You are on page 1of 18

Adultery vs.

Natural Law

? Why do people commit adultery?

Kant ? What would be a Kantian response to Adultery? (See comments earlier on Kantian marriage and principle of ends don't treat people as only a means, but always and also as an end in themselves).

Natural Law ? Explain the Natural Law position on adultery:

Adultery, as its name implies, "is access to another's marriage-bed (ad alienum torum)". By so doing a man is guilty of a twofold offense against chastity and the good of human procreation. First, by accession to a woman who is not joined to him in marriage, which is contrary to the good of the upbringing of his own children. Secondly, by accession to a woman who is united to another in marriage, and thus he hinders the good of another's children. The same applies to the married woman who is corrupted by adultery. Wherefore it is written (Sirach 23:32,33): "Every woman . . . that leaves her husband . . . shall be guilty of sin. For first she has been unfaithful to the law of the Most High" (since there it is commanded: "Thou shalt not commit adultery"); "and secondly, she has offended against her husband," by making it uncertain that the children are his: "thirdly, she has fornicated in adultery, and has had children by another man," which is contrary to the good of her offspring. The first of these, however, is common to all mortal sins, while the two others belong especially to the deformity of adultery. Hence it is manifest that adultery is a determinate species of lust, through having a special deformity in venereal acts. ? How did Aquinas cope with the infidelities of the patriarchs? "Further, no mortal sin is mentioned in Holy Writ without disapprobation. Yet simple fornication is mentioned without disapprobation by Holy Writ in connection with the patriarchs. Thus we read (Gn. 16:4) that Abraham went in to his handmaid Agar; and further on (Gn. 30:5,9) that Jacob went in to Bala and Zelpha the handmaids of his wives; and again (Gn. 38:18) that Judah was with Tamar whom he thought to be a harlot. Therefore simple fornication is not a mortal sin." - this is not Aquinas' view but one of the objections he inserted into his dialogue-style argument.

The Bible on adultery

Old Testament "You shall not commit adultery." Exodus 20: 14 "Do not have sexual relations with your neighbour's wife and defile yourself with her." (Leviticus 18:20) 10 " 'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife-with the wife of his neighbour-both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10) What are the roots of the OT's rejection of adultery? Purity or property? If a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting for a guilt offering to the LORD. 22 With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the LORD for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven. Leviticus 19:2022 ? New Testament on adultery 5"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8and the two will become one flesh.'So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He

answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." (Mark 10: 5-12) 27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 ? "Interim ethics" Albert Schweitzer (meaning ethics between the first and second coming of Christ, when all will be fully revealed). ? Perfection ? Property - "the desire to deprave another of his property, is the essence of adultery, Jesus was then reaffirming a traditional understanding of what is wrong with adultery." William Countryman ? How useful are biblical ethics when discussing adultery? Level 2 reading: sex and pornography (Bristol University undergraduate course) When many people think of morality they think of various prohibitions on sex. Though this is a skewed view about the scope of morality, there are nevertheless important philosophical and moral questions about sexuality. What is sex? Is sex without intimacy morally problematic? Why is rape wrong? Is homosexuality morally wrong? Should any sex acts between consenting adults be proscribed? Is pornography morally objectionable (e.g., because it is morally degrading, because it objectifies women, etc.)? Should the state criminalise pornography and restrict its access? A. Soble (ed.), The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings R. Mohr, Gays/Justice: A Study of Ethics R. Baker and F. Elliston (eds.), Philosophy and Sex R. Scruton, Sexual Desire A.H. Goldman, Plain Sex', Philosophy and Public Affairs (1977) D. Copp and S. Wendell (eds.), Pornography and Censorship E. Donnerstein, D. Linsz, and S. Penrod (eds.), The Question of Pornography R. Langton, Pornography, Speech Acts, and Silence', Philosophy and Public Affairs (1993)

The Morality of Adultery

I. Introduction

The Ten Commandments are considered to be universal laws which are practiced and preached by nearly everyone, from all corners of the world. Despite widespread agreement on the moral value in these rules, they are often and continually broken by society. One of the more compelling commandments is number seven: Thou shall not commit adultery. Most people would agree that it is in theory immoral to cheat on your spouse or significant other, yet it continually happens. One would think the possible dire consequences of being found out would be enough to deter the adulterer. Even television has made public the ramifications of being caught in the act through shows such as Cheaters, yet there are obviously many more people who will continue to cheat on their spouses, some of whom will never be caught.

There must be compelling reasons for people attempting to cheat on their significant others; otherwise it would not keep happening. Some people may simply be tired of going through the motions with their spouse and are looking for a one night stand. Others may simply feel the need to do something daring and exhilarating as a break from their mundane lives. Aside from the motives to consider, the question still remains whether it is moral or immoral to commit adultery. In theory, adultery is obviously not an ethical practice, but aside from theory it can have moral value. I feel the consequences must be examined in order to determine whether it is a moral endeavor or not. If the adulterer is not caught, this means there will be no consequences to be burdened and the action of adultery is morally justified. However, if the adulterer is caught in the act, the resulting ramifications are in most cases so horrible that adultery can not be considered ethical.
II. Analysis

