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Is it wrong to fantasize about sex with children? If a pedophile never acts on

Is it wrong to fantasize about sex with children? If a pedophile never acts on their fantasies are they still guilty of having evil thoughts, assuming that their abstinence comes out of a genuine desire not to do harm?

I'm sympathetic to most of what Professor Heck says, if we consider things from a deontological or even a consequentialist point of view, where the relevant consequences are external to the agent. Fantasy does not violate anyone's rights, and fantasy that never motivates action will not result in actions that harm anyone. But I think there is a plausible way of looking at things that would still find fault with fantasizing about having sex with children, and that would come from the aretaic (or virtue-theoretic) way of thinking, according to which the primary bearer of value is to be found in characteristics of agents. One who indulges in fantasies about sex with children is doing something that both reflects--and also perhaps perpetuates and sustains--a certain trait of character that we might think is not entirely wholesome or admirable. To the extent that we can regard one who indulges in such fantasies as having a trait of character that is improvable, we might also think that some attempt to eliminate or at least diminish the inclination to indulge in such fantasies would result in that person having some improvement in character. It may be that habituation can only go so far, and that virtue theorists (such as Aristotle) overrate the extent to which one can habituate better character traits, but it certainly does seem that a virtue theorist could find the character of someone who tends to indulge in such fantasies at least improvable, and this way of looking at things does, I think, put a different face on this kind of case than what Professor Heck has indicated.

I'm sympathetic to most of what Professor Heck says, if we consider things from a deontological or even a consequentialist point of view, where the relevant consequences are external to the agent. Fantasy does not violate anyone's rights, and fantasy that never motivates action will not result in actions that harm anyone. But I think there is a plausible way of looking at things that would still find fault with fantasizing about having sex with children, and that would come from the aretaic (or virtue-theoretic) way of thinking, according to which the primary bearer of value is to be found in characteristics of agents. One who indulges in fantasies about sex with children is doing something that both reflects--and also perhaps perpetuates and sustains--a certain trait of character that we might think is not entirely wholesome or admirable. To the extent that we can regard one who indulges in such fantasies as having a trait of character that is improvable, we might also think that some attempt to...

Suppose you have been in a relationship with your partner for several years (no

Suppose you have been in a relationship with your partner for several years (no marriage, no children). Even though you still have strong emotional feelings for your partner (to the extent that you would claim to love her/him), you are no longer sexually attracted for him/her. While your partner can do without the physical aspects of your relationship, you feel to miss out on something important in your life. Is it selfish to end the relationship, even though the breakup would be very hard for your partner and you don't want to hurt him/her? In other words: Is it immoral to choose sexual desires over friendship and mutual love?

It sounds to me as if what you need to do is to have a frank conversation with your partner about things. Sexual attraction for a partner can ebb and flow, and one option might be that some good communication would improve things between the two of you on that front. Alternatively, you could stay together in an "open" relationship, where the value of your partnership can be preserved but not at the cost of your sexuality. The point is that between the two of you, communicating well about what you have and what you (now) lack, there might be some creative problem-solving that would give a more optimal result than the options you are currently considering.

It sounds to me as if what you need to do is to have a frank conversation with your partner about things. Sexual attraction for a partner can ebb and flow, and one option might be that some good communication would improve things between the two of you on that front. Alternatively, you could stay together in an "open" relationship, where the value of your partnership can be preserved but not at the cost of your sexuality. The point is that between the two of you, communicating well about what you have and what you (now) lack, there might be some creative problem-solving that would give a more optimal result than the options you are currently considering.

If two drunk people have sex, is it rape? Is it immoral?

If two drunk people have sex, is it rape? Is it immoral?

Let's take your second question first: Is it immoral?

