This is a very good topic and I am interested to see how the conversation goes.
Originally Posted by hyperskeptic
..What if you have reason to believe someone's ability to give informed consent is impaired in some way - and, really, since we are all at best imperfectly rational, it may be that all of us are impaired or at least limited in our ability to make reasonable choices for ourselves most of the time, anyway!
My initial response is that, you are right, all of us may be considered to be "impaired" in some way - whether it be NRE, past experiences/trauma, education or lack thereof, etc. etc. In the absence of compelling, objective, evidence that someone is clearly "non compos mentis
" (i.e. out of their gourd on some external substance or actively psychotic, for example), however, I think that you have to assume that these internal states are part of the adult person who is making the decision (even if it seems wrong to you). Which doesn't mean that you can't offer observations, advise, perspective (which then becomes part of their experience and alters those internal states that make up who they are and thereby might influence their decision).
Ultimately though? At the end of the day, we are autonomous individuals with the right/freedom to make bad decisions, live with the consequences, and move on (hopefully having learned something in the process).
Originally Posted by hyperskeptic
Might the same thing apply with NRE? Someone besotted with the first excitement of a new relationship, drunk or high on neurochemicals, should perhaps be treated with caution. One bit of advice floating around this and other poly forums is that you really shouldn't go making life-altering decisions while under the influence of NRE, any more than you should get behind the wheel of a car when you're drunk.
Not making life-altering decisions while under the influence of NRE is good general advise. But I wouldn't necessarily equate it with drunk driving.
The decisions you make under the influence of NRE may turn out fine or end in relationship catastrophe but you are unlikely to end up with a schoolbus full of dead kids. The people that you are involved with relationship-wise have the option of going along with (or not) the decisions that involve them - of letting their thoughts (and boundaries/limitations) be known (Kids are the obvious exception to this - one would hope that the other parent/family would advocate on their behalf). The drivers/passengers/pedestrians that are hit by a drunk driver had no way of knowing that they were slated to be inadvertent players in a game of "Fatal Bumper Cars" on the interstate.
Originally Posted by hyperskeptic
So, this is what the wrinkle comes to. All else being equal, we should respect the informed choices of other adults, and they should respect our choices. But, when all else is not equal, when there may be good reason to think someone we know and care about is caught up in some specific, maybe short-term impairment of rational choice, what are our responsibilities then? Should we always defer to them, take them at their word regarding their own judgment of what's good for them? or should we challenge them, question them, even impede them in some way from making reckless choice "under the influence"?
"Defer to them, take them at their word?
" In a way - ultimately the decision is up to them - which doesn't mean that you are obligated to keep your mouth shut, persuade away...it's good mental exercise, even if it doesn't work. Besides, you could be wrong (always a good exercise in humility
) - then they get the pleasure of saying "Told you so!"
"Should we challenge them?
" Hell, yeah.
"...even impede them in some way?
" Meh, impede them how? By threatening some action on your part? - i.e. "If you do this I will leave you/won't be friends with you/won't support you." Only if you mean it - cause there is a good chance that they will be GONE. Kidnapping them and performing some sort of "intervention" until they see the light? Gross and creepy, controlling and NOT OKAY. Calling up the object of their infatuation and scaring them off with lies? WAY overstepping your bounds. Letting the object of their affection know of key elements that are being kept from them and impeding their
ability to make an informed decision? that's way tougher in my mind on the ethics front. Yes, they have a right to know - but is it your place to tell them? and what effect will that have on your relationship with the one you are concerned about. Interesting shades of grey zone...
So, for me, it boils down to: I have a value system that is heavily weighted toward individualism, autonomy, and personal freedom...including the freedom to make stupid decisions and fuck up your life. If I care about someone it is my obligation (that I have taken upon myself) to point out my observations and tell them the ways that I think that this is going to go wrong. They can choose to listen and take what I have to say under consideration...or they can tell me to piss off. They make a decision, stuff happens, people deal with it...or they don't. If I watch a person make bad decision after bad decision and disregard my opinion repeatedly? I may decide that the strain of watching this happen is too much for me and I might withdraw myself from this person's life. If they are tired of hearing my opinion and don't want my input anymore they might withdraw themselves from my life...
PS. You should probably be informed, in reading this post, that I am a cynical curmudgeon and think that most people are idiots most of the time. So you should take my opinion with a grain of salt.
I watch people make bad decisions all day long, despite my attempts - I'm actually constantly amazed at how often the consequences of those decisions turn out okay. Dammit "Being stupid SHOULD
PPS. This actually ties in to a conversation that I had with Dude earlier this week - when he was dating CrazyGirl and he and I were just flirting (dangerously) he kept asking what I thought about her and whether they were "good" together. In my mind, I am thinking - "Hell no! She is a crazy, alcoholic, drama-queen and will make you miserable...you should be with ME." What I SAID was, "It doesn't matter what I think, because I am not the one that is dating her. Do YOU think she is good for you ...or do you just like getting sex on a regular basis?" He feels I should have told him what I was actually thinking, I felt that I didn't know him well enough to make the call (maybe he LIKES crazy, alcoholic, drama-queens...like it's his "thing" or something) PLUS, since I was harbouring unacknowledged feelings for him myself, it seemed that criticizing his current girlfriend under the guise of "friendship" would have been self-serving.