The philosopher J.S. Mills approach to the moral dilemma of adultery would be grounded in his utilitarianistic school of thought. His basic belief is that which is ethical pleases most of the people most of the time. In order to determine how much pleasure an action will yield, Mill uses Hedonistic Calculus, which is based on a set of criteria that measure happiness. The first criterion of Hedonistic Calculus is certainty. This is a measure of how sure we are the action will produce happiness. In the case of adultery, the person committing adultery must certainly be fairly confident they are going to experience pleasure, and thus happiness. The next factor is intensity, which describes how happy the action will make people. The act of sexual intercourse typically produces a great deal of happiness. Duration, the next criteria, of happiness would not be very long, and thus would not be especially affirming of adultery. The next factor in Hedonistic Calculus is propinquity, which deals with how soon the happiness will result. In the case of adultery, the craving would be instantly gratified. Happiness is also measured by fecundity, which begs the question of how much happiness will the action produce by association. When committing adultery, typically only two people will be pleased and possibly many others will be harmed. The last factor in Hedonistic Calculus is purity, which asks if the action is tainted by guilt or reason. Adultery in most cases will be filled with guilt, unless the person committing the deed has absolutely no conscious at all. When analyzing the Hedonistic Calculus, I feel Mill would argue that this specific summation of factors is only seen from the point of view of the adulterer. The only factors that are really deterring them from attempting adultery are purity and possibly fecundity. The sole reason these factors would steer them from cheating is that they may be caught. If they knew they would not be caught, then it seems that the Hedonistic Calculus would approve of adultery. However, if the Hedonistic Calculus was taken from the point of view of the adulterers spouse or family, then I think Mill

would argue that adultery would make many more people unhappy than happy. Most of the time, adultery will only please a minority, and thus that makes it unethical. Mills theory of utilitarianism also deals with sanctions. He believes there are two types of motives behind actions; external and internal. The theory behind internal sanctions is doing good for the concern of fellow human beings. External sanctions deal with doing good in order to avoid punishment. The motive behind not committing adultery would be external. The only reason they would not pursue the action would be because they are afraid of the ramifications. Mill argues that acting externally is the wrong way to act, and that we should act on an internal level. Thus I feel Mill would say adultery is not moral because external sanctions are what stop one from doing it. If we acted according to internal sanctions, which are superior to external sanctions, we would not even be thinking about adultery because of the love for our spouses and family. Finally, the only way I think adultery could be possibly justified in the eyes of Mill would be through act utilitarianism. The situation would be viewed individually to determine how much happiness the adulterer would experience and if there was any possibility of them being caught, or how extreme the consequences would be. In a case where the adulterers spouse has gone frigid and they are desperate to get some, then I think Mill may argue that adultery would be morally backed. However, dealing with his theory of rule utilitarianism, I think Mill would probably make a general rule that all adultery is immoral. In this case, Mill would not advocate adultery at all. On the contrary, I feel the philosopher Ayn Rand would advocate the act of adultery in all cases. Her beliefs are founded in ethical egoism, which is the theory claiming that which is in our rational best interest is selfishness. Rand is also highly opposed to altruism. She believes humans are selfish in nature and that we should act in accordance to these primordial ways. She states that even when it seems that we are trying to be courteous to others, we are in reality trying to benefit ourselves. Thus, there is no point in trying to act like we are unselfish and we should always act in ways to benefit ourselves. This theory is illustrated through the story of Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and shared it with fellow mankind. Upon becoming aware of this, the Gods were angered and Prometheus was tortured for the rest of eternity. If he had been looking out for himself, he would not have risked angering the Gods and thus would have been better off. Likewise, Rand would say that we are better off being selfish when questioning whether it is ethical to commit adultery. If we feel compelled to go out and cheat on our spouses, we should do it. Even though there could be difficult consequences associated with adultery, we should not worry about how other people would feel. If we feel it is in our best interest, there is no reason why we should not do it. However,

if when weighing out our decisions we come to the conclusion that committing adultery could be risky and possibly ruin ones life, then I feel Rand may argue that we would better benefit ourselves by not cheating on ones spouse. To further expand on that thought, Rand provides a few arguments advocating ethical egoism which would seem to make adultery acceptable in all cases. Her argument on wants and needs states that if wants and needs are indeed personal, then we should only be concerned about ourselves. Furthermore her argument on privacy comes to the conclusion that deciding what is best for others is immoral. These arguments seem to universally support adultery. Rand argues that it is impossible to know what other people want, so therefore it would be acceptable to commit adultery in all cases because we do not know what our significant others are thinking. They may want us to go out and have a rendez-vous for all we know. Also, I feel Rand would argue that deciding adultery would harm your spouse and others is wrong because it is immoral to decide what is best for them. With that thought in mind, that must make adultery moral by association. Whether or not we think we will get away with adultery, it is perfectly reasonable to commit the act because we should only be concerned with ourselves. We can not know what other people want or what is best for them.
III. Critique

I believe that adultery can be justified as a moral action only if the adulterer knows for a fact that they will not be caught. It does not matter how many times they cheat; as long as they do not harm anyone else in the process, I believe that adultery can be viewed as ethical. I agree with Ayn Rand in that we should be selfish, at least some of the time. It can be invigorating to act according to our selfish primordial needs. I do put value in altruism, but there are times when I think it is important to put oneself ahead of others for the sake ones mental well being. When an adulterer attempts to cheat on their spouse, there intrinsically must be something causing distress in the relationship, otherwise they would not consider that kind of action. Pursuing adultery may be in their best interest in that situation. Committing the act may make them feel relieved and even improve domestic relations as long as their spouse never finds out. However, adultery can quite easily have the opposite effect. If there is any chance that the adulterer could be caught, then there is no way adultery can be morally justified. It is the type of action that can destroy relationships and tear families apart. In this sense, I agree with the utilitarianistic approach of J.S. Mill. When adultery hurts more people than it helps, then I think it is highly unethical. In nearly all cases of adultery, I believe this is the case. Most persons committing adultery are probably experiencing problems in their relationship. Cheating is probably one of the worst options they could choose to deal with those matters because it can only create more problems.

