Monthly Archives: December 2013

Moral Harm and Condom Distribution

Today’s post is based on my Dec. 27 post in which I introduce the notion of moral harm. A person harms himself morally simply by violating a moral rule. For instance, a person who steals harms not only the person from whom he stole. He also harms himself. He becomes a thief. A person who misleads others to break moral rules harms himself by becoming a corrupter and misleads those whom he corrupted into morally harming themselves. I concede that the notion of “moral harm” is not universally recognized.

However,intelligent people are able to understand what is being proposed. Whether or not there is moral harm has been an open question since at least Plato had Socrates propose in Gorgias that it is better to suffer a wrong than to do a wrong. Are there no occasions on which it is better to suffer a medical wrong than to do a moral wrong?

Let us examine how recognizing the difference between moral and medical harm helps sort out ambiguities when people use cost/benefit considerations to decide whether a practice is morally permissible because the benefits of following it outweigh the harm done by following it.

This example is dated. However, it is easy to find examples in current events where it is helpful to consider whether people are arguing about medical consequences, moral consequences or both. During the preparation of my book,Confronting Sexual Nihilism , Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa in March 2009. It was reported that he claimed condom distribution programs are not effective for controlling the spread of AIDS. I take seriously what the pope says on faith and morals. When he speaks ex cathedra on these matters I accept what the pope says. How should we interpret his reported claim about condoms and AIDS reduction? The notion of moral harm helps uncover ambiguities.

Benedict XVI was not speaking ex cathedra. He was speaking in an ordinary way about sexual policies. In our ordinary way of speaking of acts and practices we express disapproval by saying that it won’t work or it will have bad consequences. But it is very easy to be confused about what is meant by “bad consequences.” It could mean “bad” without any moral judgment used for deciding what is bad. Or “bad consequences” could be used so that moral standards are also relevant for deciding what is bad. For instance, in a discussion of whether or not a type of pornography is bad, some might hold that whether viewing it has bad consequences we should look at only medical conditions such as bodily tissue damage or clinical psychological trauma done to the viewer or people the viewer interacts with. Others might hold that inciting the viewer to masturbation, regardless of whether or not masturbation does any medical damage is a bad consequence because masturbation is a sexual immorality.

Despite the ambiguity in “bad consequences” public conversation tends towards accepting the medical standard for “bad.” It is as if “bad medical consequences” is the default meaning for “bad consequences.” Nonetheless, confusion on how to evaluate claims remains. Some of the claims seems as if they would be decisively refuted by the facts if the default meaning is used. This is the case for a claim that condom distribution does not effectively hinder the spread of AIDS. What about a claim that considers moral harm from condom distribution? Sexual promiscuity would be such a moral harm. Facts must be gathered to determine the truth of a claim that on the whole condom distribution does not reduce the bad consequences of AIDS cases and sexual promiscuity as much as some other program.

Prior to factual considerations, I think that it is likely that facts will support the claim that on the whole condom distribution does
not reduce the bad consequences of AIDS cases and sexual promiscuity as much as some other program. The pope is best interpreted as making the claim about AIDS and sexual promiscuity.

Moral Harm vs. Medical Harm

This post introduces a notion of moral harm. Subsequent posts develop this notion of moral harm. Some comments about my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism provide context for these discussions.

My book makes a case for the following so-called Paternal Principle.

A male may intentionally attain a sexual climax only in sexual intercourse with a consentingwoman to whom he is bound by a life-long, monogamous, socially recognized union for procreation, In addition he should:(1) intend to cooperate with his spouse to protect and promote the lifelong natural development of any conception resulting from this intercourse and (2) strive to appreciate with his spouse the natural value of their sexual satisfactions and cooperate with her to enhance those satisfactions..

In addition to condemning fornication and adultery, the Paternal Principle condemns three of what Aquinas called the unnatural vices: masturbation, homosexuality and beastiality.

