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Would it be ethically sound to love a machine that is a perfect replica of a

Would it be ethically sound to love a machine that is a perfect replica of a human? For example. If it was impossible for anyone to tell the difference, would it be wrong? If this robot were programmed to have human feelings and think in a manner that is indistinguishable from a human, would it be moral to love them as though they were a human. (apologies if this is unclear, English is not my first language)

To get to the conclusion first, I think that the answer is yes, broadly speaking. But I'd like to add a few qualifications.

The first is that I'm not sure the root question is about whether it would be ethically right or wrong. It's more like: would it be some kind of confusion to love this sort of machine in this way? Suppose a child thinks that fancy stuffed animal really has feelings and thoughts, but in fact that's not true at all. The toy seems superficially to have emotions and a mind, but it's really a matter of a few simple preprogrammed, responses of a highly mechanical kind. This might produce strong feelings in the child—feelings that seem like her love for her parents or her siblings or her friends. But (so we're imagining) the feelings are based on a mistake: the toy is just a toy.

On the other hand, if an artificial device (let's call it an android) actually has thoughts and feelings and is able to express them and to respond to what people like us feel or think, then it's hard to see why it would be a confusion to have feelings for the android like the feelings we have to ordinary people. After all, we're supposing that the android has real feelings, possibly including feelings for us.

Put it another way: what you have in mind is an artificial person. The android would be a person because it really has the kinds of psychological characteristics that persons have. It would be an artificial person because it was designed and built rather than born and grown. Whether we'll ever be able to build such things is hard to say. We'd have to understand more than we do now about how matter, organized in the right way, gives rise to minds. But however that works, there's no clear reason to think it couldn't be replicated artificially.

All this said, the relationship between humans with a history of infanthood and childhood, and the looming prospect of old age and death, and, on the other hand, artificial creations with very different origins and prospects wouldn't be psychologically simple. That might have all sorts of implications, moral and otherwise, for what went on between us and them. But the main point is that highly intelligent creatures with complex feelings would deserve our moral consideration even if they were made and not born. And they would also be fit objects for our feelings, quite possibly including feelings of love.

One final note: fiction often does at least as good a job of exploring the issues here as philosophy. And though it's not directly on point, the recent Spike Jonze movie Her raises some interesting questions that you might enjoy pondering.

To get to the conclusion first, I think that the answer is yes, broadly speaking. But I'd like to add a few qualifications. The first is that I'm not sure the root question is about whether it would be ethically right or wrong. It's more like: would it be some kind of confusion to love this sort of machine in this way? Suppose a child thinks that fancy stuffed animal really has feelings and thoughts, but in fact that's not true at all. The toy seems superficially to have emotions and a mind, but it's really a matter of a few simple preprogrammed, responses of a highly mechanical kind. This might produce strong feelings in the child—feelings that seem like her love for her parents or her siblings or her friends. But (so we're imagining) the feelings are based on a mistake: the toy is just a toy. On the other hand, if an artificial device (let's call it an android) actually has thoughts and feelings and is able to express them and to respond to what people like us feel or think, then it's hard to see...

Is it ideal for a person to be in romantic love with someone that that person

Is it ideal for a person to be in romantic love with someone that that person doesn't find physically attractive? Beauty in my opinion is both skin deep and skin shallow--if beauty is only skin deep and impossible to ascertain without having a conversation, then that seemingly makes most of aesthetics pointless. Skin deep beauty seems to be a misnomer because it doesn't really refer to beauty at all but one's personality. Romantic love is unlike other forms of love in that there is usually a great deal of choice in selecting a partner not to mention the sexual component, so if given a choice between two people who have very similar amiable personalities, but one is more physically attractive, why would one choose to be with the other one? Men who go into relationships with women with no curves or large noses are just practicing a form of self-deception by denying that beauty has ideals.

There are several issues here. Let's see if we can disentangle them a bit.

