Ethical theories and sex and relationships Revision slides
Pythagorean: Influenced by Plato’s dualism (chariot): physical/spiritual, spirit trapped so must free through rejection of physical world. Cynic: no shame in sex. Augustine of Hippo Greek Stoic: Stiff upper Lip: Sex linked to reproduction. Overcome anything that threatens self-control Sex and relationships (Greek and Christian Views Pre-Fall:No shame in sex. As it was given by God it is good in itself. Marriage = better than burning. Chastity = better still. Old Testament Open to interpretation Emphasis on spiritual (Plato dualism) New Testament Jesus Stoning of the adulterous woman Golden Rule After the Fall: Punishment from God for original sin: 1. Shame of body. 2. Pain in childbirth. 3. Women subordinate to men St Paul Return of Christ imminent
Some sex should not be practised in sinful ways –i.e. sexual involvement with non-Israelites (Jews), adultery would be punishable by stoning. Women were not equal to men and must be virgins on marriage. Genesis 1-2 – sex created by God, meant for procreation. Old Testament view of sex Bestiality and homosexuality is seen as immoral. Should be punishable by death.
Paul – man is the head of the household just as Christ is the head of the church. Jesus – gave very little on sex & relationships. He did state,' Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.’ He also brought about equality of both men and women. Paul – Valued Celibacy over marriage and sex. Giving yourself to God. Links with Greek philosophers – stressing spiritual life above physical. New Testament Paul – If people could not control sexual urges – should get married. Sex only in marriage. The body is a temple of the holy spirit and should be respected. (1 Corinthians 6 12-20) Paul – women should obey their husbands. (Ephesians 5v22-24) ‘wives, be subject to your husbands’ Wives are the property of the man – Ephesians 5v31-32.
Sex is a constant reminder of man’s rebellion against God – original sin. The devil uses women to lead men away from reason – pleasure in sex leads man away from reason. See Adam & eve. Augustine of Hippo Sex is necessary for procreation, but only in marriage. However sex was dangerous… Background – accepted views of gnosticism – body and soul separate
View of Catholic Church. 2) Sexual acts can be morally wrong even if it is natural – i.e. incest, rape or adultery. He attempted to unite Aristotle with Christian theological – looking at end purpose –telos. Aquinas – Natural law 1) Sex is wrong if it does not coincide with the act of procreation – Masturbation, bestiality, homosexuality and foreplay are all immoral. Aquinas concluded that the purpose of sexual organs and sexual activity was procreation, and any other use of sex was intrinsically wrong. Sex is only in marriage.
Kant does not see sex within marriage as wrong, the purpose of marriage is NOT PROCREATION, but a union of two people of different sexes. Sex is morally acceptable in a monogamous relationship. A husband who commits adultery cannot want extra-marital sex to be universal law unless he wants his wife, children, parents and so on to engage in extra-marital activities. Kant – categorical imperative You should not use humans as a means to an end i.e. prostitution. Neither can homosexuality be universalised, since every homosexual is conceived through a heterosexual relationship – although artificial insemination could change this. Sexual pleasure is only allowed when service more valuable goals such as marriage
Utilitarian reasons for having sex: • The value of pleasure. • The contribution which shared pleasure makes to the value of a relationship. • That consensual sex creates much good, and, if harm to another person is avoided, provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number Utilitarian view to sex is called libertarian. More than a contractarian approach which emphasises the importance of mutual voluntary informed consent. Utilitarianism Sex is immoral if one or both of those involved lack a knowledgeable consent. i.e. a man having sex with 15 year old illegal immigrant desperate for money. This is immoral many prostitutes have been forced into it. Bentham - as long as there is mutual consent for pleasure sex is not wrong if both partners are willing. He also asked whether such a relationship harmed society/caused unhappiness, either physical or moral (Undermining marriage, fidelity etc)
Masturbation, homosexuality, and bisexuality is tolerated. However if everyone was a homosexual it would harm society. Utilitarians must be tolerant of people with non-traditional sexual orientations, except in cases that do great social harm i.e. molesters. Utilitarianism & sex John Stuart Mills- stresses the value of liberty, sex should be a matter of individual choice, without state interference. However we should try to seek higher pleasures and the goal of ethics is to seek the happiness of all by taking their needs into account Harm principle –(an act or consequence is morally permissible if no harm is done) is important to utilitarianism especially in extra-marital affairs – short-term pleasure will produce long term pain. Etc.
