The Catholic Church Answers Your Sex Questions

Gather round, readers! I’ve got a real treat in store for you, because today the Roman Catholic Church is going to answer all your questions on dating and sex. Yes, that’s right – if you’ve ever wanted your raunchiest, most explicit questions about human intimacy answered in full, uncensored detail by a group of elderly white men who are also lifelong celibates, today is the day you’ve been waiting for.

First of all, a reader writes in with this dilemma:

When pregnant, I have am prone to receiving a type of bacterial infection that can cause pre-term labor, and my first child was born several weeks early because of it.

During my second pregnancy, I read that many doctors recommend the use of condoms during pregnancy to try and reduce the transition of the bacteria… I solicited opinions on a Catholic e-mail list as to whether or not the use of condoms during pregnancy under these conditions would be licit. I assumed that it would be. If I’m already pregnant, I am obviously not trying to contracept, right?

Well, reader, of course you can! I mean, obviously the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy is a grave sin in the eyes of God, but since you’re already pregnant, you can’t conceive again whether you use one or not. And since your intention is to prevent harm to your fetus, a laudable desire considering the church’s protect-the-unborn-at-any-cost attitude, surely a condom couldn’t be impermissible under those circumstances. This is just an obvious implication of the church’s teachings on… wait, what?

First, Catholic moral theology holds that the marital act includes both a unitive and a procreative aspect and that neither of these may be deliberately frustrated… The unitive aspect involves more than just the spouses giving each other the experience of sexual release. That could be accomplished any number of ways that would not be open to procreation. For the spouses to truly be united in marital congress that is open to procreation, at least some insemination must occur. Without insemination, one does not have a completed marital act.

…For this reason, even when a condom is not being used to prevent procreation, it could not be used on the grounds that it prevents the spouses from being united in marital congress.

Ah, of course. You see, I forgot something very important: the Catholic belief in Sperm Magic. Regardless of your intent, if you do anything during sex that prevents sperm from entering a vagina, you make Jesus angry (and you wouldn’t like Jesus when he’s angry). But never fear, folks, this writer has the perfect Catholic solution:

While it is necessary for some insemination to occur in order for the marital act to be completed, it does not appear that there is any set amount of insemination that must occur. Some orthodox Catholic moralists… have thus proposed the possibility of using a perforated condom that would allow some but not all of the seminal fluid to be transmitted.

Ha ha ha, perforated condoms!? You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s like a religion that believes driving is sinful but allows it as long as your car has a hole in the gas tank! But surely this is just one kook’s ridiculous notion, there can’t possibly be a whole community of Catholics who oh come on you can’t be serious:

The only morally acceptable way to collect a semen sample for analysis is for the man to don a perforated condom and make love to his wife. The perforated condom will allow some semen to escape, making conception possible, while retaining enough for analysis.

The logic here boggles my mind. If using condoms is morally wrong because it’s a violation of God’s plan for your marriage, how is it any different to seek medical tests and fertility treatments if you’re having problems conceiving? Wouldn’t that also be an attempt to subvert the plan God put in motion by making you infertile in the first place? (Note, the Vatican does declare IVF off-limits to Catholics, so clearly they accept this reasoning in at least some cases.)

The Catholic acceptance of perforated condoms is like the Islamic practice of “temporary marriage” – a logical contortion to get around a problem they created for themselves in the first place. The church believes that sex has both a “unitive” and a “procreative” purpose, and that’s fine, I agree with that. But what’s bizarre and arbitrary is the church’s insistence that both those functions must be served in every sex act, and any kind of sex that has one without the other is sinful. This is like saying, “The purpose of your eyesight is both to let you take in beautiful sights and also to help you find your way around. Therefore, it’s wrong to look at a painting, because you’re using your eyes just for pleasure and neglecting the navigational function of your vision.” (The “Catholic” solution, one presumes, would be to only look at actual beautiful landscapes and not mere reproductions.)

One last question for today, and this one, unlike the others, filled me more with pity than with amusement:

The other night… we were lying in bed after the kids were down and started to cuddle. The cuddling got pretty active and one thing led to another and I ‘went off’ (as we like to put it). I wasn’t trying to make it happen, but I didn’t really try and stop it either. I am familiar with Onanism and I am not sure if this situation qualifies. I know Onanism is wrong, so if what happened was that, then I would be in a state of mortal sin. But I don’t know if it is Onanism if it happens in the context of a husband and wife showing affection.

Like the Christian believer Contraskeptic, to whom I wrote a letter of advice a few years ago, this is a case of a well-meaning person hogtied by irrational rules, made to feel guilt, shame and fear for no good reason at all. And the other commenters in the thread didn’t help:

All forms of masturbation are inherently, mortally sinful, even within the context of marriage… you need to go to confession. Today.

When people say that religion gives them peace and happiness that atheism never can, I want to point them to stories like these. This is how so many theists decide what’s permitted and what’s forbidden when it comes to sex: not by judging whether it causes harm to any other human being, whether it fosters love and intimacy in their marriage, or whether it gives them pleasure and happiness, but by consulting a book of superstitious rules laid down by clerics. And because these rules are so arbitrary, so unconnected to human needs and desires, it puts them in constant fear of accidentally crossing the line and committing some imaginary transgression.

The Pascal’s Wager logic, which so often assumes that joining a religion is cost-free, hides the fine print: you will end up paying a price, and it may be a lot higher than you think. How can anyone be truly happy in the mental slavery of a religion that layers on the guilt and threats for breaking such absurd laws? And wouldn’t people like this be much happier if they abandoned these superstitious beliefs and instead adopted a rational, humanist alternative sexual ethics?

(HT for this whole post: my wife, the talented and lovely MissCherryPi, whom I didn’t believe when she first told me about the perforated condoms!)

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Ritchie

    “… Therefore, it’s wrong to look at a painting, because you’re using your eyes just for pleasure and neglecting the navigational function of your vision.” (The “Catholic” solution, one presumes, would be to only look at actual beautiful landscapes and not mere reproductions.)”

    Surely the Catholic solution would be to punch holes in the painting so you could see through it and see where you are going at the same time…?

  • http://1in7b.blogspot.com Bechamel

    I think you’re just laughing at people’s sincerely-held beliefs in a last-ditch effort to get Jeremy Stangroom’s attention. :)

  • L.Long

    The article says…’by a group of elderly white men who are also lifelong celibates’…
    And just who makes this claim? I want proof that they never used there main member for sexual activity; I’ve studied church history–THEY LIE!!.
    We do know they use it for their primary thinking tool!
    There is no way that LOL can express the absolute stupid expressed here.
    ‘Temporary marriage’, ‘breast sucking’ for the IsLames and ‘leaking condoms’, ‘Buying your way into heaven’ for the catlicks and then the ‘automatic appliances’ for the jews; it is all LOL hypocrisy!!!
    There are no adequate words to describe this post. Only religion can be this silly!

  • Joe Geiger

    This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever read about.

    I am now on a mission to find and obtain a perforated condom.

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

    Ebonmuse,

    You’re being a bit unfair here. In the first article you cite, it’s clearly stated repeatedly that the perforated condom suggestion is not, in fact, Church policy at any level. From that article, there is no official stance on those questions. And the forum response you cite in no way directly indicates that that person is qualified to pronounce on official policy. Those are all potential suggestions that are seen as being consistent with the moral theology on the subject. If you think that your suggestion is also consistent with the moral theology, then it’s a valid potential answer as well, and from a quick skimming it isn’t clear that your suggestion is to be less preferred than the “perforated condom” suggestion.

    Also:

    “The Pascal’s Wager logic, which so often assumes that joining a religion is cost-free, hides the fine print: you will end up paying a price, and it may be a lot higher than you think. How can anyone be truly happy in the mental slavery of a religion that layers on the guilt and threats for breaking such absurd laws? And wouldn’t people like this be much happier if they abandoned these superstitious beliefs and instead adopted a rational, humanist alternative sexual ethics?”

    I’m not sure it’s a good idea for you to try to decide for others what makes them happy. I certainly think that some of the humanist views are far too permissive and too focused on immediate pleasure than is probably good for people. But any moral system will run into these sorts of dilemmas, so that some of these arise and are not easy to settle by the principles the practitioners accept is not necessarily a count against religious morality.

    With the usual disclaimer that I, personally, don’t simply base morality on religion.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Those are all potential suggestions that are seen as being consistent with the moral theology on the subject.

    I’m tempted to suggest that “consistent[...] moral theology” is an oxymoron. But, that’s exactly ebon’s point re Pascal’s wager. It is the invention and maintenance of a rationally indefensible set of moral rules that makes religion such a burden.

  • Nathaniel

    Ooh, ooh, can I ask a question?

    Tell me holy father, is the sin of having consensual sex with an adult wearing a condemn:

    A. Worse
    B. Equal
    C. Lesser

    than the sin of fucking a child? Thanks so much!

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

    Steve,

    Any moral system — even the humanist one, whatever it is — will have the same sorts of issues, where it isn’t clear what the right answer is, unless it simply says that the right answer is whatever you want to do, which has its own problems. Puzzles like this are talked about and even tested all the time in moral philosophy, so it’s not unique to religion at all.

  • http://www.ceetar.com Ceetar

    question: Would Brandon Davies still be able to play basketball for BYU if he used a ‘full’ condom because he didn’t complete both parts of the sex act and therefore wasn’t in violation of their rules?

  • Nathaniel

    Brandon was at a Mormon school. Different theology.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    This post made me laugh out loud no less than three times. Bravo, bravo.

  • http://www.politicalflavors.com/2011/01/26/some-thoughts-on-the-state-of-the-union-address/ MissCherryPi

    While it is necessary for some insemination to occur in order for the marital act to be completed, it does not appear that there is any set amount of insemination that must occur.

    He’s debating how many sperm can dance on the head of a pin.

  • steve oberski

    And coming soon, a not to be missed franchising opportunity for the catholic church’s “As The Twig Is Bent” line of daycare centres.

