Expert speaks about ethics in Relationships

ST. PETERSBURG – First, do no harm. It’s an ethics idea that Elaine Englehardt expressed during her lecture at the USF-St. Petersburg campus Monday night for The Program for Ethics in Education and Communication. Englehardt, a professor of philosophy and assistant vice president for Academic Affairs at Utah Valley State College, spoke about ethical issues from her book, Interpersonal Communication Ethics: Friends, Intimates, Sexuality, Marriage, and Family. Englehardt has also organized a center of ethics at Utah State. Her work in the field of ethics was recognized with the 2001 Theodore M. Heshburgh Award for Faculty Development to Enhance Undergraduate Teaching and Learning.

Englehardt touched on five different relationships in life. First she talked about the importance of a good relationship, citing a famous philosopher, Eric Frum, who explained different ways of looking at yourself. Frum said people need to love themselves and also enjoy being with their partners.

“You need to know yourself and appreciate yourself before having a relationship,” Englehardt said.

Englehardt also talked about friendships. She quotes Aristotle, a famous philosopher who encouraged friendships. She said that Aristotle thought there were different purposes for friends. Friends for utility purposes, those who help each other out, are not really friends. Friends for pleasure, are those who will do fun activities like go to a movie or an amusement park with you. And then there is the perfect friend. The perfect friend is based on goodness, and there are only a few who will listen to everything and always be there to help out in a time of need.

“Aristotle said that marvelous things come with friendship,” Englehardt said.

The interpersonal relationship is another topic Englehardt talked about. She said Carol Gilligan’s work with males and females brought about a different voice.

Englehardt said Gilligan’s research has grown to show that women today are now participating in intercollegiate sports. By participating in these activities, studies show that women can achieve more in the workplace because they know how to work with men.

Englehardt then talked about intimate relationships. She quotes Robert Salmon of the University of Texas, Austin. Salmon is a philosopher who said falling in love is different than really being in love.

“Salmon said it is a process of love and it doesn’t mean one has to be intimate with a partner, but it means that one is with them day in and day out,” Englehardt said.

“Also, facing different situations with that person and learning that you can’t live without each other.”

She also mentioned Burchmen Russell and Mike Martin, other famous philosophers who have studied marriage, sex and infidelity.

“Russell believed that one should stay married but can have other partners on the side,” Englehardt said. “While Martin thought that if one is a truly ethical person and felt deeply connected with their partner, they should stay in a faithful relationship.”

The last topic Englehardt talked about was family. She talked about the book A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.

The book discussed a broken-up family and how a daughter grows up to trying to live a normal life but then realizes that she has been damaged by her family and her past. Also, Englehardt talks about the good sides of families. She used Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder as an example. Wilder wrote about an ideal family and how family life should be.

Englehardt had a question-and-answer period where approximately 40 attendees could ask her about different areas of ethics.

One question asked was about teaching ethics to people in a university setting, mainly to people older than 21.

“Students are encountering ethical problems now and need mentors to help and listen to them,” Englehardt said. “They need to recognize they have ethical problems and where they can go for help.”

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