Saturday, February 8, 2014

What does it mean to be a human when you deny natures and essences?

HyperEntity11 commented, regarding the Dilbert comic:
A law is passed criminalising all instances of heterosexual sex. This 'essentially' criminalises you being born hetrosexual. Perhaps this is unclear to those who have strange background assumptions about what it's like to be human.
I disagree with Hyper, but here's the funny thing about the comment. What is this 'what it's like to be human' talk? I'm the guy who believes in natures and essences, and who thinks such talk actually makes sense. Hyper, to my knowledge, isn't - he rejects such talk. And hey, let him reject it.

But then where comes this talk about 'making it a crime to be born X' coming from? We're just barring an act. Humans have no natures. Sure, they may have inclinations - some of them good, some of them bad. Humans also have capacities and urges to murder, to cheat, to lie - a whole lot of things we bar and ban. No one talks about making it illegal to fulfill human urges then. No one talks about the strange background assumptions about what it's like to be human.

Worse, he seems to define 'being homosexual' by the sex acts. Is that really all there is to homosexuality? Now, I know that's all there is to objections to homosexual acts - it comes down to the sex, not the love.

Edit: And I want to emphasize, I think the law in question - India's criminalization of, among other things, same-sex acts - is a bad law. It's impractical and unwise to try and get the law into the act of covering such acts between anyone, at least in this sense. In the sense of marriage requirements, I obviously think there's a different standard in play - at least for the right societies.

30 comments:

HyperEntity111 said...

Few points:

Nothing in what I said entails that there is nothing more to relationships than sex. All that it requires is that sexual expression is an important component of relationships. Denial of such expression is oppressive and unhealthy.

Some 'inclinations' are more fundamental than others. Sexual desire is rooted in biology and undoubtedly has a genetic component. It is not a social construct; it is a direct consequence of human biology. This applies equally to homosexual and hetrosexual desires.

Since there is nothing ethically problematic with the desire under discussion, making it illegal is oppressive and damaging.

Crude said...

Nothing in what I said entails that there is nothing more to relationships than sex. All that it requires is that sexual expression is an important component of relationships. Denial of such expression is oppressive and unhealthy.

Interesting claim. How are you going to back it up? In particular, how are you going to back it up with a subjective morality, and a metaphysic which makes 'harm' pretty damn hard to conceive of beyond intuitions? And if you appeal to intuitions, I have some bad news for you about intuitions on this subject historically and in India.

Some 'inclinations' are more fundamental than others. Sexual desire is rooted in biology and undoubtedly has a genetic component. It is not a social construct; it is a direct consequence of human biology. This applies equally to homosexual and hetrosexual desires.

Again, interesting claims. How will you back these up? And why does 'having a genetic component' mean anything? Down syndrome has a genetic component too.

What's more, you're talking about a 'direct consequence of human biology' - you're back to making these terms that sure make sense when you embrace nature and essences, but just sound bizarre coming from the vantage point you seem to be coming from. Especially when we're talking about homosexual acts or sodomy. What's the genetic component there? How did it get there? I don't want to equivocate between sexual desire in general and these specific sexual desires.

Since there is nothing ethically problematic with the desire under discussion,

Well, that's not a view I share, obviously. More than that, you haven't even begun to justify this on your own terms. In fact, if I recall right, there's not really much of anything you can call 'ethically problematic' in a sense beyond 'Well I/we like or dislike it'. I'm the one saddled with ethics that are delivered to me by God and nature. You construct yours. You can insist, against my arguments and view, that I construct mine too. But that just would hurt you further - because the Indians, and the Russians, construct theirs as well.

Crude said...

For the record, I'm going after Hyper's argument heavily here, but I actually respect him as someone I can have a conversation with.

I get the feeling he's getting pretty pissed off at myself or perhaps theism/anti-naturalism in general, but oh well, I'll enjoy the rational conversation while I can get it. ;)

HyperEntity111 said...

1. I think the concepts of physical and psychological harm are pretty unproblematic. That forced sexual repression is unhealthy isn't too hard to verify. That this is a case of oppression is virtually analytically entailed given the meaning of the term and my view of the ethics of the case. But I accept that there is a distinction between 'x is harmful' and 'x is immoral'. For many people it is simply not obvious to them that this law is a case where both are true.

2. This prompted by the alarm bells that went off when reading the stuff about natures and essences. It seemed to an attempt to read a certain metaphysical conception of persons that would be used as a spring board for anti gay arguments. I was pointing out that humans clearly have certain traits that are grounded in their biology and this can be demonstrated through natural science. I don't think recognition of this fact comits one to some kind of Aristotelean/Thomistic conception of persons that can be used to argue against gay people.
2.1 If you're disputing that homosexuality (like heterosexuality) is rooted in biology I'll be happy to point you the relevant studies. Accepting this doesn't require accepting people have a 'must have anal sex' gene. But that doesn't mean it's just a randomly thrown in social invention. Heterosexual sex requires performing certain actions and observation of these actions causes sexual stimulation in humans. The desire to have sex and the sexual arousal caused by observation of certain sex acts result directly from human biology. It's not because of some random cultural conditioning. So I'd say that anal sex is as much a part of homosexual sex as vaginal penetration is a part of heterosexual sex.

