Ethical Realism

June 4, 2010

Is Homosexuality Immoral?

Is homosexuality immoral, evil, sinful, or morally wrong? If we have no reason to think that an action is wrong (a sin), then we have a pretty good reason to think that the action isn’t so wrong after all. Taking a shower could be wrong, but we don’t have any strong reason to think it could be wrong, so we have good reason to think that taking a shower is okay (morally permissible). People who don’t wear their seat belts could potentially cause significant harm to themselves through neglect, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly “immoral” overall. If we falsely identify an action as wrong, then we could end up causing guilt, oppression, and animosity towards people who don’t deserve it. I will argue that we have no reason to think that homosexuality is wrong. In particular, I will argue that the major philosophical ethical theories would not find it wrong and arguments that people present against homosexuality are not persuasive.

Major Ethical Theories

The major philosophical ethical theories include utilitarianism, the categorical imperative, Aristotelian virtue ethics, and Stoic virtue ethics. I will consider how I understand each of these theories to find homosexuality morally permissible rather than immoral.

1. Utilitarianism

I understand utilitarianism as the following – Utilitarianism states that morality should be guided by the results of an action. If an action maximizes good results (such as happiness) and minimizes bad results (such as pain), then the action is right in the sense that we ought to do it. If an action causes needless suffering, then it would be wrong to do it. If an action would not have any bad results, then the action is not wrong.

Homosexual behavior does not lead to significant harm as far as I can tell. It is true that promiscuous unprotected sex could lead to STD’s, but that is just a fact about promiscuous unprotected sex.

2. Categorical Imperative

The categorical imperative was originally stated to be, “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” I take this to mean “act only in accordance with reasons that would apply to all similar situations.” If you think that it is permissible to take a shower because it is neither disrespectful to others nor does it hurt anyone, then you have to accept that other actions that are neither disrespectful nor hurtful are also permissible, such as tying your shoes.

Homosexual behavior appears to fit this description (it can be respectful and harmless) in at least many cases. Consenting adults can decide to have sex for personal enjoyment without hurting anyone and without being disrespectful whether the sexual act is between people of the same sex or not. If we accept that sexual acts in some situations are permissible, then we have to accept that it will be permissible for the same reason in similar situations.

On the other hand an action such as stealing is disrespectful to people. If I think I am justified to steal a computer because I can make better use of it than someone else, then I will have to accept that other people will be justified to steal it from me for the same reason. It would be hypocritical to think I can steal from people for that reason and other people can’t. Fortunately people don’t agree that stealing is so easily justified. That doesn’t mean that stealing is never justified. It might be that we can agree that life and death situations could justify stealing without being hypocritical.

3. Aristotelian Virtue Ethics

I understand Aristotle as finding personal happiness and flourishing (a life well lived) to be the main goal of ethics, and people who know how to be happy well have a virtuous character. His main interest in ethics will be in terms of virtue and vice. He thinks that certain tendencies of character that lead to an extreme behavior will not lead to happiness. Courage is to allow fear to moderate our behavior to risk our lives, reputation, comfort, and so on, only when doing so is necessary to have greater happiness. Foolhardiness is it keep fear from moderating our behavior and leads to unnecessary risk taking, and cowardice is to allow fear to moderate our behavior too much.

Aristotle would agree that certain sexual behavior is virtuous and some is not. If homosexuality is a defect in one’s character (a detriment to one’s happiness), then I would suspect that homosexuals would be less happy than others, and consequentially have more mental illness than others. However, homosexuality in and of itself has not been found to be relevant to unhappiness or mental illness:

In a review of published studies comparing homosexual and heterosexual samples on psychological tests, Gonsiorek (1982) found that, although some differences have been observed in test results between homosexuals and heterosexuals, both groups consistently score within the normal range. Gonsiorek concluded that “Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals as a group are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality.” (Homosexuality and Mental Health.)

4. Stoic Virtue Ethics

The Stoics agreed that our character is relevant to ethics, but they thought that the most important element of our character was our reason and beliefs. Irrational beliefs lead to inappropriate emotions and behavior, and rational beliefs lead to appropriate emotions and character. The Stoics thought that all forms of suffering (such as fear and anger) were caused by irrational value judgments that something bad has happened. In the great scheme of things getting you wallet stolen is not a big deal, but stealing a wallet tends to be inappropriate (based on vicious character) because it tends to be caused by greed rather than a rational belief that stealing the wallet is somehow the right thing to do all things considered.

For a Stoic any sexual behavior could be caused by inappropriate beliefs insofar as we think sex is the best thing in the world and allow ourselves to lust after sex irrationally. However, a Stoic admits that pleasure can be a rational goal when we dispassionately realize the limited importance of pleasure. I believe homosexual behavior can be perfectly virtuous in that sense, and perhaps for other reasons as well.

Arguments Against Homosexuality

I have spent some time researching the arguments against homosexuality and I have found the following arguments:

  1. Homosexuality is unnatural.
  2. Evolution demands that we procreate.
  3. Homosexuality leads to health problems.
  4. Homosexuality leads to mental health problems.
  5. Homosexuality is dangerous to children.
  6. Homosexuality could lead to the extinction of the human race.
  7. If homosexuality isn’t wrong, then consensual incest isn’t wrong.
  8. If homosexuality is found acceptable, then more people will become homosexual.
  9. If homosexuality is found acceptable, then we will become prejudice against people who think homosexuality is wrong.
  10. The Bible/Qur’an is against homosexuality.

Professional philosophers almost all agree that homosexuality is not wrong, and they would not be impressed by these arguments. Some of these arguments have been presented by theologians who seem to be ignorant of actual ethical philosophy and ignorant of actual scientific research.

1. Homosexuality is unnatural.

Some people seem to think that there is an “essence” of what a proper human being should be like as well as what our sexual organs should be used for. They believe that sexual organs should only be used for procreation.

First, it isn’t clear why being unnatural is wrong. My hands weren’t made for walking, so is it wrong for me to walk on my hands? No.

Second, I don’t know why sexual organs should only be used for procreation. Perhaps some people think that’s why God created sexual organs, but so what?

Third, homosexuality is found in nature. It is something that could fulfill a role, such as a homosexual who helps care for children of a family member rather than producing new children. This could give living offspring a better chance at survival rather than produce more offspring that might not have enough resources to live.

Fourth, homosexuality isn’t the only form of sexuality that doesn’t lead to procreation. If having stimulating sexual organs for pleasure is wrong, then homosexuality is no more wrong than masturbation or the majority of sex everyone is having. It is hypocritical that people get so hyped up against homosexuals and not everyone else also engaging in sexual stimulation for pleasure to an equal degree.

I suspect that most people know that sexual stimulation isn’t that bad of a thing, and we can’t condemn homosexuals for doing something we know isn’t that bad for everyone else.

Fifth, it might be that something is wrong in an unnatural sense if it is unhealthy, but that is a separate issue that I will discuss later.

