No, You Can't Call People Sluts.

Ever since Rush Limbaugh tried to slut-shame a law student for testifying at a forum hosted by Congressional Democrats about the medical needs that contraception serves, I had wanted to go through all Limbaugh’s remarks and detail the millions of ways they were awful for the morally obtuse. But I kept thinking, no, it’s just too obvious. But then today I had to reply when Bret wondered whether Limbaugh’s remarks were really such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, when compared to the worse tangible consequences of right wing policies. Now, I have someone going beyond just trying to minimize the seriousness of Limbaugh’s sleaziness to actually defending it as legitimate. Here is Verbose Stoic:

Question: So if I wanted to make a derisive comment about the promiscuity of a woman, perhaps as a general statement of my distaste for what I might consider excessive emphasis on sex, what word should I use?

Note that you can’t say that I shouldn’t make derisive comments, because that would take all insults out of play and so would go far beyond misogynistic language. And you can’t say that I shouldn’t consider promiscuity something to be derisive about or find distasteful, because that would indeed be imposing ideas on me, and in fact doing so very, very specifically. So, then, what should I do?

This is the same sort of problem I have with the arguments against supposed insults that are gendered: if I want to insult a woman, why can’t I call her the term for a female dog? It’s a valid insult in my culture, just like the term for a man born out of wedlock is.

Now, using it out of those contexts may be more problematic, I agree, but I read about this case and thought that this one was certainly borderline because promiscuity was, in fact, the point. Again, putting aside any idea that insulting is itself wrong, what insulting term should he have used?

Derisive words are only for things which are properly derided. And even then we should be pretty temperate in how we use them so as not to be abusive to others.

In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing. So, no, I don’t think there is any word that you can use that I would find morally acceptable. You call that controlling your thought by not allowing you whatever insult you want? Sorry, that’s morality. It controls some things. You don’t want to be subject to my moral standards? Well, I don’t want consensual, responsible, promiscuous people who do not harm anyone to be subject to yours. I have a lot of good moral reasons to think they don’t deserve derision and that such treatment of yours towards them is unfair and worth calling out. So I’m not allowing that any abusive word aimed at men or women over their promiscuity is copacetic. I don’t have to acknowledge your moral right to use insults to bully people who are not doing anything morally wrong. Legally, you may say whatever you want that does not cross the line into actionable harassment, threats, or libel, etc. But morally if I allow you to call people sluts as perfectly acceptable, then I’m approving your value judgment as perfectly acceptable. You’re entitled morally to argue for the wrongness of promiscuity if you like.

Your “distaste” is not an argument and nor is it a justification for dictating to others or for denigrating them. And it is something I can argue you should change. We can criticize each other’s moral feelings when they are unjustifiable. And this goes for their tastes too. And I can certainly balk without fear of “imposing” when you cross the line from merely having an unjustified “distaste” to the point of insults used to morally bully and shame and marginalize and degrade people over consensual, responsible, harm-free, autonomous sex between equals. To allow you to get away with that out of a milquetoast fear of moral impositions would be to tacitly accept your repugnant values and, much worse, to endorse your use of them to manipulate and control other people to their detriment. I’m not laying down my arms in the struggle over values so easily. Thanks, but no thanks.

Use the word slut and you’ve tried to bully others into adopting your values or submitting to them. Don’t (with unbelievable hypocrisy) hide behind some supposed right not to have others’ values imposed upon you. I have every moral right to use accurate and justifiable moral descriptors to express precisely why you are wrong and why your character is dubious. And I can also explain why your word is out of bounds for both its unmerited, intrinsically insulting character, and for the ways it participates in and perpetuates corrupt conceptions of morality and other unjust systems of social control.

Your Thoughts?

The considerations spelled out in the above post should offer a greater context and justification for the ideas in the following, roughly logically ordered, posts. Listed below are some of the most salient posts I have written on problems in value theory, metaethics, moral psychology, practical ethics, and normative moral theory. There are a lot of them but you do not need to read them all to understand any of them whose titles interest you in particular. So don’t avoid all of them for fear you cannot read all of them.

The Contexts, Objective Hierarchies, and Spectra of Goods and Bads (Or “Why Murder Is Bad”)

Goodness Is A Factual Matter (Goodness=Effectiveness)

Grounding Objective Value Independent Of Human Interests And Moralities

Non-Reductionistic Analysis Of Values Into Facts

Effectiveness Is The Primary Goal In Itself, Not Merely A Means

What Is Happiness And Why Is It Good?

On The Intrinsic Connection Between Being And Goodness

Deriving An Atheistic, Naturalistic, Realist Account Of Morality

How Our Morality Realizes Our Humanity

From Is To Ought: How Normativity Fits Into Naturalism

Can Good Teaching Be Measured?

Some People Live Better As Short-Lived Football or Boxing Stars Than As Long Lived Philosophers

The Objective Value of Ordered Complexity

Defining Intrinsic Goodness, Using Marriage As An Example

The Facts About Intrinsic and Instrumental Goods and The Cultural Construction of Intrinsic Goods

Subjective Valuing And Objective Values

My Perspectivist, Teleological Account Of The Relative Values Of Pleasure And Pain

Pleasure And Pain As Intrinsic Instrumental Goods

What Does It Mean For Pleasure And Pain To Be “Intrinsically Instrumental” Goods?

Against Moral Intuitionism

Moral vs. Non-Moral Values

Maximal Self-Realization In Self-Obliteration: The Existential Paradox of Heroic Self-Sacrifice

On Good And Evil For Non-Existent People

My Perfectionistic, Egoistic AND Universalistic, Indirect Consequentialism (And Contrasts With Other Kinds)

Towards A “Non-Moral” Standard Of Ethical Evaluation

Further Towards A “Non-Moral” Standard Of Ethical Evaluation

On The Incoherence Of Divine Command Theory And Why Even If God DID Make Things Good And Bad, Faith-Based Religions Would Still Be Irrelevant

God and Goodness

Rightful Pride: Identification With One’s Own Admirable Powers And Effects

The Harmony Of Humility And Pride

Moral Mutability, Not Subjective Morality.  Moral Pluralism, Not Moral Relativism.

How Morality Can Change Through Objective Processes And In Objectively Defensible Ways

Nietzsche: Moral Absolutism and Moral Relativism Are “Equally Childish”

Immoralism?

Is Emotivistic Moral Nihilism Rationally Consistent?

The Universe Does Not Care About Our Morality. But So What?

Why Be Morally Dutiful, Fair, or Self-Sacrificing If The Ethical Life Is About Power?

A Philosophical Polemic Against Moral Nihilism

Why Moral Nihilism Is Self-Contradictory

Answering Objections From A Moral Nihilist

If You Don’t Believe in Objective Values Then Don’t Talk To Me About Objective Scientific Truth Either

On Not-Pologies, Forgiveness, and Gelato

Yes, We Can Blame People For Their Feelings, Not Just Their Actions

Why Bother Blaming People At All? Isn’t That Just Judgmental?

Is Anything Intrinsically Good or Bad? An Interview with James Gray

My Metaethical Views Are Challenged. A Debate With “Ivan”

On Unintentionally Intimidating People

Meditations on How to Be Powerful, Fearsome, Empowering, and Loved

Is It Ever Good To Be Annoying?

No, You Can’t Call People Sluts.

Why Misogynistic Language Matters

Sex and “Spirituality”

Can Utilitarians Properly Esteem The Intrinsic Value of Truth?

No, Not Everyone Has A Moral Right To Feel Offended By Just Any Satire or Criticism

Moral Offense Is Not Morally Neutral

 

  • jamessweet

    I would just like to thank Verbose Stoic for once again reassuring me that I made the right decision when I started skipping over all of his comments without even reading them.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m flabbergasted with disappointment myself.

    • Douglas Kirk

      Seconded. I haven’t paid attention to him since his obtuse waffling throughout hundreds of comments on daylight atheism’s old site.

    • seditiosus

      Thirded.

    • julian

      joining the bandwagon

    • Captain Mike

      I’ve never heard of this person before in my life, but please save me a seat on the wagon.

    • Kail

      Verbose Stoic has a lot of interesting things to say. By ignoring him you may win points with the hive mind, but you will be putting a lie to the free thinker label (if you claim it, maybe you don’t).

    • Dan L.

      Verbose Stoic has a lot of interesting things to say. By ignoring him you may win points with the hive mind, but you will be putting a lie to the free thinker label (if you claim it, maybe you don’t).

      He certainly has a lot of things to say. This is probably the first I’ve ever found interesting. Bleech.

      Also, “if you don’t do what I say you’re not a real free thinker” has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read that wasn’t said by a troll.

    • Brownian

      Where do I redeem my hive mind points? I don’t particularly care if some people think I fit their definition of freethinker or not, but I sure would like that fancy stainless steel mixer I saw in the catalogue.

  • Twist

    I wish people would realise that they don’t get to decide what is an acceptable level of sexual activity for other people.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      I don’t. Do what you want. But don’t expect me to support it or even shut up if I don’t think it’s acceptable. Your right to act as you wish does not, in fact, obligate me to accept that or act as if I do.

    • Twist

      So, you don’t think you get to decide what’s acceptable when it comes to other people’s sex lives, except you do think you have the right not only to decide what’s acceptable, but also to comment on it. Riiight.

      Other people’s sex lives = nothing to do with you.

      Yes, you can comment about how unncaceptable you think other people’s sex lives are all you like, but in return expect to be thought of as a generally unpleasant person who isn’t worth listening to.

      And with that, I’m going to jump on the ‘ignore’ bandwagon.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Twist,

      Well, do you get to comment on anything in my life, including the ideas that I hold? Do you think it acceptable to, say, criticize my religious beliefs? Then I get to do the same thing to you. Do you get to complain that religious groups essentially add too much guilt to sex and thus impede it’s full expression in a terrible and stupid way? Then I get to challenge that and argue the other side.

      Note that I’ve said elsewhere that I’m somewhere in-between the really liberal and really conservative attitudes towards sex. But my main gripe here is that I constantly see on these sorts of boards criticisms of other people’s ideas and views and behaviour that are quite derisive, and yet when someone is derisive towards those people’s cherished beliefs suddenly that’s out of line. Dan here basically called thinking that promiscuity was worthy of derision absolutely immoral, and in a way that I think counts as derisive, and yet somehow doing that is okay while what Limbaugh did is absolutely morally wrong. Sorry, but that seems like hypocrisy to me.

    • ema

      So if I wanted to make a derisive comment about the promiscuity of a woman….

      What does promiscuity have to do with Limbaugh’s remarks?

      But don’t expect me to support it or even shut up if I don’t think it’s acceptable.

      What don’t you support/think it’s acceptable? The use of birth control for contraception?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan here basically called thinking that promiscuity was worthy of derision absolutely immoral, and in a way that I think counts as derisive, and yet somehow doing that is okay while what Limbaugh did is absolutely morally wrong. Sorry, but that seems like hypocrisy to me.

      I didn’t deride you, I didn’t use mocking language. The closest I got was the sarcasm of “thanks, no thanks.” It’s not quite the demeaningly absurd sarcasm of calling an advocate for medical uses of contraception of being formally a prostitute. I morally condemned the word slut and impugned the character of those who would use it. The hypocrisy is your claim that you can impugn others’ sex lives but not have your own judgments impugned.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Dan, why is calling someone a bully and immoral better than calling them a slut?

      You don’t have to use a specific derisive word to be derisive. Your entire post drips with condemnation and in fact attempts to shame, from the use of bully all the way through, and through claims about how distaste is driving it and over how the values are “repugnant”, when again the only value determination _I_ was talking about was considering promiscuity worthy of derision.

      We could still be talking past each other, but right here it really sounds to me like you’re trying to sneak past the derision part on a technicality, unless you are on about the word itself, which is NOT what you went on about here.

    • plutosdad

      Because Bully has a meaning that is valid, it is someone who wants to push others around. Bitch, jerk, etc are all valid accusations as well.

      Slut is not, it is a relic of old morality that is in fact immoral. That is, the accusation of slut, the condemnation of someone for being promiscuous, is what is immoral. Being a slut is not immoral, as long as the two involved are consenting and capable of consenting, and take appropriate precautions against disease and pregnancy, and are not in exclusive relationships.

      Modern ethics that is concerned with maximum long-term well-being do not condemn promiscuity, but instead condemn those that would condemn it. The only ethical systems that condemn promiscuity are the oldest and most misogynist, and their reasons for condemning it can be traced back not to “right” or “wrong”, but to maintaining power over women.

      Thus, being promiscuous is NOT immoral, but calling someone a slut IS immoral.

    • plutosdad

      I should say it might be wise to not say “bitch” as well, due to its overuse for women who are merely standing up for themselves. I don’t use it, I will just use “jerk” or something similar which has a specific meaning that won’t get misunderstood.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      plutosdad,

      Because Bully has a meaning that is valid, it is someone who wants to push others around. Bitch, jerk, etc are all valid accusations as well.

      Slut is not, it is a relic of old morality that is in fact immoral. That is, the accusation of slut, the condemnation of someone for being promiscuous, is what is immoral. Being a slut is not immoral, as long as the two involved are consenting and capable of consenting, and take appropriate precautions against disease and pregnancy, and are not in exclusive relationships.Modern ethics that is concerned with maximum long-term well-being do not condemn promiscuity, but instead condemn those that would condemn it. The only ethical systems that condemn promiscuity are the oldest and most misogynist, and their reasons for condemning it can be traced back not to “right” or “wrong”, but to maintaining power over women.

      Thus, being promiscuous is NOT immoral, but calling someone a slut IS immoral.

      The problem is that you may well be misapplying it, and part of my comment was that he was using it as close as possible to its non-overloaded meaning here. As for it not being immoral, that’s YOUR position and not one that’s universally shared, nor is it the case that modern morality must be taken to be right. I strongly disagree with that sort of modern ethics, and you can’t necessarily insist that it must be misogynist because it does.

      Again, you are arguing that it is wrong to say it because you think it wrong. But the people who are saying it think that they are right and it is you and modern ethics that is wrong. So why are you so certain that you are right that you will agree to such harsh condemnations on the basis of it, while insisting that they cannot be anywhere near that certain and so are not justified in acting in precisely the same way you do?

    • Dan L.

      @VS: WHY do you want to use the word “slut” so badly? What is your intent in wanting to use the word? As far as I know, the only real application of the word is to try to shame women and prevent them from say, reporting rape or advocating for reproductive rights.

      Bottom line: go ahead and call people sluts. And then expect people to call you a bully and stop taking you seriously.

  • Bruce S. Springsteen

    But Rush Limbaugh is a whore.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      No he is not, thank you very much. Fucking for money is a damned sight more than a little more respectable than what that asshat does. Sex workers have a hard enough lot in this culture, without being equated with vile humans like Limbaugh.

  • Coragyps

    Bruce, that is pretty goddam insulting to the whores I’ve met.

    • DK

      I’m curious, are you female?

    • DK

      Reply fail :(

  • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

    I am not one for using “slut” to denigrate people, but I like the term for describing my own sexual behaviors – though it has been some time since I’ve engaged in the behaviors to which it applies. Whatever the issues driving them, I am not ashamed of the sexual behaviors I engaged in. I am in a monogamous relationship now, but that is due to having negotiated such a relationship with someone I care for enough that it was an acceptable choice.

    That I am monogamous doesn’t change the fact that I am a slut, through and through. I see absolutely nothing wrong with having sex with people I am not involved with. I suspect that more people would have healthy, honest relationships that have considerably more staying power, if they had sex on the side. Certainly, having sex on the side doesn’t somehow magically inherently lessen the love people have for their partners.

    Slut is a great word because it accurately describes a behavior that people shouldn’t continue to be ashamed of. It is the implied shame that is problematic, not the word that implies it. Rather like the word “whore” used above. There is nothing wrong with the word, it’s how it’s used that is a problem. Remove the shame and it will lose it’s power when asshats like Rush use it to denigrate.

    • DK

      DuWayne, I’m curious, are you female?

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      No, I am not female, though I often identify as a single mom. Mostly because that is what my four year old calls me when he wants momma and I really don’t think gender and sexual identity are static anyways.

    • DK

      If you’re not female identified, then please do not tell women how they should approach being called gendered insults like whore and slut and how you as a man have embraced them. You have obviously not experienced the power of those words as they have never been used to shame and control your sexuality and flashing your privileged ability to use them freely in reference to yourself w/o any of the baggage is tone deaf and insulting.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      DK -

      First of all, I am not telling anyone how to take those words. I am saying what I take them for and what rather a lot of people I care about have taken them for – women mostly.

      And please don’t assume that you know anything about my experience of those words – you most certainly do not. When I was younger I engaged in sexual behaviors that rather a lot of people consider unhealthy – though I was always careful. There are a lot of reasons I engaged in those behaviors, not the least being it was probably largely a manifestation of my mental illness. I don’t take any pride in my sexual experiences, my refusal to be ashamed is a refusal to accept that there was anything inherently wrong with what I did.

      That said, what I did was rather extreme. I don’t know if it was emotionally damaging, or a reaction to emotional damage. What did was done at one of the worst points in my life, in terms of mental health. I was effectively homeless for four years – two of which I spent hitching. When I settled in Lansing, all I did – day in and day out, was do a fuckton of drugs, play a lot of music – both with my band and with whoever was up for playing, and I had sex. As long as it was consensual and relatively safe, I was generally down for it – especially when I did acid, which was often.

      Out of everything in my life, what I was judged most harshly for was my sexuality. I was called a slut and worse by people who claimed to care about me. People who didn’t care about me were especially nasty. There were some people in my life who either didn’t care or who recognized that my sexual behaviors fit into a larger picture that spoke to my mental health. But there were a lot of ugly people who were all about tearing me down.

      And I have engaged in other behaviors that I have taken shit for. Suffice to say that at more than one point in my life I have done what was needed to survive – at one point so as to keep a roof over my family. Again – not ashamed. But there are a lot of motherfuckers who think I should be ashamed, including people who claim to be feminists.

      Have I ever experienced the depth of shit that some women have with words like “slut” and “whore?” No. For the most part I let the attempts to shame me wash right over me. For many years, being insulated by whatever I could get my hands on to get high probably made it easier to just not give a fuck what others think. It definitely helped that I was raised not to care and was acculturated as a boy. In any case, I wouldn’t deign to coopt the experience of women and sex shaming.

      But neither will I accept that my experience wasn’t valid. I have experienced very ugly things in the course of my sexual experience, including sexual assault. I have had sex I didn’t want to have, because I believed I had a responsibility to do so, in some cases real – in others imagined. I have seen and experienced some seriously dark and ugly aspects of human sexuality. And I have experienced the full throttle disdain and loathing of other people because of it all.

      I am *not* going to be ashamed of it. I should not be ashamed of it. I don’t believe that anyone who has only ever engaged in consensual sex should ever fucking be ashamed of it! Many of us have done things that we should not have done, didn’t want to do – that doesn’t make it shameful – it makes us fucking human. So I will continue to assert my sluttiness without the helping of shame some folks like to throw on it, thank you very much. And while I will never suggest that others have an obligation to do so, I will certainly encourage others to do the same.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      DK -

      I would like to apologize for my anger. I often get angry when people call me down for comments like the one you were responding to, but recognize that there are reasons people do that.

      Please just understand that people have tried very hard to shame me for my sexual behavior, or in some cases lack of compliance. Mine is not the experience of many women, it is my own experience and I would never try to coopt the experiences of women who have been slut shamed in ways that could never apply to me. Not because I haven’t experienced things that many women have, but because I had a very different experience of culture to shape me.

      So it is easier for me to assert my sluttiness, than it is for many women. That doesn’t mean I haven’t the right and doesn’t mean I am wrong to encourage others to do so. I would never assert anyone has an obligation to do so – that wasn’t my point. I would however, encourage others to do so – not because it is politically expedient and not because it is shocking. I encourage others to do so, because for many people I know – myself included, it is an armor against the denigration and hatred of others.

      You are welcome to assert that I don’t have the right. You are welcome to assume that I’m just not listening, don’t understand. You are free to believe that I am merely exerting my privilege. That doesn’t make it true.

      And I hadn’t noticed it before, but you are making a rather bald assumption asserting my manhood. I don’t identify as a woman because I am not a woman. I rarely identify as a man either, because according to how our culture considers such things, I am more “womanly” than I am “manly.” In some situations it is rather pointless to deny the label my penis would afford me by default. But for the most part, on the rare occasions when it comes up, I identify as genderqueer.

    • DK

      DuWayne, I’m sorry I assumed you were male. But as for everything else you said, this is not a discussion about calling all people sluts, this is about a WOMAN being called a slut and the power of the gendered slur being used to deny life saving birth control. How in the world is your advice to take back the word and use as armor at all helpful or relevant in this context? When Fluke talked of the woman who lost her ovary – how does that help her? How does that help women who are told to take responsibility for their rapes by not dressing slutty? Your experiences with sexual shaming are absolutely valid, but they are privileged. It is inappropriate to bring them up here in this discussion w/o taking into account the people who are being discussed.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      I am sorry that you feel that way. I disagree, but won’t continue to justify myself.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    First, you might want to correct the statement since it’s “Verbose Stoic”, and not “Verbal Stoic”.

    Second, this right here is where things go askew:

    Derisive words are only for things which are properly derided. And even then we should be pretty temperate in how we use them so as not to be abusive to others.

    In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing.

