Moral Paradox: Husband, Wife and Ferryman


Haven’t been to this forum in a while; as I revisit my faith I was asked a question that I was curious as to other’s thoughts. First, the conundrum a family member at dinner posed:

A husband and a wife are on separate islands separated by a Ferryman. The wife wants to be with her husband, but the only way is through the boat the Ferryman has. The wife has no money to pay the Ferryman so the Ferryman asks the wife for a night in bed.

Question One: Assuming this is the only way the wife will see the husband again, should the wife sleep with the Ferryman to see her husband again?

Question Two: How should the husband feel or what should the husband do when he finds out about the wife’s decision either way.

Just curious as to be people’s perspectives.

Thank you.

This is not a conundrum, but it is awfully odd dinner conversation.

The ends do not justify the means. Morality 101.


I see no problem.

She spends the night with her husband while the ferryman is on the other island asleep in bed.


The husband got a pair of working legs and arms?
He can swim to her. Problem solved.

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And it’s not a paradox, either. @ckoeber101, try “dilemma”.

Answer one: No. Part of loving someone is respecting the bond the two share.

Answer two: Either way, the husband should love the wife. If he hears that she didn’t spend a night with the Ferryman, he should be happy that she loves and respects him. If he hears she did spend a night with the Ferryman, the husband should appreciate that in a crisis situation we don’t always make the choices we’d make in a theoretical situation. She did what she did out of love for him and fear of never seeing him again.

Now, I tend to dislike when people come up with alternative options and thus not addressing the thought experiment head on.

But I will make an exception that I call the third Chris de Burgh option :smiley:


This exemplifies putting our own will before that of God.
She WANTS to be with her husband.

Is it Gods will that she commits adultery in order to see her husband? NO.
Therefore she needs to put God before her own will.

The Ferryman should be reported to his employer as this is sexual harassment at the least.

On Question 2
The husband should also be doing the will of God, not his own will, in this matter. If he really wants to see his wife, he is quite capable of getting on that ferry and travelling to her. He should also be reporting the corruption of the ferryman.


Oh man, I didn’t remember that song until I played the video and the chorus jogged some dusty memory cell and came right back. I wonder how many other old songs I have buried in some forgotten crevice of my brain.


Oh, I’m sure there are hundreds of songs tucked away in your brain just for those “Oh, wow!” moments when you hear them years later. One of the things I love about YouTube is I can here on CAF or playing a game and I choose one song to set the mood and it just starts dishing out stuff of the same time and genre. I’ll be like, “Joe Jackson? Good call, YouTube!” :smiley:

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Ooh! An unrealistic thought experiment! Sign me up!!! :wink:

No. “One may not do evil so that good might result.”

He promised “till death do us part.” He should forgive and seek healing in the marriage. (Not to mention that he should get his butt off his island and go back to living with his wife. Why should she have to commit a sin in order to spend time with him? Where’s his responsibility to be with his wife?)


For question 1: It would not be morally permissible to sleep with him in order to get to the other island.

Moving outside of the particular question: it would be morally permissible to steal his boat.

For question 2: If the wife sleeps with the Ferryman, the husband should feel upset and hurt.

No. It wouldn’t.

Perhaps. And maybe, just maybe, he should ask himself “why am I willing to accept a situation in which my wife and I are living separate lives?”

Beyond merely permissible, it would probably be advisable.

No. It would be immoral. Again: the ends do not justify the means.

Should she attempt to correct the extant living situation? Yes. Should she commit a sin in order to do so? No.

But it would not be a sin to take his boat, because using the boat for exhortation and rape is unlawful.

Similarly, it is not a sin to defend against an attacker, because what the attacker is doing is unlawful.

And so it is not a case of the ends justifying the means, because neither the means nor the end are evil.

Not so. It would be a sin to use his boat to help him extort and rape.

It would also be sinful (and a criminal offense!) to steal his boat.

Yeah, but if you turned around and stole the attacker’s property, it would be immoral to do so, his actions notwithstanding.

The scenario would not be a criminal offense, unless the jury was highly eccentric and intellectually incompetent. The case would then go to a higher court and the person would be cleared. She would also probably receive financial compensation in addition to being cleared of any crime.

Likewise, it would not be a sin.


In this situation, the ferryman is not an attacker. He offered his services in exchange for sex. Obviously immoral but not an attack. The woman is free to say no (as she obviously should) but she is not justified in stealing his property.


Of course it would be a criminal offense! :rofl:

OK – let’s break it down:

  • I pull up in my car, get out, and ask you to do something that isn’t a crime, but is immoral. I don’t threaten you, but merely ask you to do something immoral.
  • You hit me over the head and steal my car.

Have you committed a crime? Yes, you have – grand theft auto!

C’mon, now. You don’t really believe what you’ve asserted… do you? (If you do, then I hope I never come near you with my car! :wink: )


Right. Because “thou shalt not steal” isn’t a sin… :thinking:


If two people are randomly stranded on separate islands and a ferryman is trying to extort her for sex in order to get off, I can 100% guarantee you that she would not be charged with any crime in stealing the boat.

The ferryman, on the other hand, could be charged with a crime, though proof would be an issue of course.

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