WHAT I REALLY HATE
I really, really, really fucking hate it when Christian philosophers put forward pieces of crap that they pretend to be philosophical arguments, but that are just word salads that are posing as philosophical arguments. I really, really, really fucking hate having to dig through their bronzed turds to try to make something of intellectual value out of their lazy, sloppy, unclear faux arguments.
The core “argument” in Tim Hsiao’s article “A Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument against Homosexual Sex” (hereafter: PFA) appears to me to be one such faux argument. He fails to define or to clarify ANY of the basic terms and phrases in his core “argument”, making it a string of words that cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands. I was happy that Hsiao responded to my objections, because I was hoping that he would shed some light on his pathetic “argument” by defining or clarifying some of the key words or phrases in his core “argument”. But he has failed to provide any such clarification in comments, so his “argument” remains a faux argument; it was Dead On Arrival.
However, I would like to have something intelligent to say in response to this sort of Thomist argument, because this Thomist shit about homosexual sex, abortion, contraception, etc. is not going away anytime soon. Although I really, really, really fucking hate doing this, I am going to make an attempt to turn the faux argument by Hsiao into a REAL ARGUMENT, something that has actual intellectual content, something I can sink my teeth into.
Here is the core “argument” in PFA:
4. All sexual activity that is not open to the creation of new life is immoral.
A. All homosexual activity is sexual activity that is not open to the creation of new life.
7A. All homosexual activity is immoral.
The first task we need to perform, in order to turn this FAKE argument into a REAL argument, is to spell out what the conclusion (7A) means. We cannot rationally evaluate an argument that we do not understand. And we do not understand an argument unless we understand the point of the argument, and that requires that we understand the MEANING of the conclusion of the argument. The conclusion of this “argument” is a categorical claim, namely a universal generalization of the following form:
ALL Xs are Ys.
We can clarify (7A) by putting it more explicitly into the form of a universal categorical generalization:
7B. ALL instances of homosexual activity ARE instances of immoral actions.
This is a simple, straightforward logical structure, so we don’t need to spend any more time on the logical structure of the conclusion.
But we do need to understand the terms or categories that this claim uses. What does “homosexual activity” mean? and what does “immoral actions” mean? Until we have clear and reasonable answers to those two questions, we do not understand the conclusion of this argument, and thus we do not understand the argument.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF “HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITY”?
Jesus H Christ, you would think that a philosopher who is putting forward an argument against “homosexual activity” in a journal of philosophy would define or explain what the HELL it was that he was arguing against! But that is apparently too great a burden for Hsiao to bear. I suspect that he is intellectually incapable of providing such a definition or clarification, otherwise he would have provided it in PFA, or he would have provided it in his comments on my post #3 where I argue that his argument is a faux argument because it is so thoroughly UNCLEAR.
Although Hsiao completely FAILED to provide clarification of the key term “homosexual activity”, one of the comments by someone else in response to my objections proposes a definition of this phrase:
According to this comment by Jonathan Schwartzbauer, we should define “homosexual activity” like this:
Person A engages in homosexual activity IF AND ONLY IF:
1. two people are engaged in sexual relations, and
2. those two people are of the same sex, and
3. person A is one of those two people.
This is certainly clearer than anything suggested by Hsiao, but that is mainly because Hsiao has not suggested ANY definition or clarification of this phrase.
I see a few problems with this definition right off the bat. However, these problems might not be deadly. Perhaps this definition could be refined to avoid the problems that I am now going to point out.
FIRST, what about when THREE or FOUR or FIVE or SIX people engage in “sexual relations” together? This definition appears to rule out GROUP SEX by specifying that “two people” must be “engaged in sexual relations”. But what if man A is thrusting his penis into the anus of man B while man B is thrusting his penis into the anus of man C while man C is thrusting his penis into the anus of man D while man D is thrusting his penis into the anus of man A?
I have never tried this myself, so perhaps this is physically unrealistic. Maybe you would need to have six or more men in order to form a simultaneous circle of anal sex (although just four men could engage in circular anal sex, if they took turns penetrating their partner, going around the circle). But this group sex activity seems to be a clear case of “homosexual activity”, so the definition proposed above seems to be incorrect in specifying that there must be only TWO people who are engaged in “sexual relations” in order for “homosexual activity” to occur.
SECOND, the phrase “sexual relations” is unclear. Most American adults, even those who don’t care about politics, current affairs, or American history, are probably familiar with the following English sentence:
I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
This sentence was uttered by President Bill Clinton on January 26, 1998. The woman he referred to is Monica Lewinsky.
If this sentence is unfamiliar, then you should check out this video:
Although this sentence uttered by Bill Clinton was intended to mislead and deceive the public, various lawyers wrangled over how to define the phrase “sexual relations”, and the definition blessed by the judge in Clinton’s trial was such that the sentence uttered by Bill Clinton was TRUE, at least if you understand the phrase “sexual relations” according to the definition used in his trial, even though Monica Lewinsky had sucked on Clinton’s cock until he experienced an orgasm and ejaculated semen into her mouth and/or onto her dress.