First, what counts as immoral will reflect which general theory of morality one has in mind. If you shift away from the having sex part to the getting drunk part, I can imagine that some virtue theorists would think that this alone qualifies as non-virtuous, and thus the decision to have sex being made under non-virtuous conditions. A consequentialist would take into consideration other factors, such as reasonably expected outcomes of drunken behavior (such as lapses in the prudent use of contraception, for example). Given that decisions to have sex can have morally significant consequences, it does seem that the impairments that we all know go with being drunk are morally significant ones. Deontologists stress personal autonomy, and while the decision to get drunk might be made autonomously, it is more difficult to regard the behavior of very drunk people as exhibiting a morally appropriate level of autonomy--including most importantly, the kind of autonomy that goes with the giving of "informed consent." So, to answer your question very generally, I think it is fair to say that at least many cases of two people having sex when they are drunk will qualify as having significantly morally negative features. These problems incline me to think the situation actually does become immoral if one of the parties is so drunk as not to be capable of rational deliberation, if the other (however impaired) can still manage some degree of rational deliberation. Make the situation more uneven in terms of degree of drunkenness, and yes, it looks bad to me!

Is it rape? In the situation I just described, it does begin to look like it belongs at least in that general territory, because it becomes more of a case of taking advantage of another's inability to give informed consent. But if both are out of their wits to an equal degree, it seems more difficult to think of the situation as one of rape. But even so, I would want to know more about how each one came to be drunk, and whether there was coersion or manipulation that led to this condition. If so, it again moves closer to rape.

But to go in the opposite direction for a moment: If a happily and sexually active adult couple decide to celebrate an anniversary of some sort (say) by getting drunk together and having sex, we might still have some reservations about their decision-making, but I think "rape" and "immoral" would not apply. So, I think the specifics of the situation will make a big difference in how we would want to answer your question for different cases.

Let's take your second question first: Is it immoral? First, what counts as immoral will reflect which general theory of morality one has in mind. If you shift away from the having sex part to the getting drunk part, I can imagine that some virtue theorists would think that this alone qualifies as non-virtuous, and thus the decision to have sex being made under non-virtuous conditions. A consequentialist would take into consideration other factors, such as reasonably expected outcomes of drunken behavior (such as lapses in the prudent use of contraception, for example). Given that decisions to have sex can have morally significant consequences, it does seem that the impairments that we all know go with being drunk are morally significant ones. Deontologists stress personal autonomy, and while the decision to get drunk might be made autonomously, it is more difficult to regard the behavior of very drunk people as exhibiting a morally appropriate level of autonomy--including most importantly, the...

there has been talk about the use of dogs in medical detection of cancer and

there has been talk about the use of dogs in medical detection of cancer and also dogs are being used to monitor the sugar levels of people with diabetes 24 hours a day. i was wondering what ethical issues there are surrounding the use of dogs in such a way, ie should we be breeding dogs specifically for use in hospitals and other moral dilemas. also the uk will not accept the use of dogs to detect cancer because there has been little study on how it works i was thinking is this relivent when this could save lives?

Apart from fairly radical views that would prohibit any human use of any animal, I see nothing wrong with the basic idea of having dogs providing diagnostic assistance. We know that dogs can be really good at sniffing out explosives and bed bugs, for example, as we already use them for such tasks. If they turn out to be also especially good for medical diagnosis or troubleshooting, it seems like a reasonable thing to have dogs do for us. Obviously, the same rules about humane treatment for the dogs applies in these cases as for any others, and we would also want to have strong support from medical studies to confirm that the dogs really were helpful and reliable for these tasks.

Even if we have only some reason to think that dogs are good at this, then they could be regarded as potentially good indicators of some problem. So if a cancer-sniffing dog reacted in such a way as to indicate that I had cancer, I think I would be well advised to go and get a check-up, even if there was not yet the level of medical evidence we would want or need to adopt cancer-sniffing dogs as a regular part of diagnosis.

I fails to see any serious ethical problem here, again, as long as the dogs are well-treated. people and dogs have gotten along well together for a long time. A little shared working together doesn't strike me as anything wrong at all. But again, this is to set aside the objection that any human use of dogs is wrong. I don't agree (obviously), but this is not the place to take on that sort of objection.

Apart from fairly radical views that would prohibit any human use of any animal, I see nothing wrong with the basic idea of having dogs providing diagnostic assistance. We know that dogs can be really good at sniffing out explosives and bed bugs, for example, as we already use them for such tasks. If they turn out to be also especially good for medical diagnosis or troubleshooting, it seems like a reasonable thing to have dogs do for us. Obviously, the same rules about humane treatment for the dogs applies in these cases as for any others, and we would also want to have strong support from medical studies to confirm that the dogs really were helpful and reliable for these tasks. Even if we have only some reason to think that dogs are good at this, then they could be regarded as potentially good indicators of some problem. So if a cancer-sniffing dog reacted in such a way as to indicate that I had cancer, I think I would be well advised to go and get a check-up, even if there was not...

