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What's there to gain from romantic relationships, aside from sexual

What's there to gain from romantic relationships, aside from sexual gratification? For it seems as though there is more pain and loss from attempting to find our ideal significant other, than there is actual gain from finding someone adequate enough to fulfill such an unobtainable goal. It seems more worthwhile to culminate our own happiness within ourselves, than to put our happiness at risk, especially given that females (and people in general) who are interested in philosophy seem to be on the decline; and interest in philosophy is a must for any viable partner!

Wonderful to learn that a viable partner for you would have to have an interest in philosophy. If you are super attractive (etc) you might give a lot of people an important motive to develop philosophical interests!

Picking up on another point, though, I am not sure you are right about declining interests in philosophy among females or people in general. At least where I teach (St Olaf College in the USA) philosophical interests among young women and men (straight, gay, as well as among transgender folk) seems on the rise. But more to your point, I wonder if your worry about romantic relationships would work against any serious, non-romantic friendship. You write about having reservations about putting your happiness at risk, but that risk seems to arise in every case when you or I truly love another person with or without eros. I have great (Platonic) love for a couple of friends, Patrick and Jodi, and I realize there is no way for me to do so without risking my enduring great pain and unhappiness. If they are harmed or, worse, killed in an auto accident (our city streets are a mess, so this is not impossible) I would be devastated. They are irreplaceable and it would be impossible for me to love them with emotional invulnerability on my part. I suppose that is your point: why take the risk? But isn't the reply that the alternative is far worse? Imagine living without truly loving other persons as irreplaceable individuals? I suppose, by extension, your position might also come in conflict with you loving yourself. So, I urge you to not give up on romantic or non-romantic deep friendships. Still, I would not be doing my job unless I observed that the position you are taking does have resonance in the history of philosophy, especially in Stoicism. You might find the work of Epictetus (first and second century) of great interest.

Ending on a sort of positive note: there have been (and are) some good romantic relationships between philosophers that might be inspiring --for example the marriage between Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Geach, and Bob and Marilyn Adams, among others. Yes, there have been tragic romances between philosophers, but I bet for every case of Abelard and Heloise there are at least a hundred cases of Paul and Patricia Churchland

Wonderful to learn that a viable partner for you would have to have an interest in philosophy. If you are super attractive (etc) you might give a lot of people an important motive to develop philosophical interests! Picking up on another point, though, I am not sure you are right about declining interests in philosophy among females or people in general. At least where I teach (St Olaf College in the USA) philosophical interests among young women and men (straight, gay, as well as among transgender folk) seems on the rise. But more to your point, I wonder if your worry about romantic relationships would work against any serious, non-romantic friendship. You write about having reservations about putting your happiness at risk, but that risk seems to arise in every case when you or I truly love another person with or without eros. I have great (Platonic) love for a couple of friends, Patrick and Jodi, and I realize there is no way for me to do so without risking my enduring great pain and...

Does the idea of "conflict of interest" figure into any contemporary discussion

Does the idea of "conflict of interest" figure into any contemporary discussion of ethics in philosophy? For example, few would argue that a professor having a sexual relationship with a student in his class is immoral in itself, but why would that necessarily be a conflict of interest? Banning such relationships is what is immoral because it reduces people's humanity by presupposing that humans are totally unable to separate their private lives from their professional ones. Are we to ban family businesses too? Even if empirical studies DO show that a majority of these kinds of relationships result in preferential grading, universities can always discipline such professors--disciplining the student would certainly be excessive. Banning relationships are the worst kinds of bans as without relationships we are dehumanized; it seems to me that if a person personally wishes to jeopardize his career for the sake of a relationship, then we should acknowledge and accept that.