  • Doug kirk

    As far as the article goes; this is something I personally saw many, many times being raised catholic. The usual speech was “(Whatever sexual act) is wrong, but if you’re going to do it, at least have the common decency to be ashamed of yourself afterwards.”

    I can’t resist this though:

    “I’m not sure it’s a good idea for you to try to decide for others what makes them happy. I certainly think that some of the humanist views are far too permissive and too focused on immediate pleasure than is probably good for people.”

    Self contradiction for the win!

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

    Doug kirk,

    I don’t see the self-contradiction. Taken literally, “good” does not imply “makes them happy”, and taken more interpretively it would be an admonishment that the permissiveness might, in fact, make some people less happy than they would be with a stricter system. I make no blanket statement about what makes people happy as a universal claim, which Ebonmuse clearly does.

    Essentially, I’m calling out Ebonmuse for insisting that no one could find that the more restrictive morality makes them more happy while the less restrictive one makes them less happy. That’s just not supported by the data and arguments.

  • ManaCostly

    That ‘perforated condom’ thread needs to be archived and …..

  • Alex Weaver

    I certainly think that some of the humanist views are far too permissive and too focused on immediate pleasure than is probably good for people.

    How and why?

    Essentially, I’m calling out Ebonmuse for insisting that no one could find that the more restrictive morality makes them more happy while the less restrictive one makes them less happy. That’s just not supported by the data and arguments.

    Bullshit. To the best of my knowledge, the only people who are made happy by sexual restrictions that have nothing to do with consent or harm are A) people who are smugly satisfied that at least their neighbors aren’t having any more fun than their inhibited partner allows them, and B) submissive partners in certain kinds of nonstandard but consenting-adult sexual relationships…which those who impose these rules generally tend to condemn. (Accepting the rules because you think you’ll be rewarded if you do and tortured if you don’t != being made happy by them).

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

    Alex Weaver,

    Well, I am Stoic-leaning, so you can see some fundamental disagreements cropping up. But I’m also sympathetic to the view that we shouldn’t be judging these things primarily by pleasure or happiness, even if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. I think that one has moral responsibilites to oneself, even if no one else is harmed, and that what is good for you is not always what you want to do. Now, it’s really hard to judge humanist views because they’re often exceedingly vague; it’s hard to say what they’re really saying. But some comments from some people who claim to be humanist lead towards that sort of permissiveness.

    So, let me give you an example of what I don’t want to see wrt sex specifically:

    Two people — friends or acquaintences — are sitting around and have a few hours to kill before they go out with their other friends to a big party. They consider some options: they could play cards, play a board game, watch a DVD … or have sex. They decide that having sex seems to be what they’re in the mood for, and have sex.

    For me, if that’s a reasonable and proper attitude towards sex, something has gone seriously wrong, especially considering how psychologically humans DO tend to form attachments from sexual contact.

    So, does your humanism allow for that as being a proper attitude?

  • Alex Weaver

    Well, I am Stoic-leaning, so you can see some fundamental disagreements cropping up. But I’m also sympathetic to the view that we shouldn’t be judging these things primarily by pleasure or happiness, even if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. I think that one has moral responsibilites to oneself, even if no one else is harmed, and that what is good for you is not always what you want to do.

    Obviously, but in the cases where this is true (eating lots of high-calorie foods and not exercising much, for example), specific, measurable reasons can be given why doing the opposite is good for you. What specific, measurable reasons would you give with regards to sex (assuming consent, the use of proper protection, and awareness of the remaining risks)? And in any case, would you seriously suggest that exercise should be made compulsory or high-calorie foods forbidden as heretical?

    As for your example: My humanism certainly allows for individuals to decide they, personally, aren’t comfortable being involved in that sort of exchange. But if other people find it enjoyable and satisfying, on what basis would you condemn it? Attachments – shouldn’t friends be attached to each other (particularly if you draw a distinction between friends and acquaintances)? And people bond over cards, board games, DVDs, sporting events – even just sitting around and drinking. Why is sex different, if both friends genuinely want it and aren’t breaking agreements to reserve sex for someone else (preemptive: here I mean another actual person who they’re in a relationship with)? Because it makes you feel personally uncomfortable for reasons you can’t even really articulate except in the form of vague gesticulations about “proper” attitudes?

  • anna

    And of course, in keeping with Catholic misogyny, this all results in the worse misery for women, who are expected to ruin their health and even possibly die from unwanted pregnancies despite the availability of contraception and abortion. Not to mention that the Catholic attitude that sex must always be for reproduction and sex acts that do not result in reproduction are evil bad sinful in effect means that the man must always have his orgasm, but if the woman can’t get one just from him sticking it in and thrusting, too bad for her. All non-reproductive sex acts are evil bad sin. Ugh! What a misery for Catholic women.

  • Alex Weaver

    but if the woman can’t get one just from him sticking it in and thrusting, too bad for her. All non-reproductive sex acts are evil bad sin. Ugh! What a misery for Catholic women.

    Aren’t you being unfair by assuming that Catholic women want to have orgasms? ;/

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

    Alex,

    “Obviously, but in the cases where this is true (eating lots of high-calorie foods and not exercising much, for example), specific, measurable reasons can be given why doing the opposite is good for you. What specific, measurable reasons would you give with regards to sex (assuming consent, the use of proper protection, and awareness of the remaining risks)? And in any case, would you seriously suggest that exercise should be made compulsory or high-calorie foods forbidden as heretical?”

    We’re talking about moral principles here, which boils down to what you ought to do. The specific measurable reasons have to come from an understanding of the morality involved, whatever that turns out to be. Catholics have a different set of moral principles than you do, and you have a different set of moral principles than I do. We’d have to determine which is right, and I certainly don’t think I know what it is. But to me the responsibilities to yourself can go beyond simple direct “harm”. Is there a moral ought in the cases of exercising or avoid high calorie foods? I’m not sure. Sex seems to have a stronger relation to morality, but that might be just the remnants of how it has been thought of. Then again, it seems critically important to the survival of our species, more so than that (although that might be changing).

    You presume far too much in your answer and your questions.

    “As for your example: My humanism certainly allows for individuals to decide they, personally, aren’t comfortable being involved in that sort of exchange. But if other people find it enjoyable and satisfying, on what basis would you condemn it? ”

    That perpetrating that attitude at best weakens pair bonding and thus reproduction and removes a prime way of cementing committed relationships and fostering true love and intimacy in them.

    “Attachments – shouldn’t friends be attached to each other (particularly if you draw a distinction between friends and acquaintances)? And people bond over cards, board games, DVDs, sporting events – even just sitting around and drinking. Why is sex different, if both friends genuinely want it and aren’t breaking agreements to reserve sex for someone else (preemptive: here I mean another actual person who they’re in a relationship with)? ”

    Psychologically, sexual relations tend to lead to far stronger bonds, due to the importance of it reproduction and from there in humans to long-term pair bondings. That’s stronger than the other things you list, and thus is the difference. As I said above, the best case is that these attachments DON’T kick in, but then it’s hard to see how they could or would kick in for a real relationship. Here, if they DO kick in, now you have people who are really only qualified to be friends potentially feeling that bond and having to deal with that.

    My view is that if any kind of “friends with benefits” situation arises, it should be among really good friends or people who can be so completely detached. I don’t think that’s all that common.

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

    Alex,

    “Aren’t you being unfair by assuming that Catholic women want to have orgasms? ;/”

    If you are making a reference to me, you might want to recall that my claim of unfairness was a comment directed entirely at it being hinted in the post that things like perforated condoms were official Church policy, when the article being quoted was abundantly clear that there WAS no official position on those issues.

  • Brock

    @Verbose Stoic:
    First let me say that you are a refreshing change from the normal theist who shows up here, in that you are intellectually stimulating.
    That said:

    “Any moral system — even the humanist one, whatever it is — will have the same sorts of issues, where it isn’t clear what the right answer is, unless it simply says that the right answer is whatever you want to do, which has its own problems. Puzzles like this are talked about and even tested all the time in moral philosophy, so it’s not unique to religion at all.”

    As a humanist, I am accustomed to the fact that there are rarely hard and fast answers to moral questions, and I agree that this is a characteristic of moral philosophy, which no one here has denied. It is religious people, in my experience, who tend to adopt absolute moral standards, either because their Book says so(or its what they think their Book says), or because their heirarchy has provided them with an authoritative answer to all dilemmas. In the long run, it doesn’t matter whether the thing about perforated condoms is true or not, it’s the attitude of the Catholic heirarchy, and the Protestant heirarchy and the Islamic mullahs, that somehow sex, and women, are necessary evils instead of a joyous part of life that is really at fault. I would point out that Nathaniel (#7) brought up a point which you have not addressed, at least not in this thread.

  • Ritchie

    “Psychologically, sexual relations tend to lead to far stronger bonds, due to the importance of it reproduction and from there in humans to long-term pair bondings. That’s stronger than the other things you list, and thus is the difference. As I said above, the best case is that these attachments DON’T kick in, but then it’s hard to see how they could or would kick in for a real relationship. Here, if they DO kick in, now you have people who are really only qualified to be friends potentially feeling that bond and having to deal with that.”

    The picture you paint of human psychology is oddly robotic. Human realtions are not like those quiz trees (are you dating? Yes or no. If yes… Are you having sex? Yes or no. If no… here is how you feel about them:). In my experience ‘friends with benefits’ seems to be another term for fuck buddies, which means the two people probably really fancy each other physically, but are a quite lukewarm about each other as people. They’re generally the sort of person about whom you’d think: “They’re really fit, but a bit dull/narcissitic/obsessive for me.” In which case casual sex seems to be a gratifying, if shallow, arrangement. You can obviously state such an arrangement is not for you, but what is the harm if two people decide that’s what they want to do? What makes it, essentally, wrong?