3. Well there are a couple of things you can do in cases of ethical disagreement. You can show that your opponents arguments are invalid or depend on unjustified assumptions. You can show that the your favoured ethical conclusion can be made to follow from an interpretation of their own moral theory. You can give arguments in favour if your position and hope that they convince them (perhaps because the arguments depend on assumptions which your opponents accept without realising it). But ultimately, if all else fails, it comes down to appeals to human sympathy. I care about not hurting people and ensuring that people lead a happy and fulfilled life. If you can't see that such laws are counterproductive to that (and here I don't mean 'you' personally) or you don't see anything wrong with preventing that...well I don't really no what to say to you. Our outlook on life is simply too different.

By the way, I'm not a naturalist or an atheist. I do believe in God. Beyond that I don't have any strong philosophical commitments and most of what I say round these parts is just thinking out loud. I'm not pissed off, just curious. The beliefs of many commentators at dangerous idea and similar sites (on ethical and political issues) are completely alien to me (if only because virtually no one in my social circle holds them) and I'm mostly just interested in seeing the reasoning behind them. I'd prefer to ask you these questions since you've shown yourself to be rational and able to construct carefully crafted well thought out arguments on these issues. You also seem open minded (as opposed to lunatics like llion). If you can explain (or link to) your arguments against homosexuality or link to some stuff by some professional philosopher who shares your view that'd be helpful.

HyperEntity111 said...

Rereading that I notice a ghastly number of spelling and grammatical errors. Blogger doesn't enable you to edit comments does it? :/

Crude said...

1. I think the concepts of physical and psychological harm are pretty unproblematic.

I disagree. I think it's typically an extraordinarily loose, intuition-based 'I know it when I see it' situation mixed with a modicum of 'Did someone die or lose a limb?' common sense gone awry.

That forced sexual repression is unhealthy isn't too hard to verify.

I think it is, in the senses we're dealing with here. It's far easier to support the claim that abundant sexual openness is unhealthy - you end up dying of disease.

I was pointing out that humans clearly have certain traits that are grounded in their biology and this can be demonstrated through natural science. I don't think recognition of this fact comits one to some kind of Aristotelean/Thomistic conception of persons that can be used to argue against gay people.

I think if you admit there is such a thing as a human nature/essence and therefore there are such things as healthy sexualities and 'proper' desires, the gate is down and we thomist barbarians can storm into the kingdom with surprising ease.

2.1 If you're disputing that homosexuality (like heterosexuality) is rooted in biology I'll be happy to point you the relevant studies

Point 'em out. I've probably read them - but the problem is, you're upping the ante here. We're not talking about 'homosexuality', we're talking about sodomy.

So I'd say that anal sex is as much a part of homosexual sex as vaginal penetration is a part of heterosexual sex.

Funny thing is, I can rally gay males as 'exhibit A' against your claim here.

If you can't see that such laws are counterproductive to that (and here I don't mean 'you' personally) or you don't see anything wrong with preventing that...well I don't really no what to say to you.

I oppose these laws. I just also oppose the inane Scott Adams rendition of them.

By the way, I'm not a naturalist or an atheist. I do believe in God.

News to me, at least on the theism front. Non-naturalist I gathered. Perhaps I missed something in the past.

If you can explain (or link to) your arguments against homosexuality or link to some stuff by some professional philosopher who shares your view that'd be helpful.

I've argued it in the past on this blog - including with you I think? But either way, I'll start laying it out in the course of this discussion if it continues. I'm already starting to, in fact, since part of the argument involves taking on some common (mis)conceptions.

We'll have a pleasant conversation about this and see where it leads. Could have sworn I argued natural law with you in the past, but I could have had someone else in mind.

Crude said...

Rereading that I notice a ghastly number of spelling and grammatical errors. Blogger doesn't enable you to edit comments does it? :/

No, one of its many faults.

Crude said...

Oh by the way - a good primer for explaining these views is of course Ed Feser. The Last Superstition and Aquinas.

jeltranksss said...

I think if you admit there is such a thing as a human nature/essence and therefore there are such things as healthy sexualities and 'proper' desires, the gate is down and we thomist barbarians can storm into the kingdom with surprising ease.

You can? That seems convenient. I can point out that there seem to be certain aspects of what we'd call "human nature" without insisting on natural law arguments or what have you.

And Hyper never even mentioned notions of "proper" sexuality; rather, they're simply pointing out that for most people, suppressing their sexuality ends up hurting more than it helps--in the sense that it doesn't feel good, which I know is an argument you loathe, but there it is. For example, I'm far happier out of the closet and with my fiancé than I was when I tried to deny or ignore my homosexuality. And as much as you might not want to hear this, the sex we have--what you'd refer to as sodomy--is amazing and (at least as far as he and I can discern) not harmful in the slightest. I'm interested as to why you think it is actually harmful. I realize that you or Aquinas or whoever might not approve of my man's dick going in my ass. Good thing I'm not attempting to be in a relationship with you or Aquinas then.

It's far easier to support the claim that abundant sexual openness is unhealthy - you end up dying of disease.

It's not a causal relationship though. Safe sex practices (e.g. using a condom, getting tested) can help nullify any potentially harmful effects of "abundant sexual openness."

Could have sworn I argued natural law with you in the past, but I could have had someone else in mind.

I've discussed natural law with people before. The problem--beyond mere philosophical disagreement--is that it's never been show to me what the actual consequences are of "violating" natural law's tenets. For instance, anal sex is contrary to the natural end of sex. Okay, so that's what natural law argues. But so what? If I don't believe in a deity or in objective ethical claims, what's compelling me to observe natural law in the first place? You may reject this line of questioning as consequentialist, but then again, I'd reject the essentialism with which I assume you support your moral claims.

