Who said logical argument analysis is impractical?

Here’s an argument for the analytically minded (read: intellectually virtuous) to analyze. However you assess it, you will come up with something important for living.


1. When a person with the capacity for moral responsibility and rational thought has put themselves in a situation in which no morally good person would find themselves, they are responsible to bear the pain of whatever may befall them for being in such a situation.
Ex: The moral thing for a teenager to do, when told by a parent not to snoop around in the parent’s drawers, is to obey. The teenager is responsible for his injury if there happens to be a rat trap in it; it is his fault and no one else’s.

2. One has no obligation to consider the well-being of people in regard to their immoral states. Such consideration is not obligatory (within the call of duty), but supererogatory (above and beyond the call of duty).
If the teenager with the rat-trap injury is your brother, you have no obligation to feel sympathy for him, or drop your important activities to take care of him, etc.

3. Some romantic relationships are immoral states in which no moral person would find themselves.
Ex: One should never voluntarily enter a relationship where one would be required or influenced to do wrong. Relationships in which one will be influenced by the other to abuse one’s children or break the law, relationships where one will be pushed to violate one’s conscience, homosexual relationships, etc are immoral relationships/states in which no truly moral person would find themselves.

4. Pre-marital, non-genital physical affection between opposite sexes is morally acceptable.
Ex: It wasn’t wrong for me to deeply and passionately kiss Rosario Dawson (she told me she wan’t married).

5. Therefore: It is not morally wrong to engage in premarital, non-genital physical affection with a person of the opposite sex who is in an immoral relationship, even though it would cause pain to their partner, since their partner would not have experienced such pain were they not in said immoral state. (From 1-4)

6. 5 is (almost certainly) false.

Were is the catch? One of the above statements in 1-6 has to be false. Which one (or one’s) is it, and what is the significant resulting ethical consequence?

  1. #1 by Anonymous on 12.11.08 - 3.45 am

    I’m not entirely certain that I agree with premise 2. Or at least I think we have an obligation not to further hurt people who have hurt themselves. Your thoughts?

    PS We should have coffee soon.


  2. #2 by Michael Glawson on 12.11.08 - 6.03 am

    Without being prompted by your suggestion, I just realized I needed to add two words to 2 so that it said what I meant. It doesn’t affect your criticism though, so I’m not being evasive. Even so, no more changes in phrasing from here out.

    I think part of me agrees with you, and part doesn’t. My agreement is probably at least partially a result of my sympathy with people in unvirtuous situations, since I have been in seriously unvirtuous situations myself. But the disagreement I think springs from the theological idea that God is being GRACIOUS to me when he does consider me in my weak and terrible state, and that graciousness isn’t something he’s obligated to do. It seems hard to maintain both that God’s helping me is gracious, and that we have an obligation to care for others in regards to their wicked states. What do you think?

    Let me know if the rephrasing from ‘in’ to ‘in regards to’ changes your criticism. If so, I can delete this comment. Sorry about that. I just wanted to nip a misphrasing before it caused a bigger discussion.

    Coffee is possible. After friday.

  3. #3 by Anonymous on 12.11.08 - 6.40 pm

    Hm. I think the the adding of that phrase does clear up some of my confusion. And I see what you’re saying about the graciousness thing. I actually thought about that this morning.

    Could you say that physical affection with someone who is in an immoral state is immoral? I’m not sure what I think about that though…

    Coffee Sunday?


  4. #4 by Corey Scogin on 12.12.08 - 6.54 am

    This is a bit of a tangent but…

    “..since their partner would not have experienced such pain were they not in said immoral state.”

    I am unclear as to why a person involved in an immoral relationship would necessarily experience pain.

    Also, this statement seems to infer that if these persons were in a MORAL relationship, the partner in question would not experience pain when their partner engages in moral physical affection with someone else.

  5. #5 by Michael Glawson on 12.12.08 - 7.13 am

    Corey – It’s not that they necessarily would experience pain because they were in an immoral relationship, it’s that they wouldn’t have experienced this specific pain (of their partner being affectionate to another person) if they weren’t in that relationship – that is, if they were where they were supposed to be.

    Nor am I saying that they wouldn’t experience this pain if they were in a moral relationship. They would. I’m only asking here, though, if it’s acceptable to engage in the smooching if they’re in an IMmoral relationship.

    I’m a terrible phraser every way you turn it.

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