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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?


Aug. 2nd, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
I'd say it's immoral (and possibly illegal) if his exploitation of her mental instability vitiated consent. It's immoral if he actively participates in the deception, or if the deceived boyfriend was his friend, or if his intention was to hurt the deceived boyfriend. Otherwise, it's probably not immoral; if you want to have sex with someone, you are not obligated to the expectations of sexual exclusivity held by her (unmarried) partners.
Aug. 2nd, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
Interesting. So - encouraging someone to commit an immoral act is not, in and of itself, immoral?
Aug. 2nd, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't (hence the 'probably not immoral'). Asking someone to have sex with you is generally not immoral, even if that sex is in betrayal of someone else's expectations. Sexual agency should be given a wide latitude, and the friend is himself not responsible for maintaining the sexual fidelities expected by the deceived boyfriend here.

On the other hand, specifically encouraging someone to deceive someone else generally is immoral, but that isn't explicit in your description of the situation. I see the distinction resting at least in part on: it would be immoral for the friend here to himself engage in deceit.

Basically I see the immorality of encouragement to be rooted in rather specific intent, and in what duties you owe to the different interests of other people. (The laws relating to incitement are actually less forgiving, but that's the law for you).

Providing the means for another person to engage in immoral acts is generally not immoral either, although I concede this is hotly debated and I am not going to get into that question.

Here's a possibly related subsidiary question that I don't have a good answer for: are there instances where it is moral to encourage someone to do something immoral, but is otherwise in their best interests? It may hinge on how you define 'morality' in relation to 'best interests.'
Aug. 2nd, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
In your point you also made a point of saying it's fine as long as she's unmarried. If she's married how do you think the point changes? If your intent isn't to deceive or betray the person, how is that different? Is it because of the scope of their commitment?

She's still in a committed relationship either way, and because of your actions that commitment is destroyed (they might be in a relationship but it's certainly not committed anymore). So what makes it worse then if she's married?

As to your last point, I think the difference is you're planning on engaging in a 'immoral' act, and they are choosing to engage in the act with you. Their decision isn't really your responsibility is it? I think it's impossible living your life doing what's in other people's best interests, beyond that being incredibly annoying, what makes your idea of what's in my best interests accurate? Furthermore if someone's in a 'commited' relationship and are willing to cheat on their partner, then you could argue the case instead that it would be in their best interest to realize that there was a problem with their relationship.

I think the above would be retarded, but your idea of what's in someone else's best interests are fairly subjective.
Aug. 3rd, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
Marriage might shift the calculus, in that having sex would be in violation of a culturally-normative and legally real agreement of sexual exclusivity. Even in that case the morality of it may hinge on how you view marriage. I excluded marriage in my earlier example because I didn't want those aspects mucking up my philosophical masturbations.

You make an excellent point with regard to 'best interests.' It may actually be impossible to determine, before the fact, whether a recommended action is in someone else's best interests. That would make moral determinations only possible after the fact, and I'm fairly sure that results-based morality is generally unacceptable. But suppose you recommend to someone that they do something that, though immoral, is extremely likely to benefit him. Assume also that the moral alternative will disadvantage him. Is that recommendation itself necessarily immoral?

I offer as an example a lawyer who recommends to his client not to fulfill a promise, on the basis that fulfilling the promise would disadvantage the client, and the promise would ultimately be unenforceable because of a technical rule.


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