Philosophers have given significant attention to identifying conflicts of interest in the course of developing theories of justice, accounts of fairness, business ethics, philosophy of law, and even museum ethics. Your focus seems to be on sex and the academy, so I will go right to that topic: in most colleges and universities there is indeed a regulation against professors and students having sexual relations, but I believe this is not primarily a matter of what may called a conflict of interest. I suggest it is more of a matter of preventing exploitation as well as a matter of a common sense approach to professor-student relations. Even if it happens that the sexual relationship does not lead to preferential (or unfair) grading, it is occurring in a relationship in which both parties have responsibilities to each other that sexuality almost cannot help but compromise or overshadow. The primary role of the professor in teaching or practicing philosophy (or any subject) with students is one in which (ideally) there is mutual respect and a host of duties (maintaining the highest standards intellectually, being trustworthy in terms of honesty, promise-keeping, and so on). Adding on to that courtship, flirtation, dating, one-off or regular acts of sexual intimacy (in my view) cannot help undermine or cloud the integrity of the student-professor relationship. I think the same is true in so many relationships where there are professional codes of conduct (e.g. judges not having sex with jurors or defendants, surgeons not having sexual relations with patients prior to operations, and so on). Perhaps I am wrong, but on the worry about 'dehumanization' there is nothing that I am aware of in any college or university that prevents romantic relationships between professors and former students. In fact, I know of at least four cases in my own college when former students have married professors and lived (what appear to be) passionately happy, even joyful lives. If in the course of a class a professor and student fall in love there are many remedies: wait till the class ends before dating (or whatever) or (if time is of the essence) the student can drop the class, the professor can ask for a transfer, and all may be well -- except, of course, for the wonderfully but sometimes painfully complex issues that arise in almost all relations between all persons whether or not any of them were ever in a professor-student relationship.

Philosophers have given significant attention to identifying conflicts of interest in the course of developing theories of justice, accounts of fairness, business ethics, philosophy of law, and even museum ethics. Your focus seems to be on sex and the academy, so I will go right to that topic: in most colleges and universities there is indeed a regulation against professors and students having sexual relations, but I believe this is not primarily a matter of what may called a conflict of interest. I suggest it is more of a matter of preventing exploitation as well as a matter of a common sense approach to professor-student relations. Even if it happens that the sexual relationship does not lead to preferential (or unfair) grading, it is occurring in a relationship in which both parties have responsibilities to each other that sexuality almost cannot help but compromise or overshadow. The primary role of the professor in teaching or practicing philosophy (or any subject) with students is one in which ...

Should love between a man and woman be diminished in any way by differing

Should love between a man and woman be diminished in any way by differing political viewpoints? My boyfriend and I both think politics is a minor part of life that neither of us gets directly involved in but when we do speak about it he isn't afraid to philosophize about his radical political views. As it follows, he is opposed to marriage including straight marriage and especially gay marriage because he does not accept the legitimacy of any state or institution. I don't mind spending the rest of our lives together unmarried because this in no way negatively impacts my life even though my political views are rather different. I disagree with his stance on gay marriage because I have gay friends but this does not diminish my love since we are both straight, so do political views matter when it comes to love?

Very, very interesting. You are asking about something that is perhaps a matter that is more personal and intimate than political or a matter of public philosophy (or philosophy about public life), but I offer these thoughts with some hesitation about responding to what is probably quite personal. In the West, historically (from the Medieval period on) marriage has been principally been understood as that which is established (and constituted) by two persons So, while there has been a massive tradition of arranged marriages and marriage has often been understood in terms of the transfer of property over generations in the west, at the heart of the very idea of marriage is that it involves a commitment between a man and a woman (or, as we should say today, between two persons). The role of the church and state has (from an historical point of view) been conceived of as RECOGNIZING marriage --rather than establishing marriage or constituting it. So, while in Eastern Christianity, the church is understood to ESTABLISH a marriage, in the west (the inheritors of Latin-speaking Europe, i.e. most of Europe except Greece, Russian and countries where Eastern Orthodoxy is prominent), in the WEST (historically) your marriage with your partner is between the two of you as individuals (or whether you as individuals consent to being a couple). So, in a sense, if he and you are committed to a life-long love with each other, you are (from a western point of view) ALREADY MARRIED. The state and politics only come in to recognize this, to celebrate this and protect the union.

Very, very interesting. You are asking about something that is perhaps a matter that is more personal and intimate than political or a matter of public philosophy (or philosophy about public life), but I offer these thoughts with some hesitation about responding to what is probably quite personal. In the West, historically (from the Medieval period on) marriage has been principally been understood as that which is established (and constituted) by two persons So, while there has been a massive tradition of arranged marriages and marriage has often been understood in terms of the transfer of property over generations in the west, at the heart of the very idea of marriage is that it involves a commitment between a man and a woman (or, as we should say today, between two persons). The role of the church and state has (from an historical point of view) been conceived of as RECOGNIZING marriage --rather than establishing marriage or constituting it. So, while in Eastern Christianity, the church is...

