Faculties and acts
One of the definitions of life in Chapter 7 of Section 1 of the third part 3.1.7 is that it is existence as in control of itself; and in that part I also said that the living body exercises this control over itself by means of faculties: parts organized in such a way that they have special instabilities when energy from within or without is introduced into them, and perform special acts as they recover equilibrium. The fact that internal energy can set up the instability is what lets the body turn its acts on and off, by distributing the available energy present because of its super-high equilibrium.
Since the faculty allows the whole body either to act or not act, it follows that
Conclusion 6: It is not morally wrong not to exercise a given faculty, even never to exercise it, unless the effect of refraining is some damage to the person.
That is, it is perfectly consistent with the nature of a faculty never to perform the acts it allows you to perform, because its function is precisely to give the person control over whether he acts or not. True, you are not being all that you can be; but there is no moral obligation to develop ourselves to the full, or our "freedom" would be freedom in name only. In that case, we would be determined by our talents, really (because we would have to develop all that we were genetically given), and would be "free" only to rebel and suffer eternally from it; and so we would have no room to morally exercise our freedom at all. To be free to do something and to be forbidden under pain of eternal frustration to do is is not to be free in practice.
Thus, the Parable of the Talents Jesus gave cannot, as I said in Chapter 4 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.4, be taken to mean what we mean nowadays by "talents." As I said there, it has to mean the gift of the Good News that we were given, not our innate abilities. If that were not so, his advice to "make yourself a eunuch" for the Kingdom (i.e. remain celibate--clearly, he could not be counseling mutilation) would contradict his advice in this Parable.
So even though you have a sexual faculty, there is no moral necessity ever to exercise it if you don't want to; and you are not being "unnatural" if you refuse to do so, because your nature is precisely the power to have sex or not as you see fit. You don't even need to apply the Double Effect here, since there is no wrong to keep out of the choice; the incompleteness of your reality in relation to what it could be is no more wrong than never taking a course in economics or--horror of horrors!--philosophy.
This is not to say that it is objectively better to be celibate. Not even St. Paul says that when he says in First Corinthians that if you don't marry you "do a better thing" than the "good thing" you do if you marry; because he's talking about its being better in the context of not being distracted in the work of the Kingdom; and he is quite clear that he leaves everything up to the person's own conscience. Besides, there is, as I have said so often, no objective "good" and "better": these depend on your goals; and if your goal doesn't involve sex, that's fine.
I am stressing this because our age, not believing in God any more, has done what every age that doesn't believe in God has done: made sex God. The idea of foregoing sex entirely has, for a person with this mentality, something blasphemous about it--or even is unthinkable, the way desecration of the Host (the Communion wafer) would have been for a medieval monk. Any restriction on "sexual freedom" is now what is regarded as the "perversion," not the bizarre forms of sexual expression that are now "alternative life styles." The great tragedy of life nowadays is loss of interest in sex; it is regarded as one of our most serious "mental health problems," and "caring" people wring their hands at how widespread it is--and, of course want the government to spend money doing something about it. Even the nurse who was administering the anti-depressant medicine I once tested was very concerned with the level of my interest in sex, and was quite disturbed by the fact that it declined evidently due to the medicine.
So if your culture when you read this has the same attitude, don't be misled. There is nothing wrong with exercising the faculty; but there is nothing wrong with not exercising it either. It just depends on what your goals are. If you find that you just can't swallow this, then sit back and think it out in terms of the logic of what a faculty does, and try to "raise your consciousness" above the prejudice that has been dinned into you from the time you were old enough to reach the knob on the TV.
I am saying this, because I am going to be talking about the morality of sex shortly, based on what the faculty evidently does; and I want to warn you so that you won't be blinded by the religion of the age, and turn a deaf ear because "obviously Blair is inhibited and has a sexual hangup." Whether or not that is true is irrelevant; the issue is what evidence I present and whether there is any flaw in my logic.
But before getting into sexuality, let me draw two other conclusions from the nature of a faculty:
Conclusion 6a: It is not morally wrong to use some device to enable the faculty to perform its act better.
Nobody really has any problem with this. I am thinking about things like spectacles or contact lenses (or even lens implants) or hearing aids, or even such things as artificial hearts and so on. However "unnatural" these might be in the sense that they are technological, what they do in fact is enable the faculty to do its job better than it can in the condition it is in; and what the faculty is all about is the act that it can perform. Hence, even if it is perfectly healthy, it can be aided beyond even its natural powers by such things as microscopes, telescopes, or sound sensing devices, or even microphones and loudspeakers to allow the voice to carry.
The fact that what I am dealing with is basically "natural law ethics" shouldn't lead to the really silly objection a Jesuit of my acquaintance made to it that "Natural law ethics would forbid you to use an umbrella; it's unnatural to go out in the rain and not get wet."
To apply this to sexuality, there is nothing morally wrong in a man's using a syringe after sexual intercourse to move weak sperm farther up his wife's vagina to help her get pregnant, however much it seems as if this is "interfering in the natural course of things." It is "interfering" consistently with what the act is trying to do, and hence is morally right. The same, of course, applies to delivering a baby by Caesarean section instead of through the birth canal (using the Double Effect here, since the operation poses dangers); but of course this raises no eyebrows, because it's fairly common and has been accepted for centuries.
The following is also true:
Conclusion 6b: It is not morally wrong to suppress the functioning of a faculty when this is the same as not exercising it at all.
That is, if you don't want to see, you can cover your eyes to make sure that you don't inadvertently open them; you can cover your ears in order not to hear.
