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Is rape always immoral? Could it be justified under jurisprudence as punishment

Is rape always immoral? Could it be justified under jurisprudence as punishment for a crime or under environmental ethics to save the human race in the event of a near human extinction?

Someone might say that punishment should fit the crime and therefore that raping rapists is a just punishment. Someone might also say that torturing torturers is a just punishment. My reaction is that examples like this show the unacceptability of a strict "eye for an eye" notion of justice. Torturing someone as a form of punishment strikes me as depraved; so does raping a rapist. Torture and rape are crimes that show an utter and complete lack of respect for the victim's humanity. That's something that an acceptable judicial system should avoid, in my opinion.

As for your hypothetical about rape in the case of near-extinction, I don't feel the force. Why is the continued existence of humanity so important that it would justify raping an unwilling woman and forcing her to carry a baby? Is the sort of "civilization" that would stoop to such things work preserving? What's so hot about humanity from the point of view of the cosmos?

Are there any circumstances that would justify a different conclusion? Perhaps there are hypotheticals so horrifying that the answer is yes. But that's the point: those hypotheticals would indeed be utterly horrifying. They're unlikely (one hopes!) to give us any guidance in the kinds of situations we're likely to face.

Someone might say that punishment should fit the crime and therefore that raping rapists is a just punishment. Someone might also say that torturing torturers is a just punishment. My reaction is that examples like this show the unacceptability of a strict "eye for an eye" notion of justice. Torturing someone as a form of punishment strikes me as depraved; so does raping a rapist. Torture and rape are crimes that show an utter and complete lack of respect for the victim's humanity. That's something that an acceptable judicial system should avoid, in my opinion. As for your hypothetical about rape in the case of near-extinction, I don't feel the force. Why is the continued existence of humanity so important that it would justify raping an unwilling woman and forcing her to carry a baby? Is the sort of "civilization" that would stoop to such things work preserving? What's so hot about humanity from the point of view of the cosmos? Are there any circumstances that would justify a different...

Is adultery really immoral? The act itself is mostly legal, so why can't it be

Is adultery really immoral? The act itself is mostly legal, so why can't it be mostly moral? I'm a male bachelor, so I can only argue from my point of view. Adultery is a simple biological urge that manifests itself onto two persons, one or both of whom are married. Marriage today is becoming more and more a simple legal contract, routinely terminated and routinely redefined by judges and plebiscites. The ease with which marriages can be terminated either on paper or in practice is just a reflection of the fact that people often change in their feelings towards one another--love fades within marriage and sometimes erupts outside marriage. Making it with a married woman can be very thrilling and the same woman would not be equally exciting if she were single; the supposedly unavailable is always more desirable than the easily attainable. Married women accept advances because their husbands can no longer give them excitement, romance or adventure, so why not a net utilitarian gain for two people, and no...

Let's stipulate: adultery isn't always immoral. You're pitching the idea that it's usually not immoral ("mostly moral," as you put it.) Your argument, however, doesn't seem to me to be strong enough for that conclusion. Start with something obvious: when people get married, they make promises to one another. Typically, one of those promises is a promise of faithfulness. Not all promises are binding in all circumstances, but in general promise-breaking isn't morally trivial. And encouraging people to break promises isn't trivial either. But set that aside. Let's suppose that adultery is the result of a biological urge, as you say. Since morality often calls for us not to act on our urges, that doesn't tell us much. Your legal/sociological analysis strikes me as a bit thin, but I'm more worried about this: "Making it with a married woman can be very thrilling and the same woman would not be equally exciting if she were single; the supposedly unavailable is always more desirable than the easily...

