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Is it unethical to not tell your partner you have herpes if they don't ask? Is

Is it unethical to not tell your partner you have herpes if they don't ask? Is it excusable in any way not to do so?

If one is innocently unaware that one has a communicable medical condition, then this would be a plausible excuse (here by "innocently" I mean to exclude cases where one has recklessly ignored obvious symptoms). Another excuse might be that the communicable condition is very minor (which I believe herpes is not) -- a slight itch that disappears naturally and permanently after a few hours, for example.

The fact that the other person hasn't asked might be an excuse in a social environment in which only very few are uninfected and in which everyone takes for granted that those they interact with already have the disease ("how could I possibly have known that you are one of the 0.1% of uninfected people; you should have told me this, at least if you wanted to remain uninfected!"). This is obviously not the environment we're in.

Being romantically involved goes along with an expectation of love or at least care and concern for one's partner. Given this cultural context -- which may not exist everywhere and in all subcultures, of course -- it is reasonable for one partner to expect the other to disclose risks and dangers the latter might pose. The romantic context would be considerably disturbed if the burden were placed on the former partner who would then have to think about all the possible risks and dangers she might be exposing herself to and ask about each of them individually. If your date confronted you with such a long checklist on one of your early dates, this might well disturb the romantic mood, and you might well say part-way through the interrogation: "Look, I care about you, and if I posed a danger to you in any of these ways, then I would surely tell you or find a way to neutralize the risk." When this would be a natural thing to say, it indicates that we take responsibility for disclosure to lie with the partner who poses the risk rather than with the one who would be endangered by it.

If one is innocently unaware that one has a communicable medical condition, then this would be a plausible excuse (here by "innocently" I mean to exclude cases where one has recklessly ignored obvious symptoms). Another excuse might be that the communicable condition is very minor (which I believe herpes is not) -- a slight itch that disappears naturally and permanently after a few hours, for example. The fact that the other person hasn't asked might be an excuse in a social environment in which only very few are uninfected and in which everyone takes for granted that those they interact with already have the disease ("how could I possibly have known that you are one of the 0.1% of uninfected people; you should have told me this, at least if you wanted to remain uninfected!"). This is obviously not the environment we're in. Being romantically involved goes along with an expectation of love or at least care and concern for one's partner. Given this cultural context -- which may not exist...

I have a question that was prompted by a recent discussion with a female friend.

I have a question that was prompted by a recent discussion with a female friend. We both agreed that a certain kind of voyeurism is obviously wrong. For example, we both thought that it would be wrong for a man to climb a tree to watch a woman disrobe through a window. The disagreement, however, emerged when we discussed a second case. Suppose a man is sitting on a bench minding his own business when he notices a girl sit down across from him wearing a short skirt. She doesn’t realize it, but he can see up her skirt--and she isn’t wearing any underwear. Now, let’s suppose that this girl is no exhibitionist and would be extremely embarrassed if she found out this man could see up her skirt. Indeed, let’s say she would be just as embarrassed as the woman in the first case would be if she found out about the tree-climber. Moreover, let’s suppose this man gets the same thrill out of this experience as the tree-climber. Is the man on the bench morally obligated to look away, or is it permissible for...

Your well-articulated question brings out something interesting about how we moderns think about morality. When we consider whether a certain piece of conduct is morally acceptable or not, we tend to examine what complaints other people might plausibly raise against this conduct and how the agent might possibly answer these complaints.

This is pretty clearly the approach of your female friend in the case of the man on the bench. Your friend thinks along the following lines, I believe: if the man's behavior is to be wrong, then this must be in virtue of some complaint one might raise on behalf of the girl (who else?). Her complaint must be that he is looking at a part of her body that he should not be looking at. But this is not a convincing complaint, because it is as a consequence of her own conduct that this part of her body has appeared in his visual field. His sitting where he is sitting is entirely innocent, and the viewing opportunity arose (unexpectably for him) through her choosing to wear a short skirt without underwear. Her own conduct invalidates her complaint.