So in all honesty, I don't feel I have anything to "justify" in the first place. I enjoy talking with people of differing viewpoints--which is why I comment here, along with other blogs across the ideological spectrum--but I certainly don't feel obligated to do so, or that I "need" to somehow "prove" that sodomy is permissible. If you don't feel that it works for you, then fine! But it works for plenty of other people. I'm not sure whether you genuinely don't believe that it does--in the sense that people like me are happy to have sodomy, etc., and don't feel any ethical qualms about doing so--or simply believe that we're all on the road to hell.

Crude said...

You can? That seems convenient.

It is incredibly convenient. And sure, you wouldn't. But once you admit there's a human nature - that there are norms, and proper functions, etc - then making the Natural Law case becomes easier.

And Hyper never even mentioned notions of "proper" sexuality;

He was implying it, and no, for most people it really doesn't - because people can also get over 'not having the pleasure they want', typically. Usually the ones who can't - the person who is utterly incapable of, say, having a monogamous relationship - are often, and rightfully, regarded as being impaired.

For example, I'm far happier

Personal feelings of pleasure don't really get far. Especially since, arguably, you could also have been happy being celibate. And that's if we just take your words at face value.

And as much as you might not want to hear this,

I'm not about to go 'eeee, anal sex! yucky!' I mean there's this prevailing view that people who criticize such and such sexual acts must obviously find them totally unappealing. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Usually I don't particularly care. I will admit, a lesbian with a strapon? Sorry, no matter how hot she is, I find it real funny.

I realize that you or Aquinas or whoever might not approve of my man's dick going in my ass.

It's not about our personal approval. It's about natural law, what sex is meant for. What's publicly celebrated, accepted as right and normal and moral. I don't dictate these things, I just discern them and discuss them.

Really, and this is something you probably don't want to hear, but a fascination with anal sex really speaks to some very interesting psychology.

It's not a causal relationship though. Safe sex practices

'Help nullify' does not equal 'eliminate'. And let's be honest - using a condom sucks. It's unsexy and annoying for most, and if pleasure was primary, everyone would skip that. Arguing 'so use a condom' is actually pretty close to 'so control your urges'.

All told, you should not have sex with the HIV-positive person, condom or no.

The problem--beyond mere philosophical disagreement--is that it's never been show to me what the actual consequences are of "violating" natural law's tenets.

Sure you have, since it's the philosophy which defines the harm and the consequences to begin with. If you rule those out, it's a little like saying 'Yes, well, aside from the physical and mental aspects I don't really see why physical assault is a health risk.'

Okay, so that's what natural law argues. But so what? If I don't believe in a deity or in objective ethical claims, what's compelling me to observe natural law in the first place?

See above. There's actually good reasons beyond natural law to discourage the practice, but what, you're asking me to both give the arguments in favor of my view and then ruling those arguments out immediately?

I don't feel I have anything to "justify" in the first place.

You do in the context of this conversation, where the justification (or lack thereof) of such acts is central. If you don't want to have that conversation at all, fine. Then we're done.

If you don't feel that it works for you, then fine! But it works for plenty of other people.

Great. They are, as near as I can tell, wrong. This isn't about self-gratification, it's about discussing and advancing what is both true and correct.

or simply believe that we're all on the road to hell.

Go through my archives. Try to find me arguing against sodomy on pain of 'you're going to hell'. You will search in vain. I go out of my way to avoid arguments from revelation. I prefer to argue on terms closer to what people can accept.

jeltranksss said...

Well now.

Seems strange that you'd call out my "fascination with anal sex" in these comments. I've made it a point to bring it up because that's what you highlight as most problematic about gay sexuality (http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-christians-got-outmaneuvered-on-gay.html). Let's not go around treating discussion of anal sex as "off-limits" when it disputes your arguments.

But once you admit there's a human nature - that there are norms, and proper functions, etc - then making the Natural Law case becomes easier.

Whether this is true or not--and I'd dispute its validity--just because it's easier to make the natural law case doesn't make it any more convincing to accept. And did I say anything about "proper functions"? I think that's a silly, limiting concept. We have plenty of "norms." Table manners, football rules, traffic laws. Which kind of "norms" are you talking about, exactly?

Personal feelings of pleasure don't really get far. Especially since, arguably, you could also have been happy being celibate. And that's if we just take your words at face value.

Arguably. But again, who cares? I'm not celibate, and I'm happy not being celibate. I don't see the need to be celibate, so I choose not to do so. And see, this is part of the problem--we're coming from seemingly diametrically opposed frameworks here, because while "personal feelings of pleasure" may not always be paramount, I still think they're pretty darn important. "How good it makes you feel" might be an invalid means of measuring the rightness or wrongness of an action to you, but to me (and others) it's just fine. I still have yet to hear or read a natural law argument that even remotely convinces me to believe otherwise.

Usually I don't particularly care.

Oh, please. Of course you care! You write about sexual ethics all the time on this blog. Presumably, you care enough to oppose gay marriage and whatnot. You may not constantly fantasize about whatever sexual scenarios, but that doesn't mean you don't care. You care enough to find it wrong.

It's not about our personal approval. It's about natural law, what sex is meant for. What's publicly celebrated, accepted as right and normal and moral. I don't dictate these things, I just discern them and discuss them.