First, "beauty is only skin deep." I take that to be a way of reminding us that physical beauty isn't the only thing we care about in our romantic relationships. And it isn't. If the most beautiful person in the world is also the meanest most miserable person in the world, that makes for poor romantic prospects. It's possible to dislike someone intensely and know that they're beautiful, and that's compatible with physical beauty being objective. It doesn't make any problems for aesthetic judgment.

That said, it's possible to think that some things or people really are more beautiful than others without thinking that for any two people or things, either one is more beautiful that the other or else they're equally beautiful. There may be things or people whose beauty can't be fully compared. One result may be that you don't find beautiful some things that I find beautiful, and there's no question of one of us being wrong.

Romantic relationships are partly matters of choice. So are friendships, for that matter, and romantic relationships, thankfully, are usually friendships as well. If someone is my friend, I don't just abandon them if someone "better" comes along. It's not just that I feel affection for my friends. I'm also committed to them. Commitments have a lot to do with the choices that are part of romantic relationships.

You ask why someone who could choose between two equally amiable people would choose the less physically attractive one. Maybe that kind of choice comes out in speed dating and pickup situations. But most romantic relations have more dimensions than that. There's nothing strange in the idea that two people might be equally agreeable, and yet I might prefer the less physically beautiful. I might be able to see that one person is "objectively" less beautiful than the other, and yet I might just like the less beautiful person more for any number of reasons or for no reason that I can articulate to myself. This does't make me self-deceived. Whatever "ideals" beauty has, they aren't the only things that go into romantic relationships.

(And by the way: you talk about men who are in relationships with women who aren't conventionally beautiful. I assume that if there's a real question here, it has nothing special to do with men.)

The only way I can feel any sense of paradox or puzzlement about the cases you raise is if I think about romantic attachment—about being in love—in a way that seems way too narrow to do justice to the actual thing. Let's agree: if you don't find someone physically attractive at all, you probably won't fall in love with them. But if you do fall in love with them, you'll probably start to see them in a different way than you did at the outset. They will literally look different to you. The real point, however, is that being in love is a complex business. (It may also be complicated, but that's a different point.) The way lovers feel about one another involves a lot more than whether they think their lover is beautiful. That's the way it is, but it's also something to be thankful for.

There are several issues here. Let's see if we can disentangle them a bit. First, "beauty is only skin deep." I take that to be a way of reminding us that physical beauty isn't the only thing we care about in our romantic relationships. And it isn't. If the most beautiful person in the world is also the meanest most miserable person in the world, that makes for poor romantic prospects. It's possible to dislike someone intensely and know that they're beautiful, and that's compatible with physical beauty being objective. It doesn't make any problems for aesthetic judgment. That said, it's possible to think that some things or people really are more beautiful than others without thinking that for any two people or things, either one is more beautiful that the other or else they're equally beautiful. There may be things or people whose beauty can't be fully compared. One result may be that you don't find beautiful some things that I find beautiful, and there's no question of one of us being wrong . ...

I am in love with my brother's ex-girlfriend of 2 years. Over those 2 years, we

I am in love with my brother's ex-girlfriend of 2 years. Over those 2 years, we became best friends and I developed feelings for her. My question is, now that my brother and her are no longer together, is MORALLY wrong to start a relationship with her? Here is what I have considered: From what I have learned about objective morality/ethics I could follow the Golden Rule "Treat other as you would want to be treated". I have dismissed this on the basis that yes, if I were my brother I would be annoyed by my brother dating my ex, but I would also want my brother to be happy and, after weighing everything on both sides, I would concede to allowing my brother to do what makes him happy. If I take an egoistic approach, I probably wouldn't be asking this question because I would do what is best for me. If I take a utilitarian approach I would consider everyone I am affecting equally, and do what is best for the majority and in that case, I would harm one person (my brother) and do what's best for the majority ...

It's hard to see why it would be morally wrong. No doubt it would upset a few people for a while, but it's not clear that they'd be entitled to be upset. Beyond that. it's not clear what else might make it wrong. If both families are mortally opposed, then I suppose someone might say that one's obligation to one's family demands that you stay "just friends." But it's not obvious that we owe that sort of deference to our families' wishes, and it's certainly not obvious that our family members are entitled to make such demands on us.

