Advanced Search

In "The Little Prince" by Antoine de saint Exupery, there's a quotation like

In "The Little Prince" by Antoine de saint Exupery, there's a quotation like this: "You should be responsible for something you've tamed." I think it could be interpreted that, you have to be responsible towards someone you've already made fall in love (with you). But in what extend should we care so much towards people who love us? Especially if we do not feel the love for them.

A person in love with you is likely to be vulnerable to you, easy prey for your abuse and exploitation. Your first responsibility toward the person you have made fall in love with you is the responsibility not to take advantage of this person's special vulnerability to you. This responsibility is all the harder to deny because it does not require much effort on your part. You can just be -- gently -- honest about your feelings and then keep your distance.

If you were rather active and deliberate in making the other fall in love with you, then you may in a sense be and/or feel responsible for her unhappiness. And this may seem to be a reason to show care and concern for the other, even at some cost to your own life and ambitions. But then you must also ask yourself whether you can be confident that you (of all people!) can make a real contribution toward helping the other get over the unhappy situation. Without such confidence, it may be best just to make do with the above simpler responsibilities: do not take advantage and be gently honest.

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

Is marriage an artificial concept that has come into existence just because the

Is marriage an artificial concept that has come into existence just because the life expectancy of humans is around 60 years. What if the life expectancy was 200 years or say just 15 years. Would we still have the concept of marriage in humans?

I rather expect that monogamous marriage is more the result of the agricultural revolution than an artifact of our life spans. It was when we changed from hunter-gatherers to "property-owners" (so that we could raise our crops and lay claim to the fruits of our agricultural labors), I suspect, that someone got the brilliant idea that we could own not only land and what it produces, but also start building private homes (since farmers don't need to keep moving around to hunt and gather) and having private families. That was when we began to "own" other people--including slaves, spouses, and children. In many early versions, this "ownership" was strictly one-way: it was not adultery (or a violation of marriage) for a man to have sex with some woman who was not owned by someone else (either as wife or daughter, for example), but was a violation of marriage if the wife engaged in such extra-marital activity.

The institution has changed as human society has changed, but I still think it is an artifact of another age in this sense. That does not mean it does not still have value. On the other hand, it does strike me as quite plausible to think that we would not have this institution if our average life span was only fifteen years. But then I think other problems would arise (e.g. for survival of our species).

You might extend your speculations in other interesting ways, by the way: What if the average life expectancy of only females was 15, but for males it was about what it is now in the US, for example? Or what if it was the other way around, with males being very short-lived and females having 80 years? But anyway, I agree with the thrust of your question, which is that there is no "natural necessity" in this social arrangement, as we know it.

Can a person love their country in the manner that those that claim to love

Can a person love their country in the manner that those that claim to love their country love it? For the sake of the question any country is relevant.

I think so. Love is so arbitrary anyway that it is difficult to set limits for it. It might be said that it is ridiculous to claim to love a country since one might have been born a citizen of some other country, but then we do not think it is ridiculous to love a particular person, even though we might not have met that person in which case presumably we would have fallen in love with a different person.

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!

I recently watched a documentary about a family torn apart by horrific acts of

I recently watched a documentary about a family torn apart by horrific acts of pedophilia. Moreover, a father and a son plead guilty to multiple counts of rape and sodomy. Yet, the rest of the family who had no part in the sexual abuse whatsoever, and had no idea that it was even happening, still supported their convicted family members. Yet, I have a friend who's father disowned her for simply marrying a man of a different race. She was Caucasian and he was African American. I guess my question is in regards to the morality of disowning family members. Is it ever okay to discontinue a relationship with a loved one and if so, under what circumstances?

was that documentary about the long island family, where it seemed pretty evidne that the charges were trumped up? (if so, amazing documentary ....) ... anyway i just posted an answer to a question about the possibiilty of truly unconditional love, which seems relevant here ... so check it out, when you have a moment! ...

best, ap

is there really such a thing as unconditional love? you love a person simply

is there really such a thing as unconditional love? you love a person simply because of who he/she is, not because of what he/she can do or give to you. a love without expectations from the others person. ?

why wouldn't that be conditional: you love the person on hte condition that s/he who she is ... does that imply that if she changes in any way she may not be loveable? true unconditional love would be stronger than that: you love a being because it is a being (not even a kind of being) .... maybe that very strict version is implausible (one can't speak of others but it seems doubtable that any one human being has the capacity for this kind of love) -- is it what (say) committed christians at least strive for (don't now)? -- but weaker versions (eg you love your child no matter how awful he ends up behaving), again i can't speak for others but i know that kind of love can be approximated, as it's clear to me that i love my children even when i'm furious with them over things they do -- such love doesn't mean always feeling lovlingly towards them, of course, just loving them -- but where the limits are, i don't know (if God forbid my kid becomes a murderer, rapist, sociopath....?)

hope that's useful


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?

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.

Is it unethical to not tell your date that you are not interested in a long term

Is it unethical to not tell your date that you are not interested in a long term relationship with them until they start developing feelings for you?

This would really depend on the expectations one's conduct gives rise to. These are initially the expectations that it would be reasonable to have in the society and subculture in question. Thus, if a college student from Montana is spending spring break in Florida and there dating someone from Oklahoma, for example, then the reasonable expectation would be that the relationship is a fling that will not lead to a long-term relationship. On the other hand, if two young Amish people from neighboring villages in Pennsylvania are dating each other, then the reasonable expectation would be that they are contemplating a life-long bond. Most cases obviously are somewhere in-between in that it is somewhat unclear what counts as normal in the relevant context.

It is helpful here that, as the dating proceeds, the two persons may learn a lot about each other and, in particular, about each other's actual expectations. These may differ from the reasonable expectations, which are (roughly speaking) based on statistical probabilities. Our college student from Montana may find to her surprise that her date from Oklahoma is looking for a long-term relationship. That Oklohoma student may harbor the false belief that most college students spending spring break in Florida are looking for a lasting relationship or may harbor the false belief that she and the Montana student share the conviction that dating is meaningful only when there is the firm hope for a long-lasting relationship. Once this dawns on the Montana student, she ought to clarify the situation even if her partner's expectation is, under the circumstances, quite unreasonable. Failing to do this, she would be knowingly misleading the student from Oklahoma.

In other words, it is OK not to tell so long as you have good reason to believe that your partner already understands. In case of doubt, do tell or at least try to find out more about your partner's expectations.