Recently a 19 year old woman killed herself after she was taunted by her high

Recently a 19 year old woman killed herself after she was taunted by her high school classmates for doing a porn. The while situation makes me angry and upset. (though looking at the reported online comments they don't seem as bad or as I voluminous as you might imagine, and they were not all directed her. So there may be some other issues) Maybe it makes me angry partly because I often watch porn with women of that age but part of me feels uncomfortable about it because I don't know how it affects their lives or if they are doing it with a sufficiently developed sense of ownership about the consequences that decision may bring. But really should I feel bad for watching porn with younger women or should I direct my feelings toward a society that is unfairly judgmental and hypocritical about sex?

I don't know how much older you are than the women you watch with, and I don't know anything about the larger situation. I don't know why you aren't picking companions closer to your own age, and I don't know anything about the young women and your relationship with them. What I'd think in detail would depend on all that. But generalizations about "society" are typically pretty vapid. Does "society" mean "most people?" How do you know? Do you have any real evidence as opposed to impressions, anecdotes and a look at website comments by high-schoolers? And most important, what does this have to do with whether you should be doing what you're doing?

We can agree that the high-schoolers should have kept their comments to themselves. We can also agree, at least for argument's sake, that a 19-year-old could make a clear-eyed, responsible decision to make a porn. But that's not the issue. The issue is how you should be dealing with the particular young women you're talking about, in the particular circumstances you all find yourselves in.

You've given a couple of good reasons for being uncomfortable. They'd still be good reasons even if there are a lot of judgmental hypocrites around. There probably are other reasons as well. Do the reasons add up to the conclusion that you shouldn't be doing what you're doing? I'm not about to say. What I'm willing to say is that it would be a lot better to explore your moral discomfort directly without turning to vague, irrelevant generalizations about "society." That kind of deflection is a recipe for rationalization rather than honest self-assessment.

And one more thing: you're absolutely right to be wondering about the point of view of the women you watch with. You might consider actually talking with them about it, in a setting where everyone concerned will feel free to be honest.

I don't know how much older you are than the women you watch with, and I don't know anything about the larger situation. I don't know why you aren't picking companions closer to your own age, and I don't know anything about the young women and your relationship with them. What I'd think in detail would depend on all that. But generalizations about "society" are typically pretty vapid. Does "society" mean "most people?" How do you know? Do you have any real evidence as opposed to impressions, anecdotes and a look at website comments by high-schoolers? And most important, what does this have to do with whether you should be doing what you're doing ? We can agree that the high-schoolers should have kept their comments to themselves. We can also agree, at least for argument's sake, that a 19-year-old could make a clear-eyed, responsible decision to make a porn. But that's not the issue. The issue is how you should be dealing with the particular young women you're talking about, in the particular...

Do polygamy bans violate the natural rights of bisexuals? In wake of the current

Do polygamy bans violate the natural rights of bisexuals? In wake of the current Supreme Court debate in the US that gay marriage bans violate due process and equal protection guarantees, I want to ask a philosopher whether these two legal concepts, due process and equal protection (which go by different names in different countries), are derived from natural philosophical rights. If so and assuming that they are similar in meaning, does that mean that at least philosophically speaking, polygamy irrespective of particular examples is NOT inherently immoral? The main philosophical argument for gay marriage from what I've heard is that since sexual orientation is a fundamental and largely unchangeable part of a person's nature, it is immoral to deny gays a right that straight people have. But what about bisexuals? Isn't a bisexual woman or man who is in a serious relationship with both a man and a woman at the same time just as deserving? I don't think it matters whether or not the other two members of the...

I'm not sure I have your question clearly in my sights, but I think it's something like this: As it stands the only kind of marriage many countries recognize is between one man and one woman. Advocates of same-sex marriage argue that for a variety of reasons, not least the fact that sexual orientation isn't simply a choice, we ought to recognize same-sex marriages as well. Otherwise, there's a serious issue of fairness and justice.

Your suggestion is that this leaves a particular injustice unaddressed: bisexual people who are in relationships with men and women at the same time. If same-sex marriage is the cure for discrimination against homosexual relationships, then, so the thought goes, polygamous marriage is the cure for the parallel injustice against bisexuals.