The question still remains whether or not it is possible to tell if there is any chance to be caught committing adultery. I feel that it can be a morally justified action if there is no chance to be caught. However, I do not think there is any way the adulterer can be 100% certain that their significant other will not find out about their escapades. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, meaning even the most carefully planned act of adultery can be exposed. For this reason, I believe adultery is universally unethical. The ramifications are too extreme to possibly justify adultery. In conclusion, while I believe that adultery can be considered moral if the adulterer knows they will not be caught, I believe there is no way to be certain of this, and therefore the pursuit of adultery is always unethical. Class: PHL 1031 Moral Philosophy | Teacher: Dr. Robert Fleeger | School: Saint Joseph's University | November 13, 2008 | Download Original File

Maybe It's Just Me, But...

Musings of a mildly mad multi-disciplinarian
by Mark D. White, Ph.D.

Adultery: Is It Ever Justified?

We examine the ethics of adultery - and you may be surprised!
Published on March 24, 2010 by Mark D. White, Ph.D. in Maybe It's Just Me, But...

2 inShare

In my first post on adultery, I avoided discussing the ethicsof cheating. Well, I tried to, at least; it's hard to discuss a topic like that without lapsing into

the morality of it, so here goes. (For those of you that read my post on the ethics of procrastination, some of the discussion of moral philosophywill sound familiar.) At the risk of spoiling the ending, let me reassure you that we'll find that adultery is wrongmost of the time. (Maybe that's not such a reassurance.) It's almost never justified just because you really really want to get together with that hottie in your office or at your club (sorry). But it might be justified in extraordinary circumstances, which to some people, unfortunately, might be rather ordinary.
See All Stories In

City or Zip

This post also makes a general point about ethics and moral philosophy, that they're really good for coming up with general rules and prohibitions which apply in most cases, but there are always exceptions to those "do shall nots." Ethical systems are great for helping you frame moral issues (which is how ethics is normally taught in the classroom), but in the end, judgment is essential for arriving at a final answer. And you can't teach judgmentyou develop it over time. Let's say Christine tells her best friend Sally that she's thinking of cheating on her husband. What would Sally say? Well, she might ask her friend why she's thinking of cheating. Did her husband cheat? Is he mean, cold, or distant to her? Has the romance left their marriage? All of these mayor may notseem like relevant questions, even if in the end Sally says that cheating is wrong.

What would philosophers have to offer on the subject of cheating? I mean, listen to Sallycheating is just plain wrong, isn't it? And our intuitions are definitely that cheating is wrong. Well, so is lying, but we can all think of situations in which we would lie, and we would justify it if asked. Even taking a life can be justified if done in self-defense, or to save another life. In philosophical theories of morality, there are few absolutes, which means no easy answersbut we do get to ask lots of good questions! So what supports our intuitions that cheating is wrong? There are three obvious answers, which conveniently correspond to the three ethical schools we'll look at to answer the question.

Answer 1: Because it hurts your spouse How would you feel if your spouse cheated on you? Some of you may know this from experience, but I think we can all imagine itit hurts! You've been betrayed and lied to, and you feel angry, depressed, unworthy, second-rate, unwanted. You want to lash out at the same time you want to crawl inside yourself and hide. Your spouse chose to seek out intimacy of one sort or another with another person-not you. That defines "sucks." Sorry if I hit a nervebelieve me, that wasn't my intention. But I wanted to make the point that infidelity is very hurtful, and does real psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage to one's partner. And to philosophers who teach an ethical system known as utilitarianism, hurting people is wrong, period. Utilitarians maintain that the morality of an action depends on the amount of utility it creates, which can be thought of (as seminal utilitarian Jeremy Bentham did) in terms of pleasure and pain (among other concepts). One action is morally better than another if it leads to a greater amount of pleasure (or lesser amount of pain), and the right action is the one that leads to the greatest amount of pleasure (compared to pain). Utilitarianism is based on a lot of common sense, but can be absurdly demanding as wellfor instance, if the poor would benefit more from a dollar than you, extreme utilitarians (such as Peter Singer) may demand that you give all of your money away to the poor until you are equally poor. But more moderate utilitarians would say that, given a choice among reasonable options, you must simply choose the one that, as far as you can tell, benefits the most people to the greatest degree. Well, we already established that cheating hurts your spousethat would seem to make it wrong to a utilitarian, at least prima facie ("at first glance"). Compared to remaining faithful, cheating lessens your spouse'shappiness or pleasure and increases her pain. Of course, your spouse may not be the only one affectedyour children may also be hurt, either if they find out and are vicariously hurt through Mommy or Daddy being hurt, or even if they don't find out and and your spouse's pain nonetheless flows over to them. Family members, close friends, co-workersanyone who is close to you may be affected, and utilitarianism demands that every person count equally when figuring the total good and bad caused by an action. However, guess who else counts in that "everyone"? You. And therein lies one reason utilitarians might allow for cheating in some circumstances, particularly cases in which there is good reason to believe that you will benefit from the affair more than others will suffer. Let's say the romance in your marriage has completely disappeared; you and your spouse no longer speak, touch, or connect in any way. You begin to look elsewhere for the affection and intimacy you crave, whether sexual, romantic, or both. Maybe you don't think your spouse would even carehe doesn't want to be with you anymore, so why should he care if someone else does? It might lift you out of your misery to have someone in your life that cares, that wants you around, that you mean something to, and vice versa.