  • http://neatshirts.blogspot.com Abeille

    Anna,
    Foreplay is now allowed only if it leads to the act of sex. The women can be orally pleasured by their husbands, and achieve orgasm (since fertility isn’t dependent on the woman’s orgasm), only so long as it results in potentially pro-creative sex. If the sex act is not completed (actual vaginal sex), then it becomes a sin.

    Catholic Doctrine also makes it a MORTAL SIN to deny your spouse sex. (Search for Martial Debt – http://www.sspx.org/catholic_faqs/catholic_faqs__morality.htm) Abstinence is only by the consent of both spouses and either spouse can withdraw it at any time. The Roman Catholics also follow this rule.

    And to Verbose Stoic, perforated condoms are indeed an official recommendation. See here: http://www.nccbuscc.org/prolife/issues/nfp/treatment.htm

  • http://religiousatrocities.wordpress.com Jon Jermey

    But what if your perforated condom blocks the wrong sperm?

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

    Abeille,

    Thanks for posting that source. The article quoted was clear that it wasn’t official according to the author, and it might not be for that particular case. But it does seem more official than the original article claimed.

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

    Brock,

    There are absolute moralists in philosophy as well, but they also acknowledge that sometimes it isn’t clear what the answer is. They just think there is one, and that it’ll be obvious once we work out all the kinks in the moral code. So the issue is different than presented. I think that there are hard and fast rules in morality, but that we need to have the right moral principles first.

    The “sex is a necessary evil” is not an unreasonable position, as it can follow from the claim that sex is pleasurable because that pleasure was beneficial to reproduction. To make that the entire purpose might raise questions, if it was in evolutionary terms just a means to another end. But that comes down to morality as well.

    As for nathaniel’s question, I didn’t think he was aiming that at me, and since I don’t see how that relates to any of my points I also not sure why I should feel bound to answer it.

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

    Ritchie,

    I’m actually surprised that you drew the conclusion you did. I’m talking about generalized psychology, but psychology nonetheless. Sex can lead to strong attachment. I’m not claiming that you can go through the list and determine how they feel, but you might be able to go through the list and discover what it would be best or most appropriate to feel for the relationship they want to have. However, brain chemistry in these cases does not consult any rules. It may attach feelings even if rationally the two people think they’d be inappropriate or problematic or bad. That’s the risk when you start playing with base emotions.

    If you read the last sentence, I actually didn’t come down absolutely against “friends with benefits”. I’m not totally convinced that it’s always wrong or undesirable. But it should be entered into carefully, with full knowledge that it is a risk because feelings might develop even if you think rationally that it won’t or that it shouldn’t. What you don’t want is a strong infatuation for someone that you only think of as a friend, or that your partner develops those emotions and gets hurt badly because of it. Even with the best intentions, sometimes your brain chemistry doesn’t listen to what the rational brain is telling it is best.

  • Alex Weaver

    We’re talking about moral principles here, which boils down to what you ought to do. The specific measurable reasons have to come from an understanding of the morality involved, whatever that turns out to be. Catholics have a different set of moral principles than you do, and you have a different set of moral principles than I do. We’d have to determine which is right, and I certainly don’t think I know what it is. But to me the responsibilities to yourself can go beyond simple direct “harm”. Is there a moral ought in the cases of exercising or avoid high calorie foods? I’m not sure. Sex seems to have a stronger relation to morality, but that might be just the remnants of how it has been thought of. Then again, it seems critically important to the survival of our species, more so than that (although that might be changing).

    At this point, eating large amounts of high-calorie food and not exercising is a considerably greater survival risk than having protected sex with multiple partners.

    I am “presuming” that your thinking is covered by a residual attitude that 1) enjoyment is not a “good enough” reason for an action (divorced from, but in your mind apparently conflated with, the unpleasant consequences some hedonistically enjoyable activities may have for the indulger or for others) and 2) that sex is “special” somehow. Your contributions in this thread, while apparently sincere, practically ooze this attitude. I think it’s ill-founded and misguided.

    That perpetrating that attitude at best weakens pair bonding and thus reproduction and removes a prime way of cementing committed relationships and fostering true love and intimacy in them.

    What support do you offer for this assertion?

    Psychologically, sexual relations tend to lead to far stronger bonds, due to the importance of it reproduction and from there in humans to long-term pair bondings. That’s stronger than the other things you list, and thus is the difference. As I said above, the best case is that these attachments DON’T kick in, but then it’s hard to see how they could or would kick in for a real relationship. Here, if they DO kick in, now you have people who are really only qualified to be friends potentially feeling that bond and having to deal with that.

    Obviously you haven’t met certain sports fans…

    I may have to refer you to Greta Christina on this one.

    My view is that if any kind of “friends with benefits” situation arises, it should be among really good friends or people who can be so completely detached. I don’t think that’s all that common.

    You are entirely welcome to only practice it in those circumstances, then.

  • Alex Weaver

    The “sex is a necessary evil” is not an unreasonable position, as it can follow from the claim that sex is pleasurable because that pleasure was beneficial to reproduction. To make that the entire purpose might raise questions, if it was in evolutionary terms just a means to another end. But that comes down to morality as well.

    Err, it’s a completely unreasonable position unless you’re inclined to posit that “pleasure” ~= “evil”

  • Nathaniel

    To clarify VB, the rather nasty question I asked wasn’t asked towards any specific person, but was a rhetorical question with a point. Seems the Catholic church is in the position of throwing stones in glass houses when it comes to sexual sin is all.

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

    Alex,

    “At this point, eating large amounts of high-calorie food and not exercising is a considerably greater survival risk than having protected sex with multiple partners.”

    Of course, that generally comes after people have reproduced already, but I did concede that, as that was what my comment in parentheses was referring to, and mainly to the fact that childhood obesity is now becoming a huge problem. Additionaly, sex isn’t about the life or death of the partners, but about reproduction and raising children, so the comment about survival risk is irrelevant anyway.

    “I am “presuming” that your thinking is covered by a residual attitude that 1) enjoyment is not a “good enough” reason for an action (divorced from, but in your mind apparently conflated with, the unpleasant consequences some hedonistically enjoyable activities may have for the indulger or for others) ”

    Yes, I definitely hold an attitude that one cannot defend the morality of an action by saying “I enjoyed it”. This, however, seems perfectly reasonable and is the reason why humanist moralities tend to include — and usually start with — the idea of “harming someone”, because some people unfortunately find hurting others to be quite enjoyable. That it’s enjoyable, then, does not make it right. So we need to figure out what it is.

    That being said, you WOULD agree that considering the harm to yourself and others from an action when determining if it should be done is reasonable, yes?

    “2) that sex is “special” somehow. Your contributions in this thread, while apparently sincere, practically ooze this attitude. I think it’s ill-founded and misguided.”

    It is both a common attitude that sex is special and sex does, in fact, seem to BE special in a lot of ways, due to its links with reproduction, which is a basic evolutionary concern. The argument between us would be more SHOULD it be special. I lean towards the idea that it should be, but could be convinced otherwise and in other cases.

    I mean, a lot of the loosening of some of the Catholic mores on sex is because it promotes a healthy marital relationship, by providing intimacy. Ebonmuse felt pity for the last case because he argued that the denial of sex reduced that. Can your attitude for the one be as completely separated from the other as it might have to be for the case I describe to be a good one? I’m not sure.

    “>That perpetrating that attitude at best weakens pair bonding and thus reproduction >and removes a prime way of cementing committed relationships and fostering true >love and intimacy in them.

    What support do you offer for this assertion?”

    So, if sex is considered to be an activity like any other, with no special attachment or feelings associated with it, how does that NOT impact its use to cement pair bonding? For example, what is the difference between your BFF and your SO if it isn’t the case that you’re having sex with the latter and not the former?

    Now, in some cases, in some people, it might work. But I read your reference to Greta Christina, and would simply ask: are she and her friends typical in being able to make that separation? How easy is it to make that separation? Since we don’t really know, perhaps it’s something we need to find out. But as far as I know psychologically, sex does tend to lead to pair bonding attachments, at least quite often. Not all the time, but often. I’m as suspicious as anyone about over-generalizing psycholgical data, and concede that some may have no problems with it. My biggest concern is that a) the majority might have problems with it and b) those who have problems with it may not know they will until they try it. Additionally, I worry what changing the social conditioning might do to those pair bonding emotions. Like it or not, we’ve all pretty much grown up in a world where sex was considered “special”, but if from day one it isn’t considered special could that change our attitudes? I don’t know; do you?

    That’s why I recommend it for friends who are already emotionally attached — and so the extra boost likely won’t overcome their reason — or people who know that they can muster the appropriate detachment. Anything else is likely to cause a great deal of hurt at some point. For some reason, you don’t seem to consider that possibility worth considering, which is surprising.

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

    Nathaniel,

    Then my own personal answer is that any form of non-consensual sex is worse.

    I pause for the gasps of surprise [grin].

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

    Alex,

    “Err, it’s a completely unreasonable position unless you’re inclined to posit that “pleasure” ~= “evil” ”

    I was thinking of it in terms of the calmer figurative position that more aligns with “a means to an end” as opposed to it being literally evil, as my entire comment should have made clear.

    Being Stoic-leaning, I consider pleasure to be an indifferent.

  • Monty

    Humans aren’t exactly in danger of going extinct. I think that a marginal decrease in procreation (if it even leads to that) should hardly be a concern.

  • exrelayman

    “Being Stoic-leaning, I consider pleasure to be an indifferent.”

    She wanted to try all kinds of positions. He was mostly indifferent.

  • Ritchie

    Monty makes a good point. If we are being rational about this then I hope we can agree it would be no tragedy if the human population levelled out. It cannot increase forever. So a blind ‘the more procreation the better’ attitude is short-sighted at best.