Here's why I'm not persuaded. Leave hetero- vs. homo- vs. bisexuality aside. Some people are in love with more than one person. Call people capable of such attachments polyamorous. In some cases, all concerned parties would be more than happy to from a common household and live together as spouses. Should we say that by not allowing polygamous marriage, the law discriminates unjustly against polyamorous people?

Before we get to the question itself, notice that it has nothing special to do with bisexuality. Most people are quite capable of being attracted to more than one person at once. From this point of view, someone who's in love with both a man and a woman at the same time is just another polyamorist. And there's no reason I know of to believe that the polyamorous desires of bisexuals are any stronger than anyone else's.

Now to the question. You said you wanted it understood as philosophical rather than legal, so here's the philosophical bit. It's one thing to say that the law shouldn't outlaw polyamorous relationships. It's another to say that it should broaden marriage to include n-adic relationships with n greater than 2. More generally: it's one thing to say that the law should allow certain kinds of conduct. It's another to say that it should give them special status. From "the law shouldn't interfere with polyamorous relationships" to "the law should allow polygamous marriage, with all the rights and privileges thereof" is not a mere skip and a jump. However, none of this has anything special to do with bisexuality.

We could put it this way: if people's polyamorous tendencies give us a good reason for legal polygamy, then the law shouldn't worry itself with the internal geometry of the configuration. I have no problem with the conditional itself. The "if" part, however, is where the rub comes. For while there are limits on what a legitimate legal system should allow or forbid, every remotely just legal system I know of is hip-deep in policy issues. There might be many good reasons for the law not to embrace all the tax, inheritance, child-custody, benefits, child-custody questions, and other sequlae of polygamous marriage even if it should also mostly keep its nose out of people's intimate relationships. In other words, there might be good policy reasons not to recognize polygamous marriage. But even if we agree (as I do) that the law should recognize same-sex marriage, the fact that bisexual people are amongst the polyamorous doesn't give us any special reason to recognize polygamy.

I'm not sure I have your question clearly in my sights, but I think it's something like this: As it stands the only kind of marriage many countries recognize is between one man and one woman. Advocates of same-sex marriage argue that for a variety of reasons, not least the fact that sexual orientation isn't simply a choice, we ought to recognize same-sex marriages as well. Otherwise, there's a serious issue of fairness and justice. Your suggestion is that this leaves a particular injustice unaddressed: bisexual people who are in relationships with men and women at the same time. If same-sex marriage is the cure for discrimination against homosexual relationships, then, so the thought goes, polygamous marriage is the cure for the parallel injustice against bisexuals. Here's why I'm not persuaded. Leave hetero- vs. homo- vs. bisexuality aside. Some people are in love with more than one person. Call people capable of such attachments polyamorous. In some cases, all concerned parties would be more...

You are a single male, a highly attractive female asks you to engage in a sexual

You are a single male, a highly attractive female asks you to engage in a sexual relationship with her. However, they are already in a long-term, albeit unstable relationship. Do you accept or decline the offer? I have declined on the basis that should I accept there is a likelihood that the pleasure I would gain is less than the suffering I would cause to their partner (who I do not know) and there is a possibility I am being used to hurt their partner. From canvasing the opinion of my friends I am almost unique in my decision. Am I wrong or do I just need better friends?

I have a somewhat different take than my co-panelist.

Yes: we can tag the sorts of reasons you're offering as Utilitarian, though I'm not sure that adds a lot. I'd ask a different question: are they the sorts of considerations a morally conscientious person might care about? Seems to me they are, and that seems even clearer when we put them in a plain-spoken way: you're worried that you'll hurt someone else. And you're not sure that whatever pleasure you get out of the arrangement makes up for the hurt. Whether that settles the matter or not, if your friends don't think that's relevant than maybe you do need better friends!