In such a case, and assuming that no one else (children, friends, etc.) would be significantly affected, a utilitarian would probably say "go ahead, do it!" Utilitarianism allows for some people to get hurt, as long as some other people are benefited by a greater amount (which is a frequent criticism of utilitarianism). Of course, you could be wrong about your spouse's feelings, or even about how much you stand to gain from an affair (maybe your guilt would overwhelm any positive feelings). But if to the best of your knowledge (and without rationalizing it to yourself), you believe that cheating on your spouse would increase your happiness more than it would lower your spouse's (and that of anyone connected to you), then the utilitarian would have to allow it. To make matters more ambiguous, there is another person who stands to gain from the affairyour paramour. She's a person, and her well-being must be included in your pleasure/pain calculations. So that's another "positive" to add to your own, possibly able to offset the harm to your spouse (and others). If the person you plan to cheat with is in a similar situation to yoursyou're both abjectly miserable in your separate relationshipsthat would make the case for cheating even stronger. But then again, what about your paramour's significant other? That's probably a negative... oh, my head hurts! There's a lot to consider when making utilitarian decisions, and that leads to the criticism that utilitarianism puts too much of a burden on decision-makers. Some people justify their affairs by saying "it's for the good of the marriage," or "it will make our marriage stronger." In other words, I may be hurting my spouse now, but in the long run, we'll both be happier. While this may actually be a rationalization when people say it, it does have some philosophical validity. Utilitarians don't simply compare the pleasure and pain that an action causes right now, but also the effects it creates in the future. Utilitarians use this thinking to defend or criticize policies on such things as governmental budget deficits or environmental impact that will affect not only people presently living, but their children and grandchildren as well. But one problem with this way of thinking is that it is very, very hard to predict the future. Economists disagree about the impact of budget deficits, scientists disagree about environmental effects, and reasonable people will disagree about the effects of infidelity on a marriage, even (or especially) if the people are in the situation themselves. How do you how your spouse is going to handle your infidelity? You may think you know him pretty wellhe was your soul mate, at least for some time but unless you did this to him before, you have no way to know how he's going to react. (And if you did do it to him, I think anyone can guess how he's going to react!) Once again, utilitarianism is very demanding regarding the information you need to make the best decision. To conclude, utilitarians do make allowances for cheating in especially desperate cases, in which the consequences of cheating may be overall positive, but on the whole, they would agree that cheating is usually wrong. And we didn't even get into rule utilitarianism, which recommends rules that result in the right action most of the time. One example is "do not lie"even though lies can occasionally do good overall, they usually don't, and following a rule of not lying will result in more good things than bad. The same thing would go for "do not cheat"such a rule may prevent some "good" affairs, but it would prevent many more bad ones.

Answer 2: Because it involves breaking a vow or promise You might be saying to yourself (or to your computer), "cheating isn't wrong because it causes more harm than goodit's wrong because it means you're breaking your promise to be faithful, or violating your wedding vows." In other words, you would be saying that cheating is wrong regardless of the consequences, no matter if it makes you and your paramour happier than it makes others unhappy. If so, you may be a deontologist. (Congratulationsyou've made your mother and me very proud.) Deontology is somewhat hard to define, but often it's contrasted with ethical theories like utilitarianism, that base ethical judgment on outcomes or consequences. (Generally, such ethical theories are called consequentialist; utilitarianism is one type of consequentialism that focuses on utility as the consequence of choice.) Instead, deontologists make ethical decisions based on duties, rights, or principles that are not based on outcomes or consequences. For instance, a deontologist might regard lying as wrong because it violates a duty of truth-telling, or the right to be told the truth, or respect for other people, but not because it leads to bad outcomes. A deontologist would be likely to say that cheating is wrong because it involves violating a duty of fidelity contained in the wedding vows, or breaking the promise you made to your spouse at your wedding, of failing to respect your spouse. A deontologist does not consider the good or bad consequences of any particular instance of cheatingcheating itself is wrong, because you should not break promises, violate your duty of fidelity, etc. So cheating's wrong, period. That should do it for deontology, right? Not so fast. As we said before, few ethical systems endorse ironclad restrictions, even though deontologists (like Immanuel Kant) are often thought to. For instance, while deontologists may decide that cheating is wrong in general, they may make exceptions for certain circumstances, such cheating in the face of spousal neglect or abandonment. (I'm not saying that all deontologists would make these exceptions, but just that some may.) There are various ways to do this: 1) Some use the terms prima facie or pro tanto duties to describe duties that hold true in general, as long as there are no mitigating factors to speak against them. For instance, there is a prima facie duty not to kill,unless your own life is threatened. Likewise, cheating would normally be wrong, unless the person feels neglected by his spouse (for example). The mitigating factors may also include other duties that conflict with the duty of fidelityfor instance, the duty to look after your own emotional well-being. 2) Others would say cheating in general is wrong, but more elaborate descriptions of cheating, such as "cheating-when-neglected," would be OK. Again, think of killing in self-defense; while killing is generally wrong, killing-in-self-defense usually isn't, because the logic that forbids killing in general may not forbid killing in self-defense. In the same way, cheating may generally be wrong, but cheating-when-neglected may not be, depending on how the duties are formulated (for instance, by using the categorical imperative in Kant's ethics).

