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They were not seduced, or hardly more seduced than me.To use a term not then current, there was no harassment worth the name.Last year, philosopher Neil Mc Arthur (Manitoba) published an article, “piece).Mc Arthur acknowledges that “romances between faculty and students are minefields, both emotionally and ethically, and they should be approached with the utmost care and trepidation.” However, “such matters are far too complex for the blunt tool provided by outright prohibitions, and that such prohibitions cannot be justified” (p.138).(It is unclear whether these students were ones Honderich had any supervisory role over.) I’ve reproduced the passage here not to provide an occasion for excoriating Honderich.
Even if we suppose that there are some that are consensual and otherwise unproblematic—“successful”—we need to look at the ongoing context in which such relationships might come about.But was the conventional view of the weight of this obligation correct? It did not escape me either that I was not alone in my ways.There were others than our Abelard who were not burdened by their tacit undertaking.So I would have said in setting out to defend myself.In fact, in these buoyant times, I did not reflect a lot on my actions and my moral standing, or suffer guilt, partly because of the optimistic feeling that if I worked at a defence, a confident one might be constructed. (pp.128-29) This passage and related ones were brought to my attention by Joshua Habgood-Coote (Bristol), who discussed them on Twitter.
Whether such relationships would involve a power imbalance that undermines the possibility of consent, I don’t know; I think the diversity of actual cases means that this is hard to generalize about.