How Descartes Ruined Sex

This is a fantastic moment to be a teenage boy. Briefly recalling your freshman year of college, your inability to attract women, and that awkward moment when you realized you had no talents the world would pay you for, you may do well to ask: Why? Because you can be on your parent’s health care coverage until you’re 26? Because the world is ending, and in a moment of dire emergency a man and a woman are given leave to confirm the sacrament of marriage upon each other, with the hope that a priest can bear witness to that sacrament at a later date? Short answer: No. Long Answer: Yes, but it is especially great to be a teenage boy when approaching the topic of Descartes’ soul-body dualism. Philosophers and theologians have spent hundreds of years and destroyed acres of forest rebutting his claims. They wrote books, essays and articles defying and bemoaning his philosophy, all attempting to say what only the teenager can say with intellectual impunity: René Descartes was a douchebag.

You heard.

Maybe he was a nice guy, and I know he was at least partially trying to prove the soul’s immortality, but he screwed up the world. When my toast burns, I blame Descartes. I won’t bother you with how he got to his conclusion, for the Internet hasn’t enough space for me to murder my way through his proofs, but I will give you his conclusion: the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. For Descartes there was little distinction between a mind and a soul. So, according to him, a body can exist without the soul and the soul without the body.

To which the world  – in general — has been all like:

And the Catholic Church has been all like:

…maintaining that man is an inseparable union of body and soul, the two cannot be separated, and that Descartes was just plain wrong. Again, I am not here to rebut his thesis. I’m here to look at the consequences. And the consequence is this: Descartes ruined sex.

In common terms, what is a body without a soul? A corpse. What is a soul without a body? A ghost. Interestingly enough, we view both of these things with fear. Our natural reaction to body-soul dualism is not approval, but fearful rejection. Whatever else may be true, our actual human experience of the separation of body and soul is that Something Is Wrong!

But this confusion of the soul and body is at the very heart of some of the world’s most stupid decisions. Take anal sex. The first things that needs to be said about it is that it is a gibberish phrase, like audial eating, or nasal urination. (Sorry.)  It ain’t sex at all. Biology and anatomy are a bit brusque with this issue: Sex is the reproductive act, all else is imitation. In fact, if one must qualify sex as to its location, use mechanical devices to have it, or otherwise separate its form from its function, then it is specifically defined as being ‘not sex’.

But notice what its advocates use in its defense, or in the defense of any other exotic form of foreplay being ‘sex’ itself. They will, in one way or another, split the body and the soul. They must. It’s impossible to argue that parts of the body besides the genitalia were meant for reproduction, so they will move on to “sex is what the partners make of it,” or something of the sort. What your body is doing isn’t important, whether it be anal sex, oral sex — whatever. You can have sex without sex. The union of the sexual act can be achieved without the true, natural union of your body. You can have the soul without the body.

What is the soul without the body? A ghost. Thus it happens that my problem with all this is not that such acts are wildly grotesque or physically repellent — it is that they are ghostly. If it be sex, it is ghost-sex, and I reject it not because it goes too far, or does too much, but because it is such a whispery, pale thing, and I will not settle for shadows.

This is but one example of the many, many incidences of our modern ghostliness. Take pansexuality, a really-hip sexual orientation my peers are into. It is a concept that “rejects the notion of two genders and indeed of specific sexual orientations, as pansexual people are open to relationships with people who do not identify as strictly men or women. Pansexuality can also mean the attraction to a person’s personality, rather than their physical appearance or gender.” (Wikipedia (You’re allowed to use Wikipedia for something like Pansexuality. (Right?)))

Here you have the logical conclusion of this soul-body split. It’s all soul. The body isn’t just not important in its function, it is not important at all. The soul is what’s sexy. Or take people calling themselves “male-bodied persons” instead of men. Or the oft-repeated phrase, “If two people love each other, why can’t they marry?” All soul, no body. The logical end of all this is the complete absence of physicality in sex — perhaps sex will become a passing glance.

