Love and Self-Sacrifice: Kierkegaard, Maimonides and the Poor Spouse Predicament

N. Verbin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of the paper is to explore the presumed link between love and self-sacrifice by exploring the presuppositions through which it is established in Kierkegaard’s thought, and to briefly present a different perspective on those presuppositions. The paper has three parts. I begin with an exploration of the roles of self-sacrifice and the double-danger in Kierkegaard’s thinking about Christian love. In the second part, I focus on the role of the “anxiety of instrumentality”, i.e., the (poor) lover’s anxiety that if s/he benefits from loving then his/her love is impure, in Kierkegaard’s thinking about love and about the paradigmatic role of the despised martyr within it. I end with the Maimonidean conception of love, which allows no space for the poor spouse predicament, presenting the detached prophet/sage as the perfect lover. Unlike the Kierkegaardian paradigm, which links love with giving-up, this paradigm links love with giving, and with pleasure, joy, and happiness, thereby rendering sacrifice and suffering impossible when truly loving. Bringing these paradigms to bear on one another, I conclude that if we wish to reject both the despised martyr and the detached prophet/sage as paradigms of perfect loving then we are to give up the ideal that underlies both paradigms, namely, that it is only in “willing love alone” that we love purely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-145
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal for Philosophy of Religion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023


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