  • Alex Weaver

    Yes, I definitely hold an attitude that one cannot defend the morality of an action by saying “I enjoyed it”. This, however, seems perfectly reasonable and is the reason why humanist moralities tend to include — and usually start with — the idea of “harming someone”, because some people unfortunately find hurting others to be quite enjoyable. That it’s enjoyable, then, does not make it right. So we need to figure out what it is.

    That being said, you WOULD agree that considering the harm to yourself and others from an action when determining if it should be done is reasonable, yes?

    The fact that other factors may override enjoyment as a reason for doing something and dictate it not be done does not imply that, in the absence of such other factors, enjoyment is not a good reason to do something. Are you being deliberately obtuse?

    More later.

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    Oh, and VS?

    Can the [grin]. You are not Alternian (although the name would fit) and you have no excuse for a typing quirk like that. It is annoying to an extreme.

  • RipleyP

    I am interested that there is an argument developing that sex leads to pair bonding. In particular there is reference to an evolutionary imperative and reproduction.

    This appears to be counter to the traditional exercise of pair bonding leading to sex.

    I was of the belief that there were more considerations involved in mate selection than is connected to the direct sexual activity.

    Based on the cultural understanding of, and clear knowledge of, the activities such as the one night stand and friends with benefits would not be unreasonable to assume these activities are common. Further this would suggest that the act of sex is not the prime motivator in mate selection and pair bonding.

    As such it may be argued that the idea that sex = attachment is not supported as there is potentially a high incidence of nonattachment sexual activity occurring. This may be countered with the incidence of serial monogamy where there are a number of sexual partners but each is a form of pair bonding.

    I would argue therefore that sex does not necessarily lead to pair bonding and that connections between people are not necessitated on the persons having sexual intercourse.

    To engage in intercourse does not logically lead to a weakening of pair bonding as there may have never been any intention to pair bond based on other considerations.
    As an evolutionary imperative to pair bonding we can note promiscuity in nature among non humans.

    The arguement also appears to rely on an assumption that pair bonding is required for reproduction. It also preferences marriage as the tool for said pair bonding. These are assumptions potentially open to challenge.

    I would agree that humanist views are permissive in that Permissiveness is a disposition to allow freedom of choice and behaviour. The humanist is constrained in this using my own example by a multitude of further considerations not the least is a cost benefit analysis that includes those persons who may be impacted by my actions.

    Where permissive is used in the sense of it being promiscuity then I must respectfully state there is a fundamental difference between my understanding of humanism and that of some others.

  • http://politicalgames.posterous.com themann1086

    VS,

    People who are made happy by denying themselves pleasures are one thing; here we have a whole lot of people who are struggling to be happy in their lives within byzantine and restrictive rules and laws and “moral theology”. We also have massive institutional support for these rules that can and does enforce a significant social cost on rule-breakers.

    Further, the humanist (or whatever you want to call it) approach isn’t “whatever gives you pleasure (within consent and safety limits) is good”; it’s “whatever makes you happy (within consent and safety limits) is good”. There might be significant overlap between those two statements, but they certainly aren’t equivalent.

  • Rollingforest

    Any Monty Python fans want to lead us in a rendition of “Every Sperm is Sacred”?

  • Rollingforest

    Here we go!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DkqU-uWojc&feature=fvst

    Anyone who wants to be in the choir should be sure to practice.

  • Suzu

    I am singing along.

    once we are done with the song…

    disregarding the “f@ck buddies” thread, (after all, all the question we from married folks):

    VS, do you believe that an argument can be made to show that non-procreative sex within a marriage is harmful to the pair bond?
    More harmful then the guilt and recriminations suffered by the poor individual in the last letter?

    oxytocin vs. cortisol: which makes a better marriage

  • Brock

    @VS

    I’m not aware of any major secular philosophers of the past fifty or so years who espoused moral absolutes, but that just may be my ignorance. In any case, it is not my position. However, you concede that it is yours, which seems to me to make my point. As to the linkage of pleasure with sex, this is something that happens with evolution all the time. A byproduct of the original effect becomes beneficial, and the species makes use of it. Also from an evolutionary standpoint the fact that human females no longer come into estrus is an argument that sex for pleasure has an evolutionary role to play. The most common suggestion I have heard is that it causes the male to stick around for the childrearing part of the process. AS for Nathaniel’s point, He agrees with you that he did not direct it at you,(I never said he did) but it is the essential question which must be addressed at this particular point in history whenever the topic is the Church’s role as a moral arbiter. Priests who fuck children have no business telling me anything at all about my sexual morality. By the way, I assume from what you have said so far that homosexuality, anal sex, oral sex, mutual masturbation, everything but vaginal sex, are all on your list of proscribed actions?

  • Steve Ruble

    Verbose Stoic, in your first comment you wrote,

    I’m not sure it’s a good idea for you to try to decide for others what makes them happy.

    I agree, but there’s a complication. Many of us, and I’m sure I can include Ebonmuse here, think that people who make choices based on religious beliefs are basing their lives on something that is not, in fact, true. It’s not actually a matter of whether they’re happier or not, it’s a matter of whether there’s any reason to use the moral framework they’ve derived from their religious context. It may very well be the case that people who suffer from moral quandaries like those described in the post would be happier if they learned that there is no reason for them to treat the situation as if it contained a moral quandary – or at least, no god-based reason. They could still, I suppose, conclude that there is a moral quandary because of their moral values, or something like that, but that case is quite different from the case where their conclusions are based on tangibly false premises.

    So it’s not a question of deciding what makes other people happy; it’s a question of whether other people are making choices about their own happiness while in possession of true beliefs about the way the world is. If people knew that there wasn’t a god and that the RCC was a man-made construct, and still chose to bind themselves to its rules, then you could make a case that we ought to stay out of their business. But that is obviously not what is going on here.

  • Lena915

    @ Verbose stoic,

    All right, I did not read all the way through this entire comment thread. But, I did find something that I have issue with. This strange idea that people are somehow deeply psychologically affected in a negative way by having sex. I honestly believe that this is an idea perpetuated by the religious-minded to further restrict one’s sexual behaviors. If there is actual data for this, I’d love to see it, because I have not seen it yet.

    You mentioned pair-bonding. If this is true, and every person I’ve ever had sex with I somehow have a special emotional connection to, so what? I’m not sure how that is supposed to be affecting me negatively for the rest of my life. emotional connections with people fade and change. How I felt about someone ten years ago and how I feel about them now can certainly be different, and if this emotional pair-bonding takes place, why is that a bad thing? I had sex with a friend two years ago. We had a different relationship then, and I wouldn’t have sex with this person again. Our friendship changed slightly for a little while, but after a conversation or two, it went back to the way it was. I guess I’m not understanding this whole concept of “if you have sex with someone, they’re always going to be connected with you in a significant way, and even if that’s true, that’s bad, because it undermines others’ emotional connections with people”.

    I don’t buy it. I’m not connected at all with a lot of people I have had sex with. Even if I was, it should not make any difference to anyone else who wants to have sex.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    Comment #41 by: Jeep-Eep
    Oh, and VS?

    Can the [grin]. You are not Alternian (although the name would fit) and you have no excuse for a typing quirk like that. It is annoying to an extreme.

    SB: OH, COM3 ON, TYP1NG [grin] H4RDLY COUNTS 4S 4N 4LT3RN14N TYP1NG QU1RK.

    (awesome finding another MSPA fan here!)

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    Aff. It is.

    (see if you can guess the universe which that phrase comes from)

  • kennypo65

    Let me see if I got this right: Catholic clergy give marital advice-even though they cannot marry. They give sexual advice-even though they don’t have sex.

    No wonder catholics believe in miracles.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    [grin] is as much a typing quirk as emoticons, quiaff? Besides, you cannot really expect freebirth to employ proper language, especially when sending messages over the HPG network.

    Going back to the topic at hand, VS hasn’t really provided any support for the claims regarding human psychology and sexuality, particularly regarding bonding. Are there any studies that support the claims VS presents, or are they pulled from the ether because they seem to make sense?

  • Suzu

    I think that there is some evidence to support the claim that mutually satisfying sexual relations will generally promote bonding. The evidence for this is two fold, on the biochemical level: oxytocin is released with sexual arousal and orgasm, and this hormone has been associated with bonding generally. How this applies to couples specifically is not something I could speak to. Additionally, the argument could be made that any mutually satisfying activity, particularly if each participant is a direct agent of the other participant’s pleasure, would increase bonding. This is simple operant conditioning.
    But this is all I can think of, and none of it points to any reasons to abstain form non procreative sex. It is so easy to make assertions that make intuitive sense when talking about “people,” that it is easy to forget that we are all persons, and our individual experiences of love, choice, respect, and attachment are incredibly individualized and profoundly subjective.
    VS seems very willing to demand a “good reason” to justify sexual activity, and I’m just not sure that this demand is germane to sexual relationships.

    If s/he can address or clarify, I wish s/he would

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    That’s pretty much what I was getting at; it “makes sense” that sexual activity could result in bonding between the two involved, but have there been any actual studies to demonstrate this? If two friends have sex, does bonding occur, and if so, does it occur more or less strongly than other typical activities friends engage in? That sex creates a bond is meaningless to the argument if the bonding it induces is weaker than that produced by spending a day “hanging out.”

    And if it does create stronger bonds, it still remains to be established that this is a negative thing for two friends.

    I’m seeing lots of speculation on why casual sex between friends might be a bad thing, but nothing concrete.

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

    For those of you patiently waiting for replies, I’ll try to reply at some point tomorrow. Today is the day that I’m out all day, and I don’t have time tonight. But I do intend to get back to the discussion.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I feel so badly for the people who are getting incorrect advice from their religious leaders and believing that these ridiculous superstitious rules are necessary to follow to get into God’s good graces. What exactly is the point of following a God whose opinions and demands (as expressed by his supposed spokespeople on earth) are completely unreasonable and detached from reality?