But the reverse is equally bad, if less modern. It is the rejection of the soul for the body. It is objectification. It says that you are a body, nothing more. Thus pornography denies the soul (and on a rather obvious level, the body, but I digress) and does not interact on the level of emotions, personality, or spirit. Our hook-up culture denies the soul. One-night-stands, prostitution, friends-with-benefits — all of this seeks to banish the soul and leave the body. But what is a body without a soul? It is a corpse. I reject all this ungentlemanly rudeness not because it is too much, but because it is too little — it is merely decay, and I want life to its fullest. One might make the argument that the logical consequence of focusing solely on the body is rape, the complete objectification of another human being. I would argue that it is necrophilia, an idea we will not dwell on here.

Now obviously, I am entirely aware that our various methods of making sex boring are not performed with Descartes in mind. If they were, I imagine they would happen less. But his idea stuck. So have an alternative idea:

You are an inseparable union of body and soul. You cannot act with your body without acting with your soul, nor vice versa. You are whole, made in the image and likeness of God, and you have no more need to deny the body or deny the soul than to deny your own existence. All separations and splits of the body and the soul are just that, separations and splits, wounds that won’t lead to happiness. With God’s grace, let us avoid the fall into ghostliness and death, and learn once again what it means to be human.

That was long. If you’re here, you’ve earned it:

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  • Evan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1MgCV6uGuc

    “…and Rene Descartes was a drunken fart ‘I drink; therefore, I am.’”

    I knew there was a good reason to like this song.

  • http://www.dearanalogue.com/ Nick

    Love this! You are on fire, Marc. In a good way…

  • Deshuh

    Although when you die your body and soul separate…unless you are the mother of Jesus. So there is separation.

    • Lily

      Yes, but then you cease being a human being for a time until your soul is re-united with your body. Neither a ghost nor a corpse is, by itself, a human person.

    • Lemon

      actually at the ressurection body and soul are brought to heaven, and since heaven is outside of time when we get there we will have our bodies.

    • c matt

      Yes, there is separation, so in some sense body and soul can exist apart from each other, but this separate existence is not the desired state. In this separated state, the body is a corpse (not very desirable) and the soul is a ghost (also not very desirable). But neither apart is fully human. That is the point. So to the extent Descartes implied one or the other apart could still be human, he was incorrect.

  • Lauren G.

    Loving the use of the triple parenthesis.

    I really like this post, but I would be interested to see a follow up post on what happens when we die then. Do we cease to be man? Then what would we be? I’m not trying to challenge you, I’m asking for an extra explanation for my ignorance. :)

    • Maria

      At the final resurrection (at the end of the world as we know it), your soul will be reunited with your glorified body – so you will be more fully and more perfectly man (or woman). :)

    • Anna

      “Do we cease to be man?” Well, kind of. We aren’t complete without our body and those in heaven await the resurrection just as we do (though we don’t understand that perfectly as we don’t know how time/change work there before the end of the world; at some point neither time nor change will exist in heaven). Aquinas said that “my soul may be in heaven but *I* am not” until the resurrection of the body.
      It’s a gnostic idea that the soul is trapped during life and is freed from the body at death; it’s Catholicism that insists that we need both in order to be fully human.

  • Lily

    BEST. ARTICLE. YET!!!!!!!!!!

    You just succinctly typed out what my brain has been pondering for the past three years, plus put it all together in a way that makes sense. XD Fantastic!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=144902595 Libby Marie Barnes

      MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!

  • Paula

    But what about the Cartesian plane?? I must defend Descartes’ contributions to mathematics for they were very significant… the whole man cannot be labelled a d*bag.

    • E L

      Descartes’ contributions to mathematics deserve their own extensive critique: they involve a confusion of geometry and arithmetic, as later mathematicians (such as Dedekind and Bolzano) and earlier one’s (such as Euclid) both do or would point out.

  • John Henry

    Tell Patheos to get a +1 button. What? We can show you love on Facebook, but not on Google Plus?

  • Ben Bentrup

    Brilliant – so much Chesterton in your writing style (but improved in my humble opinion).

  • Jay E.

