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I am seeing a married man that had already started his divorce proceedings before we had our affair. His wife is a friend of mine and approves of our relationship because she still wants her husband around for advice and help but she is seeing other men and in fact has a stable relationship with one. I care for this man deeply and he has said he "loves me". From the beginning my guilt about being with a "married man" has haunted me from a religious point of view. I can't get around it. Now we are both in stressful situations where he is going to court (more than once because we are in Mexico and it takes a long time) and I am selling my house with a major issue with the closing. Since we have started to argue, I just want to break it up until his divorce goes through and my closing to get some breathing room. At this point, I don't even want to be with him. We were going to live together after I sold my house and feel this is a bad idea under the circumstances. In fact I feel my soul has been...

According to many (but perhaps not all) Christians and many secular philosophers (and persons of other faiths) marriage is fundamentally based on the vows that persons make to each other. So, for many Christians in the west, the church does not actually marry two persons; the church recognizes and proclaims (and blesses) the marriage. Insofar as "the married man" and his spouse have ended their vow (whether they think of this as breaking the vow or releasing each other from their vow), the marriage has ended, even if it is still a legal matter of divorce. One reason why the state has an interest in the legality of making and ending marriages is to protect persons from harm and insure fair benefits (e.g. see to it that there is proper child support and a fair distribution of property) that might not happen on a voluntary basis. Apart from such a legal matter, however, it sounds to me that the soul of his earlier marriage (so to speak) has been dissolved in virtue of the two of them releasing each other...

I'm leaning toward the position that there is little or no difference between advocacy and lying. Has any other philosopher discussed this in detail?

Check out Tom Carson's book Lying and Deception (Notre Dame University Press). It's brilliant. I am not sure why you are leaning to equate lying and advocacy. Maybe you have in mind the idea that when persons advocate for a cause or person they might be tempted to do *anything* on behalf of the cause or person. I will admit (and hope that my college administration is not reading this) that my advocacy on behalf of some students has led me to "stretch the truth" a bit (or lie), but this is rare! Check out Carson's book. It is brilliant.

A man has a full grain silo and he refuses to feed the starving village people who the starve to death. I know he’ll be absolved in a court of law but, isn’t it wrong to let people die when you have the means to save them?

Great question. You are right that, very often and in many places through history, there has been some reluctance to compel persons (through law) to save others when they are in a position to do so. This has included not just a reluctance to compel persons (as in your case) to provide food or other resources to aid others who would otherwise die from starvation, but compelling persons to physically aid others who are in peril (rescuing someone who is drowning, for example). Gradually, in the United Sates and elsewhere, there have emerged Good Samaritan Laws that require (and protect from liability) persons to make *some* effort to assist innocent persons in need (e.g. a passing health professional is expected to assist someone who has had a heart attack when no one else is available, and the professional knows basic means of reviving the victim), but these concern emergency situations. Be that as it may, there have been philosophers who prioritize the right to life over the right to property, opening the...

When assessing an act of violence, we tend to be less severe on violence committed in the heat of the moment than on premeditated violence, which we judge to be far more cruel. Yet, when we punish hot-blooded violence with the violence of, say, long-term imprisonment, we do so with premeditation. Are we therefore more cruel as judges than the criminals we condemn?

Great question! I suggest that premeditation may work in both cases in a parallel fashion. So, I propose that If we reach what turns out to be an unjust or wrongful punishment of someone (who is innocent) then the fact that we did so with great premeditation makes our wrongful decision worse than if we made a "heat of the moment" verdict. In the later case, imagine a police officer believes there is sufficient evidence that a person is armed, dangerous and putting innocent persons lives at risk, but this turns out to not be the case (the person is acting, and only simulating a school shooting with a realistically looking guns, but these are props). In such a "heat of the moment" event, an officer might be expected to act on her best judgment even if it turns out to be wrong. But in cases of premeditation --either in the use of force or in reaching verdicts in court-- I think we rightly expect there to be enough time for persons to scrutinize the evidence more thoroughly to reduce the risk of wrongful...

A common defense of an unethical act is to say, "If I didn't do it, someone else would." Let's say for the sake of argument that such a claim is true. Is it a credible defense? I wonder if a utilitarian in particular should be receptive to this line of thought.

Good question. Yes, utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism and, as the term suggests, the concern is with the net consequences of action. If some consequence is inevitable (imagine this involves an injury) and it cannot be prevented, then it may be an open question about who brings about the consequence. I note that this would be an "open question," because a utilitarian might still have good reasons to be very concerned about who does the act. Let's say you and I have applied for a job that will result in one of us (unfairly) injuring someone and, for some reason, this unfair injury cannot be prevented. I get the job and reason that, well, if I don't do it, you would. It still may be worse for me to do the act for, having done it, perhaps I have a weak character and am more likely to do far more unjust acts (than you). But, setting aside this additional way of measuring and comparing consequences, it is usually the non-utilitarian (the Kantian or advocate of virtue theory) who claim that it...

Hello, My dad died before I could pay him back $20,000 that he lent me. My dad had a Will that left 50/50 to my sister and myself. $1,000,000 each. My sister changed my dad's Will when he had dementia and he had no idea what he was doing. My sister ended up with all the money being $2,000,000 in total. Do I have a moral obligation to give me sister half of the $20,000 that my dad lent to me that I never repaid to my dad?

