Posted on September 30, by Scott Alexander [Content warning:
References and Further Reading 1. Metaphysics of Sexuality Our moral evaluations of sexual activity are bound to be affected by what we view the nature of the sexual impulse, or of sexual desire, to be in human beings.
In this regard there is a deep divide between those philosophers that we might call the metaphysical sexual optimists and those we might call the metaphysical sexual pessimists.
The pessimists in the philosophy of sexuality, such as St. AugustineImmanuel Kant, and, sometimes, Sigmund Freudperceive the sexual impulse and acting on it to be something nearly always, if not necessarily, unbefitting the dignity of the human person; they see the essence and the results of the drive to be incompatible with more significant Essays defending gay marriage lofty goals and aspirations of human existence; they fear that the power and demands of the sexual impulse make it a danger to harmonious civilized life; and they find in sexuality a severe threat not only to our proper relations with, and our moral treatment of, other persons, but also equally a threat to our own humanity.
On the other side of the divide are the metaphysical sexual optimists Plato, in some of his works, sometimes Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, and many contemporary philosophers who perceive nothing especially obnoxious in the sexual impulse.
They view human sexuality as just another and mostly innocuous dimension of our existence as embodied or animal-like creatures; they judge that sexuality, which in some measure has been given to us by evolution, cannot but be conducive to our well-being without detracting from our intellectual propensities; and they praise rather than fear the power of an impulse that can lift us to various high forms of happiness.
The particular sort of metaphysics of sex one believes will influence one's subsequent judgments about the value and role of sexuality in the good or virtuous life and about what sexual activities are morally wrong and which ones are morally permissible.
Let's explore some of these implications. Metaphysical Sexual Pessimism An extended version of metaphysical pessimism might make the following claims: In virtue of the nature of sexual desire, a person who sexually desires another person objectifies that other person, both before and during sexual activity.
Sex, says Kant, "makes of the loved person an Object of appetite. Taken by itself it is a degradation of human nature" Lectures on Ethics, p. Certain types of manipulation and deception seem required prior to engaging in sex with another person, or are so common as to appear part of the nature of the sexual experience.
As Bernard Baumrim makes the point, "sexual interaction is essentially manipulative—physically, psychologically, emotionally, and even intellectually" "Sexual Immorality Delineated," p.
We go out of our way, for example, to make ourselves look more attractive and desirable to the other person than we really are, and we go to great lengths to conceal our defects.
And when one person sexually desires another, the other person's body, his or her lips, thighs, toes, and buttocks are desired as the arousing parts they are, distinct from the person.
The other's genitals, too, are the object of our attention: Further, the sexual act itself is peculiar, with its uncontrollable arousal, involuntary jerkings, and its yearning to master and consume the other person's body.
During the act, a person both loses control of himself and loses regard for the humanity of the other. Our sexuality is a threat to the other's personhood; but the one who is in the grip of desire is also on the verge of losing his or her personhood.
The one who desires depends on the whims of another person to gain satisfaction, and becomes as a result a jellyfish, susceptible to the demands and manipulations of the other: A person who proposes an irresistible sexual offer to another person may be exploiting someone made weak by sexual desire see Virginia Held, "Coercion and Coercive Offers," p.
Moreover, a person who gives in to another's sexual desire makes a tool of himself or herself.Many anti-gay Christian ministers use this passage to say that this is an example of Godâ€™s wrath against homosexuality as if the men of Sodom were all gay, and all trying to "be gay with" these male angels.
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