    And the problem is that there are some people that disagree strongly with you on that. They think that you can, indeed, properly deride promiscuity. I personally can think of some cases where I would deride behaviour that would come under the “sluttish” banner. So the issue is that YOU don’t think that this is immoral and so YOU say that it’s terrible to use that word to express derision for that idea that you think is not worthy of derision. However, they are simply expressing their own viewpoint, and so it’s actually bullying on YOUR part to insist that they can’t express the idea that promiscuity is, in fact, worthy of derision.

    I have a lot of good moral reasons to think they don’t deserve derision and that such treatment of yours towards them is unfair and worth calling out.

    At which point, it only seems proper to simply point those out, or ignore the use of the word as being something that you disagree with. But it seemed to me — and I could be wrong — that your classification of the use of the term as being unequivocably morally wrong essentially makes it so that either expressing an idea that the person holds is morally wrong, or that holding that idea is morally wrong. For the latter, you need to prove it, and not simply say that it’s wrong. For the former, you’re getting into bullying yourself to keep ideas you don’t like from being expressed.

    That’s the problem with the tie you made between the language and the idea. It’s true that language expresses ideas, but then you run the major risk of simply trying to suppress the ideas you don’t like by eliminating the language that can be used to express them. I fail to see why you think that’s a good thing.

    That’s actually why I at least don’t consider the use here to be all that serious. Limbaugh was using it, it seems to me, to express an idea: a derision for promiscuity. You don’t have any such derision at all, and I’m somewhere in the middle. But it’s an idea that can be expressed and argued, and you claim to be able to argue it. So do so, instead of simply ranting that even being associated with the idea makes it morally wrong to use that word. Again, the problem is that your attack on misogynistic language was an attack on the idea it expressed, not the choice of term used. And that’s as much bullying as anything else.

    Now, you can complain about Limbaugh bullying in general … but then it wouldn’t matter what he said, since just taking her on and disagreeing strongly with her would be just as much bullying. So that doesn’t get to the point you made either.

    Use the word slut and you’ve tried to bully others into adopting your values or submitting to them.

    No. I’ve simply expressed my own feelings towards it. No one has any need to accept my feelings, views, or values. You can make a claim if I call someone a slut for something that isn’t generally associated with promiscuity and so the link isn’t there, but in this case well, linking it to having sex seems pretty close. If you refuse to allow me to express derision for promiscuity in any way, then it is you who are trying to bully me into adopting your values or submitting to them, because while you can go on and on about how being promiscuous is not worthy of derision, the instant I express derision then I’m somehow out of line and my views can be dismissed. Or, at least, that’s the risk here.

    Note that I personally actually don’t care about people who are promiscuous. It is their decision. But I also hold a more conservative view of sex than you do, and so I certainly become concerned when merely not holding that liberal view of sex becomes in and of itself immoral and an idea not worthy of being expressed.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      Verbose Stoic — you seem to be under the misapprehension that when Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a slut, he did so only because her behavior fit the definition of the word, and he felt that that deserved to be derided. That’s not true. He called her that in the context of a debate over whether or not she deserved equal protection under the law, whether she “deserved” birth control, and his use of the word buys into all the culturally-accumulated arguments around it: that women who sleep around are worth less than women who don’t, that women who sleep around “deserve” to get pregnant, etc. etc.

      Words are granted meaning through social use, and you just can’t divorce a word from its cultural context. So use the word slut if you want, but don’t pretend that you aren’t taking sides on the issues mentioned above. And don’t be surprised if people don’t like it.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      I personally can think of some cases where I would deride behaviour that would come under the “sluttish” banner. So the issue is that YOU don’t think that this is immoral and so YOU say that it’s terrible to use that word to express derision for that idea that you think is not worthy of derision. However, they are simply expressing their own viewpoint, and so it’s actually bullying on YOUR part to insist that they can’t express the idea that promiscuity is, in fact, worthy of derision.

      What a stinking crock of shit. Bullying is using shame words (which in the context you want to use slut, it very much is) to denigrate someone behaving in a way you disapprove of. It is easy enough to dismiss people who engage in sexual behaviors you disapprove of, without using shame to denigrate them.

      Note that I personally actually don’t care about people who are promiscuous. It is their decision. But I also hold a more conservative view of sex than you do, and so I certainly become concerned when merely not holding that liberal view of sex becomes in and of itself immoral and an idea not worthy of being expressed.

      If you don’t care, then why feel compelled to shame people? Why not just say that you disapprove and leave it at that. I disapprove of people repressing their sexuality – I actually believe doing so is immoral. But I don’t think it would be useful to shame people for being sexually repressed. It is going to make people angry at best, at worst it will hurt them.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      nick euler,

      I am, I think, aware of the context of the debate. My argument is that in the context of the specific comment it’s close, because he was deriding her request to have it covered so that she wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to have sex. Re-reading some of the recent stuff, things are a bit more complicated, I suppose, and maybe it isn’t as close as I thought, but to me it is close enough to allow for him to have been there expressing derision at her being promiscuous and insisting on being so. The rights thing didn’t really come into it there for me and you will note that he, in fact, almost certainly doesn’t agree with that, so again we have people evaluating and judging in the context of their own moral views.

      I wouldn’t have used that term myself, but I am sympathetic to the idea that if she wants to have sex, she can pay for it herself. And, really, that was all I was doing. I wasn’t advocating for the word itself, but for the idea that he might well have been expressing.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      DuWayne,

      Bullying is using shame words (which in the context you want to use slut, it very much is) to denigrate someone behaving in a way you disapprove of.

      And you don’t think that calling some action immoral isn’t a shame word, especially with the association immoral has to evil? For me, being called immoral is probably about the worse thing you can call me to shame me into doing or not doing something. If this isn’t the case in general, then I’d say that’s what’s wrong with the world today …

      If you don’t care, then why feel compelled to shame people? Why not just say that you disapprove and leave it at that. I disapprove of people repressing their sexuality – I actually believe doing so is immoral. But I don’t think it would be useful to shame people for being sexually repressed. It is going to make people angry at best, at worst it will hurt them.

      I completely agree, and if Dan had simply said that we can express that disapproval in the strongest terms allowed without being immoral, but that that word is more problematic, then this would have all ended without even the need for another post. But to me Dan’s post attacked possessing the idea, not merely using the word, and that I find problematic.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      I wouldn’t have used that term myself, but I am sympathetic to the idea that if she wants to have sex, she can pay for it herself. And, really, that was all I was doing. I wasn’t advocating for the word itself, but for the idea that he might well have been expressing.

      1.) The idea he was expressing is even worse than just using the word.
      2.) This is because the idea he was expressing was that equality under the law is only important until it gets applied to sluts, who don’t deserve it. (In other words: religious organizations gotta obey secular law when dealing with secular people, except when those people are sluts.)
      3.)”the idea that if she wants to have sex, she can pay for it herself.” This is why I think you just don’t understand what’s being debated. More sex does not equal more birth control. If she was having sex with her husband once a week she’d be taking the same amount of birth control as if she were having sex a hundred times a week. She was advocating against a religious exemption, which would have allowed religious employers to control the health-care options of their secular employees, or in her case, students.

    • DK

      Fluke never at any point talked about her own sexual history. As far as we know, she’s a virgin.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      Yes. And it shouldn’t matter, anyway. I hope my last post didn’t give that impression.

    • DK

      Not at all, nick. I was just responding in general to the claim that Fluke is a slut. This is about women’s healthcare, not sex.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      nick euler,

      1) He doesn’t agree with you, so you’re judging him by your standards, not his. If you can do that, then so can he.

      2) You seem to be reading into his statement. I completely believe that he thinks that religions should not be held to secular law when it clashes with their religious beliefs, and fail to see what in his statement actually says that. You cannot judge based on your views and not his and expect to retain any intellectual integrity.

      3) Maybe. I won’t get into that in detail, because I don’t know what all is covered. But then he might just be wrong.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      2. Fluke argues that religiously affiliated organizations should be able to dictate the health-care choices of secular employees/students/etc. Limbaugh responds by calling her a slut and a prostitute. He says that every student at her school who needs birth control should have to put videos online if it is covered via mandatory health-care plans. I don’t think I’m being intellectually dishonest to say that this indicates a belief on his part that “sluts” are not deserving of the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. If he believed that “sluts” deserve the same protection under the law as everyone else, then advocating for removing basic equal rights for women from health-care law because only sluts need it (wrong) would be contradictory.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      Sorry — typo. That should read “should NOT be able to”

    • julian

      However, they are simply expressing their own viewpoint, and so it’s actually bullying on YOUR part to insist that they can’t express the idea that promiscuity is, in fact, worthy of derision.

      Sure, I guess in the same way it’s bullying to chastise someone for ridiculing a straight man who enjoys anal.

      Now, you can complain about Limbaugh bullying in general … but then it wouldn’t matter what he said, since just taking her on and disagreeing strongly with her would be just as much bullying.

      You’re ridiculous.

  • http://rantasarahrex.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    Ugh, you’re totally infringing on my right to free speech!!!!!one!!!!111!!!!!eleventyone!!!

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      Strawman… or woman. I won’t assume which.

    • Kail

      There is a place for ignorant snark such as what you posted, however this is not it. The question of when derision can be expressed is an important one.

  • http://www.reason-being.com reasonbeing

    *sigh* Why is it so hard for people to realize two things: 1) insulting someone a la the word “slut” is really not going to get you anywhere in your conversation and 2) Your morality is not ubiquitous.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Surprisingly, I agree with 1); I don’t think that insults are of use in a discussion. That being said, too many people in too many places think they are for me to simply accept that this all falls under the notion of “All insults are bad”. For 2), I agree with you on that as well, which is really what prompted my original comment, since I felt that Dan was indeed treat HIS morality as ubiquitous by saying that even the use of the word was bad mostly because, it seemed, it expressed an idea that he found immoral. He can correct me if that isn’t what he meant.

  • DK

    Why is it so important for people to have the right to use racist and sexist language? Why does that take priority over the rights of the people such words are being used upon?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Well, if it means that you can’t express the idea at all — and that’s how I took it, rightly or wrongly — then that should give pause. But note that I was quite careful to limit it to an expression of derision for promiscuity aimed at a woman. What’s inherently sexist about that? Yes, as I noted in another comment you can talk about the hypocrisy, but I don’t have that particular hypocrisy and so would like a word that I can use to express it. If I can find one, then I’d use it, and if it didn’t have the double-standard implications, would it still be okay to express derision for promiscuity?

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      But note that I was quite careful to limit it to an expression of derision for promiscuity aimed at a woman. What’s inherently sexist about that?

      How in the hell can’t you see how that is sexist? What am I for having had a lot of sex with a lot of women – occasionally men, sometimes in groups of three or several more – for several years of my life? I would argue that I am a slut. Whether you consider it a term of derision or not is up to you, but it applies to me. Asserting that only women can be sluts is just pure sexism.

    • DK

      It should give you pause that you demand the right to use degrading language. Check your privilege.

      “What’s inherently sexist about that?”

      This is feminism 101 stuff. If you actually want an answer, I recommend starting with bell hooks.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      DuWayne,

      How in the hell can’t you see how that is sexist? What am I for having had a lot of sex with a lot of women – occasionally men, sometimes in groups of three or several more – for several years of my life? I would argue that I am a slut. Whether you consider it a term of derision or not is up to you, but it applies to me. Asserting that only women can be sluts is just pure sexism.

      And clearly you missed the part where I talked about that hypocrisy and said that that was sexist, but that that didn’t seem to be what Dan was talking about. If you talked about the hypocrisy only, we’d probably agree or at least wouldn’t have all that much to talk about. In my first comment, remember, I actually again was careful to limit it to someone who was promiscuous who happened to be a woman. I did not in any way assert or imply that only women can be promiscuous to a degree worthy of derision, and in the case of Limbaugh’s comment he didn’t imply that either (since he just happened to be replying to a woman). Now, I’m pretty convinced he DOES hold the double standard and the hypocrisy, but in the context where he used the word that wasn’t clear.

      So, again, if it’s based on the hypocrisy/double standard we pretty much agree. If it’s based on something else, then we probably don’t.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      DK,

      I don’t demand the right to use degrading language. I demand the right to express ideas that others disagree with, which happens to be a right you and everyone else demands as well. Again, my whole complaint was that Dan seemed to be attacking the idea — and the specific idea I outlined — and not the use of the word itself. Now, again, if he meant the double standard then he can always just say that and we’ll move on with a notion that I just misinterpreted him.

    • DK

      No ones is stopping you from expressing yourself, but I’m sorry if the response isn’t going to be positive. Judging, shaming, and policing women on their sexual choices is sexist.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      DK,

      Of course, I don’t expect it will always be positive. But the same applies to your ideas as well. And what seemed to be going on here is that when the idea was one that Dan agreed with, attacking it was terrible, but when it was an idea that he disagreed with, attacking it was perfectly okay.

      BTW, judging people based on their sexual history is not sexist. Only judging women on it may well be, although there are cases where it won’t be (for example, if sexual history is important to who I date, then only judging women on it and not men is not sexist since I’m only interested in dating women, not men. That being said, if I judged female friends and not male friends that might be sexist and something that needs to be worked on).

    • DK

      It wouldn’t be sexist if we lived in a vacuum, but we don’t. Women’s worth has been for hundred of years based on their sexual worth. Judging women on their private sexual activity and whether they are deserving of basic medical access and shaming them when they do not fit your idea of proper female sexuality is sexist.

      Again, this is feminism 101 stuff. Stop talking until you learn where this language comes from. Add The Purity Myth to your bell hooks reading.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      Ever since Rush Limbaugh tried to slut-shame a law student for testifying at a forum hosted by Congressional Democrats about the medical needs that contraception serves, I had wanted to go through all Limbaugh’s remarks and detail the millions of ways they were awful for the morally obtuse. But I kept thinking, no, it’s just too obvious.

      Alas, no. I wish. Just ran across this post the other day….how do people manage to be so dense?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      DK,

      I’m sorry, but I’m not accepting reading assignments from you, since, well, you aren’t in a position to do that.

      Anyway, my example was about dating, which would be about compatibility. The other examples are not related to what I said at all, and I have conceded the other connotations already. Please kindly refrain from attacking me with positions I do not hold.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      nick euler,

      I agree with you about that letter; simply making a position statement doesn’t count as incivility, but being uncivil does.

  • Phledge

    Daniel, thanks for an outstanding and clear takedown of this sense of entitlement this dude has regarding the right to judge others. I am not even remotely a philosopher, but I cannot comprehend how someone thinks that logic endows the thinker to be an asshole.

    • Kail

      It does not. Logic would seem to prohibit the ridiculous hive mind mentality you appear to be a slave to though.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      Agreement and dittoism aren’t the same thing.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    My thought is that this:

    And you can’t say that I shouldn’t consider promiscuity something to be derisive about or find distasteful, because that would indeed be imposing ideas on me.

    …has to be the stupidest thing I’ve read in the last week. And I’ve been reading a lot of Rush Limbaugh.

  • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

    @Verbose Stoic 9.1:

    What’s inherently sexist about that? Yes, as I noted in another comment you can talk about the hypocrisy, but I don’t have that particular hypocrisy and so would like a word that I can use to express it.

    A) So you don’t have that hypocrisy. Bully for you. Nobody knows this, unless you tell them, so like it or not you may be saying more than you intend.

    B) Even if everyone in the world knew that you weren’t a hypocrite, the word would still, by itself, involve the cultural hypocrisy of our attitudes towards sexuality, particularly women’s sexuality, and a societal history replete with male control of female sexuality being used to control women. So I’m so sorry that you can’t use your favorite word. But it means so much more than you might want it to (and, to be honest, I highly doubt Limbaugh is “not a hypocrite” like you).

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Give me another word that I can use to express the idea, or explicitly accept that I can express the idea of derision towards promiscuity without using that specific word due to its context and additional meanings, and we’re done here in what I think would be complete agreement. Everyone keeps insisting that my complaint is about not being able to use the word, and I keep insisting that it’s about being able to express a very specific idea.

    • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

      the idea of derision towards promiscuity

      and I keep insisting that it’s about being able to express a very specific idea.

      Umm, you just did. If you have a problem with promiscuity, say you have a problem with promiscuity. Hopefully followed by some actual justification for such.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      Gretchen: you are my favorite person right now.

      Everyone keeps insisting that my complaint is about not being able to use the word, and I keep insisting that it’s about being able to express a very specific idea.

      No one has stopped you. You’ve expressed the idea many times in these comments. And the idea is problematic, and it is problematic for, gosh, the same reasons the word is. Ideas aren’t sacrosanct, they aren’t immune from criticism, and if I think an idea is damaging and immoral I have every right to criticize its use.

      No one is stopping you from expressing the idea. We’re saying it is wrong and immoral, and we’ve presented a few arguments (and some references to other sources). It’s time for you to start stepping up.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      nick euler and Gretchen,

      The problem is that Dan’s posts essentially say that it is immoral to try to shame someone into accepting your values or at least submitting to them. And there have been a lot of uses of shame words — immoral, asshole, jerk, etc — attacking the expression of that specific idea or value. My whole question to all of you is: how is that different? You don’t get to bully people when they don’t agree with you and protest their being bullied when they do agree with you. I am perfectly onside with criticism — even the people who claimed to be ignoring me based on other sites would have to agree that I certainly didn’t run away from criticism — but then we have to consider ALL ideas equally open to criticism … including the ones about promiscuity not being worthy of derision. Dan’s whole post here is about his claim that since he doesn’t think it worthy of derision it is immoral to consider it such or talk as if it is such, and that I have a major problem with. Why don’t you?

    • DK

      “My whole question to all of you is: how is that different?”

      I don’t see anyone threatening your healthcare access based on their opinion of your worth.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      How do you not see the distinction between criticizing an idea or an argument and calling a person a slut?

    • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

      The problem is that Dan’s posts essentially say that it is immoral to try to shame someone into accepting your values or at least submitting to them.

      I didn’t see that at all. I saw him saying

      a) that you don’t discredit someone’s position or argument by attempting to shame them for not accepting your values (that’s called an ad hominem), and

      b) that if what someone does is shameful, it’s not simply because they don’t “submit to your values.” And if you can’t establish that there’s a reason to consider what they do shameful, you have no business using shaming words, period. They’re no substitute for an actual argument, which you haven’t provided.

      Both of which should be staggeringly obvious, but…

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      nick euler,

      I commented on the other post just now that if Dan had, in fact, put it as you should never attack a person, then we would have agreed and I wouldn’t have said anything. But I don’t see that as being what he said, though I could be wrong.

    • Forbidden Snowflake

      Give me another word that I can use to express the idea

      “Woman who is presumed to have or have had sex that isn’t approved by me, which is bad”
      A bit of a mouthful, I admit, but quite clean of unspoken implications (due to speaking them).

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Gretchen,

      a) that you don’t discredit someone’s position or argument by attempting to shame them for not accepting your values (that’s called an ad hominem), and

      That’s not an ad hominem, since an ad hominem is attacking the person instead of the argument and the argument may well be over values. Additionally, many, many people have pointed out that insulting someone isn’t necessarily an ad hominem as long as you don’t it in lieu of attacking their arguments. This is important here because my main accusation — which really hasn’t been addressed that much here — is that Dan is (it seems to me) pulling the same sort of discrediting by shaming based on values that he accuses Limbaugh of doing. I mean, he even explicitly bases it on morals; what is that if not values?

      b) that if what someone does is shameful, it’s not simply because they don’t “submit to your values.” And if you can’t establish that there’s a reason to consider what they do shameful, you have no business using shaming words, period. They’re no substitute for an actual argument, which you haven’t provided.

      It would be hard for me to provide an argument for a position that I don’t fully hold, at least. I have indeed commented on this, but it isn’t really relevant here (I don’t consider using birth control unacceptable promiscuity, for the record). My point here is mostly to get it so that there can be an argument on this without people running in and screaming that just daring to mention that promiscuity might be worthy of derision is enough to consider the person immoral and unworthy of discussion. Once we establish that, then arguments can happen … but I’m not interested in those sorts of arguments, so it would end there.

      So if your main argument here is that Limbaugh was bad because he used shaming terms without arguing for it, then again we pretty much agree and there’s nothing to talk about, but I still want Dan to clarify what HE actually meant.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Forbidden Snowflake,

      Might be true for Limbaugh, would not be true of me or necessarily anyone who uses the term.

    • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

      VS,

      Shaming someone for not sharing your values in order to discredit their argument is an ad hominem if the matter of whether they share your values is irrelevant to their argument, which is the case here. Promiscuity has nothing to do with whether birth control should be covered by insurance, and certainly nothing to do with Sandra Fluke’s testimony on the subject. Nothing. Your views on whether it’s worthy of derision or praiseworthy to the high heavens are absolutely irrelevant.

    • Forbidden Snowflake

      Might be true for Limbaugh, would not be true of me or necessarily anyone who uses the term.

      Oh look, it’s the Argument From Nuh-Uh.
      Define for us then, what are these “promiscuity” and “sluttish behavior” which you deride, since you claim they don’t fit my definition.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Gretchen,

      And, again, if Dan had actually argued that I wouldn’t have said anything. That’s not how I took what he said. So you’re arguing a claim that I’ve already agreed with you on, and in fact agreed with you on in the comment you replied to. How many times do I have to agree with you before you understand that I agree with you?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Forbidden Snowflake,

      Since the idea I was citing wasn’t gendered, attaching “women” to it immediately made it false for myself. I thus need go no further to show that that would be wrong when applied to me. I have no interest in getting into specifics of this and diverting from the real issue here.