When it comes to relationships between opposite sexes, there is the 'platonic'

When it comes to relationships between opposite sexes, there is the 'platonic' relationship. Does this have anything to do with Plato? And secondly, after advancing further in life, I find myself more drawn towards this type of relationship. It seems to have more meaning and depth. It transcends beyond any physical desires. Is there any research you could lead me to that uncovers some truths about these types of relationships?

Great question. Today, I think most people do think of a Platonic relationship as an intimate friendship without sex. The first time such a notion was explicitly identified was in the Renaissance when the philosopher / translator of Plato, Marsilio Ficino coined the term. Marsilio first called it "Socratic love," but then changed the term to "Platonic love" and he mostly applied it to male friendship. Marsilio's shared Platonic love with Giovanni Cavalcanti, a young man famous for his beauty. He maintained that you can be in awe with the beauty of your Platonic friend, but you must not touch or smell him. You refer to a Platonic friendship with an opposite gender; while Marsilio did not address this, Plato himself had female students and, given his high view of women in the Republic (women could be rulers), there is no reason why what we call Platonic love needs to be same-gender.

I would say one of the key elements in what is love in the Platonic tradition is that, whether or not sex is involved, when you love someone you must yearn for or desire their good. For more on such matters, you might check out the book *What Philosophy can tell you about your lover" edited by Sharon Kaye, chapter 8: "Platonic Lovers."

I am not aware of psychological studies on the nature of Platonic loves, but that chapter will help you get started in further philosophical reflection on love.

Great question. Today, I think most people do think of a Platonic relationship as an intimate friendship without sex. The first time such a notion was explicitly identified was in the Renaissance when the philosopher / translator of Plato, Marsilio Ficino coined the term. Marsilio first called it "Socratic love," but then changed the term to "Platonic love" and he mostly applied it to male friendship. Marsilio's shared Platonic love with Giovanni Cavalcanti, a young man famous for his beauty. He maintained that you can be in awe with the beauty of your Platonic friend, but you must not touch or smell him. You refer to a Platonic friendship with an opposite gender; while Marsilio did not address this, Plato himself had female students and, given his high view of women in the Republic (women could be rulers), there is no reason why what we call Platonic love needs to be same-gender. I would say one of the key elements in what is love in the Platonic tradition is that, whether or not sex is involved...

Do prenuptial agreements imply a lack of trust, or even a lack of love?

Do prenuptial agreements imply a lack of trust, or even a lack of love?

Great question! Consider, with apologies for the homeliness of this analogy: Does fastening your seat belt in a car or on an airplane indicate a lack of trust in the vehicle(s) or a lack of love for the pilot or driver or other pilots and drivers? I suspect one might have lots of trust and love and yet be realistic that sometimes the very unlikely and (almost) impossible does occur. In a prenuptial agreement, both parties may be passionately committed to each other and yet, out of a "realistic" understanding of the rate of divorce, they want assurance that there is a fair outcome if (heaven forbid) the life-long vow of commitment is not bourn out), it seems practically wise to have a safety net.

Great question! Consider, with apologies for the homeliness of this analogy: Does fastening your seat belt in a car or on an airplane indicate a lack of trust in the vehicle(s) or a lack of love for the pilot or driver or other pilots and drivers? I suspect one might have lots of trust and love and yet be realistic that sometimes the very unlikely and (almost) impossible does occur. In a prenuptial agreement, both parties may be passionately committed to each other and yet, out of a "realistic" understanding of the rate of divorce, they want assurance that there is a fair outcome if (heaven forbid) the life-long vow of commitment is not bourn out), it seems practically wise to have a safety net.

Breaking up with a partner can be very hurtful for him or her. Should I admit

Breaking up with a partner can be very hurtful for him or her. Should I admit that I cheated on him/her and that this is the reason for me to question our relationship or should I rather keep the secret in order not to hurt him/her more than necessary?

