Byte On The Side

I was given a blessed but very last minute opportunity last week when I received an email from one of my colleagues, who is also a Program Director, asking me if I would be willing to teach Introdcution to Philosophy in the Fall. I said “Yes,” and now, as I expected, I am a little stressed trying to put this class together before classes begin next week.

Today, as I searched for texts for the class I came across and purchased an interesting little tome titled, The Pig that Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher, which I plan on using periodically as a heuristic tool to stimulate philosophical discussions. In short this book draws upon the Western Philosophical tradition to present small philosophical puzzles that touch upon abstract philosophical ideas in concrete narrative terms.

Since I have no qualms about extending the walls of my classroom, I thought I would share one of these thought experiments with you to see what responses I can generate among my readers. So, without further ado, I give you the following:

Like many people who had been married for several years, Dick was bored with his relationship. There was no passion these days. In fact, Dick and his wife harldy slept together at all. However, Dick had no intention whatsoever of leaving his wife. He loved her and she was an excellent mother to their children.

He knew full well that the usual solution to this problem was: have an affair. You simply accept that your wife satisfies some of your needs and your mistress others. But Dick really didn’t want to go behind his wife’s back, and he also knew that she could not deal with an open relationship, even if he could.

So, when Dick heard about Byte on the Side Inc. (Even better than the real thing!), he had to take it seriously. What the company offered was the opportunity to conduct a virtual affair. Not one-handed cyber sex with a real person at the other end of the computer connection, but a virtual reality environment in which you “slept with” a completely simulated person. It would feel just like real sex, but, in fact, all your experiences would be caused by computers stimulating your brain to make it seem to you as though you were having sex. All the thrills of an affair, but with no third person, and hence no real infidelity. Why should he say no?

So, what do you think?

7 Responses to “Byte On The Side”

  1. Amber Bailey  

    Wouldn’t that be much like looking at pornography? In my view when a guy or girl looks at porn and lusts after another, they are committing adultery all the same. They are emotionally attaching themselves to another, to fulfill something that their spouse should be doing for him. In my opinion, Dick should have a very long talk with his wife, and find out why the passion has left their marriage. It could be that they are tired, and need to schedule time for themselves, or that they have gotten into a rut of schedules and haven’t been able to connect. Find the connection with his wife again, and not something else. In my opinion its still cheating, whether there’s another person or not.

  2. Dr. Fay  

    All the thrills of an affair but with a computer . . . Dick doesn’t know what an affair is.

    Glad to see you are working on your class.

  3. Anthony Velez  

    Bailey – What a nice surprise to see your comment.

    I agree that this would be very much like looking at pornography, but the question I want to address, from the standpoint of moral philosophy, is why are such activities wrong. I understand that within a Xian framework we have a command not to commit adultery and that Jesus raised the bar in our understanding of this matter by saying that if a person looks at another lustfully such a person has committed adultery in his or her heart. But accepting this, I want to understand Jesus’ interpretation of this command, I want to enter into the stream of Xian reflection known as “Faith seeking understanding.”

    Unpacking this from that perspective, I see a lot of questions raised regarding the purpose of sex, the purpose of marriage, the nature of happiness, as well as what it is to be genuinely human, and without unpacking my response at this moment, I will just say that should Dick choose the “Byte on the Side” option, he would be flouting the purpose of sex and marriage, pursuing a false happiness, and undermining his humanity. As to why I say this, I will save that for a later comment.

  4. Anthony Velez  

    Fay – Good to see you here as well.

    You say, “All the thrills of an affair but with a computer,” and to that I add, and all the moral transgression as well. Without going into too much detail, I would say that how we use our minds and imaginations deeply influences the kinds of creatures we are becoming. And so, even though Dick doesn’t physically commit sex with another human being, he is distorting himself by intellectually giving himself over to such practices. Moreover, there is something disturbing about such disembodied experiences that seems to undermine the integrity of our embodied life as humans.

    As to why this is so, I will ponder this more and respond later.

  5. Melissa  

    Ahhh… Makes me fondly recall my intro to philosophy class a (ahem) few years ago. Looks to me like you will be stirring some brains. I think you’ll do well! I like your thoughts above… I would add that the comment “All the thrills of an affair, but with no third person, and hence no real infidelity” is misguided – unless physical fidelity is all he ever promised his wife. Real fidelity is much more than not having a “real” affair.

  6. K.L.B.  

    Our character needs to get ahold of his thought life. He’s seriously going off the deep end.

    So, he’s bored with a small piece of Southern real estate. Maybe she is too! But perhaps the focus is on the wrong real estate. Maybe he/they (I’ve always heard it takes two to tango!) ought to consider that circular parcel way up north.

    As well, I fault the author for ignoring the fact of his spouse’s contribution, except to portray her as a victim, and Mr. D as a user by virtue of his solitary reference to her as an “excellent mother to their children.”

    Poor, poor victim… yeah, right. Again, it takes two to tango. And in a marriage gone wrong, TWO people are at fault. Not just one. Marriage is a UNION. The two shall become one, you know.

    I sense hope, however. After all, the author noted that “he loved her…” Since the author notes that Mr. D “really didn’t want to go behind his wife’s back, and he also knew that she could not deal with an open relationship, even if he could” certainly seems to indicate that he definitely is struggling, or so it seems.

    Quite some time ago, while growing up in my parent’s household, I asked my mother this question: If you could be hooked up to a machine that would give you pleasure forever, would you do it?

    I’ve never forgotten her answer.

    Without hesitating she said, “No.”

    When I asked her why, she explained to me something that I came to understand only years later, and which is part of our physiological make-up, and is a component of our psychological composition. Consistent exposure to a thing has the potential in many cases to anesthetize us. In other words, pleasure would cease. That’s why – according to statistics – most automobile accidents occur very near one’s residence. We’re careless, we’re not alert, oriented and keen. We have come to expect certain things, to take certain things for granted.

    In a battlefield situation, that can get you killed. And it can just as easily be a door for kidnappers and other killers who rely upon human habituation to assist them.

  7. Roger Green  

    I think the fact that he does his thinking for his wife (he knows how she’d feels) lies at the heart of the (probably obvious) solution: TALK WITH HER. My sense that she may be equally bored – “what are WE gonna do about it?” You can have those conversations about thinking about having an affair but not doing it and maybe, just maybe find a solution for BOTH of their problems.
    In another blog, on a totally unrelated topic, someone wrote about still showering together after 37 years of marriage; thought it was sexy as all get out.