Re: Taylor, Sartre, and sexuality

This also bears on posts re. social/natural sciences:
Due to technological advances which make sex unnecessary for reproduction,
any arguments regarding sexual orientation and the continuation/extinction
of humanity are rendered irrelevant. And this is where I think social
sciences as well as philosophy must consider "natural" or "hard" sciences,
in terms of how science and scientific understanding do in fact materially
shape not only human experiences but also, to a certain extent, our
understandings of humanity itself. This leadds me to wonder how the
relevance, value, and implications of various older theories shift as
science and technology shift, particularly for those theorists who are dead
and therefore unable to reevaluate their arguments in light of new

>From: Matthew King <making@xxxxxxxx>
>Reply-To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>Subject: Taylor, Sartre, and sexuality
>Date: Mon, 7 May 2001 16:07:12 -0400 (EDT)
>A propos to the discussion of Taylor on sexuality, here is a (long)
>passage from Taylor's Massey Lectures, first published under the title
>_The Malaise of Modernity_, later re-issued under the title _The Ethics of
>"There is a certain discourse of justification of non-standard sexual
>orientations. People want to argue that heterosexual monogamy is not the
>only way to achieve sexual fulfilment, that those who are inclined to
>homosexual relations, for instance, shouldn't feel themselves embarked on
>a lesser, less worthy path. This fits well into the modern understanding
>of authenticity, with its notion of difference, originality, of the
>acceptance of diversity.... In some forms this discourse slides toward an
>affirmation of choice itself. All options are equally worthy, because they
>are freely chosen, and it is choice that confers worth. The subjectivist
>principle underlying soft relativism is at work here. But this implicitly
>denies the existence of a pre-existing horizon of significance, whereby
>some things are worthwhile and others less so, and still other not at all,
>quite anterior to choice. But then the choice of sexual orientation loses
>any special significance. It is on a level with any other preferences,
>like that for taller or shorter sexual partners, or blonds or
>brunettes.... Once sexual orientation comes to be assimilated to these,
>which is what happens when one makes *choice* the crucial justifying
>reason, the original goal, which was to assert the *equal value* of this
>orientation, is subtly frustrated.... Asserting the value of a homosexual
>orientation has to be done differently, more empirically, one might say,
>taking into account the actual nature of homo- and heterosexual experience
>and life" (Charles Taylor, _The Malaise of Modernity_, Anansi Press, 1991,
>pp. 37-38).
>So: this is not the quasi-Kantian argument against homosexuality Fred
>Welfare attributed to Taylor; indeed, Taylor appears to be giving gay
>rights advocates advice on how to argue their case. One might object to
>Taylor's assumption that the onus remains on homosexuals to defend their
>"lifestyle", but Taylor presumably would reply that that's not his fault,
>but the fault of the culture in which, as a matter of fact, the onus is on
>Notice, though, that Taylor's position leaves open the possibility that
>homosexuality may be found--scientifically proven, even--to be an inferior
>(less healthy, whatever) mode of being; this, presumably, would entail
>that, though it might not be unethical to *be* homosexual, it would be
>unethical to *want* (oneself or others) to be homosexual (i.e., it would
>be unethical not to wish there to be a "cure"). Of course, the same goes
>for heterosexuality, but, well ... the deck seems stacked against it.
>By the way, Les Green (who's in the department here at York) has written
>an article criticizing Taylor's argument here, pointing out that the point
>for gay rights advocates isn't that heterosexuality and homosexuality are
>equally valuable choices, but that the issue of sexuality is an important
>one to have freedom of choice. Green says that Taylor looks for importance
>at the level of *options* where he should look for it at the level of
>*issues*. (I've misplaced the article, so I can't give a reference
>Sartre, on the other hand, *does* make the quasi-Kantian argument about
>sexuality. Here is a passage from _Existentialism and Humanism_:
>"When I confront a real situation--for example, that I am a sexual being,
>able to have relations with a being of the other sex and able to have
>children--I am obliged to choose my attitude to it, and in every respect I
>bear the responsibility of the choice which, in committing myself, also
>commits the whole of humanity" (Jean-Paul Sartre, _Existentialism and
>Humanism_, Tr. Philip Mairet, Methuen, 1973, p. 48).
>For what it's worth, by my understanding of Kant's categorical imperative,
>this isn't really a Kantian argument, because there's no contradiction
>involved in willing that everyone acts toward the discontinuation of the
>human race.
> ---Matthew A. King---Department of Philosophy---York University,
> "It was in the barbarous, gothic times when words had a meaning;
> in those days, writers expressed thoughts."
> ----------------------------(Anatole

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