I am with your female friend here in agreeing that what she says cannot be dismissed as "morally irrelevant". Given the facts (plus the assumption that this girl is a young adult rather than a child or teenager), the "girl" has no complaint. I would add that your friend's reasoning seems to me to withstand Oliver Leaman's response. Oliver is right that we have a reasonable expectation that certain aspects of our lives should remain private, and that others ought to honor this expectation. This surely disqualifies the conduct of the tree climber, but not the conduct of the man on the bench. When the "girl" -- however inadvertently -- exposes certain parts of her body in public to public view, then she cannot complain of a violation of her privacy when these parts are being seen by others.

I am also sympathetic to your side of the argument. I believe it is wrong for the man to stare. In one sense, this is not very controversial. Many will agree that it would be better for the man to do something else. For example, he might switch over to her bench and inform her politely of the problem -- verbally, perhaps, or with a little note. This sort of kindness is pretty common among men, most of whom will occasionally forget to zip up their fly. One can look and chuckle, but it is surely kinder to offer a gentle reminder (especially when the good man is about to teach his class). While this is true and widely accepted, it does not follow that one is acting wrongly when one fails to show such kindness. Your friend could easily agree that the man on the bench could have shown more kindness but continue to deny that he is doing anything wrong. It is on this issue that I agree with you against your female friend.

To do this, I have to reject the idea that the complaint model -- convincing as I find it -- is exhaustive of morality. I have to say that some conduct is wrong even if no one has a plausible complaint against it. To make this convincing, one can start with the ancients for whom the question of how to live was at the center of moral thought. Here our moral task not to harm others unduly is integrated into a larger task of being -- or better: becoming -- the best that we can be. It is, for men, a central part of this task of self-improvement that we should leave behind the lockerroom attitudes toward woman as objects to be used for pleasure or labor and that we should develop our capacities to relate with women as genuine equals. Staring up a girl's skirt is quite clearly a move in the wrong direction. (I have written a bit about this in my response to question 1702, so won't repeat here.) Of course, gender relations are not the only area in which we find conduct that is wrong without wronging anyone else. It is wrong, for example, to waste one's life on trivial pursuits -- even if one is a rich heir who can do this without drawing on others' resources either public or private.

A final thought. I want to resist the idea that conduct that is wrong without wronging anyone else must be conduct that wrongs oneself. (This is an idea Kant suggests with his account of duties to oneself.) The view I want to defend, then, is that conduct can be wrong even though it wrongs no one. See whether this captures your resistance to your friend's reasoning or whether you want, instead, to resist her arguments while remaining within the approach that makes a plausible complaint a precondition of wrongness.

Your well-articulated question brings out something interesting about how we moderns think about morality. When we consider whether a certain piece of conduct is morally acceptable or not, we tend to examine what complaints other people might plausibly raise against this conduct and how the agent might possibly answer these complaints. This is pretty clearly the approach of your female friend in the case of the man on the bench. Your friend thinks along the following lines, I believe: if the man's behavior is to be wrong, then this must be in virtue of some complaint one might raise on behalf of the girl (who else?). Her complaint must be that he is looking at a part of her body that he should not be looking at. But this is not a convincing complaint, because it is as a consequence of her own conduct that this part of her body has appeared in his visual field. His sitting where he is sitting is entirely innocent, and the viewing opportunity arose (unexpectably for him) through her choosing to wear...

Is prostitution immoral? Can we not think of it as a kind of industry where

Is prostitution immoral? Can we not think of it as a kind of industry where service (i.e., sex) is given and received while both parties involved benefit?

Even if both parties benefit from the transaction (relative to the baseline where they do not interact), the transaction can still be immoral. An extreme example would be a mother in Cambodia who works as a prostitute to feed her children. She prefers serving the customer and receiving the money over not interacting with him. And he prefers the transaction over not interacting with her (it only costs him as much as he earns in 20 minutes back home). But it may still be immoral to take advantage of the woman's situation by paying her so little.

Let's leave this sort of case aside and consider prostitution involving two people who are both well off and roughly equally well off -- perhaps a business person buying sex from a college student from an affluent family who is saving up to buy a flashier car. In this case, I'd agree that the transaction is not immoral, assuming free and informed consent on both sides ("informed" meaning among other things that neither has failed to disclose any infectious disease to the other).