    LOL, so much for the Catholic Church’s ideas about sexuality being outdated and superstitious…

  • Laura

    This reminds me of something I was told at school, that we are a unity of spiritual, social, intelectual, physical and affective dimensions and when you have sex with someone it can’t be “just a physical act” since you can’t tell your affective or your spiritual dimensions to wait by the door. Even if you don’t care a bit about that person you are giving your whole self to him/her.

  • http://www.onemoremum.blogspot.com/ Mrs L

    Brilliant. I love your writing and the way you think.
    My only question is- do you ever sleep??? You write like someone with a really active mind.

    • Marc Barnes

      ADHD helps. ( :

  • Practicing Mammal

    Nicely thought out and well supported post. Don’t say douchebag. It ain’t fittin. It just ain’t fittin.

  • Boris G

    Fantastic – I guess this explains the fascination with Zombies and the like as well…..braaaaains!

    • Anonymous

      Good catch, Boris G.

      Let’s put Zombie-fascination down as one of the Mind-Body Dichotomy Spectrum Disorders along with the ones Marc has already identified. Call one end ghost-sex and the other end objectification.

      To the ghost-sex side of the spectrum we can also add the Platonic Relationship as a form that’s less extreme than pansexuality and on the objectification side can be added self-objectification* (Marc already alluded to this one, it is common among females), rape** and necrophilia.

      *Marc alluded to this in his essay.

      **Rape is a whole sub-spectrum that can be further divided into mini-rape, rape fantasies, “rape!”, and rape-rape.

  • James H

    One of your best yet, y0ung man!

    HAIL!

    “In fact, if one must qualify sex as to its location, use mechanical devices to have it, or otherwise separate its form from its function, then it is specifically defined as being ‘not sex’.”

    That needs to be a tagline.

  • Amos Hunt

    My dad sent this to me to try to convince me that Descartes was the complete tool everyone keeps saying he was. But I’m a little confused by your destupidification. I think I might be too stupid for it. Can you explain for me the difference between difference between saying that “man is an inseparable union of body and soul” (you) and describing “the nature of man as a combination of mind and body?” (Descartes). Thanks.

    • Joshua C.

      The difference is that Descartes thought of the mind and the body as two different ‘things’ that were combined together to make a person, and could be separated. Think of two different metals combined to form an alloy – they’re combined very strongly, but they could still be separated again under the right conditions.

      The Church takes the Aristotelean position that the soul is the ‘form of the body.’ Separating the soul from the body would be like separating the roundness from a sphere. It can’t be done. For the Church, the soul is an entirely different sort of thing from the body; it is more like the structure or shape of the body. So you can see how it makes sense to talk about the soul and the body as unified, but doesn’t make sense to say that they could be separated.

      • Joshua C.

        Descartes wasn’t really a tool any more than any other philosopher who was wrong is. But he was wrong about some very crucial things, and those things are now widely and unconsciously accepted as true. So yeah, sometimes we are pretty mad at him. He was brilliant, though.

      • Amos Hunt

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply, but it looks like you have underestimated my stupidity. I am now even more confused about the distinction between Descartes and the Church. Now I need to know also the difference between saying that “the soul is an entirely different sort of thing from the body” and saying that “the nature of the mind … is completely different from that of the body” (Marc’s Descartes).

        And I need to know the difference between saying that the soul and body “could still be separated again under the right conditions” and saying that the soul separates from the body at death.

        Probably there is some Aquinas I need to read!

        • E L

          Look at it this way; a car and it’s driver are two things, one of which moves the other as it pleases. This is not how the body and soul is, rather the soul and the body together constitute what a person is: this is kinda like the way the shape and the material of a screwdriver allow it to be useful for turning screws; the shape allows it to fit in the slot, the material keeps it from deforming under stress.

        • Joshua C.

