Thursday, November 4, 2021

The politics of chastity

Chastity is the virtue governing the proper use of sexuality.  My article “The Politics of Chastity” appears in the Fall 2021 issue of Nova et Vetera.  It is part of a symposium on Reinhard Hütter’s book Bound for Beatitude: A Thomistic Study in Eschatology and Ethics, which includes an essay on the subject of chastity and pornography that inspired my own article.  The article addresses the nature of chastity, vices contrary to chastity, the effect such vices (and in particular pornography) have on society at large, and the implications all of this has for political philosophy and in particular for the question of integralism. 

Related reading:

Love and sex roundup

122 comments:

  1. Speaking of natural law theory, does anyone know if Feser has responded to Laird's critique?

    https://www.amazon.com/Unnecessary-Science-Critical-Analysis-Natural/dp/0993510264 & http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/gunther-laird-critiques-natural-law-in-the-unnecessary-science/

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    1. I've read those critiques. They're bad. They're very, very bad.

      One of the critiques is that natural law theory doesn't necessarily point toward Christianity being true. How this has anything to do with the truth or falsity of natural law theory is beyond me.

      Another is the argument that, under a realist view of universals, homosexuality would be a universal, so there is no reason why it would be "unnatural." This is based on the fallacy that the realist view of universals would make each noun into a real, concrete form. An analysis of homosexuality would reveal it to be a privation, not a form in itself.

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    2. I've seen people posting about this guy's critique before, but I have never heard of him. Now, the fact that I and, probably, most people aside from his mom haven't heard of him, doesn't mean that his criticisms aren't any good. However, it must be understood that nobody will really care unless someone gives a reason to do so.

      So, what does his critique consist of? How is it different from most that are just aimed at strawmen and thus merits a response? You guys want Feser yo respond to anything anyone writes, amidst all the other work he has, and you don't take the time of the day to present what is worth responding to.

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    3. I believe he did not and I doubt he would. I think Feser would be wise to not descend into debate within the lay-realm for small stuff like this. Good for Laird and Torley for doing some reading but I don't see the value in putting together that entire second article just to have a bunch of poor criticisms floating on the web.

      At the end of the day, Natural Law is the application of metaphysics to the ethical world. Finality, and its root in goodness are not really debated here. The main critique in the torley article is that we ought to distrust Aquinas and Aristotle's moral theories because they supposedly believed in immoral things. Even if I were to grant that, it doesn't follow that teleology doesn't apply to morality, only that we shouldn't trust their particular application of it due to perhaps a vicious mind. But that's not even the case, as I'm quite sure there is some further understanding required to St. Thomas's ethics than is captured in a hyperlink reference.

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    4. Looking at Torley and Laird's Skeptical Zone article, I think they don't understand the nature of revelation nor the idea of authority. This is a common problem among atheists, as they always conceive of God as just one person among many, as a sort of cosmic dictator.

      First, God has authority over life and death and inflicts the punishment of death on all men, both godly and ungodly, on account of Original Sin. If a man is the executor of that sentence by Divine authority, he is no more a murderer than God. This is no different from if the state were to execute a criminal for a sentence in principle.

      Second, God has authority over all the things of the Earth, including people's possessions. Now, if a group of people were sinners, then God is perfectly right to appropriate their property and give it to someone worthy, just as the state has the authority to appropriate someone's tools.

      Third, God is the author of marriage, and just as the state can rewrite the laws of marriage to a certain extent, and Lair and Torley (being atheists) believe that the state can rewrite marriage to such an extent so as to allow for so-called "gay marriage." Surely, then, they must accept that God can rewrite the laws of marriage as well, being its author. We must also keep in mind that Osee didn't even sleep with Gomer, as seen when he denies she is his wife and again when he denies her children are his. We know that God allowed these things in the past, before people had the full revelation of God's plan.

      The final thing I'd note here is that most of these immoralities that are cited happened before the New Covenant, when God gave the Church the authority it does today. Someone who goes before the Church and claims "Oh, God gave me the authority to have multiple wives" or "God gave me the authority to kill my son" would be directly challenging the Church's authority and thus show himself to be a fraud.

      In short, the atheist objections rely on treating God as though He did not have the authority He clearly would given even natural theology.

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    5. Imagine thinking that if certain arguments do not fit with their giver religion them you can ignore they...

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    6. What are you talking about, Talmid?

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    7. Your last post seemed to imply that one of the objections placed against natural law theory is that it does not fit with God actions on Scripture. Even if it did not fit(it does, as you explained), this would not say anything about it being tru or not.

      The only exception would be if one is taking christianity for granted, but what type of atheist does that!

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    8. What I said earlier is that the atheist argument that God violates the natural law by taking lives, repossessing property, or marrying two individuals assumes that God does not have the authority to do those things. Aquinas makes clear that God does have the authority to do those things. If the atheists are going to argue that Aquinas is totally insane for saying these things, then they have to at least show this by demonstrating the fallaciousness of Aquinas's thought, which they don't do.

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    9. I see, that is completely true. My bad.

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    10. Mister Geocon,

      1. As someone who prays daily (albeit not well), I take exception to being called an atheist. For the record, I might also add that I've never argued in favor of gay marriage. Get your facts straight.

      2. Gunther Laird isn't an atheist either. He's an agnostic.

      3. If you've read Gunther Laird's book, you'll be aware that Laird has read Feser's work very thoroughly, and that he quotes extensively from Feser's writings on natural law. Unlike most skeptical critics, Laird makes a sincere effort to portray Feser's views as sympathetically as possible, and he is unfailingly polite towards Feser.

      4. My review over at The Skeptical Zone was of chapter 4 of Laird's book (which highlighted the dark side of Aquinas' moral and theological views), not chapter 3 (which critiques Feser's natural law arguments). A review of that chapter will appear in about two or three weeks.

      5. You defend Aquinas' view (S.T. I-II q. 94 art. 5) that God has the authority to order His people to kill men, women and children. In Aquinas' words, "by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever." Aquinas also insisted (S.T. II, q. 108, art. 49 that God could order the slaughter of innocent children (such as the children of the Amalekites). Such a view would logically entail that God could command a woman to abort her own child.

      Aquinas also wrote (S.T. I-II, q. 94, art. 5) that "intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is neither adultery nor fornication," since a man's wife is allotted to Him by God, Who has authority over everyone. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would entail that God could order rape. It is difficult to argue against gay sex with a straight face while upholding such an odious theological view.

      6. There are Catholic natural law theorists who are willing to declare that Aquinas' extreme views on God's authority - notably, his view that humans are God's chattels - was profoundly mistaken. John Finnis and Bishop Barron are two esteemed writers who come to mind. You would do well to examine their writings. Cheers.

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    11. God could order those things to happen, but he doesn't, the point made in here is that God is capable of doing everything, but he will not do anything that goes against his nature.

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  2. Well, good luck with that. I think this is one case where Papalinton's ad populum reasoning is not fallacious. Christianity's precipitous decline does not in the least affect the truth of Christianity, but it does affect the political efficacy of Christianity. I'm afraid I don't believe integralism is possible or will be in the foreseeable future. I believe Oswald Spengler was wrong about a lot of things, but he was right about two: civilizations have lifespans, and ours is near the end of its. I do take some small comfort in the schadenfreude afforded by the knowledge that a society that defies reality cannot last. Sooner or later it will collapse under the weight of its own insanity, and it will collapse on top of those who divorced it from reality.

