Sad love: Beyond the fairy tale

What is love?

Meet ‘philosophy’s crazy ex-girlfriend,’ Professor Carrie Jenkins, at this year’s annual joint event between the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Institute of Philosophy, as we explore the age-old question: what is love really?

What if your happy ever after… isn’t? All those promises of a Disneyfied love story nowhere to be found?

Join Professor Carrie Jenkins as we explore why the pursuit of a “happy ever after” isn’t all it seems to be and why we should give sadness – and other ‘negative’ emotions – a second look. As we attempt to understand what love really is, we will ask questions like: what makes a meaningful love story, and how do people, our environment, communities, and our culture influence our understanding of love?

Professor Jenkins will encourage us to see love through the lens of eudaimonia – a love that is collaborative, creative, and dynamic, oriented towards meaning, giving room to the full spectrum of human experience and emotion.


A woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Professor of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

Carrie Jenkins is an author and philosophy professor who grew up in Wales and now lives on the territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ilwətaɁɬ, and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people (known colonially as Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). Describing herself as ‘philosophy’s crazy ex-girlfriend,’ she has a distinguished track record of publication in philosophy and now works at the intersection of academic philosophy and the creative arts. Her non-fiction books include What Love Is and What It Could Be (2017, Basic Books) and Sad Love: Romance and the Search for Meaning (2022, Polity). Carrie also writes poetry and fiction. Her first novel, Victoria Sees It (2021, Penguin Random House Canada) was shortlisted for the Frye Academy Award and the BC Yukon Book Prizes.


A man wearing a suit and tie

Edward Harcourt

Academic Director, Royal Institute of Philosophy

Edward Harcourt is the Academic Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Keble College. His research lies in moral psychology and on the boundaries between ethics and the philosophy of mind. He has published on topics including neo-Aristotelianism and child development; the ethical dimensions of psychoanalysis; love and the virtues; the philosophy of mental health and mental illness; and Wittgenstein.

In March 2022 he completed a four-year secondment to the UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council as Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation. He currently works two days a week in Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, where he leads on patient and public engagement for the Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre. He also directs Mind, Value and Mental Health: The Oxford Summer Schools in Philosophy and Psychiatry, which is due to meet again in Summer 2024. 

In partnership with

The Royal Institute of Philosophy is a charity dedicated to the advancement of philosophy in all its branches through the organisation and promotion of teaching, discussion and research of all things philosophical.

Cartoon frog holding a love heart donut


Thursday December 14th, 2023 18:00-19:15


Hybrid Event