Sixth, I don’t agree that human beings have an “essence.” Such an idea was proposed by Aristotle before modern science and philosophers no longer take it to be a tenable position.

Arash Naraghi presented a more in depth objection against the above argument against homosexuality here.

2. Evolution demands that we procreate.

Jason Dulle, a theologian, argued that homosexuality is wrong from the perspective of evolution because evolution thinks that passing on one’s genetic similarity is “the good.”

One, this is false. Evolution does not say what is right or wrong, or good or bad. Evolution is just about how the world works.

Second, evolution does not say that procreation is the best way to pass on genetic similarity. It is possible that when limited resources are available that one should not procreate and should instead help protect whatever family members are already alive.

3. Homosexuality leads to health problems.

Jason Dulle argued that homosexuality leads to promiscuity and STDs.

First, It might be true that this is a problem that many homosexuals have, but homosexual behavior in and of itself does not cause the problem. A monogamous homosexual relationship might be a solution. Even so, Dulle is not considering the difference between virtuous and vicious sexual behavior.

To be prejudice against homosexuals for statistical issues, such as higher promiscuity and STD rates, is nothing more than irrational discrimination against an entire group based on what some members of the group do. We might as well decide white people are a bunch of oppressive and greedy business owners, for example.

Second, even if homosexuality in and of itself was reckless similar to how refusing to wear a seat belt is reckless, it is not clear that homosexuality is immoral. We don’t think of wearing a seat belt as some sort of moral command that people sin against.

Third, we might worry that homosexuals tend to be mentally ill or often engage in criminal behavior, but even if such a link could be established, we could not conclude that homosexuality is wrong in and of itself. If homosexuals are mentally ill or engage in criminal behavior more than other people, then it would still be illegitimately discriminatory to hold that against all homosexuals. Crimes are often linked to men as opposed to women, and minority racial groups as opposed to white people. It is irrational to think that men or racial minority groups are somehow inheritable evil, and it is irrational to think homosexuals are inherently evil or the same reason. (Updated 6/6/2010)

Dulle makes use of statistics to convince us about how reckless homosexuals are, but we can also use statistics to try to justify racism in a similar way. Many criminals are minorities. Consider the following:

General population

The racial composition of the US population as of 2008 was 79.79% White American (65.60% non-Hispanic and 14.19% Hispanic), 12.84% African American (12.22% non-Hispanic and 0.62% Hispanic), 4.45% Asian American (4.35% non-Hispanic and 0.10% Hispanic), 1.01% American Indian or Alaska Native (0.76% non-Hispanic and 0.25% Hispanic), 0.18% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander American (0.14% non-Hispanic and 0.04% Hispanic), and 1.69% Multiracial American (1.64% non-Hispanic and 0.05% Hispanic). 15.25% of the total US population identified their ethnicity as Hispanic.

Prison population

The racial composition of the US prison and jail population as of 2008 was 33.44% White American (non-Hispanic), 40.21% African American (non-Hispanic), 20.29% Hispanic, and 6.06% Other (American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander American, and Multiracial American). (Wikipedia: Race and Crime in the United States.)

The problem with using statistics to try to prove something like homosexuals being reckless by nature is that there are many factors and we aren’t really sure what the cause is. We should suspect that race is not the cause of crime and homosexuality is not the cause of recklessness.

4. Homosexuality leads to mental health problems.

Robert A. J. Gagnon, a theologian, argues the following:

As regards lesbian relationships, the limited studies that we have to date suggest that homosexual females experience on average disproportionately high rates of measurable harm as regards shorter-term sexual relationships and higher instances of mental health problems, relative not only to heterosexual females but even to homosexual males. (Why Homosexual Behavior is More Like Incest and and Polyamory Than Race or Gender)

First, the statistics do not make it clear why homosexuals are mentally ill.

Second, many homosexuals have perfectly good mental health. It could be irrationally discriminatory against all homosexuals to condemn them based on the fact that some of them have mental illness.

Third, the view that homosexuality leads to mental health problems is just one more baseless accusation against it. This argument is refuted by a quick internet search, and Gagnon is either conveniently ignorant of what actual mental health research shows or he conveniently decides to keep such information from view. I already mentioned such research in the section on Aristotle that shows that homosexuality does not cause mental illness. There could be some sort of a controversy concerning the effects homosexuality has on mental health, but Gagnon’s claims are misleading at worst and uncertain at best. It is true that more homosexuals are attempting suicide than heterosexuals, but

Stress caused from a sexual stigma, manifested as prejudice and discrimination, is a major source of stress for people with a homosexual orientation. Sexual-minority affirming groups and gay peer groups help counteract and buffer minority stress. (Wikipedia: Homosexuality and Psychology)

Fourth, I already mentioned the if homosexuals have mental illness at a high rate, it would not prove that homosexuality is wrong in and of itself. (Updated 6/6/2010)

5. Homosexuality is dangerous to children.

Jason Dulle argued that homosexuals are dangerous to children because they tend to be child molesters, and other people worry about homosexuals raising children who might raise them wrong. Both of these concerns are misguided.

First, it is not clear that homosexuality itself has anything to do with child abuse. Jason Dull misuses statistics once again to try to prove something that is false. A quick internet search would show that homosexuals have not been shown to have a tendency towards child molestation:

The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children. But there is no scientific basis for asserting that they are more likely than heterosexual men to do so. And, as explained above, many child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation at all; they are fixated on children. (Facts about Homosexuality and Child Molestation.)

Second, it is not clear that homosexuality has anything to do with raising children poorly. Research has shown homosexuals to be good at raising children. The consensus was that they were equally good, but a new study found the following:

The new study by two University of Southern California sociologists says children with lesbian or gay parents show more empathy for social diversity, are less confined by gender stereotypes, and are probably more likely to explore homosexual activity themselves. Writing in recent issue of the American Sociological Review, the authors say that the emotional health of the two sets of children is essentially the same. (Gay Marriage Does Affect Children Differently, Study Finds.)

It is true that children were willing to explore homosexual behavior, but their emotional health was the same, and we so far have no reason to think that homosexual behavior is automatically wrong.

Third, I already mentioned the if homosexuals are criminals at a high rate, it would not prove that homosexuality is wrong in and of itself.(Updated 6/6/2010)

6. Homosexuality could lead to the extinction of the human race.

An anonymous author argued that homosexuality can destroy the entire human race:

One of the criteria or litmus test of a behavior that is beneficial to humanity at large is, “what if the action that you are promoting is exercised by a majority of the people of the world? Will it advance humanity or will it retard it?” In this case human beings will cease to exist. (Homosexuality and Islam – An Islamic Perspective.)

One, something is not wrong just because it would be bad if everyone did it. If everyone was a full time doctor, then our farms would be neglected because civilization requires specialists who each play a different role.