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

    Dan,

    Oh, one more thing:

    Now, I have someone going beyond just trying to minimize the seriousness of Limbaugh’s sleaziness to actually defending it as legitimate.

    I wasn’t actually doing that, or at least I wasn’t trying to. Knowing Limbaugh’s style, the degree of derision is lamentable but expected, and it was indeed mostly the expression of the idea that I was after.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      Also, I wasn’t “trying to minimize the seriousness of Limbaugh’s sleaziness.”

      I’m not sure how you get that from what I said… which was that people are focusing more on his words than on the policies he is espousing.

      If anyone is minimizing the seriousness of his sleaziness, it’s the people who have decided that him calling a woman a “slut,” “whore,” and every other misogynistic name in the book is worse than opposing affordable contraception. Epithets are not what are holding women back.

      Rush has every right to say what he wants how he wants, and I don’t think anyone who is angry about what he said is arguing that point. In fact, that same freedom is what gives all of us who oppose him the right to protest him, boycott his sponsors, and work diligently to remove him from the airwaves, actions I certainly am happy to see. What I find petty is the focus on his words, not his ideas. His words are offensive, but his ideas are repugnant, absurd, and often downright dangerous.

      I think this outrage is nice to see, on some level, but on another… I don’t want to live in a world where people get berated for their word choice and not the ideas behind them.

      Just as a hypothetical: would anyone support “The Slut Act,” which provides free comprehensive, all-inclusive reproductive healthcare free to all women? Would people oppose it for the name, or would they embrace it for it’s legitimate, tangible benefits? I’m not saying that’s what I would name it (I’d call it the “Government in Your Vagina Act,” just to piss off conservatives), but I’m curious if anyone would be on board with that “compromise.”

    • julian

      If anyone is minimizing the seriousness of his sleaziness, it’s the people who have decided that him calling a woman a “slut,” “whore,” and every other misogynistic name in the book is worse than opposing affordable contraception. Epithets are not what are holding women back.

      Oh, blow it out your ass.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      What a cogent rejoinder, allow me to retort:

      Go fuck yourself.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Bret

      If anyone is minimizing the seriousness of his sleaziness, it’s the people who have decided that him calling a woman a “slut,” “whore,” and every other misogynistic name in the book is worse than opposing affordable contraception. Epithets are not what are holding women back.

      Actually, I would say that slandering and demeaning someone, without actually addressing her points is quite serious. If a person were discussing immigration law and Rush dismissed the person as a stupid [racial slur], or if someone were talking about improving schools in low income areas and Rush called the person the “n-word” I think you’d be pretty aghast about that. I hope you would be.

      The two matters (access to affordable contraception and misogyny) are not mutually exclusive. You can be horrified at his stance and also horrified at his misogyny. It is particularly problematic when a man tells women that they aren’t allowed to call someone on their misogyny and that is what you are doing when you tell people not to focus on Rush’s obviously misogynistic remarks. That doesn’t mean that those of us who are offended are not concerned with his take on the issue, it’s just that having an opposing political view isn’t in itself, something to outraged about. Demeaning half the population by calling them sluts for wanting to have control over their reproductive rights is worth calling out.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      I’m not okay with what he said, but I keep perspective.

      You can be horrified at his stance and also horrified at his misogyny.

      Does it really seem as though I suggested you must only care about one or the other? I’m genuinely curious how you got from what I said to what you decided to argue against (I agree with you here, so it’s confusing that you tried to make such a point regarding what I wrote).

      It is particularly problematic when a man tells women that they aren’t allowed to call someone on their misogyny and that is what you are doing when you tell people not to focus on Rush’s obviously misogynistic remarks.

      Again… how you got from what I said to that is mind boggling. I didn’t say anything about what women should do, and I’m actually commenting on a post by a man… so… where are you coming up with this? I guess it’s just en vogue these days to accuse any man of holding down women as a whole in order to appear to have moral high ground? I dunno… seems kind of like a cheap rhetorical move, like you’re trying to marginalize me based on my gender.

      I kid. I know that isn’t your intent. I just couldn’t resist the faux-hypocrisy bit.

      However, you are projecting qualities on me that I don’t possess, some might call that “slander.” Not me, because I know slander is spoken, so technically it’s “libel,” not that I care either way, but you should know you’re inaccurate in your assessment of what I actually said and your characterization of what I believe.

      What’s the point in carefully selecting my words if you won’t read them? I might as well just say anything I want any way I want, since people seem to criticize anything, regardless of how it’s said.

      I kid again…

      it’s just that having an opposing political view isn’t in itself, something to outraged about.

      I definitely disagree here. If you aren’t outraged by what Rush Limbaugh believes politically, you are insane or ill-informed. I have a feeling you would be, though. You seem on the level.

      Demeaning half the population by calling them sluts for wanting to have control over their reproductive rights is worth calling out.

      I second that. I’m just confused as to why it’s more offensive to say something about a woman or women in general than it is to work to actually oppress women.

      Thanks for being civil.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Bret

      Does it really seem as though I suggested you must only care about one or the other? I’m genuinely curious how you got from what I said to what you decided to argue against (I agree with you here, so it’s confusing that you tried to make such a point regarding what I wrote).

      I quoted, already, the comment I had issue with:

      If anyone is minimizing the seriousness of his sleaziness, it’s the people who have decided that him calling a woman a “slut,” “whore,” and every other misogynistic name in the book is worse than opposing affordable contraception. Epithets are not what are holding women back.

      The fact of the matter is that most of us have been railing against the conservative view on contraception. We’ve been shouting about it for weeks. We’ve been mocking celibate male religious leaders making claims that viagra is good/the pill is bad. This is an ongoing issue that all of us who are pissed at rush have been discussing for a while. If all rush were doing is mimicking the GOP talking points we’d be laughing at that but it’d be hard to muster more outrage than we’re all already feeling. So the reason we are focusing on his misogyny is because his stance is a stance we’ve been protesting for a while and doesn’t represent anything new, it’s his super-sized serving of additional misogyny that made him the object of ridicule. When you suggest that people who are taking him to task for this are overlooking the “right” issue to be concerned about, you are diminishing the point we are making.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      I hope you know that isn’t my intent.

      My worry (which obviously I think is justified, maybe you disagree) is that the argument should stay focused on what Republicans are doing in Congress and across various state legislatures.

      If anything, I wish more conservatives were honest about their feelings on this matter (a wish I would make if I couldn’t wish for all of them to not be that way in the first place). The more conservatives saying this kind of thing explicitly in public, the better for us who oppose such behavior. It’s not persuading anyone.

      If someone is a misogynist, I don’t want them to hide it. If they put it on display, it makes it much easier for sane people to point it out and say, “See, misogyny still exists, it’s still a problem, and we should redouble our efforts.”

      You’re right, this is just the latest in a long fight that was mostly sparked by Santorum and the Catholic Church. I only hope people keep their eyes on the ultimate goal (I’m not too worried, to be honest… I think these events as a whole will be something few will forget).

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      My worry (which obviously I think is justified, maybe you disagree) is that the argument should stay focused on what Republicans are doing in Congress and across various state legislatures.

      I’m all for continuing to focus on providing affordable, accessible, taboo-free access to birth control and abortion and I appreciate that this is a greater issue than calling out an asshole on his misogyny, but I don’t think it’s an either/or matter. In fact, I think discussing this issue highlights the importance of not making this a topic of who is deserving of affordable healthcare and who is not. Saying that someone doesn’t deserve birth control because she’s a sex worker or promiscuous and specifically because she is a woman, is ingrained in the far right mentality and its flawed. We don’t choose what treatment and care someone gets based on how much we like their job or their life or their gender. Rush is a relatively small issue in life but his mentality is a core piece of why this is even a topic of discussion. The only way that mentality is going to change is if it’s publicly shot down for the ugly strawman it is.

  • Daniel Schealler

    This is easy.

    Freedom of expression cuts both ways.

    Rush Limbaugh is free to speak sexist slurs.

    We are free to criticize him on moral grounds for speaking sexist slurs.

    Criticizing someone on moral grounds, no matter how strongly, is not a violation of that person’s freedom of expression.

    /over

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      ^ Truth

  • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

    I consider “slut” a gender based slur, in the same way a racial slur would be used. It’s meant to demean someone specifically as a woman. It has no purpose but to define someone as subpar by nature of being female. The same behavior is largely ignored in men and the word would be used for men in only a joking way.

    Honestly, I think it’s disingenuous to bat one’s eyelashes and clutch one’s purls about the whole topic of women and their sexual choices and one’s earnest concern about women’s behavior. If we were really discussing the virtues of people and their effect on the healthcare system we’d be talking about whether tax payers should pay for diabetes or heart disease care for people who are deemed “over eaters.” What? That’s unnecessarily judgmental and intrusive and something between a doctor and patient? Damn right it is. Maybe we should decline treatment for people who develop drug habits, especially prescription drug habits since they have clearly already abused the system. How about people who ride motorcycles? People who work with heavy machinery? Should we treat men with heart problems who insist on taking viagra?

    Considering Rush is not at his ideal weight, smokes cigars, and was found with viagra, and oxycotin, he’s made a multitude of personal lifestyle choices that burden our healthcare system far more than any woman who is putting off pregnancy until she is mentally and fiscally prepared to bring up a child. It is simply a non-issue that women taking birth control paid for by their insurer, are somehow asking us all to suddenly compromise our morals.

    I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to shame a woman by calling her a slut, but the hypocrisy of using it to shape the topic of healthcare is hypocrisy, pure and simple

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Declaring certain behaviors immoral does not give license to insult the practitioners. Verbose Stoic can call promiscuity immoral but that does not mean he can declare promiscuous women “sluts.”

    It’s an entirely different argument as to whether sexual promiscuity is immoral. First, define “promiscuity” and “immorality.” Then explain why promiscuity is immoral. As was brought up on the previous thread, usually only promiscuous women are declared immoral. Promiscuous men are often held in high regard. So someone like Verbose Stoic has to defend themself from a charge of misogyny, probably by declaring promiscuous men equally immoral.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      As I said in the other threads, I indeed would in the cases where I would consider it a problem. I also agreed that using the personal insult is probably out of line. So, is there anything left to disagree about?

  • Jubal DiGriz

    Daniel, this is one of the more succinct explanations I’ve seen for why insults means something and verbals chastisement is an important social tool.

    Critics seem to be under the strange notion that everyone is obliged to conform to the least common denominator of moral behavior. Unless someone believes in objective and absolute morals, and differences in morality are differences of opinion.

    Just as it would not be incorrect or hypocritical for me to, say, argue an unpopular political position with someone who I know disagrees with me, it is not somehow not allowed to argue for a minority moral position with someone who has different moral standards.

    Verbose Stoic, no one is trying to take away your freedom of speech. But you really ought to be used to the idea that freedom of speech also includes the right for other people to disagree. Saying certain speech is “immoral” is very different from saying certain speech is impermissible.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Well, see, to me saying that it is immoral IS, in fact, just saying that it’s impermissable. Immoral things aren’t permissable. I’m not saying that it’s illegal or anything, but that a claim of immoral ought to be, at least, just as shaming and just as limiting on your actions as claim of “sluttiness”. Now, you can escape this by being a relativist and saying that moral judgements are all either personal judgements or just statements of opinion, but I’m pretty sure that Dan doesn’t think that and I don’t think that. To me, the instant you say “immoral” you are saying “impermissable”, and to me impermissable in the absolute strongest sense. In my view, it is better for me to break the law than to break moral rules. So, considering it from that angle, can you see why my reaction is not the same as yours?

  • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

    Verbose Stoic -

    And you don’t think that calling some action immoral isn’t a shame word, especially with the association immoral has to evil? For me, being called immoral is probably about the worse thing you can call me to shame me into doing or not doing something.

    No I don’t think calling an action immoral is a shame word. You and I have different moral frames and I don’t think you are necessarily a bad person because of it. You obviously have a view on sex that I think is immoral, as you would think mine is. When it comes to your character, I am not going to judge you a bad person because of that. I wish that you would accept my moral position on sex and sexuality, because I believe mine is the correct one.

    Where I will judge you, is on what you do with your moral position on sex and sexuality. Underlying everything else, I believe in fostering a “greater good.” I want everyone to be the best person they can be and to live the best life they can. If your desire is to do the same, then I can accept that even with our differences, you are a fundamentally decent person who is mistaken about the issue of sexuality. If however, you believe that you have a right to belittle others based on that belief, then you are not trying to foster maximum flourishing.

    If we judge everyone as “evil,” merely because we have a disagreement about what is moral, then we’re going to effectively have to assume that everyone is evil – except for ourselves. There are issues where someone else’s moral frame demands that they hurt others, try to assert dominance over others (such as those who would try to outlaw or otherwise restrict access to sexual health tools – or those who believe they should have a right to discriminate against others, merely because of the gender of who they love). While I can judge that they’re not inherently evil (and I have friends I care a great deal for who believe in a lot of such restrictions), I can fight tooth and nail against their attempts to force their moral frame on others and I do just that.

    As a moral relativist, I don’t accept the moral frames of others as valid – I just accept that despite our differences, they might still be fundamentally good people. Shaming others out of hand, is not fundamentally good – though I accept that it may be an especially misguided attempt to foster greater good (and I will admit that I have done this a lot in the past and am not entirely certain it is inherently wrong in all contexts – though I suspect my attempts to justify it are merely attempts to justify my own bad behavior).

    If you talked about the hypocrisy only, we’d probably agree or at least wouldn’t have all that much to talk about. In my first comment, remember, I actually again was careful to limit it to someone who was promiscuous who happened to be a woman. I did not in any way assert or imply that only women can be promiscuous to a degree worthy of derision, and in the case of Limbaugh’s comment he didn’t imply that either (since he just happened to be replying to a woman).

    The problem is that you are limiting the most common term used to refer to people who have a lot of sex, to refer to women. There isn’t really anything significantly worse, possibly excepting “whore.” Referring to someone who is promiscuous as a whore is just fucking dumb – unless he or she actually has sex for money. Even then, limiting that reference to women is sexist, because it implies that men who are promiscuous, or who screw for money are somehow different than women who are or do.

    I’m a guy and I am a slut who has also been a sex worker. It is not merely hypocritical to assert that only women can be sluts and whores, it is inaccurate and it is sexist.

    Everyone keeps insisting that my complaint is about not being able to use the word, and I keep insisting that it’s about being able to express a very specific idea.

    Yet you keep arguing that “slut” is the word that reasonably expresses that idea. Want something better? Say that someone is promiscuous. Say their sexual habits are unhealthy. Say that you believe their behavior is immoral. Don’t insult them and don’t use a word that you believe only applies specifically to women or men. The behaviors are the same – whether it’s women or men engaging in them.

    I used to go into this a lot. I am not so vocal about safe sex now, because I have a lot less exposure to people who engage in unsafe sex. But when I was in Portland and spent a lot of time on public trans and was involved with a disorganization that helped people with HIV and AIDS, I was very ardent and vocal about safe sex. I used phrases such as “unhealthy sexual behavior” and talked about promiscuity. I have never referred to anyone as a “dirty slut (or whore)” – though it was bandied about rather a lot by young people. I used accurate and values neutral language, because I actually wanted to see people change their behaviors. I never treated anyone as though they were a bad person and because of that I actually got through to some people.*

    *I will admit that coupling such discussions with commentary from someone who’s living with HIV (or AIDS) and the drugs that keep them alive helps a lot. When you start talking about wearing adult diapers to bed and sometimes having to clean up vomit and shit, because you couldn’t quite get to the bathroom people get very uncomfortable.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      DuWayne,

      As a moral relativist, I don’t accept the moral frames of others as valid – I just accept that despite our differences, they might still be fundamentally good people. Shaming others out of hand, is not fundamentally good – though I accept that it may be an especially misguided attempt to foster greater good (and I will admit that I have done this a lot in the past and am not entirely certain it is inherently wrong in all contexts – though I suspect my attempts to justify it are merely attempts to justify my own bad behavior).

      I’m skipping over a lot of your comment, and I apologize for that. But I think that right here is where the problem comes in. You’re a relativist, and so for you calling someone immoral really is doing nothing more than expressing a personal belief. I’m not a relativist, and neither is Dan. In that context, we are going to take it quite differently. And I think it’s quite safe to say that calling someone “immoral” is taken a lot more strongly and a lot more of a commentary on you as a person by most people in the world than you mean it. Try calling someone, say, running for President immoral and see how people react; if they are convinced, it would strike against that person far more than almost anything else. Thus, that context seems directly comparable to the use of the term “slut” in terms of shaming power and in terms of what it says about a person, if not more so.

      Yet you keep arguing that “slut” is the word that reasonably expresses that idea. Want something better? Say that someone is promiscuous. Say their sexual habits are unhealthy. Say that you believe their behavior is immoral. Don’t insult them and don’t use a word that you believe only applies specifically to women or men. The behaviors are the same – whether it’s women or men engaging in them.

      No, I don’t, actually. That ship has long sailed. I originally basically said that in terms of existing accepted meanings, that word pretty much has it, but did agree that the extra things tacked on caused problems. But recall, again, that Dan attacked the expression of that idea, not the word I used in this call-out. If you agree that I can express the idea, then we have nothing to argue about.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      You’re a relativist, and so for you calling someone immoral really is doing nothing more than expressing a personal belief. I’m not a relativist, and neither is Dan. In that context, we are going to take it quite differently. And I think it’s quite safe to say that calling someone “immoral” is taken a lot more strongly and a lot more of a commentary on you as a person by most people in the world than you mean it.

      First of all, I never said anything about a person who holds a given belief being immoral. I said that a behavior (in this case, sexual repression) is immoral. To some degree that may be splitting hairs that as a moral relativist, I may be suited for in a way you are not. But it is an important distinction to me, because again, it speaks to the character of a person.

      Second, does that mean that you think I’m evil? Am I a bad person because I don’t happen to agree with your moral position on sex?

      Finally, how does this translate into other areas of your moral reasoning? Do you just think everyone who isn’t you are bad, evil people? I sincerely doubt that there are very many people who share your precise moral frame. So do you wander the world with some belief in your innate superiority over everyone else, because you are the enlightened one?

      Try calling someone, say, running for President immoral and see how people react; if they are convinced, it would strike against that person far more than almost anything else. Thus, that context seems directly comparable to the use of the term “slut” in terms of shaming power and in terms of what it says about a person, if not more so.

      I suppose if I were calling someone, rather than a behavior immoral, you would have a point. Then, it also depends on what is being discussed. Because while you might take it as something horrible, most sane people differentiate between the immorality of someone who believes in open relationships and the morality of someone who believes we should be allowed to torture alleged criminals and terrorists.

      But recall, again, that Dan attacked the expression of that idea, not the word I used in this call-out. If you agree that I can express the idea, then we have nothing to argue about.

      I can tell you categorically, that I agree with Dan on this. Which is to say that you actually can express derision for sexual behavior that falls under the category of “slut,” but I’m going to think you’re a sanctimonious asshole for doing so. I know a lot of people who believe that that sort of behavior is immoral. Many of them manage to express their belief in the “wrongness” of it without expressing derision or trying to shame people. I am absolutely disgusted by people who want to express their distaste with shame based language.

      Assuming you aren’t bent on shaming people for their behavior, then I would more respectfully disagree with you. But I will still disagree and I am not going to leave the assertion that promiscuous sexual behavior is wrong unchallenged. And if you choose to harass people for engaging in that behavior, I am unlikely to be very nice about it.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      DuWayne,

      First of all, I never said anything about a person who holds a given belief being immoral. I said that a behavior (in this case, sexual repression) is immoral. To some degree that may be splitting hairs that as a moral relativist, I may be suited for in a way you are not. But it is an important distinction to me, because again, it speaks to the character of a person.

      Fine, let’s not talk about the person specifically. I have already acknowledged that part of the “slut” comment. But then let’s look at what I said and what Dan said. I said this:

      So if I wanted to make a derisive comment about the promiscuity of a woman, perhaps as a general statement of my distaste for what I might consider excessive emphasis on sex, what word should I use?

      Seems like I’m talking about the behaviour, not the person. We can concede that Limbaugh didn’t, but then let’s look at what Dan said. I admit it’s a lot more innocuous than I originally took it, right up to this point:

      I have every moral right to use accurate and justifiable moral descriptors to express precisely why you are wrong and why your character is dubious.[emphasis added]

      Seems to me that he’s taking it beyond a behaviour and is indeed making it about the character of the person saying it. So, then, from those quotes what I’m asking for would seem to be within your bounds and what he said would not be.

      Second, does that mean that you think I’m evil? Am I a bad person because I don’t happen to agree with your moral position on sex?

      To call something immoral is to criticize it in the strongest possible terms. To be honest, I haven’t in fact even bothered to consider what your actions or behaviour are or if they are moral. Are you within the proper bounds for moral sex, even if it isn’t a way of acting that I myself would choose? I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. But as far as I can tell I also never DID claim that your view was actually immoral. I merely asked if someone could. However, my view of your “immorality” — if it was immoral — would be just as strong and just as expressible as Dan’s or that of anyone that was not a moral relativist. And knowing that you are a moral relativist, I would say that I wouldn’t have any reason to care at all about any claims you made about immorality, unless you made some kind of objective claim.

      Finally, how does this translate into other areas of your moral reasoning? Do you just think everyone who isn’t you are bad, evil people? I sincerely doubt that there are very many people who share your precise moral frame. So do you wander the world with some belief in your innate superiority over everyone else, because you are the enlightened one?

