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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

Would it be ethically sound to love a machine that is a perfect replica of a

Would it be ethically sound to love a machine that is a perfect replica of a human? For example. If it was impossible for anyone to tell the difference, would it be wrong? If this robot were programmed to have human feelings and think in a manner that is indistinguishable from a human, would it be moral to love them as though they were a human. (apologies if this is unclear, English is not my first language)

To get to the conclusion first, I think that the answer is yes, broadly speaking. But I'd like to add a few qualifications.

The first is that I'm not sure the root question is about whether it would be ethically right or wrong. It's more like: would it be some kind of confusion to love this sort of machine in this way? Suppose a child thinks that fancy stuffed animal really has feelings and thoughts, but in fact that's not true at all. The toy seems superficially to have emotions and a mind, but it's really a matter of a few simple preprogrammed, responses of a highly mechanical kind. This might produce strong feelings in the child—feelings that seem like her love for her parents or her siblings or her friends. But (so we're imagining) the feelings are based on a mistake: the toy is just a toy.

On the other hand, if an artificial device (let's call it an android) actually has thoughts and feelings and is able to express them and to respond to what people like us feel or think, then it's hard to see why it would be a confusion to have feelings for the android like the feelings we have to ordinary people. After all, we're supposing that the android has real feelings, possibly including feelings for us.

Put it another way: what you have in mind is an artificial person. The android would be a person because it really has the kinds of psychological characteristics that persons have. It would be an artificial person because it was designed and built rather than born and grown. Whether we'll ever be able to build such things is hard to say. We'd have to understand more than we do now about how matter, organized in the right way, gives rise to minds. But however that works, there's no clear reason to think it couldn't be replicated artificially.

All this said, the relationship between humans with a history of infanthood and childhood, and the looming prospect of old age and death, and, on the other hand, artificial creations with very different origins and prospects wouldn't be psychologically simple. That might have all sorts of implications, moral and otherwise, for what went on between us and them. But the main point is that highly intelligent creatures with complex feelings would deserve our moral consideration even if they were made and not born. And they would also be fit objects for our feelings, quite possibly including feelings of love.

One final note: fiction often does at least as good a job of exploring the issues here as philosophy. And though it's not directly on point, the recent Spike Jonze movie Her raises some interesting questions that you might enjoy pondering.

Is it ideal for a person to be in romantic love with someone that that person

Is it ideal for a person to be in romantic love with someone that that person doesn't find physically attractive? Beauty in my opinion is both skin deep and skin shallow--if beauty is only skin deep and impossible to ascertain without having a conversation, then that seemingly makes most of aesthetics pointless. Skin deep beauty seems to be a misnomer because it doesn't really refer to beauty at all but one's personality. Romantic love is unlike other forms of love in that there is usually a great deal of choice in selecting a partner not to mention the sexual component, so if given a choice between two people who have very similar amiable personalities, but one is more physically attractive, why would one choose to be with the other one? Men who go into relationships with women with no curves or large noses are just practicing a form of self-deception by denying that beauty has ideals.

There are several issues here. Let's see if we can disentangle them a bit.

First, "beauty is only skin deep." I take that to be a way of reminding us that physical beauty isn't the only thing we care about in our romantic relationships. And it isn't. If the most beautiful person in the world is also the meanest most miserable person in the world, that makes for poor romantic prospects. It's possible to dislike someone intensely and know that they're beautiful, and that's compatible with physical beauty being objective. It doesn't make any problems for aesthetic judgment.

That said, it's possible to think that some things or people really are more beautiful than others without thinking that for any two people or things, either one is more beautiful that the other or else they're equally beautiful. There may be things or people whose beauty can't be fully compared. One result may be that you don't find beautiful some things that I find beautiful, and there's no question of one of us being wrong.

Romantic relationships are partly matters of choice. So are friendships, for that matter, and romantic relationships, thankfully, are usually friendships as well. If someone is my friend, I don't just abandon them if someone "better" comes along. It's not just that I feel affection for my friends. I'm also committed to them. Commitments have a lot to do with the choices that are part of romantic relationships.