Of course, most people would take this to be a clear-cut case of Clinton having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky. But the precise definition adopted in his trial does not fully and accurately capture the ordinary meaning of “sexual relations” and thus provided a legal loophole for Clinton to use, making this claim by Clinton true, in that context, based on that precise definition.
This historical event suggests two lessons that are relevant to our discussion here. First, the phrase “sexual relations” is somewhat UNCLEAR and in need of definition or clarification. Second, it is somewhat CHALLENGING to produce a definition of the phrase “sexual relations” that fully and accurately captures the ordinary meaning of this phrase.
THIRD, the phrase “the same sex” in condition (2) of the definition is problematic. The concepts of “sex” and “gender” are no longer as clear as they once seemed to be. Nowadays, some people who are born with a penis decide to “become” a female or a woman. Some people who are born with a vagina decide to become a male or a man. Also, there are some people who do not identify as either a male or a female, and there are some people who want to be partly male and partly female. There are many options and alternatives these days. Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and conservative Catholics who are upset by these new options and alternatives want to establish a clear-cut criterion for determining the sex of a person, a criterion that is based on biology or on our physical bodies. So, the temptation is to define a “male” as someone who was born with a penis (for example):
The sex of person A is male IF AND ONLY IF:
person A was born with a penis.
The sex of person A is female IF AND ONLY IF:
person A is NOT a male.
On these definitions, every person would be either male or female, and no one would be both male and female, and no one would be partly male or partly female. Furthermore, based on this “conservative” definition, it would not be possible for a male to “become” a female, nor for a female to “become” a male, even though it is possible for a person born with a penis to (through surgery) get rid of the penis and obtain a vagina, and even though it is possible for a person born with a vagina to (through surgery) get rid of the vagina and obtain a penis. However, such definitions, as comforting as they may be to Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and conservative Catholics, might still be problematic when applied to our current issue.
What if a person who was born with a vagina decides to become a person who identifies as a male and that person also has surgery performed to get rid of the vagina and surgery to obtain a penis?
If this person, who now has a penis, has anal sex with a man – with someone who was born with a penis – by thrusting his/her penis into the anus of the male sexual partner, then this would NOT count as “homosexual activity” based on the above definition of what it means to be a MALE and based on the proposed definition of “homosexual activity”. Although the sexual activity here looks just like clear-cut cases of “homosexual activity” it would NOT count as such, because these two people would NOT be “of the same sex”. The person thrusting the penis into the man’s anus would be considered to be a FEMALE (on the “conservative” definition), because that person was not born with a penis.
In short, before we can reasonably settle on a definition of the phrase “homosexual activity”, we must first settle on a definition of what it means for two people to be “of the same sex”, and in order to settle on a definition of that phrase, we need to first determine what it means to be a MALE, and what it means to be a FEMALE. This is no longer a simple and easy task to accomplish, especially in this context of discussing homosexuality and other alternatives to traditional ideas and practices about sex and gender.
FOURTH, because we are dealing with moral evaluations, the concept of “intention” is important to keep in mind. What if a man (in this case a person who was born with a penis, still has a penis, and identifies as a male) has sex with a person who appears to have a vagina, and the man does so by thrusting his penis into the “vagina” of the other person, whom he believes to be a female, but the man is mistaken (according to the “conservative” definition of MALE above) because although his sexual partner has no penis now, and has what appears to be a vagina, that other person was actually born with a penis, and then later underwent sex-change surgeries to obtain a more feminine body.
Although this sexual activity looks just like ordinary heterosexual intercourse, it would count as “homosexual activity” based on the above proposed definition. These two people would be “of the same sex” (based on the “conservative” definition of what it means to be MALE), and they are clearly engaging in “sexual relations” (that look just like ordinary heterosexual intercourse), so this would count as “homosexual activity” and the moral condemnation of this activity would fall upon the unsuspecting man, specifically on the man who was born with a penis, still had a penis, and who identified as a male. This man would be morally condemned for engaging in “homosexual sex” even though his intention was to engage in heterosexual intercourse and his sexual activity looks just like ordinary heterosexual intercourse to most observers (e.g. if the activity was video taped and viewed later by intelligent sexually-experienced adults). This seems very UNFAIR and UNREASONABLE.
Intentions are also significant because RAPE and BEING RAPED, it seems to me, still counts as a sub-set of engaging in sexual relations. If one man rapes another man by forcing the other man to bend over and have his anus penetrated by the first man’s penis, the first man is clearly doing something immoral, but that is because he is FORCING the other man to “engage in sexual relations” against his will. The second man is NOT doing anything wrong! He is a victim. But the definition of “homosexual activity” that is proposed above makes no mention about the intentions of the people who are “engaged in sexual relations”, so it would count this as an instance of “homosexual activity” by BOTH men involved, and thus the victim of RAPE here would be morally condemned when he has clearly done nothing wrong.
I see at least four problems with the proposed definition of “homosexual activity”. It might be the case that all four problems can be resolved by making some revisions to the proposed definition. However, it might also be the case that revisions to this definition that are required to resolve these problems will themselves involve resolution of controversial issues about gender, sex, and sexual morality. So, there might not be a quick and easy fix for the various significant problems with this proposed definition.