      To paraphrase Zathras: Would only say I am the only enlightened one if KNOW what is and is not moral. Do not know, so will not say.

      I’m still working out morality. I might be wrong, and so might everyone else. That’s why I’m usually personally pretty hesitant to actually call someone or a behaviour immoral per se, mostly prefering to say that by my views it is immoral or isn’t necessarily moral.

      I suppose if I were calling someone, rather than a behavior immoral, you would have a point. Then, it also depends on what is being discussed. Because while you might take it as something horrible, most sane people differentiate between the immorality of someone who believes in open relationships and the morality of someone who believes we should be allowed to torture alleged criminals and terrorists.

      Well, most people will claim that the latter is a worse violation, but I also think most people think that any case where someone acts immorally means that they are likely to act immorally in other cases as well. For the Stoics, who I lean towards, they actually push that to the full extreme and argue that all moral violations are equal, precisely because for them all moral violations are irrational acts and having any irrationality means that you are at risk for being irrational at any point and at any time. Controversial, yes, but hardly insane and other than in degree hardly something that is strongly opposed to what most people think.

      Note that under Utilitarian schemes both of the things you cited might actually come up moral, which is one reason I don’t like Utilitarian schemes.

      I can tell you categorically, that I agree with Dan on this. Which is to say that you actually can express derision for sexual behavior that falls under the category of “slut,” but I’m going to think you’re a sanctimonious asshole for doing so. I know a lot of people who believe that that sort of behavior is immoral. Many of them manage to express their belief in the “wrongness” of it without expressing derision or trying to shame people. I am absolutely disgusted by people who want to express their distaste with shame based language.

      If you want to say that you don’t want any shame-based approaches to these things, you’re preaching to the choir. But again, that’s not what Dan went on about, as far as I can see. He didn’t like shame in this case, but seemed to argue that shame is okay if you happen to be right, which was only measured by his thinking he’s right, which is what I reacted to. If he will make the same comment as you made here, I think we could both consider this situation resolved.

  • Stephen Foster

    “I have every moral right to use accurate and justifiable moral descriptors to express precisely why you are wrong and why your character is dubious.”

    Yup!

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      I have every moral right to use accurate and justifiable moral descriptors to express precisely why you are wrong and why your character is dubious. And I can also explain why your word is out of bounds for both its unmerited, intrinsically insulting character, and for the ways it participates in and perpetuates corrupt conceptions of morality and other unjust systems of social control.

      I think it goes beyond a “right.” There’s almost a duty or imperative to speak out against Rush. It’s downright immoral not to speak up when you see someone saying what he said.

      I feel the same duty when I see people make claims that aren’t patently offensive in a vulgar sense, but are offensive because they are immoral, unethical, or just wrong.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      [One of these days I will get better at commenting in the proper thread...]

  • Ciro Faienza

    I don’t see what promiscuity has to do with it. Fluke’s sexual practices, including frequency, are completely irrelevant, unknown, and her business besides. He wasn’t calling her a slut because she had too much sex for his taste. He was calling her a slut because it made him feel better.

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      … and because painting her that way would connect with his audience.

      I know you guys are focusing on Verbose Stoic, but you don’t have to look very hard to find thousands of conservatives actually defending what Rush said, many of whom are making posts now about how angry they are that Rush apologized.

      If you’re into feeling outraged, check into it. It’s despicable.

  • Steve Schuler

    For what it is worth, since the 1970′s I have used the term “slut” as an equal opportunity, gender neutral pejorative to express my disapproval of sexual promiscuity. Finding myself out of sync with more libertine attitudes towards sexual conduct that were sometimes embraced and expressed by some of my peers, I often wondered if perhaps I had somehow “missed the boat” and was foolishly holding onto outdated parochial sexual mores.

    Then the AIDS pandemic struck. Two of my best friends were diagnosed with HIV in 1985, one a bisexual male, the other a heterosexual female who had the dubious distinction of being the first women in Alaska to test positive for HIV. I think that it would be fair to characterize both of their sexual behaviours as generally being promiscuous. Upon discovering that he was HIV positive my friend Norman immediately adopted a celibate lifestyle so as not to risk infecting others with the virus. Jeannie, on the other hand, felt no such sense of social responsibility and continued to live a sexually promiscuous lifestyle engaging in sex with multiple partners who were unaware of her condition and the risk of infection that they were exposed to. I can only hope that multiple chains of subsequent infections were not generated by her behaviour.

    Dan, you said, “In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing.” Based upon my experience I would have to disagree with that assertion, but of course I could be wrong.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Steve Schuler

      Dan, you said, “In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing.” Based upon my experience I would have to disagree with that assertion, but of course I could be wrong.

      That’s like finding hugging morally reprehensible because a person knowingly exposed others to the flu by hugging them. The problem isn’t the hugging, per se, it’s exposing people to a disease if it can be avoided. When you have an illness and you know about it, intentionally putting others at risk is morally reprehensible but it doesn’t make your means of exposing them inherently immoral.

    • Daniel Schealler

      In your story, from where do you derive the immorality?

      Is it from the promiscuity in itself, as Daniel Fincke said?

      Is it from irresponsible sexual practices?

      Is it from the preventable harm that is risked by sexual practices?

      Is it from the attitude of your second friend in the example who did not concern herself to provide her sexual partners with full information, denying them them from the opportunity to provide fully informed consent to their sexual encounters with her?

      That there is a problem with the morals exhibited in your story, that much I can agree with.

      But I would disagree about where to place the blame for those moral problems.

      For me it comes down to informed consent.

      By withholding critical and important information with potentially ruinous consequences, the second person in your story was engaging in sexual activities without the fully informed consent of her partners.

      But if she’d told them, and they consented anyway? No foul.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Steve, what I wrote, if you quoted just a little more was:

      In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing. So, no, I don’t think there is any word that you can use that I would find morally acceptable. You call that controlling your thought by not allowing you whatever insult you want? Sorry, that’s morality. It controls some things. You don’t want to be subject to my moral standards? Well, I don’t want consensual, responsible, promiscuous people who do not harm anyone to be subject to yours.

      I specified that consensual, responsible promiscuous people who do not harm any one are morally blameless for their promiscuity. Your friend was irresponsible, knowingly endangered them, and (assuming she didn’t inform her partners) did not engage in informed consensual sex. Those are plenty of grounds to blame her. Promiscuity was not the immorality.

    • Steve Schuler

      There are actually at least two moral issues involved in this situation.

      One of my first concerns as the AIDS pandemic initially exploded was that a huge factor in the exponential spread of the disease could be attributed to promiscuous sexual behaviour. That I found my friends to be victims of an incurable and lethal disease whose rapid spread was, without a doubt, due to multiple people engaging in sex with multiple people in a culture of libertine sexual morality was very frustrating. To deny the connection between sexual promiscuity and the spread of aids is incredibly naive and inconsistent with the facts, however if one wants to maintain that sexual promiscuity is still not a moral issue as Marnie appears to by saying that the spreading of flu by hugging is analogous to the spreading of AIDS via sexual intercourse runs counter to my sense that there are several degrees of difference between the two scenarios, but again, I could be wrong. In any event, watching two friends die horrible deaths and having the awareness that if we lived in a society that generally exercised more sexual constraints that this might not have happened, that their ‘fates’ could possibly have been avoided through their own behaviours and the entire chain of transmissions that had preceded their infections, is a notion that in my mind falls under the umbrella of societal sexual moral sensibilities.

      Of course the question of ‘informed consent’ if one has a communicable disease is another matter. Unfortunately Jeannie did not regard informing her partners of her infectious status to be a moral imperative. And, at least at that time, she was not legally obliged to. So perhaps what I perceived as a pressing moral imperative was only an expression of my own subjective preferences. I dunno.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Jeannie did not regard informing her partners of her infectious status to be a moral imperative. And, at least at that time, she was not legally obliged to. So perhaps what I perceived as a pressing moral imperative was only an expression of my own subjective preferences. I dunno.

      Way to be disingenuous, Steve. Who among those who replied to you said this was just your subjective preferences? Who among us here has denied a moral imperative to inform sexual partners of one’s STDs??

      Jeannie was a shitty person who risked other people’s lives by being irresponsible. NOT by simply being promiscuous. If no one is getting diseases or being raped or breaking vows or abandoning their children they conceive, etc., then there is nothing inherently morally wrong with multiple sex partners.

      You seem to think that because you just didn’t like promiscuity in the first place, without just cause, that all those libertines got what they deserved by getting ravaged by a disease. But they didn’t deserve it. They were having fun, sharing pleasure, building connections with people, exploring themselves and others. They didn’t deserve to get a disease over that. Your smug congratulations that “you knew better” is sickening. Your blaming them for unwittingly spreading a virus is sickening. Your conflation of the CLEARLY WRONG non-consensual, risky, sex of Jeannie with promiscuity itself is either logically obtuse or willfully maliciously judgmental.

      Get. Over. Your. Self-Satisfied. Self-Righteous. Self.

    • Daniel Schealler

      That I found my friends to be victims of an incurable and lethal disease whose rapid spread was, without a doubt, due to multiple people engaging in sex with multiple people in a culture of libertine sexual morality was very frustrating.

      I’m up against my ignorance of history here.

      How well understood was the potential risks of STD’s during the time-frame within which AIDS came into popular conscience?

      My understanding is that the risks involved from STD’s were not well understood at this time by the general public, but I don’t have a lot to base that on.

      Anyway:

      Either the people during this time and place were aware of the risks involved with unsafe sex, or they were not.

      If they were aware, then engaged in that behavior anyway, then any immorality may be attributed to irresponsible and preventable risk taking.

      If they were not aware, but reasonably could have been expected to be aware, then the immorality would be down to a failure of due diligence to be an informed and responsible adult in a free society – irresponsibility again.

      If they were not aware, and cannot reasonably be expected to have been aware, then any immorality involved should be placed not at the feet of the innocently ignorant, but on those that should have been on either the educators of the public that failed, or the decision makers that should have done a better job of setting the goals for public education regarding sexual health.

      Putting the blame at the feet of promiscuity is still a mistake.

      Note that I don’t mean to trivialize the suffering of your friends from that disease, nor your own suffering at having to watch them go through that. But we shouldn’t allow horrible events to cloud our reasoning about horrible events.

    • Steve Schuler

      Daniel,

      I think that what you are failing to see or acknowledge here is that there was/is a direct connection between sexual promiscuity and the transmission and spread of, in this case, AIDS. I believe that behaviour that contributes to the spread of AIDS warrants consideration as a societal moral issue. I think that there are many other considerations of the social consequences of sexual behaviour that warrant moral contemplation as well, but that would be another series of conversations.

    • Steve Schuler

      Daniel Fincke said:

      “Get. Over. Your. Self-Satisfied. Self-Righteous. Self.”

      Steve says:

      Wow! Mighty potent articulation that you are employing there, amigo!

      But as to your allegation that I was being disingenuous in stating that my own belief that Jeannie had a moral imperative to inform her partners of her illness might have been just a subjective preference was, in fact, validated at that time when I enquired with several agencies of the State of Alaska as to whether there were any legal remedies to encourage Jeanne to adopt a more responsible approach to her sexual behaviour. At that time, at least according to the parties that I talked to, there were none. Wrap your philosophical head around that quandry if you are able to, my friend.

      Daniel Fincke also said:

      “You seem to think that because you just didn’t like promiscuity in the first place, without just cause, that all those libertines got what they deserved by getting ravaged by a disease.”

      Steve says:

      Fuck You, Dan. You are completely talking out of your ass and have absolutely no idea and are completely mistaken about what I thought and felt (and how I think and feel) about what my friends went through and how I regarded my own sense of morality, either then or now. One more time, Fuck You, Dan.

      So is there a connection between sexual promiscuity and the spread of HIV? And if there is, does that constitute a moral concern? You haven’t addressed that at all in your little tirade against my regard for promiscuity which happens not to jibe with your own.

      Oh yeah, one more time, Fuck You, Dan.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m talking about how you’re treating them now, Steve. With your “gee whiz, I thought maybe I was just the unenlightened one until they all started dying off” routine. That’s not terribly compassionate towards your friends. You could express more understanding of the complexities of reality and the ways that people doing nothing morally wrong could be victims of a VIRUS that was not a predictable part of their calculation.

      I grasp the role of promiscuity in the accidental transmission of the disease. It’s not a reason to think safe, consensual promiscuity is immoral. It’s a reason to learn from a health crisis, not to give this “Gee, look at me, proven right for not being promiscuous” pat on the back.

      If you love your friends, stop using them as exhibit A of immorality for getting sick. They didn’t want to hurt anyone.

      Except Jeannie apparently, a selfish person.

      And Steve, I don’t care what the law said, that’s not the point. Not all moral imperatives are encoded in law!

    • Steve Schuler

      Dan Fincke,

      I can understand to some degree your misunderstanding of the intent and tone of my initial comment. Comment threads in blogs are probably not the best medium for communicating very much in the way of the complexities of our thinking.

      Unfortunately I do have the personal experiences that I have referenced here. Unfortunately I cannot only speak in the hypothetical abstract about these issues. This has been my real world experience and this experience rightfully informs my perspectives and opinions. I am not sure how Norman and Jeannie would regard me using them as examples in a conversation of this nature, but I would like to think that they would understand my intention and offer their approval.

      You are very mistaken to think that I would desecrate their lives and my memories of them as fodder for some vain agenda of my own. I do not, and never did, think that either of them were ‘deserving’ of the horrific disease that killed them and have never held myself out to be morally superior and somehow above the vagaries of life and susceptibility to disease. Then, and still, I thought that we were all muddling along through life, somehow trying to make the best of it all and trying to do the best that that we could.

      The bit about legalities vs. moral imperatives is very much a side issue and is only relevant to my reponse to Jeannie’s irresponsibility and my own failure to dissuade her from what she was doing through conversation. Given the potential consequences of her behaviour, I enquired into what other pressures could be applied to her. It sucked to find myself in that position, but it sucked much more for the people she may have infected and thus the spread of the disease continues.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Okay, Steve. I’m sorry I read your words with the least charitable interpretation of them. I won’t presume to know how you feel about your friends any further. I was only worried about any implications of blaming innocent well-intentioned people who had no idea of a virus on the loose for getting sick. You must understand the victim-blaming that sufferers from AIDS received in the ’80s and early ’90s and still receive today, particularly from the religious right for example. I find it really morally offensive that they could not be sick with dignity and without being shamed and dehumanized. I understand that’s not your intentions with your friends but initially saw that in the way you structured your narrative and saw red. My apologies.

    • Daniel Schealler

      Steven

      This is getting confusing. Not sure which Daniel is which when you reply.

      I assume the quote below was directed at me. Hope that’s right.

      Feel free to use my surname if you like – that’s what I was used to in high school and university. There was way too many Daniels at my high school around my age group for some reason.

      I think that what you are failing to see or acknowledge here is that there was/is a direct connection between sexual promiscuity and the transmission and spread of, in this case, AIDS.

      I deny that this is a relevant connection.

      It is possible for someone to be promiscuous, responsible, caring, and to provide vital information up front so as to ensure informed consent in sexual encounters. This would forgo the consequences you wish to link to promiscuity despite the continued presence of promiscuity in the mix.

      Furthermore, if we define promiscuity as ‘engaging in casual sex with multiple partners on a regular basis’ then it is fully possible for someone to acquire and then pass on an STD to multiple partners through sequential monogamy. There is no promiscuity in this scenario, yet STD’s are transmitted to multiple innocent parties anyway. However: Irresponsibility, callousness, and the withholding of vital information and denying the possibility of informed consent would all continue to be factors in play.

      It follows from this that the connection is not between promiscuity and STD transmission.

      Instead the connection is between a failure of informed consent, failure of responsible sexual practices, and plain old not giving a damn about the well-being of the sexual partner or partners.

      You are the one that is failing to acknowledge the morally relevant connections in your scenario.

      Additionally, you are forcing a connection where one doesn’t exist.

      I suspect this is because you have a prior stance of distaste towards promiscuity. This could be the basis of confirmation bias that is causing you to miss these kinds of obvious problems with your argument… Although of course I should not pretend to be able to read your mind over the internet (because I can only do that with direct line of sight on my subject whilst channeling my part-alien Atlantean spirit guide, of course).

    • Daniel Schealler

      Just as an exercise, I’ve been trying to come up with possible arguments from consequence against promiscuity that might actually stick.

      I just thought of one.

      One of the possible consequences of leading an openly promiscuous (with informed consent, yadda yadda yadda) lifestyle is having to suffer through and deal with the bigotry of others.

      Obviously this is not a moral argument against promiscuity as the moral fault is on the part of the bigots.

      But it’s the only actual negative consequence of promiscuity in itself that I could think of.

    • Steve Schuler

      @Daniel Schaeller

      At the close of my initial comment I noted that “but I could be wrong” and that was not just a bit of literary flourish. I am not well versed in ethics but I do tend to be skeptical about a lot of things which would include being skeptical of statements concerning sexual morality and immorality. Obviously I am very doubtful whether sexual promiscuity can generally be regarded as an entirely moral position. Despite Dan Fincke’s Straw Steve that he constructed from his own imaginings of what I might think, and then proceeded to shred, the development of my own sense of sexual morality has been a long and difficult process. In my teens and early twenties I think it would be fair to say that, largely in an unthinking way, I was a proponent of promiscuity. I mean, why not? Over time and through my own experiences and the observation of the experiences of those around me, I began to shift towards a more conventional sense of sexual morality in which sexual promiscuity was not regarded as quite the harmless practice that I once had thought that it was. I needn’t go into the details of all of that, but it did involve a lot of thought and reflection on my part. By and large I was (and still am) content to follow my own moral sensibilities and allow others to do the same without my interference. All of that preceded the onslaught of AIDS. I think that in our current microbial rich environment, regardless of what one’s personal take on the morality of promiscuity, if nothing else it might be a purely practical matter to restrict one’s number of sex partners.

    • Steve Schuler

      @Dan Fincke

      No problem, Bro. Your apology is very much appreciated and very much accepted.

      Both Norman and Jeannie were very good friends of mine, both of them in the top ten best friends I’ve had in my entire life. The kind of friends that you never really stop missing. I do not understand Jeannie’s irresponsibility, but I hope that you can understand that there was much more to her than just that, things that I would even lose sight of at times when I was really frustrated and angry at her.

      All’s well. Hopefully misunderstandings cleared up.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @ Steve Schuler

      but I do tend to be skeptical about a lot of things which would include being skeptical of statements concerning sexual morality and immorality

      Maybe you could define what you mean by “immoral”? What moves something from being risky or undesirable (to you) versus something that is outright “immoral.” How are you defining that word and why do you apply it to sex but not to other equally or more risky acts?

      I put knowingly hurting others for your own pleasure in the category of “immoral” but I don’t put knowingly taking a risk as immoral. Here’s an example

      There are something like 6 million auto accidents per year and something like 40,000 deaths per year amongst them. Most people spend some amount of time in a car, each year. It is, statistically speaking, risky to be in an auto. It is not, however, immoral to be in an auto. On the other hand, driving while texting, or while updating your blog or while brushing your teeth or while under the influence are all unnecessarily risky behaviors to engage in while driving. I consider it immoral to put others at risk in this way.

      The fact that some people spend far more time driving and therefore put themselves and others at a greater liklihiood of an accident, does not make their behavior immoral, even if they choose to do so for apparently selfish reasons (i.e. they could walk or ride public transportation but prefer not to.)

      Calling something “immoral” is a judgement call beyond simply saying that something is risky or selfish or not aligned with your interests. I think first defining what “immoral” means will help make it easier, at least for me, to understand the value judgement you are making.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Steve Schuler

      I’ll keep thinking on it and who knows, maybe I’ll become an advocate for promiscuity in the end, but somehow I doubt it.

      Well, I think that’s your problem right there. No one is advocating anything. I’m not telling you that you need to go out and have tons of casual sex. I’m in a monogamous long term relationship. I think people should be free to choose celibacy or monogamy. I don’t think anyone is saying that casual sex is the preferred or ideal option. At least for me, what I reject is calling promiscuity “immoral” and I asked you, specifically, on what grounds you define it immoral versus some other less judgmental term? What does “immoral” mean to you?

      It’s a non-answer to talk about sex being “very problematic for humanity.” Throughout history, the attempts to rein in sexuality and label sex as immoral has directly harmed humanity, especially women. How many women have been treated as property, beaten by husbands, had their genitals mutilated, been stoned or arrested for behavior their male counterparts get away with? What is immoral, to me, is not the act of sex, but the way we frame the women who have it as lesser people and damaged goods. Having sex is not immoral, knowingly harming people and treating them unkindly for no good reason is immoral.

    • Steve Schuler

      Marnie,

      What does immorality mean to me?

      I’ll just borrow “The Free Online Dictionary” definitions:

      1. transgressing accepted moral rules; corrupt
      2. sexually dissolute; profligate or promiscuous
      3. unscrupulous or unethical
      4. tending to corrupt or resulting from corruption

      If these definitions don’t jibe with your own I would not be surprised. Although not comprehensive, it pretty much works for me. Hopefully this provides more clarity than my previous observation concerning the problematic nature of sexual morality which you took as a “non-answer”.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Those definitions are pathetic.