          I’m sorry, I can see how that confused you even more. Let’s take a look at how Descartes described the soul and the body. Since he wrote in Latin, he called the soul a ‘res cogitans,’ (thinking thing) and the body a ‘res extensa’ (extended or spatial thing.) Now, the word ‘res’ does not translate exactly into English, but ‘thing’ or ‘substance’ is pretty close.
          The point here is that while Descartes thought that the soul/mind and the body were very different, they were both ‘res’s. Going back to my original analogy, imagine him saying “Copper and tin are two completely different metals!” Nevertheless, they are both metals.
          The way of thinking that Aristotle and the Church espouse is that the soul is not a ‘res’ at all, but of a different category altogether. (For more on categories and doing away with mind/body dualism, read Gilbert Ryle’s Concept of Mind.)

          What is the soul exactly? The Church does not say anything officially beyond that it is the ‘form of the body’ (see the Council of Vienne). What that means is very vague, and intentionally so. The same vagueness applies for what happens to the soul after death. The Church generally does not officially pronounce on these topics, leaving it for theologians and philosophers to discuss.

          A word of caution when interpreting Descartes. There is a school of thought that holds he meant exactly the opposite of what he wrote, leaving subtle clues and contradictions in the Meditations to show this. According to this interpretation, he was a devout and orthodox Catholic. Other people reply that this is absurd, and he meant what he said. Having studied Descartes for nearly three years, I have no idea who is correct. But even if he did not believe in the mind/body dualism that his work seems to show, nearly everyone who read him latched on to the idea. Either way, he is responsible for its prevalence.

          • Amos Hunt

            I suppose what’s not getting through my thick skull is the idea of a “union of body and soul” in which the soul is not to be thought of as a thing. This seems to mean either that the soul is not real, or that there is something real that is not a thing. If there is something real that is not a thing, why is that so different from saying that there is a “res” that is not extended?

            Maybe I’m stupid enough not to know what a “thing” is. Is it whatever exists? Then there can’t be anything that is not a thing, and the soul either is a thing or doesn’t exist. Is a thing whatever is composed of material substance? Then the soul is whatever is not composed of material substance, and Descartes is right after all. Does “res” refer to some other third thing?

            Thank you for drawing my attention to the Council of Vienne. I probably don’t know enough about early 14th century heresies to understand Decree 1 correctly, but I take it the point is that Christ’s human soul woul not really have been a human soul had it not related to his human body in a certain way, (because were it not for this relation, it would be absurd to speak of the blood and water as really flowing from the side of Christ when his spirit had already departed), and that consequently anyone who maintains that the soul has this relation to the body by accident, rather than essentially, effectively denies that Christ’s body after his death still was his body. Have I got that right?

          • Joshua C.

            You are quite correct to notice that if the soul and the body are in radically different categories, then it is somewhat nonsensical to speak of a “union” between them. This language is convenient, but it can be misleading. Aristotle said it slightly better when he talked of the soul as “informing” the body (i.e. giving it a form), but nobody is sure what that means, either.

            On the other hand, do we have any better words to describe the relationship between the soul and the body? Not really, unless we make up a philosophical term that just means “the relationship of the soul to the body,” which wouldn’t be terribly helpful.

            “Thing” is a very, very ambiguous word in philosophical discussions, much like “res.” You list several of the … things it could mean, and it really means all of those (and more!) in different contexts. If a “thing” is just “whatever exists,” then lots of stuff gets lumped in the same category: my sandwich, my love for my family, and my conversation with you are all “things.” Yet they clearly do not exist in the same sense. Now we start questioning what “exists” means, and this is a long, long road with no end.

            The trouble in these sorts of discussions is that we really don’t have enough words to differentiate between all the the philosophical concepts that need to be differentiated.

            So, to answer your question, we can talk about the soul as a “thing” sometimes, as long as we remember that it is not a “thing” in the same way other things are. This is incredibly difficult to do, and mostly confuses people. In my opinion, we should listen to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logic0-Philosophicus, and “about those things of which we cannot speak, we must be silent.”

            The problem with this, of course, is that we are philosophical beings, and we cannot be silent. :P

            My only knowledge of the Council of Vienne is that it is the only place where Church as an authority has pronounced opinions on the nature of the soul. I am not familiar with the heresy it was convened to address, so I can’t give you any help there.