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    1. It is quite reasonable to suggest that civilizations have a "sell-by" date, but it is also possible - or even probable - that the expected life-span of a civilization rests quite critically on just how well it manages to model realities, especially realities of human nature. A pretty-good modeling will probably last much longer than a pretty bad one. So, the expected life span is "natural" in a sense, but also "man-influenced" in a stronger sense.

      Secondly, while I agree that this current order has not much more life in it, the particulars of the NEXT order to come along may well be better or worse based on what we talk about and think about NOW in regards to "where it went wrong": A new order begins, in part, in reaction to "what went wrong", as perceived by those who begin the new one. If we rightly assess where THIS one is going wrong, and influence enough of the right (effective decision-making) people who build the next order, we might have a valuable effect for the good.

      If it is true that (a) this civilization is going into an irretrievable decline, and (b) Christianity is going into a severe and nearly complete decline in numbers of true believers, nothing precludes that (a) is due to (b) more than (b) is due to Christianity being not true. More to the point, if we define the current order as the one that sprang out of "the """Enlightenment""" " (sic), with the moral and spiritual malaise of religious indifference a formal element thereof, nothing precludes a determination of religious non-indifference being one foundational element of a new order.

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    2. You could be right. I hope so.

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    3. Fred @ 12.39PM
      You write: "I believe Oswald Spengler was wrong about a lot of things, but he was right about two: civilizations have lifespans, and ours is near the end of its. I do take some small comfort in the schadenfreude afforded by the knowledge that a society that defies reality cannot last. Sooner or later it will collapse under the weight of its own insanity, and it will collapse on top of those who divorced it from reality."

      This is a very interesting point you make. And the historical record is replete with numerous examples of civilisations whose lifespans have come to an end.

      But it is not that when civilisations die people die. On the contrary. They live on but change their belief system. When the Egyptian civilisation died Egyptians didn't die. They were still there in their millions. Only their religious belief system changed. They became Muslim.

      Roman civilisation lasted for some 1,000 years. The city-state of Rome existed as a Republican government (from 509 BCE to 27 BCE), one of the earliest examples of representative democracy in the world. At its dissolution in 27BCE the Roman Empire was formed, coming to an end officially in 467CE, only a 100 years after Constantine made Christianity the official state religion.

      The disintegration of the Roman Empire ensued in large part through the incursion of Christianity which weakened the authority and credibility of the emperor and the Senate. Christianity eroded traditional Roman religious beliefs and values, that had stoutly defended and sustained Roman civilisation for centuries; the demise precipitated by its incursion into the very fabric of Roman society.

      Western civilisation, today, now finds itself undergoing such change to a Post-Christian world. The trend is palpable as society is seriously questioning the relevance and role of Christianity as a belief system going forward.

      You say: "I do take some small comfort in the schadenfreude afforded by the knowledge that a society that defies reality cannot last."

      So do I. But I'm not sure your schadenfreude is the correct reading of history. And I am not all that surprised your schadenfreude may well be predicated on the 'armageddon and parousia' motif of Christian mythology.

      The historical record seems unambiguously clear the outcome of civilisation change is first and foremost a change in religious belief systems. The end of the Mesopotamian civilisation saw an end to its belief structure [and out went Marduk], as did the Egyptian civilisation and the Roman Empire. The formidable shift in the European Union, the veritable centre of Western civilisation, is an indisputable example of this current change. “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good" is the refrain that best illustrates the foundational nature of this change. In Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and indeed even the USA, the global trend is both palpable and substantial.

      History is clear. Religions have come and gone. Old Gods don't die. They simply fade away from memory. Religions are the expendable cultural artefact as civilisations change.

      Civilisation changes as belief systems change.

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    4. I know you're just salivating over the end of Christianity, Paps, but have you given any thought to what you want to replace it with? What is in the process of replacing it as the norm?

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    5. @Papalinton:

      To suggest that civilizational collapse merely involves exchanging one religion for another is a gross over-simplification.

      Civilizational death generally also involves social and economic collapse.

      In the case of the Roman Empire, years of barbarian invasions, sackings of cities, enormous military spending, deterioration of the road and shipping network, and inflation placed an unbearable strain on the society and economy. City services could no longer be maintained so cities shrunk enormously.

      When the grain supply to the City of Rome was exhausted in the second half of the fifth century, the population of the city dropped from around 650,000 in 450 to about 100,000 in 500. Large parts of the ancient city were left to ruin. That speaks to near complete social and economic collapse.

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    6. I hadn't noticed this post by Paps.

      "Civilisation changes as belief systems change."

      Interesting that, supposedly according to you, Paps, as Rome made Christianity the sanctioned religion Rome collapsed within 100 years because, supposedly, the rulers could not compete with Christian refusal to worship them. Odd, then, that the Roman Empire survived in the East for another 1000 years in the presence of of that awful, empire killing, Christianity. Interesting, too, that the rulers of Western Civilization (you seem, as well, Paps, to be unclear about the difference between empire and civilization), rulers of all types, have been able to survive and rule in the presence of Christianity for over 2000 years now, without needing worshippers of God to to worship them instead.

      You know how to sound good (to addled minds) but you don't know how to make sense.

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. Tom,
      I am unable to respond because Dr Feser has censored earlier responses of mine on this topic and I have no doubt any further comment I make will be equally expunged because he clearly believes that readers on this site are unable to protect themselves let alone handle the substantive arguments that counters the Christian narrative on civilisation change. While Dr Feser seems to have no problem or issue with allowing Anonymous, Jack and Mr Geocon to sidetrack this thread on Chastity in respect of bona fide intellectual discourse on the fundamental nature of civilisation change resulting in a change in belief systems, Dr Feser has not afforded me the same courtesy or decency of putting my reasoned case before you.

      Dr Feser, in banning my comment to Mr Geocon assumed the same stance as Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men"
      "You can't handle the truth"

      If Dr Feser was a genuine seeker of truth as he professes he would release and publish my earlier banned comment to Mr Geocon so that following commenters, such as Jack [@ 10.13AM] and Anonymous [@ 3.28PM] would be able to assess the merits of the argument for themselves without being left in complete ignorance not of their making, nor kept in the dark [treated as mushrooms] of the exercise of literary repression by Dr Feser. While it is convenient for Dr Feser to censor my comment on the basis of it being off-topic to this thread on Chastity, there is good argument that this is a spurious reason. And in its broader context, the deepest ethic of Chastity is Fidelity. And fidelity, of message, of truth, is at the very heart of this conversation.

      I know Dr Feser all too well.

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    8. Papalinton,

      Cut the crap. I didn't approve your recent comment because (as you yourself admitted in that comment itself!) it was off-topic. Moreover, it was the same repetitive, tired, boring, off-topic point you make over and over in the comboxes here, routinely derailing threads with your pet obsessions and argumentum ad populum.

      As you and everyone else here know, I have in fact been extremely tolerant of you, and regularly approve most of your comments as long as they are on-topic and not excessively nasty, despite their not being of much interest or quality.

      The same rules apply in this thread as in others. As this thread shows, I let all kinds of stuff critical of me through. But if a comment is off-topic (or just a piece of substance-free drive-by nastiness or whatever) then I won't approve it. So cut it out with the "Feser can't handle my brilliant criticisms" nonsense.