I recently read an article in the New Yorker about a sex offender who had a

I recently read an article in the New Yorker about a sex offender who had a preference for 13-14 year old girls. One of the things that struck me was when one of the psychologists noted that he was under the delusion that 13-14 were capable of consenting to sex. While I don't personally find 13-14 year old girls desirable it seems strange to say that they are unable to consent to sex. What makes them unable to consent to sex? Is it because they don't understand what sex is? What understanding of sex does a 13-14 year old not know that an adult doesn't? It seems like an interesting claim to say that 13-14 has a fundamentally different understanding of sex than am adult. Of course most have not had experience with sex but nobody thinks that it's wrong to have sex with a virgin. Most 13-14 Year old girls do fantasize about sex though. Aren't there some feminists who believe that the idea of an age of consent is oppressive to women because it treats young girls as incapable of consent? Afterall, we often see...

So there are a few issues to clarify here, but first, a disclaimer: I am not an expert on the law, and will not be speaking from the point of view of interpreting the law.

That said, however, it does seem to me that an "age of consent" is an appropriate legal construct. The idea is that 13-14 year old children have simply not developed far enough, not just morally, but most importantly neurologically, to be very good yet at forecasting consequences of their actions. With respect to issues like sex, it is not unreasonable to think that if young teenagers are not yet capable of forecasting consequences of their actions--by which I mean not just being able to think or say, "I might get pregnant," or "I could catch some STD," but actually appreciate what such an outcome would mean for them--then they are reasonably thought not to have what it takes to give genuine (i.e. morally significant) consent. Of course, many girls that age know about sex, and some even have sexual fantasies. Some, given the opportunity to do so, would also agree to have sex with someone they were interested in. But such understanding, desire, and agreement cannot count as consent in the morally significant way, so long as they are incapable of really appreciating what they are (or might be) getting themselves into in terms of consequences.

This same reasoning applies to age-limits for signing legal contracts, drinking alcohol, smoking products, driving, enlisting in the military, and voting, just to name a few. The age limits are different for some of these, but the basic reasoning is similar in all cases: we think that such activities require certain levels of responsibility about consequences, and we think that below certain ages, it is not reasonable to think that young people can be responsible in the appropriate way.

By the way, I think what you say about boys is simply mistaken. An adult woman (no less than a man) who has sex with a 13- or 14-year old boy would commit statutory rape under the law. The issue is not whether or not 13- or 14-year old children are capable of having sex (physically). I assume most are. But that's not the issue and besides the point, which, again, has to do with being able to manage responsibility.

So there are a few issues to clarify here, but first, a disclaimer: I am not an expert on the law, and will not be speaking from the point of view of interpreting the law. That said, however, it does seem to me that an "age of consent" is an appropriate legal construct. The idea is that 13-14 year old children have simply not developed far enough, not just morally, but most importantly neurologically , to be very good yet at forecasting consequences of their actions. With respect to issues like sex, it is not unreasonable to think that if young teenagers are not yet capable of forecasting consequences of their actions--by which I mean not just being able to think or say, "I might get pregnant," or "I could catch some STD," but actually appreciate what such an outcome would mean for them--then they are reasonably thought not to have what it takes to give genuine (i.e. morally significant) consent. Of course, many girls that age know about sex, and some even have sexual fantasies. Some,...

Is it wrong to continue to pursuit someone romantically (like ask them out

Is it wrong to continue to pursuit someone romantically (like ask them out regularly) if they never agree to go out (i.e. make different excuses why they cant), but they never out right say they are not interested and they always return (but never initiate) text messages in a very friendly way.

Not sure that it is wrong, but it does begin to sound like it is a case of not getting the message. "Very friendly" should generally be assumed to mean just that. If you have repeatedly asked someone out and they have repeatedly declined, then it seems that the message has been provided to you very gently, but also very clearly. This person would like to be friends...and nothing more. You have obviously given the person enough evidence of your own interest. If he/she wants to pursue something more, then he/she will let you know that--especially if you back off. So that's my advice: back off...