            The thing that most people take from Descartes is that the soul is a sort of ghost that lives inside you. About the best we can do is realize that this is ridiculous, and that something else must be the case, though we have no idea what that might be.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cherrybomb77 Katie H

    Love it.

  • Regina Pelrine

    Love this. (And the Switchfoot reward at the end!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1303954287 William Zachary Summers

    Succinct & humorous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeni.wilmot Jeni Wilmot

    sweet. but you make me feel old. not your fault — I’m on the wrong side of my twenties. Love Switchfoot #1 and #2 Decartes was a duchebag. HA! awesome. And 3 Nasal Urination. I laughed so hard.

    My friend you are badass. Keep it up! Always love your stuff.

  • GLBT Ally

    This post popped up on my Facebook feed. I disagree with it in virtually every particular. The underlying assumptions make me angry, which is why I am writing this rebuttal. I am not Catholic, and I know no one here wants to read a dissenting viewpoint, so feel free to skip my comment.

    If the view of the Catholic church is that “man is an inseparable union of body and soul, the two cannot be separated, and that Descartes was just plain wrong”, there are a few other consequences that arise from this. For example, the color of a person’s skin, the shape of her eyes, the texture of her hair, her height, her weight, the width of her hips, the amount and distribution of body hair–all of these must be determiners of a person’s behavior and identity as well. This allows us to make true statements like “All people taller than 6’1″ like skateboarding” or “All people with wide hips have great senses of humor” or “All people with an epicanthal fold know how to do cartwheels”. Before the Scientific Revolution, an awful lot of people believed exactly these sorts of things. An awful lot of people still believe them. But they are exactly as wrong as “All people with ovaries are women.”

    Are you really criticizing the (supposedly ‘pansexual’) idea that “The body isn’t just not important in its function, it is not important at all. The soul is what’s sexy”? Are you really arguing that an attraction to someone’s personality is not only inferior to an attraction to their body, but not even a valid reason to have sex with them? Because there’s some consequences from that idea too. For example, if I’m repulsed by my heterosexual spouse’s horrible burn injury or amputation stump or colostomy bag, but love them anyway, I’m not allowed to have sex with them? If me and my spouse are in our 90s and neither one of us is hot stuff anymore, then we shouldn’t have sex even if we love each other?

    You even seem to be arguing, when you say “Sex is the reproductive act, all else is imitation,” that non-procreative sex is in fact ‘not sex’. So you actually have no problem with fornication if no pregnancy results, because it wasn’t sex. In a married heterosexual couple, sex during menstruation is not sex. Sex at any time other than the four or so days of fertility of a woman’s cycle is not sex. Sex with an infertile spouse is not sex. Sex with your post-menopausal wife is not sex.

    But the main fallacy in your post is the assumption that gender-variant and LGBTQ individuals–as well as heterosexuals who engage in sex that is anything other than reproductive and PIV–are somehow disavowing their bodies and ignoring all bodily experience. This is funny when you consider that the language used to admonish what is perceived by the Catholic church as deviant sexual behavior–talk of “controlling” homosexual urges, “abstaining” from sex, “protecting” teens from the consequences of their sexuality–is couched in _exactly_ the terms you are criticizing: that what the body feels must be restrained, contained, and negated.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say anal ‘ghost’ sex ignores the body and then call for someone to control his body’s homosexual urges. Unless you’re trying to argue that it’s only bodily function that is important, rather than bodily desire or arousal or consent. Since breasts have a purely nutritive function, they should be kept out of sex altogether. Since the function of the clitoris is solely to experience sexual pleasure, any sex that does not result in a clitoral orgasm is not sex. Since the function of a penis is to impregnate women, a marital rape that results in pregnancy is an acceptable form of sex (while a rape that does not result in pregnancy is not sex).

    I’m not even going to talk about how this post mischaracterizes Descartes, or how its attempted use of rational argument and the logical extension of basic assumptions is possible only because of Descartes and his contributions to Western thought. I’m only going to say that he was a devout Catholic.