Still, this sort of relationship is generally not part of the best life that a human being is capable of. Either person might aspire to a more ambitious romantic relationship in which they would share not only sex but also conversation, literature, travel, sports, emotions, and daily joys, curiosities and sorrows. Where these other possibilities are available but passed up in favor of prostitution, people are falling short of their potential in much the same way as they do when they pass up good novels for trashy ones, news analysis for daytime TV, or evening discussions for excessive alcohol. That's not immoral, so long as no one else gets hurt, but it's still ethically questionable in a broad sense of ethics as one can find in the ancients and in Bernard Williams, for example.

Even if both parties benefit from the transaction (relative to the baseline where they do not interact), the transaction can still be immoral. An extreme example would be a mother in Cambodia who works as a prostitute to feed her children. She prefers serving the customer and receiving the money over not interacting with him. And he prefers the transaction over not interacting with her (it only costs him as much as he earns in 20 minutes back home). But it may still be immoral to take advantage of the woman's situation by paying her so little. Let's leave this sort of case aside and consider prostitution involving two people who are both well off and roughly equally well off -- perhaps a business person buying sex from a college student from an affluent family who is saving up to buy a flashier car. In this case, I'd agree that the transaction is not immoral, assuming free and informed consent on both sides ("informed" meaning among other things that neither has failed to disclose any infectious...

Is, say, necrophilia ethically wrong? Arguably the ultimate societal taboo,

Is, say, necrophilia ethically wrong? Arguably the ultimate societal taboo, necrophilia is something which the vast majority of people -- myself included -- consider disturbing and repulsive. It seems, however, that if we deem it morally objectionable we are left in a precarious situation, as we are forced to acknowledge that certain sexual behaviors without victims are wrong in and of themselves. If we accept this fact, what's to stop a person from deeming gay marriage wrong on the same grounds? Where could we possibly draw the line? Having read some of the responses posted on this site, I have recently accepted the position that a person can be harmed even after their death. So, when I am speaking of necrophilia here, let's assume the person gave their consent before dying.

We might think of this on three levels. First, is it permissible for a liberal state to outlaw necrophilia? The argument for an affirmative answer could appeal to various public health reasons as well as to the fact that this practice may give considerable offense to others even while the cost of abstention is relatively small and borne only by a few. This argument might run roughly parallel to that justifying the permissibility of outlawing nudity or defecation in public places. The case of gay relationships is substantially different for two reasons: the cost to gay people of not having the opportunity of a romantically fulfilling and socially recognized relationship is enormous and, with roughly three percent of all people being gay, the number of people who would be (and have been) bearing this cost is substantial.

Second, is there something ethically wrong with practicing necrophelia? Taking ethics in the broad sense, its concern is the good life for human beings. A good life centrally involves close personal ties, friendships, and romantic relationships with people who we regard as our equals and with whom we engage in a wide range of communicative interactions. Compared to such interactions, necrophilia is an inferior activity, a waste of time. But so are many video games and TV shows. And it's surely not a serious failing for people to take a little time out here and there for something dull or silly.

Third, is it more narrowly morally wrong to practice necrophelia, would doing so wrong other people? Setting aside the wrong one might do to others by endangering public health and/or by violating the laws of our common legal system, and assuming the free and informed prior consent of the person now deceased, it is hard to see who might be wronged if the act is performed in a private setting.

I agree then with what you are suggesting: the strength of our reaction to necrophelia cannot be explained by reference to our modern moral-ethical thinking. It is presumably related to religious commitments, aesthetic tastes, and even biological responses.

We might think of this on three levels. First, is it permissible for a liberal state to outlaw necrophilia? The argument for an affirmative answer could appeal to various public health reasons as well as to the fact that this practice may give considerable offense to others even while the cost of abstention is relatively small and borne only by a few. This argument might run roughly parallel to that justifying the permissibility of outlawing nudity or defecation in public places. The case of gay relationships is substantially different for two reasons: the cost to gay people of not having the opportunity of a romantically fulfilling and socially recognized relationship is enormous and, with roughly three percent of all people being gay, the number of people who would be (and have been) bearing this cost is substantial. Second, is there something ethically wrong with practicing necrophelia? Taking ethics in the broad sense, its concern is the good life for human beings. A good life centrally...

