When is it appropriate to express our attraction toward another person and when is it inappropriate?
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The answer lies in the theory of the “speech act.” What act are you performing with that utterance? Purely informative? Invitational? Etc. We perform acts when we speak: we promise, we warn, we judge, etc. If a person asks you if, for example, he is handsome enough to be an actor, your response is in reply to his inquiry – it is informational, with the implication that it is your opinion (if you are a “professional,” your “agency” is strong; if you are a personal friend, your “agency” is weaker). If you are expressing your aesthetic or social opinion as part of a larger discussion of these subjects, the utterance is exemplary; that is, you are offering the remark as a gauge or model by which to measure the parameters of the discussion. Where it is inappropriate is when it is the speech act of flattery has unsavory consequences: embarrassment, social status change, abuse of agency (for example, if a teacher says that he is attracted to a student), etc. I assume you are speaking of making the remark to the person, not simply discussing the “cute” person with a third party. Of course, in personal, or intimate moments, the utterance is fine (if said truthfully and not just to elicit some sort of response.) In other words, ask yourself why you are speaking.
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