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Is kissing a person on the lips other than one's spouse cheating? What about not

Is kissing a person on the lips other than one's spouse cheating? What about not on the lips? Does location really matter when it comes to kissing? I don't think it does, and even when it comes to major slip ups as much as penetrative sex, I don't think that's cheating either because promises are but a CONDITIONED vow of not doing any of those things. Because promises between a couple are usually not very precise unless lawyers are involved, I think the greater subject of importance is whether the other person FEELS betrayed and whether there are romantic feelings beyond sexual ones. A condition/promise, I think, even in marriage, is, "I love you so long as you fulfill and do such and such...conditions according to MY needs of such and such." So in other words, because you slept with another person, that does not mean you do not love me, but it does mean you do not love me "to the best of your ability" and so "I would like to change that fact." Do philosophers care for human feelings?

In answer to your first question ("Is kissing a person on the lips other than one's spouse cheating?"), the very idea of "cheating" (conceptually) involves breaking a rule or agreement or promise, and so kissing someone other than one's spouse on the lips would be cheating if you had an agreement (explicit or implicit) that one would only kiss one's spouse on the lips, just as you would be cheating if you cried or laughed or sung a particular song with another person if you had promised only to do so with one's partner / spouse.

Before moving to your suggestion about promises, a brief note: I am a little curious about the example you give of kissing as there are many cultures (I have no idea how many) when kissing another person (who is not one's spouse) on the lips is not at all unusual or thought to be even remotely sexual (and thus a domain in which sexual fidelity would not be an issue). Actually, in the first two centuries of Christianity in Europe, unmarried men and women would regularly kiss on the lips during religious services in what was called "the exchange of the peace" though apparently this practice eventually needed some regulation for by the third century you can find precepts that the kissing should not involve open mouths and nor should the kissing be repeated multiple times during the same service! Thinking about this a bit more....I believe that (in general) it is quite common in many cultures for adults to kiss their children and other relatives and good friends on the lips without there being any implications about sexuality and thus not a matter of sexual fidelity.

Over to your suggestion about vows..... Your example of a vow or promise is: "I love you so long as you fulfill and do such and such...conditions according to MY needs of such and such..." As I acknowledged at the outset, these are private matters and there is no official philosophical policing of vows.... Still, I suggest three things are worth considering (and these might be more of a reflection of my personal dispositions rather than reflecting "objective values"): first, in entering a committed relationship though the testimony of "I love you" I suggest there is a kind of self-offeirng. Your are giving yourself, and your needs... over to the other, and he / she is giving him or herself over to you. So the promise is not, first and foremost, about "MY" needs as "OUR LIFE" together. Second, while it seems natural and expected that a marriage or relationship commitment would be conditioned on "the other" (it would hard for me to stay married to my spouse if she chose to divorce me and marry a lesbian), but loving each other is another matter. I hope my promise to love my spouse is unconditional even if she ceases to be my spouse and expressing my love for her becomes something entirely different than it is now. Third, over to promises and kissing...... If we set aside the many conditions in which kissing a non-spouse on the lips is permissible and expected in many circumstances .... let's let the focus be on the following:in a relationship in which one has promised to be faithful sexually with one partner, but the promise has been a bit vague (for example, there is no fine print on whether it is unfaithful to hold hands with a person who might be a potential love-interest outside the primary relationship). Under those conditions, I suggest a faithful partner would err on the side of being extra careful that one's actions with others do not send the message of (or actually express) desiring "to cheat." Intimate trust is such an achievement that can take years to develop... why risk it by doing acts that might well be interpreted by one's partner as sending the message that one more committed to having one's own needs met even if this means severing a committed relationship rather than seeking to have your and her needs met in the relationship you both entered through the door of promising to love one another?

Some time ago I came to know about two horrible stories that happened in my city

Some time ago I came to know about two horrible stories that happened in my city, one leading to the death of a young child, the other about a 12-year old raped by a 16-year old. Of course, events like these happen everywhere, all the time. We know about major wars and famines, but horrible suffering is happening somewhere at any time. My question is how should we (people who have more or less privileged lives) live with it? I'm not interested in religious answers or worldviews. I guess trying not to think about other people's suffering is not an acceptable response. The other extreme attitude, to go and try to fight suffering where you're more needed, with all your means, is something for saints, not something you could tell everybody to do. The problem is that intermediate ways also seem disrespectful towards those who are suffering most, and if they are the only possible reactions they should still leave us unhappy.