I am not here to be boastful or arrogant, but here is the thing: if I walk down

I am not here to be boastful or arrogant, but here is the thing: if I walk down the street and see someone "checking-me-out", is it morally wrong for me to feel flattered because of this?

The predicate "morally wrong" seems to require a victim: someone who is morally wronged. This could by an animal or members of future generations. But, in your case, there's no one to whom a wrong is being done.

The same seems true for any and all feelings we might have: Our feelings do not harm others, hence it cannot be morally wrong to feel this or that.

To be sure, it can be wrong in certain circumstances to act on one's feelings, to lie about one's feelings, to conceal or to express one's feelings. But merely having them cannot be morally wrong.

Another argument to the same conclusion would appeal to the premise that we do not choose our feelings, that you cannot avoid feeling flattered at the moment you have this feeling. While this may typically be true, it is also true that we do have the capacity to modify over time the way we feel. Someone who feels hostility toward members of a certain race or religion can make an effort to get to know good people from that race or religion and thereby gradually overcome her feelings. And you could over time -- perhaps by mixing more with people who respect you for your intellect, personality, friendship, sense of humor, or other character traits -- become someone who cares less about being appreciated for her looks.

Would you be a better person -- in a larger sense that goes beyond the moral -- if you had so transformed yourself, if you had reduced that feeling of being flattered by attention to your looks? Probably not. If you derived nearly all of your self-esteem from how others respond to your looks, then there would be room for improvement. But if you like to stay in shape and to dress smartly, and enjoy the reaction of others to your hot looks, I cannot see this as a defect so long as you also like and enjoy many other things besides.

The predicate "morally wrong" seems to require a victim: someone who is morally wronged. This could by an animal or members of future generations. But, in your case, there's no one to whom a wrong is being done. The same seems true for any and all feelings we might have: Our feelings do not harm others, hence it cannot be morally wrong to feel this or that. To be sure, it can be wrong in certain circumstances to act on one's feelings, to lie about one's feelings, to conceal or to express one's feelings. But merely having them cannot be morally wrong. Another argument to the same conclusion would appeal to the premise that we do not choose our feelings, that you cannot avoid feeling flattered at the moment you have this feeling. While this may typically be true, it is also true that we do have the capacity to modify over time the way we feel. Someone who feels hostility toward members of a certain race or religion can make an effort to get to know good people from that race or religion and...

I am having an affair with a married man who is my coworker. I did not begin the

I am having an affair with a married man who is my coworker. I did not begin the affair, he pursued me. His wife does not know. I feel guilty about it but I am in love with him. He says that he loves me but that he also loves his wife because although she is abusive and he feels no attraction to her she was there for him when he was very ill two years ago. Are my actions unethical? If she doesn't know and I am truly in love with him is it okay? Are his actions more unethical than mine?

Even if the question suggests rationalization and some self-deception, there is still the more philosophical question of why this affair is wrong (if it is wrong).

Contrary to what you suggest, the fact that the wife does not know is probably sufficient to make the affair wrong. She stuck to this man throughout his serious illness and thereafter, because she believed and still believes that they have a certain relationship with each other which she values highly. She does not in fact have such a relationship -- her husband feels no attraction for her and is in love with you. If she knew that her life in fact lacks what she values highly, that her husband describes her to his lover as abusive, that he stays with her only because she looked after him when he was ill -- if she knew all this, then she would very seriously consider leaving her husband to try to build a new relationship of the kind she values. The deception deprives her of this opportunity and leads to her life failing miserably in a respect that for her is very important, perhaps most important. The notion that she is not harmed so long as she does not know of this failure is patronizing and unresponsive to what she cares about: What she deems important is that she should have a meaningful relationship with her husband, not that she should have pleasant beliefs about this relationship.