I cannot resist at least trying to respond to your question, but please know that this is a rather personal matter and many would think this is a matter for you to consider in light of respecting your partner and your own judgment about the consequences of making such a disclosure. Perhaps, though, I can be helpful in highlighting some factors to consider.

I suggest that promises to others can be (but are not always) binding even if the relationship ends. So, while obviously after a divorce or break-up one is not bound to (sexual) fidelity with one's x even if that had been promised with a vow, but there may be promises such as promising not to disclose information or secrets that were shared with the understanding that this was to be strictly confidential. I suggest that if the relationship you had (or you are about to break off) was built on the basis of trust and an explicit (or implicit) understanding that either of you would disclose any infidelity if it occurred, that would be a good reason to make the disclosure even as or after the relationship ends. This would be a natural conclusion based on the (at least ostensible) obligation to keep the promises we make (unless these "promises" were coerced, etc) and maintain one's integrity. On the other hand, one might also take into account the complex matters involved in "cheating." I have been assuming that the "cheating" you are referring to involves sexual infidelity, but there are all kinds of ways of (as it were) cheating in a committed relationship. If I am neglecting and completely ignoring my partner's needs or her central projects right now (as I have done, let us imagine, for years) and am focussing only on, say, writing a response to you on the "AskPhilosophers" site instead of being present and responsive to her, then I am (in a sense) right now cheating on my partner, the one with whom I have vowed to love, cherish, and to share our lives together. So, I suggest that sexual unfaithfulness is not the only kind of unfaithfulness (or acts done that are not disclosed). And thus....

I suggest that the key concerns lies in what the "cheating" involved means. Personally, I would regard sexual "cheating" as less grave and a reason for feeling hurt than the emotional withdrawal of love. If my partner "cheated" but claimed she still loves me and she "cheated" at a philosophy conference when she met a former partner and was intoxicated and she was angry about my neglecting her in order to work on "AskPhilosophers," this would or should be (for me) seem less grave and hurtful than if she "cheated" on the grounds that she no longer loves me. So, I suggest that in making your decision you might consider how much weight you think you ought to give to physical intimacy and the more general concern with your beloved's (or former beloved's) well being. If sharing that information is likely to lead to depression, self-hatred, and more by the X, that would count against disclosure. But if sharing might enable you both to change for the better, while you may no longer be lovers, this could be, in the words of the movie Casablanca, be the start of a beautiful friendship.

I cannot resist at least trying to respond to your question, but please know that this is a rather personal matter and many would think this is a matter for you to consider in light of respecting your partner and your own judgment about the consequences of making such a disclosure. Perhaps, though, I can be helpful in highlighting some factors to consider. I suggest that promises to others can be (but are not always) binding even if the relationship ends. So, while obviously after a divorce or break-up one is not bound to (sexual) fidelity with one's x even if that had been promised with a vow, but there may be promises such as promising not to disclose information or secrets that were shared with the understanding that this was to be strictly confidential. I suggest that if the relationship you had (or you are about to break off) was built on the basis of trust and an explicit (or implicit) understanding that either of you would disclose any infidelity if it occurred, that would be a good...

I was with a man for a month. We chatted a lot, had so much fun. But at the end

I was with a man for a month. We chatted a lot, had so much fun. But at the end we decided that this relationship would not work because it is morally wrong in our religion. This is already 2 years since then, and I eventually missed him. But day by day I felt that what I miss is him as a friend. I realized that he also missed me, but as a lover (I know this from friends). I really want to meet him, start a fun conversation, but I think it will trouble him, because I do not want to be with him anymore. Do you think I should just step out of his life for the sake of protecting his feeling? Or do I have any responsibility to help him move on, forgetting me? If so, how?

This is such a personal matter, I have no right to reply, but your question(s) are hard to resist. There is no "official" philosophy of love out there for us all to consult. Still, philosophers in the past have suggested a few things that might be helpful. First, you might apply the "golden rule" of 'do unto others as you would want done unto you": what would you want or what would you do if the roles were reversed? How would you want him to act if he missed you, wanted to see you, but he did not want to be romantically involved with you and seeing him might trouble you? Another point to consider is Kant's thesis that you should never treat people in a way that is incompatible with regarding them as an end (or of value) in themselves. So, if I flirt with X only for my own pleasure, not caring how X might feel and without any serious regard for X's life, it seems I am simply using X rather than also considering X's own life.