Well, but what happens when people "accept as right and normal and moral" something that you (or natural law in general) finds or dictates to be wrong? What happens when it's a majority that disagrees with you? Natural law says sex is "meant for" a certain thing. When I have sex, I'm going against that presumed purpose. Oh well! For my fiance and I, sex is "meant for" feeling good and being intimate with each other. Not to say we can't or aren't intimate in other ways as well, but for us, that includes sex. Can natural law do anything about that?

The Wiz said...

(part 2)


And let's be honest - using a condom sucks. It's unsexy and annoying for most, and if pleasure was primary, everyone would skip that. Arguing 'so use a condom' is actually pretty close to 'so control your urges'.

See, I'd argue the opposite: that using a condom is a way to satisfy one's urges even in the face of possible danger. And really, using a condom isn't that annoying. It takes but a moment to put on, and the sex had with it is still immensely pleasurable. I have the urge to have sex, so I wear a condom and have sex. Choosing to abstain from sex altogether might be closer to controlling my urges, but again, I don't feel the need to do that in the first place, at least with regards to sex.

All told, you should not have sex with the HIV-positive person, condom or no.

Okay? Neither my fiance nor I are HIV-positive, so I don't quite see what this has to do with our discussion. I haven't put forth the argument that sex carries no risks.

Sure you have, since it's the philosophy which defines the harm and the consequences to begin with. If you rule those out, it's a little like saying 'Yes, well, aside from the physical and mental aspects I don't really see why physical assault is a health risk.'

Well, when one is physically assaulted, one's person has been attacked without their consent. Moreover, there is sometimes serious damage inflicted on a person, such that they require treatment at the hospital. Do you really not see how "physical assault" isn't convincingly analogous to consensual sex? And do you mean that natural law is "the philosophy which defines the harm and the consequences to begin with"?

jeltranksss said...

Sure you have, since it's the philosophy which defines the harm and the consequences to begin with. If you rule those out, it's a little like saying 'Yes, well, aside from the physical and mental aspects I don't really see why physical assault is a health risk.'

Well, when one is physically assaulted, one's person has been attacked without their consent. Moreover, there is sometimes serious damage inflicted on a person, such that they require treatment at the hospital. Do you really not see how "physical assault" isn't convincingly analogous to consensual sex? And do you mean that natural law is "the philosophy which defines the harm and the consequences to begin with"?

jeltranksss said...

See above. There's actually good reasons beyond natural law to discourage the practice, but what, you're asking me to both give the arguments in favor of my view and then ruling those arguments out immediately?

No, I'm asking for one of those "actually good reasons." The fact that sex sometimes leads to disease or infection is not in itself a "good" argument against sodomy. Is there another argument you've offered in this comment? Or perhaps I'm severely misunderstanding your argument.

You do in the context of this conversation, where the justification (or lack thereof) of such acts is central. If you don't want to have that conversation at all, fine. Then we're done.

Obviously I want to have the conversation, seeing as how I'm replying to your comments and whatnot. I don't really see how else I can (or ought to) try to justify my viewpoint here beyond "I enjoy it" and "it feels good" and "I have sex safely" and "it doesn't hurt anyone else." That is sufficient justification to me. If it's insufficient to you, then so be it. I was just trying to better understand your viewpoint.

Great. They are, as near as I can tell, wrong. This isn't about self-gratification, it's about discussing and advancing what is both true and correct.

So what you say is "both true and correct"? Okay. That's also convenient!

I prefer to argue on terms closer to what people can accept.

I don't think you're nearly as successful on this front as you imagine yourself to be, but hey, this is your parcel of web space, not mine. Refraining from using religiously specific terminology does not magically make your arguments more sound or reasonable, at least to people who aren't already coming from your ideological framework.

Water into Whine said...

The general assumption behind the question about why to follow natural law is that one has sex based on being impelled by instinct and without freedom, rather than having to make a conscious choice to do so. If you have to do the latter, then evidently the validity or otherwise of natural law theory is quite important, because the point is precisely the ability to commit certain acts rationally and in accordance with their telos.

In any case, the necessity of sexuality to a relationship would presumably be somewhat relativised in a dialogue with Christians, to which the highest relationship is one to Christ, which is a free, disinterested and holistic self giving, but does not engage the person sexually. To appropriate the terminology currently favoured in the Catholic Church. You wonder how much this has had to do with the solidity of Christianity on such issues - mutatis mutandis - while in the Western world, given that, as Crude has observed, the opposing discourses generally don't much like talking about sex in itself so much as relations, etc., whereas Christianity does have in part a certain in-built resistance to this. Of course, the other side of things is the focus on sexuality as an instinct, but the implication of this tends to end up being objectifying the partner for the sake of extempore fulfillment of a pre-existent sexual need, which isn't particularly invigorating on the level of LGBT imagery. Even on a secular level, though, I think it's fair to say that the relationship of a Christian or Apostle to Christ is higher than most sexual relationships, which makes a similar point.

But in any case, sidewinders of unclear purpose aside, the blog has been good reading for a while now, and thanks for writing legibly. Keep it up, et merci beaucoup.

Crude said...

Do you really not see how "physical assault" isn't convincingly analogous to consensual sex?

It wasn't meant to be an analogue to the act, it was an analogue to the argument and response. 'Aside from those reasons that depend on philosophy and metaphysics, what are the reasons sodomy is regarded as wrong by natural law'? in essence.

And do you mean that natural law is "the philosophy which defines the harm and the consequences to begin with"?

In this context, yep, though arguments go beyond even straight up natural law.

Crude said...

No, I'm asking for one of those "actually good reasons." The fact that sex sometimes leads to disease or infection is not in itself a "good" argument against sodomy.