Of course, I don't know the details of the story. Perhaps if I did, things would look different. But this brings me to what is the actual philosophical issue here. You say that you want the matter settled by reference to some "objective moral standard." But this makes me wonder: are you looking for some sort of derivation of the right answer from a maxim or two? There's not much reason to believe that moral wisdom works that way. The right thing to do is usually a matter of balancing different considerations. We think about who will get hurt. We think about long-term consequences. We think about loyalties we owe to other people. We think about fairness, kindness, courage. We think about whether we are being impulsive or whether we're being clear-eyed. And we may think about a good deal more. Theories like utilitarianism are attempts to tie all this up with a bow, but all such theories are controversial and post hoc.

Here's a nice quote I saw today. It's from C. D. Broad's Ethics and the History of Philosophy: "Moral philosophers, as such, have no special information not available to the general public, about what is right and what is wrong." Knowing moral theory or being able to cite abstract principles isn't even remotely guaranteed to make us better at sorting through complicated moral issues.

There is one question that seems relevant to all this, however: does this woman feel the same way about you that you feel about her? If not, the issue is moot. If so, then I'd think that there would need to be weighty reasons that you haven't mentioned to make it wrong for the two of you to begin a relationship.

It's hard to see why it would be morally wrong. No doubt it would upset a few people for a while, but it's not clear that they'd be entitled to be upset. Beyond that. it's not clear what else might make it wrong. If both families are mortally opposed, then I suppose someone might say that one's obligation to one's family demands that you stay "just friends." But it's not obvious that we owe that sort of deference to our families' wishes, and it's certainly not obvious that our family members are entitled to make such demands on us. Of course, I don't know the details of the story. Perhaps if I did, things would look different. But this brings me to what is the actual philosophical issue here. You say that you want the matter settled by reference to some "objective moral standard." But this makes me wonder: are you looking for some sort of derivation of the right answer from a maxim or two? There's not much reason to believe that moral wisdom works that way. The right thing to do is usually a matter of...

Is adultery really immoral? The act itself is mostly legal, so why can't it be

Is adultery really immoral? The act itself is mostly legal, so why can't it be mostly moral? I'm a male bachelor, so I can only argue from my point of view. Adultery is a simple biological urge that manifests itself onto two persons, one or both of whom are married. Marriage today is becoming more and more a simple legal contract, routinely terminated and routinely redefined by judges and plebiscites. The ease with which marriages can be terminated either on paper or in practice is just a reflection of the fact that people often change in their feelings towards one another--love fades within marriage and sometimes erupts outside marriage. Making it with a married woman can be very thrilling and the same woman would not be equally exciting if she were single; the supposedly unavailable is always more desirable than the easily attainable. Married women accept advances because their husbands can no longer give them excitement, romance or adventure, so why not a net utilitarian gain for two people, and no...

Let's stipulate: adultery isn't always immoral. You're pitching the idea that it's usually not immoral ("mostly moral," as you put it.) Your argument, however, doesn't seem to me to be strong enough for that conclusion. Start with something obvious: when people get married, they make promises to one another. Typically, one of those promises is a promise of faithfulness. Not all promises are binding in all circumstances, but in general promise-breaking isn't morally trivial. And encouraging people to break promises isn't trivial either. But set that aside. Let's suppose that adultery is the result of a biological urge, as you say. Since morality often calls for us not to act on our urges, that doesn't tell us much. Your legal/sociological analysis strikes me as a bit thin, but I'm more worried about this: "Making it with a married woman can be very thrilling and the same woman would not be equally exciting if she were single; the supposedly unavailable is always more desirable than the easily...

I've been going around asking people what the most important part of marriage

I've been going around asking people what the most important part of marriage and love is. The two I always hear the most are communication and patience. But is there actually a correct answer? Are some aspects in a relationship more important than others? Is a romantic relationship possible if there is no affection? No sex?

