Edit: a better title would have been: Can love potions or drugs cause real love? Or can love be manufactured? Of course, love can be manipulated!
“Amortenia doesn’t really create love, of course. It is impossible to manufacture or imitate love. No this will simply cause a powerful infatuation or obsession. It is probably the most dangerous and powerful potion in this room — oh yes.”
–Professor Horace Slughorn in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (by J.K. Rowling).
“Suppose Ann causally determines you to love her by manipulating your brain so that you are oblivious to her flaws of character, and by slipping Love Potion Number 9 into your morning coffee. That would be objectionable. But imagine instead that you have a self-destructive proclivity to love people who are harmful to you, and not to love those who would benefit you, partly because you have a tendency overlook people’s valuable characteristics, such as kindness and concern for the well-being of others. Suppose Ann slips a drug into your coffee that eliminates this tendency, as a result of which you are able to fully appreciate her valuable characteristics, and as a result you are causally determined to love her. How bad would that be? It would seem that what is unacceptable is not being causally determined to love by the other party per se, but rather how one is causally determined, and that there are varieties of determination by the other party that are not objectionable.”
–Derk Pereboom from Free Will, Love, and Anger.
There are things in both of these statements I agree and disagree with. I’m with Slughorn: love potions can’t create real love in those who imbibe them, but I think it is perfectly possible to imitate love–actors do it all the time to convincing degrees. I disagree with Pereboom that Ann produces genuine love in her subject, though I agree, assuming Ann is worthy of love, that she wills the good of her subject (let’s call him Ben). My problem is this: Ben’s love for Ann does not come from Ben or through Ben in a way that befits love. How to make sense of this befitting is difficult, but I submit that Ben’s love for Ann is genuine only if Ben’s love for Ann is best explained by Ben–his nature, will, and dispositions. The reasons for loving Ann ought to be explained by Ben’s ability to find Ann lovely. This is not the case in Pereboom’s example, because Ben’s so-called “love” for Ann is best explained by a drug so that he might act in ways that imitate love for her. The reason we might not find Ann’s behavior objectionable is because she is doing something good for Ben, not because Ben is doing something good for her. Would it not be better if Ben could learn to love Ann without the aid of a drug? Surely, it would be a more valuable state of affairs for Ben to find Ann lovely by virtue of his own ability. Perhaps a drug is what is needed to get Ben habituated in the right ways so that he can develop the right character so as to love Ann. And Ann, being the kind of person who wills the best for Ben, would want Ben to come to a place where Ben could love her on his own. Everything said so far makes no claims about whether or not Ben could resist Ann after he is free of the drug or not. I only claim that genuine love cannot be so