A challenge to this principle is that many acts violating the principle seem to inflict no harm on anyone. If the acts are illegal, many people label the acts victimless crimes What definition of harm is presupposed by this type of challenge? I suggest that the following is the working definition of “harm” used in these evaluations of allegedly trivial and harmless sexual acts. There is some physiological or psychological condition such that remedial treatment for it would at least be a plausible candidate for reimbursement by medical insurance. Call this “medical harm.”

Many violations of the Paternal Principle do no medical harm. Indeed some might be medically beneficial! But there is no imperative from reason or morality that only physical or emotional disturbances are harmful.

Consider a derivative sense of “harm” so that a conclusion about what we think is harmful is derived from a judgment that a type of act is wrong. Doing the right act or being the right kind of person is good. Bringing about what is good is, by meaning of the terms, beneficial. Doing a wrong act or becoming the wrong kind of person is bad. What is good is better – more beneficial – than what is bad. So to bring about what is wrong incurs the cost, or harm, of getting less than what is better. This can be said without there being any calculation of benefits and reach the judgment of wrongness. This derivative sense of “harm” is appropriately called “moral harm” since it is derived from a moral judgment that something is wrong.

I suggest that our shame and guilt about past torture, slavery and racial discrimination indicates that there is a notion of moral harm. We who have done these things have inflicted some harm on ourselves.

The importance of this notion of moral harm, and a correlative notion of moral good,increases throughout my book and in these posts as it emerges as having more than verbal or “spiritual” status. As a case is made that morality, and especially how we ought to be, is in our nature, moral violations can be appreciated as damage to our nature. Conscious choices to conform to moral principles can be regarded as benefits to our moral character.

Some negative sentiments go with the thought of moral harm. There are no pure thoughts apart from any sentiment. So, there are negative sentiments associated with recognition of moral harm brought on oneself by immoral choices. What sentiments? I suggest that a sense of confusion and lack of direction because of being uncontrolled by law broadly characterizes this sentiment of moral wrong. In my own case, it is an awful sense of being ungoverned that comes from actual or imagined medically harmless violations of the Paternal Principle which is my feeling of their wrongness. Nonetheless, it is not the feeling of them being wrong that makes them wrong. Their wrongness is derived from the Paternal Principle

Truth Conditions for Christianity

Trying to make sense of encountering Christ seems an appropriate topic for Christmas Day

How is this topic relevant to my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism? In my book, I concede that the best reasoning cannot show us that reasoning presents us reality apart from our reasoning. Why? I cannot avoid using a Cartesian/Kantian method in which philosophizing is reason reflecting on reasoning. We cannot stand back from our reasoning and compare our reasoning with reality apart from reasoning. We need to stop reasoning and let ourselves be open to reality or being, with the hope that reality supports us in believing that our best reasoning presents to us reality as it is. In particular, the best reasoning for my fundamental moral principle – the Paternal Principle -does not show us that reality commands the Paternal Principle. Through living we have to discover that reality obligates us to obey the Paternal Principle. Through living we discover that the conceptual moral scheme we invented is correct.

Note that there is no assumption that reality contains only facts. Reality may issue commands as truth conditions for moral imperatives we justify by reasoning.

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has said that the truth of Christianity is an encounter with Christ. Why would I say that?

Consider the Apostle’s Creed. Justification for the creed can be given. But all that is said is simply more reasons. Giving reasons suports what we hold but reasons by themselves are not the truth conditions for what we give reasons. We have to encounter that which shows ultimately that our reasons are correct. It is not implausible to hold that the truth condition for Christianity would be Christ Himself.

HHS Mandate as a War on Women

The topic of this post is relevant to my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism. In the book, I argue that a practice of birth control subverts the foundations for traditional sexual morality. In the book, I adapt a Kantian morality that people are never to causually manipulate their humanity as means for some other ends. A woman’s femininity is an aspect of her humanity.

