Monday, December 21, 2015

Critical discussion of One Body

The latest issue of Annals of Philosophy has critiques by Murphy, Taliaferro and Perez, Trakakis, Hamilton, Archard, Griffiths, Wielenberg, KÄ…kol, Hershenov and Watt of my One Body book on sexual ethics. The critiques are powerful and interesting. There is also a retrospective account by me of what I am doing in One Body as well as a response to each critic (but not to each criticism--I typically picked one point per critic).


Mark Rogers said...

I liked N. N. Trakakis's response. I like historical overviews. However Trakakis seems tied to the view that an absence of objection to a certain circumstance, such as a marriage initially and possibly forever devoid of romantic love, entails consent to a life long state of affairs which will be missing a known and highly desired qualia, romantic enduring love, and considering the possible dangers of romantic love, believes this to be a good thing, a traditional Christian norm. I do not think the rather flaccid understanding of consent as an absence of objection to be a good thing particularly when one is thinking of life time commitments and possibly less than neutral as traditionally the Christian church has considered that sins of omission can possibly be grievous just as sins of commission can be grievous. Tradition has always stressed personal stewardship of ones life. And yet even for the morally sensitive we are who we are and we are where we are and we are called to do the best with what we are given.

sgirgis said...

When I read Griffiths' description of his main objection (that you simply assume / stipulate that various acts are "seeking" one flesh union, thus smuggling into their description your substantive conclusion that they're immoral if non-coital), I immediately thought his objection was unfair, and for a straightforward reason.

Your main objection to non-coital sex is that it gives the experience of one-flesh union (climax) without the reality (which only joint striving toward reproduction provides). And it is this bad-making feature, not your sheer stipulation, that tells us the category of acts that are wrong on account of it: namely, those involving or intended to cause climax apart from coitus. (A perfectly general argument about avoiding near occasions of sin and scandal would then also tell against, e.g., prolonged embraces between a married person and someone besides their spouse that they're attracted to).

In your reply, you do eventually say something along these lines, but not directly and not immediately. I'm wondering whether that was intentional. You say, for instance, that your book's method was to begin with a central case of sexual acts and define the category by reference to that case. But this seemed to me to concede too much to Griffiths' suggestion that your category of sexual (and, hence, immoral-if-not-coital) acts was susceptible to gerrymandering, or anyway not well defended.

I think a better way for Griffiths to have objected is to question the claim that climax is, as your argument requires, the affective perception *only* as of one-flesh union (as opposed to something more general... so that seeking it apart from bodily union involves seeking the experience of a certain good without its reality). Perhaps the strongest reply on your behalf is that there is no plausible *alternative* description of a good for climax to be the perception of, at least one that isn't viciously circular (by referring to, e.g., *pleasing* or *valuable* contact/intimacy/etc.) or too general (by including fleshly intimacies that, e.g., even sisters can properly share, like warm hugs). Does that seem right to you?

In other words, perhaps your book's many arguments for the claim that what romantic love seeks is one-flesh union, also double as arguments for the conclusion that one-flesh union is what climax is the affective perception of.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Thanks! I particularly like the final conclusion.