Very tough questions that have implications for any person who knows of situations you describe --and those situations that are more extreme as well as those involving less violence. You note that you are not interested in a response that appeals to world views or religious teachings on such matters. I accept this constraint in offering a reply. There are various factors that come into play in thinking through the cases you note --I will put this in the plural form as your questions concern so many of us:

Are WE in any sense responsible if only through neglect or not taking any action to secure the safety of the cities or places where we live for these crimes --or wicked or tragic events? If we are guilty or at least not clearly innocent then I suggest we have some responsibility to care for the victims or, in the cases you cite when there are deaths, to care for the families of victims and their immediate communities. And I suggest that, if we are indirectly responsible for these tragedies we have a comparable or at least equal obligation to work to insure that the victimizers who directly did these crimes are identified and punished or treated or constrained so that they are not able or unlikely to commit further acts of violence. I write about those who directly did these crimes to distinguish their role as agents from ours as bi-standers or those who have been negligent in allowing such horrors to occur. I believe this judgment about our obligations is widely supported by most secular theories of responsibility and justice, and it would receive overwhelming support from a variety of world views and religious ethical traditions --which you have asked to be off limits in this exchange.

If you and I or we are NOT indirectly responsible, I suggest we would still have an obligation to do the above, but this would be slightly less than absolutely decisive and unavoidable. For example, imagine that we are doctors who are spending all our time and resources to fighting ebola, and none of the cases of ebola involve murder, rape or direct criminal acts. In this case, our obligation to continue working to combat ebola might trump our obligation to address -personally address and redress-- the cases you cite. Though if we doctors were in a cases where we INDIRECTLY enabled such crimes, then I suggest we would have an obligation to take action to correct this. So, imagine that those we cure of ebola have been largely those who are criminals and, upon being released from quarantine, they commit acts of rape and murder. It may not be obvious what we should do about this, but surely we cannot ignore our role in helping victimizers rather than victims and reverse our practice in some way.

In general, in cases when we do take action, we might have to consider what is truly motivating or should motivate us into action... Are we principally concerned to preserver our innocence or our not being blame-worthy? Or are we driven simply to do the right thing? Or should we consider the heroic what you were referring to as the saint's example of doing the thing that should be done, even if it is beyond the line of duty and involves our shouldering a burden or taking risks that others who could do the same do not do?

I know that simply raising the question about what sort of question should vex us is hardly the most helpful reply, so I will cut to the chase: I propose that all of us and hence each of us-- who are in a situation where we know of the rape and death you mention and cases like that are under an obligation to take action in preventing future crimes and caring for victims -and we are indecent if we refrain from doing so. I confess that my reasons are not entirely secular, but whether you are part of a religious tradition that teaches one should care for the vulnerable the tradition I belong to puts this in terms of loving one's neighbor as oneself' there are a great many examples of when individuals do SOMETHING --even if not, taken alone, it seems insignificant this can sometimes cumulate into making a cooperative, significant difference. In the city I live in, when food and shelter were in short supply several years ago during a dangerous winter, a single person made sandwiches and went round asking well-off citizens to donate their clothes that he then gave to the homeless. At first, his act seemed so slight as to be as absurd as trying to stop a dangerous, out-of-control forest fire by throwing a cup of water on the oncoming flames. But, his action was noticed. Within less than two months a virtual army of volunteers had joined him and they worked not just on sandwiches and clothes but on shelters. I am not that person, nor am I a saint. But the example of that man has led me to make greater donations than I would have and....who knows? Perhaps at some point you and I might be so inspired that we meet up when trying to make some important, practical, material changes in our communities to confront those horrible crimes that prompted you to write 'Askphilosophers' and for me to write this reply. The key, I think, lies in what you hint at in the question: surely not thinking about these hardships cannot be the answer or the best response. Moreover, if we conclude that each of us drop all other tasks to give our utmost to address these horrors, we are likely to end in despair or feel overwhelmed. Perhaps the answer lies in the person known for a while in my city as "the sandwich guy" is the true philosopher --literally the lover of wisdom philosophy coming from the terms for love and wisdom --do SOMETHING and while it at first seems insignificant, it might be the start of something beautiful.