I'd say most of what you're asking isn't something that philosophers have any special insight into—at least if "important" means "most likely to make for success." When it comes to questions about how daily life actually works, philosophers are in the same boat as everyone else.

I suppose someone might say that we can make a distinction between what's likely to work best and what's most important in some not-merely-practical sense. Philosophers might then have something to say, but I find it hard to image that there'd be a single compelling answer.

Your last question, however, did pique my curiosity: could there be a romantic relationship without sex or affection? That's a conceptual matter, and is therefore the sort of thing that spins philosophers' wheels. A romantic relationship without sex is clearly possible. Couples who are "saving themselves for marriage" provide lots of examples. And it might be that many people would call an ongoing sexual relationship a romantic relationship even if the people involved didn't really care like or care about one another. I'm guessing, however, that my hesitation here tells us something: to count as a romantic relationship, it may well be that feelings of affection and physical attraction have to be part of the package. However, if we take away sex and affection, it's not clear what reason we'd have to use the term "romantic."

That's where I'd take my stand if I had to, but I suspect it doesn't have much to do with what you were trying to figure out. I dare say that there's a good deal of empirical literature on the practical questions. Here's one sample from a quick bit of googling. And I even recall one persistent tidbit from other things I've read: apparently (sorry; can't recall the sources) how couple fight can be a good predictor of whether their relationship will last. In particular, if they treat each other with contempt, that's a bad sign. And so maybe that suggests a guess about what matters: treating each other with real respect.

I'd say most of what you're asking isn't something that philosophers have any special insight into—at least if "important" means "most likely to make for success." When it comes to questions about how daily life actually works, philosophers are in the same boat as everyone else. I suppose someone might say that we can make a distinction between what's likely to work best and what's most important in some not-merely-practical sense. Philosophers might then have something to say, but I find it hard to image that there'd be a single compelling answer. Your last question, however, did pique my curiosity: could there be a romantic relationship without sex or affection? That's a conceptual matter, and is therefore the sort of thing that spins philosophers' wheels. A romantic relationship without sex is clearly possible. Couples who are "saving themselves for marriage" provide lots of examples. And it might be that many people would call an ongoing sexual relationship a romantic relationship even if...

Is it wrong to fall in love and have a relationship with your first cousin even

Is it wrong to fall in love and have a relationship with your first cousin even if you did not grow up together and met as adults? There are many taboos about this kind of relationships and some cultures see it as a very bad thing and others don't. I am very curious to know what philosophers have to say about this.

On the one hand, there are no doubt good reasons for incest taboos. For one thing, family life might become hopelessly complicated if sexual liaisons between first-degree relatives were common. To that we can add that when close relatives have children, the risk that their child will have birth defects goes up, and to that we can add further that if such situations became common, there might be unfortunate effects on the genetic variability of the larger population.

That said, your first cousin is not a first-degree relative. Furthermore, the fact that a practice would be problematic if everyone engaged in it doesn't mean that it's automatically wrong. After all, if everyone were to practice celibacy, the human race would die out. But even if you think that would be a bad thing, you presumably don't think it means that no one should decide to be celibate. More relevantly: while it's true that when first cousins have children the risks of birth defects increase somewhat, the increase is on a par with the risk of birth defects for children of mothers over 40. Here is a brief discussion. To this we could add that if that were the worry, then birth control would address it.

So it's hard to see that there's much in the way of serious objections to the case you describe. True, some people/cultures feel differently, but as you point out, others don't. There's no reason to think that groups who approve of first-cousin relationships are somehow morally confused.

Of course, some people will have a sort of surd "Ick" reaction. But that doesn't tell us much. After all, some people have that reaction to interracial marriage, or to homosexual relationships. The reaction doesn't stand up to scrutiny in those cases, and it's hard to see why it would fare any better here.