Some people do argue that some behavior is immoral by asking, “What if everyone did that?” but this is a misguided way to reason. (Some people even seem to think that the categorical imperative is something like this, but I think it is a clearly mistaken way to understand it.1) This kind of question abstracts away all relevant information of the situation. You could ask a doctor performing a surgery and cutting someone open, “What if everyone did that?” Obviously cutting people open is usually wrong and the situation at hand is relevant to our moral reasoning.

I suppose someone could worry that everyone could become homosexuals because it’s so exciting and enjoyable, but many people aren’t attracted to people of the same sex.

Two, even if everyone was a homosexual, they could still engage in occasional heterosexual sex to continue procreation, or they could use other methods, such as in vitro fertilization.

Three, if being a homosexual is wrong insofar as they are abstinent from procreative behavior, then being celibate is also wrong for the same reason, but that is absurd.

7. If homosexuality isn’t wrong, then consensual incest isn’t wrong.

There are at least three ways people try to relate homosexuality and consensual incest:

  1. Homosexuality is wrong because God says so, just like consensual incest.
  2. Homosexual sex is wrong because the people involved are too similar, just like consensual incest. It is the similarity between the two people having sex that makes each act wrong.2
  3. If we agree that homosexual sex is not wrong, the next thing we know people will say that consensual incest is not wrong.

Homosexuality is wrong because God says so, just like consensual incest – I will bring up God later. (See the tenth argument.)

Homosexual sex is wrong because the people involved are too similar, just like consensual incest – I disagree. Consensual incest isn’t wrong because the people are too similar. It’s wrong because it ruins relationships and destroys families. It is true that homosexuality can also ruin relationships and destroy families, but only to the extent that people condemn homosexual family members. Incest doesn’t only ruin families because we condemn incest, but also for other reasons, such a:

  1. People usually can’t comfortably spend time with family members who we fear will request sex (or have even requested sex in the past), so it can ruin family relationships, and such relationships are often something that should be improved rather than destroyed.
  2. We want to know that family members love us for ourselves and not because they want us to give them sexual gratification.
  3. If consensual incest is ever considered acceptable, then we might fear spending as much alone time with family members because they might want to make an unwanted sexual advance.
  4. Incest between a parent and child has proven to be less than consensual due to the power differences.

As far as I know consensual incest might not be immoral or destructive in all cases, but it is an incredibly dangerous sort of behavior that has the potential of having destructive effects.

If we agree that homosexual sex is not wrong, the next thing we know people will say that consensual incest is not wrong – I disagree. There is a slippery slope fallacy being committed here. (Some people even argue that accepting homosexuality could cause people to accept bestiality, incest, and so on.) We have no reason to think that accepting homosexuality would lead to strange beliefs or corruption. If homosexuality is not wrong, but incest is, then homosexuality should not be condemned, but incest should. There is no reason to think that society at large would become accepting of incest just because people realize homosexuality is not wrong. We shouldn’t fear having moral knowledge because of some strange effects the knowledge could cause (due to the pathology of various individuals).

8. If homosexuality is found acceptable, then more people will become homosexual.

Robert A. J. Gagnon argued the following:

Cultural endorsement of, and incentives for, homosexual behavior will likely lead to a higher incidence of homosexuality in the population, affecting young people at higher rates. This means that more people will develop a higher risk for the problems discussed in 2 above [promiscuity and STDs]. (How to Make a Valid Case Against Homosexual Practice)

This argument begs the question. If we assume that homosexuality is wrong, then making it acceptable and encouraging such behavior would be wrong. Assuming it is not wrong, then we have no reason to fear more people becoming a homosexual. That said, we don’t know that more people will become homosexuals even if homosexuality is found to be acceptable.

9. If homosexuality is found acceptable, then we will become prejudice against people who think homosexuality is wrong.

Robert A. J. Gagnon presented this argument as the following:

Caving into the homosexual agenda will lead to the radical marginalization of those who oppose homosexual practice and, ultimately, the criminalization of opposition to homosexual behavior. (How to Make a Valid Case Against Homosexual Practice)

Again, this argument begs the question. Racism is illegal because prejudice against race is wrong. The same could be true about prejudice against homosexuality.

10. The Bible/Qur’an is against homosexuality.

This argument begs the question. Assuming that the Bible is right about everything, then such an argument could succeed. However, if the Bible falsely says that homosexuality is wrong, then that just proves that the Bible says something false.

Additionally, Arash Naraghi suggested that religious people don’t have to condemn homosexuality:

“Is it possible to be a Muslim and at the same time consistently believe that homosexuality is morally permissible?” I believe the answer is yes. To my understanding, the Quranic verses concerning homosexuality are open to new interpretations. Even if for any reason, one does not find the new upcoming interpretations convincing, another option is still available: she might claim that those verses belong to the shell of the text, i.e., they are not essential to the heart of the Quranic message, and being Muslim requires one’s commitment only to the heart of the message, and not to the accidental elements of the holy text. (Islam and Moral Status of Homosexuality)

His answer for Islam could be applied to Jews and Christians as well.

For information concerning how the Bible can be interpreted in ways compatible with homosexuality being morally permissible, you might want to see “Explicit and Implicit References to Homosexuality in the Bible.”

Conclusions

So far I see no reason to think homosexuality is wrong. The four major ethical theories seem to give us reason to think homosexual behavior is permissible as opposed to immoral. I am disappointed with the arguments presented against homosexuality and the great deal of faulty reasoning, misinformation, ignorance, and/or suppressed evidence that many of the arguments require. Most of these arguments were presented by theologians with a PhD, which makes me wonder if theology has strict requirements for qualification.

1 Gene Veith suggests that the categorical imperative would find that “abortion is wrong because if everyone who could got an abortion, the human race would cease to exist.” Kant might mean that we shouldn’t do something if it is wrong for everyone else to do it given the exact same situation and moral reasoning, but that is quite a bit different than the issue brought up against homosexuality and abortion. Having an abortion isn’t wrong because if everyone did it, then the human race would die out. Kant isn’t especially concerned with negative consequences. The reason that abortion is wrong according to the categorical imperative (if it is) is because it can’t be justified by moral reason, and abortion will be just as unjustified for others as it is for ourselves.

2 Robert A. J. Gagnon also argues that “if the concept of too much structural sameness becomes irrelevant, then there is no reasonable basis for withholding public recognition of man-mother or adult brother-sister unions. One wonders, in the face of such an assault, how long resistance to adult-adolescent unions and, eventually, adult-child unions can be maintained. Note that I am not saying that by approving homosexual unions we may open the door to something worse: polygamy and incest. There are good grounds for arguing that homoerotic unions are worse for society than polygamy and adult consensual incest” (How to Make a Secular Case Against Homosexual Practice).