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    9. Yes I informed Mr Geocon that my response was off-topic. But I responded to his comment directed at me specifically because he at least deserved a reply and I made note of the off-topic nature of the thread. That was not a trigger call to ban it. And had you read it you would have seen that my reply was both innocuous and short, and for the most part only referred to an international report that reflected my perspective on the possible future of religion in the modern world

      You might say it's crap, but there is a whole world out there that you are not treating with intellectual integrity or ethical respect. And that is a problem. Chastity of thought is fidelity of thought.

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    10. I must also thank you for publishing my comment @ 1.31AM. It was a pleasant surprise to me that you indeed did so. If there is any nastiness on this site it has not been my doing. Indeed, even a cursory review of comments will clearly demonstrate that much of the invective, substance-free drive-by nastiness, ad hominem attacks and personal insults in this last year have been directed at me, simply because I hold a different philosophical perspective to you. That different perspective should be welcomed, not pilloried.

      I know that a robust defence against much-cherished beliefs can feel like a personal attack. And for many here who wear their emotions on their sleeve, they react that way. But they need to read the words and the ideas contained in them. Emotions need to be set aside and the merits of the argument allowed to take centre stage.

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    11. Papalinton,

      Yes, I don't think that you personally have been guilty of excessive invective, as far as I can tell. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. You should also know that there have been substance-free nasty comments directed at you (and at other readers who are unfriendly to me or my views) that I have not approved. I do try to be fair to both sides.

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    12. Papalinton,

      I apologize for asking a question that was off-topic.

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    13. Apology accepted Mr Geocon. Though I must say you have been one of the more gracious of my interlocutors.

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  3. "[T]he modern state has to a large extent a kind of 'pornocracy' that directly pits itself against the family and against the virtue of chastity that is its safeguard. It has to that extent made itself the agent of the most basic kind of social injustice - and thus, to that extent, tyrannical."

    "Pornocracy" is a good word for it. People need social norms to hold together as a society, and if the social norms are reinforcing anti-social actions, the result is disintegration. The liberals who denigrate and fear "incels" ought to blame the pornocratic system that gave birth to them. Instead, they blame "masculinity" or "patriarchy" and pathologize things like "being a breadwinner" or "being stoic" as signs of mental illness.

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  4. Wow - great article Ed. I can't agree more with your conclusions.

    As a father, my battleground is with my own kids. They are experiencing aggressive indoctrination with regard to LGBT, pornography, contraception, and abortion at our local school. I have my eldest at a private Christian school for grades 9 to 12, but the younger ones are in public schools.

    I've been going through Christopher West's Theology of the Body intro playlist with my three eldest boys (12, 13, and 15) when I drive them to school in the morning:

    https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAbqXQaOvkM4Q01szl54g7Sj9mJ8bfKf0

    It has a kind of Aquinas 101 vibe to it. He is good at instilling a positive vision of sexuality based on John Paul II's theology of the body.

    They were initially hemming and hawing every time I played a video, but now they are fully engaged and interested. We have good discussions afterwards.

    Particularly effective was the discussion about Wives submit to your husbands and how Paul subverted the inherent misogyny endemic in the Pagan world by totally redefining what submission means - e.g. mutual self sacrifice for the other. My guys were really amazed when this was explained. The issue of complementarity was also important and the fact that there are inherent roles, as you describe them in your article.

    But equally important was the discussion on the idea that there will be no marriage in heaven. This opened up a discussion on the topic that sexuality is a partial good. It contains in itself the seeds of suffering, self sacrifice, and self donation that is an image of Christ's relation with the church. That lead to a discussion of how we can make an idol out of sexual desire, and how the real fulfillment of desire can only be attained in God. That is our ultimate hope and that the flip side of that hope is joyful anticipation.

    I wish there were institutions that could effectively transmit these ideas to my kids. But that is not the case where I live. I hope I can shelter my kids from all the crap out there - God willing.

    Thanks again for this article. It has a different tone from JP II's personalism. Far more objective. The audience is not kids or teens - its for adults. We need governments to start reversing the course on these issues - and this is all the more problematic, however, given the nature of the moral blindness you describe. Perhaps the next generation will be able to crawl out of the morass we find ourselves mired in. But if we remain silent, nothing will change.

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    1. While it is not absolutely impossible to unwind the intense programming that occurs in most schools with intense parental effort, it is very difficult even to counteract the most critical aspects of that programming, and virtually impossible to unwind the sub-rational (below the level of reason and conscious mind) influence of being around (a) adults, and (b) a whole school of kids, who think in lockstep with the programming, when the kid is around them 7 hours a day. These influences seep into the aspirations, expectations, and sensibilities of what is "normal" without the child even being aware of it.

      It is for reasons like to this that Catholic pastors used to tell parents (back in the day) that it was a moral and spiritual obligation to put your kids into Catholic schools. (There are several Catholic documents that imply the same result). Nowadays, more than half of the Catholic schools are merely "secular-liberal-light" and only marginally better than public schools. In some areas, it is not beyond possibility that home-schooling is the only FEASIBLE way of educating your kids decently, if that is at all possible.

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  5. Interesting theme. I was very suprised to read in Aquinas that matters of sexuality, instead of just a private matter, actually have important consequences to the human race and to society in general, so they are not exactly private(even if regulating they is normaly next to impossible even in a medieval society). The liberal conditioning was so great that i did understand some effects that these things can cause but never considered the principle itself before.

    A shame that you can't normally talk about these themes and them being taken serious. Things like divorces and children born out of wedlock, abortions etc cause a lot of problems to the involved and society in general.

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    1. How can one be fooled by the "it doesn't matter to you, it's a private matter" bit when we have the LGBT lobby rewriting law to cater to their demands?

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    2. @ Mister Geocon,

      "How can one be fooled [...] LGBT lobby [...]."

      And given that it has totalitarian thugs attacking people on the street.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. @Mister Geocon

      Easy, have the culture, media etc saying that these things are a private matter. When the LGTV folks start to act these guys just need to pretend that it is not a sexuality but a justice or rights issue. A bit of double-thought can do wonders if you are powerful enough.

      This manipulation is very, very strong, it takes effort to rewrite. Take for instance the classicsl liberals, they know of the damage that the social justice guys do but they still buy the "private matters" trick.

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    4. Talmid

      Of course some matters of sexuality, instead of just a private matter, actually have important consequences to the human race and to society in general, but not all.
      Whether or not I masturbate is, e.g. a private matter.
      Divorce can be a bad thing, but it can be a good thing too, because, at least in some cases it allows children to grow up in a loving environment.
      I can give countless other examples, but the bottom line is that "perverting" sexual faculties, despite the assertion that it cannot possibly be good, can in at least some cases be shown to benefit individuals as well as society.

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    5. Well, Walter, even writers like Aquinas would allow that while certain pratices are wrong it is a prudential matter if they should be prohibited by the law in certain society or not. There does exist the recognition that the State can't do magic and all that. Something like "what to do with divorce?" Can be a good discussion.

      Of course, nowdays it is harder to discuss these things, for the culture particular view of freedom is not reactionary-friendly, but we do what we can.

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    6. Talmid

      That is not my point. My point is that not all sexual matters have important consequences to society and that some so called pervesions actually have good consequences to society.