Situation ethics has one Primary principle – agape for Unconditional love; not love As an emotion but the love That put what is best for The other person first. Joseph Fletcher in ‘situation ethics’ captured the mood of 1960’s when approaches to sex and relationships became more free – because of contraceptive pill Situation ethics seeks equal treatment of everyone and acts our of love. Sex is a genuine expression of love. Situation Ethics Situation ethics rejects free love like natural law and Kantian ethics. Rejecting one-night stands, orgies etc. N.B.This is not easy when applied in practice when strong emotional feelings and physical drives take over.
Virtue ethics looks from the standpoint of the individual and his or her personal qualities, virtue and ideas. V.E. would consider what kind of sexual practices will tend to make a person more virtuous – those that involve taking pleasure in giving oneself to another and developing intimacy and commitment , Less virtuous- those that use others for one’s own pleasure. V.E. Points to the values of – love commitment, honesty, loyalty, friendship, pleasure. Vices – exploitation and selfishness. Virtue Ethics Michael Slote – Emphasis ethics of care in relationships, requires a sort of 3-way balance as far as sex and relationships: 1) care for those who are near to us (intimate care) 2) care for other people in general (humanitarian care ) 3) care for our own well-being (self care) Rosalind Hursthouse – A Virtuous person is one who exercises the virtues in circumstances
He suggests that sexual personality may be found at the core of moral personality – how we behave towards sexual partners both influences and mirrors how we perceive and interact with people in general. – failure to learn to control the pursuit of sexual pleasure undermines the achievement of virtuous character. Each person’s approach to sex and relationships is based on their upbringing and their relationship with their parents. Oedipus and castration complex – The wants to sleep with his mother but doesn’t because she has no penis, therefore his father (according to the child’s mind) has chopped his mothers penis off. He will then submit to his father. His urges will only be later on directed to his wife. Freud We have a Super-ego – an inner voice reminding us of social norms which comes from parents and authority figures in society. – we need this voice to live ethically in society. As a result of the super-ego rules about sex and relationships change dependant upon cultures.
Today the unitive role of love is a comparatively modern element, and the role of sex in marriage as an expression of that love is also now recognised. Even sexual pleasure is seen as a gift from God in heterosexual marriage. (see song of Solomon) Jack Dominion states that sex is not dangerous and should only be used for procreation. Sex is so powerful and meaningful that justice can only be done to it in a continuous and enduring relationship. He accepts cohabitation, premarital sex and even accepts homosexual sex as long as it is in a loving relationship. He sees the church as having to rethink ideals. Issues today in Christian ethics There is a big divide today with homosexuality. The rejects homosexuality stating it is an abomination. However the Bible also says you shouldn’t mix milk with meat. Of which most Christians ignore Richard Holloway points out, that the Bible is being used for the possible split of the Church over ordination of gay bishops. Holloway states that the impetus for social reform comes from society and not the Church.
Natural Law is the most reliable approach when making judgements about sex and relationships.’ Discuss Explain the main teachings of natural law (e.g. purpose, potentiality and actuality, primary and secondary precepts) the deontological and absolute nature of Natural law and its origins in Aristotle, and how it is a basis for Roman Catholic teaching. Discuss the nature of sexual morality (e.g. sex as procreative, sex within marriage, homosexuality, ‘abuses’ of sex.) , and apply Natural law to sexual ethics. Using examples, you could s how some may see Natural law as the best approach because e.g. it is universal and God-given, but for others N.L may appear out of date and inflexible. You need to discuss what is mean by reliable and from who perspective this theory may seem reliable. You may then discuss whether there can be any absolutes in terms of personal relationships or whether some other theories such as Kant, utilitarianism or N.L. might be considered more reliable.