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Is it easier to love or be loved? I have tried to be loved by people, but I usually get pushed away. I guess I'll never be loved. All I can do is love and take care of other people.

When you write "I guess I'll never be loved," I think you might be able to change that right now. You can love yourself. You may already have proper self-love, but if not, self-love and acceptance can be an important means to finding love with others. I am pretty sure that if I lack self-love and instead hate myself, I am probably not in a good position of being in a loving relationship with another person: I might be baffled with thoughts like "why does she love me when I know that I am not worthy of attention, let alone love?" Philosophers have come up with various philosophies of love and this site would not be big enough to fill all these positions out. But I can record an answer to your first question by a famous philosopher, Kierkegaard. He thought it was easier to love than to be loved. To love, you do not have to depend on how your beloved responds. You can love him or her without requiring or expecting love in return. Of course that can also be a hard, non-compensatory love. It is,...

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...

do you have to be religiously or spiritually suited to the person you love to gain their trust and respect? being an atheist, what are my moral obligations to this man who holds high regard to religion and spirituality?

Interesting. I suppose that if "spiritually" is understood very broadly to mean something like having reverence, care, respect, an appreciation for some things being sacred like promise-keeping, honesty or respecting the integrity of others, then perhaps spirituality of this general sort might be essential (by definition) for trusting and respectful relationships. On religion: some religious traditions (or traditions within the traditions, e.g. orthodox Judaism as opposed to liberal or reform Judaism) discourage practitioners / "believers" to marry outside "the faith" or the practice or the tradition, but "mixed marriages" (and thus relationships) seem more common. On atheism: "Atheism" may be variously defined; minimally it might mean either someone who makes the positive judgement that there is no God or someone who simply does not believe there is a God. The difference is subtle and may make no practical difference, but the former "atheist" goes on record (so to speak) in affirming there is no...

What's there to gain from romantic relationships, aside from sexual gratification? For it seems as though there is more pain and loss from attempting to find our ideal significant other, than there is actual gain from finding someone adequate enough to fulfill such an unobtainable goal. It seems more worthwhile to culminate our own happiness within ourselves, than to put our happiness at risk, especially given that females (and people in general) who are interested in philosophy seem to be on the decline; and interest in philosophy is a must for any viable partner!

Wonderful to learn that a viable partner for you would have to have an interest in philosophy. If you are super attractive (etc) you might give a lot of people an important motive to develop philosophical interests! Picking up on another point, though, I am not sure you are right about declining interests in philosophy among females or people in general. At least where I teach (St Olaf College in the USA) philosophical interests among young women and men (straight, gay, as well as among transgender folk) seems on the rise. But more to your point, I wonder if your worry about romantic relationships would work against any serious, non-romantic friendship. You write about having reservations about putting your happiness at risk, but that risk seems to arise in every case when you or I truly love another person with or without eros. I have great (Platonic) love for a couple of friends, Patrick and Jodi, and I realize there is no way for me to do so without risking my enduring great pain and...

Does the idea of "conflict of interest" figure into any contemporary discussion of ethics in philosophy? For example, few would argue that a professor having a sexual relationship with a student in his class is immoral in itself, but why would that necessarily be a conflict of interest? Banning such relationships is what is immoral because it reduces people's humanity by presupposing that humans are totally unable to separate their private lives from their professional ones. Are we to ban family businesses too? Even if empirical studies DO show that a majority of these kinds of relationships result in preferential grading, universities can always discipline such professors--disciplining the student would certainly be excessive. Banning relationships are the worst kinds of bans as without relationships we are dehumanized; it seems to me that if a person personally wishes to jeopardize his career for the sake of a relationship, then we should acknowledge and accept that.

Philosophers have given significant attention to identifying conflicts of interest in the course of developing theories of justice, accounts of fairness, business ethics, philosophy of law, and even museum ethics. Your focus seems to be on sex and the academy, so I will go right to that topic: in most colleges and universities there is indeed a regulation against professors and students having sexual relations, but I believe this is not primarily a matter of what may called a conflict of interest. I suggest it is more of a matter of preventing exploitation as well as a matter of a common sense approach to professor-student relations. Even if it happens that the sexual relationship does not lead to preferential (or unfair) grading, it is occurring in a relationship in which both parties have responsibilities to each other that sexuality almost cannot help but compromise or overshadow. The primary role of the professor in teaching or practicing philosophy (or any subject) with students is one in which ...

Should love between a man and woman be diminished in any way by differing political viewpoints? My boyfriend and I both think politics is a minor part of life that neither of us gets directly involved in but when we do speak about it he isn't afraid to philosophize about his radical political views. As it follows, he is opposed to marriage including straight marriage and especially gay marriage because he does not accept the legitimacy of any state or institution. I don't mind spending the rest of our lives together unmarried because this in no way negatively impacts my life even though my political views are rather different. I disagree with his stance on gay marriage because I have gay friends but this does not diminish my love since we are both straight, so do political views matter when it comes to love?