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    7. I see. While this would not be seen by the tradition as evidence of these pratices not being bad, we are not utilitarians, it could be used when discussing how the positive law should treat they.

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    8. Talmoid

      I have no idea what the tradition would see as evidence, but the fact that there are so-called perversions have absolutely no bad consequences
      is, IMO, very good evidence to show that the claim that "perversions" of the sexual faculties as necessarily bad is simply an assertion that cannot be backed up by facts.
      And it is most certainly evidence that aty leasty some matters of sexuality definitely are private matters, despite what Aquinas or Feser or you might think about it.

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    9. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "[...] the fact that there are so-called perversions [that] have absolutely no bad consequences"

      What do you mean by so-called perversions?

      Tom Cohoe

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    10. Walter,

      You seem to have this mindset that "If the consequences of sexual deviancy cannot be felt right away, then it's a-okay by my book."

      Why should anyone believe in this?

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    11. @Walter

      The traditional method is to analise the person both completely and also in her parts in order to find out not only the human particular telos but the body parts telos as well. The evidence for or against a particular act being good would be a philosophical argumentation type.

      One could use empirical data that shows that wildspread use of certain acts probably tend to generate some outcomes that we perceive as desirable as evidence in favor of the "the act is not bad, idiot" view, but it would not be enough, for ethics are not that type of science. Thanks to the method used in ethics, this kinda of empirical evidence is not very useful.

      It could be useful when discussing if we should thread the matter on a particular society as a private matter, though, i give you that.

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    12. Tom

      So-called perversions are the things Feser calls perversions.

      Mister Geocon

      No, I have the mindset that if there are no conceivable bad consequences of a sexual "deviancy" the claim that perversion of a faculty is necessarily bad is demonstrably false.

      Talmid

      See my answer to Mister Geocon.

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    13. @ Walter Van den Acker

      "So-called perversions are the things Feser calls perversions."

      You haven't said anything intelligible about what *you*, no one else here, calls "so-called perversions". Identify these things specifically. Or are you just operating on a principle that if Professor Feser calls something a perversion, why then it is actually good?

      What, specifically, are you talking about?

      Tom Cohoe

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    14. Forgive me as Thomism is a new study for me but isn't the view offered by Dr. Feser non-consequentialist. That is to say the "perverted acts" are intrinsically so and no decent consequence is relevant to the moral argument.

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    15. @Walter

      Yea, we got pretty diferent methods, it seems. That makes discussion dificult.

      @jmchugh

      You are correct. On classical natural law theory, once you find out that act x is intrinsically wrong them you can forget doing it. If it is just wrong, them it is time to look at the circunstances.

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    16. jmchugh

      Something that has no consequences is not good or bad.
      Now, it is true that Feser claims that perverted acts are intrinsically bad, but he also challenges opponents of the perverted faculty argument to offer an example of a perverted act that is not in any way bad.
      And I claim it is easy to find such an example.

      Tom

      I am operating on the principle that there are certain acts that Feser calls perversions which have no conceivable bad consequences.
      Non-excessive masturbation would be an obvious example.

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    17. Thanks Talmid.Are you making a distinction between intrinsically wrong and "just wrong?" If so, how are you making that distinction?

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    18. Walter,

      "I am operating on the principle that there are certain acts that Feser calls perversions which have no conceivable bad consequences.
      Non-excessive masturbation would be an obvious example."

      That is a rather funny comment.

      First, you claim that your example has no harmful consequence. How do you know this?

      Second, and this is the funny part, you claim that a harmful consequence cannot even be conceived.

      Really?

      I think you have gone off the deep end here.

      Tom Cohoe

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    19. Walter-you said "Something that has no consequences is not good or bad." I think that you are likely correct but observe that Dr. Feser has said that (major paraphrasings here) that it would be wrong to kill an innocent person even if that death would prevent a nuclear holocaust. He also has said it is impermissible to tell a lie even if it were to protect your family from danger. (In both cases he qualified his position to say these were sins with mitigating factors [paraphrasing]). So, this is a pretty radical non-consequentialist position wouldn't you say? The consequences especially in the lying example are extremely limited, unless Feser is arguing about the fate of the individual's soul after death.

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    20. Walter, you wrote: "I am operating on the principle that there are certain acts that Feser calls perversions which have no conceivable bad consequences.

      Non-excessive masturbation would be an obvious example."

      No *"conceivable"* bad consequences. That's very strong. I can conceive of some possibilities of harm in indulging in even occasional masturbation: Distracting people from seeking an actual sexual mate that would provide them with more fulfillment; in a marriage replacement of real sexual intimacy with fantasy; risks of addiction risks of self-absorbtion. These are some. There are more. (To repeat what I alluded to in another post, Thomists believe there are levels of gravity to sins but your argument is that here is zero chance of wrong.)

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    21. @jmchough

      "Are you making a distinction between intrinsically wrong and "just wrong?""

      Correct. It is a distinction present on christian ethics since, well, actually before christianity. I think that the jews had it too.

      "If so, how are you making that distinction?"

      Well, a "just wrong" act would be one that is wrong thanks to some factors but could not be if these factors were not present. For instance, taking a beer of the fridge of a stranger whose house i entered at night is wrong because the beer is his, but taking a beer off the fridge is not wrong in itself because it would be okay if the beer was mine or if the guy allowed me to do it.

      A intrinsically evil act, on the other hand, is one where it just can't be done, there are no circunstances where i can do it. Examples would be lying or eating a lethal dose of poison. These acts by their very nature go against what i was designed to do, i don't really have a situation where i can pick they.

      Delete
    22. jmchugh

      Maybe I should have used another word instead of "non-excessive". What I mean that there are cases in which there are no conceivable bad consequences of masturbation.
      Of course there are cases with bad consequences, but even one possible case without those consequences means that the perverted faculty argument fails.
      As to consequentialism, as long as you agree that something that has no consequences is not good or bad, you must point to a bad consequence of lying, e.g.
      Now I happen to think that refusing to lie when lying would be the only possibility to prevent the killing of an innocent person is evil.

      Tom

      I know that my example has no conceivable bad consequences because I have deliberately constructed my example without those consequences.
      If someone is in no relationship , e.g. masturbation cannot affect his relationship and, for the rest read the relevant literature on masturbation to learn about its good effects.
      So, no I have not gone off the deep end at all.

      Delete
    23. Walter,

      You said:

      No, I have the mindset that if there are no conceivable bad consequences of a sexual "deviancy" the claim that perversion of a faculty is necessarily bad is demonstrably false.

      However, this is precisely what's in debate here. First, conservatives like myself can conceive of bad consequences with certain behaviors. Oftentimes, what I notice with liberals like yourself is that you don't take into account the consequences of your actions if they happen beyond the immediate moment unless climate change is involved.

      Pretty much everything the religious right argued about with regards to what would happen to the culture has come to pass. We have people who go around claiming that pedophilia is a sexual orientation right now. This is a consequence of the revolution in our thinking about sexuality that took place generations earlier that people like you still laud as "no big deal" to this day. All because the sexual revolutionaries and their cheerleaders lacked the foresight to "conceive" of consequences that such policies and attitudes could have on later generations.

      Delete
    24. Me Geocon

      It's not about what you or I happen to conceive, but about what is conceivzble.
      I van come up with a possible scenario that Involved masturbation without any conceivanlbe consequences, and that's all I need you make my point.

