BACKGROUND: Scholasticus and Teleologus have told us that Natural Law theory, based on teleology, leads to the conclusion that a shockingly broad (okay, that was a loaded description) array of behaviors is an "offense against nature," and, as Scholasticus' puts it, "devalues what makes us human."
As the range of those teleologically-proscribed activities grew, they reached the point where the assembled rabble responded with a large raspberry, by which they meant (if a rabble can have a meaning), "I don't think so, Bub!" (or the Greco-Roman equivalent thereof).
In separate posts, we expect that Scholasticus will pursue a number of fascinating issues, such as unreasonably dangerous activities (you won't believe what he knows about AEA) and pornography (alas, no pictures).
On a slightly different track, Teleologus was kind enough to present an argument for what many in the rabble considered a remarkable conclusion of teleology, to wit: mutual masturbation by a hetero married couple, to orgasm, without pornography (henceforth, "Clean Marital Manipulation" or "CMM") is an offense against nature. The discussion picks up with his teleological proof.
- Sex is ordered toward procreation.
- Marital masturbation (one hetero spouse for the other), even without pornography, is inconsistent with, and disrespectful to, the teleology of the complementary bodies of the spouses. (Here, "marital masturbation" meant not in the sense of mere foreplay, but in the sense that the husband ejaculates in such a way that the act counts as "masturbation.")
- Hence, [CMM] is an offense against nature."
My dear friend, Teleologus,
You thought I was avoiding you, didn't you?
Thank you for laying out the teleological chain of reasoning regarding the unnaturalness of CMM.
It won't surprise you that that reasoning does not "do it" for me, so I'll lay out some preliminary thoughts. In order to be clear, I'll respond to your points 1 and 2 above separately.
Simplicimus on the assertion that "Sex is ordered toward procreation"
You seem to get an awful lot of mileage out of the phrase "ordered toward." I agree that sex often involves procreation, and if that were all you meant, we'd be in agreement. However, I also observe that sex involves pleasure, unity-building in the couple, and possibly other benefits (exercise?).
While contemplating your argument, I ran across a report of a recent study in Sweden, which concluded that good sex at home reduces stress at work. (Link: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/offbeat/dpgo_Study_Good_Sex_Helps_Job_Performance_mb_06062009_2547800) So, based on that study, one could claim that "sex is ordered to producing relaxed workers." (Why don't you stick that up your teleological pipe and smoke it!)
So, while I recognize the role of reproduction in sex, I do not privilege it over other benefits (or purposes) for engaging in sexual activity. Having sex for fun/pleasure is as legitimate as having sex to produce a baby.
The case of an infertile couple illustrates this quite vividly. Although they clearly are not having sex for procreation, their sex is no less "natural" or "right" than is the sex of a couple that can, or even wants to, conceive.
Furthermore, while I would not argue that a human life is a negative, I firmly believe that the decision to make a life can be unwise or "disordered" (if I used that term).
You're going to have to go beyond the mere assertion that "sex is ordered toward procreation" and show the reasoning on which you can claim that procreation has a higher standing than the other benefits/purposes of sex. (Even if your point is a "metaphysical judgment" rather than a "moral judgment," and I'm not clear as to the difference between them, it's a form of judgment or conclusion that must be explained and defended.) In doing so, I expect that you will refer to self-evident propositions, which is a topic that we should pursue further, but probably best under the separate post of that title, which is being pursued with great "essential purpose" by Dionysus.
Duns Scotus joins the discussion:
Just so Simplicimus doesn’t feel too lonely . . .
I think that his question about the infertile couple is an important one, and just so it doesn’t get lost, I’ll raise it in a different way. If the possibility of procreation must be present for sex to have a unitive function, then should all women become celibate around age 50, after they stop ovulating? (Or should we say that openness to children is still present in some metaphysical sense?)
Given personal experience, having had a vasectomy many years ago, I’d have to partly agree with the proposition that the most loving, intimate sex, unitively speaking, takes place between a man and a woman when they are deliberately trying to conceive a child. On the other hand, I can’t believe that sex post-vasectomy ceased to have a unitive function in my marriage. That certainly is not my subjective impression.
Therefore, I’m forced to the conclusion, so far, that sex even with birth control, can have a unitive effect, though perhaps not the fullest.
