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Consider this scenario: I have been dating a woman for four months. Though, for

Consider this scenario: I have been dating a woman for four months. Though, for medical reasons, she is currently a considerable distance (over one thousand miles, at the moment) from me at the moment, we see one another very often when she is near. We get along very well and have grown very close; she is quite precious to me. We connect on an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level (she and I are atheists). In sum, I'm quite lucky to have someone like her. She is a rarity. There is a good chance that I will be transferring to a college roughly seven hundred miles from our current location. If I receive the scholarship required to attend the college, I would be a fool not to accept the offer. However, I would be leaving this person I have come to know, like, and admire so much. Committing to a long-distance relationship with this person would be difficult for both of us. I believe that I'm more than capable of doing this: my sense of honor would prohibit me from engaging in behavior that would...

Since you are a poet, I hope you will not be offended if I focus a bit on the nuances of the way you tell your story. You speak of "this person I have come to know, like, and admire so much." You say "I'm quite lucky to have someone like her. She is a rarity." You say "she is quite precious to me." I don't think this is the "poetry" of love. (Is it?)

Given what you say about your friend's serious medical condition, is it possible what you're feeling is deep friendship, concern, commitment, all very good things, but not exactly love? Maybe some clarity about your feelings would help you make the decision.

I'm not saying it would be simple, even with that clarification, but at least it would be a start. My gut feeling is that a great scholarship is not to be turned down, and both love and friendship can continue at a distance. But there's nothing irrational about putting your friend first, if that's what you think is best. I'd just make sure I moved forward in a clear-eyed way.

If you do decide to transfer, hopefully you can still be helpful, just as you are right now, from a distance of 1000 miles. Whatever you decide, this sounds difficult, and I wish you both the best.

I am a married man of 11 years with two children under 9 years. My wife and I

I am a married man of 11 years with two children under 9 years. My wife and I are on the verge of a divorce and are waiting until after the holidays and figuring out the logistics of the house, finaces and child care. Nine months ago I met a younger married woman and since then we have been having an affair. We talk, text, email almost every single day. We see each other once or twice a month sometimes 2-4 days at a time. The emotional, mental and physical realtionship we have is amazing. We are like bestfriends and lean on each other for daily life issues. While my marriage is over her marriage is just starting the process of needing to change things drastically or it is over forever. She has been married for 4 years and has no children so while there is not as much to worry about it is still a very hard decision and she is taking things day by day. There is no doubt that we love each other but we obviously know there are many obstacles. 1) we are married 2) I have two children and she has none (and I...

If you really want to take a philosophical approach to your situation, then there are all sorts of things to think about--the ethics of divorce, the special responsibilities we have to children, the ethics of having affairs, the nature of romantic love, as opposed to the love we feel for our children. If you look at all those issues dispassionately, you may very well have to conclude that you have a duty to at least try to repair your marriage and preserve your children's home. I suspect, from the way you ask the question, that you want the advice that having a soul mate is more important than anything else and worth fighting for no matter what. I'm afraid I can't think of any good reason to believe that's true.

Does involving the word 'love' alongside sex in a relationship make it worse to

Does involving the word 'love' alongside sex in a relationship make it worse to cheat than if it involves just 'sex' alone? I recently discovered my husband had a 7-month affair while working away during the week and he claims it is forgivable because he did not love her and it was 'merely sex'.

I think the problem with cheating is the cheating part. You and your husband made an agreement, presumably in good faith, that you would not do the very thing he did. I doubt if at the time he stipulated that he might have "merely sex," but would abstain from sex + love. So...he violated your agreement, and this gives you a reason to regard him as in the wrong. Period.

As to whether his violation is forgivable, I suppose it is. But that is entirely up to you--not up to him. He doesn't get to tell you that he deserves forgiveness--that adds presumption as an additional violation to the one he already committed. So the issue of forgiveness is yours to decide. He may ask for it; he may beg for it. But it is your decision entirely.

I can see how loving the other woman might have added to the offense (though I don't see how the addition would convert a "forgivable" offense into one that is unforgivable--because even had he loved her, you might reasonably determine that it was best to forgive him--after all, it would still be entirely your decision whether to forgive him or not). But I think the main issues here are two:

(1) He already violated your love (whether or not he loved the other woman), and the isssue that needs to be resolved is what you (and he) are going to do about that. So I think his trying to make the issue whether or not he loved her to be a case of misdirection--he's changing the focus from what is most important to something much less important.

(2) He seems to think he is in a position to command--or at least make a justified argument for--it being the right thing for you to do to forgive him. He is in no position to make such a command or argument, because it seems to me that you, as the wronged party, are entirely in charge of that issue. On this point, too, it sounds to me like he is trying to put one over on you. Were I in your shoes, I would regard his argument as making him less worthy of your forgiveness, on the ground that he doesn't seem to "get" the fact that he is the one wholly in the wrong here.