I said 'see above' in reference to natural law, etc. If you're telling me you reject natural law, etc out of the gates, then don't ask me for the natural law arguments. Just a waste of time, really.

And I didn't argue that 'sex sometimes leads to disease'. I said you were going to have an easier time arguing that sex without restraint was harmful than a lack of a particular kind of sex was harmful.

Obviously I want to have the conversation, seeing as how I'm replying to your comments and whatnot.

Not really. I mean there's such a thing as 'talking past each other', and in that case I was saying that if you don't want to discuss the morality of various sex acts, then insofar as the conversation is ABOUT the morality of various sex acts... well, we're done here.

I don't really see how else I can (or ought to) try to justify my viewpoint here beyond "I enjoy it" and "it feels good" and "I have sex safely" and "it doesn't hurt anyone else."

If it hurts you, and I believe it does, then 'I enjoy it' and 'It feels good' isn't going to be very relevant. And there is the act, and the promotion of the act - the latter harms others. Hell, it harms society. Not just LGBT acts - let's be realistic here, the real problem is with heterosexuals - but LGBT acts and culture is doing its own harm.

So what you say is "both true and correct"? Okay. That's also convenient!

I certainly argue it to be such. Accent on the argue, not just 'I like it!'

I don't think you're nearly as successful on this front as you imagine yourself to be, but hey, this is your parcel of web space, not mine.

I'm pretty much completely successful on that particular front. Once again - check my archives. Show me where I argue from revelation or religion on this topic when trying to convince people who don't share that religion. If you're certain that I am, in fact, relying on the catechism of the Catholic Church or bible quotes to when it comes to arguing against various sex acts, etc... uh, you're mistaken. That's not 'matter of opinion' but 'fact.'

Refraining from using religiously specific terminology does not magically make your arguments more sound or reasonable,

No doubt. But when I refrain from using appeals to religion or (directly) God or the like, it does succeed in my... not using appeals to religion or God. Not sure if that's magic. Whatever it is, it works.

Crude said...

See, I'd argue the opposite: that using a condom is a way to satisfy one's urges even in the face of possible danger. And really, using a condom isn't that annoying.

There's a reason Bill Gates is out there spending money trying to come up with a way to make a better one. Survey says: people hate those fucking things.

Say not everyone hates them. I know some people with a particular thing for condoms, actually. But you still have a lot of people for whom sex is more pleasurable when they forgo that. But they instead choose to endure - they sacrifice their pleasure. Good for them, insofar as that specific thing goes. They just don't go far enough.

Okay? Neither my fiance nor I are HIV-positive, so I don't quite see what this has to do with our discussion.

Just another instance of pleasure being sacrificed, really.

Crude said...

Let's not go around treating discussion of anal sex as "off-limits" when it disputes your arguments.

Who said it was off-limits? I'm just subjecting it so some analysis. It's a hell of a thing - and not even in a homosexual-exclusive sense.

Whether this is true or not--and I'd dispute its validity--just because it's easier to make the natural law case doesn't make it any more convincing to accept.

Sure it does. I mean, on the surface, it would have to. It may not be more convincing to you, but as I always say, I never really get into an argument with most people intending to convince them in particular. I often get into it with people I damn well know will not budge an inch. It's useful anyway.

Which kind of "norms" are you talking about, exactly?

Is there a proper function for a heart? What is it? Is the function just an arbitrary assignment? If you say, a heart is for pumping blood - if it fails to do this for the person whose body it is in, it is literally and objectively a 'bad heart' - then you're well on the way to what I'm talking about.

And then we can start talking about other proper functions too.

And see, this is part of the problem--we're coming from seemingly diametrically opposed frameworks here, because while "personal feelings of pleasure" may not always be paramount, I still think they're pretty darn important.

So do I. Specifically, I think it's of grave importance to take pleasure from the proper things. It's better for me to take pleasure from working hard and being honest than slacking off and sponging off people. To give one example.

Oh, please. Of course you care! You write about sexual ethics all the time on this blog.

I don't care in the sense of finding it all horribly off-putting or 'yucky' or whatever else. Hell, there's plenty of things I'd find pleasurable that I nevertheless regard as wrong. Yep, I care about sexuality morality in a public sense - I think it's important, and I find the subject fascinating because of the psychological and cultural aspects. That wasn't denied.

Can natural law do anything about that?

Intellectually, it can do a whole lot. Are you asking me to force you to behave the way I want you to? Not interested, really. I'll make my arguments, I'll engage in my efforts, and things will be solved one way or the other.

You seem to be telling me 'Natural law isn't forcing me to change my mind! I'll do what I want no matter what you say!' Uh, yay I guess? I'm not sure what concern you expect me to have in the face of that.

Crude said...

Water into Whine,

Hey there, thanks for the compliment. Glad to see another lurker speaking up.

I have a lot of complaints about how social conservatives have typically approached these topics, largely concerning Christians, yeah. On the subject of talking about sex, I think few people enjoy talking about it bluntly - including people who describe themselves as sexually liberal. At this point I've had multiple conversations with people - very liberal people - who cut off the entire conversation when I kept specifying 'No, my problem here isn't love, or relationships, or handholding, it's (whatever sex act).' Literally, conversation over, goodbye, we're done here, I won't talk about this with you if you don't use the most roundabout niced-down 'Are you sure we're talking about sex anymore?' stand-ins for sex, Crude.