    • Steve Schuler

      Maybe so, Dan, but I didn’t make them up. Fourth hit on a web search for “immoral” and the three preceding this were even more pathetic, depending on one’s point of view.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I would just think that, for as long as you’ve been reading my blog, you could come up with better definitions of morality than those mostly tautological and meaningless and sometimes prejudicial descriptive definitions of how the word is used. Morality is a normative concept. Those are just poor descriptions of actual usage that evade any philosophical substance. Possibly because dictionaries are not about taking stands on tricky philosophical issues. And any genuine normative definition of normative morality requires normative philosophical articulation.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Steve Schuler

      If these definitions don’t jibe with your own I would not be surprised.

      Well, let’s take a look at these

      1. transgressing accepted moral rules; corrupt

      So something that isn’t moral is immoral. Ok. Not very helpful, there.

      2. sexually dissolute; profligate or promiscuous

      This does not tell me why sexual behavior can be defined as immoral, it only begs the question. Promiscuousness is immoral because immorality covers sexual promiscuity. It’s a circular argument like telling me that the bible is the word of god because it says so in the bible.

      3. unscrupulous or unethical

      So what is unscrupulous or unethical about having sex with people? Again, this definition only states that something is immoral when it isn’t moral.

      4. tending to corrupt or resulting from corruption

      Money seems to corrupt more than sex does. Does that make rich people inherently immoral? Clearly not. It’s not the money that is immoral but what people do with it.

      Nothing that you have provided explains what basis you, personally, use to define some people’s sex lives as immoral. You have not proven that sex is unscrupulous or unethical or that it causes corruption. Yes, people can act sexually unethically, rape is a good example of that. Someone can be sexually unscrupulous; your friend who knowingly exposed others to diseases is an example of that. Someone might be sexually corrupt, for instance, a boss who sexually harasses his or her direct reports, but it is not the sex that is immoral, but how it is used to hurt others that is.

      You are blaming sex, but you haven’t proven that sex is the immoral part. Just as being rich doesn’t make you corrupt, having sex doesn’t make you immoral. It’s how you treat others that determines your morality.

    • Steve Schuler

      Marnie,

      There have been longstanding and nearly universal social prohibitions against sexual promiscuity across cultures and throughout time. I’m not Pro at anthropology or sociology but I think that is a generally true statement. And it makes me wonder if there might not be a valid functional basis for it. Note that I said “wonder”, not “certain”. No, that does little to ‘prove’ that sexual promiscuity is immoral. I suppose that ideally we would be able to conduct some sort of experiements to observe the results on societies where promiscuity and social attitudes towards it could be manipulated in some way to try to determine what attitudes, which mores, resulted in socially benefiscial outcomes. Obviously that is not possible.

      So no, I can’t ‘prove’ that sexually promiscuity has socially detrimental outcomes, but neither can you ‘prove’ otherwise. So where does that leave us?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Marnie,

      At the risk of getting myself in even more trouble, let me address the last one, because I think it’s indicative:

      Money seems to corrupt more than sex does. Does that make rich people inherently immoral? Clearly not. It’s not the money that is immoral but what people do with it.

      I mostly agree, but want to note one key difference: for me, it isn’t about what you do with money that would justify a claim that money corrupts, but about the importance you place on money. Wanting to have enough money to, say, buy groceries, heat your house, and buy the occasional DVD, video game or board game isn’t a problem, but making money into something like a scorecard and accruing money for its own sake and not for its instrumental value is a problem. It’s treating money far too much as its own end than as an end to other things, which means that you risk not only doing bad things to get it but in fact pass up other more intrinsically good things to get it. So we can say that the morally problematic treatment of money is one where you treat it as being far more important or vital to your well-being than it actually is.

      Now imagine that we define promiscuity to be the same: treating sex as being far more important or vital to your well-being than it actually is. While this looks somewhat circular, it has the advantage of taking sex itself completely out of the picture; sex is not in and of itself immoral, but placing too much importance on it either is or risks being such. My concerns around promiscuity, personally, are all based around that, and the idea that giving up sex for any reason is in some way problematic because sex really is just that valuable, while my view treats it more as an indifferent and so something that you may certainly have to forego in certain circumstances to get ends that aren’t anywhere near as pleasant. I also think that this in a lot of ways captures Steve’s underlying concern about promiscuity, and I think highlights better the underlying disagreement with conservatives and the religious: we all have differing ideas of how much importance should be placed on sex. Some argue that anything outside of a committed relationship means you’re placing too much importance on it. I think that’s probably going a bit far, but do think that if casual sex would in any way impede your getting into a relationship that the relationship is more valuable than the casual sex. And I’m not sure how far Steve takes it.

      But at the end of the day, we are all arguing over how much importance is too much. Some think that you can never make it be too important (I admit to taking Dan’s posts this way, which might be an unfair and uncharitable interpretation). Some think that it’s the least important thing and everything else is more important. And there are a lot of positions in-between. But I think if we can boil it down to this we can start to see the heart of the cards … er, argument and start to address the different positions in a way that reduces rancor, and might even allow us to conclude that for different people the importance will be different, just as while for me the two indifferents of relationships and casual sex balance towards relationships for others they may be equal, or it may be inverted.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Steve Schuler

      There have been longstanding and nearly universal social prohibitions against sexual promiscuity across cultures and throughout time. I’m not Pro at anthropology or sociology but I think that is a generally true statement. And it makes me wonder if there might not be a valid functional basis for it.

      That’s the argument from popularity and it is invalid for the same reasons it’s always invalid
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

      So no, I can’t ‘prove’ that sexually promiscuity has socially detrimental outcomes, but neither can you ‘prove’ otherwise. So where does that leave us?

      You have made the argument the promiscuity is “immoral”. The null hypothesis should be accepted as the default. It is up to you to prove that your hypothesis is correct, not up to me to disprove your hypothesis.

      But let’s leave that aside, that’s just arguing about how to argue and while it is relevant, I don’t think it advances our discussion. If you ask me why I think something is immoral I can give you an answer. I can say that I think it is immoral to punch random strangers in the arm. Why? Because it subjects people to unnecessary harm for no good reason. On the other hand, causing pain to someone isn’t inherently immoral. Giving someone a vaccine may hurt but it brings with it a worthwhile benefit. I can’t just say “don’t ever hurt anyone, it’s immoral” because there are times when that simply isn’t true. Promiscuous people can act immorally, just as monogamous or celibate people can act immorally, but if you are going to claim that promiscuity or monogamy or celibacy is “immoral” it is up to you to provide evidence to back up your case.

    • Steve Schuler

      Danbro,

      You’ve got to cut me some slack, Amigo. I’ve only been reading your blog for a coupla’ months and I’m not exactly a ‘quick study’. I’ve never had a class in philosophy and it is only in the last couple of years that I have learned the little about philosophy that I have, initially by starting to look more into religion utilizing something of a shotgun approach, not exactly the most efficient means of enquiry. I’m quite certain that two years I had no idea what ‘normative’ meant as I recall having to look the word up. Sorry, but I have to admit that I am not up to the task of formulating my own cohesive and coherent definition of immorality especially as pertains to the issue of promiscuity.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Verbose Stoic

      for me, it isn’t about what you do with money that would justify a claim that money corrupts, but about the importance you place on money. Wanting to have enough money to, say, buy groceries, heat your house, and buy the occasional DVD, video game or board game isn’t a problem, but making money into something like a scorecard and accruing money for its own sake and not for its instrumental value is a problem.

      It may be a problem and some people may take it to extremes, but do you really think valuing money beyond paying basic expenses and an occasional splurge is “immoral”? If so then you and I disagree on the use of “immoral.” Morality, for me, has to do with your impact on the world around you. Just valuing money isn’t much different than valuing your hobby, or your car or your favorite TV show. Someone is going to think it’s inane and worthless but that doesn’t make it immoral.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Marnie,

      No, I think that this:

      …but making money into something like a scorecard and accruing money for its own sake and not for its instrumental value is a problem.

      Is problematic, as I said, carrying on across the “corrupting influence” definition that you were addressing. We do in fact disagree about morality, but that’s a really big argument. But this:

      Just valuing money isn’t much different than valuing your hobby, or your car or your favorite TV show.

      Misses my point a bit. Valuing it isn’t a problem — see the discussion of relationship and casual sex indifferents — but valuing it intrinsically is, because of the tendency that would have to encourage you to choose it over things that are, in fact, intrinsically good. Now, if you think that it would be okay to argue that money and sex are intrinsic goods, or can be intrinsic goods to some people, then we have identified where our main disagreement is, since I absolutely do not agree with that [grin].

    • Steve Schuler

      Marnie,

      My initial assertion in this conversation was:

      “Dan, you said, “In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing.” Based upon my experience I would have to disagree with that assertion, but of course I could be wrong.”

      Which I think constitutes something less than a strong positive claim that “promiscuity is immoral”. The point that I started at, and remain at, is simply one of skeptical enquiry into an issue or question upon which I do not hold a well evidenced and firm position, hence the “but of course I could be wrong” in my comment to Dan.

      My general question goes something like this:

      If disease A spreads through population B at a much higher rate than it does through population C, and population B has a much higher incidence of promiscuity than population C, does that lend evidence to the argument that promiscuity is socially deleterious (since the rapid spread of a disease is worse than the slower spread of a disease) and that which is socially deleterious is bad and is not that which is bad also immoral?

      Immoral in this instance meaning to cause suffering and/or death in people who otherwise would not have been subject to suffering and/or death in a less promiscuous society. This presumes that people ought to behave in a manner that reduces socially deleterious consequences.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Verbose Stoic

      I’m afraid I’m not totally following, but let me break down the way I see it:

      Sex and money and power are all things people can enjoy. They all have their value and purpose and meaning to people. What value you place on those things isn’t a morality issue, to me. They have varying priorities in people’s lives but it doesn’t bother me if you take a job that pays more but that you enjoy less, or a job that you enjoy more but pays less. You may value the power or money over the other things in life. So be it. I can disagree with your priorities but I cannot call you immoral for making those trade offs. The same is true of sex. Let’s look at a monogamous sexually active couple. Let’s say the man has a lower libido than the woman. He may value sex less than the woman. Does that make her immoral by comparison? If neither makes the other feel bad about the situation, if they both feel content with their relationship and have worked out a compromise that makes both of them happy, what moral implications are there for her valuing sex more highly than he does?

      That is not to say that there aren’t people who use sex/power/money in immoral ways, but this whole idea that you can frame someone else’s personal values that have no bearing on anyone else as “immoral” seems, judgmental and unnecessary.

      I think it’s rather pointless to try to define what the “right” amount of interest in something is and instead we should talk about morality as behavior that impacts others. When people say that same sex couples or people who masturbate or “loose women” or people who like pornography are immoral, they are drawing the same sort of arbitrary line that says “I know how you should like sex and if you like it more or in a different way you are immoral.” It allows people to make the illogical jump from same sex relationships to pedophilia. It’s all just “immoral.” But when you look at morality as how it impacts others and you say “well, what two consenting adults do has no impact on me so it cannot be immoral but children are too young and immature to be able to consent to sex so pedophilia is immoral” we have a basis for making real lines of delineation about morality.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Marnie,

      They have varying priorities in people’s lives but it doesn’t bother me if you take a job that pays more but that you enjoy less, or a job that you enjoy more but pays less.

      That’s actually why I leaned so heavily on the intrinsic/instrumental value distinction. I don’t call it immoral on the basis of simply having different priorities, but on the basis of treating things that have instrumental value as if they have intrinsic value. So, taking this example, it might be the case that someone takes a job that pays more but they like less because they want to provide more for their children, or because it will allow them to live in a neighbourhood that they’ll enjoy more. I might not make the same choice, but that is a difference in priorities and they are still treating money as being instrumental. But if they consider money to be intrinsically good, that means that they might decide that having money is more important than having good social relations, and so will screw people over to get more money. That’s where I consider the “corrupting influence” line to be one that’s valid.

      Note that for me I actually consider pleasure to not have intrinsic value, so it makes it really hard for me to come up with really good examples [grin].

      Let’s say the man has a lower libido than the woman. He may value sex less than the woman. Does that make her immoral by comparison?

      No, because it isn’t about that kind of degree or comparision. Even if I wasn’t so attached to the intrinsic/instrumental thing, it wouldn’t be a range. It would be a line beyond which once you get there you’re placing too much importance on it. Variances in the acceptable range wouldn’t matter to the determination.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Steve Schuler

      “Dan, you said, “In no way, shape, or form do I take promiscuity to be, in itself, an immoral thing.” Based upon my experience I would have to disagree with that assertion, but of course I could be wrong.”

      Which I think constitutes something less than a strong positive claim that “promiscuity is immoral”.

      Well, I’m not saying you beat puppies for a hobby but based on my experience I think it’s possible, but I could be wrong.

      Listen, you cannot just say that you are making a point but that you shouldn’t be expected back it up. You have made an argument. You feel that promiscuity can be immoral. Many of us are saying that people can be immoral, but promiscuity is not, in itself, immoral and that if you are going to say it is, you need to provide evidence.

      You are not helping your case by going on to say:

      If disease A spreads through population B at a much higher rate than it does through population C, and population B has a much higher incidence of promiscuity than population C, does that lend evidence to the argument that promiscuity is socially deleterious (since the rapid spread of a disease is worse than the slower spread of a disease) and that which is socially deleterious is bad and is not that which is bad also immoral?

      You are just doubling down here and I would go back to my argument that some people with a lot of money are corrupt, if rich people are more likely to be corrupt than poor people does that make rich people immoral? I think the answer is no. Pharmacists and anesthesiologists have higher rates of drug abuse than people in many other fields. Does that make working with medications immoral? Part of making an argument is that you must see how it fits into the big picture. If you find that a line of reasoning works for you in one instance but not another, you may have to look at whether or not you have a bias. If I say that I experienced a miracle, therefore the christian god of the bible is real and someone else says, that they experienced a miracle, therefore Vishnu is real, then we have to look at what people mean when they say “miracle” and whether or not that argument is as airtight as both people want to believe it is. I’m telling you that I think your definition of “moral” or “immoral” needs to be looked at more closely. If you apply it one way to sex and another way to other aspects of life, then your argument needs to reconsidered.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Verbose Stoic

      You say:

      I don’t call it immoral on the basis of simply having different priorities, but on the basis of treating things that have instrumental value as if they have intrinsic value. So, taking this example, it might be the case that someone takes a job that pays more but they like less because they want to provide more for their children, or because it will allow them to live in a neighbourhood that they’ll enjoy more.

      Then you say:

      Note that for me I actually consider pleasure to not have intrinsic value, so it makes it really hard for me to come up with really good examples [grin].

      So you have made this judgement of people based on what value they give to something and say that being able to “enjoy something more” is legit but that you don’t give any intrinsic value to enjoying something. I feel like you are making an argument you cannot even support. It’s fine and dandy if you give no value to pleasure. Many of us do. If you think that makes us immoral that’s just something we’ll have to agree to disagree on. I think it’s immoral to be judgemental of people who aren’t harming you or anyone else in anyway.

      That’s where I consider the “corrupting influence” line to be one that’s valid.

      The potential for corruption is irrelevant. Almost anything in life has the potential for corruption. You can be a corrupt boss or parent or neighbor or cop or teacher or banker. That makes none of those pursuits immoral. When your behavior or views adversely effects other people, that is what can be considered immoral. Labeling people “immoral” for behavior that is hurting absolutely no one has been an ongoing source of actual harm in this country, and your lofty ideals of what people should and shouldn’t value is just another flavor of that same mentality.

    • Steve Schuler

      Marnie,

      Actually I did present you with an argument which you dismissed as “doubling down” without dissecting it, which I suspect that you could do fairly easily.

      Anyhow, I’m really not understanding you very well at all and the various analogies that you have used seem only peripherally connected and applicable to the question of the morality of promiscuity. Evidently you have no question as to the morality of promiscuity, but it is not at all clear to me why that is or how it came to be. Well, I am sure that I will continue to refine my moral sensibilities. Thanks for your input and patience with me.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Marnie,

      So you have made this judgement of people based on what value they give to something and say that being able to “enjoy something more” is legit but that you don’t give any intrinsic value to enjoying something. I feel like you are making an argument you cannot even support. It’s fine and dandy if you give no value to pleasure. Many of us do. If you think that makes us immoral that’s just something we’ll have to agree to disagree on. I think it’s immoral to be judgemental of people who aren’t harming you or anyone else in anyway.

      First, my comment was explicit that I wanted to judge the behaviour, not the person, and my example here was about judging the value placed, not the person. So leave that out of it for a minute.

      Second, you keep leaving one really important word out that I’ve highlighted throughout this entire discussion. You answer me as if I’m saying that there is no value in pleasure, sex, money, etc, etc. I’m not. I’m saying that they have no intrisinc value. They are good in and of themselves. For money and sex, saying that their value is only instrumental seems to make sense. If you ask why someone valued sex, and they replied “It’s sex!”, you’d at least think that they were being a little facetious. You’d expect real answers to be something like “For reproduction” or “For pleasure (it feels good, or it’s fun or …)”. So saying that sex only has instrumental value seems a not unreasonable argument, and then my claim that that’s fine as long as you don’t consider sex to have intrinsic value is actually a not unreasonable argument. Pleasure is harder because we do think we can stop at “It’s pleasure”. There’s a ton of philosophical discussion on this, but my personal take is that while I concede that pleasure is intrinsically desirable that doesn’t mean that it’s intrinsically valuable or intrinsically good. Wanting something doesn’t make it in and of itself good.

      Note that early on in the discussion I talked about how sex can have value as an indifferent, meaning just as something that doesn’t have intrinsic value, and noted that differing priorites among indifferents is something that I have no concerns about. As stated, my concern is all about treating things without intrinsic value as if they do; beyond that, whatever you decide is perfectly okay and natural.

      The potential for corruption is irrelevant.

      It’s also not my argument. My argument is that if you treat indifferents as virtues, things that do not have intrinsic value as if they have intrinsic value, THAT is corrupting because it means that you will be inclined to choose that thing that does not have intrinsic value over things that do. I’ve said this repeatedly and you still keep replying with this reply that I’ve already addressed.

      When your behavior or views adversely effects other people, that is what can be considered immoral. Labeling people “immoral” for behavior that is hurting absolutely no one has been an ongoing source of actual harm in this country, and your lofty ideals of what people should and shouldn’t value is just another flavor of that same mentality.

      Your first sentence is simply repeating the same argument that I disagree with, and so my only reply can be “I don’t agree”. As for your latter justification, I will reposte with the counter that an on-going source of problems in this world has been people treating indifferents as virtues, and choosing gaining money over helping others and treating them fairly, or thinking that you can lie to get sex and that’s okay because, hey, you got sex. Now, I suspect that when we suss out our specific beliefs, they won’t be that much different, but since our motivations are completely different there will be differences, and we can’t settle them without settling the fundamental differences first.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Verbose Stoic

      It’s also not my argument. My argument is that if you treat indifferents as virtues, things that do not have intrinsic value as if they have intrinsic value, THAT is corrupting because it means that you will be inclined to choose that thing that does not have intrinsic value over things that do. I’ve said this repeatedly and you still keep replying with this reply that I’ve already addressed.

      I completely get what you are saying, but I don’t think you are understanding my point. You are making value judgements. Something along the lines of: Sex and money have no “intrinsic” value but they can have some value as it relates to other parts of your life and if you focus on a perceived value instead of the how it can better some other aspect of your life, you are setting the stage for possible corruption. Somehow, along that continuum of not giving a crap and caring too much, you’ve defined a cutoff point where you value the sex or, I guess, the bank statement over its actual value in your life and to that I say, who cares? I am part of the knitting community. My brother is part of the gaming community. We are both parts of communities that may value something with no or little intrinsic value beyond the value the person or community gives it. And you know what? If that makes a person happy, bully for them. If someone is more interested in camping outside a game store for a week to be the first in line to get a certain game (a game that could be delivered a few days later) instead of spending time at a social event, who are you to call that wrong?

      I think Daniel did a nice job of discussing the problem with judging “promiscuity” in another comment. He said:

      1) I think that promiscuity is a morally neutral practice. I think that any benefit or harm that could be superficially attributed to promiscuity will turn out, after deeper analysis, to be attributable to something else that accompanied the promiscuity.

      The same could be said of anything you’ve identified as not having no “intrinsic value.” I’m not interested in what could be corrupting. I’m not interested in separating out the different qualities/types of values. I’m interested in what people actually do and its actual effect on the world around them. If I absolutely love money, just having money, and I work and work and work and earn more money than I could ever spend instead of building relationships, so what? If I’ve harmed no one and feel happy, then all you could say is that you think I should have wanted something else.

      So while you reject that I think you are labeling people in a destructive way, I stand by it. In the name of stoicism, you have elevated detachment. That is what you value and if that works for you, great, but applying that value judgement to other people’s lives because you believe that attachment to things you don’t value, leads to corruption, is no different than saying that you believe sex is between a man and woman and same sex relationships lead to bestiality. Someone who values money can be corrupt. Someone who prefer partners of the same sex may also be into bestiality, but making the leap that liking money is a slippery slope to corruption is no more reasonable than saying that allowing a man to love a man leads to sex with animals.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Marnie,

      I don’t think you do get what I’m saying, because you keep translating my saying that those things don’t have intrinsic value to saying that they have no value, and that’s absolutely not what I’m saying. Let me try to address it with this example:

      I am part of the knitting community. My brother is part of the gaming community. We are both parts of communities that may value something with no or little intrinsic value beyond the value the person or community gives it. And you know what? If that makes a person happy, bully for them. If someone is more interested in camping outside a game store for a week to be the first in line to get a certain game (a game that could be delivered a few days later) instead of spending time at a social event, who are you to call that wrong?

