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Objectively, is a single person more free than one in a romantic relationship?

Suppose I make a promise to you. Then I've taken on a commitment. If I promise to drive you to the airport at 2:00 tomorrow, then I'm not free to do something else at 2:00 tomorrow. That is, I'm not free if I take my promise seriously. Of course, in another sense I'm free as a bird: I could just break my promise. Insofar as I'm not free, it's because I've bound myself, so to speak. But unless you've extracted the promise under duress, I took on the commitment freely, and taking on and keeping commitments is one of the ways we exercise and demonstrate our freedom. There's not just one thing we mean when we say someone is free. If you're locked up, you're not free to leave for external reasons. If you don't have certain capacities, then for internal reasons, you're not free to do things that call for them. (In that sense, I'm not free to sing the high F in the Queen of the Night's aria from the Magic Flute.) And then there's not being free because of restrictions you impose on yourself by choice. But...

Is it right to value the life of a family member over a random person of equal moral values?

It depends on what you mean. I'd be mistaken if I thought that members of my family were more valuable or worthy than other people just because they're my family. In the general scheme of things, my children's well-being is not a bit more important than the well-being of anyone else's children. The same goes, of course, for parents, siblings, spouses, lovers, friends, fellow citizens. But I have a feeling that's not the question you're asking. Im guessing you're asking whether it's okay to treat one's own family, friends, etc. preferentially. In some cases the answer is no. Suppose I'm in charge of hiring a new employee. It would be wrong to hire my daughter instead of another candidate simply because she's my daughter. That would be giving my daughter an unfair advantage. The right thing to do, if at all possible, would be to turn the decision over to someone who doesn't have a personal stake in the outcome. On the other hand, to use a sort of example well-known among philosophers, if I have to...

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...

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 . ...

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...

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...

Let's stipulate: adultery isn't always immoral. You're pitching the idea that it's usually not immoral ("mostly moral," as you put it.) Your argument, however, doesn't seem to me to be strong enough for that conclusion. Start with something obvious: when people get married, they make promises to one another. Typically, one of those promises is a promise of faithfulness. Not all promises are binding in all circumstances, but in general promise-breaking isn't morally trivial. And encouraging people to break promises isn't trivial either. But set that aside. Let's suppose that adultery is the result of a biological urge, as you say. Since morality often calls for us not to act on our urges, that doesn't tell us much. Your legal/sociological analysis strikes me as a bit thin, but I'm more worried about this: "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...

I've been going around asking people what the most important part of marriage and love is. The two I always hear the most are communication and patience. But is there actually a correct answer? Are some aspects in a relationship more important than others? Is a romantic relationship possible if there is no affection? No sex?

I'd say most of what you're asking isn't something that philosophers have any special insight into—at least if "important" means "most likely to make for success." When it comes to questions about how daily life actually works, philosophers are in the same boat as everyone else. I suppose someone might say that we can make a distinction between what's likely to work best and what's most important in some not-merely-practical sense. Philosophers might then have something to say, but I find it hard to image that there'd be a single compelling answer. Your last question, however, did pique my curiosity: could there be a romantic relationship without sex or affection? That's a conceptual matter, and is therefore the sort of thing that spins philosophers' wheels. A romantic relationship without sex is clearly possible. Couples who are "saving themselves for marriage" provide lots of examples. And it might be that many people would call an ongoing sexual relationship a romantic relationship even if...

Is it wrong to fall in love and have a relationship with your first cousin even if you did not grow up together and met as adults? There are many taboos about this kind of relationships and some cultures see it as a very bad thing and others don't. I am very curious to know what philosophers have to say about this.

On the one hand, there are no doubt good reasons for incest taboos. For one thing, family life might become hopelessly complicated if sexual liaisons between first-degree relatives were common. To that we can add that when close relatives have children, the risk that their child will have birth defects goes up, and to that we can add further that if such situations became common, there might be unfortunate effects on the genetic variability of the larger population. That said, your first cousin is not a first-degree relative. Furthermore, the fact that a practice would be problematic if everyone engaged in it doesn't mean that it's automatically wrong. After all, if everyone were to practice celibacy, the human race would die out. But even if you think that would be a bad thing, you presumably don't think it means that no one should decide to be celibate. More relevantly: while it's true that when first cousins have children the risks of birth defects increase somewhat, the increase is on a par with...

Is it wrong to feel happy because someone, who I have no feeling for, love me? And is it wrong to enjoy the good things, like his gifts and his caring, and crave for more, when I have no intention in having any relationship with him? In fact, I love someone else.

Let's start with a distinction between your feelings and your actions. I might be flattered that someone is in love with me; the feeling isn't wrong by itself. But if I lead the person on when I don't feel the same way about them, that's another matter. So the question is: are you taking advantage of him? There are a couple of obvious things to ask. If the tables were turned, how would you feel about what was going on? And as things actually stand, how do you think he'd react if he found out how you really feel? That second question is the really important one. If you suspect he'd be unhappy that you're accepting his gifts and attentions even though you don't love him and love someone else, then it's pretty obvious: you're using him as a means to your own ends. That's wrong. Of course there's another possibility: the fact that you enjoy not just his gifts but also his attention and care could mean that there's a difference between the way you say you feel about him (even to yourself)...

Why would someone want to be loved other than selfish reasons or to boost their ego?

We could dream up some strange scenario in which I want to be loved by someone - Robin, say - but only because if Robin loves me, this will (somehow!) produce some good result that doesn't benefit me personally. I leave it as an imaginative exercise to construct such a story. But that's presumably not what you have in mind. So let's think about more ordinary cases. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I read the tone of your question as dismissive - as suggesting there's something neurotic or self-absorbed about wanting to be loved. And no doubt there's a real worry here. Being obsessed with what other people think of us isn't healthy and worrying about whether we're loved can be not just neurotic but also a way of making it less likely that we will be. But wanting to be liked or loved can also be an inevitable part of something that it's not at all neurotic. Friendship, most of us find, is a real human good. So is a healthy romantic relationship. So is a warm bond between parent and child. If I like you and...

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