If you do decide to forgive him, then he should be humble and grateful. If you don't, then he should make his retreat knowing that once he did what he did, he lost any ground for telling you what you owed him. He owes you!!!

Is it always worse to be unfaithful by action (having an affair) or by thought

Is it always worse to be unfaithful by action (having an affair) or by thought (fantasising about a person)? An affair can last for a while without the adulterer's partner ever even knowing about it and when it's over the adulterer may, in some cases, have a more favourable regard for his/her spouse. However fantasising about a person can go on indefinitely and the spouse is then always compared unfavourably with the love object - and the person fantasising is perpetuating an "in love" state which will keep him/her somewhat detached from reality. What are your views?

Following up on what Prof. Solomon says, you might want some way to assess each case on its merits. So you might think about what makes an affair wrong. Is it the betrayal of the spouse, or the effects that the affair has on the spouse? Some people might think: if my spouse had an affair, then even if I didn't know about it, and even if it made him behave nicer to me in the long run (perhaps because he came to appreciate me more), it would still be wrong because he would have betrayed me. On this view, the betrayal is bad independent of any effects it has. But some people locate the very badness of the betrayal in its effects: my spouse treats me poorly, spends our money indiscriminately, etc.; maybe other people, treat me differently as a result of the affair (they might look down on me and think I'm a fool, etc. etc.) And of course, maybe the affair leads to a breakdown of the marriage, which has all sorts of devastating consequences...

Now, regardless of whether you think that the affair is wrong just in virtue of being a betrayal or is wrong because of its bad effects, you can think about the "fantasy affair" the same way. (I'm here assuming that the fantasy affair isn't just an occasional stray thought, but is a full-blooded fantasy, one that becomes a preoccupation of sorts.) Does the fantasy affair have bad effects on my spouse? Does the fantasy affair itself count as a betrayal? Depending on your answers, you can compare its badness to the badness of an actual affair.

In my own view, both the affair itself and the fantasy affair count as betrayals, and betrayal is a bad thing in and of itself, independent of any bad effects it might have. But I hope the above gives you something of a framework to think about your question (and perhaps it gives you something to keep your mind occupied, rather than leaving it free to wander in fantasy...)

"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.

Can a guy REALLY love you if he comments on other girls saying that they're cute

Can a guy REALLY love you if he comments on other girls saying that they're cute?

Well, of course he's going to notice cute girls. Love might make you blind, but not in that way. But it is, to say the very least, tactless to notice too obviously, let alone to point them out. I suppose his being an insensitive jerk might be compatible with his loving you ... in his way. But whether you want to love a jerk is another matter.

I'm struggling though to extract any philosophical juice from the question! I suppose we might, as philosophers, remark that the concept of love is surely analytically tied up with notions of care andconcern for another (love isn't just a "feeling"): so genuine love is incompatible with behaving in too uncaring a way,too unconcerned for the other's feelings. But is commenting on cute girls being "too uncaring" ... or is it just being a thoughtless idiot who can't join up the dots ("he's a man, honey")? Depends on the guy and how he comments, I guess.

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 feel a very great love for someone, but I'm not sure what kind of love it is,

I feel a very great love for someone, but I'm not sure what kind of love it is, and I'm worried that it might be the wrong kind of love. It has agapic elements in the sense that I want to do good for the person, but it is also rather erotic. Do you have any clear sense of whether there are any necessary and sufficient conditions by means of which I may decide this issue once and for all? Many thanks.

You shouldn't be committed to the classical distinction between Eros, Agape and Philia. These three forms of love are very often intertwined. You seem to oppose agape, an uninterested feeling of caring for the good of the other, to the erotic attraction. But what if your erotic feelings are good for the other person? Don't you think that your making this person a priviledged object of your own desire is good for her or him? It is very difficult to provide a philosophical definition of what "true love" is: Sure, a concern for the other, a possibility of projecting yourself and the other person in a shared future, the joy that accompanies a glimpse of a greater accomplishment of your ideal of a person, all these are ingredients that should be there when you fall in love. I think that love is not so different from trust: it is an accepted vulnerability, a way of opening yourself to the other that encourages him or her to reciprocate. It's a bet on a better life, or on a better "you" that you happen to share in an instant with another one: when you both realize that you've made the same bet, well, you're in love.

