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 that J and B made to each other and (probably in many marriages) in a public ceremony. If A really respects B's autonomy, A should probably respect the vow B made in the exercise of B's autonomy. So, given the state of affairs (pun intended) as you describe it, there is some reason to think that insofar as making and keeping vows is a matter of integrity, then A is not simply seeking to harm J, but A is actually seeking to get B to lose B's integrity.

On the line "it takes two to tango," insofar as "tango" means something like 'have an affair' or 'for there to be a marriage break up' I suggest that when it comes to integrity, it takes only one: the person her or himself who loses his or her integrity. It would be B that looses B's integrity insofar as B breaks B's vow of life-long fidelity. Though insofar as A attended the wedding and (as is the custom of many but not all weddings) made a verbal consent to support the married couple, A would be betraying A's own vow.

The above comes down to what you think about vows and promises and integrity. Many philosophers (like Kant) give them a very high standing. It also might come down to what one thinks about deception, for (in a likely scenario) A probably has to mask A's intentions and seek to deceive J. But there are philosophers who subordinate vows, promises, integrity, and truth-telling to a greater-happiness principle that can trump these (apparent) values.

While I have expressed some strong (Kantian) reasons against A's recourse, there can (in my view) be mitigating circumstances. Imagine J has not maintained J's vows, integrity, and promises. Perhaps J has had affairs or did not truly and sincerely make the vows and promises in forming the marriage with B. Or perhaps J has suffers from PTSD and has become an alcoholic, gun slinging, danger to B. Still, I suggest that if the vow / marriage was made in good faith and both parties have committed themselves to life-long fidelity, to try to undue that would be to try to destroy the integrity of that commitment. Maybe a "golden rule" consideration might come into play in thinking through things: imagine B leaves J and commits to A. How would A feel if C tried to get B to break B's vow to A, and run off?

Maybe the *best* solution would be for A, B, C, and J, as well as D, E, F,G, and so on, to operate under conditions that would be agreed upon if all parties were committed to a version of the golden rule. (Which is not quite the categorical imperative, but it is closely related.)

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