The Medicalization of Love: Why Scientists Should Study the Effects of Pharmaceuticals on Human (Romantic) Relationships

Date/Time: Tue 12 Sep / 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Location: Lecture Theatre S12, 16 Rainforest Walk

Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SoPHIS)


The Medicalization of Love: Why Scientists Should Study the Effects of Pharmaceuticals on Human (Romantic) Relationships

Over a series of papers, my colleagues and I have argued that the use of biochemical substances to enhance salvageable (or already good) relationships, or to end bad relationships, would sometimes be justifiable. In earlier work, we focused on narrow, highly specific cases in order to establish our ethical framework. But we didn’t touch so much on the wider social consequences that the “medicalization of love” might bring about. In this talk, I try to address some the major worries one might have about a society that allows love and loving relationships to enter into the domain of medicine. I also suggest that the timing for this conversation is urgent: there are already a number of commonly-used drugs (prescribed for other purposes) that are undoubtedly having effects on our relationships, and we should do our best to study those effects to avoid the harms to which such drugs may be contributing, or even harness their (good) effects to better ends.

Brian Earp is Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy at Yale University and The Hastings Center, and a Research Fellow in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. His work is cross-disciplinary, following training in philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, history and sociology of science and medicine, and ethics. His research has been covered in Nature, Popular Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Atlantic, New Scientist, and other major outlets; he has also been cited in the U.S. President’s Commission on Bioethics in Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, and in a landmark British high court case by Sir James Munby. In 2016, he was invited by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences to serve as one of a small group of “high-level experts” reporting to the Dutch government on the replication crisis in science and medicine. He was also invited to submit materials based on his work in gender and sexuality to a special committee of European Parliament; this work has now been published as part of a monograph series. His essays have been translated into Polish, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Hebrew.

Tuesday 12 September

12:00pm – 1:00pm

S12, 16 Rainforest Walk
Clayton Campus

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