(Imagine for a moment that the husband has a second secret lover as well, one who knows about you though you don't know about him or her. And imagine that he tells his second lover that he is very bored with you but stays with you because you might otherwise cause a scandal in the office. Wouldn't this make your life much worse even if you didn't know? Wouldn't you want to find out, despite the pain this would cause you, so that you have a chance to find a better relationship? -- If yes, then why assume otherwise about the wife?)

Now, to be sure, I don't strictly know all this about the wife. I find it probable in view of what you wrote and in view of what I see around me in this culture. Perhaps I guess wrongly. Perhaps she loves him in a subservient, self-denying way that makes her care mainly about his happiness, not about their relationship nor about whether her own life is fulfilled. If this were so (and the husband knew this), then perhaps it could be alright for him to have the affair and not tell her. He knows that she would want him to have this affair, if it makes him happy; and he knows that she would want to be there to serve him even if he loves someone else. So telling her would just cause her pointless pain. Not a likely scenario at all, in my view, but worth mentioning just to show that there might possibly be cases where having an affair without telling one's partner is alright.

The husband knows vastly more about his wife than you do. Nonetheless, you cannot simply rely on his expressed judgment that what he and you are doing is alright. (For one thing, he has a strong interest in misleading you and possibly deceiving himself on this point.) You need to judge whether what he tells you about her would make the affair alright. And you also need to judge whether what he tells you is true. In this case, what he has told you, even if true, does not justify your secret affair for the reason stated in the second paragraph. So I cannot see how the husband's conduct, or yours, could be ethical.

Even if the question suggests rationalization and some self-deception, there is still the more philosophical question of why this affair is wrong (if it is wrong). Contrary to what you suggest, the fact that the wife does not know is probably sufficient to make the affair wrong. She stuck to this man throughout his serious illness and thereafter, because she believed and still believes that they have a certain relationship with each other which she values highly. She does not in fact have such a relationship -- her husband feels no attraction for her and is in love with you. If she knew that her life in fact lacks what she values highly, that her husband describes her to his lover as abusive, that he stays with her only because she looked after him when he was ill -- if she knew all this, then she would very seriously consider leaving her husband to try to build a new relationship of the kind she values. The deception deprives her of this opportunity and leads to her life failing miserably in a...

I have been reading Kant recently and have wondered what his stance would be on

I have been reading Kant recently and have wondered what his stance would be on homosexuality, not in marriage, but just in general. It seems that he would say it is immoral because it goes against one's duty, since if everyone was homosexual, there would be no new babies. Can this be true? Is there something else in Kant's thinking that would contradict this?

A few additional remarks. Kant's explicit condemnation of homosexual (or same-sex) sexual relations can be found in his Lectures on Ethics (the Vorlesung). His arguments are grounded in the Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative (not the First, as suggested by the question), but mostly on his claim that homosexual acts are unnatural, "crimes against nature." For two essays on this apsect of Kant's views, see my "Kant and Sexual Perversion" The Monist 86:1 (Jan. 2003), pp. 55-89 -- also available at http://fs.uno.edu/asoble/pages/kmonist.htm -- and Lara Denis, "Kant on the Wrongness of 'Unnatural' Sex," History of Philosophy Quarterly 16:2 (1999), pp. 225-48. Finally, John Corvino's essay "In Defense of Homosexuality" (in A. Soble, ed., The Philosophy of Sex, 5th edition) includes this passage: "A Roman Catholic priest once put the argument to me as follows: 'Of course homosexuality is bad for society. If everyone were homosexual, there would be no society.' Perhaps it is true that if everyone were homosexual, there would be no society. But if everyone were a celibate priest, society would collapse just as surely, and my friend the priest didn’t seem to think that he was doing anything wrong simply by failing to procreate. Jeremy Bentham made the point somewhat more acerbically roughly 200 years ago: 'If then merely out of regard to population it were right that [homosexuals] should be burnt alive, monks ought to be roasted alive by a slow fire.'"