Now, talk about an area of inquiry in which less precision can be expected, than say, geometry! (Perhaps the cradle Lutheran in me is a touch worried about legalism here.)
I don’t see yet, how the teachings of Moses and Jesus on these issues are present in the silent order of nature, once they are pointed out. I don’t even see where Moses or Jesus deal with the issue, but will hope for correction. Where does either set forth a proposition, directly or by inference, that unity in marriage is impossible when the procreative possibility is closed?
Simplicimus continues his response to Teleologus:
As to the second point in your proof, that "[CMM] is inconsistent with, and disrespectful to, the teleology of the complementary bodies of the spouses."
This clearly requires defense rather than mere assertion of the claim. I don't at all see how this point 2 follows from point 1, nor how it is "self-evident".
Rather, I see plenty of complementarity: the wife has a hand, and the husband has something to put in it, and vice versa, to their mutual enjoyment and unity.
It seems to me that what you are saying is the equivalent of "the mouth is ordered to eating, so it is an offense against nature to use it for talking, smiling, or blowing bubbles." I don't get that conclusion at all, so please expand your assertion into an argument. (And what have you got against bubbles?)
Duns Scotus re-enters the discussion:
I'm behind on this, so I hope that this hasn't come up already.
I have some questions about the first premise, "Sex is ordered toward procreation."
My problem with it is not that I think it's wrong, exactly, but too simple. Why not take this as a major premise:
"Human sex is ordered to procreation and unity between husband and wife," with the
understanding that "and" includes "or"?
That doesn't seem unreasonable to me on the surface.
Natural law seems to be the only logical approach to ethics for Christians, but my difficulty is how to arrive at the main premises. Scholasticus points out, very persuasively, that conduct which empirically results in damage (gluttony, lust, etc.) would naturally be contrary to what God and nature have in mind. So I agree that auto-erotic asphyxiation is an example of unnatural conduct and that it sheds light on the discussion. I don't see how it is so obvious to establish that various forms of birth control are irrational. They may even be productive of good. Scholasticus has done a good job of presenting the negative argument on birth control, but if we get into a classic balancing analysis of its good and bad points, I don't think a clear cut answer appears.
So, to get back to major premises, induction from human experience doesn't get us in any
simple way to the premise that "Sex is ordered to procreation," which excludes other good
that might derive from sex and exclude some evils that might arise from procreation.
Finally, does reasoning about natural law come down to something like a utilitarian analysis?
Thank you for faithfully recapitulating my argument for the wrongness of CCM. Please note that, as far as I remember, I never claimed that the second premise follows from the first or that either premise is "self evident." I claimed that the premises are true and that they support the conclusion, that the truth of the first premise is intelligible though not sense-perceptible, that one can understand that sex is ordered toward procreation.
You write that I "get a lot of mileage" out of the phrase "ordered toward." OK, feel free to substitute the word "for" for "ordered toward" anywhere you want and my meaning will not change much. Now you seem to get a lot of mileage out of conflating effects and purposes. You cite the possibility of sex-for-pleasure-and-exercise, citing the possibility of attaining those effects through sex, but not all effects are purposes, and subjectively intended “purpose” does not determine objective purpose.
If you are driving your car, you are (a) employing your car as a means of transportation and (b) consuming fuel. Consuming fuel is a constant effect of your driving, but it is hardly the purpose of driving. All vehicles use fuel, but the purpose of a vehicle is not to use fuel. That is something that must be understood rather than perceived through the senses because on the empirical level, effects are on all fours with each other; that one effect is the purpose over and above other effects is something intelligible.
Also, I can use my car (I can assign it a "purpose" that I determine subjectively) to hold down a pile of leaves, but that is not the purpose of my car or of any other vehicle (except for the GM Leaf-Holder-Downer).
How does this apply to sex? Even current human physiology textbooks, produced in this politically correct culture, still, presumably, refer to the human reproductive system as the "human reproductive system," which illustrates how teleology is inescapable, even for those who wish to vigorously reject it.
If we can establish that not all effects are purposes, then it seems to me that the pleasure of sex is an effect that promotes the purpose(s) of sex. That the effect is subservient to the purpose (think again of using fuel and transportation) is a relationship can be read in "the silences of Nature."