    The Pascal’s Wager logic, which so often assumes that joining a religion is cost-free, hides the fine print: you will end up paying a price, and it may be a lot higher than you think. How can anyone be truly happy in the mental slavery of a religion that layers on the guilt and threats for breaking such absurd laws? And wouldn’t people like this be much happier if they abandoned these superstitious beliefs and instead adopted a rational, humanist alternative sexual ethics?

    That’s an excellent point.

  • Michael J.

    You know…… here I am, a 66 year old man, who with his wife and other lovers, before her, in my life have enjoyed a perfectly glorious sex life………. without any of the STUPID restrictions put upon people by their various varieties of Christianity. Being an Atheist, and, in fact a “strong” Atheist, sitting here reading about people who worry what some ‘Virgin’, dress wearing priest, almost certainly an abuser of children, tells them about sex. This just distresses me to the ultimate. I’m upset that so many, usually, rational people who could be enjoying a healthy sex-life, and as a result a much happier life all together, because of the happiness happiness brought upon them by a fulfilling sex-life,are instead racked by guilt, by something that is meant by their ‘Invisible’ ghod to bring pleasure! I feel fury, sympathy, and sadness, that religions which humans have created for themselves are in many instances their greatest enemy. Why has the destructive Katholickass church, and Kristianity in general flourished as it has, when all it does is cause unnecessary misery? I’m stymied!!!

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

    I have food poisoning, and so was told to take it easy today and tomorrow. I’ll try to get back to replying on Friday, if I’m feeling better.

  • http://technologeekery.blogspot.com Hendy

    @VS: while not in the Catechism or anything, I was able to find THIS from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

    Appropriate evaluation and treatment of male factor deficiency. Seminal fluid samples can be obtained from a non-lubricated, perforated condom after normal intercourse.

    I’d say that the USCCB is a pretty darn authoritative source, wouldn’t you?

    Also, in general, I wonder about this quote:

    Catholic moral theology holds that the marital act includes both a unitive and a procreative aspect and that neither of these may be deliberately frustrated.

    I’m guessing that the “moral theology” is extracted from Genesis and Jesus’ statement in the gospels that a man and woman become one flesh. In any case, I would venture to say that the argument is something like:

    - If god designs something to have a characteristic set x, we should not tamper with said characteristics
    - God designed sex to be x (x = uniting and having procreative potential)
    - Therefore, we should not tamper with characteristic set x of sex

    My question is how we decide what characteristic sets we do and don’t get to fiddle with. For example, it also appears that god designed our bodies to be relatively frail and subject to harm in the present environment. How does one begin to segregate various things from “tamperable” and “non-tamperable”?

    - “frustrating” procreative potential of sex
    - fixing those born with a cleft lip
    - immunization
    - replacing hip joints
    - artificial life support

    In which of these situations can we “frustrate” god’s designs? Or are we just saying that since sex is explicitly mentioned in the bible, that was specifically designed in it’s current form way back then, but everything else is a result of the fall aftermath and thus we can use our technology on it?

  • Michael J.

    Catholick ‘moral theology’, what a joke, also says, it’s ok for priests to be raping young boys, and abusing many other young children…… and then avoiding prosecution for their crimes. Fuck the USCCB, the Poop, and all of the child-raping priests. 80 year old ‘VIRGINS’ are not the best possible source for information on human sexuality. The only thing they really care about is what’s good for their Damned church. They set their teachings, only, to control the bodies and minds of their Sheeple. Stop being Sheeple, people! You know what happens to sheep, they are lead to the slaughter. Tell this band of child-molesting, mind-controlling, dress-wearing old faggots where to get off! Use the most pejorative language possible to tell them that they do not control you. They have no right. They can’t be allowed to continue to maintain the ILLUSION of morality they try to put forth…. if you won’t let them! They have no morality of their own, so, they can’t set moral standards for anyone else. Stand up people! It’s on your knees that they want you to be….. It’s much easier to f**k you that way! They’ve instilled in you, the ‘bullshit’ of “Ghod’s ways & Designs. WRONG! That is Imaginary, Illusional! It is their own ‘ways and designs’they are forcing you to maintain, in order to control every facet of your cursed existance.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    I think we can do without using “faggots” though.

  • Michael J.

    Steve, didn’t use the word ‘faggot’ in the homo-sexual meaning….. just in the calling out of the church’s minions………. Although, ‘Load’ knows, there is a pre-ponderance of Homo-sexuals in the priesthood. An estimated 50% of all priests.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Paedophilia is not the same as homosexuality. And, if you weren’t speaking of “faggots” as homosexuals, did you perhaps mean cigarettes?

  • Alex Weaver

    I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if there were a higher proportion of gays in the priesthood than the Catholic laity or even the general population – after all, if you’re male, Catholic, and completely disinterested in Unitive and Procreative Intercourse with human females, but for whatever reason don’t feel like you can just break free and go live your life, devoting yourself to god makes a good cover story (especially for why you like with a bunch of other guys). I doubt there’s any connection to child molestation (except that an actual pedophile, as opposed to a situational molester, might find it useful for the same reasons).

    What this has to do with dressed-up bundles of wood is beyond me, though.

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

    I’m back.

    Okay, first, about the studies and the like showing that sex can lead to attachment, I think that others have listed some of the details and I’m bemused at having to prove something that Ebonmuse pretty much assumed. Since this isn’t an academic paper, I’ll look up studies when the details become critically important, but in terms of what’s going on here it seems that pretty much every agrees that sex fosters intimacy and emotional connection, and so the only real debate would be over if it does it outside of a commited relationship or if that context is required. I don’t think that such instinctive mechanisms are that smart, and I conceded long ago that I wasn’t sure about that — which was one of my major points — so unless someone has a specific point that requires more data I think we can just go on from that point.

    Additionally, a lot of the demands seemed to be aimed at my proving that it always happens. I already conceded that it won’t always happen. What I don’t know is if it would happen most of the time, some of the time, or rarely, and if people would generally be able to predict when it will happen going in. I’m skeptical about these questions, which to me makes that sort of attitude — and remember, I was referencing a VERY casual attitude — somewhat risky.

    I’ll move on to specific comments next.

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

    Monty, Ritchie,

    I’m actually more concerned about parenting than about straight reproduction, since that’s so basic a drive that it’ll probably never go away. But I do think that the best environment for raising children is a committed relationship with two biological parents that love them, and don’t want that commitment weakened too much so that those can’t happen. Yes, of course loving parents are always better than the alternative, but all things being equal on that score I think it not unreasonable that the “traditional” married parents are probably ideal, for multiple reasons (including responsibility), and I worry that that commitment is what would be lost.

    Alex Weaver,

    “The fact that other factors may override enjoyment as a reason for doing something and dictate it not be done does not imply that, in the absence of such other factors, enjoyment is not a good reason to do something. Are you being deliberately obtuse?”

    If we’re trying to decide if there is any relevant moral consideration to choosing to have sex, saying “It’s enjoyable” is irrelevant; whether it is enjoyable or not has no actual moral bearing. First, we settle whether or not there is a moral issue and THEN we can talk about enjoyment.

    Also note that in some moral codes — see the Stoics — the fact that sex is so enjoyable that it tends to overcome rational thinking is, in fact, moral reason enough itself to treat it carefully. And I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that you should think very carefully before doing anything that is impacted by strong emotional or instinctive desires.

    Jeep-Eep,

    Snuggly Buffalo is right; I use it like emoticons because I hate emoticons but can see their use when posting. Thus, I see no reason to abandon the quirk.

    Ripley P.,

    I think I addressed most of this already. I don’t think that such primitive mechanisms are likely to be as selective as you think they are (and so they’d only activate in pair bonding contexts), but would simply argue that until more studies are done being careful is probably a good thing.

    themann1086,

    Any moral code that isn’t completely permissive — ie “Do whatever you want” — and has either formal or informal “institutional support” will have the exact same issue. So the question is “Is it right?” not “Are people struggling with it?”.

    Brock,

    “By the way, I assume from what you have said so far that homosexuality, anal sex, oral sex, mutual masturbation, everything but vaginal sex, are all on your list of proscribed actions?”

    How in the world did you come to that assumption? My main point has been about issues with committed relationships, not about the purpose of sex. You seem to be presuming that my moral views are religiously based. They aren’t.

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

    Steve Ruble,

    Think about this: one weak defense of religion is that it makes people happy to believe in God. Many atheists quite rightly say that that would have nothing to do with whether or not the proposition is true. The converse, then, would also apply; that people would be happier without those moral rules and the belief in the entity that backs them up doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

    But turning to the point, Ebonmuse related it to Pascal’s Wager to show that there are costs. But the costs are not the same for everyone, nor are they fixed or necessarily attached to just having the rules themselves. Therefore, it’s not all that good an argument to base an analysis of the costs of religion to people on Ebonmuse’s personal views. Even with this struggle, those people may still be far happier with religion than with humanism.

    Lena,

    I addressed the evidence above, but want to highlight this quote:

    “This strange idea that people are somehow deeply psychologically affected in a negative way by having sex.”

    I’m arguing the opposite: that people are frequently deeply affected in a POSITIVE way by having sex and that that affect may have impacts that may be negative. For example, the old cliche of the one-night stand where one partner falls in love and the other doesn’t.

    Hendy,

    That evidence was provided for perforated condoms for sperm testing already, and I conceded it.

    Onto your main point, you are ignoring the basis of the argument about the purposes of sex. It isn’t just what happens, but is about the purpose of sex (from a design perspective). The argument is that sex just has those purposes, and interfering with those purposes is not a good thing. In the cases you cite, it’s not clear that there’s any argument to be made that the conditions are reflecting the real purpose of a lip or whatever, which is why interference isn’t a problem. The argument may not hold, but we do have to start at the right level when discussing it.

  • http://saintcynic.blogspot.com Kane Augustus

    I personally think that the Catholic heirarchy, were they allowed to legitimately indulge their sexual desires, would have a very different view of sexual intimacy. I really don’t hear tale of the Eastern Orthodox church having sexual scandals or legalisms surrounding sexual pleasure between consenting couples. Their priests are allowed to get married, and allowed to enjoy the benefits that confers.