Not sure that it is wrong , but it does begin to sound like it is a case of not getting the message. "Very friendly" should generally be assumed to mean just that. If you have repeatedly asked someone out and they have repeatedly declined, then it seems that the message has been provided to you very gently, but also very clearly. This person would like to be friends...and nothing more. You have obviously given the person enough evidence of your own interest. If he/she wants to pursue something more, then he/she will let you know that--especially if you back off. So that's my advice: back off...

I don't think I like my mother as a person. I mean, if I were not her daughter I

I don't think I like my mother as a person. I mean, if I were not her daughter I think I will not befriend this kind of woman. It's not that I hate her, I just dislike the value she has. Is this feeling acceptable? Do we, children, have an obligation to love our parents? Or is it suppose to be natural?

There is an old saying (I'm told it originates with Kant, but I am not sure about that), which goes, "'ought' implies 'can.'" The idea is that you can only be held responsible or have an obligation to do something (you "ought" to do it) if it is something that is under your control. Do you suppose that emotions (such as love) are under one's voluntary control? I'm inclined to doubt that (with a few reservations, which I will get to momently). But if love is not something that you can voluntarily control, then it makes no sense to say that you have an obligation to love your mother (or anyone else, for that matter).

On the other hand, we do also evaluate people on the basis of how they feel about things, and on the basis of emotions they have and display. We same that some anger, for example, is inappropriate, and we regard most examples of hatred as at least unfortunate, if not contemptible. Does this make sense? I think it does make some sense, in that at least one of the things we value (positively or negatively) in people are their characters, and this includes emotions and such. So does this violate "ought" implies "can"? That seems to me to be more complicated, because while it does seem implausible to say that we can turn emotions on and off like faucets, it also seems plausible to say that the sorts of characteristics we have are at least to some extent the result of things we are able to do--for example, we can train ourselves to improve upon the way we might react to certain things (go to anger management therapy, for example, or biting our tongues when we feel impulses to say things that are cruel or hateful). people who have (or display) bad character may not be able to act any differently at the moment, but it still makes sense for us to hold them responsible for not having done the character-building that would have made them better people who would not have behaved so badly in that moment.

So back to loving your mother. On the one hand, if what you find unlovable about her are her values, it could well be that your reaction is simply the right one. There may be some respect(s) in which one need to respect and recognize the special relationship of parent and child, but I can't see why someone who is a bad person deserves to be loved by anyone, child or otherwise. On the other hand, before you take this as an excuse, you might do some serious double checking on your own values, which are leading you to reject hers. All I can know for sure, if yours and hers conflict, is that at least one of you is wrong. It might not be her, and it also might be both of you!

I suppose the ideal is that love between a parent and a child is sustained quite naturally, and is actually deserved in both cases. But maybe that is not going to be possible in this case. If so, then as I said, there are still some reasonable constraints about how you should respond to your mother (because she is your mother), having to do with civility and respect for her role in your life. There are certain duties and kinds of loyalties that we reasonably expect along these lines (though as I have already indicated, these are defeasible, if those to whom we normally would supply these have violated the ground for such things badly enough--an abusive parent, for example, may reasonably be thought to have lost any claim even on the most basic forms of loyalty from the child he or she has abused). At the very, very least, your mother deserves from you the kind of civil and polite responses you would provide as a matter of common decency.

But I can't help but wonder if perhaps you can do better than this. I don't know your mother or her values that you object to. But I suspect that civil discussion and allowing her to explain those values to you, and why they are important to her might at least allow you to achieve a level of understanding that would allow you to be more tolerant. Tolerance is not the same as love, I agree, but it's a start!

There is an old saying (I'm told it originates with Kant, but I am not sure about that), which goes, "'ought' implies 'can.'" The idea is that you can only be held responsible or have an obligation to do something (you "ought" to do it) if it is something that is under your control. Do you suppose that emotions (such as love) are under one's voluntary control? I'm inclined to doubt that (with a few reservations, which I will get to momently). But if love is not something that you can voluntarily control, then it makes no sense to say that you have an obligation to love your mother (or anyone else, for that matter). On the other hand, we do also evaluate people on the basis of how they feel about things, and on the basis of emotions they have and display. We same that some anger, for example, is inappropriate, and we regard most examples of hatred as at least unfortunate, if not contemptible. Does this make sense? I think it does make some sense, in that at least one of the things we value ...