      Delete
    25. Walter-Would you share such a scenario with us?

      Delete
    26. As to consequences perhaps the Thomistic position can be improved by acknowledging that there are cases where no moral action is possible as in the example of lying being the only way to save the life of an innocent man. We could then call the action amoral.

      Delete
    27. jmchugh

      A man is on a long business trip and occasionally masturbates while having fantasies about his own wife. His wife is okay with this and does the same.

      Delete
    28. jmchugh

      The action is not amoral, it is, in fact, morally obligatory, especilally for somehow who calls himself pro-life.

      Delete
    29. Walter-Thank you for the example. I can conceive of bad consequences in your example but I suppose one can conceive of bad consequences in any scenario which is why I tend to see Natural Law ethics as an extremely vital guide but as in all situations the context of the choice matters. Otherwise we are left with Kantian duties.

      Delete
    30. Walter-The action would be amoral if you consider lying to be a bad use of your mouth. A better example, though, would be the trolley problem or a lifeboat example.

      Delete
    31. jmchugh

      I agree that Natural Law ethics has some merit, pragmatic approach seems to be the right one instead of the black and white reasoning of Feser et al.

      Delete
    32. Walter-I don't like the term pragmatism. What is practical all depends on what one wants to practice. And Pragmatism, as I understand it, calls on us to pursuewhatever "works" without answering the questions:works for what,towards what, and for whom. I like Ayn Rand's formulation: values are absolute within a context. For her the context was supporting the individual's life. Outside of that context they don't exist.

      Delete
  6. Excellent article.

    I appreciate the focus on the broader (social/familial) end of the generative power rather than the perverted faculty argument's focus on using the "plumbing" in an attempt (unsuccessful in my opinion) to establish the intrinsic immorality of every single "extra vas" emission of seed regardless of circumstances of persons. Attempts to delineate the morality of sexual acts based on this broader end offer a far more reasonable picture.

    Relevant here is what Aquinas says in II-II, q153, a2: "Just as the use of food is ordered toward the conservation of the life of one man, so too is the use of venereal acts ordered toward the conservation of the whole human race" (Sicut autem ad conservationem vitae unius hominis ordinatur usus ciborum, ita etiam ad conservationem totius humani generis usus venereorum).

    In other words, it seems to me that when asking whether a particular sexual act is forbidden (qua sexual) we shouldn't be looking primarily at where the seed is or isn't going but rather on whether the act is contrary to the conservation of the whole human race.

    Nor does it seem necessary that each sexual act actively support this end, but only that it not actively harm it (and that the agent's end be something truly good), just as consumption of food is moral (qua nutritive power, anyway) provided it doesn't adversely affect ones health and provided, of course, the end the agent has in mind is good.

    So when discussing sexual morality, habituated acts should be the focus, not isolated ones. After all, an individual sexual act involving extra vas emission of seed does not endanger the conservation of mankind (provided such action does not become universally habituated). Of course, an individual non-procreative sexual act could still be immoral, it's just that its immorality doesn't flow from harming the end of the generative power.

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    Replies
    1. What the perverted faculty argument shows is that every single isolated act that doesn't follow the overall teleology is evil. That's what it adds to the argument.

      Delete
    2. It is wonderful that you people have a technical.definition of 'perversion' and 'evil' which is frequently at varience with the sensibilities of ordinary people , generally born of our empathy towards each other as social creatures . The more the Mr Geocons of this world go around condeming artificial birth control in particular as evil and perverted, the more the masses see them as lunatic extremists and the easier our task as humanist activists becomes. Keep up the good work folks!

      Delete
    3. Actually I disagree, I think everyone recognizes that certain ways of engaging in sex are odd, gross, or somewhat disturbing. The problem is that many people only think of empathy as a moral sense because they don’t understand what morality is. Though empathetic feelings are the most prominent ones, ethics (the study of doing what is right) encompasses all of human behaviour. There is no good reason to believe there is a “correct” way of treating another human (vs a more desirable one) while yet there is no correct way of engaging in sexuality. It is also the mark of a poor ethicist to believe that feelings are the ultimate guide to moral knowledge. It’s especially embarrassing to admit that your Catholic opponent has certain feelings toward certain actions that stem from beliefs, meanwhile calling attention to certain popular feelings as if they were unable to be easily swayed.

      Delete
    4. @ FreeThinker

      "lunatic extremists"

      We believe that Love is the fundamental principle of everything.

      This is neither extremism nor lunacy.

      Delete
    5. Geocon,

      Say a young man is considering marriage but suspects he may be infertile. He chooses to actualize his generative power in order to have his fertility tested. In so doing, there is some level of physical evil involved because the receptacle to which insemination is ordered is absent. I.e., his act involves a privation.

      However, the proper receptacle is not the ultimate end. The proper receptacle is only a proximate end. I.e., it is the means to the ultimate end of procreation. But to frustrate the proximate end is permissible provided the ultimate end is respected. And in taking a fertility test, the man is not frustrating the ultimate end. Further, the end he has in mind is a good one (medical test, perhaps to determine feasibility of more invasive/risky medical procedures). It can thus be rationally chosen.

      Consider as an analogy a breastfeeding mother. Her lactational power is proximately ordered toward getting milk in her baby's mouth but is ultimately ordered toward the health of her baby (just as a man's sexual power is proximately ordered toward getting seed in the right place but is ultimately ordered toward procreation / conservation of mankind). Now say that this mother's baby has unfortunately died. To avoid a clogged duct she manually stimulates her breasts and discards the expressed milk. In so doing, there is some level of physical evil. There is a privation. The milk is not going into the right place. However, she is in no way frustrating the ultimate end of her lactational power (the health of her baby). In fact, in this case, she can't frustrate the ultimate end. Further, the end she has in mind (avoiding a clogged duct) is good. It can thus be rationally chosen.

      Delete
    6. Free Thinker,

      Historically speaking, most people through history were the kind o "lunatic extremists" you despise, so I wouldn't be so quick to talk about how secular humanism is the epitome of common sense morality.

      Also, I find it hilarious that you call us lunatics yet you base your morality off of an emotion (empathy). So much for reason and logic, am I right?

      Delete
    7. @ Mister Geocon,

      "I find it hilarious that you call us lunatics yet you base your morality off of an emotion (empathy). So much for reason and logic, am I right?"

      You are correct that FreeThinker is moved by emotion, so you cannot sway him by intellectual metaphysical argument. Emotion such as his is the foundation of many a dollar valuable story in our time, but it is so also of non-Christian myth, so he needs to come to understanding through a better myth than the pagan one he is following. The better myth is the True Myth, as Tolkien put it to C. S. Lewis when Lewis was converting to belief. Retold as myth based on truth, Narnia and Middle-Earth are better and more attractive stories than the one followed by FreeThinker. Even he could see this. These stories led to the conversion of many people.

      Tell him an attractive story based on the True Myth.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    8. @Albinus
      Well actually, in order to take a fertility test, a man needs to masturbate to collect the semen, and the Vatican has explicitly stated that even in this case masturbation is not legitimate. They claim you should undergo a surgery that requires general anesthesia in order to extract the sperm without masturbation if you need a spermiogram. I swear I'm not making this up. Honestly I find it ludicrous, but it is the offical position of the Church.