    In Catholic quarters, their psycho-social and sexual development is stunted by the blunt force of useless prohibitions on sexual exploration between couples, masturbation, and other harmless hedonisms. Predictably, some Catholic clergy therefore have unacceptable deviances, and Catholic couples are demeaned and disempowered by imposed guilts and harmful preachments about how they should use their body (bawdy!) parts.

    I find it a supremely interesting observation that Catholicism stands against legalisms in devotional life (i.e., the notion that one can effect favour with God through efforts at purity) but sets in place a massive legalistic social framework for its adherents (e.g., Canon Law). Is it any wonder that people feel horrible when they come to the instinctual understanding that their devotion to God has resulted in a shame-based identity with their church? This confusion around sexually acceptable practice is one among many, many, many crimes against sanity.

  • Alex Weaver

    “The fact that other factors may override enjoyment as a reason for doing something and dictate it not be done does not imply that, in the absence of such other factors, enjoyment is not a good reason to do something. Are you being deliberately obtuse?”

    If we’re trying to decide if there is any relevant moral consideration to choosing to have sex, saying “It’s enjoyable” is irrelevant; whether it is enjoyable or not has no actual moral bearing. First, we settle whether or not there is a moral issue and THEN we can talk about enjoyment.

    How on earth (excluding prior prejudice) do you arrive at the conclusion that an action making the people involved feel good (generally increasing happiness, when considered in isolation without being outweighed by other effects) is not relevant to its moral analysis?

    Also note that in some moral codes — see the Stoics — the fact that sex is so enjoyable that it tends to overcome rational thinking is, in fact, moral reason enough itself to treat it carefully.

    What justification would one offer for using what is “rational” as a metric for morality?

    And I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that you should think very carefully before doing anything that is impacted by strong emotional or instinctive desires.

    What makes you so certain that people who make sexual decisions that you and/or the Vatican don’t approve of haven’t thought very carefully about it?

  • Mrnaglfar

    How on earth (excluding prior prejudice) do you arrive at the conclusion that an action making the people involved feel good (generally increasing happiness, when considered in isolation without being outweighed by other effects) is not relevant to its moral analysis?

    How do you arrive at the conclusion that people feeling good is relevant, excluding prior prejudice?

    Raises all sorts of interesting questions about how willing people are to trade off happiness today for happiness in the future, or how willing people are to trade off the happiness of some people for the happiness of others, as well the contexts in which people are likely to make those trades.

    What justification would one offer for using what is “rational” as a metric for morality?

    Who’s defining ‘rational’ here, anyway? Sounds like people haven’t quite embraced or internalized modularity and still stick to outdated views of the mind.

  • Alex Weaver

    I was specifically responding to another poster. I would have expected the blockquotes immediately preceding the sentences you quoted might have been indicative.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Didn’t know this was a private party.

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

    Alex Weaver,

    “How on earth (excluding prior prejudice) do you arrive at the conclusion that an action making the people involved feel good (generally increasing happiness, when considered in isolation without being outweighed by other effects) is not relevant to its moral analysis?”

    Actually, the only reason you seem to think that it is morally relevant is because of the moral view that you hold, that generally increasing happiness overall is what determines the moral. Moral intuitions in general, however, seem to contradict that. For example, if a group of people were talking about doing X and someone said that X was immoral, if someone else replied that it was really enjoyable most people would consider that a non-argument, as we discussed earlier. One of the main objections to Utilitarianism, in fact, is that it promotes the massively counter-intuitive idea that if someone really enjoys hurting other people and only hurts them enough that their happiness outweighs the unhappiness of those people that may well be morally acceptable.

    From this, it seems that our intuitions about morality suggest that it’s fine to seek enjoyment but only in ways that are moral. Thus, enjoyment itself has no moral relevance, unless your moral code adds it in.

    “What justification would one offer for using what is “rational” as a metric for morality?”

    For the Stoics, it was that rationality is the proper end for humans. However, we don’t need to go that far to support my point, as I think you and I can agree that acting rationally is better than acting irrationally, and so if strong emotion can interfere with rational action we should be suspicious of it.

    “What makes you so certain that people who make sexual decisions that you and/or the Vatican don’t approve of haven’t thought very carefully about it?”

    Here is where I think the long delay has caused you to lose some of the thread of the discussion. Recall that the only solid objection _I_ raised was, in fact, about engaging in sex without putting any more thought into it than you would for, say, deciding whether or not to watch a DVD. Thus, in that case it would be true by definition.

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

    Mrnaglfar,

    I think Alex was more annoyed that how you did the block quotes didn’t make it clear that _I_ was the one who was making the points you’re arguing against, as opposed to him.

    As for your point, I’m fairly up-to-date in the latest theories on the impact of emotion on reason, but note that what people like Prinz and Damasio are adding in are things that no position that gave reason precedence ever denied were involved in reason. So it doesn’t change the debate much.

  • Doug kirk

    VS-

    When challenged, you paint your point as saying, “the only solid objection (you) raised was, in fact, about engaging in sex without putting any more thought into it than you would for, say, deciding whether or not to watch a DVD.”

    However, nobody would ever or has ever disputed that the two individuals shouldn’t be mindful of their own decisions. What most of the commenters on here have a problem with, and you don’t seem to realise yourself, is that your position tacitly implies that it is perfectly fine for other people to make private decisions for that couple and limit their freedom to choose what they deem is best for them. That people shouldn’t just be mindful of their personal lives, but be forced to be extra mindful of them, for their own good and what not.

    Now I’m, sure you’ll wriggle around and point out that you haven’t come out and directly said that it’s ok for a moral system to be imposed upon people who don’t agree with it, but that’s what your argument appears to consist of. That a stricter moral system is better for some people therefore it should be imposed upon all people.

    Please tell me why allowing adults to decide for themselves what they do (and do not) like to do with their own lives and their own bodies in their private lives, as long as it is of both parties consent and not an illegal act, is a bad thing? And then tell me why restricting their ability to make their own decisions is somehow morally superior. I’d like to know, really.

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

    Doug kirk,

    I no more want to impose any such moral system on people than I — or you — want to impose the theory of gravitation on them.

    I’m a moral objectivist. I think that there is, in fact, a morally right system. I think that that can be rationally and objectively discussed. I don’t think morality is a matter of opinion.

    So, either it is morally right or it isn’t. Now, I don’t think that an objective moral code necessarily means that all people have to do all of the same things; there may be differences in what is morally right depending on circumstances. And I was consistent in this entire discussion admitting that in some cases casual sex would not cause harm. Again, the point raised was about a GENERAL and UNIVERSAL attitude that sex should be taken that lightly, and that it was potentially harmful and possibly morally wrong, not about a specific case. I did go on about that quite a bit as well.

    Where we disagree in your last question is that I don’t think that private decisions are immune from moral judgement, as you seem to. People are free to decide what to do in their private lives and I may well be free — depending on what the right moral code turns out to be — to say that their decision is immoral just as I would about their public lives.

    Ultimately, your reply seems to be completely off from what I was actually talking about, and the nature of moral discussions in the first place.

  • Alex Weaver

    Didn’t know this was a private party.

    You’re welcome to join the conversation, but responding to highly contextual statements as if they were general principle statements made in isolation is potentially disingenuous (though arguably not in this case since we’re still in the same thread and the context can be easily located), and definitely jarring.

    Actually, the only reason you seem to think that it is morally relevant is because of the moral view that you hold, that generally increasing happiness overall is what determines the moral. Moral intuitions in general, however, seem to contradict that. For example, if a group of people were talking about doing X and someone said that X was immoral, if someone else replied that it was really enjoyable most people would consider that a non-argument, as we discussed earlier. One of the main objections to Utilitarianism, in fact, is that it promotes the massively counter-intuitive idea that if someone really enjoys hurting other people and only hurts them enough that their happiness outweighs the unhappiness of those people that may well be morally acceptable.

    From this, it seems that our intuitions about morality suggest that it’s fine to seek enjoyment but only in ways that are moral. Thus, enjoyment itself has no moral relevance, unless your moral code adds it in.

    Given the track record of “physics intuitions,” “biology intuitions,” and “psychology intuitions,” I’m willing to acknowledge the utility of moral intuitions (much as physics “intuition” notions such as “if my calculations indicate that a gravitational field repels a mass away from the origin point of the field, I’ve made a mistake” are useful), but inclined to keep them on a very short leash.

    The “enjoys hurting people” thing you cite is a strawman and a tiresome one, as the problem disappears if one considers a utilitarian ethical system that is not constructed to be needlessly dumb-as-a-stump (I call most straw-utilitarianisms “goldfish utilitarianism” in reference to the supposed 4-second memory of the fish and the apocryphality thereof, since the biggest failing of most of them is only considering the most blatant and immediate of the consequences of an action, and in particular ignoring its effect on the future). I don’t see the prospect of a person running around hurting people for fun being made so happy by this as to outweigh the pain, distress, and anxiety that their actions would cause to others, especially since the distress and anxiety experienced would be in part proportional to the amount of pleasure this hypothetical monster visibly derived from the act, as a remotely plausible scenario, and given the difficulty involved in measuring and comparing happiness quantitatively, it’s one that could safely be disregarded.

    I’ll try one more time. In the absence of:
    A) actual adverse consequences
    B) anxious expectation of adverse consequences, or
    C) an ingrained habit of viewing all sources of pleasure with some mixture of contempt, suspicion, and outright paranoia,
    pleasure contributes to happiness.