Perhaps one other thought: you ask about what responsibility you might have with respect to this fellow. Some philosophers place such stress on autonomy that they might conclude you have no real responsibility; he is (presumably) an adult and he can decide for himself whether to meet for fun conversations and such. But I am inclined to think that when or if you actually love someone from the past or in your current life it does seem fitting that you act in ways that either promote his fulfillment or good or at least not act in ways that harm or compromise their good. This reflects a long standing philosophy of love that goes back to medieval philosophy to modern thinkers like Max Scheler and is sometimes referred to as beneficent love (as distinct from unitive love which is when the lover seeks to be united with the beloved). One way to describe your situation is a tension between beneficent love and unitive love.

But for me to write more would be way out of my league. Good wishes in all such matters, CT

This is such a personal matter, I have no right to reply, but your question(s) are hard to resist. There is no "official" philosophy of love out there for us all to consult. Still, philosophers in the past have suggested a few things that might be helpful. First, you might apply the "golden rule" of 'do unto others as you would want done unto you": what would you want or what would you do if the roles were reversed? How would you want him to act if he missed you, wanted to see you, but he did not want to be romantically involved with you and seeing him might trouble you? Another point to consider is Kant's thesis that you should never treat people in a way that is incompatible with regarding them as an end (or of value) in themselves. So, if I flirt with X only for my own pleasure, not caring how X might feel and without any serious regard for X's life, it seems I am simply using X rather than also considering X's own life. Perhaps one other thought: you ask about what responsibility you...

I am a working woman and I am very confused on my personal perspective on "love"

I am a working woman and I am very confused on my personal perspective on "love". What is love exactly? I love my parents and I also love my boyfriend. But whom so ever I choose, the other one will be hurt. (Because of our separate religious backgrounds, and in the culture which I belong to it has high implications). Till what extent should I let the culture influence my decisions, especially regarding whom should I love?

There is a tradition going back to Plato that there are two aspects of love: when you love another person you desire their good (their fulfillment / well being / happiness) and you also desire to be united with them (in a matter of friendship or Platonic relations this may be just a desire to be in their company, but in romantic love it is a desire to be united with him or her sexually or through eros). The first aspect of love may know no bounds --you may love many people, but in the second aspect of love, that is when (as you note) people can be hurt --in deciding to be with one person, you are deciding not to be with another, and you may decide that if you really love someone (really desire their happiness) you may decide not to seek to be united with him (being in a relationship with some people you love may not be good for anyone).

As for the balance of culture, religion, values, and your individual choice, there is no magic, self-evident set of rules from philosophy! Maybe the one VERY GENERAL point can be made from the history of philosophy: it is (in general) good for persons to make up their own minds when it comes to action and values. With Socrates, philosophy began with asking questions. He thought there was something wrong about going through life without self-examination, without seeking to love wisdom. He and many other philosophers would be very reluctant about an individual making an important choice SIMPLY or ONLY on the grounds of one's culture or religion. Culture and religion can be important matters, and truly valuable, and so many philosophers would simply want you to think carefully about what is or would be good for you and the person you choose to love, while taking culture and religion into account (as they can either be hurtful or helpful, depending).

We wish you every success!

There is a tradition going back to Plato that there are two aspects of love: when you love another person you desire their good (their fulfillment / well being / happiness) and you also desire to be united with them (in a matter of friendship or Platonic relations this may be just a desire to be in their company, but in romantic love it is a desire to be united with him or her sexually or through eros). The first aspect of love may know no bounds --you may love many people, but in the second aspect of love, that is when (as you note) people can be hurt --in deciding to be with one person, you are deciding not to be with another, and you may decide that if you really love someone (really desire their happiness) you may decide not to seek to be united with him (being in a relationship with some people you love may not be good for anyone). As for the balance of culture, religion, values, and your individual choice, there is no magic, self-evident set of rules from philosophy! Maybe the one VERY...

Can we love someone as an end in himself or herself? Can I love A because he is

Can we love someone as an end in himself or herself? Can I love A because he is A, not because A is handsome or intelligent or generous or caring or whatever it is. The question may seem absurd but so does the expectation of all such properties to last forever!

