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Put another way

Let's say I've got a friend (I do!) and this particular friend wants to have sex with a mentally unstable (but not dangerous) woman in a committed relationship. He persuades her to do so, and she betrays her boyfriend to have sex with this friend. This friend has no intention of an ongoing relationship with the woman - he just wants sex, and tells her so all along.

Obviously she's morally (or ethically, if you prefer) culpable for betraying a trust. Is the friend who had sex with her morally or ethically culpable for a wrong act, and if so - what?


( 79 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 5th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
forced into a decision?
The interesting thing about all these responses is as follows: I'm sure that people want to give more leeway to the friend presented with this dilemma, but they are forced into choosing black or white - morally culpable or not. Are there shades of gray? Because when forced to make the decision between two polar opposites, the natural inclination is to choose guilty (otherwise the accused will get away scot-free). How to "eliminate the distortion of the factfinding process that is created when the jury is forced into an all-or-nothing choice between capital murder and innocence"??? (extreme example, but best I could do on short notice).
Aug. 5th, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
Well, one either IS culpable, or one is not. The question I asked, after all is he culpable, and for what? The shades of gray are to be found in what he might or might not possibly be culpable of.
Aug. 5th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
Culpable: for betrayal of implied or express trust by his friend.
Inculpable: for her betrayal, because if he is culpable even by his act of trying to convince her to have sex with him, then that implies an absence of complete self-determination in each individual. It's her decision to betray her relationship with her boyfriend, and his decision to betray his friendship with the boyfriend. He has no connection to the relationship except through his friendship.

And, to put a further point on it, he would not be culpable of anything beyond sleaziness (which may or may not be a crime against humanity in itself) if he did not know the boyfriend at all, and was just trying to convince a random girl to have sex with him, though he knew somehow that she had a boyfriend.

However, I would still submit that there is a slim culpability for a crime against society in the very fact of being the person who allows a break in trust to occur. Slim, I say, because most of society probably wouldn't view this as dangerous. It may appear larger to those of us with a greater sense of honor and/or justice.
Aug. 5th, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
See, I can't agree. The fact is that people's decisions are influences by the people around them. In Randian fantasies, each person is some Titanic island that suffices unto itself for all motivation, approval and responsibility. But in the real world, the pressure and examples of the people around you very much play a part in each person's decision-making.

This is why conspiracy can be a crime, in the legal system. Ethically speaking, one is, I believe, responsible for urging others to do wrong, even if one does not do the wrong one's self. People who post Family Planning doctor's addresses on anti-choice website, urging others to murder them are committing the worst sort of demagoguery, and then hiding behind, "But it wasn't ME that did it."

Same with someone sleazy who persuades someone in a realationship to betray the trust, and then hides behind their own single-ness as an excuse.

Lastly, the act of betrayal itself can't be committed without another partner, and that partner is necessarily an accomplice in an unethical act.
Aug. 5th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
To draw a parallel:
Someone convinces someone in a relationship to cheat. So before the convincing, that someone was morally innocent (assuming a tabula rasa before this action) and the person in the relationship was also innocent (see above). After the immoral act of betrayal, both are morally culpable, according to your postulate perhaps even equally so.

A girl walks down the street. Something in the way she's dressed, convinces a man to rape her. So before that, the girl was morally innocent, (see above) and the man was as well (assuming tabula rasa). Now that the immoral (and illegal of course) act has occurred, are both equally morally culpable?
Aug. 5th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
There's simply no comparison between persuading a woman to have sex against her promise of fidelity, and raping a woman. And it's the sort of incendiary comparison that short-cuts sensible debate, too.

So, i reject that as a "parallel" the two acts are not parallel.

In the case we're discussing, the woman is, of her own free will, committing an unethical act. But - would she have done it, absent persuasion by the man in question? If the answer is no, she wouldn't have - then necessarily, some moral blame must attach to the persuader, as a knowing and willing catalyst to an unethical act.

And we certainly *know* that, whatever her desire, she *can't* betray the trust of fidelity without that someone else is there to do it with her. So, he's not just a catalyst, but also a participant.

How can someone who is a catalyst and participant in an unethical act, not be blameworthy?
Aug. 5th, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
You stated that if she would have done it absent persuasion by the man in question, and if the answer is no, some blame must attach to him. Agreed. But if the answer is yes (and this is somewhat a question of Schrodinger's cat, because by necessity only one reality can occur, either she would or she wouldn't and we won't know unless the man does not persuade her and it still happens), then can moral blame attach to a tool? Yes, we are speaking of cognizant human beings, but at what point does one become a tool (even if a willing tool, and please pardon the egregious punnage on so many different levels), just as a wire hanger in the hands of a car thief (albeit, one in the 1970's, not today...), and at that, how can we blame a tool for committing a crime? (again, the only parallels that come easily to mind are crimes... because we are speaking of culpability, which is in and of itself an element to CRIME... rather than liability which is the result of a detrimental action which does not reach the level of crimes.
Aug. 5th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
If the wire-hanger begged the thief to use it to steal cars, then the situation would be parallel.

At no point does either become a tool - necessary to any consideration of ethics is that both are rational actors, can choose to do or NOT do wrong, and are free from compulsion. If any of those pre-conditions are not true, then moral blame can't attach.

If someone holds you at gun point and makes you paint graffiti, you're not to blame. But if a friend eggs you on, and you do it - you are.
Aug. 6th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
Uhhh, "possession" is also a crime, so perhaps using something in the legal system isn't the best way to validate your argument since opinions on laws can be nearly as controversial as the definition of "moral."
Aug. 6th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
Re: forced into a decision?
Being possessed by the devil is TOTALLY a crime.
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