Re: Taylor, Sartre, and sexuality

Are you looking forward to this? or
Are you interested in the sociological implications it will bring?

>From: Rebecca Moskow <rmoskow@xxxxxxxxxxx>
>Reply-To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>Subject: Re: Taylor, Sartre, and sexuality
>Date: Tue, 08 May 2001 00:01:40 -0500
>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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