The Philippines has recently experiences the most devastating storm, Yolanda, in

The Philippines has recently experiences the most devastating storm, Yolanda, in its history. The most affected areas of the country were wiped out and almost all sources of food and water became scarce. Looting became common in those areas. I honestly believe that stealing is wrong, but looting, which can be defined as stealing in the most extreme situations like those of life-and-death, seems a rather different case. My question then is this: is looting ever morally justified?

I express concern for all involved: the owners, looters, bi-standers.... I have experienced times of scarcity and turmoil, but I am keenly aware that I am reading and responding to you in a coffee shop where conditions seem peaceful and I worry about being presumptuous in addressing someone in the midst of great turmoil. I suggest that a good number of philosophers may well be right in thinking that there is little difference between looting and stealing, but some such as Hobbes, among others have held that in a state of nature when there is a collapse of government and no sovereign power to impose limits which all subjects might agree to, it is "every person for him or her self." I suggest that such a reliance on government or contracts to provide a foundation for obligations and rights is implausible --that is, it cannot actually provide a moral duty for each person or citizen to comply with what is contracted or agreed upon and it also cannot do justice to a basic, intuitive sense we have of property. That is, if someone has acquired goods through free trade and without committing injustice and. let us add, the person has not been exploitive or acquired an obscene monopoly over the vulnerable that person seems to have a right to those goods, whether or not the local government is solvent or not. So.... I side with those who would equate looting and stealing, but I suggest another point needs making. Some leading philosophers, from Thomas Aquinas to John Locke, have held that there is something wrong perhaps, for them, it would be a sin, in terms of a violation of our duty to God, for persons to retain their property rights WHEN THEY HAVE SURPLUS GOODS AND THOSE GOODS ARE NEEDED FOR OTHERS IN ORDER TO LIVE. So, while most of us probably think that giving voluntarily to those in need when we have surplus think of this as a matter of justice, Aquinas and Locke and others appear to hold that it is unjust to sit on one's property rights when others need goods to live. So, in terms of your question*s* when in conditions of serious hardship and emergency, and the rule of law seems to be on edge, I think a just person should respect property rights. Though this would allow following Aquinas and Locke that the respect for property rights is compatible with giving greater respect and weight to the obligation of those with surplus to give to those in need in conditions of extremity.

Forgive me this long answer, but I wish to add one more thought: while I personally side with Aquinas and Locke on what the wealthy or property owners should do in conditions of extremity and need, it is another thing to endorse the view that if someone should not make their surplus available to those in need, it is permissible for those in need to take those needed goods when the "owners" refuse to do their duty. The matter is very tricky.... You cannot steal what is yours. This was brought to light in a clever moment during a recent meeting of the faculty of my philosophy department St. Olaf College with a member of the faculty of our neighbors, the Carleton College philosophy department. Jason Decker of Carleton a brilliant philosopher whom everyone who reads this should contact on matters of epistemology, the nature of rational disagreement and more asked me: "Can I steal this apple?" I had to answer "no" and so he took the apple and enjoyed its contribution to a fun lunch. He could have asked "Was this apple purchased jointly by both our colleges?" or "Is St. Olaf College providing apples to Carleton philosophers?" or more simply "Is this apple ours?" He did not have to. The fact that he could not steal it meant it was his to enjoy. The analogy with your situation is far from obvious for we were in Northern Minnesota under safe conditions, but I like to think that if we were in your country under extreme conditions and Jason and I had lots of apples and you asked whether you would mind if you stole or looted us, I think Jason and I would have responded that you could neither steal or loot the apples, for what we do not need......are for those in need for the eating....

Is it equally, less, or more immoral for a husband/boyfriend to cheat on his

Is it equally, less, or more immoral for a husband/boyfriend to cheat on his wife/girlfriend than vice versa? Is ethics solely an exercise in logic or is there room for socio-psycho-evolutionary factors?