On the one hand, there are no doubt good reasons for incest taboos. For one thing, family life might become hopelessly complicated if sexual liaisons between first-degree relatives were common. To that we can add that when close relatives have children, the risk that their child will have birth defects goes up, and to that we can add further that if such situations became common, there might be unfortunate effects on the genetic variability of the larger population. That said, your first cousin is not a first-degree relative. Furthermore, the fact that a practice would be problematic if everyone engaged in it doesn't mean that it's automatically wrong. After all, if everyone were to practice celibacy, the human race would die out. But even if you think that would be a bad thing, you presumably don't think it means that no one should decide to be celibate. More relevantly: while it's true that when first cousins have children the risks of birth defects increase somewhat, the increase is on a par with...

Is it wrong to feel happy because someone, who I have no feeling for, love me?

Is it wrong to feel happy because someone, who I have no feeling for, love me? And is it wrong to enjoy the good things, like his gifts and his caring, and crave for more, when I have no intention in having any relationship with him? In fact, I love someone else.

Let's start with a distinction between your feelings and your actions. I might be flattered that someone is in love with me; the feeling isn't wrong by itself. But if I lead the person on when I don't feel the same way about them, that's another matter.

So the question is: are you taking advantage of him? There are a couple of obvious things to ask. If the tables were turned, how would you feel about what was going on? And as things actually stand, how do you think he'd react if he found out how you really feel?

That second question is the really important one. If you suspect he'd be unhappy that you're accepting his gifts and attentions even though you don't love him and love someone else, then it's pretty obvious: you're using him as a means to your own ends. That's wrong.

Of course there's another possibility: the fact that you enjoy not just his gifts but also his attention and care could mean that there's a difference between the way you say you feel about him (even to yourself) and how you really feel. Since we're quite capable of fooling ourselves about this sort of thing, that's a possibility worth taking seriously.

Let's start with a distinction between your feelings and your actions. I might be flattered that someone is in love with me; the feeling isn't wrong by itself. But if I lead the person on when I don't feel the same way about them, that's another matter. So the question is: are you taking advantage of him? There are a couple of obvious things to ask. If the tables were turned, how would you feel about what was going on? And as things actually stand, how do you think he'd react if he found out how you really feel? That second question is the really important one. If you suspect he'd be unhappy that you're accepting his gifts and attentions even though you don't love him and love someone else, then it's pretty obvious: you're using him as a means to your own ends. That's wrong. Of course there's another possibility: the fact that you enjoy not just his gifts but also his attention and care could mean that there's a difference between the way you say you feel about him (even to yourself)...

Why would someone want to be loved other than selfish reasons or to boost their

Why would someone want to be loved other than selfish reasons or to boost their ego?

We could dream up some strange scenario in which I want to be loved by someone - Robin, say - but only because if Robin loves me, this will (somehow!) produce some good result that doesn't benefit me personally. I leave it as an imaginative exercise to construct such a story. But that's presumably not what you have in mind. So let's think about more ordinary cases.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I read the tone of your question as dismissive - as suggesting there's something neurotic or self-absorbed about wanting to be loved. And no doubt there's a real worry here. Being obsessed with what other people think of us isn't healthy and worrying about whether we're loved can be not just neurotic but also a way of making it less likely that we will be. But wanting to be liked or loved can also be an inevitable part of something that it's not at all neurotic. Friendship, most of us find, is a real human good. So is a healthy romantic relationship. So is a warm bond between parent and child. If I like you and would like to be your friend, then part of what I want more or less by definition is for you to like me too. A one-sided "friendship" is no friendship at all. Notice, though: even if I want us to be friends, that doesn't mean the focus of what I want is on me; it can just as well or better be on us.

Still, if our relationship sours because you come not to care about me, that may be painful for me, and few of us get through life without any of that kind of pain. From some point of view, the fact that we can be pained this way may seem weak or unseemly, but I'd use a different word: I'd call it human. Furthermore, this humanness comes with its own good. If I were indifferent to how you felt about me, it's hard to see how you and I could ever hope to enter into the real human good of friendship. And if I were immune to the hurt that can come when a relationship ends, it might be very hard for me to empathize with, support or comfort my own friends and loved ones when that happens to them.