Again, those purposes should not be intentionally disconnected: If a man says that he wants to unify his body with his girlfriend's, but he doesn't want to become one in the child they might produce, and so uses a condom, he is saying something like, "I want to become one with you (beast-with-two-backs)," "but I don't want to become one with you (snot-nosed brat with your eyes and my bad teeth)." See the contradiction involved in intentionally trying to separate the two purposes?
My other friends, Duns Scotus and Erasmus have, like Simplicimus, expressed concerns that the view I have been defending would deny that sex could be used for its unitive purpose apart from its procreative purpose. Infertile couples and couples passed child-bearing age, then, would need to become celibate. Not so.
The key here is the difference between respecting the teleology of the male and female bodies, and "using" one another. A husband and wife in their sixties enjoying the marital embrace are doing nothing intentionally inconsistent with both purposes of sex--unitive and procreative--even though they almost certainly won't conceive a child. A man and woman in their twenties using artificial contraception likewise will almost certainly not conceive a child, but their embrace is intentionally limited: they are doing something to purposely block the purpose of what they are doing.
As for CMM, again, as I said before, I don't see how that fulfills either the procreative or the unitive purpose of sex, because it is ordered toward (or "for") neither procreation nor even union: the two persons are literally not uniting at all. CMM seems ordered toward pleasure, entertainment, recreation, and as such seems "ordered toward" hedonism and narcissism.
As you will have noticed, I moved your comment up to become an element of this post on the Natural Law of Sex, so that those following the discussion can see the chain in one place, without having to hop to the comments. It also remains in the Comment section, in case you'd particularly wanted it there.
Your most recent post has a lot of content, and a lot to be unpacked to make sure that I understand it, even before I try to react to it. So, I'll respond in tranches, roughly a paragraph at a time.
You wrote, "Please note that, as far as I remember, I never claimed that the second premise follows from the first or that either premise is "self evident." I claimed that the premises are true and that they support the conclusion, that the truth of the first premise is intelligible though not sense-perceptible, that one can understand that sex is ordered toward procreation."
On Premises and Arguments: If I understand the above, you are saying that the line of argument for your position on CMM consists of two premises and a conclusion. You're the expert on logic, so that may be okay, but shouldn't there be an argument in there somewhere? Do two premises really lead to a conclusion? I'm going to leave it to you to tell me whether that works. If I go in there, I might not come out: lost amid the circles within circles, as it were.
On "Intelligible though not Sense-perceptible": As you know, I've been stumbling through a discussion with Dionysus, regarding "self-evident propositions" ("SEP"). Dionysus seems to have taken the approach that an SEP is discovered by inductive reasoning (by it wouldn't be an SEP if it could be proven deductively), but it's not yet clear how that inductive process works to ensure that we have a valid, real-world SEP that can be relied upon for drawing moral (or other) conclusions. So, I've not yet got a good handle on what constitutes a SEP, or what tells me I've found one.
However, I'd assumed that all you teleolophiles rely on the SEP to cover those elements of your argument that can't be proven deductively, but which you somehow perceive are nonetheless true, as Dionysus does. Now, you come along and say "I never claimed that ... either premise is "self evident." I claimed that ... the truth of the first premise is intelligible though not sense-perceptible." (Shortening your statement to focus on the distinction that you seem to have made.)
You're really trying to confuse me! Your distinction between a SEP and a premise whose truth is "intelligible though not sense-perceptible" (for now, the "ITNSP" -- got a better acronym for that one, Bud?), now means that I have two concepts to understand. I will continue to pursue the SEP with Dionysus (and you're more than welcome to jump in there). What I need from you is an explanation of how I can know that something is true though its truth is not sense-perceptible. And, if you're feeling really charitable, I'd love for you to explain how that differs from an SEP.
To help kick off our discussion of the ITNSP, I fully accept that one can deal logically with things that are not sense-perceptible through deductive reasoning. For example, the number pi is a complete abstraction, not sense-perceptible in any sense of the term. Nonetheless, mathematicians can do proofs regarding properties of pi. But those are all deductive proofs.
I assume that you are not proposing to provide a deductive proof of the truth of your premises. If so, you would not need the whole ITNSP thing, you'd just lay out the deductive proof.