Kant better not say this. If everyone remained childless, then there would be no new babies either. So, by the same token, Kant would be condemning his own decision to remain childless. A good way of showing how remaining childless can be seen as permissible on Kant's ground is to interpret the categorical imperative as asking whether one can will not the universal adoption , but rather the universal availability of one's maxim. In a world in which enough children are born by to those who want to have children, I can will my maxim of remaining childless to be universally available: Even if everyone who wants to adopt this maxim does so, humanity will still continue. Applying this interpretation of the categorical imperative to homosexuality, it turns out that homosexuality is likewise permissible. Even if I cannot will humankind to go extinct, I can will the universal availability of a homosexual life: There are enough heterosexuals who want to have children to propagate the human race...

Hello,

Sex
Hello, I am just a concerned college student. I have read the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals by Kant and I am particularly convinced by Kant's Humanity as an End formulation. On this formulation, I refuse to randomly hook-up with girls at fraternity parties because I believe that would amount to using (and letting myself be used) merely as means and not as an end, which would violate the dignity of being a human. For the same reason, I deny to dabble in any sort of sexual contact unless I have a flourishing relationship with the person. My question is: Am I interpreting Kant in the right way? That is to say, does sexual contact of any sort or intensity (i.e. from making out to sexual intercourse) without a relationship amount to using someone as merely means?

Yes and no. Although, mostly yes. For the most comprehensive treatment of the issue (Kant and/on sex) that I know, see my essay "Sexual Use and What to Do about It: Internalist and Externalist Sexual Ethics," Essays in Philosophy 2:2 (June, 2001) [online journal, at Humboldt State] or, better, the longer versions reprinted in my Philosophy of Sex, 4th ed., and posted on my website, at http://fs.uno.edu/asoble/pages/sexuse.htm (yet more of the territory is covered in detail in my "Kant and Sexual Perversion," The Monist 86:1 (2003), pp. 57-92; also found on my web site. Insert, at the end of the URL, the file name kmonist.htm instead). Plenty of references to other essays on Kant and/on sex are provided. You'll have to consult the Vorlesung (Lectures on Ethics; Heath's edition) and the Metaphysics of Morals (Gregor) to make up your own mind.

Am I morally bound to tell my sex partner if I fantasize about someone else

Am I morally bound to tell my sex partner if I fantasize about someone else whilst making love to her? Or the subject of the fantasy for that matter? SteveB

In my reply to Tom's reply, I asked for argument, reasons, what philosophers are supposed to do as philosophers, if not duty-bound to do. And, finally, he did it. Thank you, Tom. Maybe I am thick and hence couldn't read the argument(s) that really did exist between or amongst those three short sentences of the original reply. But if I couldn't see it, did SteveB?

Do you want her to feel obliged to tell you (do you even really want to know) what she is thinking of in those moments? Chances are you are both happier together as things are now. And the two of you have surely no duties to anyone else to change your ways.

My response was composed for Steve B. But, with thanks for Jyl's intervention, let me try to rephrase in a way that Alan may find more congenial. Suppose you were indeed morally obligated to tell your sex partner when you fantasize about someone else whilst making love to her. This obligation would not be one owed to any third party. So it would have to be one you owe to her. But it is questionable that you owe her such disclosures. To see this, consider that, if you owed her such disclosures, then she would owe you such disclosures as well. Now ask yourself whether such disclosures from her would really be in your interest: Would you want to know what she fantasizes about when the two of you make love? Would you be happier if she gave you this information, or do you think she would be happier if she gave it to you? If the answers to these -- yes! -- empirical questions (see Q866 and answer) are negative, then it is hard to see how she could owe you such disclosures that you would not want and...

In an earlier question (http://www.amherst.edu/askphilosophers/question/875) the

In an earlier question (http://www.amherst.edu/askphilosophers/question/875) the following was asked: "Am I morally bound to tell my sex partner if I fantasize about someone else whilst making love to her? Or the subject of the fantasy for that matter?" T. Pogge responded: "Now ask yourself whether such disclosures from her would really be in your interest: Would you want to know what she fantasizes about when the two of you make love? Would you be happier if she gave you this information, or do you think she would be happier if she gave it to you?" Is the duty to disclose determined by self-interest? (how many people are sufficiently aware of their self-interest to thus determine their duties? e.g. how many people enact patterns of self-destructive behavior, particularly in their sex and/or love-lives?) Can the duty to disclose be determined by the interest of the person to whom the duty is owed? (How many people know what is in the interest of another person? particularly, again, with regard to their...