You have probably noticed that I've simply taken something for granted: friendship and other intimate human relations are a good thing. I have indeed taken it for granted. Friendships and romantic relationships can have a sort of instrumental good, of course. With the help of friends, I can get things done that I couldn't just do myself. And if there were no such thing as romantic love or love of parent for child, the race would likely be in danger. But most of us find that loving and being loved - understood broadly - are also good for their own sake. If someone didn't see that, I'm not sure I'd know what to say.

We could dream up some strange scenario in which I want to be loved by someone - Robin, say - but only because if Robin loves me, this will (somehow!) produce some good result that doesn't benefit me personally. I leave it as an imaginative exercise to construct such a story. But that's presumably not what you have in mind. So let's think about more ordinary cases. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I read the tone of your question as dismissive - as suggesting there's something neurotic or self-absorbed about wanting to be loved. And no doubt there's a real worry here. Being obsessed with what other people think of us isn't healthy and worrying about whether we're loved can be not just neurotic but also a way of making it less likely that we will be. But wanting to be liked or loved can also be an inevitable part of something that it's not at all neurotic. Friendship, most of us find, is a real human good. So is a healthy romantic relationship. So is a warm bond between parent and child. If I like you and...

Sometimes, when person A claims to love person B, some might say "No, person A,

Sometimes, when person A claims to love person B, some might say "No, person A, you don't really love person B." Often, they will back up this claim by pointing to aspects of person A's behavior as "proof" - i.e. person A is not jealous when person B speaks with members of person A's sex; or person A does not sacrifice a job opportunity because person B is opposed to the employer's ethical practices; or so on. Does it make sense to tell someone that they do not really love someone they believe they love? After all, love is an emotion, and people external to person A's mind cannot properly judge the emotions person A actually feels. So what justification is there for judging a person's love on the basis of their behavior (setting aside cases where a person regularly beats or abuses someone they claim to love)?

You say that love is an emotion, and in some sense we can grant that. But saying it suggests that love is a feeling, and that, in turn, suggests that it's like a warm sensation in one's tummy -- something that we can simply detect by introspection and that we can't (or can't easily) be wrong about. But it's more complicated than that. If I love someone, I can still have moments when I feel angry at them, for example. But my momentary anger -- a non-loving feeling -- isn't the same as not loving them. Love is, among other things, a complicated set of dispositions. Some of them are dispositions to feel a certain way in certain situations, and others are dispositions to behave in certain ways. I might be momentarily angry with my daughter, for example, but it might be true that if anything were to happen to her, I would be beside myself with grief. I might also be willing to make considerable sacrifices for her well-being. I might worry about her, take time to check up on her, and do all of this not just out of some sense of duty. Those dispositions are much better indicators of my love for her than my momentary feeling of anger.

On the other hand, if I wouldn't grieve the loss of my daughter, wouldn't go out of my way to help her, didn't care whether I spent time with her and so on, the fact that I would say I love her wouldn't count for much. Indeed, the fact that I believed I loved her might best be seen as a kind of self-deception due, perhaps, to my wanting to think well of myself. Similar comments apply to romantic love, of course.

Because love is a lot more than a feeling, people are quite capable of being wrong about whether they love someone. They can tell themselves that they don't love someone when they really do (think of someone who swears they no longer love their ex-lover when it's obvious to everyone else that they do), and they can tell themselves that they do love someone when they really don't. The connection with behavior is clear. If love involves dispositions to feel and to act, then the actions someone actually performs can be signs of their real dispositions.

Of course, this is only a small part of the story. The notion of love is both complicated and not entirely precise. It's certainly possible to love someone and yet not to be the jealous type. It's certainly possible to love someone and not be willing to go along with all of their wishes or principles; the examples you cite seem pretty clearly to be compatible with really loving someone. But if A treats B with reliable cruelty, for example, it would take a very complicated story to make sense of A's claim to really love B. This is so even if A really believes that s/he loves B.