      I don’t call that wrong. All of those are, to me, things that don’t have intrinsic value, and so to me count as indifferents (Stoic term meaning things that don’t have intrinsic moral value). Prioritize and value your indifferents however you want. My objection would be if you choose those indifferent things over things that have real intrinsic moral value. So if you promised a friend to help them move, but broke that promise to camp outside to be the first in line to get a certain game, I’d argue that that was wrong, because you would be putting an indifferent — the game, and getting it first — over something that has intrinsic value, which in this case is keeping promises. Or if you skipped your spouse’s funeral to do that, I’d argue that that was a problem, because again you’d be putting something that does not have intrinsic value (again, the game) over your duty to your spouse, which DOES have intrinsic moral value. But yes, you can value the game or getting it first. You can value it quite a lot. It’s not so much a continuum of liking that I’m after, but more over what you’ll give up to get that thing. My whole complaint is over giving up the things that have intrinsic moral value to get the things that don’t.

      Now, on Dan’s point:

      1) I think that promiscuity is a morally neutral practice. I think that any benefit or harm that could be superficially attributed to promiscuity will turn out, after deeper analysis, to be attributable to something else that accompanied the promiscuity.

      You should be able to see that here, in essence, Dan and I are agreeing. I consider sex to be morally neutral. My objection is to anyone treating it as not being morally neutral, and that’s the immorality that I’d be talking about. So here I’ve focused on cases where people are treating it as morally good when it isn’t that in and of itself, but I will state here that indeed the same thing applies to people who think it intrinsically bad. But a charge of promiscuity to me relates to claiming that you are indeed placing too much value on promiscuity, whatever that means. For ME, it’s all about intrinsic value. For others, there are other considerations. Part of hammering this out is hammering out what we’re using to talk about value. I hope that we’re a lot closer on that now than we have been [grin].

      (The rest of it is again based on the misunderstanding of my position, in my opinion, so I won’t reply to it unless you think I really missed soemthing).

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      My objection would be if you choose those indifferent things over things that have real intrinsic moral value. So if you promised a friend to help them move, but broke that promise to camp outside to be the first in line to get a certain game, I’d argue that that was wrong, because you would be putting an indifferent — the game, and getting it first — over something that has intrinsic value, which in this case is keeping promises.

      This is a sensible position, but has nothing to do with promiscuity. If someone is leaving their three-year-old at home unsupervised so they can hook up with someone they met on Craigslist, that’s a problem, but the hooking up is not in itself a problem. I don’t see why you feel the need to criticize promiscuity.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      @Verbose Stoic

      Ace of Sevens said exactly what I was trying to get at and did so more succinctly and clearly. You are judging the value, I am judging the person’s actual actions. Value is irrelevant to me. You can value money more highly than people but if you don’t do anything unkind, it doesn’t matter. If you value sex above being a parent and simply never choose to be a parent, there isn’t a problem. If your pursuit of status keeps you from building close friendships and that is satisfactory to you and doesn’t hurt anyone else, so be it.

      If your pursuit of sex leads to your neglecting or abusing your children, then the neglect or abuse are the problems. It’s the conflating of sex with corruption (albeit, with all your caveats and qualifiers) that I find problematic. I consider a person’s morality based on what they do, not how they prioritize.

      I think the problem is that you refuse to step out of the shoes of a stoic. It’s like talking to someone who genuinely believes you cannot have morality without god. What you say reflects more on you as an individual than it does about mankind. If you are only good because you believe god will punish you for eternity, then that is you, but it doesn’t mean it applies to everyone else. If you cannot avoid corruption without separating yourself from your emotions, that is your bag, but doesn’t necessarily apply to others. Stoicism works for you. That’s great. It doesn’t work for me. That’s great too. But when it comes time to be accountable for one’s action, my belief or lack thereof in the value of X really doesn’t matter, what matters is what I did.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Ace of Sevens,

      This is a sensible position, but has nothing to do with promiscuity. If someone is leaving their three-year-old at home unsupervised so they can hook up with someone they met on Craigslist, that’s a problem, but the hooking up is not in itself a problem. I don’t see why you feel the need to criticize promiscuity.

      Answered in the comment you responded to:

      But a charge of promiscuity to me relates to claiming that you are indeed placing too much value on promiscuity, whatever that means. For ME, it’s all about intrinsic value. For others, there are other considerations. Part of hammering this out is hammering out what we’re using to talk about value. I hope that we’re a lot closer on that now than we have been [grin].

      If you want to claim that the word “promiscuity” doesn’t refer to that sort of position, then I’ll simply shrug and we can move on. You seem to treat the word “promiscuity” as just having lots and lots of sex, but I think most people think of it as being a bit more than that, which is why it was so hard to define limits all through this thread. So, I gave a clear definition of the limits. If you say that doesn’t apply to the word “promiscuity” anymore, so be it; I only care about my position, not the word used to name it.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Marnie,

      Ace of Sevens said exactly what I was trying to get at and did so more succinctly and clearly. You are judging the value, I am judging the person’s actual actions. Value is irrelevant to me. You can value money more highly than people but if you don’t do anything unkind, it doesn’t matter.

      Which is your value. It is not mine. You say this about me:

      I think the problem is that you refuse to step out of the shoes of a stoic. It’s like talking to someone who genuinely believes you cannot have morality without god. What you say reflects more on you as an individual than it does about mankind.

      But I’d say that this applies more to you than to me. You refuse to step outside of the shoes of your own value and moral system. Throughout this whole thread, you evaluated and interpreted my comments in light of YOUR system, and not in light of mine, and so in my opinion kept getting me frustratingly wrong. Even here, you are talking about your view of how value is irrelevant to you and it doesn’t matter if you do something unkind. Fair enough. But I think you’re wrong. Continually, you argue based on the moral value that you cannot criticize something if it does not translate to harm. I disagree. I do understand your position. I just don’t agree with it. I think that the Stoics and the Kantians are broadly right here, and that the Utilitarians and Hedonists are broadly wrong. Now, we can argue over that, but note that most of my responses were really just me clarifying my position, and not necessarily trying to convince you that it was right. It was just outlining the basis of my values, not necessarily criticizing yours. So it’s hard to say that I am doing anything that really required me to do more than express my own values as clearly as I can.

      And that’s the key: when I express or argue for my values, no one else is obligated to accept them unless I can provide justifications to the level of knowledge. I have not claimed that at all, and so am not imposing on anyone. And so in my mind there’s nothing wrong with my saying what I’m saying; I’m doing nothing wrong and imposing on no one. Your objections seem to be based a lot on you not liking the judgements I’m doing, but those objections seemed to be based more on your own personal tastes and distastes than mine are. Deciding to judge or not to judge are both reflections of values; essentially, we are at worst doing the exact same thing.

      If you cannot avoid corruption without separating yourself from your emotions, that is your bag, but doesn’t necessarily apply to others.

      It looks like you’ve done some research on Stoicism, but not enough: the argument from the Stoics is that emotions lead you to irrational actions. My personal argument is that at best all of your emotions just happen to accord or are conditioned to only produce rational actions, and at worst they produce irrational ones, at which point unless you want to argue that acting irrationally is okay or good it seems that submitting emotions to rational oversight just is the right thing to do.

      But when it comes time to be accountable for one’s action, my belief or lack thereof in the value of X really doesn’t matter, what matters is what I did.

      The counter to that is that you make decisions based on the relative values you consider things to have, and so therefore you cannot disconnect your values from what you do. What you do depends in large part on what you value, and so making incorrect value judgements means that you are likely to make incorrect decisions. While you keep bringing up “corruption”, you have continually missed that the risk of corruption I’m talking about is precisely that sort of case: where you make incorrect decisions about what to do and so do immoral things because you have determined that things with no moral value really have moral value, and so can be chosen over things that have real moral value.

      The only way out of this is to claim that your values don’t influence your actions, but I doubt you’ll want to go there.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      And that’s the key: when I express or argue for my values, no one else is obligated to accept them unless I can provide justifications to the level of knowledge. I have not claimed that at all, and so am not imposing on anyone.

      When you declare that someone is “immoral,” you are imposing on them. “Immorality” is a concept through which rules are made, rights are limited, and people are shamed and ostracized. Yes, my personal worldview states that things like priorities, interests, sexual preference, favorite color, interest in watching reality tv and a host of other personal matters are things I can have opinions about but are not things I can use to define someone’s morality and I reject your premise because I see that it isn’t just hypothetically used to harm people, but because it is actually, currently and repeatedly used to harm people. Stoics may not have any sort of organized political power the way the abrahamic religions do, but they share this idea of moral purity that gives them the right to look down on other people. I can’t tell you not to think of yourself as better than someone else because you embrace stoicism, but I can tell you that labeling someone as immoral despite doing nothing that has harmed people in any way, is a position that seems unreasonable to me, at best and harmful at worst.

      The counter to that is that you make decisions based on the relative values you consider things to have, and so therefore you cannot disconnect your values from what you do.

      And on what basis do you determine who has the right values? You base it on their actions, no? You don’t try people for loving money. You try people for committing fraud. You don’t try people for having sex, you try them for driving under the influence. I’m not really interested in policing people’s brains. You cannot tell people “think this way.”

      My personal argument is that at best all of your emotions just happen to accord or are conditioned to only produce rational actions, and at worst they produce irrational ones, at which point unless you want to argue that acting irrationally is okay or good it seems that submitting emotions to rational oversight just is the right thing to do.

      and

      What you do depends in large part on what you value, and so making incorrect value judgements means that you are likely to make incorrect decisions.

      And yet the vast majority of people are not stoics and manage to live as law abiding, reasonably moral people. You are the one making the claim that we can judge someone by a means other than their actions, before they have done anything objectively wrong. I think that’s a pretty big claim and one that falls on you to prove.

      The only way out of this is to claim that your values don’t influence your actions, but I doubt you’ll want to go there.

      Your values can influence your behavior, but so can laws and societal pressures. There are people who don’t think they should have to pay taxes, but they do. Their values say that taxes are bad/unconstitutional/oppressive but they will pay their taxes to avoid consequences. If they don’t pay their taxes, they won’t be fined for not valuing taxes they will be fined for not paying their taxes.

      Just as you are frustrated that you don’t think I’m understanding you and that I’m misrepresenting you, I think you are misunderstanding and misrepresenting me. I really couldn’t care less that you are a stoic. I care that you are calling people “immoral” for something that has no impact anyone whatsoever. I think you have to prove that judging someone’s thoughts is a better measure than judging someone’s actions or words.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Woah, wait a minute here! We’re having a whole thread here based on some dumbass remark Verbose Stoic, of all people, made ?

    I guess I need to point out that you’re arguing with a hardcore totalitarian who thinks genocide is permissible by the right actors or for the right reasons. That actor and/or reason is, obviously, God.

    Don’t believe me? Read the old Daylight Atheism thread here:

    Biblical Genocide Thread

    You can start at comment #121 if you like, or just use your browser search function.

    Hating on women is pretty much par for the course and a pretty small issue for this guy. He’ll derail essentially any issue into a lot of hand-waving self-apologetic bullshit. You will never gain any ground arguing or discussing any issue with him — trust me, it just doesn’t work.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Please, do read 121. I’ll even quote it here:

      It’s at this point, it seems to me, that you stop thinking about morality and just act based on your reactions. I don’t see how you can get to “unable to distinguish right and wrong” and “profoundly evil” from a comment that there may be cases where genocide is not immoral.

      I know, Ebonmuse, that you’re sympathetic, at least, to Utilitarianism. But it isn’t all that hard to see that there may be cases where what would be called a genocide might actually decrease suffering and increase happiness. These cases wouldn’t be common, but they could certainly occur. And that’s really all he said.

      Look at the full statement again. He comments that what makes genocide wrong — ie always wrong — cannot be simply the number of deaths because you couldn’t properly decide where that line is. So it seems, according to him, that motivation — ie intention — is what makes genocide morally wrong. And from there, you can at least ask if there could be motivations that would make genocide morally permissable and possibly even demanded. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there clearly are such cases, but the question is worth asking … and asking that question is fodder for moral debates in a number of fictional dramas [grin].

      To put it another way, if we can imagine cases where killing one person might be morally demanded, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable that there might be cases where killing 100 or 1000 or 10000 might also be demanded. We’d expect the latter cases to be quite rare and require really strong justifications, but it’s far too simple to simply claim that no such cases are possible.

      So, at best you can get to “But, look, the cases in the Bible are not such cases!”, but to me that would be progress in the debate, because you’d stop simply claiming that genocide is just inherently morally wrong and start with specific claims about what makes genocide morally wrong.

      (Note that for me, this isn’t as much of a problem because the Stoic view really can get away with saying that genocide just is morally wrong. However, that would potentially cause problems for my theism and is a moral view that I can’t prove anyway.)

      So, let’s see here. I start with a claim that you can’t just simply deny that there are any cases where it could be moral to commit a genocide, point out — and that’s the only case where I talk about any sort of justification — that Utilitarianism might easily find cases where you could do so, point out that all the commenter said was that you can’t call it morally wrong based on the number of people who died because you can’t find a good way to draw that line, drew it down to motivations, denied that such motivations that justify genocide necessarily exist, and said it’s something we need to discuss.

      Then I talk about the Bible only to comment that it would be a decent argument — and far better than what they were arguing — to claim that those cases were cases where genocide was morally wrong, and then pointed out that based on my Stoic beliefs I can indeed actually insist that genocide is always morally wrong, which I concede might cause problems for my theism but also that I won’t insist on it since I can’t yet prove that anyway.

      Now, re-read what kagerato said and see if any of that follows from what I actually said.

  • smrnda

    OK, so Verbose Stoic (henceforth “VS”) has asked why he should not or cannot ‘deride promiscuity.’

    Well, you can do anything you want, but I would argue that we are only entitled to deride or judge actions based on whether or not they actually pose some harm to ourselves, others, or society at large. If someone is making a choice about sexuality that is different from ones I would make, as long as we are dealing with consensual activity I consider it a matter that is not correct for me to issue an opinion on.

    As I’m sure we’ve all heard before, when people use the term ‘promiscuity’ could someone please quantify what you have to do to become ‘promiscuous’ and could you please provide justification for the numbers? I mean, if someone said “once you’ve had sex with X people you are promiscuous” I mean, why X? Does how long apart matter? Does it matter if you have had way more sex but with fewer people? Does it matter if it’s ‘casual’ sex or is it okay if it’s within a ‘relationship’ and how does one distinguish that?

    My issue isn’t just with the demand that VS use the word “slut” since he thinks it fits, I don’t see any justification for his getting all judgmental over promiscuity.

    I’ll give you an example of how a person could handle a difference of values – someone could say “I myself choose, based on my own values, NOT to have sex unless condition X,Y,Z.” There, you let the world know your values without putting anybody else down.

    Perhaps I can’t see the purpose is deriding behavior, but then again, I can’t get enthusiastic about criticizing other people unless they’re really doing something malicious or totally irresponsible. When it comes to sexuality I can accept that other people are comfortable doing things I don’t do, and I can’t really see any reason they are worse people for doing it.

    If it’s an issue of “excessive” interest in sex, who is to say what’s an excessive level of interest in anything? I’d argue that unless it’s totally taking over your life where you can’t get anything done you are free to be interested in whatever you want. I don’t complain that some people are “excessively” interested in playing chess when they spend their free time doing it just because it doesn’t happen to interest me.

    But on the whole Limbaugh thing, I don’t like the issue of contraception access being trivialized at all. It’s an issue that has tremendous impact in the lives of the majority of women.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Well, you can do anything you want, but I would argue that we are only entitled to deride or judge actions based on whether or not they actually pose some harm to ourselves, others, or society at large. If someone is making a choice about sexuality that is different from ones I would make, as long as we are dealing with consensual activity I consider it a matter that is not correct for me to issue an opinion on.

      Well, fair enough, but note that people disagree on two bases. The first is the one that I’d actually use, which is that the harm argument is not what makes things moral or immoral or right or wrong (I don’t like to deride, though, let me state again). Others will disagree that in these cases no harm is being done to the people, others, or society. So you may say that this is not a case for them to judge, and they may reply that it is. The problem is that when you start with a dismissive tone and say that it just isn’t something that one can legitimately judge about you tend to shut down discussion before it starts, or turn it into a rant-fest on all sides.

      As I’m sure we’ve all heard before, when people use the term ‘promiscuity’ could someone please quantify what you have to do to become ‘promiscuous’ and could you please provide justification for the numbers? I mean, if someone said “once you’ve had sex with X people you are promiscuous” I mean, why X? Does how long apart matter? Does it matter if you have had way more sex but with fewer people? Does it matter if it’s ‘casual’ sex or is it okay if it’s within a ‘relationship’ and how does one distinguish that?

      For me, it’s more about attitude than about the number of times, and so for me promiscuity might entail considering sex far more important than it really deserves to be. Some others might use arguments about frequencty, or an overly casual attitude towards sex. Like most things in life, it is really hard to make clear-cut distinctions here.

      My issue isn’t just with the demand that VS use the word “slut” since he thinks it fits, I don’t see any justification for his getting all judgmental over promiscuity.

      To clarify yet again, it’s more that I considered the word to be the closest one to express the idea I talked about, but have reconsidered on the basis of the extra baggage that word has. But I still argue that I should be able to use an alternative word like “promiscuous” in a judgemental or even derisive way, just as you can use other terms in that way. Again, either being derisive and judgement is okay or it isn’t; it should not matter if you agree with the other person’s values when they are being such.

      I’ll give you an example of how a person could handle a difference of values – someone could say “I myself choose, based on my own values, NOT to have sex unless condition X,Y,Z.” There, you let the world know your values without putting anybody else down.

      But this isn’t limited to just saying what your values are, but also in arguing for them or for things to happen on the basis of your values. Again, I think all of this is open for debate but most of the discussions here seemed to indicate that expressing judgements and derision about promiscuity were especially bad because they were false, ignoring that others disagreed that those judgements were false and might well have reasons to argue against their stance that those judgements were false. You don’t get into debates, though, by cutting off debate with an assertion that they’re just wrong and so the ideas should not be expressed, and that even expressing them in a way that’s perfectly acceptable for other beliefs is just in and of itself bullying and imposing values.

      Perhaps I can’t see the purpose is deriding behavior, but then again, I can’t get enthusiastic about criticizing other people unless they’re really doing something malicious or totally irresponsible. When it comes to sexuality I can accept that other people are comfortable doing things I don’t do, and I can’t really see any reason they are worse people for doing it.

      This is quite commendable, but not everyone shares your restraint in these matters, but then I have seen derision tossed at other people for things that they at least do not think fits those categories, and defended. Things are always more complicated than they seem.

  • Robert B.

    Verbose Stoic:

    I know you’re arguing with a lot of people right now, but I’m going to jump in, too, because I don’t see anyone making this point:

    Of course Daniel’s post was intended to shame you. The post was an ethical condemnation. Shaming someone is not in itself wrong, its an inescapable part of human ethical discourse. When humans talk about ethics, addressing specific examples, the options are to praise, to shame, or to do nothing.

    What’s wrong is shaming someone for doing something that isn’t actually bad. Neither the frequency of sex nor the number of one’s sexual partners has any ethical weight at all. What matters is the enthusiastic consent, the enjoyment, and the health of all participants. And by the way, slut-shaming is sexist, whether you actually use the word “slut” or not. Women are held to “higher” (or, to be precise, more oppressive) standards of sexual ethics than men, and perceived faults in a woman’s sexual ethics are seen to corrupt or invalidate her entire character, which is not true for men. This is encoded not just in the specific word “slut” but in the entire mainstream discourse on sexual ethics, which means that any clever circumlocution you come up with would be tarred with the same brush. It just might be possible for you to avoid this sexist bias in your own mind (though from what I know of psychology I don’t find it likely) but you can’t ignore it in your audience when speaking in any public forum. It says something about you that you either don’t realize that or don’t care.

    In short, the idea you want to express is a bad idea, as in ethically wrong. You ought to be ashamed for wanting to express it.

    And you can’t get around this by saying you have different values than me, or that you’re more conservative or more moderate than me, and therefore your opinion on who should be ashamed is just as good as mine. People sometimes decline to argue about things like values, because it’s not socially gracious to be arguing 100% of the time. But that doesn’t mean there’s no difference between different values, and it doesn’t let either side out of the harsh truth that at least one of them must be wrong. Ethics is not just a language game played by philosophers. We’re playing hardball here; the consequences of ethical choices are harsh and real. You do not get bonus points from the Ethics Umpire for having the courage of your convictions, or a consistent ideology, or the backing of your peers, or a bigger library of works of ethics agreeing with you. Those things are all secondary; we value them just because they’re correlated with good, not because they are good. The only thing – the ONLY thing that ultimately matters is the actual results of your decisions: what you create, what you protect, and what you destroy.

    By wanting to condemn consensual and healthy sexual behavior for its promiscuity, you are helping a social meme that destroys the lives of good people, most of them women, and hurts many more. And you are protecting a privileged bully who uses his privilege to be cruel to those who are weaker than and different from him. And you should be ashamed of that.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Of course Daniel’s post was intended to shame you. The post was an ethical condemnation. Shaming someone is not in itself wrong, its an inescapable part of human ethical discourse. When humans talk about ethics, addressing specific examples, the options are to praise, to shame, or to do nothing.