That said, it's not just the LGBT people. Really, there are days where I can't help but think of LGBT organizations as patsys for heterosexuals. I definitely think they are in many ways being used as a proxy/bulwark for a different, unspoken fight that's taking place in the culture wars. But then I have a lot of funny thoughts about culture.

Eufrosnia D said...

Hi there,

I noticed you said at the end

"And I want to emphasize, I think the law in question - India's criminalization of, among other things, same-sex acts - is a bad law. It's impractical and unwise to try and get the law into the act of covering such acts between anyone, at least in this sense."

I am not sure what makes it a "bad law". The fact that two people are sodomizing can be known (someone might catch them in the act or they might outwardly state it themselves as propaganda).

As to why its unwise, I am not sure what makes it unwise. It is a known fact that laws are good at creating and maintaining NORMS in societies. Out culture and society lost its LAWS and soon lost its NORMS till it eroded to become what it is today. Why are we to think their laws are unwise?

Crude said...

Eufrosnia,

I am not sure what makes it a "bad law". The fact that two people are sodomizing can be known (someone might catch them in the act or they might outwardly state it themselves as propaganda).

Mostly that the only way to catch someone doing such a thing is if they're pretty well out in public or someone is spying on them. The former can be covered by other laws, and the latter just seems like the last thing we need to encourage especially nowadays.

There's plenty of ways to discourage things without laws. I really dislike legislative solutions to cultural issues in general, so that covers this topic as well.

Out culture and society lost its LAWS and soon lost its NORMS till it eroded to become what it is today. Why are we to think their laws are unwise?

Well, you're asking (I think) how did our society get in such a bad state. Did we lose the laws first and the norms followed? Vice versa? Either way, journalism has convinced me that India has a tremendous problem with rape, so I'm not sure they're pulling off the best culture. Since they happen to be the only country in the world with their particularly strongly adhered to religion, it's tough to compare them to other countries.

That said, obviously I'm in favor of encouraging people to behave in healthy ways in accordance with natural law, etc. I just am not a fan of using legislation to do it. Whenever possible, I look for solutions to problems that sidestep legislation altogether.

Eufrosnia D said...

I understand that you might not like legislative solutions, but it can work in the right society. It most certainly can curb the tide of the rising LGBT movements in countries that haven't still given in to the demands like we have.

Also, for the laws to work, one does not need to spy. It is sufficient to have the law in place so that any publicly known act is punished. That avoids public scandal (something we cannot avoid in our own countries anymore).

I think your point regarding rape in India perhaps touches on one of the most complex topics. I am not sure we can simply say it is a fault of their culture.

If I may offer one possible theory. A major difference in India vs. a country like ours is that the sexual norms are still conservative. So fornication is usually not common and virginity at the time of marriage is usually the norm. Modesty is also pretty much the norm. All of this usually common for all religions in the country including among Christians as I understand it.

BUT, now imagine this same culture exposed to the same level of sexually enticing material (both from their own film productions influenced by our own and from what we export to them). You all of a sudden have a recipe for break down in society. You have people who might want to engage in sex acts but no willing women who would want to go along with their mindset (something that is not a problem in our own societies). Second, the moment they see women dressed a tad immodestly, they might think it's a sign "they are asking for it".

I am not trying to justify rape in India but only showing the complexity of the problem. Though we might like to write it off as a problem with their culture, that might not be entirely true. We may have contributed to their degradation by our influence on their own media as well as through our own fashions that we export. After all, rape was not that common or wide spread before as it is now. At least most certainly not in the sense of the gang rapes that seem to occur so frequently in the cases recorded in recent times.

But of course, it is just speculation on my part here and I just thought I will share it because the topic came up.

Crude said...

Also, for the laws to work, one does not need to spy.

Sometimes I'm not worried about what a law would require as opposed to what would result from it. I suppose you could argue that if you passed a law like this you could match it with a strong encouragement to not spy on anyone - introduce legal penalties for illicitly recording someone in such a situation, etc. I mean even talking about 'publicly known act' is just begging for trouble, if that means 'alleged' rather than something just over the top obvious like 'video footage in a public area'.

I'm sure the rape problem in India has complexities, but I don't know enough about it to comment at all. Like I said, India is a bizarrely unique case. They have a religion that is almost entirely exclusive to that specific country, and it is a complicated thing with all kinds of schools and norms and it's rather pervasive to the point where I am just so in the dark that I don't know where to begin. My knowledge of india is 'chicken tandoori is tasty', 'some of them don't like to eat cows', 'Mother Theresa did work there' and 'I sure hope they don't go nuclear over that Pakistan thing'.

That said, I think the russian law is superficially more defensible, especially when using the actual logic guys like Putin have had with it, which no one likes to talk about. People just prefer to pretend that 90% of the country is against gay marriage in the formerly state atheist nation because they're all super religious or mean. "They are dying, demographically" (or were until recently) doesn't get discussed.

HyperEntity111 said...

1. Not sure what you're saying here. Psychological harm (like physical harm) comes in degrees. Are you saying that there's no such thing as physical or psychological harm? I hope that's not what you're saying. If you're asking for the necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing to be a harm-I'm not interested in giving such an analysis. If we can't state the necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing to be a game it doesn't follow that games don't exist or that everything is a game. Same with this case. 

2. Again not sure what the point is. You're saying that you can't see why forcing sexual repression on people might be unhealthy? So in a society in which all forms of heterosexual sex is illegal, you can't see how that might be psychologically unhealthy?