38 Comments »

  1. Great article, but one point of contention. Your understanding of Kant is flawed.
    You say,
    ” The categorical imperative was originally stated to be, “Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” I take this to mean “act only in accordance with reasons that would apply to all similar situations.” ”

    This reading of Kant is far from correct. I agree that Kant is not concerned with negative consequences, however, moral reasoning, for Kant, relies on the plausibility of it’s universality and is NOT situational. Lying is immoral because if it was universal, truth would have no meaning and could not logically exist, thus creating a logical inconsistency. The same is true of universalizing murder and its opposite, life. However, universalizing homosexuality would not negate the logical existence of its opposite,only the following, thus remaining logically consistent, while abortion would be wrong, IF fetuses were moral agents, which Kant does not believe they are. The entire point of Kant’s moral philosophy was to create an objective morality based on reason alone, thus not allowing for situational interpretation. Your understanding of the categorical imperative is actually what is known as the golden rule.

    But other than that, fantastic article.

    Comment by Evan — June 6, 2010 @ 6:29 am | Reply

    • The First Formulation of the Categorical Imperative is universal excepted as what Gray stated it to be. The First Formulation of the Categorical Imperative means you should act on a maxim that could also be accepted as a universal law. Kant is fundamental to deontology, meaning he believes in pleasure over pain, as do most people. If some action is maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain then Kant says we should try to make that action universalized.

      Comment by Joseph Norris — September 21, 2011 @ 2:05 am | Reply

      • Deontology doesn’t say much about pleasure or pain in general. It is mainly used to refer to non-consequentialist forms of moral theories.

        Comment by James Gray — September 21, 2011 @ 4:50 am

  2. Evan,

    Thank you for the comment and compliment. Here is my response to your objection.

    This reading of Kant is far from correct. I agree that Kant is not concerned with negative consequences, however, moral reasoning, for Kant, relies on the plausibility of it’s universality and is NOT situational. Lying is immoral because if it was universal, truth would have no meaning and could not logically exist, thus creating a logical inconsistency. The same is true of universalizing murder and its opposite, life. However, universalizing homosexuality would not negate the logical existence of its opposite,only the following, thus remaining logically consistent, while abortion would be wrong, IF fetuses were moral agents, which Kant does not believe they are. The entire point of Kant’s moral philosophy was to create an objective morality based on reason alone, thus not allowing for situational interpretation. Your understanding of the categorical imperative is actually what is known as the golden rule.

    I disagree. You are confusing “universal” with “general.” Where did I ever deny that morality is universal for Kant?

    Here is what the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy says:

    Kant’s first formulation of the CI states that you are to “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.” (G 4:421) O’Neill (1975, 1989) and Rawls (1989, 1999), among others, take this formulation in effect to summarize a decision procedure for moral reasoning, and I will follow them: First, formulate a maxim that enshrines your reason for acting as you propose. Second, recast that maxim as a universal law of nature governing all rational agents, and so as holding that all must, by natural law, act as you yourself propose to act in these circumstances. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/#ForUniLawNat

    Looks like “circumstances” is taken to be an essential part of the imperative to the scholar who wrote the article (Robert Johnson).

    To say that morality is the same for everyone is to say that it’s universal. The same moral reason and justification will apply to everyone. To abstract away the situation is to say that it’s general or simple.

    Kant does not think morality is possible with reason alone. Morality involves reality, not just abstractions. It is true that we can decide what is wrong abstractly, but how it applies to reality is still another issue.

    Consider the following maxim to be considered as a moral action: “Kill people whenever you want.” A very low standard of reason or justification is involved with this maxim and it would indeed become self-defeating because it wouldn’t be a universal law for long before everyone killed themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that killing people is always wrong no matter what.

    If Kant really wants to say that morality has to be “general” then you get all kinds of absurd problems (that I have already mentioned):

    1. Devoting your life to being a doctor is wrong because it would lead to the extinction of the human race. The “maxim” would be “Be a doctor as a specialist” and morality would demand it of everyone. In this case the situation of our society that people each need to serve a different purpose will be lost.

    2. A surgeon who cuts a patient is hurting people and therefore doing something wrong. The “maxim” would be “Don’t cut people!” In this case the situation of needing to hurt someone because it will ultimately help them will be lost because that is a very specific and unusual situation.

    3. Spending a day sick in bed is wrong because we can’t just spend every day in bed or everyone will die. The “maxim” would be “Spend each day getting some work done!” The situation of being sick and having an excuse to rest would be lost.

    4. We can’t spend a moment on the internet because then everyone will spend every moment on the internet and everyone will starve to death. The maxim would be “Don’t spend time on the computer!” The situation of only spending a limited amount of time on the computer would be lost.

    “Rape” is a special situation involving sex. “Murder” is a special situation involving killing people. “Stealing” is a special situation involving taking someone else’s belongings. (A general rule could be that “Grabbing someone else’s belongings is wrong” despite the fact that you might be given it by that other person freely.)

    I don’t think Kant ruled out the possibility that morality could be “simple” or consider “consequences,” but how we reason will have to be acceptable universally. He didn’t tell us everything about morality. He just started working on trying to understand “practical reason” and he gave some examples that he thought would illustrate how practical reason might work. Many Kantians disagree with his examples, but I think they give us a pretty good idea how the categorical imperative could be used.

    Some philosophers do seem to think that Kant wanted only “general maxims” to be relevant to morality, but I am not convinced. R.M. Hare suggests that Kant equivocates “general” with “universal,” but I didn’t get that message when I read Kant. I also think the difference between perfect and imperfect duties might be an important distinction that involves the situation.

    My understanding of the categorical imperative was also briefly discussed here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=272445378383

    Comment by James Gray — June 6, 2010 @ 7:58 am | Reply

  3. Far from any moralistic viewpoint, if a friend is arrested at a lesser (sensible) good, I would not be a friend if I did not point him in the direction of his utlimate finality.

    Comment by harvey — June 13, 2010 @ 12:51 pm | Reply

  4. Explain the work by Kant, “On the supposed right to lie for benevolent reasons” if circumstances apply. The issue is whether its universalization creates a logical inconsistency. Also, your examples are flawed, they do not lead to a logical inconsistency with the action.

    Comment by Evan — June 22, 2010 @ 5:30 pm | Reply

    • Evan,

      Kant thought that you can’t lie no matter what, but that is not necessarily an appropriate application of his theory. Applying the Categorical Imperative isn’t black and white. It’s not something you can easily do without opening yourself up to criticism.

      It is true that lying to a murderer might be disrespectful to a certain extent, but a person might be able to reason that being disrespectful can be justified sometimes. The main idea is merely that if it is OK for me to be disrespectful given a justification, then I must accept that it is OK for everyone else given that justification as well.

      I am perfectly “consistent” about the fact that I want people to lie to me when I go into a madness and want to kill people if doing so will save lives. I think that is actually respectful to me because I don’t want to find out that people were actually helping me kill others.

      The issue is whether its universalization creates a logical inconsistency.