      No, your options are to agree, disagree, or do nothing. Shame is not at all required. But if you think that you can shame others for doing what you think is immoral, don’t be surprised or upset when people try to shame you for doing what they think is immoral. Seems that a lot of people fired off comments like that at me, but it really applies to you here.

      What’s wrong is shaming someone for doing something that isn’t actually bad. Neither the frequency of sex nor the number of one’s sexual partners has any ethical weight at all. What matters is the enthusiastic consent, the enjoyment, and the health of all participants.

      So you say. Others disagree, and think that there are more considerations that are required, even to get at notions of harm. So you are, in fact, doing precisely what I argued it was not good for Dan to you: judging whether one can act in what would be considered a proper way to a statement or present an argument in way that is generally considered acceptable based on whether you think they’re right or not. That’s not intellectually honest; if you can shame someone based on what you think is right or wrong, they get to do the same thing to you if they genuinely believe that it is equally right or wrong as you think your beliefs are.

      And by the way, slut-shaming is sexist, whether you actually use the word “slut” or not. Women are held to “higher” (or, to be precise, more oppressive) standards of sexual ethics than men, and perceived faults in a woman’s sexual ethics are seen to corrupt or invalidate her entire character, which is not true for men.

      Totally agree. I’ve commented on the hypocrisy, but note that my whole comment was explicit about making the “woman” part completely incidental.

      This is encoded not just in the specific word “slut” but in the entire mainstream discourse on sexual ethics, which means that any clever circumlocution you come up with would be tarred with the same brush. It just might be possible for you to avoid this sexist bias in your own mind (though from what I know of psychology I don’t find it likely) but you can’t ignore it in your audience when speaking in any public forum. It says something about you that you either don’t realize that or don’t care.

      Since psychology works on averages and not on individuals per se, I have more confidence in being able to avoid that than you do. Although some may well be present, I concede. However, your comment here seems to be saying that I can’t talk about this because people WILL jump to that conclusion, even if my actual text and point doesn’t make that point. That’s not reasonable; interpret me by what I say, not by what you think it implies. At least start with a more subtle approach and be prepared to pull back if I insist that that’s not what I’m saying. That seems perfectly fair to me.

      In short, the idea you want to express is a bad idea, as in ethically wrong. You ought to be ashamed for wanting to express it.

      Again, so you say. Others do not agree, and to insist that it must be taken as such is imposing values far more than using the term “slut” or even arguing that in some cases promiscuity can be worthy of derision.

      And you can’t get around this by saying you have different values than me, or that you’re more conservative or more moderate than me, and therefore your opinion on who should be ashamed is just as good as mine. People sometimes decline to argue about things like values, because it’s not socially gracious to be arguing 100% of the time. But that doesn’t mean there’s no difference between different values, and it doesn’t let either side out of the harsh truth that at least one of them must be wrong.

      True, but in those sorts of discussions you don’t do well to start with a dogmatic insistence that you’re right, they’re wrong, and it’s just wrong of them to express or try to argue in all the normal ways that they’re right about it.

      You do not get bonus points from the Ethics Umpire for having the courage of your convictions, or a consistent ideology, or the backing of your peers, or a bigger library of works of ethics agreeing with you. Those things are all secondary; we value them just because they’re correlated with good, not because they are good. The only thing – the ONLY thing that ultimately matters is the actual results of your decisions: what you create, what you protect, and what you destroy.

      Again, so you say. I and others disagree. I think that the outcomes do not, in fact, determine anything about morality at all, but that it is the principles that are good and the results are only secondary. Again, it is not kosher to frame the whole debate such that only your position could be right, and that anyone else who dares disagree with your position is just wrong by default and must be ignored.

      By wanting to condemn consensual and healthy sexual behavior for its promiscuity, you are helping a social meme that destroys the lives of good people, most of them women, and hurts many more. And you are protecting a privileged bully who uses his privilege to be cruel to those who are weaker than and different from him. And you should be ashamed of that.

      And I will use the standard rejoinder that despite what I may feel about Limbaugh, I will not let his association with this stop me from pointing out that you are attempting to impose values on others in a more polite but nevertheless just as privileged and bullying way, and that you are just as dismissive of those who are different as he is. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • Robert B.

      “Imposing values”? “Frame the whole debate”? “Privileged?” I’m not the frigging secret police, and I’m not Reuters or MSNBC or the Democratic Party. The conversation started because you wanted a new way to call people sluts, so don’t act like a damn victim because some dude on the internet dares to express a negative opinion.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      At which point, since neither am I, then I’m not doing any of that either. But you are dictating the terms the debate must be had on to me, and setting it up so that if I want to disagree with you I risk being branded as being behind modern morality or as a misogynist. That is certainly not a fair way to start a debate.

      Considering how angry you got at my considering you to be framing the debate or bullying, can you understand why I might feel the same when you do it to me?

    • Robert B.

      I’m sorry, did you get me mixed up with someone else? I didn’t accuse you of any of those things. I accused you of protecting someone else who was a bully, but that’s as close as I came. I don’t even see how either of us could know about what privilege the other has, except that you can probably guess from my handle that I’m a man, and we probably both know from vocabulary that the other is educated.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Robert,

      You’re right. I confused you with someone else there. Sorry about that.

      That being said, even the argument that stating my position is defending a bully does seem to run into being an attempt to shame me into not stating or defending that position, and you also started from a claim that it was okay to shame people that you didn’t agree with morally, before going on and saying that that didn’t apply to people who didn’t agree with the values you espoused because their disagreement was wrong, which was exactly the attitude that I considered problematic.

  • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

    @Steve Schuler

    One of my first concerns as the AIDS pandemic initially exploded was that a huge factor in the exponential spread of the disease could be attributed to promiscuous sexual behaviour.

    And the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic that decimated populations around the world and killed healthy young people in their prime, was spread through poor sanitation and traveling military personal. Once the flu was identified and we better understood it we were able to control outbreaks and we are now able to make vaccines.

    When AIDS was new, we didn’t know much about it. When contraception is stigmatized, and expensive and when children aren’t taught how to use it, preventing transmissions becomes much harder.

    In both cases, an unexpected outbreak occurred and we have learned from it.

    To deny the connection between sexual promiscuity and the spread of aids is incredibly naive and inconsistent with the facts, however if one wants to maintain that sexual promiscuity is still not a moral issue as Marnie appears to by saying that the spreading of flu by hugging is analogous to the spreading of AIDS via sexual intercourse runs counter to my sense that there are several degrees of difference between the two scenarios, but again, I could be wrong.

    Well, for me, I can opt to decline to have sex with someone. I can opt to use protection when I do have sex with someone. I can be tested for diseases and decline to have sex with someone who has refused to get a clean bill of health. I cannot control whether or not someone is vaccinated against flu and I cannot be sure the vaccinations I’ve gotten has fully protected me nor that I have a vaccination that is effective against when someone else is carrying, so I would say that knowingly exposing others to your flu is pretty immoral. That’s not even accounting for all the people who are immunocompromised and cannot be vaccinated or for whom vaccines are ineffective. Sexual partners are generally consenting adults. Being exposed to flu generally isn’t a consensual transaction.

    What I consider immoral is withholding protection and eduction from people. What I consider immoral, is intentionally exposing someone else to a communicable disease. I do not consider promiscuity inherently immoral, any more than I consider indulging in delicious foods or riding a motorcycle inherently immoral. All may put me at some greater risk it’s just sex that has the particular stigma we’re discussing here.

    In any event, watching two friends die horrible deaths and having the awareness that if we lived in a society that generally exercised more sexual constraints that this might not have happened, that their ‘fates’ could possibly have been avoided through their own behaviours and the entire chain of transmissions that had preceded their infections, is a notion that in my mind falls under the umbrella of societal sexual moral sensibilities.

    We can all be concerned trolls about how we’d like everyone to behave but shame has never been an effective means of controlling the sexual instincts of humans. People are going to have sex, and they have every right to have sex. But just writing people off as immoral doesn’t address or change the health and safety of that act, and I think we need look no further than the devastation of AIDS in Africa where the Catholic church continues to try to shame people out of using condoms.

    • Steve Schuler

      Without dissecting your comment and pointing out several incorrect assumptions and presumptions that you made pertaining to my thoughts and perspective, may I ask you a hypothetical question?

      If you had a lover who, despite having presented you with the prerequsite clean bill of health, through liaisons outside of your mutually agreed upon sexually monogamous relationship managed to contract HIV and subsequently infect you with the virus then rethink your position on the possible immorality of promiscuity?

    • Dalillama

      @steve

      No, I would continue to hold the same moral position that I currently do regarding harmful deceit, which is the problem in the hypothetical above. Promiscuity has no bearing on that situation.

    • Steve Schuler

      Maybe so, Dalillama, but as I consider that scenario it seems to me that the harmful deceit is at least concurrent with an act promiscuous in nature and I am not able to draw a clear distinction between the two.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      Steve — so you can’t distinguish between lying and sex? Seriously? Or does deceit in the company of anything else corrupt? So say I told my partner that I was going to visit my mother when I was in fact going to….Vegas or something. Does that make visiting my mother or going to Vegas immoral acts themselves? Nonsense. The lie was immoral.

      If you can’t distinguish between “having sex” and “recklessly endangering one’s sexual partner through falsehoods” that’s a serious problem, but I don’t think it indicates that promiscuity is immoral.

    • http://marniemaclean.com Marnie

      If you had a lover who, despite having presented you with the prerequsite clean bill of health, through liaisons outside of your mutually agreed upon sexually monogamous relationship managed to contract HIV and subsequently infect you with the virus then rethink your position on the possible immorality of promiscuity?

      So you have a committed monogamous spouse and you agree on a budget for your very tight finances and he or she goes out and buys and unnecessary and expensive new clothes behind your back and you don’t find out until the bank starts sending notice that your house will be foreclosed upon. Does it stand to reason that spending money is immoral? The immoral part is the lying and deceit, both in your example and mine.

    • Steve Schuler

      Marnie, Dali, and Nick,

      I’ve been looking over your responses for a few minutes and I have got to admit that I am stumped. I have not been trying to think of counter arguments to your responses to my hypothetical scenario, rather I have been trying to understand your perspectives and I am failing to do so. I am not trying to be willfully or deliberately obtuse and it’s a bit frustrating for me to not be able to understand something that seems so readily apparent to you all.

      Well, sex, sexual relationships, and sexual morality have a very long history of being very problematic for humanity and it doesn’t seem like there is any immediate reprieve on the horizon. I’ll keep thinking on it and who knows, maybe I’ll become an advocate for promiscuity in the end, but somehow I doubt it.

  • StevoR

    What has no one mentioned the Slutwalk event yet?

    Or the idea of “reclaiming” a word and taking it back turning a demeaning term into a positive one?

    CONTEXT is something I think needs to be carefully considered and taken into account here.

    Using “slut” as a term of abuse and name-calling against someone is, I think, objectionable and wrong and to be avoided.

    But using “slut” positively or applying the term to oneself as opposed to others is, I think, possible even good in some circumstances and contexts and so, as with a whole lot of things I’d say the answer is, it depends.

    But maybe I’m wrong? It’s certain a word I would be careful about using and NOT just throw out there as an insult.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      My first comment in this thread didn’t mention slutwalk, but certainly was about claiming the word.

    • DK

      Slutwalk was less about reclaiming the word and more about shining the light on what rape victims look like. Other aspects came out as well, but that was essentially the point.

  • StevoR

    See :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SlutWalk

    for those few who haven’t heard of that SlutWalk event.

  • frankboyd

    And I’m absolutely sure everyone, ah-say, EVERYONE here was ab-so-lutely up in ARMS over things like the following?

    Or about all the rest of it?

    I don’t like Palin one little bit, but I like still less the spectacle of turning her and her daughters into objects of sexual disgust.

    http://thesaurus.com/browse/humbug

    Use the word slut and you’ve tried to bully others into adopting your values or submitting to them

    Well, I do hope that nothing like that ever happens here! I mean, it’d be just awful if people around here were, say, trying to – *gasp!* – impose their values! Let alone in a bullying way! Whatever shall we do?

    Jesus, one loudmouth shock-jock makes a comment and everyone is reduced to indignant jellies. Grow some spines, would you?

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    I’ve been dealing with a similar issue on my blog. (With a little help from Sally Strange.)

    Part 1
    Part 2

    I can certainly think of some sexual behaviors I find immoral. (The aforementioned failing to tell partners about STDs, for instance.) The right way to point this out is to call out specific behaviors (either in the abstract or things people have actually done) and explain what social harm they cause. What isn’t OK is trying to define people by their behavior and shame them that way. Poking your nose into people’s business about behaviors that don’t hurt anyone isn’t OK either. You have to weigh the harm your approach will take against the harm of the behavior. If their behavior is harmless, then there is no moral justification to shame them about it as the shame is harmful. Frequently, it’s very harmful as anyone who’s listened to women talk much can attest.

    • http://eulercycle.wordpress.com nick euler

      I can certainly think of some sexual behaviors I find immoral. (The aforementioned failing to tell partners about STDs, for instance.)

      I know this wasn’t your major point, Ace of Stevens, but I just want to reiterate that, imo, failing to tell partners about STDs isn’t a sexual behavior. It is dishonesty, reckless endangerment, manipulation, any number of things…..but it isn’t a sexual behavior, despite occurring in the vicinity of a sexual activity. It is unethical because it is exposing someone unknowingly to a risk and lying about it.

  • Vicki

    We’re talking about VS, whose approach to everything is a Gish Gallop, and who admits that he makes assertions he doesn’t believe. He doesn’t say why, but I’m guessing it’s because he wants the attention (which he is absolutely getting here). Most recently, or at least most recently that I saw, at ScienceBlogs yesterday, in his usual “just ambiguous enough that he can use another two paragraphs to claim that’s not what he meant if called on it” way:

    That being said, I’m an agnostic theist in the strongest possible sense of agnostic, which means that I actually do deny that such a thing is possible. But then I can and feel it my obligation to argue for that as well).

    The question is—for the rest of us, more than for the one who cannot or will not take the time to write anything brief—whether there is anything to gain from arguing with a man who both defends insults and admits that he will post arguments he disagrees with. Not as “here’s what X person posted, and why I disagree with them” but as if he takes them seriously. At the very least, I’d say someone that verbose owes their readers the basic courtesy of saying “Here is something other people claim, which I disagree with” at the beginning of the post, rather than sitting there getting them angry first.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      I just love these attempts to use other comments to somehow say something about my arguments that rather conveniently leave out the actual context. Here’s the full context:

      There must be some empirical evidence that would be inconsistent with the concept based on a mismatch between what the book says and what reality says, or you’re making an omphalos argument.

      But whether any specific empirical evidence is inconsistent, and how to resolve that inconsistency, is something that needs to be argued about, and in my mind that’s what you refuse to do when you declare inconsistency and refuse to consider conceptual responses.

      (That being said, I’m an agnostic theist in the strongest possible sense of agnostic, which means that I actually do deny that such a thing is possible. But then I can and feel it my obligation to argue for that as well).

      The first answer is basically that you have to argue over whether any specific instance of empirical evidence is inconsistent or not. The second is full disclosure that I personally believe that that could never happen, but of course that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t be convinced with the right information. So what’s the problem there? Isn’t this just expressing two ideas that I actually hold?

      The question is—for the rest of us, more than for the one who cannot or will not take the time to write anything brief—whether there is anything to gain from arguing with a man who both defends insults and admits that he will post arguments he disagrees with.

      I don’t defend insults as insults per se. I’m pointing out what I see as an inconsistency in the arguments of a lot of people, which is that insults are okay when they are aimed at people you disagree with and are not okay when aimed at people you agree with. If we can agree that insults are, in general, not acceptable then none of this would have happened. I’d prefer there to be no insults at all but that’s not the argument I’m going to make here, and that has been a rather fruitless argument in the past in my experience.

      At the very least, I’d say someone that verbose owes their readers the basic courtesy of saying “Here is something other people claim, which I disagree with” at the beginning of the post, rather than sitting there getting them angry first.

      Why is your getting angry my problem? I expressed the view I was talking about, which is whether or not it was ever acceptable or how I should go about expressing derision for promiscuity. I was quite precise on what sort of counters would not work and why (mostly because they’d move up to a general complaint and I took the post as being a specific one). The “I” seems to have confused everyone, and that might be a stylistic device that I should stop using. Though I doubt it will help.

      Why is it acceptable that your first response is angry rebuttal instead of a call to see what I really mean, or an argument that sticks precisely to what I said and doesn’t read in positions that my words sometimes entail but don’t always entail? Seems to me that if you are going to do that you should be prepared to say “Sorry” when the person you’re talking to points out that that isn’t what they hold or are saying.

  • Daniel Schealler

    @Steve Schuler

    Hope you don’t mind – wanted to drop down here out of the main thread, as I think our conversation is becoming a tangent to the line of discussion above.

    In my teens and early twenties I think it would be fair to say that, largely in an unthinking way, I was a proponent of promiscuity. I mean, why not? Over time and through my own experiences and the observation of the experiences of those around me, I began to shift towards a more conventional sense of sexual morality in which sexual promiscuity was not regarded as quite the harmless practice that I once had thought that it was.

    Compare that to your original post at 21. In 21 you provide something that looks like an argument: Promiscuity had bad consequences (example, example), therefore promiscuity is bad.

    However, this more recent comment at 21.14. reads differently to me. It’s not structured as an argument – more as a rehearsal of your position.

    Which in a sense is fine, if that’s all you were ever interested in doing.

    But please do allow for the counter-opinion of myself and others like me.

    In two parts:

    1) I think that promiscuity is a morally neutral practice. I think that any benefit or harm that could be superficially attributed to promiscuity will turn out, after deeper analysis, to be attributable to something else that accompanied the promiscuity.

    2) I think that the widespread cultural taboo against promiscuity is morally unjustified. It follows from this that the taboo itself inflicts preventable and unnecessary harm on the part of those who are promiscuous. Best case is social penalties exacted on the promiscuous or those perceived to be promiscuous. Worst case is outright discrimination, oppression and violence.

    While I don’t expect that you yourself are guilty of any of the worst case scenarios, I do think that your opinion on the matter is a part of the overall cultural taboo on promiscuity. Given that I think that this taboo is a bad thing, I should and do oppose it and therefore your opinion in the strongest possible terms.

    Note that this isn’t an argument either. It reads a little bit like one, there’s a certain logic to it. But there’s no real justification for a lot of what I’ve said. It’s a rehearsal of my position, not a justification for it. I think I’ve done a decent job at outlining my justification for my opinion above in earlier responses to you, so I don’t feel that I should need to repeat myself here.

    So you’ve stated your opinion on promiscuity.

    I’ve stated my opinion that your opinion on promiscuity is both unjustified and pointlessly harmful to others.

    I hope that I could change your mind through argument. But as we all know that rarely works. At least, not straight away. ^_^

    Perhaps you might hope to change my mind as well. I’m happy to open myself to that discussion and expose my views for critique. If a logically valid argument is presented with true premises that leads to a conclusion that is contrary to my views, then I will be happy to update my position accordingly.

    Are you willing to open yourself to criticism in the same way?

    It’s alright if the answer is ‘no’ – I don’t want to force you into anything.

    However, if the answer is ‘no’ then at the very least I’d like to prompt you to reconsider. Our opinions are directly opposed. If you think your own opinion should be valued and respected for its own sake, then you should be prepared to extend the same standard to my contrary opinion and reflect on it seriously.

    If on the other hand you believe – as I do – that no opinion should be valued and respected unless it can back itself up with a strong argument of justification, then you might want to reconsider the critiques we have presented of your position here. Reflect a bit on why it is that the justifications for your position that you have presented thus far have failed under the lens of our scrutiny so very badly.

    I’d like to carry the conversation further – if, that is, you’re interested into using logical reasoning to investigate each of our ideas with the purpose of discovering the most justified (perhaps even ‘true’) position on the subject of promiscuity.

    If you’re not interested in that however, then there is little more for us to say to one another that won’t just be a rehearsal of our opinions. We’ve done that already. There’s little point in repetition.

    It’s up to you where our conversation goes from here on in.

    • Steve Schuler

      Daniel Schealler,

      I very much appreciate this intelligent and very insightful note to me. I have just now made it to the bottom of this comments thread to read it, having wrapped up, I think, my conversation with Marnie as I simply was not understanding her well enough to continue the conversation and was unable to meet her requests from me.

      The two points that you enumerated above were a welcome sight to my eyes (mind) as I was aware that I was not grasping and understanding something very fundamental in Marina’s writing and had a vague sense that it had something to do with the notion of “promiscuity is a morally neutral practice” which had not really been made explicit, or I had simply missed it. Additionally recognizing my own position as essentially being based in a “widespread cultural taboo against promiscuity” is, I think, a very valid observation on your part and certainly provides no substantial basis for a rationally held position on my part.

      I think that it should be very apparent to you that I am in no position, either intellectually nor informationally, to engage with you in an intelligent and coherent conversation. My own thinking is too muddled on this issue to really offer much in the way of a meaningful exchange with you, as has become somewhat painfully clear to me over the course of this entire conversation. I do very much appreciate your generous offer to discuss this matter with me, and please do not take my bowing out as evidence that I would prefer to remain steadfast holding an untenable position than to have it challenged and upset, as I can assure you that is not the case.

      I am sure that I will be giving all of this more thought over time and would like to thank you for your contribution to my understanding.