There's an importance distinction to make here: while many deontologists would allow exceptions to the general wrongness of cheating, they would be based on the circumstances surrounding the person cheating, not on the particular consequences of cheating. In other words, anyone in the circumstance of being neglected by her spouse may be justified in cheating, whether or not it leads to good overall consequences. On the other hand, even good consequences will not justify cheating if you don't fall under one of the circumstances that allow cheating. In conclusion, deontology tells us pretty much the same thing that utilitarianism did: cheating is usually wrong, except in extreme cases. But while those cases are very hard to identify according to utilitarianism, which requires that you accurately predict the effects of your cheating on every relevant person, deontology makes its exceptions according to personal circumstances that are much easier to know. For instance, you know if you are neglected by your spouse, but you can only guess how cheating will affect you, your spouse, or anyone else. Answer 3: Because it makes you a bad person One more thing your friend may say when you tell her you're considering cheating is: "that's not the kind of person you are," or "what would you think of yourself if you did that?" Your friend would not be focusing on the consequences of cheating, or the morality of the act itself, but rather what cheating would say about you: your moral character, the person you think you are, and the person you aspire to be. And this is the domain of virtue ethics. Virtue ethics focuses on those qualities of a personthe virtues, naturallythat make her a good person, or that contribute to leading a good life. As opposed to utilitarianism and deontology, virtue ethicists don't provide formulas or rules for determining which qualities count as virtues and which as vices; most of them are pretty common-sense. Honesty, obviously, is a virtue, as are kindness and trustworthiness. Fidelity would be anotherwe normally think of faithful people as good. Likewise, if you want to be a good person, and you think that fidelity is a virtue that contribute to a person being good, than you should aspire toward being faithful. Well, that was even simpler than deontology, butdon't click to another post just yetremember what we said about no ethical system being absolute? Virtue ethicists (especially those who draw their inspiration from Aristotle) also emphasize moderation in all things, especially when defining virtues. For instance, it is possible to be too honest, if you end up saying this that hurt people unnecessarily ("you know, Jim, you really are putting on weight"), or too kind, if you give away all of your money and end up needing financial help yourself. Virtues can be considered the "mean" between two extremes, which implies that any good quality can be taken to the extreme. Likewise, fidelity can be taken too far. Imagine a woman in a broken marriage, whose husband neglects her and wantonly cheats on her, and who is miserable and maybe even suicidal. She knows a man at work who would be more than happy to take her out to lunch, get to know her better, maybe go to a movie (or more). It's not hard to imagine that a perfect devotion to the virtue of fidelity would be excessive in her case; it would not contribute to a good life in her case, and seeing her co-

worker would hardly make her a bad person, especially given her circumstances (the same circumstances that would probably justify her behavior in deontological terms as well). Conclusion Is cheating wrong? We surveyed the three major ethical theoriesutilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethicseach of them essentially different, but all of them arriving at basically the same conclusion: cheating is usually wrong, but can be justified in certain, possibly rare, instances. The fact that all three of these moral systems agree makes for a pretty strong argument, and it would seem like a fairly common-sense one at that. Sure, some people may adhere to a strict code of "no cheating," no matter what, as typified by certain religious systems of ethics; and others will say "do whatever feels good," such as hedonists or ethical egoists. But these are the extreme ends of the spectrum (which itself is not an argument against them), and most people fall somewhere in the middle, as our description above endorses. So if you're faced with a situation in which you, your spouse or partner, or someone else that you know is considering cheating (or is actually cheating), it is natural to condemn it out of hand. But remember that most moral philosophies allow for some justifications for cheating: some consider the consequences of the affair, others the circumstances around the affair, and yet others the character of the people involved. Whichever school of ethics sounds right to you, try to apply its lessons to your particular situation. If nothing else, it gives you one more way to look at things, and an additional viewpoint is always a good thingno exceptions! Source:


The Ethical and Anthropological Content of the Commandment: "You Shall Not Commit Adultery"
Pope John Paul II GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 23 APRIL At the General Audience in St. Peter's Square on 23 April, Pope John Paul II gave the following address. 1. Let us recall the words of the Sermon on the Mount, to which we are referring in this cycle of our Wednesday reflections. "You have heard the Lord says that it was said: 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:2728). The man to whom Jesus refers here is precisely "historical" man, the one whose

