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Why do grandparent's love their grandchildren so much, when they can usually

Why do grandparent's love their grandchildren so much, when they can usually take or leave other people's children? Is it natures way of making sure that should something happen to the natural parents, the offspring will be raised by someone who cares?

The evolutionary explanation in terms of genetic fitness (kin selection) goes roughly like this: Grandchildren share 1/4 of each of their grandparent's genes (parents and siblings share 1/2), so genes that help to "code" for traits that lead you to give up X/4 amount of your fitness (your chance of reproductive success) to increase your grandchildren's fitness X amount would spread through the population more than genes that "code" for more selfish behavior. So, all else being equal, we should expect to see selection for genes that lead grandparents to be nice to their grandkids.

Of course, things are messier than this. Such traits won't be selected for in organisms that disperse such that grandparents aren't near their grandkids. Conversely, since grandparents (e.g., in humans) are typically past reproductive age, genes that code for even more generosity might be selected for--that might explain why grandparents spoil their grandkids rotten!

Of course, it would be hard to code for something as specific as "calculate if your action has a benefit to your kin that is greater than the cost to you multiplied by your relatedness to that kin." So, we see heuristics at work: strong emotional bonds with kin, emotions that are triggered less by actual relatedness than by a good proxy for that--e.g., whom you are around a lot. Hence, grandparents (parents) typically love their adopted grandkids (kids) as much as their biological ones.

Now, this somewhat cold genetic explanation may lead us to worry that we love our kids and grandkids for (ultimately) selfish reasons or even that we don't really love them. But that's bad reasoning. I really do love my children and would (I hope) die for them, and it's not for the sake of myself or my genes (whatever that would mean). Rather, the evolutionary explanation (combined with lots of cultural explanation too) accounts for why I am the sort of creature that really loves my children and really sacrifices a lot for them--yes, it really is a sacrifice of other interests and obligations I have. (Compare: suppose the reason we love our kids is because God created us to have the relevant emotions. Would that historical explanation for why we have those emotions mean that we don't really love our children?)

Finally, your first question could be read with a normative, rather than a descriptive "why?" Granted, grandparents do love their grandchildren more than other people's kids (I've just explained why that might be), but should they? I'm inclined to say yes, but it'd take a while to try to justify that answer, especially to someone who's a devout utilitarian and thinks we should just maximize overall happiness: If there's a situation where Grandpa can either save his granddaughter or save five other kids, whom should he save?

The evolutionary explanation in terms of genetic fitness (kin selection) goes roughly like this: Grandchildren share 1/4 of each of their grandparent's genes (parents and siblings share 1/2), so genes that help to "code" for traits that lead you to give up X/4 amount of your fitness (your chance of reproductive success) to increase your grandchildren's fitness X amount would spread through the population more than genes that "code" for more selfish behavior. So, all else being equal, we should expect to see selection for genes that lead grandparents to be nice to their grandkids. Of course, things are messier than this. Such traits won't be selected for in organisms that disperse such that grandparents aren't near their grandkids. Conversely, since grandparents (e.g., in humans) are typically past reproductive age, genes that code for even more generosity might be selected for--that might explain why grandparents spoil their grandkids rotten! Of course, it would be hard to code for something...

Does the wife of an adulterous man have grounds to be angry with "the other

Does the wife of an adulterous man have grounds to be angry with "the other woman?"

Yes, at least assuming that the "other woman" knows, or should know, that the man is married. The wife has grounds, in the sense of appropriate reason, to be angry because anger is an appropriate emotional response to having an important relationship messed up (not to mention other things, such as parenting help, financial help, etc.), and appropriate targets of that anger include persons who knowingly did things to mess up that relationship (hence the wife also has at least as much grounds to be angry at her husband). I am assuming here that it is sometimes appropriate to feel anger, an assumption that might be questioned by some (e.g., Buddhists?). Whether the wife has grounds, in the sense of moral justification, to be angry at the other woman is a more complicated question, since it is not clear what it means to be morally justified to feel an emotion towards someone (and also because the facts of the case might make such justification unclear).

