Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

26 June 2009

Loving Good People

A college student asked me today what I think of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a blended libertarian-conservative, who has confessed to scandalous behavior in the form of an affair with a woman other than his wife. My answer to that question will only make sense in the context of the discussion to follow.

The common morality in America today allows a man to love his mother and his father. It allows him to love as many brothers and sisters as he may have. It allows him to love one unrelated woman and as many children and grandchildren as he may have. In other words, you are allowed to love anyone closely related to you, but no more then one person, and that a woman, who is not related to you.

This common morality had its basis in a religion that believes in one and only one god, a god doomed never to have any equal or near equal to love. This god was never to have the intellectual stimulation of discussions with another great and interesting mind. This god was never to have a worthy lover to love and never to know the heaven of love and sex with that worthy lover. Yet somehow we are said to be made in his image, while yet we are both beings thrilled by the quest for knowledge and sharing it with others and eager lovers as sexual beings. Yet also, we are said to be but sheep compared to the Lord, even as we know sheep to be peculiarly dumb, uninteresting, and helpless animals. So, we are at once made in the image of God, yet we are as dumb, uninteresting, and helpless as sheep in his eyes. This must be incredibly frustrating in his eyes. We can be no consolation to the supreme loneliness of such a being. To be God would surely be an eternal torture. And being so tortured, perhaps He has been cruel in providing man with a morality which is not suitable to man in his quest to live life as man on this earth.

Perhaps man should take it upon himself to establish that morality which will serve as useful principles for a man living on this earth and usually among other humans, many of whom are intelligent, productively helpful, and respectful and supportive of others living their lives. Man, unlike God does not live forever. Man must use his mind in order to provide himself, through considerable work and application of that mind, with the means to enjoy a rich, healthy, and secure life on an earth full of powerful natural forces and other life striving in its interest sometimes against the interest of man. Then again, man must have moral principles suitable for guiding his interactions with many other men and women. These are not the problems of God, so why should one think God can guide man in dealing with them? It makes no more sense to turn to a mythological God for one's morality than it makes sense to turn to a celibate priest for marriage counseling.

This is an unorthodox manner of addressing the issue of who it is appropriate morally for a man to love. But, you cannot get to the correct moral result through the traditional beliefs of religion, which cannot even prove that God exists. More and more, Americans are not very serious about Christianity or the religion of the Hebrews. Yet, they flounder on in the general moral beliefs left as legacies of those religious systems. Most people try at least half-heartedly to live within the construct of those old religious moral beliefs and, not surprisingly, most fail to do a good job of it. They fail so badly that Christianity made it a teaching that no one could live in accordance with its morality, that all were sinners. The very Christian leaders who developed the tenets of Christianity have often been particularly notable for their own sins, as measured against their stated beliefs. St. Augustine and a great many Popes being excellent examples.

Some of the shortcomings of the idea that a man can love only one woman not closely related to him are very obvious. First, many married couples have one or two of them engaged in extramarital affairs during the marriage. At some point as many marriages as not are ended, so the erstwhile couple can find another person to couple up with. There are many marriages in which one member falls in love with someone not in the marriage and the spouse reacts in great anger that they are no longer loved or that their spouse has been unfaithful. Well, in the context of the old religious morality the unfaithfulness is the case. But tragically, it often is not the case that one is unloved simply because one's spouse has come to love someone else also. But, in this primitive religious morality (in its modern version, not its older traditions), the non-monogamous spouse of a marriage is thrown out and assumed immoral simply for loving more than one person not related to him or her.

The morality of love follows from whether the person loved is worthy of being loved by the one who is doing the loving. But, this is not a simple matter to figure out. If the one loving is a very intelligent, productive, nice, interesting, rational, and sensitive person, then each and every person he comes to know who is worthy of his love is a treasure and he will not find many such people. If the one doing the loving is fairly average, then many are worthy of his love and one can understand why conventional morality would tend to say that chaos will result from all the couplings and the likely instabilities in family life which will result. Social pressures to reduce sexually spread diseases and to keep spouses from spending all of their time in bars trying to pick someone up tend to push people toward a general preference for monogamous relationships. So, there is an ongoing conflict between men and women finding others of great interest to them, or sometimes just a bit of interest, and wanting sex outside of marriage and a desire to keep sexual events outside of marriage under some level of control.

But, the unusually intelligent, rational, nice, sensitive, and interesting person who finds someone similarly extraordinary cannot morally be condemned for loving them. In fact, probably no one should be condemned for loving someone who is nearly their equal. Personally, they are doing nothing wrong. They are responding appropriately to the good human qualities of others, though those qualities are less and less good as they fall toward the average or less than the average. But, it is not the fact that someone loves more than one person nearly their equal which we should be condemning.

My primary interest returns however to the extraordinarily intelligent, rational, nice, sensitive, and interesting people. Perhaps conventional morality is as good as it is going to get for conventional people. But the extraordinary person should be free to offer justice, respect, admiration, pleasure, and intimacy to those few others who are extraordinary. If this person is married, they do have obligations to keep and loyalties to maintain. But, these do not necessarily translate into an exclusive right to love or even to sexual relations. They do require that one continue to provide the support of a marriage partner, which in most cases should include love and sexual relations. Circumstances might arise in which divorce is appropriate, but often the extraordinary person has loved and married another extraordinary person and there is no reason that either should stop loving the other.

Yes, conventional morality says that should one spouse have sexual relations outside the marriage, the couple should split up. This in fact very often makes no rational sense. In fact couples often have had long histories of great happiness with one another and have long been good life partners in many things to one another. This should not be forgotten in the light of one of them perhaps coming to love someone else in addition to their spouse. Those married for some time have made many investments in their human and personal capital in coming to know one another, learning to get along with one another, learning to please one another sexually, having children, developing joint careers, building savings and retirement investments, and making a home to provide them with comfort. These jointly held and developed values are very important and any developing interest in others outside the marriage should never lose the context of them.

Jealousy and envy are not worthy emotions. Extraordinary people should not be governed by these base emotions which commonly result from self-doubt about one's worthiness and competence in living life. One spouse should take delight that the other spouse has a wonderful friendship, even if that friendship includes sexual relations. A loving spouse wants his spouse to experience pleasure and to enjoy the richness of life that knowing and being intimate with another extraordinary person can give. The loving spouse wants and should be provided with love himself, but this need not always be an exclusive love, just a very real love. The spouses should be careful to maintain all aspects of their partnership in life, if they wish their marriage to continue and to be strong. These are the moral obligations which are real.

The love of rational human beings is not fickle and it is not usually capable of being turned off once it has been turned on. If someone has proven so good and appealing that you have come to love them, then it really ought to take quite a lot of character development down different paths before you should be able to stop loving them. Love becomes too deeply seated in the rational and good person for it to be dependent upon exclusive love or such things as moderate changes of appearance. Commonly, we do not readily stop loving our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and grandchildren for fickle reasons. We should not stop loving others we have loved either for fickle reasons.

If a married person is having sex outside of marriage with unworthy persons, this is clearly immoral, as having sex with unworthy people always is even when unmarried.

In this discussion, I have only spoken of marriage as between a man and a woman. Morally, there is no reason to limit marriage to that and only that combination. That is a topic for another discussion.

So, conventional morality has a very simple rule with respect to marriage. This rule is much too simple to actually provide a rational concept of marriage and its real meaning or of love and its real meaning. Life can and should be more rich and wonderful than conventional morality allows it to be.

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