"beginning" and "theological prehistory" we traced in the preceding series of analyses. Directly, it is the one who hears with his own ears the Sermon on the Mount. But together with him, there is also every other man, set before that moment of history, both in the immense space of the past, and in the equally vast one of the future. To this "future," confronted with the Sermon on the Mount, our present, our contemporary age also belongs. This man is, in a way, "every" man, each of us. Both the man of the past and also the man of the future can be the one who knows the positive commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" as "contained in the Law" (cf. Rom 2:22-23). But he can equally be the one who, according to the Letter to the Romans, has this commandment only "written on his heart" (cf. Rom 2:15).(1) In the light of the previous reflections, he is the man who from his beginning has acquired a precise sense of the meaning of the body. He has acquired it even before crossing the threshold of his historical experiences, in the mystery of creation, since he emerged from it as "male and female" (cf. Gn 1:27). He is the historical man, who, at the beginning of his earthly vicissitudes, found himself "inside" the knowledge of good and evil, breaking the covenant with his Creator. He is the man who knew (the woman), his wife, and knew her several times. She "conceived and bore" (cf. Gn 4:12) according to the Creator's plan, which went back to the state of original innocence (cf. Gn 1:28; 2:24). Entering into his full image 2. In his Sermon on the Mount, especially in the words of Matthew 5:27-28, Christ addresses precisely that man. He addresses the man of a given moment of history and, at the same time, all men belonging to the same human history. As we have already seen, he addresses the "interior" man. Christ's words have an explicit anthropological content. They concern those perennial meanings through which an "adequate" anthropology is constituted. By means of their ethical content, these words simultaneously constitute such an anthropology. They demand that man should enter into his full image. The man who is "flesh," as a male remains in relationship with woman through his body and sex. (The expression "You shall not commit adultery" indicates this.) In the light of these words of Christ, this man must find himself again interiorly, in his heart.(2) The heart is this dimension of humanity with which the sense of the meaning of the human body, and the order of this sense, is directly linked. Here it is a question both of the meaning which, in the preceding analyses, we called nuptial, and of that which we called generative. What order are we treating of? Meaning of adultery 3. This part of our considerations must give an answer precisely to this questionan answer that reaches not only the ethical reasons, but also the anthropological; they remain, in fact, in a mutual relationship. For the time being, as a preliminary it is

necessary to establish the meaning of Matthew 5:27-28, the meaning of the expressions used in it and their mutual relationship. Adultery, to which the aforesaid commandment refers, means a breach of the unity by means of which man and woman, only as husband and wife, can unite so closely as to be "one flesh" (Gn 2:24). Man commits adultery if he unites in this way with a woman who is not his wife. The woman likewise commits adultery if she unites in this way with a man who is not her husband. It must be deduced from this that the "adultery in the heart," committed by the man when he "looks at a woman lustfully," means a quite definite interior act. It concerns a desire directed, in this case, by the man toward a woman who is not his wife, in order to unite with her as if she were, that is using once more the words of Genesis 2:24 in such a way that "they become one flesh." This desire, as an interior act, is expressed by means of the sense of sight, that is, with looks. This was the case of David and Bathsheba, to use an example taken from the Bible (cf. 2 Sm 11:2).(3) The connection of lust with the sense of sight has been highlighted especially in Christ's words. Man's interior act 4. These words do not say clearly whether the womanthe object of lustis the wife of another or whether simply she is not the wife of the man who looks at her in this way. She may be the wife of another, or even not bound by marriage. Rather, it is necessary to intuit it, especially on the basis of the expression which precisely defines as adultery what man has committed in his heart with his look. It must be correctly deduced that this lustful look, if addressed to his own wife, is not adultery "in his heart." This is precisely because the man's interior act refers to the woman who is his wife, with regard to whom adultery cannot take place. The conjugal act as an exterior act, in which "they become one flesh," is lawful in the relationship of the man in question with the woman who is his wife. In like manner, the interior act in the same relationship is in conformity with morality. Clarifying the text 5. Nevertheless, that desire, indicated by the expression "everyone who looks at a woman lustfully," has a biblical and theological dimension of its own, which we must clarify here. Even if this dimension is not manifested directly in this one concrete expression of Matthew 5:27-28, it is deeply rooted in the global context, which refers to the revelation of the body. We must go back to this context, so that Christ's appeal to the heart, to the interior man, may ring out in all the fullness of its truth. This statement of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27-28) fundamentally has an indicative character. The fact that Christ directly addresses man as the one "who looks at a woman lustfully," does not mean that his words, in their ethical meaning, do not refer also to woman. Christ expresses himself in this way to illustrate with a concrete example how the fulfillment of the law must be understood, according to the meaning that God the legislator gave to it. Furthermore, it is to show how that

"superabounding of justice" in the man who observes the sixth commandment of the Decalogue must be understood. Speaking in this way, Christ wants us not to dwell on the example in itself, but to penetrate the full ethical and anthropological meaning of the statement. If it has an indicative character, this means that, following its traces, we can arrive at understanding the general truth about historical man. This is valid also for the theology of the body. The further stages of our reflections will have the purpose of bringing us closer to understanding this truth.