The only other logical approach that I'm aware of (I'm clearly not a philosopher) is induction. But induction is reasoning from experience, and experience necessarily involves our senses, so I cannot imagine how it could be possible to create an inductive argument to show the truth of the ITNSP, which by definition is not sense-perceptible.
Fortunately, we are not constrained by the limitations of my imagination, so I look forward to your explaining to me how you approach showing the truth of an ITNSP premise. Once I understand your approach to knowing ITNSPs, then we can discuss whether it works in general, and then whether it works specifically with respect to the two premises in your argument under discussion.
I think that that's all that I can do with the first paragraph, for now. I'll look forward to your response to the above, and I'll get back to you when I can on the second paragraph.
Thank you, Teleologus, for all the time you spend educating me. I'm grateful -- and glad that you don't charge by the hour!
Simplicimus continues his response to Teleologus:
You wrote: "You write that I "get a lot of mileage" out of the phrase "ordered toward." OK, feel free to substitute the word "for" for "ordered toward" anywhere you want and my meaning will not change much. Now you seem to get a lot of mileage out of conflating effects and purposes. You cite the possibility of sex-for-pleasure-and-exercise, citing the possibility of attaining those effects through sex, but not all effects are purposes, and subjectively intended “purpose” does not determine objective purpose."
On Effects and Purposes:
I am not sure that I'm getting mileage out of anything, but let's discuss "effects and purposes."
I assume that we both agree that there are certain identifiable attributes associated with a particular activity. To use the example of sex, we both should be able to acknowledge that the consequences include:
- reproduction (note that I list your favorite first -- you can thank me later)
- building unity in the couple (the favorite of my wife, Mrs. Simpi)
- enjoyment (my favorite -- I know, I'm a dog)
- the one million other aspects that we haven't and probably don't need to identify
I think that the participants are free to choose the purpose(s) they prefer, from among all the attributes of an activity.
In fact, we are pretty clearly back in our discussion of arbitrariness (or subjectivity) of teleology: one man's "effect" is another's "purpose".
The characteristic Simplicimus view is quite simplistic: people can choose the attributes that they wish as the "purpose" of an activity in a particular situation. For an infertile couple, reproduction will never be their purpose of sex. Enjoyment, unity, exercise, or something else can be. For a fertile couple, it's also true that their purpose in sex may be something other than reproduction. And it is important to note that purpose is not fixed: for the same person or couple, different attributes may be selected as the purpose of the moment, from time to time. I am confident that you will agree that different couples will have different purposes for their sexual activity, and the same couple at different times also will have different purposes.
Who says that you teleologues (or Masters and Johnson, or Hugh Heffner, or Miss Manners, or anyone else) are in a position to tell these couples what should be "the" purpose for their sexual interaction? and in all times and all situations?
So, if the couples involved think that they have various motives, what is the analysis that allows you to say that there is one "right" or "fundamtenal" or "essential" purpose to sex, which somehow is not only more important than other purposes, but enables you to judge those other purposes? Inquiring minds want to know.
On an "Objective Purpose": You've now introduced a new term into our discussion, "obective purpose".
I've already said that I think that all purposes are subjective: the creator of a thing has one purpose, the user has one or many other purposes. There's no way to say who's purpose is "right" and whose "wrong"; it's all a question of whose perspective is relevant at the time. (Since we are not discussing theology, I'm leaving out the possibility of a divine purposes here.)
I suspect that you're going to tell me that "objective purpose" is what gives you standing to say what is the "right" or "fundamental" or "essential" purpose. If so, what designates a purpose to be an "objective purpose"? How do we know one when we see it? For example, I agree that reproduction often is "a" purpose of sex, but not always "a" purpose, and almost never "the" purpose, so what am I missing?
I also expect that you're going to tell me that an "objective purpose" is either (1) a self-evident proposition (or you would if you were Dionysus -- are you sure that he's not your evil twin brother? Are you two playing good-cop/bad-cop with my little mind?), or (2) an ITNSP (a truth that is "intelligible though not sense-perceptible").
I'm not seeing either the self-evidence or the ITNSP-ness of the assertion that the objective purpose of sex is reproduction. So, you'll need to explain to me the criteria that makes it such, or provide other examples of such truths, so that we can begin to deduce such criteria.
Please flesh out for me this concept of "objective purpose".