Brilliant question, and one that philosophers have struggled with. There is some reason to see Plato and subsequent Platonists as holding the view that our love is always on some property or other, a property that can often be surpassed, and so they run into the problem of why it is one may persist in loving someone even when you come across someone with greater intelligence, generosity, care, beauty and so on. Perhaps one needs to concede to the Platonic tradition that all our loves must begin with properties such as those you mentioned, but these are not abstract properties; they are the properties or qualities of a particular person. And over time (perhaps at our best?) it is the person we love so that when or if such properties are lost, we may still love the person. Whichever position you take, however, I suggest it is difficult to love or even think of a person without thinking or loving of them in terms of some of the properties they have. Some of these properties may now be fixed (e.g. you love someone for their history with you and the past is not changeable) but so many (such as those you list) are indeed contingent.

For a fascinating book on the tension between loving someone for their properties versus an unconditional love of the person her or himself, you might consult Nygren's Eros and Agape.

Brilliant question, and one that philosophers have struggled with. There is some reason to see Plato and subsequent Platonists as holding the view that our love is always on some property or other, a property that can often be surpassed, and so they run into the problem of why it is one may persist in loving someone even when you come across someone with greater intelligence, generosity, care, beauty and so on. Perhaps one needs to concede to the Platonic tradition that all our loves must begin with properties such as those you mentioned, but these are not abstract properties; they are the properties or qualities of a particular person. And over time (perhaps at our best?) it is the person we love so that when or if such properties are lost, we may still love the person. Whichever position you take, however, I suggest it is difficult to love or even think of a person without thinking or loving of them in terms of some of the properties they have. Some of these properties may now be fixed (e.g. you...

Why don't philosophers philosophize about love more? Is it not a good

Why don't philosophers philosophize about love more? Is it not a good philosophical topic?

Perhaps it is worth pausing to ask: What is it to "philosophize"? What sort of questions or puzzles or worries call for "philosophizing" as a response?

You might say: philosophy is a motley business, embracing Plato's Symposium and Kierkegaard's Works of Love as well as Aristotle's Physics and Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic. We might count too Montaigne's Essays, or Sartre's Nausea. Very different styles of thought, reflected in very different literary forms, but all counting as philosophizing in a broad sense.

Or you might say: we really do need a label for a narrower kind of business (which has always been a key department of philosophy in the broader sense), where we aim to investigate fundamental conceptual questions and foundational assumptions with a distinctive kind of rigour and clarity, depending on sharp conceptual distinctions and tight logical argument, and where the preferred literary form is now the academic paper or monograph written in very cool, analytic, prose. And (like it or not) "philosophy" has come to be used, in some academic circles at any rate, primarily for that narrower sort of enquiry.

Now, we might well think that some topics don't particularly lend themselves to being philosophized about in the second, narrower, sense of philosophy. Or better: philosophizing in that sense isn't the way to answer the questions that really bug us. And some deeply important matters like central questions about love are perhaps examples (which is why philosophers in the narrow sense haven't had much to say). Exploring the varieties of love has been the business of novelists for centuries, of poets for millennia; and then there are the psychologists and anthropologists and social historians and others who widen our understanding. Some of these may be philosophizing in the broad sense -- whatever that quite comes to -- but very rarely in the narrower sense epitomized by modern analytical philosophy. And their writings are none the worse for that. There are some things that you will learn more about from Shakespeare and Tolstoy than from any philosopher in the narrow sense.

Actually philosophers have written quite a bit about love, and the different kinds of love. You can see this in Plato and Aristotle on up through Kierkegaard (who wrote an important book called Works of Love) to the present (I have a "popular" book called Love. Love. Love. And Other essays on Life, Love, and Death, with Cowley Press). And while you may not always see abundant uses of the word "love" in ethics, much of ethical inquiry in philosophy may be understood as an inquiry into what to love and what not to love. Among the many questions philosophers have wrestled with concerning love, they have considered: what is the difference between loving a person and loving her or his qualities? what is the difference between romantic and non-romantic love? can love create values (that is, can your loving a person or thing confer some additional value on the person or thing)? if a friendship ends (e.g. either through disagreement or lack of energy), was there ever a friendship in the first place? does...

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