You have raised a question that goes to the heart of one of the most serious relationships: what is the moral role of fidelity and respect in terms of sexual relationships? For many of us in 'the west' the 'cheating' would be equally wrong for a male or female. Just as it would be equally wrong for a male or female to cheat in other areas of life to steal money from innocent children it would seem to be equally wrong for either to cheat on each other. But there are different social, cultural expectations that come into play in some places today that reflect an old, patriarchal bias that tends to look more strictly at cases of adultery or infidelity involving females rather than males. I suggest that there is no viable ethical or religious or evolutionary ground for this imbalance or unfairness today. So, while I suspect that any justification that gives greater allowance to the male is a reflection of distorted values, a perversion of a mature religion or simply bad anthropology, it should probably be conceded that there are some social contexts today in which male fidelity is regarded as especially noble, a reflection of good judgment involving greater, intentional resolve, than female fidelity, owing to the greater expectations and opportunities in some social contexts for males to violate their promises of fidelity. From my point of view, this is regrettable. TO BE CLEAR, I do not think it is regrettable that women do not have equal expectations and opportunities for infidelity as males have in such contexts! An ideal society, in my view, would not be one in which all couples of whatever gender are encouraged to form lasting commitments to fidelity and then encouraged to have optimal opportunities to betray each other in ever more tempting, exciting conditions! But...... allow me one more paragraph about the special bond of sexual fidelity and why one should treat male and female fidelity and infidelity in the same way, irregardless of whether one's society is sexist.

Consider two kinds of relationships: one in which persons are boyfriend and girlfriend, and the other involving marriage.... I imagine that in the first case there is sometimes an assumption of fidelity or monogamy but not a solemn vow and maybe at most a general agreement about honesty. I suggest that the dishonesty involved with cheating at that stage in life would be on the same level of seriously lying to one another --a likely element, presumably, in most cases of "cheating" otherwise why would we call it "cheating"? But once there is a solemn vow as in marriage or the equivalent it seems that there is a more grave wrong, requiring confession, repair, forgiveness, reconciliation, if the relationship is to survive and perhaps even in the best case even become stronger and deeper for both parties loving each other enough for there to be reconciliation. When one takes seriously the potential beauty or ugliness of how this intimate relationship, protected and bound by vows, is lived out, I suggest that the two parties are first and foremost equally answerable to each other and not to the social institutions and patters of life around them. So, in most cases of marriage, the vow of fidelity is made between the persons. For those of us in different religious traditions, the vows may be made "in the presence of God" or the families or communities, but these in many if not most are cases in which the vows are WITNESSED. For Christians, for example, there may be a prayer that God would bless the marriage and grant strength and grace for their flourishing, but the vows are made between the persons who marry. Thus, if I betray my husband, I am not betraying a vow to God or my family or community. I am betraying him. In this sense, I suggest that even in a sexist society that might grant more "freedom" to one gender or the other, "society" is not the thing that persons make vows to when joining together to form an intentional relationship. It is, I suggest, within that intentional relationship of the two persons who have made promises to one another that the morality or immorality of each other's actions, motives, desires, and intentions will be forged.

Are moral theories subject to the principle of falsifiability? thanks

Are moral theories subject to the principle of falsifiability? thanks Luca from Italy

Dear Luca from Italy- When the topic of a principle of falsifiability came into philosophy in the 20th century it was used principally in reference to empirical experiences or observations that involved the senses or were derived from the senses. So, the question of whether a moral theory was shown to be false or might be shown to be false was a question about whether we might be able to make the kinds of observations that would expose the falsehood of an empirical claim about the radioactivity of some material. In that sense, I suppose it needs to be appreciated that moral theories are in a different category, and yet there might be and I suggest that there are different kinds of observations and experiences that can expose problems with moral theories. Some, but not all, philosophers believe that we have experiences of what is truly valuable intrinsically valuable as opposed to experiencing what may be valuable but only with respect to passing interests and desires. Arguably, my enjoying a pasta dinner which I just did while reading your question was valuable, but its value is measured largely in terms of taste and, unless I was starving and it was the only food source available, its value pales in comparison with the recognizing the value of respecting the fundamental rights of other human beings and I think many non-human animals. So, one way to approach moral theories is with the set of experiences that many of us have of the importance of human life, our intuitive sense of when persons are being treated fairly and justly versus exploited and so on. Some philosophers think that we only get these intuitions because of our already assuming some moral theory, but I suggest we consider that this is not the case. Arguably, we have some settled, but perhaps revisable set of experiences we can bring to our study of moral theories and consider whether these theories are in radical conflict with what we seem to know in experience. A common charge -which may or may not be devastating to the theory is that utilitarianism conflicts with what we appear to know in our common sense moral experiences and practices. If that turns out to be true, that could be a good reason to think that utilitarianism is false --or unfitting or unsatisfying....