We could ask whether you have an obligation to the woman's partner, but I worry that the retreat to polysyllaby hides the more basic point: how your behavior affects this man is morally relevant. The old-fashioned question "How would you feel if you were in his shoes?" is a perfectly good way to see that.

I'm not about to offer concrete advice about this case; there's way too much I don't know. But the question you're asking suggests to me that you're a decent guy.

However, I do agree with my colleague that, moral questions aside, this smells like a mess. That might be enough to settle the question by itself.

I have a somewhat different take than my co-panelist. Yes: we can tag the sorts of reasons you're offering as Utilitarian, though I'm not sure that adds a lot. I'd ask a different question: are they the sorts of considerations a morally conscientious person might care about? Seems to me they are, and that seems even clearer when we put them in a plain-spoken way: you're worried that you'll hurt someone else. And you're not sure that whatever pleasure you get out of the arrangement makes up for the hurt. Whether that settles the matter or not, if your friends don't think that's relevant than maybe you do need better friends! We could ask whether you have an obligation to the woman's partner, but I worry that the retreat to polysyllaby hides the more basic point: how your behavior affects this man is morally relevant. The old-fashioned question "How would you feel if you were in his shoes?" is a perfectly good way to see that. I'm not about to offer concrete advice about this case; there's way too...

Is a foot fetish perverse?

Sex
Is a foot fetish perverse?

Saying that something is perverse often means that it diverts some appetite in a direction that not only defeats its "natural" function, but does so in a way that's harmful or unhealthy or bad. Pedophilia is a plausible case, but what makes pedophilia bad is not that it diverts sexual attraction from reproduction (I'm talking about cases where the pedophile is attracted to prepubescent children) but that acting on the desire is not a good thing for the child. We can judge pedophilia to be bad whether or not we call it a perversion, though most people would likely use that word.

What about a foot fetish? So long as the fetishist isn't violating anyone's consent, it's hard to see that there's anything morally wrong with indulging the fetish. Might there be anything else wrong?

There might, but actual cases can't be evaluated apart from the details. Suppose that the person's fetish interferes with the sort of emotional intimacy that often goes with more familiar sexual relationships. That might be unfortunate, but it doesn't seem inevitable, and obviously a lot depends on the people involved. To this we can add: whether someone has "normal" sexual urges and whether they're capable of emotional intimacy are two very different questions.

There is a familiar view that looks at all this quite differently. It's most familiar from Roman Catholic teaching, but it's found elsewhere as well. On this view, all sexual acts must be "open to the possibility of procreation," in the oft-used phrase. Sexual desire that doesn't meet this standard is "disordered," as some Vatican documents put it, and perhaps that's another way of saying "perverse." This point of view condemns: masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, homosexual acts; artificial birth control, not to mention various more exotic activities. It condemns them all for the same reason, and would certainly condemn indulging a foot fetish, but so what?

This is a big topic, so I will restrict myself to two comments. The first is that the point of view I've just described can only be defended by top-down appeal to highly contentious premises – premises that many religious believers don't accept, let alone non-believers. The second is that if something so evidently harmless and widespread as masturbation is "wrong," the view that entails this entails something so implausible that its credibility is severely compromised.

But our original topic was foot fetishes. What have we learned about that matter?

One thing is that apart from coercion or abuse, there's not any interesting moral issue about foot fetishes or various other "fetishes." (We could add: ordinary people are turned on by a surprising variety of things.) A related one is that at least one familiar argument to the contrary is dubious to say the least. Yet another is that while issues of psycho-sexual well-being might come up about some cases of foot fetishes, we can't just make up our facts, and facile generalizations get us nowhere. But perhaps the bottom line is this: the word "perversion" doesn't really help us here. It's a word whose emotional wallop far exceeds its analytical precision.