    • Viseraph

      Great to see some common sense in these comments. There is zero, physical or philosophical evidence for the existence of a ‘soul’. What a childish concept. Our consciousness and who we are is a marvelous and intricate connection of neurons. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t degrade is with your mysticism and superstitions.

      • Jmsteve4

        How is adding a soul into it degrading it? Do you want to be just a body controlled by a bunch of neurons, or do you want something that makes you different than a plant (since some people will say animals have souls. I’m not sure. I think a soul is different then a personality, but also deeply connected to it, so I’ll stick with something universally awknowledged as soul-less)? And by the way, superstitions are easily disproven. Have you suceeded in disproving religion? Do you somehow know more about the soul than philosphers and theologians because your neurons move faster or something?

        • PC Geek

          Also Viseraph invoked the concept of ‘beauty’ – where does he get that from?

          For the love of St. Darwin of the Galapagos these a-tards never learn…

        • Ownster

          They are easily disproven.
          Earth is flat – WRONG.
          Heaven lies above us in the sky – WRONG.
          Hell lies below us under ground – WRONG.
          God created the world 6,000 years ago – WRONG.
          The earth doesn’t move – WRONG.
          Mankind was made in gods image – Which one? Homo sapiens in particular? What about homo erectus or homo neanderthalensis or a number of the other homo genus species?
          God is infallible – WRONG (he delivered the words in the bible which stated the above fallacies thus making him fallible.)
          Priests are holy – WRONG (they have been shown to at times be pedophiles and homosexuals at the same time).

      • James H

        Well, to be mischevous, (sp?) I could point out that there’s no physical evidence for numbers either, but that doesn’t stop us from counting.

        There is abundant philosophical evidence for the soul, you just need to read enough philosophy; and of course there’s no physical evidence for it, it’s not a physical thing.

        Come on, get your mind out of that straitjacket!

        • Asclepius

          Everyone from Plato to Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas weeps at this.

          • Asclepius

            …though not your comment: the one to which you respond :).

          • Estimatedprophet

            Anyone after Aquinas? Just wondering.

      • PC Geek

        Gotta love how you just make a list of assertions without proof – you clearly need to read more philosophy and history.

        A soul is not a physical object and thus cannot be physically discerned – that is the equivalent to a blind man claiming there is no evidence for the color red.

        Maybe start with some Chesterton? Anyone else got some good reading ideas for our atheistic fundamentalist over here?

        • PC Geek

          Following up from last week…

          The best overall theological and philosophical reading that I have encountered is ‘Orthodoxy’ by G.K. Chesterton – it is in the public domain now so you can check it out athttp://www.gutenberg.org/ebook…

      • Eliberaus

        Please take a course on Metaphysics asap

    • Anonymous

      The argument is not being made that a person is just body or just soul, than one is more important than the other, but that a person is the one whole unit of both body and soul.

      Even though the two are distinct, they are one.

      Since a person cannot exist without both. It will either descend into pure materialism on one hand or pure spiritualism on the other.

      Where sex and love comes into play, is that if a person is seen as a whole person, then this dualism that treats a person as less than a person will not come into play.

      It’s about integration.

      The church does not teach that bodily urges are bad in themselves, it’s how what they are objectively ordered towards.

    • James H

      I just find it weird how you get from “man is an inseparable union of body and soul” to [people with certain traits are good at certain things]. Yes, that was the idea behind a lot of secular thought, especially Darwinian ideas about the ‘fitness of races’, but in fact it’s a non-sequitur.

      ‘Ghost sex’ is where the soul, or the will if you prefer, takes over and says of the body, ‘To Hell with the design spec, I’ll do whatever I want with this!’ That would not have been possible had Descartes not insisted on dualism.

    • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com/ Arkanabar

      @GLBT Ally: well, all adult human people with normal XX chromosomes in the 23d pair are women, and all those with normal XY chromosomes in the 23d pair are men. That’s a statement backed by whopping huge amounts of repeatable observations. They remain men and women regardless of mental self-delusions, even when reinforced by self-sought mutilations such as so-called “gender reassignment surgery.” Reality is what it is, and beliefs to the contrary do not change that.

