Consenting Adults

Exploding the Philosophy of Leaving Everyone Else Alone

There is an idea floating around to the effect that nothing that takes place between two consenting adults can be morally wrong. If confronted with the example of extramarital affairs or collective cheating on tests, proponents of this idea would likely revise the definition: “Nothing can be morally wrong that all parties involved have consented to, because nobody is being harmed.” Now, let us forget for a moment that each of us is connected to many more people than we can possibility imagine (much less involve in our decision-making process)—even if we assume that we can neglect all the effects that our actions have on our families, friends, and so forth, most of us really do betray a belief in moral standards that transcend this statement.

A salient case is that of Armin Meiwes, the German cannibal who advertised on the Internet for a young man who was willing to be eaten. He did end up eating one such young man, and he was convicted by the courts. The emotion that may have ensured his conviction is irrelevant, as one could argue that our feelings about morality are primarily emotional in nature. The point is that most of us are still willing to legally interfere with an event that took place between consenting adults.

Firstly, I must suggest that “harm” extends beyond what is perceived by any of the individuals involved at the time of an event. Harm is something that can be done to a naïve person, and this person may never even realize that harm has been done. We chastise people for this. “Don’t take advantage of her!” we say. Inasmuch as one believes in morality or ethics, one must apply them to these situations. May I be so bold as to say that one must err on the side of caution? If not, I will be so bold as to do so myself.

Secondly, I must suggest that each of us is connected to an indeterminate number of people in the past, present and future, and we are not able to predict who else may be impacted by these actions in the future. They will not be there to consent. We carry around all the baggage from of our past actions inside of us, and we do not necessarily have control over the way that it plays out. Things that affect you necessarily affect the people you are close to. Obviously, we cannot imagine every outcome in our lives, but we ought to be sensitive to those outcomes that are incredibly likely, and certainly to those that we intend to bring about!

Finally, if there is a God, it follows that we are responsible for what we do with ourselves. If the atheist wishes to mock the theist for this belief, the atheist must mock theism directly. It will not do to slander the theist for his behaviour, as if he is being inconsistent or irrational, because he is not. From the theist’s perspective, we do not belong to ourselves. We could have just as easily not existed. Everything that we have is given to us, and every action must be considered in light of what we perceive God’s purposes to be.

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2 Responses to “Consenting Adults”

  1. A week without a post?! Ah, well you must be in Turkey or something.

  2. Looks like I scheduled two for the same weekend by accident.

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