When Romeo first notices Juliet, his arousal is at first unknown to Juliet. It is not, however, generally regarded as a perversion. So he finds himself wondering out loud whether there is any such counterpart in homosexual relations. Similarly, sexual activity can be nonmorally good if it provides for us what we expect sexual activity to provide, which is usually sexual pleasure, and this fact has no necessary moral implications. An account based on presupposing sympathy would be of this kind. She becomes aroused because she is now aware that Romeo is aroused because of her.
They are similar to the norms governing cognition in that they define how an agent-level, motivated activity or practice ideally goes. Nagel is a Fellow of the and a Corresponding Fellow of the , and, in 2006, was elected as a member of the. The suggestion seems to be that deviation from a developmental ideal can be better for you than exemplification of it. Even if this is a correct model of the adult sexual capacity, it is not plausible to describe as perverted every deviation from it. Thus the moral evaluation of sexual activity is a distinct enterprise from the nonmoral evaluation of sexual activity, even if there do remain important connections between them. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. No matter how much backpedaling Nagel does at the end of the paper, if his claims about perversion have any content, they face some version of this problem.
Further, the sexual act itself is peculiar, with its uncontrollable arousal, involuntary jerkings, and its yearning to master and consume the other person's body. They view human sexuality as just another and mostly innocuous dimension of our existence as embodied or animal-like creatures; they judge that sexuality, which in some measure has been given to us by evolution, cannot but be conducive to our well-being without detracting from our intellectual propensities; and they praise rather than fear the power of an impulse that can lift us to various high forms of happiness. The connection between sex and reproduction has no bearing on sexual perversion. On the other side of the divide are the metaphysical sexual optimists Plato, in some of his works, sometimes Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, and many contemporary philosophers who perceive nothing especially obnoxious in the sexual impulse. After this, Nagle forms a general definition of a normal adult sexual relationship by using an example of two people becoming aroused my simply noticing one another, deriving what he considers to be the basic framework of a full-fledged sexual relationship.
Juliet notices Romeo observing her and becomes aroused herself. One can always be maximally objective but one does not have to be. A person who denies the truth of this claim is committed, as in the case of a similar mistake about prudence, to a false view of him or herself. Unpleasant sexual activity might occur between persons who have little experience engaging in sexual activity they do not yet know how to do sexual things, or have not yet learned what their likes and dislikes are , but their failure to provide pleasure for each other does not mean by itself that they perform morally wrongful acts. Another problem is one of question-begging. Even so, it would not follow from these judgments alone that all heterosexual coitus is morally good some of it might be adulterous, or rape or that all homosexual fellatio is morally wrong some of it, engaged in by consenting adults in the privacy of their homes, might be morally permissible.
This in itself is a very weak claim, since the evaluation might be in a dimension that is of little interest to us. That book seeks by reflection on the nature of to uncover the formal principles that underlie reason in practice and the related general beliefs about the self that are necessary for those principles to be truly applicable to us. The Dangers of Sex Whether a particular sexual act or a specific type of sexual act provides sexual pleasure is not the only factor in judging its nonmoral quality: pragmatic and prudential considerations also figure into whether a sexual act, all things considered, has a preponderance of nonmoral goodness. I find that really implausible. Rawls's aim to redress, not remove, the inequalities that arise from class and talent seems to Nagel to lead to a view that does not sufficiently respect the needs of others. Ultimately, I think the best we can say for mere consent — in ethics, at least; politics might be a different story — is that it gives us a prima facie reason to suppose that what people consent to is unobjectionable.
It follows that Nagel does not, and that the argument of the paper begs the question. Consent in this case is not sufficient, and as a result some forms of sadomasochistic sexuality turn out to be morally wrong. An account of what is natural in human sexual desire and activity is part of a philosophical account of human nature in general, what we might call philosophical anthropology, which is a rather large undertaking. Y need not be a person, and X's apprehension of Y can be visual, tactile, olfactory, etc. Many sexual activities can be physically or psychologically risky, dangerous, or harmful. I do not adopt this aspect of the theory, nor many of its metaphysical underpinnings. I would prefer to say that the couple who have lost sexual interest in each other, and who engage in routine sexual activities from which they derive no pleasure, are still performing a sexual act.
The general point is this. In sexual desire and its expression the blending of involuntary response with deliberate control is extremely important. Let us suppose that Juliet, who is a little slower than Romeo, now senses that he senses her. But to the extent that they are, sadism and masochism would be disorders of the second stage of awareness — the awareness of oneself as an object of desire. Let us say that X senses Y whenever X regards Y with sexual desire.
Our sexuality is a threat to the other's personhood; but the one who is in the grip of desire is also on the verge of losing his or her personhood. The concept of perversion can hardly fail to be evaluative in some sense, for it appears to involve the notion of an ideal or at least adequate sexuality which the perversions in some way fail to achieve. So because of this, Nagel goes on to add to his definition by saying that perversion constitutes not only the above but also the prevention of the development of normal sexuality where there is definite potential for the development of normal sexuality by distorting influences. Liberal Ethics We have already encountered one debate: the dispute between a Thomistic Natural Law approach to sexual morality and a more liberal, secular outlook that denies that there is a tight connection between what is unnatural in human sexuality and what is immoral. One hell of a mutatis mutandis, I realize. The complexity of sexual desire implies or makes plausible that sex is inherently interpersonal, and its interpersonal character implies or makes plausible that ideal sexual activity involves a form of reciprocity and mutuality that rules out the use of sex toys and pornography, and also rules out voluntary sadism and masochism.
At the centre of his philosophical undertaking, there is an original, fecund thesis consisting of the recognition of an essential tension between the different points of view that we adopt in living our lives: the tension between an objective, impersonal point of view and a subjective, personal one. This of course intensifies her bodily presence, and he not only notices but senses this as well. The particular sort of metaphysics of sex one believes will influence one's subsequent judgments about the value and role of sexuality in the good or virtuous life and about what sexual activities are morally wrong and which ones are morally permissible. Physical contact and intercourse are natural extensions of this complicated visual exchange, and mutual touch can involve all the complexities of awareness present in the visual case, but with a far greater range of subtlety and acuteness. The denial of the sufficiency of consent is also frequently presupposed by those philosophers who claim that only in a committed relationship is sexual activity between two people morally permissible. Author Information Alan Soble Email: Drexel University U. You really have to wonder whether the people who pay the tuition bills for these students bargained on their studying any of this at a nice, respectable Catholic institution like Felician, The Franciscan College of New Jersey.
Just as the set of norms governing belief-formation or degree of credence adjustment are not identical to the norms governing morality or prudence, so with the norms specific to sexual relationships if there are such — this is part of the hypothesis. A sexual act might be morally bad yet nonmorally good: one spouse in that couple, married for ten years, commits adultery with another married person and finds their sexual activity to be extraordinarily satisfying. According to motivated desire theory, when a person is motivated to moral action it is indeed true that such actions are motivated — like all intentional actions — by a belief and a desire. Posted by: Justin Rech Limited version - please login or to view the entire paper. And although there might be a form of fetishism focused on the employment of contraceptive devices, that is not the usual explanation for their use. For Nagel, honoring the objective point of view demands nothing less. For the depth and coherence of his original philosophical perspective, which is centered on the essential tension between objective and subjective points of view.