In August 2013, the AMA declared a war on obesity by classifying obesity as a disease. The enemy is the physical condition of obesity. The weapons of the war are medical care. Similarly provision of birth control medications and treatments, especially as mandated by HHS to implement the Affordable Care Act, is deployment of weapons in a war on a physical condition. The condition under attack is the capability of becoming pregnant through sexual intercourse: fertility. One significant difference between fertility and obesity is the impossibility of separating fertility from the people who have this condition, namely women. Another significant difference is that fertility is not an unhealthy condition So, a war on fertility is de facto a war on being a healthy young woman.

Unfortunately economic conditions and current permissive sexual morality outlooks recruit the majority of the soldiers in the war on women from women. This is a civil war amongst women; not primarily a war by middle aged Republican white men on women. Women are tempted to separate themselves from the condition of being a woman and to choose to manipulate their being a woman as a means for ends set by the economy and a permissive sexual morality. That is a more tempting choice than accepting being a woman as an end in itself which is controlled by free choice and is not manipulated by pharmecutical or surgical means for other ends.

Of course, pregnancy management is important.However, there are at least two ways of managing pregnancy. One way is to respect women by respecting their fertility which is crucial to being a woman and leaving them the choice to have sexual intercourse when appropriate. A second way is to regard their fertility as a medical condition needing preventive treatment and ignoring their capability of choosing when to have sexual intercourse. The second way offers women the opportunity to choose when to be a woman and leaves her in the meantime less than a woman. From the erspective of the second way,being a woman is a condition which for the most part is an unhealthy condition but on occasion can be put on and used. The first way does not try to impede the condition of being a woman but expects women to use their moral capabilities of when to have sexual intercourse.

Ultimately opposition to mechanical and chemical birth control is not based on the Bible or Catholic doctrine. It is based on respect for the dignity of women. They are not to be made “boy toys” by themselves or anyone else.

The serious vs. the ridiculous in discussion of gay marriage

There are serious topics related to discussion of same sex marriage. One of these topics is
how to accommodate in our economies the various types of households people form. Another topic is the nature and importance of friendship. However, trying to use the word ‘marriage’ and its cognate terms to characterize homosexual partnerships is frivolous.

Today there are many ways of forming households. There is need for serious
debate over the privileges, rights and duties of the members of the various types of
households. We do not, though, live by bread alone. We guide our lives by words,
symbols , concepts. Words can hurt words. When our valuable words are hurt we are
hurt. ‘Marriage’ is still a valuable word. Thus pro-homosexuals are grasping for it. If
they get it, what the word conveys won’t be worth wanting. (As noted in my Dec. 18
Blog Post classing a gay couples living together as married is unlikely to give positive
moral status to their sexual acts.) All of us will live on with the loss of a valuable ideal for guiding the important and demanding roles of male/female bonding.

The sexual dysfunction of same sex attraction is an affliction. The possibility of
some of the most rewarding of human relations is lost. The loss is not recovered by
stealing the name ‘marriage.’ Friendship is a consolation . Marriage is more and less
than friendship. Married people frequently love one another and sometimes become
friends. But “bottom line” marriage is duty. Friendship between men is rare. It is to be
envied and respected. But to call it marriage is to make both the friendship and marriage

Religious motivation behind gay marriage movement


Frequently, opponents of gay marriage are accused of trying to impose their religious outlook on society at large. Fundamentally, the dispute over acceptance of gay marriage is a religious dispute. But the religious stances fundamental in the dispute are not the Judaic, Christian and Islamic religions vs. secularism. The religious dispute is between different visions of the civic religions for Western societies.

In my judgment coming out to endorse “gay marriage” is something like being
converted to a religious doctrine and practicing a ritual to declare the belief. Declaration
of acceptance is like an offering of incense to a god of the Durkheimian religion of
Western societies. (See Mary Douglas’ Purity and Danger (1) for an account of how a
society’s civil religion makes sacred the basic structure of the society.) Anecdotal
evidence indicates that switching to support of gay marriage is similar to having a
conversion experience. My interpretation is that heterosexuals who come out for gay
marriage are switching to a progressive stance on sexuality. A progressive stance
changes significant boundaries between males and females. Endorsing gay marriage
sacralizes this new social structure.