      Delete
    9. Franz wrote:

      They claim you should undergo a surgery that requires general anesthesia in order to extract the sperm without masturbation if you need a spermiogram. I swear I'm not making this up.

      Yes you are. The standard view is that in order to collect a sample, it is permissible for a married couple, during sex, to use a condom that is perforated in a way that makes it useless as contraception but still able to collect enough semen for a sample.

      Delete
    10. @ Edward Feser,

      "[...] it is permissible for a married couple, during sex, to use a condom that is perforated [...]"

      In normal sex, there is semen on the penis after completion and withdrawal. Why couldn't this be a source for testing?

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    11. It is doubtful that a sample collected in that way is clinically valid, or at least as valid as one collected through masturbation.
      But anyway, what if someone is not married and needs a sperm sample for other reasons, e.g. to check for infections? I had to do it, so it's not something particularly uncommon. I am not married, and a few years ago a urologist prescribed me a spermiogram to check for a possible infection due to some symptoms I had. According to the Vatican, I should have undergone general anesthesia (which can kill you) and a surgery in order to get the sperm sample without masturbating.

      Delete
    12. Franz, do you believe that there is such a thing as an "intrinsic evil" that you must not do under any circumstances, regardless of your overall intention?

      Lying, intentionally and directly killing an innocent person, and adultery would be three such examples that come to mind along with masturbation.

      Is it that you don't think such acts exist or that you don't think masturbation is one of those acts?

      Delete
    13. "what if someone is not married and needs a sperm sample for other reasons, e.g. to check for infections?"

      That is a good question actually, what's the Church's answer for this one?

      Delete
    14. “Production of semen using specially designed condoms has been shown to result in samples with better laboratory characteristics than samples obtained after masturbation or coitus interruptus.“

      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10438105/

      Franz, pursue the course with the best intentions and a humble heart that is open to the truth and correct path. From this much will follow. Be sure to investigate this matter seriously as masturbation is a grave sin and leads to strong vice and distorted ideas of sex. Please believe me when I tell you this if you do not already. No grave sin can be performed to achieve some other good. In your situation, I do not know the answer, but I urge you to try as hard as you can to find alternate testing methods and evaluate the necessity of diagnosis and other possible means of doing so.

      Delete
    15. @ Franz,

      In what document, and where in it, does the Church direct that urological procedures must be done under general anaesthesia. Provide the link.

      Prohibiting an activity, in general, is not the same thing as requiring a specific procedure to replace it, especially a medical procedure. Ever hear of biopsy, for example? Why would the Church direct the action that a specialist must take in order to obtain a tissue sample?

      Sorry, but what you claim here doesn't even pass the basic stink test. :-)

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    16. @Kyle
      I do not think masturbation is intrinsecally evil, but this is not my point here. I was replying to Albinus, who claims that what matters when forming a moral judgment is the ultimate end. I might agree, but this is apparently not the position of the Church. Let's say masturbation is evil when the goal is to achieve pleasure. However, one might need masturbation for diagnostic purposes. Following Albinus' reasoning, masturbation in this case should be allowed. But the Church forbids masturbation under any circumstances, no exceptions, no matter what the ultimate end is.

      @René Lopez
      I told what the position of the Church is: undergo an invasive procedure or renounce to get a diagnosis (see my reply to Anonymous later in this comment). I am however curious to know what Dr. Feser personally thinks.

      @Journey
      The publication you linked talks about non-perforated condoms. Volume of the ejaculate is an important variable, and it obviously gets lost with a perforated condom. The contact with vaginal fluids might also negatively affect the sample, but I'm not claiming I know this last thing for sure.

      @Anonymous
      In 1929 the vatican was asked whether it was morally acceptable to masturbate in order to get the semen sample for detecting gonorrhea infections ("Utrum licita sit masturbatio directe procurata ut obtineatur sperma quo contagiosus morbus 'blenorragia' detegatur et, quantum fieri potest, curetur': Resp. negative" (DS 3684), 24.7.1929).
      In 1949 Pius XII stated again that masturbation is never acceptable, in any circumstance, no matter what.
      Now, given this position, if someone is not married and really needs a semen sample for diagnostic reasons, he needs to get it somehow. So we come to the "alternative procedures". The only sure way to get a sample (I do not know how good in terms of diagnostic value) is by putting a needle in the epididymis. It would be extremely painful, so general anesthesia is required. Another method is to get a prostatic massage until some liquid comes out. There is no guarantee to get anything valid from it, and in any case it involves having a doctor going back and forth with his fingers into your anus for I don't know how long.
      So, while the church does not explicitly require a certain procedure, in fact it indirectly requires to either undergo such procedure or renounce the diagnosis. Actually, I think you would have a hard time finding doctors willing to perform these procedures even you wanted, as they seem at odd with the Hippocratic Oath. So in practice the Church tells you to renounce the diagnosis.

      Again, I am not trying to make fun of anybody here, I just wanted to point out that (1) what Albinus stated is apparently not how the Church makes its judgments; and (2) that the way the Chuch formulates its judgments sometimes produces rather grotesque results. Moreover, since it claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit in making these judgments, they cannot step back and change them at a later time, no matter how bizarre they turn out to look.

      Delete
    17. Franz,

      Yes, I am aware that the Church does not approve of masturbation for fertility testing. I was giving an argument for why, to me, that teaching seems misplaced (at least philosophically).

      I have also heard of moral theologians approving of electroejaculation (ejaculation procured through an electric pulse applied near the prostate) though I don't believe I have seen an official Vatican document on the matter. I agree with you that it seems ridiculous.

      Of course, as Feser notes, the standard procedure for someone who is married is to use a perforated condom. Clearly this option isn't possible (on Catholic grounds) if the man is unmarried.

      Delete
    18. Don't want to press too hard on this, but I'm genuinely curious about what the Church recommends to an unmarried man that needs to provide a sperm sample for medical purposes. Does anyone know about this?

      Delete
    19. @René Lopez
      Af far as I know they simply shun the question because they do not have an answer that would be seen as reasonable, even among devout catholics. In doing so they indirectly point to the rather unreasonable alternatives I stated above.
      Or at least this is what I found when, having found myself in such a situation, I researched the matter (out of curiosity; I never had moral doubts about it). Maybe someone knows better then me, but I think this is it.

      Delete
    20. @Franz

      I asked for a *link* to these documents, but have not been given one.

      The argument of all you liberals is a knot that closes on itself, basically circular, but complex in its avoidance of sense.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    21. On the unmarried person who needs a sperm sample, it is not possible to just go to sleep with the right equipament to catch the result of nocturnal emitions? Sure it would take some time, but i suppose it could wprk.

      And i can see you laughing, my dear reader, no need to announce it. Being honest, with the number of reasonable positions that the modern man find funny i can only see your smile as evidence of original sin.

      Delete
    22. Franz,

      Edward Feser has already responded to you on the anesthesia thing.

      Delete
    23. @Tom Cohoe
      From what did you infer that I am a liberal? I consider myself quite reactionary. Whatever.
      I cannot post a link to documents because the Church shuns the question because it does not have a good answer. But if you can only do A or B, and A is forbidden, then you have to do B. The fact that B is not explicitly required makes no practical difference. Forbidding A forces you to pick B. It's not hard to understand it. I don't want to turn the discussion into a flame, so if you don't have any valid points to make please do not reply anymore.

