Originally Posted by PhilosophicallyLost
The main thing my brother is saying is that my choice poses great harm to everyone involved. He said my choice already hurt him so much that he ended up in a mental hospital. He also said that it poses great harm to E's moral character, and that the circumstances have not provided for Y's full consent. Since Y hasn't emotionally given his full consent, anytime I am with E romantically my brother feels that I am cheating on Y.
Well, this is an odd tangle.
First, have you harmed your brother? In ethical terms, harm
is usually connected with thwarting or denying some basic or vital interest of another person (or other being) . . . usually understood in any case to be a legitimate
interest of that person (or being).
What legitimate interest of his are you thwarting or denying? Having you always agree with him? Never having his view of the world challenged? Never seeing or hearing of anything that offends him or shocks him?
Those are hardly the kinds of interests that create a moral claim on you! He is hurt, maybe. He is offended. But he has not really
been harmed by the mere fact of your interest in or pursuit of polyamory.
I can't speak to the point about the mental hospital, but I would say that is a matter between him and his doctors. Your revelations may have been the occasion for mental illness or other psychological or neurological problem to express itself, but that's hardly your responsibility.
Or, at least, that does not in itself constitute an argument against polyamory.
Second, your brother should distinguish between the ethics of poly as such and the ethical qualities of your own, individual actions. I don't know enough about the situation to say, one way or the other, but it's entirely possible you have acted wrongly in relation to Y, with consent being the key issue.
The point is, it's always possible for you to divide the question. You might, in some circumstance, say: I acted wrongly in this instance, and I'll try to do better in the future . . . for example, with regard to respecting the autonomy of others in making sure consent is freely given, without undue pressure. You can say that, and still say that polyamory in general
is still morally defensible.