The more general point is this: there are some things about our minds that we know better than others do. But there's a good deal about our minds that we can't discover just by introspection. We can be quite wrong about our selves in various ways. Add to that the fact that our psychologies have such an important role in producing our behavior, and it's not hard to see why sometimes others are in a better position than we are to make judgements about our own psychologies. The case of love is just one among many.

You say that love is an emotion, and in some sense we can grant that. But saying it suggests that love is a feeling , and that, in turn, suggests that it's like a warm sensation in one's tummy -- something that we can simply detect by introspection and that we can't (or can't easily) be wrong about. But it's more complicated than that. If I love someone, I can still have moments when I feel angry at them, for example. But my momentary anger -- a non-loving feeling -- isn't the same as not loving them. Love is, among other things, a complicated set of dispositions. Some of them are dispositions to feel a certain way in certain situations, and others are dispositions to behave in certain ways. I might be momentarily angry with my daughter, for example, but it might be true that if anything were to happen to her, I would be beside myself with grief. I might also be willing to make considerable sacrifices for her well-being. I might worry about her, take time to check up on her, and do all of this not...

I was talking to a girl about my opinions on love, and on the topic of polygamy

I was talking to a girl about my opinions on love, and on the topic of polygamy I told her that theoretically (it's hard enough falling in love with one person!) I could see myself with two women that I completely loved. She told me that I confused her because she could not square that statement with a previous statement where I spoke of my want for true love. I told her that I didn't see any contradiction between those two sentiments. Maybe if I understood why people are opposed to polygamy I would have an easier time defending my opinion on the subject. So why is it said by so many people that it is impossible to fall in love with more than one person at the same time? When I ask these people why this is so they can not give me a clear answer. Can you provide a clear explanation for why love must (or allegedly must) be exclusive to only one sexual partner?

Without meaning to take a stand on anything, I think it is worth mentioning that, in most actual "polyamorous" relationships, things are not as Eric describes, where one partner "receive[s] 100% of the relational attention from two [others],while they each have to settle for about 50% of" the former's. Rather, people who enter into such relationships are very often bi-sexual and bi-amorous, and so each partner distributes his or her attention to both of the other two. Of course, that probably makes the relationship even more emotionally complicated.

The other remark it may be worth making here echoes one of Allen's. One often hears it asked: If we allow gay marriage, why not polygamous marriage? Partial answer: The laws on marriage really do assume, in ever so many ways, that a marriage is a relationship between two people. There are, for example, no provisions whatsoever for the dissolution of part of a marriage, in which two of the married parties might decide to continue without the other. But, as the Massachusetts Supreme Court observed, there really aren't any such deep assumptions about the gender of the parties. That is why essentially no changes were needed when Massachusetts started allowing same-sex couples to marry. Other, that is, than changing the language on some forms. If one were going to allow polygamy, then lots and lots of laws would need writing and changing. That is not in itself a reason not to allow polygamy, but it is a reason to think the cases are different.

Other Addendum: No doubt Eric is right that polyamory, as usually practiced, probably wasn't what the original questioner had in mind. Or, at least, those to whom he was speaking.

I think the reason people can't give you a clear answer is that there isn't one. It just seems to be a fact that some people really can love more than one person deeply at the same time, and I'll confess to finding it puzzling that this would puzzle anyone. As for opposition to polygamy, it would be hard to make the case that it's simply wrong. It would be particularly hard to do it a priori, without looking in some detail at polygamous societies. There are some worries one might well have (for example: worries about polygamous arrangements that favor men over women) but that's different from saying that all polygamous arrangements are wrong. None of this is a recommendation for what anyone should do in a society like contemporary America. Marriage and romantic relationships fit into formal and informal social institutions in a complicated way, and not every change we might contemplate is liable to work out well. Once again, there's no saying a priori. I'd add that "falling in love" isn't always...

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