I cheated on my girlfriend with another girl for about a year. She doesn't know

I cheated on my girlfriend with another girl for about a year. She doesn't know about it, and is very happy with me. Besides that I am a very good boyfriend, and when we are together we are happy. Now, my close friends have told me that I should tell her what I've done, because it was wrong, and she has the right to know. I agree that it was wrong, and that she indeed has the right to know; however, I also feel that at this point, it is over with. She has never known, and is all the happier. Meanwhile, I am eaten up inside every day with guilt. I knew I shouldn't be doing what I was doing, but I did it anyway; I have no excuse, and what I did was wrong. If I told her what had happened, I would no longer feel guilty, but it would crush her. I would rather live my entire life feeling like the worst person in the world, if maybe she would never have to find out and go through that. I would never do what I did again, because I learned that under no circumstances is it worth it to cheat. Am I right...

This sounds like a classic "Consequentialist vs. Deontologist" dilemma. A consequentialist defines morally right action as whatever produces the best consequences. In this case, you predict that the best consequences will be produced by keeping your infidelity to yourself and resolving never to do it again. But a deontologist defines morally right action as whatever is required by duty, and if someone has a right, then there is a correlative duty binding someone somewhere. In this case, you acknowledge that your girlfriend has a right to know, which would entail your duty to tell her. So the consequentialist "right thing" and the deontological "right thing" are at odds.

Or are they? Perhaps your predicted consequences are incorrect. Your girlfriend may find out without you telling her, especially if several friends think she should know (things like this do happen, and not just in the movies). Then in addition to being crushed by your infidelity, she will be further hurt and alienated by your dishonesty. And not just dishonesty, but a deliberate and calculated kind that disrespects her as a person (she may well conclude that you've merely been using her for your own selfish purposes).

I've answered a similar question about a drunken one-night stand. There, I found it more difficult to identify "the right thing." But if I read your question correctly, you're talking about a clandestine extracurricular affair that went on for an entire year. At the risk of ruining anyone's image of philosophers as aloof and nonjudgmental, my answer is that you've not only wronged your girlfriend and continue to wrong her, but you've probably wronged the other party as well. You say your girlfriend is happy with you, but it seems more accurate to say she's happy with an illusion of you. I think most autonomous adults would prefer to forgo a false happiness (especially one crafted by the deceit of someone they trust) in favor of honest pain. Pardon me for saying so, but you OUGHT to be eaten up by guilt. Both the consequentialist and the deontological approaches suggest the same answer to your question: You are wrong.

At school we had a discussion about our motives to do certain things. The

At school we had a discussion about our motives to do certain things. The concrete example was Antigone. Antigone buries the corpse of her brother, which is against the law, and risks her own life by doing so. Finally she gets caught and is sentenced to death, but before that can happen, she kills herself. At first I thought this was the greatest love one can prove to another. But a classmate said everything we do has an egoistic motive. Antigone didn't bury her brother to give his soul rest, but to give herself a good feeling. My question is: What we experience as love, is it really caring about someone or just trying to feel better?

It is worth commenting further on that idea that "everything we do has an egoistic motive". We need to distinguish here a truism from a falsehood.

The truism is that, when I act, it is as a result of my desires, my intentions, my goals. After all, if my arm moves independently of my desires, e.g. because you want it to move and push it, then we'd hardly say that the movement was my action (it was something that happened to my body despite me).

But even if everything I genuinely do (as opposed to undergo) is as a result of my desires etc., it doesn't follow that everything I do has an egoistic motive. For to say that I do something for an egoistic motive is to say something about the content of my desires -- i.e. it is to say not just that the desires are mine but that the desires are about me or directed towards me or something like that. And it is just false that all my desires are like that. I can want to bring about states of affairs in which I just don't feature at all.

For example: I can want my grandchildren to have a tolerable world, and do what I can for global warming for their sakes. That is, to repeat the point, a desire of mine: but it isn't a desire for something for me (I won't be around long enough for things to get bad). It is a desire for something for them and for their contemporaries too. In no sense is that an egoistical desire. It doesn't have the right sort of content.

"Ah hah," says the cynic, "you don't get it, do you? When people think they are doing something for their grandchildren, that isn't really why they are doing it. They are actually doing it for some selfish reason -- they are doing it in order to feel good (or for some similar pay off for themselves)."

But there isn't the foggiest reason to suppose that that is true. Of course, since I want something badly for my grandchildren, I will be pleased with what tiny successes I might be involved in which might do something towards the fulfillment of my desires. And the occasional pleasurable feedback will no doubt help sustain my desire to fight the good fight. But what I want is the better world for my grandchildren, not the pleasurable feedback. (If an angel were to offer me the choice, modest real successes that I never knew about [so no feedback] vs. no real successes but occasional pleasurable illusions of success -- with my choice to be followed by instantly forgetting the angel's bargain -- I'd of course still choose the first. For it is the successes that I care about.)

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