Yes, at least assuming that the "other woman" knows, or should know, that the man is married. The wife has grounds, in the sense of appropriate reason, to be angry because anger is an appropriate emotional response to having an important relationship messed up (not to mention other things, such as parenting help, financial help, etc.), and appropriate targets of that anger include persons who knowingly did things to mess up that relationship (hence the wife also has at least as much grounds to be angry at her husband). I am assuming here that it is sometimes appropriate to feel anger, an assumption that might be questioned by some (e.g., Buddhists?). Whether the wife has grounds, in the sense of moral justification, to be angry at the other woman is a more complicated question, since it is not clear what it means to be morally justified to feel an emotion towards someone (and also because the facts of the case might make such justification unclear).

I have been dating a guy for about a year, and the chemical spark has faded for

I have been dating a guy for about a year, and the chemical spark has faded for me. How important is this in a relationship? He is a very nice guy and I realize the value of this in a long term relationship.

I think this is really a personal, even private question that involves many other questions: how important is the "chemical spark" for you? If you no longer have romantic feelings for him, does he know this or, if he does not know, should you tell him so as not to mislead him into thinking the relationship is very different from what it actually is for you --perhaps a non-romantic friendship? If you ceased dating, would the relationship transition into a friendship? Are you at an age and in a place when meeting others whom you can connect with --both sensually and in terms of friendship- is possible?

I know of a number of couples in different age groups who certainly appear to be happily married, though romance or the "chemical spark" seems to be very subordinate to a life-long, profound friendship, and I know some couples who give primacy to eros and little thought seems to be given to a deep friendship between them. Personally, I would prefer only choosing friendship AND eros, but (again this is personal) I think that if one HAD to choose between the two types of relationships, I would go with the one that was built on a profound friendship for, in the end, I think eros without friendship is very hard to sustain, or at least sustain with the same person as time goes by.

If by "the chemical spark has faded" you mean that you are no longer sexually attracted to him and no longer enjoy sexual relations with him, then it may be important to both of you. If you would rather be with someone with whom you want to be physical, then you will not only miss something you enjoy by staying with him, but worse, you may end up wanting to leave him if you find someone else you are physically attracted to (and whom you also find to be "a very nice guy"). And if your boyfriend is someone who enjoys sexual relations and being "wanted", then it seems you should tell him how you feel, so that you can decide together whether you should stay together (e.g., he may prefer to be with someone who is more interested in him physically). However, if you just mean that you have lost that initial spark we feel when we first start dating someone, then you are probably just like most people. That spark typically fades but without taking with it all interest in sexual relations. People often...

If we consider the norm to be defined as what the majority of people do, can

If we consider the norm to be defined as what the majority of people do, can homosexuality be considered normal since it defines behavior that is clearly not what most people indulge in? And would that make homosexuality abnormal? And if it were abnormal, would it be wrong to validate gay marriage?

The statistical norm might be defined by what is true of the majority. But why on earth would we want to define the moral norm solely in terms of what the majority of people do? That would mean that, by definition, vegetarianism, atheism, and marriage between different races was wrong. It would mean that you were morally wrong if you were an abolitionist in the South or fought for equality for women in America in the early 20th century (I'm not sure when that became the majority position) or fight for equality for women in many countries today. For that matter, it would make it wrong to be a Jew or a man who goes to college or a firefighter.

Perhaps what you mean is that homosexuality could be considered biologically "non-normal" (it's not clear exactly what that might mean, since whatever we do is allowed by our biology). That may not be true, depending on what one means by biologically normal. But even if it were, it would not make it morally wrong, since lots of biologically "non-normal" behaviors may be moral, including, for instance, monogamy and vegetarianism.