3. I don't think I admitted anything of the sort. I admitted that there are traits and desires which humans have by virtue of their biology. I didn't say anything about 'proper' sexuality. I can say that some sexual acts are immoral (for example, rape) but that has nothing to do with essences and so on.

Finally, I don't think your wiki link refuted my point. Many surveys showed that most gay men practice it (we have one of them here) even if other surveys found forms of sex were preferred. At best you would say that sociological data is conflicting and more research needs to be done.

4. I don't think Dilbert was really wrong. Sex is an important part of the human experience. Prohibiting the expression of desires which a) are programmed into us by biology and b) are not ethically problematic is to 'essentially' criminalise you for being born a person in much the same way that a law making the consumption of food illegal criminalises you for being human.

5. My justification for thinking it's not morally problematic? Sure. It doesn't conflict with my moral intuitions. I see that it's not harming anyone and it is an activity conducted between consenting and rational individuals. I see no conpelling arguments against it-in fact many of them are plainly absurd. That's basically it. There are also psychological causes for my belief that are distinct from the reasons I think make the belief justified. But I think your question was about the reasons for it rather than its causes so I won't go into those.

Now I think it's your turn. You claim to have some kind of natural law based argument which shows that it's immoral. I'd like to know what it is. Numbered premises followed by justification please.

Crude said...

Hyper,

Are you saying that there's no such thing as physical or psychological harm?

Just the opposite. There's such a thing as physical and psychological harm, but it's inadequately analyzed and considered by most people. I think natural law highlights kinds of 'harm' that most people (nowadays anyway) wouldn't regard as harm at first blush. But I think they're wrong.

If you're asking for the necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing to be a harm-I'm not interested in giving such an analysis.

Well, I sure as hell am. I think that's central to the entire discussion, because I think it's reasonable to classify, say... a powerful and exclusive desire for sodomy (hetero or homo) to be 'harm'. Or, I guess more properly, 'damage'.

Again not sure what the point is. You're saying that you can't see why forcing sexual repression on people might be unhealthy?

I disagreed it's 'making it a crime to be born homosexual'. And I deny it's 'forcing sexual repression' either. Not unless you want to argue that laws against rape are laws enforcing a particular kind of sexual repression on people.

I don't think I admitted anything of the sort. I admitted that there are traits and desires which humans have by virtue of their biology. I didn't say anything about 'proper' sexuality.

If you're saying the desires just are and aren't attention value to them, then you're going to have trouble pointing at their existence as a justification for enabling them. That's putting it mildly.

Finally, I don't think your wiki link refuted my point.

You equated anal sex and (male) homosexuality as being as essential as vaginal sex in heterosexuals. The data we have shows that historically and currently that is not at all the case. Are you sure that's not a refutation?

If we're walking down the 'sociology' path, ugh. That thing is hardly a science.

Sex is an important part of the human experience. Prohibiting the expression of desires which a) are programmed into us by biology and b) are not ethically problematic is to 'essentially' criminalise you

I just find this so arbitrary. I'm not a fan of saying 'If you're born with a proclivity towards a certain desire then you're punishing someone for being born a certain way! Unless I find that proclivity bad. Then you're not.'

And I highly question whether anal sex is programmed into homosexual males by biology. The stats sure don't seem to bear that out historically.

5. My justification for thinking it's not morally problematic? Sure. It doesn't conflict with my moral intuitions. I see that it's not harming anyone and it is an activity conducted between consenting and rational individuals.

How do you determine 'harm'? Better yet, 'rational'? What's rational about anal sex, or the desire for it? Moral intuitions are cheap.

You claim to have some kind of natural law based argument which shows that it's immoral. I'd like to know what it is. Numbered premises followed by justification please.

Hell no, I'm not doing the numbered premises thing. I prefer conversation, thank you. I didn't hold your lack of them against you, nor would I.

Short version - humans (among other things and creatures) have natures/essences, ordered towards ends and final causes we can discern. The final cause of sex and sexual desire is procreation. While there are certainly other aspects to sex besides procreation, procreation is the ultimate end - sexual acts which are non-procreative in the broad sense are deviations from and abuses of said desires and acts, and the rational and moral individual strives to live in accordance with their nature.

Feser gets further into this in Aquinas, and a bit more briefly in The Last Superstition. I am summarizing it fast and loose, but I think that's a decent enough presentation.

Crude said...

Re: harm, let me throw out another question for you, Hyper.

In 1999, the Russian birth rate was 1.17. The replacement rate is roughly 2.1.

Let's assume the following: Russia is not overpopulated. That low point is not a one-off situation, but part of a trend.

Is Russia harmed? Are the Russian people harmed? Let's even make it more broad - is it /possible/ Russia(ns) is harmed by that rate?

Crude said...

If you're saying the desires just are and aren't attention value to them, then you're going to have trouble pointing at their existence as a justification for enabling them. That's putting it mildly.

Man, that got mangled. Let's try again.

If you're saying the desires 'just are' and and that they don't have any innate value to them, then you're going to have trouble pointing to their mere existence as justification for enabling them.

HyperEntity111 said...

Right, been busy, I'm back. Let's take stock for a moment.  I'm saying homosexuality is not immoral. You're saying that it is and they're harming themselves.  So to make progress I'd have know how they harm themselves and what evidence you have for this claim. 



1. "And I highly question whether anal sex is programmed into homosexual males by biology. The stats sure don't seem to bear that out historically."

