Friday, April 18, 2008

On Love and Moral Responsibility, Part 2

I’d like to continue the reply to Gigi in the comments section, in regards to love and moral responsibility. You can see the first part here.

Gigi said the two following quotes of mine are inconsistent:

Love is primarily an action, not a sentiment.


Are they doing it in the spirit of doing what is best for you?

She writes:

If the intent is irrelevant, how does this "if they are not choosing to act in your best interest-- just theirs-- then no, I wouldn't call that love" work into the grand schema? If the outcome is exactly the same - regardless of motive (sentiment) - how is it not within your earlier definition of love? They are still acting in your best interests - you are being clothed, fed, etc. - and they are still choosing to do it.

It is true that an action performed with a bad intention can benefit you.

Intentions are not irrelevant (though emotions may be…that’s another post). Love must not only be about the effect on another, but also the effect of oneself.

Consider the case of someone who does what he’s supposed to, but always does it while angry. The person who is on the receiving end of those actions may not notice and may get the same benefit, but what effect would it have on you?

I had said that my definition of love as acting in the interest of another is glib and vernacular. I had assumed in that definition that people do not generally behave against their own best interest. Of course that’s not true. People act against their own interests for all kinds of reasons. People can blind themselves to the negative results of their actions. It’s a reality of human nature.

When you choose to do it for someone else it is because you are getting something (emotional) out of it.

There is no selflessness except for those in extreme denial. And even they wouldn't do it if they weren't getting some perverse pleasure out of feeling like a martyr.

There is nothing wrong with deriving happiness from giving, it's pretending that you aren't that is problematic.

All exchanges should be equitable, whether what is derived is emotional (pleasure) or tangible.

Nothing wrong at all with getting something out of serving someone else.

It’s not selfish at all. Selfishness is acting contrary to someone’s best interest.

In response, Joe wrote:

I still can't believe Suzanne's version of love is all about actions and not feelings (even though you've shown her contradicting herself on this)...

I said it’s primarily an action. The action is the most important thing. But an action that benefits someone can be made morally wrong by a wrong intention. And nothing ever justifies a selfish act.

Emotions can enhance or diminish the moral quality of an act. But they’re not the core of what a moral action is about. People can choose to surmount feelings of hostility and anger and do what’s right for someone else.

be 'loved' by suzanne must be pretty ordinary since by her earliest definition she must love just about everyone!

But I don’t perform loving actions towards everyone. I don’t seek to serve the whole world.

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