Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Restricted Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Jean Yarbrough


What is love and what is its place in our lives? This question is especially relevant to today’s young people. Modern Love & Marriage: The Problems and Insights of Rousseau, Beauvoir, and Plato examines the political philosophies that have influenced the current state of affairs in regard to love, marriage, and family. The first chapter examines Rousseau’s romanticism and why the ideal lives it creates are too restrictive for modern men and women but acknowledges his correctness about the power and centrality of love and marriage in a good life. The second chapter discusses Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist philosophy. Beauvoir significantly misunderstands the meaning inherent to motherhood, childrearing, and love but does point out the importance of transcendence and uniquely human work. The final chapter turns to Plato’s Symposium in an attempt to reconcile the appealing aspects of Rousseau’s and Beauvoir’s respective philosophies with modern life. Plato provides an alternative to Rousseau’s complementarity through Aristophanes’ speech and a reinterpretation of Diotima’s speech to view childrearing as a method for the transcendence Beauvoir emphasizes. The conclusion argues that a reprioritization of love and family over work would provide more fulfilling and happy lives for men and women alike. This vision is far closer to Rousseau’s romanticism with its focus on marriage and family as the center of a good life but leaves room for men and women alike to seek love through compatibility not sexual differentiation and transcendence through childrearing and work.


Available only to users on the Bowdoin campus.