Saying that something is perverse often means that it diverts some appetite in a direction that not only defeats its "natural" function, but does so in a way that's harmful or unhealthy or bad. Pedophilia is a plausible case, but what makes pedophilia bad is not that it diverts sexual attraction from reproduction (I'm talking about cases where the pedophile is attracted to prepubescent children) but that acting on the desire is not a good thing for the child. We can judge pedophilia to be bad whether or not we call it a perversion, though most people would likely use that word. What about a foot fetish? So long as the fetishist isn't violating anyone's consent, it's hard to see that there's anything morally wrong with indulging the fetish. Might there be anything else wrong? There might, but actual cases can't be evaluated apart from the details. Suppose that the person's fetish interferes with the sort of emotional intimacy that often goes with more familiar sexual relationships. That might be...

Is it unethical to look at a woman's breasts? What if she has cleavage?

Is it unethical to look at a woman's breasts? What if she has cleavage?

Here's a plausible principle: in general, we shouldn't do things that are likely to make people uncomfortable. This is particularly true if our only reason for doing whatever we're doing is that we get some sort of enjoyment out of it. And if we're in doubt about whether we're likely to make the person uncomfortable, better to err on the side of caution.

The principle is actually a broad one, as we can see if we change the example a bit. Suppose the person sitting across the room from me has a very sweet face. There's nothing wrong with noticing, but staring is another matter; that's likely to make the person uncomfortable. This is true even if the s/he has made some effort to highlight facial features. Noticing, even appreciating is one thing; staring, let alone ogling, is another.

That's the general advice. In real life, there are lots of subtleties. It's not unusual for one person to notice that another is "checking them out," as it's sometimes put, and to be flattered. That might be particularly true if the setting is a bar where people go to meet one another. But even there, the general rule is still a good one.

Maybe the simple version is this: I shouldn't be creepy. And if someone might well think what I'm doing is creepy -- even if I don't mean it to be -- I shouldn't do that either.

Here's a plausible principle: in general, we shouldn't do things that are likely to make people uncomfortable. This is particularly true if our only reason for doing whatever we're doing is that we get some sort of enjoyment out of it. And if we're in doubt about whether we're likely to make the person uncomfortable, better to err on the side of caution. The principle is actually a broad one, as we can see if we change the example a bit. Suppose the person sitting across the room from me has a very sweet face. There's nothing wrong with noticing, but staring is another matter; that's likely to make the person uncomfortable. This is true even if the s/he has made some effort to highlight facial features. Noticing, even appreciating is one thing; staring, let alone ogling, is another. That's the general advice. In real life, there are lots of subtleties. It's not unusual for one person to notice that another is "checking them out," as it's sometimes put, and to be flattered. That might be...

I have asked many regular non-philosopher type folks about how to avoid

I have asked many regular non-philosopher type folks about how to avoid appearing "rude, crude and stupid" when indicating sexual interest in women. Not many well formed answers are given to me but I am told that a necessary ingredient is subtlety. You should never be direct about your intentions. Is being direct and straightforward really rude? What does saying that you must not be straightforward imply about the nature of those intentions in the first place? What then distinguishes rude from non-rude forms of expressing sexual intention?

It's an interesting question and not easy to answer. Let's start with what may seem to be a minor point but actually isn't. It's not right that we should never be direct. The most obvious exception is when two people already have a sexual relationship and they're both comfortable about it. But even there, being blunt isn't always welcome. Sex isn't one-dimensional. There's lusty animal sex and there's also tender romantic sex. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for the other.

If it's complicated even for people who are in a relationship, it's not hard to see why rude and crude doesn't tend to work when that's not so. Human relationships just are complicated; after all, there are completely non-sexual matters that most of us don't like having broached too directly. When we add sex to the mix, things certainly won't get simpler.

Leave male vs. female aside for a moment. If someone hints to me that they're interested but the feeling isn't mutual, I can ignore the hint in ways that get the message across but don't hurting the other person's feelings or make them lose face. This doesn't go just for sex, but it seems safe to say that it goes particularly for sex. Being less direct can make things a lot less awkward.