NOTES 1) In this way, the content of our reflections shifts, in a way, to the field of natural law. The words quoted from the Letter to the Romans (2:15) have always been considered, in revelation, as a source of confirmation for the existence of natural law. Thus the concept of natural law also acquires a theological meaning. Cf. among others, D. Composta, Teologia del diritto naturale, status quaestionis(Brescia: Ed. Civilta, 1972), pp. 7-22, 41-53; J. Fuchs, S.J., Lex naturae. Zur Theologie des Naturrechts (Dusseldorf: 1955), pp. 22-30; E. Hamel, S.J., Loi naturelle et loi du Christ (Bruges-Paris: Descle de Brouwer, 1964), p. 18; A. Sacchi, "La legge naturale nella Bibbia," La legge naturale. Le relazioni del Convegno dei teologi moralisti dell'Italia settentrionale, September 11-13, 1969 (Bologna: Ed. Dehoniane, 1970), p. 53; F. Bckle, "La legge naturale e la legge cristiana," ibid., pp. 214-215; A. Feuillet, "Le fondement de la morale ancienne et chrtienne d'apres l'Epitre aux Romains," Revue Thomiste 78 (1970), pp. 357-386; Th. Herr, Naturrecht aus der kritischen Sicht des Neuen Testaments (Mnchen: Schnig, 1976), pp. 155164. 2) "The typically Hebraic usage reflected in the New Testament implies an understanding of man as unity of thought, will and feeling.... It depicts man as a whole, viewed from his intentionality; the heart as the center of man is thought of as source of will, emotion, thoughts and affections. This traditional Judaic conception was related by Paul to Hellenistic categories, such as "mind", "attitude", "thoughts" and "desires". Such a coordination between the Judaic and Hellenistic categories is found in Phil 1:7, 4:7; Rom 1:21-24, where "heart" is thought of as the center from which these things flow (R. Jewett, Paul's Anthropological Terms, A Study of Their Use in Conflict Settings [Leiden: Brill, 1971], p. 448). "Das die verborgene, inwendige Mitte und Wurzel des Menschen und damit seiner Welt...der unergrndliche Grund und die lebendige Kraft aller Daseinserfahrung undentscheidung" (H. Schlier, "Das Menschenherz nach dem Apostel Paulus," Lebendiges Zeugnis, 1965, p. 123). Cf. also F. Baumgrtel and J. Behm, "Kardia," Theologisches Wrterbuch zum Neuen

Testament, II [Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1933], pp. 609-616. 3) This is perhaps the best-known one, but other similar examples can be found in the Bible (cf. Gn 34:2; Jgs 14:1, 16:1).

Taken from: L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English date, page L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See. The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by: The Cathedral Foundation L'Osservatore Romano English Edition 320 Cathedral St. Baltimore, MD 21201 Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315 Fax: (410) 332-1069

Provided Courtesy of: Eternal Word Television Network 5817 Old Leeds Road Irondale, AL 35210

Ethics involved in Sexual Morality: Adultery and Fornication

Posted on August 24, 2009 by wbmoore
I was going over some writing from when I was taking a course in Ethics while attending Bible College, and I thought the information would be good discussion material. I do not recall the source material. If anyone recognizes any of this, please let me know, so I can attribute it appropriately.

I wanted to discuss the ethics involved in sexual morality, specifically adultery and fornication. The issue is whether it is morally right to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. This entails both adultery, which is sex between a married person with someone other than ones spouse, and fornication, which is sex between unmarried people. There is one position that holds that sex outside of marriage is not a good thing, while there are two views that consider fornication to be morally right, the natural impulse view and the affection view. The basis for the natural impulse view on sexual morality is that sex, which as a impulse or instinct and completely natural, should be enjoyed to obtain the greatest happiness. Contraceptives remove the concern of unwanted pregnancy or sexual disease. Sex should be considered a pleasurable physical activity, with no moral guilt attached to it, as long as both partners voluntarily engage in it without the involvement of harm or deceit. There is no need to restrict sexual fulfillment to a single partner nor is there a requirement that sex be accompanied by love. There are four arguments for this position: 1. Sex is an impulse or instinct, which is natural and should be followed, much like wild animals especially since contraception is so readily available. 2. Sexual repression is bad, and engaging freely in sex is healthy. Sexual repression has resulted in a variety of neuroses, including insanity. 3. Mankind has a moral obligation to maximize pleasure.