      @Mister Geocon
      His reply only applies for married individuals. And it is sub-optimal because part of the sample is lost, and thre is risk to contaminate it. Moreover, the sample has be taken to the lab within one hour. If you don't live near it you would have to book a room near the place in order to have an intercourse in order to collect the sample. All this to avoid masturbating once in a lifetime...

      Delete
    24. Franz,

      To be fair, I've seen Catholics respond very hard to digest (to the secular mind at least) answers for questions like this. Sometimes they will say that there's simply no alternative and that's the cross you'll have to carry with.

      Talmid,

      In my experience, that could take years lol.

      Delete
    25. @René López

      Really? That got me curious. It is because there is no realiable equipament to catch the sperm?

      Delete
    26. Talmid,

      I mean, are we talking about waiting for a wet dream to occur to collect a sperm sample? I don't know how often do these occur on average, but in my experience they happen years apart.

      Delete
    27. René, your problem seems to be with what is called intrinsic evil. Do you accept such a concept?

      The argument would be the following:

      1. There are intrinsic evil acts.

      2. Intrinsic evil acts cannot be good nor permissible under any circumstance.

      2. Masturbation is an intrinsic evil act.

      3. Therefore masturbation cannot be good nor permissible under any circumstance.
      4. But sperm testing use masturbation as a means for testing, so sperm testing that make use of masturbation cannot be good nor permissible.

      I think you reject (1) and find (4) ridiculous but anybody who reject (1) would do so.

      Delete
    28. @René

      Yes, that was the idea.

      And i see, it will vary from one person to another.

      Delete
    29. Jaime,

      All I did in this thread is ask what's the Church's advice for unmarried men that need their sperm analyzed for medical purposes. The advice for married men seems clear enough, so that's why I'm asking about unmarried men. It's a genuine concern for any unmarried Catholic that wants to care for his physical health while not endangering his spiritual one. The question arises precisely because masturbation is considered by the Church to be intrinsically evil: If an unmarried man can't resort to masturbation in absolutely any case, then how can he provide a sperm sample? If there's no answer by the Church to this specific question then so be it. I'm just asking if there is one.

      Delete
    30. Jaime,
      I can't answer for René, but for me at least I accept (1) and (2a) provided by "intrinsic evil" you mean "intrinsically immoral". (For example, killing an animal involves introducing a disorder / physical evil relative to the animal's nature and thus could be considered an intrinsically evil act although it is not an intrinsically immoral one since it can be rationally chosen as a means proportional to the end of food).

      An intrinsically immoral act on the other hand is one that contains within itself something that involves an irrational choice. For example, to hate what is worthy of love is intrinsically immoral since being worthy of love necessarily excludes being worthy of hate (under the same aspect at least). Thus we can know a priori that there are no circumstances that could ever justify hating what is worthy of love. It necessarily involves an irrational choice.

      Masturbation, however, is not like this. As I explained in my original comment, there is nothing about emitting seed outside the proper receptacle that is necessarily irrational just as there is nothing about emitting milk outside the proper receptacle that is necessarily irrational. In fact, plausible rational reasons can be given for both of these without prejudice to the fact that the ideal and normal and natural mode is to use ones sexual power in the context of a conjugal act and to use ones lactational power in the context of breastfeeding.

      Of course, this is not how the Church sees it, but I have a hard time seeing it any other way. In my opinion, the Church's opposition on this is actually theologically motivated, and then philosophical reasons are sought in an attempt to show why the theological position is reasonable by nature. But I don't think it succeeds.

      Also, I should mention that it doesn't follow from this that a given act of masturbation is morally indifferent. One could still gravely sin by masturbation. Just as a woman would sin who would endanger her baby's health by improper use of her lactational power, so too a man would sin who by masturbation endangers the sexual relationship with his wife. I would say that even a single act of masturbation would be immoral in the context of a man preferring that over sexually engaging with his wife (and without some plausible reason like medical diagnostics). By this one act he wouldn't thereby be necessarily threatening the health of the human race as a whole or even of his community but he would be making a choice that undermines the flourishing of his family, which itself is ordered toward the flourishing of his community and the human race.

      Delete
  7. By natural law we know that the human husband and wife ought be stuck (united) together for the benefit of their offspring, but isn't this only until their offspring are mature enough to start families on their own? if so, by natural law the husband/wife can divorce/marry another spouse once their children are old enough? Can someone clarify this point? Is maintaining the same spouse for life something more than what the natural law asks for? .. a kind of a supernatural call ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A couple thoughts. One, the social/spiritual benefits that grandparents provide to their kids and grandkids through modelling marriage and being involved in their lives are significant. Two, a man is fertile for much longer than a woman, thus practicing lifelong monogamy would help ensure he is not fathering children in his old age when he is ill-suited to such a fatherly role and the long term commitments it entails.

      Delete
    2. Kyle, I love that response about grandparenthood. It seems to be in perfect accord with experience and common sense that being a grandparent is simply a natural part of life.

      Delete
    3. Teone,

      Besides some deterioration due to old age, defect, or disorder, having children is a life long thing. You seem to be of the impression that having children is something you only do at a certain point then you just stop.

      In a good marriage, there will be lots of sex, therefore lots of children. A married couple might stop having sex (or use natural family planning) because they don't have the resources to care for more children or some other concern, but in an ideal situation, the children don't exactly stop.

      Delete
  8. Can anyone help clarify the following point? When there's an uncontestable valid reason for marriage annulment (for instance when the marriage is null due to consanguinity when it is contracted between first cousins), but the couple happens to be at a point where they have gotten one or more children already, what is the Church's say on this matter; should that couple seek annulment? if yes, are the spouses then allowed to seek different partners, while maintaining their care for their children? or are they advised to seek annulment but remain together and unmarried but chastely, for the benefit of the children?

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    Replies
    1. Annulment is recognition that your marriage was never valid, not divorce. Simply put, the Church’s answer to your question is exactly the same as the Church’s answer to the question: should I cohabitate, fornicate, and avoid legitimate marriage because I have children with my girlfriend? To live with a woman with whom you were sexually active until recently is to put yourself into an extreme near occasion of mortal sin, which is itself a serious sin to enter into. It is a lie to the children for whom you are caring. It is a distortion of the family, for family begins with marriage and results in the rearing of children. It is no true family to rear children as if you were husband and wife yet be single. Of course the parents are allowed to seek other partners! Just because you have children does not mean you can’t get married!

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    2. Of course the parents are allowed to seek other partners!

      It may not be quite as easy as that. The obligation to the children may require that the two parents live close enough together to both be ACTIVE in raising the kids, even if they don't live under the same roof; e.g., by living in adjacent homes. The non-custodial parent's obligations toward the kids may, in certain cases make it difficult or even effectively impossible to get married and raise a separate family while STILL continuing to meet the obligations to the kids illicitly conceived. So, while there is no FORMAL restraint from the two parents getting married, there may be serious practical constraints that make it imprudent or impossible.

      Delete
    3. (for instance when the marriage is null due to consanguinity when it is contracted between first cousins),

      I also wonder what the argument is for this being an impediment that the Church cannot set aside, (a diriment impediment?) rather than an impediment that is subject to Church authority / jurisdiction and thus could (at least in theory) be set aside. I figure that the necessity of Adam and Eve's kids marrying each other implies the necessity also of those marriages being morally and ontologically valid marriages, which kind of implies that marriage of cousins should be also, in theory.