    Having accepted the axiom that happiness is valuable and should be increased (and that suffering is undesirable and should be minimized, which for some reason critics of utilitarianisms seem compelled to downplay), which one should since
    A) one must accept at least one additional axiom, beyond those needed merely to describe and differentiate among the possible states of the universe or portions thereof, to assign “desirability” values to any of those states and
    B) multiple lines of argument support “happiness is desirable” as the fundamental form of the most reasonable moral axiom,
    one finds that the pleasure an action provides to the people it affects, including the actor, is, essentially,
    one term in the equation, and while there are others that must be considered, where their values are small the pleasure term will dominate, so to speak. I don’t see what’s difficult about this.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Having accepted the axiom that happiness is valuable and should be increased and that suffering is undesirable and should be minimized…

    That’s what I was asking about. Judging by the presentation here it’s precisely what I thought it was, rather than a “highly contextual statement”. I’m asking how one arrives at that axiom in the first place, without simply assuming it.

    I don’t see what’s difficult about this.

    Once we assume that morality entails happiness as a general state of being for humans (other species too?) should be maximized and suffering should be minimized, and then assume a situation where nothing bad can possibly happen and happiness can only increase, sure, you have a case.

    Of course, I could also assume that morality entails maximizing individual liberty, even at the expense of happiness. On what basis should we accept one standard over the other?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    The “enjoys hurting people” thing you cite is a strawman and a tiresome one, as the problem disappears if one considers a utilitarian ethical system that is not constructed to be needlessly dumb-as-a-stump (I call most straw-utilitarianisms “goldfish utilitarianism” in reference to the supposed 4-second memory of the fish and the apocryphality thereof, since the biggest failing of most of them is only considering the most blatant and immediate of the consequences of an action, and in particular ignoring its effect on the future).

    The meme “goldfish utilitarianism” is pure genius. I’m going to remember that in the future for these sorts of objections.

  • Kogo

    *I no more want to impose any such moral system on people than I — or you — want to impose the theory of gravitation on them.*

    The point at which statements start making total linguistic sense but absolutely no ACTUAL sense is pretty much the point where Verbose lives his entire waking life.

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

    Kogo,

    Your pithy comments — as with most short and pithy comments of that type, come to think of it — would be more effective if you understood the discussion that you’re making them about.

    Moral objectivists/realists think that to say “X is immoral” is to state an objective fact, akin (but not necessarily identical to) the objective fact “Objects fall to the ground if released.”

    But it is ridiculous to suggest that anyone who says “Objects fall to the ground if released” is in any way imposing something on anything. Merely stating an objective fact, then, cannot impose anything on anyone.

    I am a moral objectivist/realist.

    Thus, all I would be doing is stating an objective fact, and so it is still the case that accusing me of imposing morality on them is just as ludicrous as suggesting that I would be imposing something on them by saying “Objects fall to the ground if released.”

    (Note, of course, that I’m actually not even doing that. I’m actually merely suggesting that it is not obvious that there isn’t a moral issue in those cases.)

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

    Alex Weaver,

    Well, first, I’d find calling those sorts of arguments “strawmen” suspicious when it is well-known that John Stuart Mill introduced “quality” to get around that objection to Bentham’s utilitarianism and that Rule Utilitarianism was introduced to get around cases where, say, murder might be justified as an individual act but people didn’t like that. It seems like it may be a valid concern even to those who actually definitely understand Utiliarianism in detail.

    Second, you miss the point of the examples. The examples are used like scientific experiments, where you isolate a number of factors to test it out. And so whether or not that case is plausible in the real world doesn’t matter, since the example says “Look, by your moral theory if this ever actually was the case, you’d say that the person who wanted to hurt someone would at a minimum be morally justified in hurting those people and might even be morally OBLIGATED to take that action. Do you find that an acceptable consequence of your moral theory?” If you do think that that consequence is unacceptable, then that proves your moral theory at least problematic even if it could never happen in real life. Thus, adding on complications to get around this case and its consequences doesn’t help your case, and in fact suggests that you need to do that because you find the consequences here unacceptable and that, therefore, the example really is highlighting a problem in your moral theory.

    Third, suggesting that it might be hard to determine a happiness value doesn’t help your case because it a) risks making it impractical and b) means that there will be more gray areas where only the preference of the person making the decision can make the final judgement, thus making these sorts of cases MORE likely, not less.

    So, onto your statement, I agree with the first set of three statements: pleasure tends to make one happy. However, that isn’t incompatible with pretty much any moral code out there. So it’s in where you go with that that the main conflict occurs. And it’s over this, really:

    “B) multiple lines of argument support “happiness is desirable” as the fundamental form of the most reasonable moral axiom,
    one finds that the pleasure an action provides to the people it affects, including the actor, is, essentially, one term in the equation, ”

    The problem is that this is not clear. Yes, there are arguments for it, but also arguments against it, and the Stoics, the Kantians, the Aristotleans, the Virtue Ethicists and even the Egoists can all make a similar statement that their fundamental principle is supported in the same way and be equally correct (which is either, at this time, that they’re all wrong or that right now they’re all right in having support). This statement simply presumes that you’re right and that “happiness” as you define it is the fundamental principle and what we should all select on morally. As you’ve seen, I — and others — disagree. You need to prove your case. Now, I concede that I can’t prove mine either … but then, my arguments aren’t based on that in any way, since I concede that I don’t know what the right moral theory is yet.

    As Mrnaglfar suggests, what about liberty, even if it sacrficies happiness?

    So, what’s difficult about it? Well, I had no difficulty understanding your position, but great — and not unreasonable — difficulty simply accepting it.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    If you do think that that consequence is unacceptable, then that proves your moral theory at least problematic even if it could never happen in real life.

    Then no moral theory is safe if we are allowed to introduce impossibilities and your stated position of being a moral objectivist is defeated by your own argument.

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

    OMGF,

    Could you unpack your reasoning? Because I don’t see how introducing cases that couldn’t happen in real life could necessarily defeat every possible moral theory.

    Especially considering that the cases we were talking about were cases like “Look, sure, but in real-life things would never be that simple; there’d always be other factors to consider”. The reply to that is “Sure, but that was the point of this example, to bring it down to cases as simple and clear as possible to see what it says. And that’s what it says.” Sure, you may get to impossibilities that are so out there that no reasonable moral code could ever be reasonably held to actually dealing with them, but those would be rare and go far beyond what we’re talking about here.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    If one is allowed to introduce impossibilities, then one can always come up with some scenario that defeats some moral code. Questions like, “What would you do if Superman appeared and was fighting the alien space horde that has technology that defies the second law of thermodynamics while your friend was blinking into and out of existence while being caught in some larger than life quantum vacuum energy well inside of a box that that actually is a squared circle…blah blah blah.” If one is allowed to make up stuff that can’t actually happen in order to defeat a moral premise, then what moral premise could possibly stand up to such nonsense? If you’re going to attack a moral premise, at least use a plausible example.

    And, if your defense is breaking things down to simplicity while ignoring all the possibilities that the moral code takes into account, then you are not actually dealing with the moral code in question.

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

    OMGF,

    Okay, I think we can all agree not to use examples that introduce logical impossibilities like a square circle, especially since that wasn’t required in the examples or, bluntly, in an example ever used. So, taking that out of your example without having a full example it’s still not clear that a moral theory a) couldn’t handle it and b) couldn’t be expected to handle such a case. The example you’re giving might simply be too complicated to actually grasp, but yes in that case most people would rightly say that it’s a bad example because even the intuitions we’d be comparing it to would be likely to be confused. I fail to see the issue with that; we have to take these on a case-by-case basis.

    Which also applies to the “simple” case. Again, if a case is so simplified that the moral theory simply can’t apply to it — ie there’s information missing that would have to be there — then it might be a bad example, but the person arguing for their moral theory would have to demonstrate that. Specifically, they’d have to demonstrate that that example isn’t just simplifying it down to critical details, but is doing so invalidly. Again, it would have to be on a case-by-case basis and so your point still is not supported, as there would still be cases that could never happen in real-life but would be ones that we could reasonably expect that moral theory to have a reasonable answer to.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Sorry, but you are completely off base if you think that any moral code I come up with has to not only answer to real world dilemmas, but also anything that anyone can think up whether it’s possible or not. And simply because you have not yet asked for someone to account for a square circle doesn’t mean that it’s out of bounds when you clearly are advocating for impossible situations being ruled within bounds. Why that one impossible but not others? Why should I have to account for things that literally are impossible and will never actually be considered by my moral system?

    Again, if a case is so simplified that the moral theory simply can’t apply to it — ie there’s information missing that would have to be there — then it might be a bad example, but the person arguing for their moral theory would have to demonstrate that.

    Isn’t that pretty much what happened – that you were told that you were ignoring vast amounts of knowledge and other factors, which prompted you to claim that the moral system had to be able to handle your case anyway, even if it were impossible?

    Again, it would have to be on a case-by-case basis and so your point still is not supported, as there would still be cases that could never happen in real-life but would be ones that we could reasonably expect that moral theory to have a reasonable answer to.

    Sorry, but I utterly reject that. There’s no reason why I should have to answer for situations that can not occur.

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

    OMGF,

    “And simply because you have not yet asked for someone to account for a square circle doesn’t mean that it’s out of bounds when you clearly are advocating for impossible situations being ruled within bounds. Why that one impossible but not others? Why should I have to account for things that literally are impossible and will never actually be considered by my moral system?”

    Because there’s a massive difference between “conceptually impossible” and “pragmatically impossible”, between things that simply cannot be due to the meanings of the words and things that are simply not possible due to the current state of the world. The former cannot even be discussed, since they make no sense, while the latter make conceptual sense and so make excellent test beds for your moral theory.

    “Isn’t that pretty much what happened – that you were told that you were ignoring vast amounts of knowledge and other factors, which prompted you to claim that the moral system had to be able to handle your case anyway, even if it were impossible?”

    But the other factors don’t HAVE to be there to evaluate the case; the case in and of itself was complete, if more simple than a real-world situation would be. Your claim here would be like getting upset at a math example that talks about trains leaving from New York and Chicago at set speeds because no train can ever actually move at a constant speed.