Stepping back a bit, your question seems to me to be very good one. It suggests you are not the sort of person who is content with thinking about moral theories only in the abstract or as theories. You may share with many of us the desire to test and use moral theories in experience and to find ways of identifying the theories that wind up blinding us to the values around us versus identifying the one or more theories that truly shed light on what we do and should believe and do. I will add another suggestion: a moral theory that does not itself include some kind of invitation for us to test it may be regrettable .... I am not saying that such a theory would necessarily be false, but it would be more helpful than not if theories in the realm of ethics and mind and religion and so on should be constructed and tested for truth or falsehood or tested for being fitting or unfitting in experience.

I just finished watching Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, and it was easily

I just finished watching Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, and it was easily amongst the top five of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. I use the word "beautiful" because any other superlatives like "great" doesn't seem to reflect the aesthetic dimension. In fact, if the film had been entirely non-fictional and the cameras had captured real actual events of sexual torture, I would not think any differently of it. Does one's taste of the beautiful reflect upon the viewers morality and is that important? Is beauty more important than morality or vice versa?

I don't know the film , but on many accounts of beauty one should separate ideas of morality from those of aesthetic appreciation. We can often find something beautiful yet also disgusting, although it is not easy to keep these two responses separate from each other. This does not mean that beauty is more important than morality but that we can suspend our principles in one area when we are concentrating on the other. Often that involves concentrating on some aspect of the object while ignoring its wider implications, which would perhaps put it within some other and less agreeable context. It might be said that the more sophisticated one becomes aesthetically, the more one is able to dissociate judgments of beauty from those of morality.

I am recently disturbed by the claim of George Carlin's about race. He said that

I am recently disturbed by the claim of George Carlin's about race. He said that we should not be proud of our race or nationality because we did not choose them. It's like being proud of our sex, when we neither choose to be either male or female. It is something that was given to us, but something we have no option to choose. He further said that we should only be proud of those things which we have worked hard for. Is his claim correct?

I think part of the problem is that there isn't just one sense of "proud." Sometimes when we say we're proud of something, we mean that it's an accomplishment that we deserve credit for. One mark of this kind of pride is that it would make sense for someone else to be proud of us on this account. If someone wins a prestigious academic prize, for example, she might be proud of herself, but it would also make sense for her friends and family to be proud of her. On the other hand, if someone says he is (for example) proud to have been born in Cuyahoga County, it makes no sense for someone else to say "Benji, I'm proud of you for having been born in Cuyahoga County."

There's not much mystery here, but there are some distinctions. Think about Gay Pride. If someone says "I'm gay and I'm proud," at least part of what they're saying is "I'm gay and I'm not at all ashamed."

There's more to it than that. It's also a way of claiming an identity. Interestingly, in that sense there can actually be an element of accomplishment. Someone might struggle with their sexuality (or their race or their national origin...) But they might come out of that struggle comfortable in their own skin and willing to claim their origin or their race or their sexuality as part of their identity. The claim of pride in that case isn't exactly a way of taking credit for the psychological accomplishment, but it may reflect that accomplishment all the same.

Being of proud of having been born in Cuyahoga Country (or New York City or on a farm in Nebraska...) may seem a little sillier at first, but people do talk this way and rather than saying that they're confused, it makes more sense to say that if enough people use language this way, it tells us something about the things we actually mean by the word "proud." I may not have to struggle to feel proud of being from Canada, but if I think of Canada as a fine and noble place, then the fact that I'm from there might mean something special to me, and the kind of thing it means is something we find very natural to express using the word "proud." It's easy to come up with similar examples. Suppose someone in my department has publicly taken a courageous stand on some important issue. It feels entirely natural to say to her "That took guts. I'm proud to be your colleague."