The statistical norm might be defined by what is true of the majority. But why on earth would we want to define the moral norm solely in terms of what the majority of people do? That would mean that, by definition, vegetarianism, atheism, and marriage between different races was wrong. It would mean that you were morally wrong if you were an abolitionist in the South or fought for equality for women in America in the early 20th century (I'm not sure when that became the majority position) or fight for equality for women in many countries today. For that matter, it would make it wrong to be a Jew or a man who goes to college or a firefighter. Perhaps what you mean is that homosexuality could be considered biologically "non-normal" (it's not clear exactly what that might mean, since whatever we do is allowed by our biology). That may not be true, depending on what one means by biologically normal. But even if it were, it would not make it morally wrong, since lots of biologically "non...

Is it possible for two people to love each other without meeting? For example if

Is it possible for two people to love each other without meeting? For example if two people were to meet on the Internet and fall in "love". Scientifically speaking love is based on pheromones and physical attraction so how can one love someone when physical and chemical attraction is taken out of the picture? According to scientists it should not be possible yet people claim that it happens all the time.

As a footnote, I'd perhaps want to press for being more careful with the distinction between loving another person and the state you are in when you fall in love with someone.

After all, you can love someone without being in love with them: that's how most of us -- other than Oedipus -- are with our mothers! And it is only too easy to fall in love with someone you don't really love -- you are obsessed, lustful, can't get them out of your mind, your heart leaps at their glance, but you don't really care for them in the right way. ("If you really loved her", we might have to say to the man obsessively in love, "you wouldn't treat her like that.")

But indeed, it doesn't seem that you have to get up close and personal either for genuine caring or to engender more obsessive states.

It depends on what you mean by love, but I can't think of any definition of love that would suggest it is impossible or even unlikely to fall in love with someone you interact with (a lot) on the internet. I don't think there's a (credible) scientist in the world who would say love between humans is based solely on pheromones, chemicals, and physical attraction. They might say that physical attraction, perhaps lust, is based largely on pheromones and various chemical and hormonal processes. But I think it's fair to say that, even so, people can be very physically attracted to (lust after) someone they see on the Internet (or TV or movie screen)--no pheromones detected!--and I'm sure part of that feeling of attraction has to do with the chemical and neural changes the beautiful images cause in them. (Just to take a crazy example, I suspect it is possible to feel very attracted to Catherine Zeta-Jones or George Clooney without meeting them in person--I'm just guessing here based on what other...

How can there be romantic love when the formula for attraction is selfishness?

How can there be romantic love when the formula for attraction is selfishness? Psychologists and pick up artists know that women are attracted to men who sturdy frame and material assets. Conversely, men are attracted to women if she has a nubile body. I know there are other factors but the point is nobody decided who they will marry by asking "what kind of person needs me the most?" It's always "What kind of person do !I! want to be with?" So how can married people really love each other?

You seem to be beginning with the assumption that romantic love must be essentially unselfish, that people must be motivated to love their lovers for the sake of their lover (only?) and not themselves (at all?). I'm not sure why we should think that's true.

Perhaps it seems that way because we normally assume that people are and should be willing to sacrifice their own interests for the people they love. And that surely is true. But those unselfish feelings and behaviors that occur within the relationship are (a) entirely consistent with falling in love for more selfish reasons, some you are aware of--the other person makes you feel good in lots of way--and others you aren't aware of--your genes dispose the development of your brain so that it picks up on features of your lover that make them appear attractive to you (there's all those studies on pheremones), and (b) entirely consistent with your continuing to get satisfaction from your relationship and that being a significant motivation for continuing in it.

You seem to be pointing to a common confusion in the debate about whether we are only nice to others for ultimately selfish reasons. But if making others happy, helping them, even sacrificing your own material goods and time for them, makes you feel good and if part of your motivation is that good feeling, I think it is still accurate to say that you are being altruistic (and loving) rather than selfish.

The tricky case is what happens if, for whatever reason, you lose the good feelings. Will you still be good to your lover? Do you still love him/her? Perhaps there is a deep sort of committed love that endures in these cases. But perhaps it is no longer romantic love?