Not getting this question. Is your problem with homosexuality or anal sex? Because there might not be a gene to eat certain kinds of food but there is a gene that makes us want to eat. And eating entails consuming food. Just like homosexual  sex entails performing certain kinds of acts. Or are you saying same sex without anal sex would be ok?

Second, I think most of data showed either that a majority of gay men practiced anal sex or that other forms of sex were preferred (including anal sex-preferring one form sex over another does not entail not practising the other). Some surveys contradicted this but I think the conclusion to draw from this set of conflicting data is that the data is conflicting not that the issue's been settled. 


2. Regarding the df of harm/rationality. I won't answer this question in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. There are many concepts that we use that aren't subject to such analysis or that we find extremely difficult to provide such an analysis. We don't think that they don't exist or that we can never distinguish between them. Same with this case.  

Instead I'll point to certain *features* present in cases of rationality and harm and argue that features found in the latter are not found in this case. Features found in the former accurately capture what's happening in this case. 

Rational people do not suffer from cognitive impairments that affect their ability to make accurate judgements about reality. They make decision in accordance with evidence available to them. Consent means they're not being coerced into behaving a certain way. This may not be an exhaustive list that tells you what it is to be rational. But these features are certainly present in people we would ordinarily call rational and clearly present in the following case. 

As for harm, this usually involves causing physical pain to someone without their consent or when they are not in a position to give consent. 
Now take the case of a person who experiences physical pain by running a marathon. The relevant difference between that and, say, punching a stranger in the face, is that the runner is rationally choosing to experience pain. Another difference is that although the act of running  causes pain it also brings about a benefit to the runner.  Now, turning to the case of same sex, it is clear that it has more in common with the runner example.  It's generally pleasurable, it occurs between rational, consenting people. Where it can be painful (anal) it can quickly become pleasurable. Indeed, sex can be physiologically and psychologically beneficial.  I won't discuss psychological harm because clearly there is none. If you think there is, please point it out.

3. There are lots of questions here and I'll only ask some of them. What evidence is there that people have natures/essences/final causes? What are these things?
What evidence is there that the final cause of sex is procreation?
In what sense are these 'abuses'; that is to say, why do acts which don't further the goal of procreation immoral? Why do rational people want to live in accordance with their nature? Another question: your argument seems to be that homosexual  sex cannot result in procreation so it's not furthering the 'end goal' of sex. So its immoral. But then infertile heterosexual married couples are unable to procreate either. So are their relationships immoral? If not why not?

 4. Re Russia: I suppose it's harmed in some sense of the word. What's your point?

Crude said...

Right, been busy, I'm back.

Take your time. Hell, if you're too busy, just walk and we'll continue another time, perhaps. We're conversing, that's all - far from urgent.

You're saying that it is and they're harming themselves. So to make progress I'd have know how they harm themselves and what evidence you have for this claim.

A little more subtle. I think the public acceptance of their sexual relationships harms others. I think people with same-sex sexual disorders have disordered desires. This is part of the reason why I wanted to get into harm - because you're asking me 'how does a homosexual act lead to harm', whereas my position is closer to the fact that it IS harm. It is damage.

Not getting this question. Is your problem with homosexuality or anal sex?

Depends on what we're talking about. The sex is the problem - remove sex and sexual desire from homosexuality and what's left to be an active rather than passive concern?

Some surveys contradicted this but I think the conclusion to draw from this set of conflicting data is that the data is conflicting not that the issue's been settled.

You made a specific claim here, that anal sex was to homosexual males what vaginal sex is to heterosexual couples. I do not think the data supports you on this. Can you even begin to imagine an explanation for the historical data that retains your initial claim? Really, I'd love to hear it.

As for harm, this usually involves causing physical pain to someone without their consent or when they are not in a position to give consent.

I think this is tremendously truncated to the point of severe controversy. I walk up to someone who's sleeping and I slice out part of their brain without them ever knowing it. No pain - I work fast, I use drugs, I do whatever. They were harmed.

I (sci-fi premise here) drop a drug in a man's coffee - happily married, wife and all - and a day later, sans pain, he's homosexual. I harmed him.

What evidence is there that people have natures/essences/final causes? What are these things?
What evidence is there that the final cause of sex is procreation?


Before I answer this, I want to know your background. You ever read The Last Superstition? Aquinas? Something is bugging me here, I could have sworn you read those books or we talked about this, and I'm trying to figure out just how much ground I have to cover with this.

But then infertile heterosexual married couples are unable to procreate either. So are their relationships immoral? If not why not?

Very common question. I think it depends on the source of infertility. Snipping/tubes tied? That part of it is immoral. Infertile due to contraception? Yep, immoral. Frustrating the ends of sex again. Infertile due to accident? Well, first off, we'd plainly recognize such a couple as crippled. Second, nothing about the act itself is immoral - there are damaged body parts in play, due to no fault or intention of either person. What's key isn't that every act of sex results in a child, but that the sex act itself is properly procreative and not intentionally frustrated.

Re Russia: I suppose it's harmed in some sense of the word. What's your point?

Alright. Part of the reason Putin has backed laws against 'gay propaganda' is, in his own words, due to what he perceives as the influence of LGBT culture on the sexual culture at large. He believes that promoting non-procreative sex acts contribute to a climate of regarding sex as distinct from having children, and that this in turn feeds into their demographic situation.

Hypothetical situation: assume Putin is right. Acceptance of LGBT culture influences the greater culture in ways that enable their demographic issues. Does that fact alone give Putin justification to clamp down on public acceptance of / promotion of LGBT relationships?