      I disagree. You can commit suicide or murder without causing “logical consistency.” Even if everyone died, nothing would be logically inconsistent about your behavior. It might be that suicide and murder can be self-defeating. If we reason that suicide and murder are “good” and should happen as much as possible, then it is merely an unfortunate side effect that no one could ever commit suicide or murder again.

      Also, your examples are flawed, they do not lead to a logical inconsistency with the action.

      I never said they did. I personally don’t agree with your understanding of the categorical imperative. If you want to defend your view of it, you should provide some examples.

      However, I don’t think “logical consistency” means what you think it means. You might want to clarify what you meant by the term.

      “Logical consistency” is to believe one thing and its opposite at the same time in the same respect. To believe that lying is both right and wrong (all things considered) in one situation and given one justification would be logically inconsistent. But no one ever thought you could have logically inconsistent beliefs. All moral systems must be logical consistent or they don’t make any sense in the first place.

      Comment by James Gray — June 22, 2010 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

  5. I quote from Ground to the Metaphysics of Morals to elucidate my point.

    “There is therefore but one categorical imperative, namely, this: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Now if all imperatives of duty can be deduced from this one imperative as from their principle, then, although it should remain undecided what is called duty is not merely a vain notion, yet at least we shall be able to show what we understand by it and what this notion means. Since the universality of the law according to which effects are produced constitutes what is properly called nature in the most general sense (as to form), that is the existence of things so far as it is determined by general laws, the imperative of duty may be expressed thus: Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature. We will now enumerate a few duties, adopting the usual division of them into duties to ourselves and ourselves and to others, and into perfect and imperfect duties.*

    *It must be noted here that I reserve the division of duties for a future metaphysic of morals; so that I give it here only as an arbitrary one (in order to arrange my examples). For the rest, I understand by a perfect duty one that admits no exception in favour of inclination and then I have not merely external but also internal perfect duties. This is contrary to the use of the word adopted in the schools; but I do not intend to justify there, as it is all one for my purpose whether it is admitted or not.

    1. A man reduced to despair by a series of misfortunes feels wearied of life, but is still so far in possession of his reason that he can ask himself whether it would not be contrary to his duty to himself to take his own life. Now he inquires whether the maxim of his action could become a universal law of nature. His maxim is: “From self-love I adopt it as a principle to shorten my life when its longer duration is likely to bring more evil than satisfaction.” It is asked then simply whether this principle founded on self-love can become a universal law of nature. Now we see at once that a system of nature of which it should be a law to destroy life by means of the very feeling whose special nature it is to impel to the improvement of life would contradict itself and, therefore, could not exist as a system of nature; hence that maxim cannot possibly exist as a universal law of nature and, consequently, would be wholly inconsistent with the supreme principle of all duty.

    2. Another finds himself forced by necessity to borrow money. He knows that he will not be able to repay it, but sees also that nothing will be lent to him unless he promises stoutly to repay it in a definite time. He desires to make this promise, but he has still so much conscience as to ask himself: “Is it not unlawful and inconsistent with duty to get out of a difficulty in this way?” Suppose however that he resolves to do so: then the maxim of his action would be expressed thus: “When I think myself in want of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it, although I know that I never can do so.” Now this principle of self-love or of one’s own advantage may perhaps be consistent with my whole future welfare; but the question now is, “Is it right?” I change then the suggestion of self-love into a universal law, and state the question thus: “How would it be if my maxim were a universal law?” Then I see at once that it could never hold as a universal law of nature, but would necessarily contradict itself. For supposing it to be a universal law that everyone when he thinks himself in a difficulty should be able to promise whatever he pleases, with the purpose of not keeping his promise, the promise itself would become impossible, as well as the end that one might have in view in it, since no one would consider that anything was promised to him, but would ridicule all such statements as vain pretences.”

    As one can perceive from Kant’s writing on the imperative, the issue is with the universalizing of an action and whether said action results in logical contradiction*(I was using the wrong term, thanks for pointing that out). I think your problem is not distinguishing between categorical and hypothetical imperatives.

    Wikipedia’s page on the categorical imperative states, “A hypothetical imperative compels action in a given circumstance: if I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something. A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself.”

    Also, I am in no way arguing in favor of Kant’s morality, it does lead to situations in which we cannot lie to a murderer, which I think make no sense. I’m just correcting what I saw to be your error of conflating the golden rule and Kant’s categorical imperative, a fairly common and incredibly disappointing misreading of Kant’s morality which, due to it’s separation from emotion, is one of the most innovative and unique conceptions of morality to date.

    Comment by Evan — July 6, 2010 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

    • Wikipedia’s page on the categorical imperative states, “A hypothetical imperative compels action in a given circumstance: if I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something. A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself.”

      There are three reasons why your argument as an appeal to authority fails.

      First, this quote has no citation. There is no Kantian scholar referred to for this “interpretation” of the text. It is what I view as a very bad interpretation.

      Second, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is much more scholarly than Wikipedia. My source is authoritative and wikipedia is not.

      Third, Wikipedia later says,

      The concept of the categorical imperative is a syllogism. The first premise is that a person acts morally if his or her conduct would, without condition, be the “right” conduct for any person in similar circumstances (the “First Maxim”).

      Wikipedia therefore contradicts itself. It would be right no matter what in a situation.

      What about hypothetical imperatives? The categorical imperative is “categorical” (overriding) in that it is irrational to do what a hypothetical (nonmoral ought) demands when we have a moral reason not to do it. A hypothetical imperative is a nonmoral ought. It is merely what you should do insofar as it fulfills a desire or achieves a goal. It’s nothing more than a product of means-end reasoning.

      The fact that morality is overriding might mean that there is no circumstance to be immoral, but that does not itself imply an absolute rule (that moral reasoning is totally situationless), because it’s like saying, “The right thing to do in situation X is Y, therefore you should do X no matter what desires you have.” All that is clear is that desires and goals can’t in themselves override moral reason. Additionally, that doesn’t even mean that desires and goals are irrelevant insofar as they are part of the situation.

      Also, I am in no way arguing in favor of Kant’s morality, it does lead to situations in which we cannot lie to a murderer, which I think make no sense. I’m just correcting what I saw to be your error of conflating the golden rule and Kant’s categorical imperative, a fairly common and incredibly disappointing misreading of Kant’s morality which, due to it’s separation from emotion, is one of the most innovative and unique conceptions of morality to date.

      I have read what Kantian scholars have to say about the Categorical Imperative. One such view is out in the open on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Robert Johnson). Another is Ermanno Bencivenga.

      R.M. Hare is not a Kantian scholar but he is a philosopher and he also agrees with me.

      it does lead to situations in which we cannot lie to a murderer, which I think make no sense.

      How? Explain this fully. I find telling the truth to be quite disrespectful given the situation, and it would be a case of aiding and abetting a horrific crime. I don’t think the categorical imperative allows us to do that.