      Peace

      Steve

    • Steve Schuler

      However, if you could direct me to any online resources to explore this matter more deeply I would appreciiate that very much.

      I know that Dan Fincke wrote one of his ‘dialogues’ not too long ago dealing with promiscuity and I should review it as perhaps I read it with too prejudiced an eye initially and might get more out of it now.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’ve been avoiding bringing up my dialogues on promiscuity as they are much more thought experiments that go way beyond defending promiscuity to tentatively exploring a radical extreme of it. It’s claims are more ambitious than the bar promiscuity itself needs to meet. Plus, it brackets the disease issues which are front and center in your mind, Steve. It’s more concerned with questioning the worth of jealousy and exploring the value of multiple relationships and experiences.

      So with those caveats in mind, here is the link to the first of those two posts (or three, depending on what you count as part of that series).

  • smrnda

    First off Verbose Stoic, if someone was to call a behavior immoral that I saw no intrinsic harm in, I would be calling them out on it just as I’m calling you out on criticizing people for being ‘promiscuous’ which I put in quotes because I find its a meaningless term.

    You stated that pleasure has no intrinsic value. So, could you please define ‘pleasure’ for me? I mean, not having a knife in my back is pleasurable, or at least not painful. Eating food that tastes good is better than not.

    Your problem with this intrinsic or instrumental view of value is that it’s still totally subjective. I mean, reading a book on chess strategy could be said to have instrumental value in that it would make me a better chess player, but does chess have intrinsic value? I would argue that there is no way to truly prove that an activity has no intrinsic value – it’s always a personal opinion founded on personal preference and zero else.

    Using money as an example wasn’t a very good choice. Money is useful only insofar as it’s a medium of exchange for something else, but in and of itself it can provide a great deal of security to the person who has it, so there is no way to argue that it has no instrumental value. It always has the value of providing future financial security.

    What you really seem to be saying is that you feel that sexual pleasure has no intrinsic value, and that you think others shouldn’t either. I think that’s excessive in that you’re basically saying that if you see no value in something, nobody else can. I think you really just have human sexuality and feel that somehow you’re better than people who enjoy it. Or are you one of those people who thinks that sex should be only done for procreation with the minimal amount of enjoyment possible?

    Just to inject something personal, I myself engage in zero (no) sexual behaviors, but I sure don’t go around criticizing people who do because they happen to enjoy something that I don’t. If something brings joy to someone, and it isn’t harmful, then I’d say go to it to anyone.

    And verbose stoic, this is an outright lie:

    “And I will use the standard rejoinder that despite what I may feel about Limbaugh, I will not let his association with this stop me from pointing out that you are attempting to impose values on others in a more polite but nevertheless just as privileged and bullying way, and that you are just as dismissive of those who are different as he is. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

    First off, nobody is trying to impose their values on you. If you see no value to sex, fine, don’t do it. I don’t demand that you enjoy sex, go out and have it, or anything else. Just mind your own business, and other people’s sexual choices are not your business. I see no justification for criticizing people for doing things that cause no harm.

    Also, on this:

    “Again, so you say. I and others disagree. I think that the outcomes do not, in fact, determine anything about morality at all, but that it is the principles that are good and the results are only secondary.”

    Name me a principle and tell me why it is good. Any assertion of value needs to be backed up by a reason. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of arbitrary rules pulled out of thin air.

    You clearly have an opinion that enjoying sex is bad. So could you please give me a persuasive reason why it is bad? Why should a person hold sexual pleasure in disdain? If your whole deal is that you have a position that we’re trying to push out of the marketplace of ideas, do your best and build a case, but if you can’t do more than just say “well it’s bad because I see no intrinsic value in it” then you have no case, just a personal taste that you’re trying to elevate to a universal principle.

    Go on, I’m waiting…

    • smrnda

      Correction – it should say “you hate human sexuality” not “you have human sexuality”

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      You stated that pleasure has no intrinsic value. So, could you please define ‘pleasure’ for me? I mean, not having a knife in my back is pleasurable, or at least not painful. Eating food that tastes good is better than not.

      Sounds like we’re pretty much on the same page here with respect to what “pleasure” means. Note that I will admit that claiming that pleasure does not have intrinsic value is controversial and the subject of much philosophical wrangling. That aside was there simply to point out that it’s hard to find good examples because I, personally, can’t simply appeal to pleasure as the thing that grants intrinsic value.

      Your problem with this intrinsic or instrumental view of value is that it’s still totally subjective. I mean, reading a book on chess strategy could be said to have instrumental value in that it would make me a better chess player, but does chess have intrinsic value? I would argue that there is no way to truly prove that an activity has no intrinsic value – it’s always a personal opinion founded on personal preference and zero else.

      Well, your argument seems to be nothing more than “I can’t see how you’d settle this”, and there’s a ton of philosophical work that argues about how to do it. The simplest way is to ask “Why do you value chess?”. And immediately you will start providing instrumental explanations. You play chess because it’s fun. You play chess to develiop your mind. You play chess for the social aspect (we really should be at ScienceBlogs for this one [grin]). But would seem very odd for someone to say that they value playing chess just because it’s playing chess. We always think that there should be a REASON to value playing chess beyond just doing it. On that line, then, it’s reasonable to say that playing chess only has instrumental value, and not intrinsic value. This isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, but it’s a decent starting point. I’d argue that money and sex fit into this category as well. Pleasure is more complicated because it fails this quick test; we do seem to think it reasonable to say that you value pleasure because it’s pleasure. More on that later.

      Using money as an example wasn’t a very good choice. Money is useful only insofar as it’s a medium of exchange for something else, but in and of itself it can provide a great deal of security to the person who has it, so there is no way to argue that it has no instrumental value. It always has the value of providing future financial security.

      Well, that example also wasn’t my choice; that was Marnie’s example. But I’ll presume you mean “there is no way to argue that it [money] has no intrinsic value”, and not that your security example is, in fact, a claim that money has instrumental value. Having money has instrumental value as a medium of exchange, but also for providing a feeling of security AND, in some cases, as providing actual security for that person. But in all of these cases, all you are saying is that money has value because it can provide something else that you find valuable. That’s all instrumental value, and none of that is intrinsic; money is getting its value here entirely from what else it can provide that is valuable.

      What you really seem to be saying is that you feel that sexual pleasure has no intrinsic value, and that you think others shouldn’t either. I think that’s excessive in that you’re basically saying that if you see no value in something, nobody else can. I think you really just have human sexuality and feel that somehow you’re better than people who enjoy it. Or are you one of those people who thinks that sex should be only done for procreation with the minimal amount of enjoyment possible?

      You’ve made the same mistake Marnie did, but unlike her you ran it down a cliff and built it up into a painstakingly constructed strawman. Like her, you drop the one really important word, which is intrinsic when you argue that “If you see no value in something, no one else can.” I, of course, never said that all. I even argued that sex DOES have value, just not intrinsic value. I also argued that people can indeed have differing levels of value for all the things that I claim don’t have intrinsic value without my in any way objecting or criticizing. You run that forward into insisting that I hate human sexuality and think that I’m better than people who enjoy sex, which would be a rather odd claim since I would be one of them. You then try to attach it to a claim that it should only be done for procreation which I’ve never claimed. At the end of all of this, you’ve produced a lovely rant against things that not only do I NOT believe, but that can’t reasonably be produced from what I actually said. You are clearly, here, arguing against people who are not me, and all I can say to that is that if you want to argue against them then I’ll just step aside and let you do so. But if you want to argue against ME, then we can talk.

      First off, nobody is trying to impose their values on you. If you see no value to sex, fine, don’t do it. I don’t demand that you enjoy sex, go out and have it, or anything else. Just mind your own business, and other people’s sexual choices are not your business. I see no justification for criticizing people for doing things that cause no harm.

      By this logic, I’m not trying to impose my values on anyone else either. Remember, all I wanted to do was be able to express my values. Note that where I said this Robert was insisting that my expressing that sort of idea was wrong because the idea was wrong according to his values, linking it directly to being misogynistic and not understanding moral morality. Dan commented that it says something about your character if you express the idea. You are asking me to “mind my own business” because you hold the value that you can only criticize things that cause no harm, and argued that somehow I must hate sexuality and be trying to make myself feel superior by talking about it. All of these things are, in my mind, more polite ways to try to shame me into dropping my values and accepting yours, or at least not expressing my values when they might be relevant to a discussion. I’ve been far more circumspect than anyone in this thread about this, and yet I’ve been accused of trying to impose values on people. So, then, how is it that what I do is imposing values and what you’re doing isn’t? Since in at least some cases we’re both disapproving strongly of each other’s values, how is it that my disapproval would be imposition and yours not? Now, if you say that it is okay for me TO disapprove in the same way you do, then there’d be nothing to disagree about.

      Name me a principle and tell me why it is good. Any assertion of value needs to be backed up by a reason. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of arbitrary rules pulled out of thin air.

      Of course they have to be justified. But note, again, my distinction here is about intrinsic versus non-intrinsic value. So we need to define how we can tell if something has intrinsic value. This is a big problem in philosophy in general. For me, I would start from morality and right now am leaning towards starting from agency, in the sense that I have to be allowed to make my own moral decisions. From there, honesty is a principle of intrinsic moral value because it allows people to make their choices appropriately. You can argue that this makes it instrumental in the same way that I argue that money is instrumental, but I counter that in this case this is following from the definition: honesty has intrinsic moral value because it meets the definition of moral, not because it provides morality. A lot more needs to be worked out here, and this is a deep question. You can certainly disagree with me on any number of points, but that does not make them arbitrary.

      You clearly have an opinion that enjoying sex is bad. So could you please give me a persuasive reason why it is bad? Why should a person hold sexual pleasure in disdain?

      Since I don’t hold that opinion, I clearly can’t give you such reasons. Again, if you want to argue with someone else, just let me know and I’ll get out of the way.

      If your whole deal is that you have a position that we’re trying to push out of the marketplace of ideas, do your best and build a case, but if you can’t do more than just say “well it’s bad because I see no intrinsic value in it” then you have no case, just a personal taste that you’re trying to elevate to a universal principle.

      Well, while you’re waiting, you might want to go re-read what I said and figure out what my position actually is, because it ain’t the one you’ve expressed here.

  • smrnda

    Wow, your name really says it…

    Okay, so here is a statement you just made:

    “”"
    Of course they have to be justified. But note, again, my distinction here is about intrinsic versus non-intrinsic value. So we need to define how we can tell if something has intrinsic value. This is a big problem in philosophy in general. For me, I would start from morality and right now am leaning towards starting from agency, in the sense that I have to be allowed to make my own moral decisions.
    “”"

    I have never tried to make your moral decisions. I told you before that I totally support your decision to not engage in any behaviors that you deem to have no intrinsic value.

    The problem is you seem to argue that there exists some objective standard for assessing intrinsic value, and that pleasure fails to meet this standard, but yet you fail to provide one persuasive reason why your standards should be accepted by anyone. Your arguments on how chess has some value could be as easily applied to sexuality. Sex has instrumental value in that it produces happiness and enjoyment. If you say that happiness or enjoyment have no intrinsic value, then it’s like saying that feeling good is no better than being miserable.

    I just think the whole “intrinsic” versus “instrumental” value is vague and meaningless distinction as you’re phrasing it.

    Also this:

    “I also argued that people can indeed have differing levels of value for all the things that I claim don’t have intrinsic value without my in any way objecting or criticizing”

    So if you can accept that people have different levels of value for sex, which you see no intrinsic value in, then why do you feel the need to criticize people placing a value on sex?

    On one hand, you criticize people for placing too much value on sex. You say it has no intrinsic value. When I call you on that you argue that I’m criticizing a view you haven’t expressed.

    If people should not be having sex, why shouldn’t they be? You haven’t given any reason.

    And this:

    “Of course they have to be justified. But note, again, my distinction here is about intrinsic versus non-intrinsic value. So we need to define how we can tell if something has intrinsic value. This is a big problem in philosophy in general.”

    And I’m sure you’ve got it solved :-) The reason this is a ‘big problem’ is that it’s totally subjective and cannot be solved except by someone arbitrarily arguing that they are right.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Wow, your name really says it…

      And yet, interestingly, our comments are about the same length, especially if you take into account that I quote you more than you quote me …

      I have never tried to make your moral decisions. I told you before that I totally support your decision to not engage in any behaviors that you deem to have no intrinsic value.

      Two things:

      First, that was not what I was going after here. This was that definition of how to figure out “intrinsic” that you were asking for, and keep asking for.

      Second, you keep going on and on about this line about my not doing or valuing things that have no intrinsic value, and I keep denying that that is my position. You clearly do not seem to be grasping what my position is.

      I just think the whole “intrinsic” versus “instrumental” value is vague and meaningless distinction as you’re phrasing it.

      I don’t think that’s vague or meaningless at all; it’s straightforward and a basic distinction in philosophy. What I think is causing the problem is how I’m using intrinsic wrt pleasure, so let me go about it another way by drawing another distinction that I have made in the past but which isn’t done in these debates normally, which is to disinguish between “intrinsic value” per se and “intrinsic moral” value. So, intrinsic means that it has value in and of itself, and instrumental means it has value only as a means to something else that is valued. Note that this doesn’t mean that the instrumental value that a thing has can’t be directly aimed at something else that also only has instrumental value (you seem to be assuming that, which was never my contention). So, we can see that in the cases of chess, money, and sex they only have value as a means to other things that have value, and that some of those things also only have instrumental value.

      So what about pleasure? Well, by making the distinction I can concede that pleasure has intrinsic value, but deny that it has intrinsic moral value, which means that when we are considering it in light of morality its value is instrumental at best, or that it is completely neutral morally at worst. The argument from that starts from this question:

      If someone did something that was considered immoral, could that be excused if they answered that it gave them pleasure? Would that it gave them pleasure count towards the moral value of the action? So, consider if someone, say, committed rape but said that it gave them pleasure. We’d surely consider that it giving them pleasure in no way impacts the immorality of rape, and would also surely argue that even if the victim felt some pleasure that it wouldn’t impact it either. And as we go through more and more examples we’d see the same thing: pleasure doesn’t seem to add to the moral impact at all. In more philosophical terms, we’d have to consider that something at least properly pleasureable couldn’t possibly be considered immoral; it would be a contradiction in terms. But in general that’s not the case; it’s easy to think of examples where you could have maximum pleasure and at the same time maximum immorality. Therefore, pleasure at least does not have a positive intrinsic moral value, and in my mind it in and of itself has NO moral value, positive or negative.

      Note that Utilitarians — and you, probably — would work around this by appealing to the total happiness, or to avoiding harm. But ultimately the problem with hedonistic moral views — in the philosophical sense — is that you end up having to claim that pleasure and pain in and of themselves have intrinsic moral value and pretty much nothing else does, which means you run into the standard and intuitive idea that you should not do immoral things even if they give you pleasure and should do moral things even if they give you pain. It’s awkward to maintain the idea that you can’t conceive of real cases where the moral thing might increase suffering and the immoral thing might increase happiness, since we have so many examples of them. But this does not rule out those philosophies, but this is enough for me to decide that I think they’re terribly misguided.

      So if you can accept that people have different levels of value for sex, which you see no intrinsic value in, then why do you feel the need to criticize people placing a value on sex?

      On one hand, you criticize people for placing too much value on sex. You say it has no intrinsic value. When I call you on that you argue that I’m criticizing a view you haven’t expressed.

      If people should not be having sex, why shouldn’t they be? You haven’t given any reason.

      Let me recast this with the “intrinsic moral value” qualifier. I disagree and would criticize people thinking that sex has intrinsic moral value, because it is morally neutral (that, remember, is what I mean by indifferent). So I would argue that you should never put having sex above being moral. And you will note that pretty much everyone here agrees that there are cases where it is immoral to have sex, so seen in this light the only disagreement is over what those cases are. And you will find that I’m far closer to your side than you think if we ever went over all of these. Or, at least, I hope that’s what we’ll find.

  • smrnda

    If you play chess because it is ‘fun’ is okay, then why isn’t it okay to have sex because it is fun?

    Everybody I know who has sex says that it’s fun, or at least most of the time.

    Let me get a clarification from you – should people who are ‘promiscuous’ by your standards stop having sex, and if so, why? What reason would you give someone to stop doing something they think is fun? If you’re going to argue that it’s ‘pleasure’ and not ‘fun,’ i would have to state that any distinction between those words is totally arbitrary.

    My take is that there is no grounds for criticizing any behavior that causes no harm, at least not one that you can build a logical case for.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Let me get a clarification from you – should people who are ‘promiscuous’ by your standards stop having sex, and if so, why? What reason would you give someone to stop doing something they think is fun? If you’re going to argue that it’s ‘pleasure’ and not ‘fun,’ i would have to state that any distinction between those words is totally arbitrary.

      Well, recall my translation of “promiscuous” to “places too much value on sex” which translates to “thinks of it as having intrinsic moral value”. With that definition, someone who is promiscuous should stop having sex or at least get the right value for it because they’re risking being immoral. If, on the other hand, you mean “promiscuous” as “has lots of sex”, then the answer is not necessarily.

      So I might not find the lifestyle of someone who goes out and seeks sex every chance they get as being for me, and might even be able to point out that it isn’t ideal due to various risks — especially if a significant amount of the time it’s unprotected sex — I wouldn’t say that they should necessarily stop. However, someone like the person who continued having sex after contracting AIDS is indeed one that I would say should stop having sex.

  • smrnda

    Also, the difference between my disapproval of you and your disapproval of others.

    I don’t tell you what sexual choices to make. I don’t judge you for whatever choices that you make there. I view them as your business.

    There are a number of sexual practices that I find personally kind of gross, but I don’t judge people who do them.

    But you are actually judging people who make choices that you do not like without providing any reason why they should make other choices. You’ve only appealed to standards which, though you say they are no ‘arbitrary’, you can provide no persuasive reason why they should be accepted.

  • smrnda

    “Honestly has the intrinsic value of moral because it meets the definition of moral.”

    That is what it called a circular definition, unless you provide a definition.

    And this:

    ” For me, I would start from morality and right now am leaning towards starting from agency, in the sense that I have to be allowed to make my own moral decisions”

    This is pure convoluted rubbish. Could you please refrain from the philosophical buzzwords and just speak plain English? One of the reasons why I have trouble following your statements is that they do not make a whole lot of sense.

  • smrnda

    Verbose Stoic,

    I could probably sum up my disagreement with your premises in that you are arguing that there can exist some objective measure of intrinsic value, or that there can exist a clear distinction between intrinsic or instrumental value, and I think both claims are nonsense.

    If you want to say that ‘pleasure has no intrinsic value’ you would need to define pleasure, which you seem to admit cannot be done clearly. You also fail to present any system for determining what has intrinsic value and agree that it’s a “big problem.” You do present an explanation of what you are doing, but the words you use are vague and unclear, and you provide no persuasive reason why your approach is correct – you just describe it.

    So what I would say is that it’s obvious that it is a ‘big problem’ since it’s a meaningless question; it’s pretending that there exist objective standards of ‘intrinsic value’ when none really exist, because any words used in the discussion have subjective meanings. “Fun” is subjective. “Enhances social life” is subjective. Does life have intrinsic value? Some people I know say no but they do go on living because they find that what matters is if life has meaning to them.

  • nemothederv

    I’m wondering if you might be missing the point Verbose.
    Rush Limbaugh called someone a slut and a prostitute with out any substantiation.

    The only thing this asshole knows is that Sandra supports the availability of birth control. He does not know anything about her sex life nor how she might be earning money.
    Further, he claimed that any women who would use contraception would also be a slut.

    This is called slander.
    This is called blanket debasing of an entire gender.
    This is called trying to set ridiculous standards for, not just single women, but for everyone on the entire planet.
    On top of that, this is called acting like an expert while having complete and total ignorance as to how hormonal birth control actually works.

    Whether or not the word slut should be used or if being a slut should be considered a bad thing is at the very bottom of a long list of issues that Rush’s behavior brings up for me.

    As for if and when calling a woman a slut is appropriate/acceptable, I have no idea. Personally, I only call my wife a slut and that’s in more private moments. She seems to like it.

    • StevoR

      Well said & seconded by me, nemothederv.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      What are you doing with nemothoderv’s wife there, StevoR? ;)

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      ’m wondering if you might be missing the point Verbose.
      Rush Limbaugh called someone a slut and a prostitute with out any substantiation.

      The only thing this asshole knows is that Sandra supports the availability of birth control. He does not know anything about her sex life nor how she might be earning money.
      Further, he claimed that any women who would use contraception would also be a slut.

      This is called slander.
      This is called blanket debasing of an entire gender.
      This is called trying to set ridiculous standards for, not just single women, but for everyone on the entire planet.
      On top of that, this is called acting like an expert while having complete and total ignorance as to how hormonal birth control actually works.

      As I have said a number of times in the comments, if those were the objections that Dan was making, then we wouldn’t be disagreeing. Of your four objections right above, only the third one is one that I’d have any disagreement with, at least as it being taken as a sign of a lack of moral character for the person or the argument, because it’s something that’s debatable and can be argued for an against in a number of ways.

      My focus, recall, was all about expressing derision for promiscuity, and to me Dan’s response was that you were immoral for doing that because the idea was just wrong and his view that promiscuity — whatever that means — could never be a valid target for derision was just right. But since his opponents think the same thing about him and his views, where does that leave us?

      Personally, I don’t use the word “slut”. That was why I focused so much on the idea and less on the actual word, asking for another word to express that idea.