4. Any act is right, and those who would restrict behavior must prove that it is necessary. The Christian response to the natural impulse view on sexual morality: 1. What is wild or natural may not be good. People seem to inevitably form societies, which in turn place limits on sexual behavior. Besides this, God has written His moral law on our hearts (Romans 2:14-16). 2. Although there is nothing wrong with pleasure, man in not obligated to maximize it. Sometimes we have to do things that are painful and are not morally justified in avoiding these acts because we want to pursue pleasure. 3. If one were to suppose that people should seek the greatest pleasure, that does not mean that sex outside of marriage is the greatest pleasure. A simple example of this would be that it is uncomfortable to have sex when one has no descent place to engage in such activity, which few teenagers have. Also, many people who engage in such activity feel anxiety about it, if for no other reason than society frowns upon, or for fear of pregnancy, inadequacy, or disease. Such fears would be negligible or non-existent in a healthy marriage. 4. Unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease are still concerns since contraception is not 100% reliable. This can lead to many problems: a rising number of single parents, a rising number of women on welfare, and a rising number of abortions. These are not pleasurable things. Someone who was seeking the most pleasure would not seek any of these things, yet they are the direct result of premarital sex. 5. Sex does not need someone to assign meaning to it, it is already filled with meaning. It affects one to their very being, forever. By becoming one flesh (1 Cor. 6:12-20) with someone with whom they are not in love, people who engage in sex outside of marriage have less of themselves to give to their true love. The affection view of sexual morality says that sexual freedom should be guided by the ideal of intimacy. There are no ethical absolutes to guide behavior, but openness and caring should guide behavior. In this view, people go in and out of relationships in which they engage in sex; if things work out they get married. The arguments for this position are: 1. Sex is inherently and completely good as long as it is with someone you love. Casual sex will occur; it is not ideal, but excusable. 2. A covenant that binds one individual to another it to be rejected; ones primary obligation is to oneself. Each partner must retain his independence. 3. The right to intimacy is created by compatibility, not covenant. When compatibility is no longer present, divorce is morally right. 4. Sex is a private matter. What you do and with whom is entirely up to you. 5. Sex can be engaged in with no strings attached. Passing from virginity to experience does not involve profound personal change. 6. Women and men should be treated the same. What is excusable for one is also excusable for the other. 7. Sex demands maturity to be able to weigh all the variables that are involved in determining if sexual intercourse is acceptable. The Christian response: 1. Love and intimacy as defined in this view are too weak to deal with the impulses that make up human sexuality. In the passion of the moment, anyone can convince himself that anything is love. 2. While the affection view puts emotion at the heart of human behavior, Christianity teaches that the human will is what determines behavior. Love is seen in and fostered by action. Intimacy is developed through persistent self-sacrifice. 3. Sex involves the expression of the total person and grows out of lives that are fully shared. 4. The sex act can cause the couple to over commit to each other because of the bonding effect of sexual intercourse. Just because people have good sex does not mean they will have a good marriage. 5. Premarital sex robs people of the opportunity of sharing something special unique and special to their marriage. But if sex is saved for marriage, it gains significance. The view that holds that sex outside of marriage is not a good thing is the abstinence view. In this view, it is recognized that sex is pleasurable and natural, but it should not be used purely for sexual gratification. God teaches in the Old Testament and New Testament that abstinence is what should be practiced outside of marriage: Ex 20:14; 22:16,17; Lev. 18:20; 20:10, 14: 21:13; Deut. 22:15, 17, 20-21; Prov. 23:27; 1 Cor. 5:1; 6:9, 13, 18; Eph 5:3; 1 Thes. 4:3-8. These verses teach that prostitution is wrong: Deut. 23:18; Prov. 23:27; 1 Cor. 6:1318. Sex involves the whole person, bonding two people physically and psychologically. Sex between two uncommitted partners only brings fleeting and trivial pleasure. Limiting sex to marriage encourages people to marry and remain married. This makes for a more stable society. When all the benefits of marriage are available without the responsibilities, society and children suffer. Marriage in which both partners are absolutely faithful to each other reduces the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Finally, abstinence eliminates the possibility of unwanted pregnancy for those who practice it. These same arguments hold for adultery. The Old and New Testament teach that monogamy is a good thing. God made men and women in His image (Gen 1:27). Human sexuality is part of Gods design, and as such is good (Gen 1:31). Polygamy was allowed, but often created problems (Gen 29:21-30; 2 Sam 5:13-19; 1 Kings 11:1,3). Concubinage was practiced and levirate marriage was commanded to raise up heirs for a deceased family member (Gen 38:8; Deut 25:5-10). Divorce was allowed but not Gods wish (Deut. 24:1-4; Mal 2:14-16; Mat 19:312; Mark 10:2-12; 1 Cor 7:10-17). The Song of Solomon talks a great deal of the virtues of married love between husband and wife. Indeed, Paul taught that sexual desire is a legitimate reason to marry (1 Cor 7:2, 9, 36-37). The husband and wife each have a sexual duty to one another (1 Cor 7:3), because a partners body does not belong to himself or herself alone (1 Cor 7:4). So neither should deprive the other from sex except by mutual consent for a time to devote oneself to prayer (1 Cor 7:5). Adultery is condemned in the OT and NT: Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22; Ex 20:14; Lev 18:20; Deut 5:18; Mat 5:27-28; John 8:3-11; 1 Cor 6:9. Adulterous thought (lust) is as wrong as the act

(Mat 5:28; Eph 2:3; 1 Thes 4:3-8; 2 tim 2:22; tit 3:3; 1 Pet 2:11; 4:2-3; 1 John 2:16). Lust distorts ones desire, and can, like the act itself, harm the marriage. In short, God instituted marriage and desires it to be a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, with neither going outside the marriage for sexual gratification, but each agreeing to meet the others needs.


The purpose of sex? In terms of its biological function, the purpose of sex is procreation; but it may have a secondary purpose in giving pleasure and strengthening the relationship between sexual partners. A traditional Natural Law approach would argue that sex always needs to be open to the possibility of procreation, since that is its primary purpose. This implies that sex which denies the primary purpose (e.g. masturbation, or homosexual intercourse) is wrong, even if it is actually undertaken for the sake of a secondary effect, such as pleasure. This approach has its limitations: The natural end and purpose of an action is not given in nature, it is the result of a rational assessment, and it may be far from clear what that nature is. Is sex a means of conceiving children? Or is conceiving children a by-product of sex, whose basic purpose is forging relationships for mutual support? (You could argue, for example, that - if sex were only there for the purposes of conception - sexual attraction would be limited to those occasions and partners with whom conception is a likely prospect. This is, after all, the situation with many animals, where sexual attraction is mainly found only at the time when the female is able to conceive. On the other hand, if sexual feelings arise naturally without any desire or ability to conceive, it might suggest that those feelings are designed with some other end in mind. It is therefore by no means absolutely clear that sex has a single purpose.)