (focusing on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Tolstoy), influential nineteenth-century thinkers whose views illustrate much of the ambiguity and self-contradiction that permeate thinking about love in the last hundred years.

Courtly and Romantic

In the second volume, Singer studies the ideas and ideals of medieval courtly love and nineteenth-century Romantic love, as well as the transition between these two perspectives. According to the traditions of courtly love in the twelfth century and thereafter, not only God but also human beings in themselves are capable of authentic love. The pursuit of love between man and woman was seen as a splendid ideal that ennobles both the lover and the beloved.

Plato to Luther

In the first volume, Singer begins by studying love as appraisal and bestowal as well as imagination and idealization. He then examines the contrasting views of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Ovid, Lucretius, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther. After having described the nature of erotic idealization, Singer analyzes the religious idealization in Judeo-Christian concepts of eros, philia, and nomos.

Philosophy in Film

Film is the supreme medium for mythmaking. The gods and heroes of mythology are both larger than life and deeply human; they teach us about the world, and they tell us a good story. Similarly, our experience of film is both distant and intimate. Cinematic techniques—panning, tracking, zooming, and the other tools in the filmmaker's toolbox—create a world that is unlike reality and yet realistic at the same time. We are passive spectators, but we also have a personal relationship with the images we are seeing.