Suppose I behave altruistically, because I believe that doing so will help

Suppose I behave altruistically, because I believe that doing so will help create a better community for all - and because I want to live in such a community. Am I acting according to altruism or egoism? Or are the two actually compatible?

I agree with Professor Smith that in this context concepts like altruistic and egoist are a recipe for confusion. Clearly, if your only intention were to improve the community for your own benefit -- like working on your house or something --- then it would be egoistic but it would be hard to imagine someone devoting their lives to others with purely selfish motives.

As a footnote, I don't think one needs to be a Freud to note that it is really impossible to be transparent to ourselves with regard to our motives. There are wonderful passages in Dostoyevsky's THE IDIOT in which characters believe that they have only selfish motives and Prince Myshkin points out that they were oblivious to their good intentions. Of course, it is usually the other way around.

I for one am hoping that philosophers' obsessions with these notions will simply go away, because aas your question indicates, I think these concepts are more useful for creating confusions than for solving real philosophical problems. Surely one can (quite correctly) regard it as very much in one's own self-interest to do things for others. Any parent knows this! So why should we find ourselves tied in knots trying to figure out whether this is really altruistic or egoistic (as if somehow the distinction mattered)? Other-regarding bevaior can also be self-regarding, if one includes among one's self-interests the interests of others who are important to one. Now, an act presumably cannot both entirely sacrifice one's own self interest and also promote one's self-interest. But I have never been able to see why sacrifices of some of one's self-interests can't also be ways to promote others of one's self-interests. This does not mean that the notion of selfishness (as a vice), or...

Is the exhortation by Jesus to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" something that

Is the exhortation by Jesus to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" something that many or most modern ethicists would agree with? What about the part about "loving thy enemy"?

It probably depends on which ethicist you ask, but one consideration weighs against these mandates, and that is the criterion of what is called "demandingness." A theory that demands more from human agents than they can be reasonably held responsible for is too demanding. Arguably, these mandates are too demanding. They might be held as a certain ideal to be strived for, but not as moral requirements, I think.

It probably depends on which ethicist you ask, but one consideration weighs against these mandates, and that is the criterion of what is called "demandingness." A theory that demands more from human agents than they can be reasonably held responsible for is too demanding. Arguably, these mandates are too demanding. They might be held as a certain ideal to be strived for, but not as moral requirements, I think.

I'm having a hard time separating virtue ethics from other theories. As I

I'm having a hard time separating virtue ethics from other theories. As I understand it, virtue ethics states that we ought to have strong moral characters, because virtue will help us make moral decisions; the decisions themselves are said to be mere reflections of one's character. But, first, how is this different from deontology, i.e. a preoccupation with rules and duties? Isn't a virtuous character simply somebody who follows certain rules and who perceives certain duties? Alternatively, how is it different from utilitarianism? Isn't a virtuous person merely a person who is intrinsically motivated to behave in such a way that produces more happiness? Aren't virtues just descriptors of such a character?

Here is a way to distinguish the different theories: What does each regard as the primary bearer of value? Is it the characters of moral agents (so that actions have value only insofar as they are either symptomatic of, derive from, or help to create or sustain the approved character-traits). Or, is primary value associated with certain sorts of outcomes? Or perhaps is value to be understood as primarily an intrinsic property of action-guiding rules? The first sort of answer is what we would expect from a virtue theory, the second from a consequentialist theory (of which utilitarianism is one version), and the third from a deontological theory.

Here is a way to distinguish the different theories: What does each regard as the primary bearer of value? Is it the characters of moral agents (so that actions have value only insofar as they are either symptomatic of, derive from, or help to create or sustain the approved character-traits). Or, is primary value associated with certain sorts of outcomes? Or perhaps is value to be understood as primarily an intrinsic property of action-guiding rules? The first sort of answer is what we would expect from a virtue theory, the second from a consequentialist theory (of which utilitarianism is one version), and the third from a deontological theory.

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