      Marc’s actually being polite when he describes deliberately nonprocreative sexual behavior merely as “not-sex.” Fellow atheist Sigmund Freud was more blunt: “We actually describe a sexual activity as perverse if it has given up the aim of reproduction and pursues the attainment of pleasure as an aim independent of it. So, as you will see, the breach and turning point in the development of sexual life lies in becoming subordinate to the purpose of reproduction. Everything that happens before this turn of events and equally everything that disregards it and that aims solely at obtaining pleasure is given the uncomplimentary name of “perverse” and as such is proscribed.”

      • Rene

        so your argument goes something like this…

        Freud was an, inteligent, atheist, even he thought oral sex was not sex, therefore the religious idea of sex is right.

        i deeply recomend to you reading the discourse on the method

    • GansRR32

      @LGBT Ally In all of your arguments you are separating the body from the sould. Your comment about loving your spouse even when you are old is exactly what this guy is saying, because you should not separate the body from the spirit. If you love the spirit you should also love the body, and vice versa. Furthermore, his point about imitation sex simply means that all sexual relationships should be open to the possibility that life may be created. You can’t get pregnant through your butt, but you actually can get pregnant when on your menstruation cycle, it is just not a normal occurence, but a miraculous one – and God can work great miracles.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1601223338 Brigitte Gawthorp

      This was posted from the wrong profile. Would you mind deleting it? So sorry!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10208317 Jenny Uebbing

    omg this is awesome

  • Clairnidubhslaine

    Great article, the man himself JPII couldn’t have put it better!

    • Practicing Mammal

      except he doesn’t say douchebag. Ever.

      • AfroSam

        Also Theology of the Body was much MUCH better.

  • Stevenstarkmusic

    While I agree that the concept of soul does not mean much without the body, I cannot endorse your views on gay or “alternate” forms of heterosexual sex. I will address gay sex only, for the sake of clarity.

    First of all, gay sex uses the body. Completely.

    Second, we cannot condemn acts because they have been stretched from the role nature originally assigned them. We would have to call most art or sports “ghostly” if we did this. Is creating art from a dye derived from a berry a ghostly act because it expands on nature’s role for the berry.

    Third (on a related note), sex has evolved to be more than mere procreation. It is about intimacy and pleasure. Gay sex and other forms of heterosexual sex certainly physically manifest this just like vaginal sex. They help to seal a relationship with a concrete physical act. Nothing ghostly.

    Fourth, your argument seems to border on a naturalistic fallacy – that things are right and wrong dependent on how they supposedly occur in nature. But of course men are designed by nature to spread their seed at a much more rapid pace than a single woman can accommodate. So is it then OK for a man to cheat on his wife? Of course not. We judge right and wrong with more complex criteria than that.

    best! Steven

  • http://www.facebook.com/richardhighsmith Richard Highsmith

    I can say that the Cartesian theory of interactive dualism doesn’t work. Virtually no one is a Cartesian Dualist. Furthermore, no one bases their theories of sexual morality on Cartesian Dualism. Your argument is reducible to the following: Descartes believed that the mind and body are separate, Everyone believed that the mind is separate from the body, Everyone believed that you aren’t defined by your gender or the nature of your body, Everyone believes you can now have sex with anyone or anything.

    This is gibberish. This is not a logical or rational argument. Descartes did not say any of this and it is not a logical result of Descartes theory of mind. The obsession with loose sexual mores in Western Philosophy doesn’t really begin until Schopenhauer and Freud.

    One could easily point out that each of the practices that you cite as being the result of Cartesian Dualism existed before Descartes published anything, and are practiced by people who have never heard of Descartes.

    As a very conservative Christian with a Thomistic and Aristotelian worldview, I am offended that you would use such rubbish to defend the sound teachings of the Church. You are setting us up with a mark. What would St. Thomas or St. Augustine think about your argument (I shudder to think with William of Occam or St. Anselm would make of it).