You ask why someone who could choose between two equally amiable people would choose the less physically attractive one. Maybe that kind of choice comes out in speed dating and pickup situations. But most romantic relations have more dimensions than that. There's nothing strange in the idea that two people might be equally agreeable, and yet I might prefer the less physically beautiful. I might be able to see that one person is "objectively" less beautiful than the other, and yet I might just like the less beautiful person more for any number of reasons or for no reason that I can articulate to myself. This does't make me self-deceived. Whatever "ideals" beauty has, they aren't the only things that go into romantic relationships.

(And by the way: you talk about men who are in relationships with women who aren't conventionally beautiful. I assume that if there's a real question here, it has nothing special to do with men.)

The only way I can feel any sense of paradox or puzzlement about the cases you raise is if I think about romantic attachment—about being in love—in a way that seems way too narrow to do justice to the actual thing. Let's agree: if you don't find someone physically attractive at all, you probably won't fall in love with them. But if you do fall in love with them, you'll probably start to see them in a different way than you did at the outset. They will literally look different to you. The real point, however, is that being in love is a complex business. (It may also be complicated, but that's a different point.) The way lovers feel about one another involves a lot more than whether they think their lover is beautiful. That's the way it is, but it's also something to be thankful for.

i loved a guy since one year..i felt he was my life and god.i was so true to him

i loved a guy since one year..i felt he was my life and god.i was so true to him and so he was.we were physically close.we had many dreams about our future,kids,etc.but an unexpected incident happened.his father came to know about our affair.he was completely against our marriage.he threatened his son that he would send him out of the house forever and never talk to him in his life time.we had no choice, but to break. all my dreams were shattered.if i remain unmarried in my life, i would suffer from lonliness, so , i decided to marry the guy shown by my parents(arranged marriage, as i am an Indian girl). Now the problem is, i am guilt struck , i feel that i am cheating the guy whom i am going to marry.i wont reveal to him about my past affair. He marries me with trust onn me and my family.but, i don’t deserve his trust.i feel that moving closely with a man other than my husband as a sin, but everything was unexpected. I believed strongly that i would marry the person i loved, hence i was close to him...

It is not unusual for there to be conflicts in life, and for us to have obligations to different people which cannot be reconciled. In that sort of situation you should expect whatever decision you take is going to leave you with regrets and doubts about whether you have done the right thing. I understand how guilt can arise here, and how inevitable such feelings are, but what is left out of your account is what would make you happy. You do have a duty to listen to the concerns of other people but many philosophers would say that you also have a duty to yourself to be happy. You might want to think seriously how in this situation your happiness is going to find a place, since it seems to me that the desire to be a martyr is likely to satisfy no-one in the long run.

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.

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.

I am in love with my brother's ex-girlfriend of 2 years. Over those 2 years, we

I am in love with my brother's ex-girlfriend of 2 years. Over those 2 years, we became best friends and I developed feelings for her. My question is, now that my brother and her are no longer together, is MORALLY wrong to start a relationship with her? Here is what I have considered: From what I have learned about objective morality/ethics I could follow the Golden Rule "Treat other as you would want to be treated". I have dismissed this on the basis that yes, if I were my brother I would be annoyed by my brother dating my ex, but I would also want my brother to be happy and, after weighing everything on both sides, I would concede to allowing my brother to do what makes him happy. If I take an egoistic approach, I probably wouldn't be asking this question because I would do what is best for me. If I take a utilitarian approach I would consider everyone I am affecting equally, and do what is best for the majority and in that case, I would harm one person (my brother) and do what's best for the majority ...

