Augustine: "A man turns to good use the evil of concupiscence, and is not overcome by it, when he bridles and restrains its rage . Hence the pursuit of sexual pleasure does not require much intricate justification; sexual activity surely need not be confined to marriage or directed at procreation. More specifically, we evaluate, or judge, sexual acts to be morally obligatory, morally permissible, morally supererogatory, or morally wrong.
The good and virtuous life, while including much else, can also include a wide variety and extent of sexual relations. For example: a spouse might have a for married couples to employ contraception while engaging in coitus; one person's agreeing to have sexual relations with another person when the former has no sexual desire of his or her own but does want to please the latter might be an act of .
) is often difficult and seemingly picky, but proves rewarding in unanticipated and surprising ways.
Normative philosophy of sexuality inquires about the value of sexual activity and sexual pleasure and of the various forms they take.
That might, indeed, be precisely the right conclusion to draw, even if it implies the end of 7, sexual celibacy as the ideal spiritual state.) More frequently, however, the pessimistic metaphysicians of sexuality conclude that sexual activity is morally permissible only within marriage (of the lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual sort) and only for the purpose of procreation. There is nothing in the nature of sexuality as such that necessarily . A person who has vulgar eros is one who experiences promiscuous sexual desire, has a lust that can be satisfied by any partner, and selfishly seeks only for himself or herself the pleasures of sexual activity.
Regarding the bodily activities that both lead to procreation and produce sexual pleasure, it is their procreative potential that is singularly significant and bestows value on these activities; seeking pleasure is an impediment to morally virtuous sexuality, and is something that should not be undertaken deliberately or for its own sake. Metaphysical sexual optimists suppose that sexuality is a bonding mechanism that naturally and happily joins people together both sexually and nonsexually. By contrast, a person who has heavenly eros experiences a sexual desire that attaches to a particular person; he or she is as much interested in the other person's personality and well-being as he or she is concerned to have physical contact with and sexual satisfaction by means of the other person.
Sexual pleasure at most has instrumental value, in inducing us to engage in an act that has procreation as its primary purpose. , not to the subjection of the spirit to the flesh in a sordid servitude" (, bk. Sexual activity involves pleasing the self and the other at the same time, and these exchanges of pleasure generate both gratitude and affection, which in turn are bound to deepen human relationships and make them more emotionally substantial. By awakening us to the living presence of someone else, sexuality can enable us to treat this other being as just the person he or she happens to be. A similar distinction between sexuality per se and eros is described by C. Lewis in his (chapter 5), and it is perhaps what Allan Bloom has in mind when he writes, "Animals have sex and human beings have eros, and no accurate science [or philosophy] is possible without making this distinction" (, p. The divide between metaphysical optimists and metaphysical pessimists might, then, be put this way: metaphysical pessimists think that sexuality, unless it is rigorously constrained by social norms that have become internalized, will tend to be governed by vulgar eros, while metaphysical optimists think that sexuality, by itself, does not lead to or become vulgar, that by its nature it can easily be and often is heavenly.
The philosophy of sexuality explores these topics both conceptually and normatively.Conceptual analysis (for example: what are the distinctive features of a desire that make it sexual desire instead of something else?In what ways does seduction differ from nonviolent rape?Hence both persons are reduced to the animal level. Sexual desire is also powerfully inelastic, one of the passions most likely to challenge reason, compelling us to seek satisfaction even when doing so involves dark-alley gropings, microbiologically filthy acts, slinking around the White House, or getting married impetuously. On the contrary, sex may be seen as an instinctual agency by which persons respond to one another , vol. Pausanias, in Plato's Symposium (181a-3, 183e, 184d), asserts that sexuality in itself is neither good nor bad.Given such a pessimistic metaphysics of human sexuality, one might well conclude that acting on the sexual impulse is always morally wrong. He recognizes, as a result, that there can be morally bad and morally good sexual activity, and proposes a corresponding distinction between what he calls "vulgar" eros and "heavenly" eros.
For example, suppose we are engaging in heterosexual coitus (or anything else), and that this particular act is wrong because it is adulterous.