A different sort of case might help. If I'm upset with someone, then depending on the relationship and the reasons, being clear and straightforward might be best. But the old saying "least said, easiest mended" often has a point. A certain amount of indirectness seems to make social life easier.

The fact of the matter is that there's a lot of communication that doesn't take place using words, and on the whole, we humans seem to like it this way. The advantage is that this adds a lot of nuance and subtlety to the way we communicate. But not everyone is equally fluent in the language of gesture, gaze, tone of voice and standard dictionaries are hard to find.

As noted, all of this is general and applied to a lot more than sex. But there's another issue here that's at least as important. There's often a lot at stake in sexual encounters, and there's usually a lot more at stake for a woman than for a man. For the most part, unwanted sexual attention isn't a problem for men. For women it very often is. At the very least, staying away from the rude and crude is a way of acknowledging that important fact.

--

Afternote: a friend pointed out this very instructive youtube video in which Steven Pinker says a lot about all these issues. Stick with it to the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-son3EJTrU

It's an interesting question and not easy to answer. Let's start with what may seem to be a minor point but actually isn't. It's not right that we should never be direct. The most obvious exception is when two people already have a sexual relationship and they're both comfortable about it. But even there, being blunt isn't always welcome. Sex isn't one-dimensional. There's lusty animal sex and there's also tender romantic sex. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for the other. If it's complicated even for people who are in a relationship, it's not hard to see why rude and crude doesn't tend to work when that's not so. Human relationships just are complicated; after all, there are completely non-sexual matters that most of us don't like having broached too directly. When we add sex to the mix, things certainly won't get simpler. Leave male vs. female aside for a moment. If someone hints to me that they're interested but the feeling isn't mutual, I can ignore the hint in ways...

I told my friend that I didn't pursue a second date with a woman I met through

I told my friend that I didn't pursue a second date with a woman I met through an Internet dating site because she wasn't physically attractive enough. My friend said it was wrong to "judge" a person by their looks. I said that I wouldn't date my friend Travis either based on his looks and you wouldn't disagree with that. My friend said that the reason that I wouldnt date Travis was that Travis is a man and I'm a heterosexual. Yes but what is a man I asked other than someone who "looks" different than a woman? So isn't heterosexuality about discriminating against a person based on their looks? And if that's the case and if we as a society are okay with diacriminating against a person just because they don't look like a certain gender then why is it often considered wrong to not date someone based on looks that go beyond gender? It might sound like I am resorting to a kind of logical trickery but I think I have a good point. People often speak of a romantic relationship as if it were an elevated...

Physical attraction is part of what makes a romantic relationship, and so if romance was what you wanted, not being attracted would matter. This also explains why it would be strange to say that a heterosexual is discriminating in an objectionable way against people of the same sex just because s/he doesn't have romantic relationships with them. (We can turn this around, of course. A gay man isn't discriminating against women in some untoward way just be cause he doesn't want to have romantic relationships with them.)

That much is obvious. But there's still some subtlety in the background. You said you didn't pursue this possibility because the woman "wasn't attractive enough." That could mean a couple of things. One is that you didn't find her sexually attractive: for whatever reason, there was none of that sort of spark. More on that below, but so far, no foul. However, you might have meant that she didn't meet some conventional standard of attractiveness, quite apart from your own reaction. If so, there'd be room to wonder: is it a matter of what other people will think? If so, why do you care? Or is it a matter of some merely arbitrary standard you've set for yourself? In either case it would be worth giving some further thought to your decision.

But let's suppose it's not that; let's suppose you simply didn't find yourself attracted to her, whatever anyone else's view might be. The caution here is that even though chemistry is sometimes obvious from the start, it doesn't always work that way. As you get to know someone better, your sense how "attractive" they are can change. The ways people move and talk, what they think and feel, make a difference to how we see them in a rich sense of "see." People regularly find themselves becoming attracted to someone they had little response to on first meeting. After all, there's a whole genre of romantic storytelling built on this premise, and it's for a reason: it really happens. So there's a practical point here: don't be too sure that you know on the first meeting how you'd feel on the third.