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    4. You are correct. This type of consanguinity is extrinsically, not intrinsically, invalidating.

      The impediment can be dispensed by the ordinary.

      It is worth noting that at one point the consanguinity requirements were extremely strict, as far as 6th cousins IIRC.

      The idea appears to have been to break down tribal rivalries in Europe (since it was basically impossible to marry anyone within your own group).

      But, obviously, there is no natural law argument against marrying a 6th cousin...

      Delete
    5. Do you mean to say that a marriage that is invalidated on the ground of the couple being first cousins (consanguinity) can have its invalidity dispensed with and be considered valid instead, if the couple already has produced children?

      Delete
    6. Anon of Nov. 11, the dispensation has to be granted BEFORE the wedding, not after. If the Church says "no marriage between 6th cousins, but the bishop may dispense from that condition up to 3rd cousins", then a marriage that occurred between 4th cousins would be null and could receive a declaration of nullity. If the couple WANTED to "fix" the marriage, they could get the bishop to dispense from the restriction, but then they would have to exchange vows again and they would then be married to start.

      You are correct. This type of consanguinity is extrinsically, not intrinsically, invalidating.

      The impediment can be dispensed by the ordinary.


      Anon of Nov 10: It is my impression that the Church DOES permit the bishop to dispense from the current limiting rule (which I think is second cousins), but does not allow the bishop to dispense first cousins getting married (much less brother and sister).

      My question is whether the Church viewed the latter restrictions as being fundamental to the natural law so that it was always and everywhere a restriction that could not be set aside, or more of a changeable restriction that at least IN THEORY the Church could change (by changing the law). I have not seen a single commentary on marriage that suggested the Church's rules on consanguinity could be eradicated ALTOGETHER because they are not fundamentally part of the natural law.

      It is worth noting that at one point the consanguinity requirements were extremely strict, as far as 6th cousins IIRC.

      Interestingly, the Hebrews were actually required to marry within their own kindred. So, the variation is quite extensive.

      Delete
  9. Dr. Feser,

    Great article. Are you planning on writing a book on sexual morality?

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  10. Yes. Dr Feser is.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Catholic Sexual Ethics (2011)
    by May, Lawler and Boyle is probably the best book on the subject. May is a philosopher and Lawler is a priest/moral theologian.

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    Replies
    1. Isn't May (at least) a New Natural Law theorist?

      Delete
  12. I wonder, does anyone know of a Catholic treatment of the human behavior of falling (or being) in love? I have seen any number of treatments of sexuality and marriage, but none on being in love.

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    Replies
    1. von Hildebrand's discusses it in the Nature of Love; from an artistic perspective, Dante's La Vita Nouva comes to mind.

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    2. Hildebrand's Nature of Love is excellent.

      Our host had a memorable post (I say memorable because I still remember it after a decade) on the topic:

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/08/metaphysics-of-vertigo.html

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  13. Just Google:

    https://slantedbookshelf.com/catholic-books-on-dating-engagement-marriage/

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  14. Actually Kyle, I kinda like being stuck with my wife. And therein lies one possible response to Teone. Procreation is the primary raison d'etre for marriage, but it is not the only one. There is also the unitive function. The marriage vows include "as long as you both shall live. Even when those vows were created, one would think significant numbers of people lived until their children were grown.

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  15. What is the line that separates lust from intense sexual desire/attraction that is properly completed, between husband and wife?

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    1. If i had to guess, what separates both is not the feelings but the will. On a loving relationship you not only have feelings for the person but you desire her happiness and pleasure, making sure that you are treading the person well.

      On a not loving relationship, you don't really care much about the other person, if her wellbeing goes against your pleasure them, well, not my problem.

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    2. Your second paragraph isn't necessarily true at all Talmid. Of course, if sex occurs outside of a loving relationship , the protagenists MAY care nothing for each others well being, and even work against this if it suits them. However they may equally be respectful of each others wishes and desires and never dream of transgressing mutual boundaries. Certainly that is how things are when I have recreational sex outside of a relationship. The consent of my partner and my pleasuring them and attending to their needs is everything.

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    3. There is nothing wrong with intense desire per se. Context is key. Outside of marriage, such an intense sexual desire has no lawful action to pursue, and so should not be indulged intentionally at all (even in the sense of only deliberately entertaining the thought).

      Within marriage there is lawful action which corresponds to that intense desire, and it is perfectly fitting and appropriate to pursue it.

      However, even then context matters. It is quite possible for someone to entertain a not merely intense, but inordinate desires. To entertain or act on those would be lustful and sinful even within the context of marriage.

      Aquinas brings up as an extreme example, a licentious husband who has relations with his wife, not because she is his wife, but because she happened to be the woman that was available at that moment.

      One could easily multiply examples where a desire was shown to be inordinate by its inappropriate pursuit according to circumstance (eg, time, place, health, etc.) (One could easily insert a conversation on contraception here.)

      The key point though is that a desire can be incredibly intense, and yet still lawful provided that is acted on in accordance with right reason.

      I disagree that love is an essential factor here. It is highly desirable and fitting that spouses love one another, and they are certainly admonished to do so by Christian doctrine, but strictly speaking love is not the deciding factor here.

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    4. @FreeThinker

      I ignored this kinda of relation because i was contrasting a lustful desire with the one a good couple has for each other, read my "not loving relationship" as a euphemism for "clearly toxic relation". Since Anon contrasted the two i only mentioned the two.

      On the real world there are diferent relationships, of course. Even while not approving these casual encounters i know that they are not necessarily like what i described before, humans are complex.

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  16. I disagree that love is an essential factor here. It is highly desirable and fitting that spouses love one another, and they are certainly admonished to do so by Christian doctrine, but strictly speaking love is not the deciding factor here.

    Well, actually, love is right in the marriage vows. For the groom:

    I, (name), take you, (name), to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

    If you mean feelings of being in love, or even just loving affection: this is valuable, but not intrinsically necessary, as marriage is entirely possible with arranged marriages.

    The key point though is that a desire can be incredibly intense, and yet still lawful provided that is acted on in accordance with right reason.

    I think the critical point is that the desire must be within the bounds of reason, which we can (from the outside) ascertain only to the extent that the BEHAVIOR with that desire stays within the lawful bounds: with the right person, at the right times, in the right way, etc. However, the true and perfect virtue of sexual chastity would go beyond merely these more-or-less external sign-posts: the person should attempt to be aware of the degree to which their desire is or is not under the reign of reason. So, for one who has high degree of virtue, a person will greatly desire when and as the current conditions present the right person, time, place, situation, etc, and (at least more so than not), BECAUSE it is the right person, time, place, and situation. For us fallen humans, we tend to grow in the development of this only slowly and with difficulty, but (especially) only with the application of considerable effort to deny oneself even where use of the marriage bed is permitted, in order to learn restraint. The perfect desire will not unseat reason.

    So, the trick in identifying the "right" degree of desire is not in its intensity alone, but in its orderliness as measured by other things, as under the purview of the reason, and how the intensity relates to those other things. High intensity of desire that does not unseat reason, and arises in the right situation due to reason's mandate, is fine.

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  17. And then there are those few couples who decide to live chastely and forego sexual relations.

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