It's hard to see why it would be morally wrong. No doubt it would upset a few people for a while, but it's not clear that they'd be entitled to be upset. Beyond that. it's not clear what else might make it wrong. If both families are mortally opposed, then I suppose someone might say that one's obligation to one's family demands that you stay "just friends." But it's not obvious that we owe that sort of deference to our families' wishes, and it's certainly not obvious that our family members are entitled to make such demands on us.

Of course, I don't know the details of the story. Perhaps if I did, things would look different. But this brings me to what is the actual philosophical issue here. You say that you want the matter settled by reference to some "objective moral standard." But this makes me wonder: are you looking for some sort of derivation of the right answer from a maxim or two? There's not much reason to believe that moral wisdom works that way. The right thing to do is usually a matter of balancing different considerations. We think about who will get hurt. We think about long-term consequences. We think about loyalties we owe to other people. We think about fairness, kindness, courage. We think about whether we are being impulsive or whether we're being clear-eyed. And we may think about a good deal more. Theories like utilitarianism are attempts to tie all this up with a bow, but all such theories are controversial and post hoc.

Here's a nice quote I saw today. It's from C. D. Broad's Ethics and the History of Philosophy: "Moral philosophers, as such, have no special information not available to the general public, about what is right and what is wrong." Knowing moral theory or being able to cite abstract principles isn't even remotely guaranteed to make us better at sorting through complicated moral issues.

There is one question that seems relevant to all this, however: does this woman feel the same way about you that you feel about her? If not, the issue is moot. If so, then I'd think that there would need to be weighty reasons that you haven't mentioned to make it wrong for the two of you to begin a relationship.

Can we assume that our pet dogs feel love towards us?

Can we assume that our pet dogs feel love towards us?

There are numerous complex issues here in the philosophy of so-called animal cognition or comparative ethology, but it seems to me that the burden of proof is with anyone who says no. The same issue arises, clearly, for human beings. So if we say that we do not know that the beagle feels love when he wags his tail and bays a bit and licks us and even gives us little nips behind the ears, and is obviously happy - more than happy - to see us, and delights in our presence, why would we not say the same about the human being doing these things, or their non-beagle equivalents? It's no good saying that he's doing it because we feed him. The same is true in the human case, but the manner of feeding is different, as is what is fed. It is difficult to imagine an ant loving us, but I think that is because there is no demonstration of affection from ants, no licking or running round in circles and so on. They would be ignoring us, if they were human and doing what they do. None of this is an assumption, though; it seems to be more of a common sense observation, but one that ignores false philosophical paths.

Is adultery really immoral? The act itself is mostly legal, so why can't it be

Is adultery really immoral? The act itself is mostly legal, so why can't it be mostly moral? I'm a male bachelor, so I can only argue from my point of view. Adultery is a simple biological urge that manifests itself onto two persons, one or both of whom are married. Marriage today is becoming more and more a simple legal contract, routinely terminated and routinely redefined by judges and plebiscites. The ease with which marriages can be terminated either on paper or in practice is just a reflection of the fact that people often change in their feelings towards one another--love fades within marriage and sometimes erupts outside marriage. Making it with a married woman can be very thrilling and the same woman would not be equally exciting if she were single; the supposedly unavailable is always more desirable than the easily attainable. Married women accept advances because their husbands can no longer give them excitement, romance or adventure, so why not a net utilitarian gain for two people, and no...

Are there any secular arguments in favor of marriage as a moral good as compared

Are there any secular arguments in favor of marriage as a moral good as compared to common law or cohabitation arrangements? If not, does that mean marriage is no more than a cultural tradition or something for tax purposes?

There are such arguments, and they tend to be that marriage is the best framework to raise children. No doubt there are arguments on both sides of this, but if it is best for children to be brought up by married parents, that is some sort of moral argument for the institution.

On the other hand, marriage can also be an example of what is involved in keeping a promise, if that is the form of the marriage service, through thick and thin, as an ideal. When one sees a spouse looking after his or her partner even though Alzheimer's has taken the mind of the patient, one gets some idea of the nobility of the commitment which is supposed to last a lifetime of such a relationship.