On sexual morality and marriage. Dr. Ching-wa Wong Department of Applied Social Sciences Hong Kong Polytechnic University firstname.lastname@example.org. Outline. Philosophical approaches to sexual morality The naturalness argument against homosexuality Utilitarian views on homosexuality
Dr. Ching-wa Wong
Department of Applied Social Sciences
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Utilitarianism / Liberalism
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
The naturalness arguments
What is unnatural is also immoral. Homosexuality and sexual perversion are unnatural. Therefore, they are immoral.
Michael Levin, ‘Why Homosexuality is Abnormal?’ (1984)
Homosexuality necessarily results in pain.
The pain is caused by the abuse of bodily parts.
The right use of the male genital depends on its evolutionary functions.
The right use of bodily parts is rewarding, and their misuse is painful.
Therefore, male homosexual acts are ‘abnormal’ in the sense that ‘it leaves unfulfilled an innate and innately rewarding desire [to have intercourse].’
John Stuart Mill’s ‘principle of harm’ in On Liberty (1869):
‘the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.’
‘The only part of conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others.’
‘In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute.’
Everyone wants happiness.
But different people have different conceptions of happiness.
It is only by engaging in ‘the experiment of living’ that one knows what is truly happy for oneself.
Thus, we have no right to interfere with an individual’s decision or action unless it harms others.
But children and women are not fully rational, and should be protected.
Policy issues: non-interference, neutrality, and tolerance.
Limitation: Moral paternalism is required if people intentionally harm themselves out of ignorance.
Alternative defense of homosexuality :
Peter Singer’s non-liberal version of utilitarianism
http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/homosexuality-is-not-immoralThe case of homosexuality
Marriage is a social institution regulated by the conception of justice as fairness; the form that marriage takes is grounded on our social contract, not on human nature.
The meaning of marriage is connected up with our common belief in the good life; it is a matter of communal ties and not of individual choice.
John Finnis, ‘Marriage: A basic and exigent good’ (2008):
Arguments for and against
Maximization of Happiness