Very, very interesting. You are asking about something that is perhaps a matter that is more personal and intimate than political or a matter of public philosophy (or philosophy about public life), but I offer these thoughts with some hesitation about responding to what is probably quite personal. In the West, historically (from the Medieval period on) marriage has been principally been understood as that which is established (and constituted) by two persons So, while there has been a massive tradition of arranged marriages and marriage has often been understood in terms of the transfer of property over generations in the west, at the heart of the very idea of marriage is that it involves a commitment between a man and a woman (or, as we should say today, between two persons). The role of the church and state has (from an historical point of view) been conceived of as RECOGNIZING marriage --rather than establishing marriage or constituting it. So, while in Eastern Christianity, the church is...

When it comes to relationships between opposite sexes, there is the 'platonic' relationship. Does this have anything to do with Plato? And secondly, after advancing further in life, I find myself more drawn towards this type of relationship. It seems to have more meaning and depth. It transcends beyond any physical desires. Is there any research you could lead me to that uncovers some truths about these types of relationships?

Great question. Today, I think most people do think of a Platonic relationship as an intimate friendship without sex. The first time such a notion was explicitly identified was in the Renaissance when the philosopher / translator of Plato, Marsilio Ficino coined the term. Marsilio first called it "Socratic love," but then changed the term to "Platonic love" and he mostly applied it to male friendship. Marsilio's shared Platonic love with Giovanni Cavalcanti, a young man famous for his beauty. He maintained that you can be in awe with the beauty of your Platonic friend, but you must not touch or smell him. You refer to a Platonic friendship with an opposite gender; while Marsilio did not address this, Plato himself had female students and, given his high view of women in the Republic (women could be rulers), there is no reason why what we call Platonic love needs to be same-gender. I would say one of the key elements in what is love in the Platonic tradition is that, whether or not sex is involved...

Do prenuptial agreements imply a lack of trust, or even a lack of love?

Great question! Consider, with apologies for the homeliness of this analogy: Does fastening your seat belt in a car or on an airplane indicate a lack of trust in the vehicle(s) or a lack of love for the pilot or driver or other pilots and drivers? I suspect one might have lots of trust and love and yet be realistic that sometimes the very unlikely and (almost) impossible does occur. In a prenuptial agreement, both parties may be passionately committed to each other and yet, out of a "realistic" understanding of the rate of divorce, they want assurance that there is a fair outcome if (heaven forbid) the life-long vow of commitment is not bourn out), it seems practically wise to have a safety net.

Breaking up with a partner can be very hurtful for him or her. Should I admit that I cheated on him/her and that this is the reason for me to question our relationship or should I rather keep the secret in order not to hurt him/her more than necessary?

I cannot resist at least trying to respond to your question, but please know that this is a rather personal matter and many would think this is a matter for you to consider in light of respecting your partner and your own judgment about the consequences of making such a disclosure. Perhaps, though, I can be helpful in highlighting some factors to consider. I suggest that promises to others can be (but are not always) binding even if the relationship ends. So, while obviously after a divorce or break-up one is not bound to (sexual) fidelity with one's x even if that had been promised with a vow, but there may be promises such as promising not to disclose information or secrets that were shared with the understanding that this was to be strictly confidential. I suggest that if the relationship you had (or you are about to break off) was built on the basis of trust and an explicit (or implicit) understanding that either of you would disclose any infidelity if it occurred, that would be a good...

I was with a man for a month. We chatted a lot, had so much fun. But at the end we decided that this relationship would not work because it is morally wrong in our religion. This is already 2 years since then, and I eventually missed him. But day by day I felt that what I miss is him as a friend. I realized that he also missed me, but as a lover (I know this from friends). I really want to meet him, start a fun conversation, but I think it will trouble him, because I do not want to be with him anymore. Do you think I should just step out of his life for the sake of protecting his feeling? Or do I have any responsibility to help him move on, forgetting me? If so, how?

This is such a personal matter, I have no right to reply, but your question(s) are hard to resist. There is no "official" philosophy of love out there for us all to consult. Still, philosophers in the past have suggested a few things that might be helpful. First, you might apply the "golden rule" of 'do unto others as you would want done unto you": what would you want or what would you do if the roles were reversed? How would you want him to act if he missed you, wanted to see you, but he did not want to be romantically involved with you and seeing him might trouble you? Another point to consider is Kant's thesis that you should never treat people in a way that is incompatible with regarding them as an end (or of value) in themselves. So, if I flirt with X only for my own pleasure, not caring how X might feel and without any serious regard for X's life, it seems I am simply using X rather than also considering X's own life. Perhaps one other thought: you ask about what responsibility you...

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