You seem to be beginning with the assumption that romantic love must be essentially unselfish, that people must be motivated to love their lovers for the sake of their lover (only?) and not themselves (at all?). I'm not sure why we should think that's true. Perhaps it seems that way because we normally assume that people are and should be willing to sacrifice their own interests for the people they love. And that surely is true. But those unselfish feelings and behaviors that occur within the relationship are (a) entirely consistent with falling in love for more selfish reasons, some you are aware of--the other person makes you feel good in lots of way--and others you aren't aware of--your genes dispose the development of your brain so that it picks up on features of your lover that make them appear attractive to you (there's all those studies on pheremones), and (b) entirely consistent with your continuing to get satisfaction from your relationship and that being a significant motivation...

"And whoever forces himself to love anybody begets a murderer in his own body."

"And whoever forces himself to love anybody begets a murderer in his own body." (D.H. Lawrence, 'Retort to Jesus'). Self-help books advise that we can fall in love with whom we chose, that we can choose to love, to re-ignite love, etc. What is your opinion?

My own brief answer is that we cannot choose to fall in love or to re-ignite love, but we can make choices that will make it more (or less) likely that we come to love someone or something. For instance, at a bare minimum, if you believe that it would be good for you to come to love someone, you need to choose to be around that person and engage with him/her; if you believe that it would be good for you to come to love watching soccer (perhaps because someone you love wants you to love watching soccer with him/her), then you need to choose to watch soccer, perhaps with that person trying to convince you what is so wonderful about it (trust me, you will come to love it!). But once you actively engage with the person or activity, it seems to me that you cannot control whether you come to have the feelings of love towards them--figuring out what those feelings are is another philosophical/psychological issue.

But I think you will find better answers than mine if you look at Eric Schwitzgebel's recent blog post on conjugal love here

or read some of Harry Frankfurt's wonderful essays on love, such as this one.

My own brief answer is that we cannot choose to fall in love or to re-ignite love, but we can make choices that will make it more (or less) likely that we come to love someone or something. For instance, at a bare minimum, if you believe that it would be good for you to come to love someone, you need to choose to be around that person and engage with him/her; if you believe that it would be good for you to come to love watching soccer (perhaps because someone you love wants you to love watching soccer with him/her), then you need to choose to watch soccer, perhaps with that person trying to convince you what is so wonderful about it (trust me, you will come to love it!). But once you actively engage with the person or activity, it seems to me that you cannot control whether you come to have the feelings of love towards them--figuring out what those feelings are is another philosophical/psychological issue. But I think you will find better answers than mine if you look at Eric Schwitzgebel's...

I have just found out today that the man I have been dating for 6 months is

I have just found out today that the man I have been dating for 6 months is mildly autistic. I had no idea about this until just a few hours ago, so this realization left me shocked. I understand autism and that it is nothing like mental retardation, or anything to that extent. But still I feel like I am doing something morally wrong by continuing to date him. Should I end the relationship because it isn't fair to him, seeing as he may not fully understand his feelings or mine? Or should I continue the relationship because his autism is only mild? Please let me know what you think, I am completely torn and cannot figure out whether I am doing something horribly wrong or not.

And... as someone with a close relative who is on the high-functioning end of the autistic continuum, I'd like to add Tony Attwood's website and books to the list of recommendations. But I would agree emphatically with Louise: it's a mistake to think that autistic people are unaware of others' feelings, or incapable of empathy. And I really can't see that you'd be doing anything morally wrong at all by continuing the relationship. Having Asperger's or high-functioning autism doesn't make someone morally defective, and it doesn't mean they can't care deeply about other people. What Louise and Eddy and Peter have said is much more like it.

This isn't to say that autism spectrum conditions can't complicate relationships. But we could say the same things about many traits of personality and character that have nothing to do with autism. Few of us are perfect; people with autism just have a diagnosis.

I would add to Louise's eloquent response one point: autism is the name for a spectrum of mental functioning and I suspect that if your boyfriend functions in a way that you did not notice anything remarkable, then he is on what they call the "high end" of the spectrum. You should discuss with him his history and his diagnosis. You may also wish to read some of the first-person accounts of people with autism, such as Temple Grandin 's.