    There are quite a few postmodern thinkers whose style of philosophical argument is to throw up a bunch of gibberish and pull your own ideologies out of the cloud of gibberish. This is precisely what you are doing. You throw up a cloud of gibberish, put up a picture of an ill looking Descartes and talk about ghost sex in order to demonstrate something about sexual morality. You seem to suggest that someone shouldn’t engage in a series of thought experiments, but should accept Scholastic philosophy without thinking. Thankfully the Church does have a sound basis for teachings on sexual morality, and one that goes beyond the sound doctrines espoused by scripture. Our beliefs are better served by a firmer foundation, that of Natural Law.

    • Victo

      I have a class this semester which provides psychology perspective, and some studies on the formation of personality etc. do support their ideas on Descartes Dualism (not sexual morals, but still). I just wanted to had it in case someone see this post.

  • Debbie Sercely

    As a Dominican sister pointed out, “Sticking mashed potatoes in your ear is not eating.”

    • Stevenstarkmusic

      If one receives sustenance and enjoyment from it, then whether it is “eating” or not is just a word game.

  • Really?

    OMg!!! I think perhaps before you wrote this you should have asked the pope what you really think. I’m sure if you spoke with him he would tell you that you think something different than what you thought you were thinking.

    There is no point in discussing any issue of import with you! I’m glad I read through the comments and I see that there are some very thoughtful and intelligent remarks. I was wondering if catholic was just another name for hillbilly, but as evidenced below there are some very rational minds amongst the catholics!

  • Ball of String

    I’m sorry, but

    • Ball of String

      Whoops, posted too early! Was going to say that I skimmed through the post because I was short on time, but I really want to read it (and will comment on it justly). But then, I saw “Dark Horses” at the end. :D Switchfoot is awesome!

      • Ball of String

        Okay, finally read the post! I have to say it was rather interesting. I’ve only heard about Descartes’s math work but did not know much about his philosophical work.

        I was quite confused when initially reading about Descartes’s proposal, but after thinking about it, it makes some sense. The body and soul MAY certainly exist apart from one another, even if when a person is alive they must be together. If a corpse is a body without a soul, then that is evidence that a body can exist apart from a soul.

        One commenter mentioned that Descartes equated a body without a soul as a human (as well as a soul without a body). I don’t know if Marc was implying this in the post, but if that was indeed what Descartes was saying, then I do not agree. A body without a soul, in my perspective, is just matter (though with human origins), and a soul without a body is just that–a soul.

        Also, I glanced through the comments about when the body and soul are separated, and someone talked about “heavenly bodies” than we gain once we reach heaven. I’m especially intrigued by this idea, mostly because I cannot imagine what a heavenly body would look like (and I doubt many others do). Does anyone know a Bible verse that talks about this concept? I’ve heard about it before but cannot pinpoint where it came from.

  • Malakh

    20 extra points of awesomeness just for using the 9gag memes!! :D

  • Max the Communist

    “Sex is the reproductive act, all else is imitation.”
    Your assertion here, while backed by the RC Church and other Christian sects, is nevertheless unsubstantiated and insupportable.
    Sex is pleasure. Reproduction is the by-product of sex.
    Anal, oral, auto-erotic and other forms of sex are not “imitations” of “the reproductive act”–by which I presume you mean penile-vaginal penetration. Anal, oral, etc., are pleasurable acts, engaged in to produce orgasm. Wild species engage in these acts for the purpose of pleasure. Mammals in particular have been observed engaging in masturbation–sometimes using tools–and several other non-reproductive sexual behaviors.
    Behavioral scientists theorize that the same-sex behaviors of wolves, primates, etc., are useful to establishing social cohesion within a group.

  • Diwonusoio

    “In common terms, what is a body without a soul? A corpse.”

    That is anything but a smooth argument. In Descartes’ terms, a body without a soul is an automaton, a machine, not a corpse – and his entire body/soul dualism is based on the assumption that a body COULD keep functioning without the soul. Actually, animals were defined by Descartes as automata. A corpse is merely a non-functional organic machine. Your further arguments, and especially the necrophilia one, are pretty much flawed by this inconsistency.


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