Tough decision. If the father were still alive, even with dementia and even if the sister had altered the Will, I think you would owe him the $20,000 due to the (I presume) promise you made to pay him back. The promise was made to him, after all, and was probably not qualified in terms of mental fitness ("I will pay you back so long as your are mentally competent"). With his passing (and I am sorry for your loss) I suggest that matters change insofar as your sister manipulatively (wrongly) altered the Will. Ideally, the sister might have a moment of conscience and, realizing the wrong she committed, she would voluntarily half the bequest. Perhaps (from a strategic point of view) offering her the $20K might even shock her into some repentance, e.g she might be incredulous (in a good way) that while you have been wronged, you were still trying to make amends. Failing that, there might be legal recourse of declaring the Will null and void, given that your father was not competent to make the change he did...

What is the right (ethical) thing to do with money that has landed on your lap? I recently won $500 based on a workplace recognition award. My nomination was based on strong achievements in the workplace over the past year, but the final selection of the top five nominees was random. I feel that the money would be better served by donating to a charity - but I am interested in whether there is a moral obligation to do so. I am very financially secure, and do not "need" the money

Great question. Some philosophers believe that the distribution of property should be governed by utility or happiness. So, some utilitarians might well contend that you are obligated to give disposable (non-essential) income or wealth to those whose welfare is worse than yours and who would (probably) benefit from the bequest. Some political liberals like John Rawls argue similarly that goods should be distributed to the less fortunate, thus seeking to correct the ostensible unfairness of the fact that some of us have greater goods than others (and this is often not based on merit, but on inheritance or the good fortune of being born in good health, and so on). Robert Nozick, on the other hand, would hold that you are entitled to your good fortune, seeing that you did not receive it unjustly and, you at least partly earned it (even if the final matter was determined by lottery). I am inclined to this later position on the grounds that the utilitarian approach would put us on a slippery slope requiring...

The attempt of religious believers to understand what atheism is has led many people to have misconceptions about what it entails. I recently went on Facebook and was confronted with an argument/arguments which belies atheism, and science in general. The belief expressed in the Facebook post was that the logical conclusion to an atheistic evolutionary worldview is that we would all be stabbing and raping each other, and simply doing everything we can just to survive. (Additional details about the post are at the end of my question in case of confusion) The conclusion this person is implying is that because we do not live in such a world of violence, we must be relying on the morality of god. This claim seems clearly rediculous to me, yet to many believers it appears cogent. My question is about how to represent this argument in a formal deductive style. Here I will present two propositions i think are involved in the confusion. The first proposition A is my rendition, and the second proposition B is a...

The philosophical terrain is a bit tricky here. I suspect most of us (whether religious believers or not) know (or maintain) that murder and rape are wrong because they violate other people, as well as (presumably involving a host of vices) like malice, hatred, spite, lust, and so on. A moral argument for theism (the belief that there is a supremely good Creator-God) comes into play when one asks a general question such as: Is the existence of our cosmos in which there are inteterdependent, moral agents who are ethically obliged to care and respect each other (as well as there being laws of nature, diverse life forms, etc...) better explained naturalistically (e.g. evolutionary biology, etc, but no God) or theistically (e.g. evolutionary biology, etc but with a Creator God)? So, I think that, rather than your versions of A and B, the better framework for reflection involves looking at a broader picture. But getting closer to the argument that you reported, I suspect that someone who claims that the...

What do we mean by the assurance, "It's not personal"? Why is that supposed to mollify us?

Great question! It might mean different things in different contexts! When a firefighter tells you this after rescuing you, she is probably trying to prevent you from thinking she is the new love in your life. "It's all part of the job" sort of thing. In the context of philosophy, the expression probably comes up when one philosopher is criticizing another. Aristotle says something like he has loyalty to Plato (his teacher for 20 years) but he loves truth more. He might have said: "Plato. My not accepting your theory of ideas and the soul is not personal." I suppose the expression conveys (on occasion) that mutual affection, even close friendship, is not a guarantee of agreement or loyalty to the views and arguments at issue. In that sense, while the expression may not "mollify" it might be intended to convey the message that disagreement does not mean personal disrespect or (even) lack of love for the persons involved. Still, I am drawn to the (at least general) idea that philosophers should...

I'd like to ask about the morality of homewrecking: if two people, say B and J, are married, is there anything wrong with a third person, A, actively pursuing B? It seems to me that A could say: it takes two to tango; everyone has a right to maximise their happiness; one should respect B's autonomy; and I'm not responsible for the consequences of B's actions. J could reply: but you cause foreseeable suffering by your actions. To which A could respond: I think autonomy and the morality of what actions are permitted should trump the morality of thinking about consequences, but even when applying the morality of consequences: if B stays, then both he and I will be unhappy; if B goes, then it is only you who are unhappy. What do you think? Is homewrecking clearly morally wrong?

The way you set up the question is quite interesting. While you are right (as J points out), one reason to think that the "home wrecking" is wrong would be foreseeable suffering, but this would seem to be not the strongest reason because (as you point out) the "home wrecking" might actually produce a net gain in happiness even if J suffers quite a bit from the loss. I suggest that the stronger reason for A not to pursue the breakdown of the marriage is that marriage itself consists of mutual promises (vows) between two persons to be steadfast in their loyalty / faith to each other. In most cases, this is probably a vow for life-long fidelity in terms of sexuality -- but also in terms of the primacy of allegiance in a couple constituting a family, even if only two are the family with no children. Assuming that the marriage vow is for life-long fidelity, the third party "A" really is the outsider and is launching an external (intentional?) challenge (J would probably see it as an assault) on the vow...

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