But before we end, you raised a more philosophical issue: where's the room between sheer lust and mere platonic friendship? The broad outlines surely aren't that hard to see. When you love someone in the romantic way, lust is part of the picture, but so is friendship. It would be too simple to say that romantic love is just the sum of lust and friendship, but then even non-romantic friendships aren't all alike; some are much deeper than others. Most of us want our friendship with our romantic partner to be of the deep kind, though if you want more depth about the depth, poets and storytellers might offer more insight than philosophers.

Summing up: discrimination doesn't seem to be the right word for cases where we don't pursue romance because we aren't attracted. However the cautions above both apply. And whatever the essence of romantic love may be, a complex combination of friendship and old-fashioned lust is surely part of the story; no need for an "either/or."

Physical attraction is part of what makes a romantic relationship, and so if romance was what you wanted, not being attracted would matter. This also explains why it would be strange to say that a heterosexual is discriminating in an objectionable way against people of the same sex just because s/he doesn't have romantic relationships with them. (We can turn this around, of course. A gay man isn't discriminating against women in some untoward way just be cause he doesn't want to have romantic relationships with them.) That much is obvious. But there's still some subtlety in the background. You said you didn't pursue this possibility because the woman "wasn't attractive enough." That could mean a couple of things. One is that you didn't find her sexually attractive: for whatever reason, there was none of that sort of spark. More on that below, but so far, no foul. However, you might have meant that she didn't meet some conventional standard of attractiveness, quite apart from your own reaction....

Is the question of whether homosexuality is "a choice" at all morally relevant?

Is the question of whether homosexuality is "a choice" at all morally relevant? Does it bear, e.g., on whether homosexual lifestyles are morally permissible, or whether gay marriage should be allowed? Many people seem to think so, including many of those who support gays and lesbians.

Just one footnote to Sean. If homosexuality is a choice, it's not, as Richard Mohr once pointed out, like the choice of what sort of ice cream you're going to buy. Here's a thought experiment to try. Think of someone you find sexually attractive. Now try to choose not to have that response. Part two: think of someone you don't find sexually attractive. Now try to choose to be attracted to them. Step three: repeat steps one and two for broad categories of people where you find you have pretty stable patterns of attraction. If you are anything like me, you'll find that the attempt to choose doesn't get you anywhere.

Just how we end up being sexually attracted to the people we're attracted to is not easy to say. What seems pretty clear is that it's not in any ordinary sense a choice,

Of course, having predilections is one thing; that may not be a choice. Acting on them is another; that usually is a choice. If a case could be made that it's wrong for homosexual people to act on their attractions, then the fact that their orientation is not a matter of choice wouldn't simply excuse them. In fact, however, the arguments I've seen are pathetically bad. A bit more carefully, there are of course lots of situations that call for not acting on our attractions. But that said, the idea that there's some special problem about homosexual attraction is a lot harder to defend than some people seem to have thought.

Just one footnote to Sean. If homosexuality is a choice, it's not, as Richard Mohr once pointed out, like the choice of what sort of ice cream you're going to buy. Here's a thought experiment to try. Think of someone you find sexually attractive. Now try to choose not to have that response. Part two: think of someone you don't find sexually attractive. Now try to choose to be attracted to them. Step three: repeat steps one and two for broad categories of people where you find you have pretty stable patterns of attraction. If you are anything like me, you'll find that the attempt to choose doesn't get you anywhere. Just how we end up being sexually attracted to the people we're attracted to is not easy to say. What seems pretty clear is that it's not in any ordinary sense a choice, Of course, having predilections is one thing; that may not be a choice. Acting on them is another; that usually is a choice. If a case could be made that it's wrong for homosexual people to act on their...

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