In the Durkheimian sense of religion, a new religious outlook is emerging. This
new religious outlook does not fit well with religions of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
We can be told that nothing much will change if there are same sex marriages. So, why
not accept them? Indeed, offering incense to the emperor did little or nothing except
corrupt early Christians who succumbed to threats. Fidelity and honesty requires holders
of traditional sexual morality to speak against and to vote against same sex marriage if they
have an opportunity to do so.

If same sex marriage is not made a public issue, it is best to
keep silence and hope the silliness passes away. I suggest regarding gay weddings as
outrageous “camp.” The seriousness with which some heterosexuals discuss homosexual
marriage is comic. They include the president of the United States whom I otherwise
take seriously. Why classify gay-weddings as comic or “gay theater?”

To gain some understanding of camp in the gay life style, see David Hailperin’s
How To Be Gay.(2) Participating in camp is a way of compensating for a homosexual’s
sense of being marginalized. Dramatic mockery of structures, practices and institutions
taken seriously in the larger society helps in some way to expose the boundaries of
structures marginalizing homosexuals as ultimately not serious. Basically it is all role-playing
in a tragic comedy.

1. Routledge and Kegan Paul London, 1966
2. Belknap/Harvard U. Press, Cambridge MA, 2012. Reviewed by Edmund White, New
York Review of Books , Oct. 25, 2012

Gay marriage as trivialization of marriage

The main sexual behavior and attitude I criticize in my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional sexual morality as an antidote for nihilism is male adultery and a corresponding attitude that a man may have sexual intercourse with any willing woman regardless of marital status. Condemnation of male homosexuality is only a corollary of a general principle – The Paternal Principle-for condemning adultery. Homosexuality is, of course, wrong in light of the Paternal Principle. However, homosexual acts often seem to be more naughty than deeply evil. Indeed, a greater evil than homosexual acts is having an attitude and making a claim that homosexual acts are morally acceptable. This pro-homo sexual attitude and these claims subvert traditional sexual morality which I support in my book.

Support for gay-marriage is a proclamation that homosexual acts are morally acceptable. Simply decriminalizing homosexual acts suffices to accept homosexual acts as legally tolerable immoralities or to express uncertainty about their morality. So, I devote some sections of my book to making a case against gay-marriage. When I began writing my book around 2006, very few advocated gay-marriage. Now as 2014 begins,received public opinion is heavily in favor of gay-marriage. So, I am not optimistic that arguments against gay-marriage will prevent its legalizaton in almost every state of the USA. However, it is important for keeping alive traditional sexual morality to have voices on record as condemning gay-marriage.

The next three of four posts on this blog site will sketch out some reasons for rejecting the ridiculous but still morally subversive notion of same sex marriage. The first condsideration shows how gay-marriage leads to the moral trivializaton of marriage.

Progressives promoting same-sex marriage have standards for moral evaluation of
homosexual acts. They use standards such as coercion and age of the participants. What
is a likely effect of extending marriage to cover homosexual relations? An effect could
be having marital status for moral evaluation of homosexual acts. In general, pre-marital
and extra-marital sexual acts have been morally condemned. So same-sex marriage
might provide a standard for moral condemnation of most male homosexual behavior.
However, in these times it is unlikely that there will be an increase in moral
condemnation of most homosexual behavior? Would not a more likely result be that use
of marital status as a moral standard for sexual behavior is weakened even more than it is
now. It is not improbable that in our mainline society marital status becomes morally
irrelevant for judging sexual behavior. Of course, being morally irrelevant to evaluation
of sexual behavior does not make marriage totally irrelevant to sexuality. However,
marriage would be far less significant than at present. A slogan promoting same-sex
marriage is “Marriage Equality.” Marriage equality equals marriage trivialization.