Carlin's point is clear. We can't take credit for being black or gay or Armenian-born, and some ways of claiming pride are despicable. There's a lot that's disturbing in the phrase "white pride." It's a not-very-veiled way of saying one is superior to people who aren't white. We can agree with Carlin that we should steer clear of that kind of "pride." But pride isn't any one thing, and being proud isn't always a way of taking credit.

Is there any way to ultimately resolve, by reason or evidence, the conflict

Is there any way to ultimately resolve, by reason or evidence, the conflict between moral relativism and moral realism? Reading about this issue makes me feel unsure about the real status of morality. Any suggestion would help.

If by "ultimately resolve by reason or evidence" you mean "offer reasons or evidence sufficient to get everyone to accept one side of the debate," then an ultimate resolution of any issue seems very unlikely, just as a matter of social psychology. If, instead, you mean "discover reasons or evidence sufficient to make up my own mind about this issue," then I hold out much more hope. I recommend starting with the SEP entries on moral realism, moral relativism, and moral anti-realism if you haven't yet read them. Each contains detailed discussion and lots of citations to further reading.

When assessing criticisms of any view, it's of course essential to be as clear as possible about the content of the view being criticized and to make sure that the view being criticized is one that's actually held rather than a "straw man."

What's the source of the authority that parents commonly have over their

What's the source of the authority that parents commonly have over their children? For example, sayings like "My house, my rules" suggest that children and parents have a kind of agreement: in exchange for the food and shelter which their parents provide, children agree to follow orders. However, I'd guess that most people wouldn't really want to endorse this kind of justification. What then?

But normally we do regard ourselves as liable to respect the rules of whoever is offering us hospitality. This is not absolute of course, and children might see themselves as in a different position. They did not after all ask to be born, although after being born it is no doubt convenient for them to have somewhere to live and someone to provide for their food and general supplies. Once they have reached an age where they can make their own decisions about where they are to live we can ask them to accord with the policies of the care provider, or else.

Not that such a request is likely in most cases to be met by anything other than contempt, but it is always worth trying, I suppose.

Dear sir/madam

Dear sir/madam I would really appreciate it if you could help me please with finding the name of some books about early concept of the relation of art and morality. what I mean is after Plato and Aristotle to the time of Kant. Or if it is possible, please give me some names of philosophers during that time and then I'll try to find their books. I want to work on the early relation of them and later show how and why they became some how separate in later years. I guess Kant has the most effect on it but I still need more resources.

I wish you all the best in your research and thinking about art and ethics. Here are some contemporary thinkers you would find engaging: Noel Carroll --his "Moderate Moralism" (originally published in the British Journal of Aesthetics in 1996 is not the "latest" but Carroll is a clear, engaging writer and he references some of the contributors to the issues at hand. Jerrold Levinson has an excellent anthology on aesthetics and ethics, Berys Gaut is another philosopher of interest, and Martha Nussbaum has probably been the most well published contributor seeking to tie moral education together with literature.

In terms of early modern work, the "sentimentalists" (those who sought to understand both beauty and goodness) such as Hutchison would be good to investigate.

I have a short book "Aesthetics: A Beginner's Guide" that addresses the relationship of ethics, beauty and excellence or the value of art.

One reason for thinking that ethics trumps our concept of the autonomy of art (that is, thinking about the arts as quite independent of ethics) is that certain so-called "works of art" involving violence agains innocent persons would be described by most people as "crimes" "atrocities" "murder" rather than "works of art" or "works of art that involve unjust, criminal acts"... Imagine OJ Simpson claimed that he did kill his wife and her friend but this was a work of art (a happening). If this was taken seriously and art journals like Art in America ran reviews of the murder in terms of the event's aesthetic features, I think most people would think it was a bad joke or a matter of irony or, if serious, the magazine should be re-named Crime in America or Confused in America or some such variant.