    You have to answer for any case where it can be said “If this occurred, you should have an answer to this situation”. Saying “But it would never happen!” is not a defense. Your moral theory must be able to stand up to counterfactuals, just as scientific theories can, or else it’s just a bad theory.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    I expect VS to next go into how there really is an infinite great hall on Mount Olympus where the ideal forms of every number actually exist.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    The former cannot even be discussed, since they make no sense, while the latter make conceptual sense and so make excellent test beds for your moral theory.

    Why does it make any more sense to debate the possible merits of an impossible situation in one case than the other? Both are impossible. We may as well debate the merits of whether you should write “[grin]” or not given that the impossible situation that you doing that causes baby seals to be clubbed by irate aliens. I don’t see the point of it, except that you are making up reasons to attack moral systems that you simply don’t agree with.

    But the other factors don’t HAVE to be there to evaluate the case; the case in and of itself was complete, if more simple than a real-world situation would be.

    Says you. It seems like everyone else disagreed.

    Your claim here would be like getting upset at a math example that talks about trains leaving from New York and Chicago at set speeds because no train can ever actually move at a constant speed.

    Not at all. It would be closer to the idea that you’re going to grade me on how well I can describe the path of the train only given the “fact” that it was constructed by aliens high on ecstasy.

    You have to answer for any case where it can be said “If this occurred, you should have an answer to this situation”.

    If it occurred that you breathing would lead to a square circle opening up a vortex that swallowed up all the puppies in the world, how would you answer that smart guy? I mean, c’mon, this is simply insane. The mark of whether a moral system has to seriously answer a question is not based on whether someone utters the words, “If this occurred, what would you do?”

    Saying “But it would never happen!” is not a defense.

    Yeah, actually it is.

    Your moral theory must be able to stand up to counterfactuals, just as scientific theories can, or else it’s just a bad theory.

    Say what? What scientific theory has to hold up to things that are not true? I guess we can toss out evolution then, because it can’t hold up to the following idea: “What if it were true that the earth really was only 10,000 years old?” Actually, come to think of it, you’ve just disproved science. Congrats. I will inform the Nobel committee right away.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Why does it make any more sense to debate the possible merits of an impossible situation in one case than the other?

    You’re conflating a possible hypothetical with an impossible hypothetical. Huge difference; how improbable a possible hypothetical is is simply a matter of degree. It seems you’d rather straw-man over engage the issue. I can’t say I’m shocked.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Perhaps you should actually read the thread before you start making pronouncements about how shocked you are.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Why does it make any more sense to debate the possible merits of an impossible situation in one case than the other?

    Here’s a for instance: It’s pretty much damn near (if not totally) impossible to determine the actual effect that an action will have on the overall happiness of humanity now, and in the future; there are just too many factors to take into account. Since it is impossible to determine that value in reality, any value of human happiness in moral reasoning shouldn’t even be discussed.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I see what you did there…were those goalposts heavy?

  • Alex Weaver

    Of course, I could also assume that morality entails maximizing individual liberty, even at the expense of happiness. On what basis should we accept one standard over the other?

    *sigh*

    Blahblahblah: [Happiness] [Liberty]
    Declaration as dimension of “morality” axis is fundamentally “arbitrary” from a logic perspective making it an “axiom”: [x] [x]
    Instinctively sought by humans “for its own sake” rather than in service of a goal: [x] [_]
    Easily defined in a consistent intuitive sense…: [x] [x]
    …without producing two different senses that can and often will conflict: [x] [_]
    Subjective and objective components allow adaptation to vagaries of human existence while still allowing quasi-quantitative comparisons: [x] [x]
    Rhetoric supporting other “shape of the good” maxims implicitly references tendency to promote this as reason “the good” takes the shape it does under those systems: [x] [_]

    Etc.

    Yes, there are arguments for it, but also arguments against it, and the Stoics, the Kantians, the Aristotleans, the Virtue Ethicists and even the Egoists can all make a similar statement that their fundamental principle is supported in the same way and be equally correct (which is either, at this time, that they’re all wrong or that right now they’re all right in having support).

    Assuming I’m interpreting these labels correctly:
    Stoicism: demands the question of why certain actions are “rational,” why suppression of emotional response is desirable, etc. Also ignores fundamental incompatibility of tenets with the actual functioning of human consciousness (making decisions about courses of actions rationally is a learned skill, eliminating the “irrational” components of one’s existence or conscious experience is…not feasible even to picture, actually), a fault which pursuit of happiness does not share, and thus seems to define a futile course of action as “rational” which does not pass the “snerk test” heuristic.
    Kantianism: demands the question of why one can or cannot rationally will that an action be done universally. Suffers from the “deluge of axioms” problem described below without reference to some external criterion. Mostly produces sane results if made sufficiently specific (one cannot rationally will that people lie…[what? Every time the opportunity arises? What would "universalizing" lying even mean?] But one can rationally will that people lie when necessary to protect innocent lives, even if Kant wasn’t imaginative enough to figure this one out for himself) and if external criterion used is happiness.
    Aristotleanism, Virtue Ethics: does not explain why certain qualities or patterns of behavior are “virtuous” and others “vicious,” needing either reference to an external criterion or the establishment of an individual axiom supporting every claim made by the system. Victim of Ockham’s Razor (though rhetoric supporting them implicitly supports the identification of happiness as the ultimate goal, especially in Aristotle’s writing).
    Egoists: I don’t have time to look them up, but if they’re anything like Objectivists, which the name suggests they might be, their philosophy is incapable of dealing with prisoner’s dilemma scenarios in a naive formulation, and with non-obvious prisoner’s dilemma scenarios in any formulation not assuming perfect knowledge on the part of the actor.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I see what you did there…were those goalposts heavy?

    Way to not engage a point. Again.

    Instinctively sought by humans “for its own sake” rather than in service of a goal: [x] [_]

    Naturalistic fallacy. Also worthless to mention, because happiness is often experienced after the completion of goal (say, murdering a rival in some cases).

    But all of that is besides the point, since I’m asking about why we should accept one over the other as a standard. Why human happiness instead of liberty (because you have trouble defining a term) or instead of anything else, like the production of cake? Why human happiness over the happiness of all living things more generally? If you don’t have an objective reason for using that standard, it’s not really hard to imagine why someone might not want to use it; they don’t share your same values.

    I’m guessing that you probably don’t share that value either, since I feel safe assuming you’re not trying to do everything in your power to make others happier.

  • Alex Weaver

    Oh for FUCK’S SAKE.

    Since the selection of ANY axiom for defining a “dimension” of morality is, as I explicitly stated, arbitrary from a “logical” perspective, I offered several reasons why happiness is intuitively appealing. This is relevant because intuitive appeal is really the only way for deciding among axioms. You ignored all but one of them and are insisting on responding to the one you acknowledged as though arguing against a deductive or rational proof, which suggests to me that you’re either not arguing in good faith or have rendered yourself artificially incapable of conceiving any other way of evaluating things.

    If you’re going to insist on demanding that I prove that happiness is the best criterion, I’m going to have to ask you to “prove” that it matters whether things can be proved.

    I will not dignify the completely unfounded speculation about my personal life with a comment.

  • Mrnaglfar

    For the record, I (personally) see the intuitive appeal of “happiness” in morality as well, in some instances. It is, however, as you stated, just an intuition; a personal value. If I don’t value the happiness of other people who I’ll never meet (and further, don’t value the happiness of some people I have met), the arguments that “human happiness” is “intuitively appealing” are wasted effort, especially in cases where a value like “human happiness” runs up against another value, like “my personal happiness” or “liberty”. Here’s a good for instance:

    I’ve been told the 400 wealthiest Americans have more net worth than the bottom 50% combine(something around there). According to a website I’m looking at, this value hovers at about $1.27 trillion. If human happiness was truly the concern here, we could easily take (by force) 99% of their combine wealth (which would leave each, on average, still fantastically wealthy beyond the dreams of most people alive) and use that money to ensure that millions of people the world over don’t have to see their children and loved ones die from starvation and disease. I don’t think there are many good arguments to be made – in terms of happiness alone – that doing so would be a bad idea. Sure, it will entail some suffering on the part of the people who’s money was taken (they’d need to settle for being mere billionaires), and it would probably entail some suffering in the US economy, but, dollar for dollar, that money would make a lot of other people in the world a lot happier.

    Maybe 99% sounds too steep for many, but even 1% of that money has the potential to save millions of people from starvation and sickness. Would taking 1% by force by morally acceptable? At what point are you willing to trade off the liberty of those 400 people for the happiness of millions? At what point are you willing to trade off the happiness of others for the happiness of yourself, or the people you love?

    These are all good questions, the answer to which will vary from person to person, and even within each person depending on the phrasing and salient variables. I’ll bet that there are plenty of people out there with the “intuition” that taking that 1% is a good idea, but would balk at the idea of someone coming into their house and taking a single prized possession for the same purposes.

    I will not dignify the completely unfounded speculation about my personal life with a comment.

    There’s no shame in saying “I don’t do everything in my power to make other people happy”. I don’t think there’s a person alive who does, despite having the potential to at least try (the reasons for which are good cases against “human happiness” being a workable value). Between donating money, time, property, bodily organs, and other avenues, you could be making people happier and saving lives, especially in third-world countries where money goes a longer way and solutions to major problems are rather cheap in some cases.

    That you have time to debate online (an activity that likely doesn’t increase happiness or avoid suffering much) instead of spending a little more time working to ensure that a family in Africa has a mosquito net for their bed that could save them from potentially deadly pathogens says enough. You could be acting more morally, from the standpoint of human happiness. If it’s something you truly value, I suggest you do just that.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    How the hell did a thread about the nonsensical, self-defeating stance of the Catholic church toward sex turn into yet another discussion of whose e-morality is the greatest, bestest, most justifiedest thing in the whole wide world?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Way to not engage a point. Again.

    You do know what moving the goal posts means, right?