Notes on Alan Goldman's "Plain Sex"
Two Lessons about Ethical Thinking
(1) Many ethical disagreements hinge upon disagreements about facts, not about moral principles. (2) Being a moral objectivist needn't mean being morally conservative. Both lessons help limit the appeal of moral relativism.
(1) Many ethical disagreements hinge upon disagreements about facts, not about moral principles. Goldman claims that views about immoral sexual behaviour are rooted in our definition of sexual behaviour & desire. Goldman criticizes 'Means-End' Analyses
i. The end (i.e., purpose) of sex is reproduction.
ii. The end is the expression of love
iii. The end is communication
iv. The end is interpersonal awareness.
Why? Should we reject these analyses?
Goldman's reason for rejecting those analyses:
Theory (i) mistakes nature's 'purpose' for reproduction for our own. First of all, why should we think that nature really has any purposes at all? Only conscious things can have purposes, but nature isn't a conscious thing. Secondly, even if nature does have purposes, why should consider them our purposes? For example, if nature has purposes then probably the purpose of eating (from nature's point of view) is nutrition, but we often think of eating differently. To us, the purpose is not just nutrition but also enjoyment. Theories (ii) - (iv) mistake things that may, in particular cases, be associated with sex for things that are essential to sex. For example, Goldman thinks that sex may in particular cases be a way of expressing love, but it doesn't have to be. Are these convincing reasons for rejecting the these analyses? Goldman's Analysis: "sexual desire is desire for contact with another person's body and for the pleasure which such contact produces; sexual activity is activity which tends to fulfill such desire of the agent." (268) Sex is 'plain sex' and nothing more.
Is this the right account?
How will the account you endorse affect...
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