      I’m just correcting what I saw to be your error of conflating the golden rule and Kant’s categorical imperative, a fairly common and incredibly disappointing misreading of Kant’s morality which, due to it’s separation from emotion, is one of the most innovative and unique conceptions of morality to date.

      One, I never said the categorical imperative is the Golden rule. The categorical imperative tells you to do what a rational person would decide to do based on good reasons. It doesn’t say to treat an idiot how an idiot would want to be treated. Additionally, the categorical imperative tells you to treat yourself in a reasonable way and the golden rule only tells you how to “treat others.”

      Second, this view should not be “incredibly disappointing” considering that (a) it makes great deal of sense even if it is a misunderstanding of Kant, (b) even Kantian scholars agree with me, and (c) you haven’t given any evidence that a single Kantian scholar thinks that the situation is irrelevant to morality.

      Third, I agree that there is a separation of emotion and morality. I don’t know any philosopher who doesn’t see it that way. What feels right or true doesn’t make anything right or true. That’s what philosophy is for in the first place. Kant himself did not see his view as so innovative. He thought it was common sense and thought many people already assume something like it to be true in everyday life.

      Finally,

      Absolutism as you seem to see it (the situation being irrelevant to morality) is an absurd notion. It is just about impossible to see morality this way. I talked about this idea in more detail just a few days ago here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/moral-absolutism-relativism-and-the-situation/

      Comment by James Gray — July 6, 2010 @ 8:19 pm | Reply

  6. I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy,

    “First, formulate a maxim that enshrines your reason for acting as you propose. Second, recast that maxim as a universal law of nature governing all rational agents, and so as holding that all must, by natural law, act as you yourself propose to act in these circumstances. Third, consider whether your maxim is even conceivable in a world governed by this law of nature. If it is, then, fourth, ask yourself whether you would, or could, rationally will to act on your maxim in such a world. If you could, then your action is morally permissible.”

    Thus, by examining the third step as proposed by your source, involves assessing the, wait a minute, logical possibility of an action to determine duty. I believe, based on the wording of the imperative, which emphasizes whether one “can” will ones maxim to become universal law, implies examining logical possibilities of an action becoming universalized rather than the practical examination of effects.

    When you propose that my interpretation of Kant includes circumstances, you are not realizing the distinction between categorical and hypothetical imperatives. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “A hypothetical imperative is thus a command in a conditional form.” Thus, your conditional if then statements of morality are not following the categorical imperative.

    Thanks
    Evan

    Comment by Evan — August 5, 2010 @ 2:36 am | Reply

  7. “First, formulate a maxim that enshrines your reason for acting as you propose. Second, recast that maxim as a universal law of nature governing all rational agents, and so as holding that all must, by natural law, act as you yourself propose to act in these circumstances. Third, consider whether your maxim is even conceivable in a world governed by this law of nature. If it is, then, fourth, ask yourself whether you would, or could, rationally will to act on your maxim in such a world. If you could, then your action is morally permissible.”

    Thus, by examining the third step as proposed by your source, involves assessing the, wait a minute, logical possibility of an action to determine duty. I believe, based on the wording of the imperative, which emphasizes whether one “can” will ones maxim to become universal law, implies examining logical possibilities of an action becoming universalized rather than the practical examination of effects.

    No one would ever think you should do what is logically impossible. I agree that what is logically impossible is not something we should do. What are some examples of logical impossibility do you think are relevant to our discussion?

    A “maxim” is an answer to what we should do in a situation. For example, “lie to someone whenever it saves several lives.” It is logically possible for this to be carried out from laws of nature.

    When you propose that my interpretation of Kant includes circumstances, you are not realizing the distinction between categorical and hypothetical imperatives. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “A hypothetical imperative is thus a command in a conditional form.” Thus, your conditional if then statements of morality are not following the categorical imperative.

    I am not confusing the two. I am very familiar with them. I already answered this concern earlier with the following:

    What about hypothetical imperatives? The categorical imperative is “categorical” (overriding) in that it is irrational to do what a hypothetical (nonmoral ought) demands when we have a moral reason not to do it. A hypothetical imperative is a nonmoral ought. It is merely what you should do insofar as it fulfills a desire or achieves a goal. It’s nothing more than a product of means-end reasoning.

    The fact that morality is overriding might mean that there is no circumstance to be immoral, but that does not itself imply an absolute rule (that moral reasoning is totally situationless), because it’s like saying, “The right thing to do in situation X is Y, therefore you should do X no matter what desires you have.” All that is clear is that desires and goals can’t in themselves override moral reason. Additionally, that doesn’t even mean that desires and goals are irrelevant insofar as they are part of the situation.

    “Categorical” means “overriding.” Hypothetical imperatives, such as my desire for an apple, tell me what I “ought” to do in a non-moral sense. “If you want an apple, then you should eat one.” The main idea of hypothetical imperatives is merely to show the distinction between moral and non-moral oughts. Non-moral oughts are based on desires or goals, which is exactly what Hume proposed. Kant is rejecting Hume’s moral theory.

    Nonmoral (hypothetical) imperatives are overriden by moral (categorical) imperatives, such as “don’t steal food given the situation.” Notice that the categorical imperative did mention circumstances. I have already brought this up repeatedly and even the Stanford Encyclopedia passage you quoted mentions circumstances.

    If I am wrong that circumstances apply to the categorical imperative, then every serious Kant scholar is also wrong. Every authoritative source including the passage above confirms my interpretation.

    Comment by James Gray — August 5, 2010 @ 4:29 am | Reply

  8. “lie to someone whenever it saves several lives.”

    Please please please please, read your Kant.

    http://philosophy.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/KANTsupposedRightToLie.pdf

    Kant denies the right to lie to save lives. Circumstances do not matter to KANT’S(not neokantian scholars) moral philosophy.

    Benjamin Constant, wrote,

    “The moral principle stating that it is a duty to tell the truth would make any society impossible if that
    principle were taken singly and unconditionally. We have proof of this in the very direct consequences
    which a German philosopher has drawn from this principle. This philosopher goes as far as to assert that
    it would be a crime to tell a lie to a murderer who asked whether our friend who is being pursued by the
    murderer had taken refuge in our house.”5

    Looks like every single Kant scholar ever doesn’t agree with you first of all.

    Also, how does your interpretation of the imperative jive with the second formulation of the imperative. In such a case, lying to someone to save lives would be treating that person as purely a means to an end, rather than an end in his self. The formulations supposedly say the same thing, but somehow, your interpretation makes no sense with that. WEIRD, i wonder why?

    Comment by Evan — August 6, 2010 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

    • “lie to someone whenever it saves several lives.”

      Please please please please, read your Kant.

      http://philosophy.ucsd.edu/faculty/rarneson/Courses/KANTsupposedRightToLie.pdf

      Kant denies the right to lie to save lives. Circumstances do not matter to KANT’S(not neokantian scholars) moral philosophy.