You seem to think that my earlier response commits me to affirmative answers to the three questions you pose. As far as I can see, this is not the case. So, to answer the new questions in sequence:

1. No, a person's obligations are not determined by this person's self-interest. Even when performing some action is not in one's self-interest, one can still have a moral obligation to perform it. And even when an action is in one's self-interest, one can still lack a moral obligation to perform it. This holds for obligations in general, and it also holds, as you suggest, for obligations to disclose information.

In my previous answer, the connection I drew was not between an obligation and interests of the same person, but between an obligation and interests of another (the person to whom the obligation is owed, here: the person's partner). This is the target of your second question.

2. Again, I would say no. The obligations one person, A, has toward another, B, are not determined by B's interests. A may have no obligation to B to get married to B even though B has a strong interest that this should happen. And similarly for disclosures: A may have no obligation to B to give B some piece of information even though B has a strong interest in this information. So we agree here as well. What I was suggesting in my previous answer connects in the opposite direction: A can have an ethical obligation to B to disclose something to B only if such disclosure is in the interest of B or something B would want.

3. Again, I agree with you that a person's interests are not determined by happiness -- either the person's own or that of others. I was using happiness as an example: One of the ways in which disclosure of information might be in the interest of the recipient is that it relieves this recipient's pain or makes her/him happier. I was not suggesting that this is the only way.

My thought then is: One can have an ethical obligation to tell one's partner about one's sexual fantasies only if this disclosure is either in the partner's interest (e.g., because it would make her/him happier) or something s/he would want. Since such disclosure is, in some (and perhaps most) cases, neither in the partner's interest nor something this partner would want, there is no general moral duty to disclose -- though there may be an obligation to disclose in some cases.

Cases is which one owes an obligation of disclosure to one's partner would be special cases, in my view -- not every case in which disclosure is in the partners interest or something s/he would want (see 2 above). For example: A finds B repulsive and can make love to B only by fantasizing about someone else. B is attractive to many, could easily find a new partner, and cares greatly to be with someone who finds B attractive. In such a case, A might well have an obligation to disclose or to end the relationship.

Now you also raise, in all three of your questions, the issue of uncertainty: Does one really know what is in one's partner's interest (e.g., what would make one's partner happier) and what one's partner would want to have disclosed? I agree that such judgments may sometimes be difficult to make, and I agree that one may then be mistaken (in either direction) about whether one owes one's partner disclosure or not.

You may see this as a disadvantage of my view. But I think it is a common phenomenon in moral life. What obligations we have often depends on what is the case. And insofar as we are uncertain (or mistaken) about what is the case, we may then also be uncertain (or mistaken) about what our obligations are.

You may think that, when one is uncertain about whether one has an obligation to disclose, then one ought to disclose (just in case). Again, this seems right. But not every uncertainty about what is in one's partner's interest entails uncertainty about the obligation to disclose. The uncertainty has to be serious enough for one to conclude that a special case (like that described three paragraphs back) obtains. And one must also weigh the downside risk of hurting one's partner's feeling and the relationship unnecessarily.

You seem to think that my earlier response commits me to affirmative answers to the three questions you pose. As far as I can see, this is not the case. So, to answer the new questions in sequence: 1. No, a person's obligations are not determined by this person's self-interest. Even when performing some action is not in one's self-interest, one can still have a moral obligation to perform it. And even when an action is in one's self-interest, one can still lack a moral obligation to perform it. This holds for obligations in general, and it also holds, as you suggest, for obligations to disclose information. In my previous answer, the connection I drew was not between an obligation and interests of the same person, but between an obligation and interests of another (the person to whom the obligation is owed, here: the person's partner). This is the target of your second question. 2. Again, I would say no . The obligations one person, A, has toward another, B, are not determined by B...

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