In his article, Halwani examines the concept of adultery from the standpoint of virtue ethics rather than the Kantian model traditionally used for the topic. He argues that virtue ethics is better suited for the social complexities surrounding adultery. This ethics does not judge the rightness of actions but ultimately focuses on character, therefore allowing for more than one ethical answer based on the context and avoids the phenomenon of moral luck (Halwani 7).
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Fidelity can be defined as faithfulness and loyalty to one’s partner. It is driven by a concept of policy, such as marriage which consists of vows to avoid external affairs and promise to love each other. Halwani characterizes a good person based on the virtues they possess. The virtue of ethics does not distinguish between moral and immoral, but a combination of traits that define a character and offer justification for any action that inherently makes a person good (Halwani 6).
When fidelity is an ideal in a relationship, a virtuous person will strive to maintain it by fostering love, trust, and affection (Halwani 14). This leads to Halwani’s primary example of Richard Taylor, who was involved in a loveless and unhappy marriage with little physical attraction and emotional acknowledgment. Eventually, his wife met another man that accepted and loved her despite physical disfigurements. Despite the wife committing the act of adultery, it is the husband that would be considered in violation of fidelity based on his long-term behavior.
Halwani believes that there is no connection between love and sex, which makes adultery permissible. If love and sex were connected, then it can be argued that adultery is immoral since the sexual act demonstrates the act of falling in love, which is an act of deep emotional betrayal (Halwani 13). Fidelity is ideal in a marriage in the case that its discovery leads to pain upon the faithful partner and could destroy trust and love built over the years, which may eventually result in the break-up of the relationship.
The virtues described help maintain fidelity by allowing a person to have a character of fidelity through commitment, resisting temptation, and demonstrating compassion for one’s spouse, all of which prevent adultery. Based on the account, it can be argued that there are degrees to virtue as individuals have differing abilities to exemplify certain traits, and there are contexts when committed infidelity is not necessarily a critical factor in ending a marriage (Halwani 14).
Situational contexts can differ significantly, and humanity’s complexities make it possible for radically different decisions to remain ultimately virtuous. Halwani offers the example of a working mother with five children with poor health choosing to have an abortion, while another person in a similar situation may choose to have the baby. Despite the difference, there was virtue in both their actions (Halwani 7). In my opinion, that in the context of marriage and adultery, there is a connection between love and sex. Although there are numerous situations where sex is a purely physical pleasure, a person in marriage most often seeks emotional comfort as well.
Halwani’s account does cause tension because of social perceptions of adultery as immoral. This is based on upbringing, social values, and even religious ideology. Therefore, creating an ethical justification for infidelity is problematic. However, Halwani’s honesty regarding sexual relationships is warranted as he examines all aspects, ranging from physical attraction to emotional factors.
According to Halwani, adultery is permissible in situations where the partner does not demonstrate fidelity, including the promise to love and care for the other, including a lack of physical pleasures as well. I disagree with this perspective as the act of adultery remains in violation of your own individual promise of fidelity, acting upon which will demonstrate dishonesty of character and can be considered immoral. Although the arguments are compelling, and I am engaged by the principles of virtue ethics, I ultimately disagree with Halwani. This assignment will seek to deeply explore Halwani’s virtue ethics argument on adultery and provide a critique of how it can apply to real life.
Halwani, Raja. “Virtue Ethics and Adultery.” Journal of Social Philosophy, vol. 29, no. 3, 1998, pp. 5-18. Web.