      I am talking about Kant scholars who interpret Kant. Not scholars who merely have their own ideas. You’ve already brought up the Supposed Right to Lie essay and I told you what I thought about it. I don’t think it proves that the situation doesn’t matter. He just doesn’t think there’s a good situation to lie.

      Benjamin Constant, wrote,

      “The moral principle stating that it is a duty to tell the truth would make any society impossible if that
      principle were taken singly and unconditionally. We have proof of this in the very direct consequences
      which a German philosopher has drawn from this principle. This philosopher goes as far as to assert that
      it would be a crime to tell a lie to a murderer who asked whether our friend who is being pursued by the
      murderer had taken refuge in our house.”5

      Looks like every single Kant scholar ever doesn’t agree with you first of all.

      First, that quotation doesn’t prove what Constant thought as far as taking the situation into consideration. Second, it does not prove that Constant is a Kant scholar. He isn’t.

      Also, how does your interpretation of the imperative jive with the second formulation of the imperative. In such a case, lying to someone to save lives would be treating that person as purely a means to an end, rather than an end in his self. The formulations supposedly say the same thing, but somehow, your interpretation makes no sense with that. WEIRD, i wonder why?

      The main idea is to treat a person with respect. It’s not entirely clear what that means. It is slightly disrespectful to lie to a murderer, but in a larger sense it might be more disrespectful to tell the truth to the murderer. If I went temporarily insane and people helped me murder others, then I might not think that their “telling the truth” was so respectful after all.”

      If you kill someone to save lives, it doesn’t mean you are “merely” treating them as a means to an end. You might be treating them how you think they would rationally want you to treat them insofar as they are rational. Kant might not agree with what I am saying here, but that is a difference of opinion about applied ethics and not his ethical theory.

      A “maxim” is an answer to what we should do in a situation. For example, “lie to someone whenever it saves several lives.” It is logically possible for this to be carried out from laws of nature.

      also, its to be willed as a law of nature, not carried out as a law of nature. please, READ KANT

      That is just a way of saying that I think everyone should do the same thing I do. You are making a trivial point that doesn’t prove anything.

      looks like we’re both right. From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(article: Kant’s Moral Philosophy)

      Kant and I will disagree about applied ethics. I think that lying is situational and he doesn’t. I agree with Kant that inconceivable actions shouldn’t be done, but I think lying based on certain justifications is conceivable. In fact, it’s not hard to conceive of a world where people lies for various reasons because that’s the actual world.

      If everyone lied, it still might not be impossible to communicate. I would ask a true false question, such as, “Do you agree to work for us and come in every day?” and the applicant would say “No.” I would know he was compelled to lie and meant “Yes.”

      Comment by James Gray — August 6, 2010 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  9. A “maxim” is an answer to what we should do in a situation. For example, “lie to someone whenever it saves several lives.” It is logically possible for this to be carried out from laws of nature.

    also, its to be willed as a law of nature, not carried out as a law of nature. please, READ KANT

    Comment by Evan — August 6, 2010 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

  10. Also, the reason does not matter in stating the maxim

    Comment by Evan — August 6, 2010 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

  11. forget that last post

    Comment by Evan — August 6, 2010 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  12. looks like we’re both right. From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(article: Kant’s Moral Philosophy)

    “First, formulate a maxim that enshrines your reason for acting as you propose. Second, recast that maxim as a universal law of nature governing all rational agents, and so as holding that all must, by natural law, act as you yourself propose to act in these circumstances. Third, consider whether your maxim is even conceivable in a world governed by this law of nature. If it is, then, fourth, ask yourself whether you would, or could, rationally will to act on your maxim in such a world. If you could, then your action is morally permissible.

    If your maxim fails the third step, you have a ‘perfect’ duty admitting “of no exception in favor of inclination” to refrain from acting on it. (G 4:421) If your maxim fails the fourth step, you have an ‘imperfect’ duty requiring you to pursue a policy that can admit of such exceptions. If your maxim passes all four steps, only then is acting on it morally permissible.”

    Thus, the third step creates perfect duties, such as not lying at all, thus explaining Kant’s On the supposed right to lie. However, if the action passes this generalized conceivability test, then it is subject to your more situational approach.

    Evan

    Comment by Evan — August 6, 2010 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

  13. “To my understanding, the Quranic verses concerning homosexuality are open to new interpretations”

    In regard to the entire article, I believe you made some very good points. However, from what I can tell, you were unsuccessful in refuting the Biblical argument. If you don’t believe in the Bible then i suppose it doesn’t matter either way, but the Bible and the Qu’ran are not the same on many accounts, especially regarding new interpretations. The Bible condemns homosexuality. As a Christian I also condemn homosexuality. This does not mean that God hates homosexuals. God loves the homosexual just as much as he loves the preacher, and God condemns the sins of the homosexual just as much as he condemns the sins of the preacher.

    Comment by Jordan — March 22, 2012 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

    • Jordan,

      The point above was that you might not want to take everything literally or agree with everything in the Bible. I know you don’t take everything literally in the Bible. Jesus is not a lamb. That is why interpretation is important.

      Edit: This website covers at least one interpretation of the Bible that shows why it might not be against homosexuality — http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/Homosexuality.htm

      Why is homosexuality such a big deal? What about eating shellfish and other passages people don’t take so seriously?

      There is surely more to be said about the Bible’s passages against homosexuality, but what Arash Naraghi said seems quite relevant. Do you think Christians must condemn homosexuality? Does it make you un-Christian to think it’s morally permissible?

      Comment by JW Gray — March 22, 2012 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

    • I also made it clear that the Biblical argument begs the question. Do you disagree with that?

      If the Bible says something false, that doesn’t give us any reason to believe it.

      Comment by JW Gray — March 22, 2012 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

  14. The point I was making was that the Bible and the Quran are completely different books, despite what many might believe. I do not know whether or not the Quran is open to new interpretations, but the Bible isn’t. You are correct in saying that it is not all literal, but one of the first rules in Bible interpretation is that it should be taken literal unless the context shows otherwise. The verses found in Leviticus may be matters of debate but I don’t see any other interpretation for the verses found in Romans 1.

    No, I wouldn’t say it makes you un-Christian to believe such a thing. I would however say that it makes you confused regarding the what the Bible says about the subject.

    If the Bible says something false then yes there would be little reason to believe it apart from it’s historical accurateness. The big word is if.

    Comment by Jordan — March 27, 2012 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

    • Jordan,

      The point I was making was that the Bible and the Quran are completely different books, despite what many might believe.

      Everyone knows they are different books and I said nothing to imply otherwise.

      I do not know whether or not the Quran is open to new interpretations, but the Bible isn’t.

      Yes, it is. People do it all the time. And I provided an example.

      You are correct in saying that it is not all literal, but one of the first rules in Bible interpretation is that it should be taken literal unless the context shows otherwise. The verses found in Leviticus may be matters of debate but I don’t see any other interpretation for the verses found in Romans 1.

      The above link gives another interpretation. Why didn’t you take a look yet?

      No, I wouldn’t say it makes you un-Christian to believe such a thing. I would however say that it makes you confused regarding the what the Bible says about the subject. If the Bible says something false then yes there would be little reason to believe it apart from it’s historical accurateness. The big word is if.

      If it says something false, then people need not be confused to reject something in the Bible. This is exactly why using the Bible as a source for morality begs the question. You can’t just assume everything in your favorite book is true. Other people can do the same thing to prove your beliefs are false.

      Comment by JW Gray — March 27, 2012 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

      • There are some that would suggest that they are the same and the fact that you applied the same statement to the quran and the Bible would imply that they are the same.

        Just because people misinterpret the Bible all the time does not mean that the Bible condones it.

        I read the article and was not convinced. Anyone can draw any conclusion they want from the Bible but that doesn’t make them right. Romans one is obviously condemning homosexuality, not the mere lust.

        Like I said in my first post, if you don’t believe the Bible then there is really no reason to discuss it. But without the scriptures we have no basis for morality. Without a final authority there is no such thing.

        Comment by Jordan — March 28, 2012 @ 3:41 am

  15. Jordan,

    I read the article and was not convinced. Anyone can draw any conclusion they want from the Bible but that doesn’t make them right. Romans one is obviously condemning homosexuality, not the mere lust.

    Why don’t you agree with it? The fact that you aren’t convinced isn’t enough to prove your point. No everyone thinks it’s obvious.

    Like I said in my first post, if you don’t believe the Bible then there is really no reason to discuss it. But without the scriptures we have no basis for morality. Without a final authority there is no such thing.

    We don’t need a final authority to tell us what to think about physics. Why should we need one about morality?

    What you believe concerning the “basis of morality” is not only controversial, but it’s something few moral philosophers agrees with.

    Prove to me that we need God to be the final authority of morality. Prove that we need “the scriptures” for a basis of morality.

    Comment by JW Gray — March 28, 2012 @ 4:37 am | Reply

  16. Romans 1:26-27 “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

    The text says it. I don’t see how you can draw any other interpretation from these verses.

    What is the definition of morality?
    1. conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.
    2. moral quality or character.
    3. virtue in sexual matters; chastity.
    4. a doctrine or system of morals.
    5. moral instruction; a moral lesson, precept, discourse, or utterance.

    By each of these definitions of the word morality (from a secular dictionary; no bias) it proves it. How do we know “Right” and “Wrong” with God. Look up the history of the Sawi tribe in Africa. Before any contact with the Bible they had no morality. They prided themselves on deceiving others, brutally murdering them, and eating them. Among the civilized we would consider that to be immoral. Why? How do we know right from wrong? Where do we get laws? Without the final authority we cannot collectively determine what is right and wrong. Without the Bible we cannot determine what is virtuous. Therefore, if morality is based on these, without the Bible we cannot determine what is moral or immoral.

    Also, we do need a final authority with physics as well. Without the scientific evidence that acts as the final authority, we have no physics. Otherwise anyone can say whatever they want about physics and no one can argue because physics would be measured by each individual man. I can say physics is this and you say it is that and we would both be right. The same would apply to morality without a final authority above man.

    Comment by Jordan — March 28, 2012 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  17. “How do we know “Right” and “Wrong” with God.”

    Without not with

    Comment by Jordan — March 28, 2012 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

  18. James Gray,

    Although I do not know much about the four philosophies that you illustrate in this article, I support your idea that homosexuality is not immoral. I understand that the word “immoral” might have different standards in different philosophies, and I agree with how you interpret “each of these theories to find homosexuality morally permissible rather than immoral” in the article.

    It is interesting to see how you and Evans argue about Kant’s categorical imperative. While I am trying to understand the conversation here, I know nothing about Kant’s philosophy. I try to read some explanations online, but they only confuse me more. I feel that Kant is saying that we should do good thing because we know we are suppose to, but not because it will bring us good consequences.

    “I don’t think Kant ruled out the possibility that morality could be “simple” or consider “consequences,” but how we reason will have to be acceptable universally. ”

    I believe your view in this comment is right, so I guess how you interpret that homosexuality is not immoral in categorical imperative is correct too.

    However, I find some of the examples you use a little unconvincing. For example, I think maybe you should find a stronger and a bit more controversial example of something is morally permissible than taking a shower. My suggestion is to have an example that people would possibly question the morality. The second example I find frustrating about is using hands to walk. Though I agree with Gray that homosexuality cannot be described as unnatural only because some people believe that sexual organs are just used for procreation, I insist that this example is a little bit far-fetched. Though I agree with your point, I still insist that this example is not that realistic and convincing.

    I might seem to be picking at you, but I still think this is a great article.

    Comment by Ruyi — July 3, 2012 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for the comments. Some people think hands are made for grabbing things, so the implication is that it would be unnatural to use them to walk. This is a typical refutation and I did not think of it myself. I don’t know why you find this example frustrating. The point is that we can use body parts in various ways that can be useful to us rather than only one way they were “made for.”

      Comment by JW Gray — July 3, 2012 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

    • Not only do people struggle to understand Kant in general, but even philosophers struggle to understand him. My understanding of his Categorical Imperative is described in detail here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/ethical-theories/

      Comment by JW Gray — July 4, 2012 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  19. Great discussion. I am a third yr Arts student and in Philosophy-Ethics and Society. I especially like the comments and arguments put forth by JW Gray. CAn you provide links to more comments by him or a site where I can get a perspective on the views of John Corvino, Prof. Philosophy at Wayne State Uni.? Thanks for a very informative blog.

    Comment by Thomas C.Ramsay (@colville1941) — February 5, 2014 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

  20. Thank you again Professor. I use the Owl too but could not find it. Keep up the fine work! Cheers, Tom Ramsay

    Comment by Thomas C.Ramsay (@colville1941) — February 7, 2014 @ 4:58 am | Reply

  21. Everyone should have the freedom, without hurting anyone, to do what they want. But Homosexuality is against Biology. Homosexuality is against Nature. Like smoking, it serves no positive, purposeful function in Nature. It serves no need except to fuel, proliferate, desire and lust. But everyone should have the choice to do what one wishes and everyone should have the choice to make mistakes.

    Comment by charles tenaglia — February 23, 2014 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

    • I already talked about why I don’t agree that it is against nature. What is your response to what I actually say?

      Comment by JW Gray — February 23, 2014 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

    • What is the purpose of homosexual sex? There are many of the same purposes as sex has in general: Sex can give people exercise, it can be enjoyable, it can be an expression of love, etc. Doing things for enjoyment should not condemned and people shouldn’t be shamed for it. How dare anyone watch television, play games, read a fiction novel, play with children, eat candy bars, etc. We didn’t necessarily evolve doing all those things either.

      Comment by JW Gray — February 23, 2014 @ 8:54 pm | Reply


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