This is not the same as removing or damaging the organ itself, since you still have the ability to do the act at will, in the meaningful sense of the term. You can take your hands from in front of your eyes (or remove the tape) if you want to, and take your fingers or ear plugs out of your ears. Hence, you still have the ability to perform the act. So just as you can aid the functioning of a faculty by technological means, you can suppress its function by technological means when you don't want to perform the act.
For instance, there is nothing morally wrong in itself in taking aspirin to kill a headache, just because you don't want to feel the pain. The only thing that might be morally relevant here is that the pain normally tells you that something is wrong with the way your body is functioning at the moment, and it might be wrong to ignore this, because you might by ignoring it be harming your health. But if you know why you have a headache, then the pain isn't doing anything useful to you, and so it's perfectly moral to get rid of it. In fact, if you deliberately chose to keep feeling it when you could suppress it, it is possible that you could be training yourself to enjoy something that warns you of danger, which could cause a good deal of trouble. Don't laugh; what else is "cultivating a taste for alcohol" except this very thing? The same goes for suppressing by medication things like depression (as I was doing when I wrote the first version of this). Even if the depression is realistic, if there's nothing you can do about the facts that are causing you sorrow, then still to feel the sorrow when you don't have to is counterproductive.
I don't want to be misunderstood; I am not saying that it is morally necessarily to suppress pain or negative emotions when they serve no particular purpose, because after all they are the functioning of our nature, and so how could their doing their thing be contrary to nature? But on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with suppressing them either, natural though they be.
Because we do a lot of this sort of thing with pills, those who don't think things through believe that the contraceptive pill fits into this category; but it doesn't, precisely because you are exercising the faculty whose function you are suppressing. But how can you do that? Because the faculty has more than one function. Let me give the general rule, and take some other instances than sex to make the principle clearer in its illustration; and then I will apply it to sex. But first, I should say this:
Conclusion 6c: It is not morally wrong to use a part of the body for some other function than the act of the faculty it contains, provided the faculty is not damaged and its proper function is not suppressed.
What I am thinking of here is using your ears and nose to hold up your glasses, or walking on your hands. Obviously the former use of the two organs has nothing to do with hearing or smelling, and in the latter case, the hands were not really built for walking on, but for holding things and so on.
But you aren't damaging the ability of your ears to hear or the ability of your nose to smell, or the ability of your hands to hold things; and so there's no problem on that score. In the former case, in fact, you can use your nose and ears for their functions as sense organs at the same time you are using them for their ability to hold up your glasses. In the latter case, your hands can't be holding things while you are walking on them, but you are not using your hands at the moment as a faculty of grasping, and so you are simply not exercising the faculty at all, not suppressing its function in the use of the organ.
Why do I split hairs this way? Because of the following conclusion:
Conclusion 6d: It is morally wrong to suppress one of the functions of a multi-function faculty so that it can be exercised for one of its other functions.
In this case, the faculty allows you to act or not act in certain ways; but if the faculty does several things simultaneously when it regains equilibrium from its instability, then this is what it does; and to suppress one of them is to pretend that it only does part of what it does when it acts.
This is different from what was said in Conclusion 6c, because there, as in walking on your hands, you are using the organ which is a faculty but not as that faculty; you are not interested in having the power to grasp do what it does and simultaneously do only part of what it does, as if it did less than what it does as a faculty. You are simply not exercising the power to grasp in using the organ in this way.
So it is one thing not to exercise the faculty at all; and this is what the nature of a faculty is: to allow you to turn its act on and off. And, as I said in Conclusion 6c, there is nothing wrong therefore with forcibly shutting it off, as long as you don't damage the faculty itself. But when you make it act and then forcibly shut off part of what it does in the very exercise of the faculty, you are forcing it to be different from what its nature is--or you are pretending that it is a faculty to do only some of what it is in fact a faculty to do; and this is fundamentally a dishonest practice, and by definition is morally wrong.
The act of what is now called the "eating disorder" of boulimia and used to be called the vice of gluttony is a case in point. The bulimic person eats and then throws up so that the food won't be digested and he can remain thin. It is considered nowadays a psychological disorder, because it is assumed that no rational person would do it, because it is "obviously" a perverted way of eating (though of course psychologists don't put it in those terms). And of course, since it clearly is a perversion of eating, and everyone knows it, it's not surprising to find that those who do it are pretty much out of control--and so they do have psychological disorders.
But it's instructive that the reason why everyone thinks it's "sick" to eat and then throw up is that doing this implies that eating is just for the taste, when it's obvious that taking food into your stomach involves nutrition as well; and the fact that there's a damaging effect from eating more than your body needs to maintain biological equilibrium doesn't justify taking a means that pretends that the act of eating doesn't have anything to do with nourishing the body.
There is, however, this other side to the coin:
Conclusion 6e: It is not morally wrong to exercise a faculty in circumstances when not all of its functions are operative, as long as the non-operating function is not actively suppressed.
In the case of eating, there is nothing morally wrong in eating something that tastes good and has no food value at all, and simply passes through your body. The nutritive faculty then by its own nature can't provide energy or parts to the body, because there isn't any to provide.
Essentially, eating non-nourishing "food" is the same as running on a treadmill or running around a track just for the exercise. Clearly if you run on a track or come back to where you started again and again, you are not fulfilling one of the functions of running, which is to get you from Point A to Point B. But what you are doing (a) does not suppress part of the act of running (the way throwing up suppresses part of the act of ingestion of food), and (b) is not contradictory to what your legs do when they run.
There is an added aspect to this in the case of eating, which I suppose can be made a sub-conclusion here.
Conclusion 6e1: It is not morally wrong to remove from otherwise nourishing food the food-value and then eat it for the taste.
The reason why this is not morally wrong is that the food (or what is ingested) is clearly not a faculty of the body which exists for a certain function. The food is, or was, a living body in its own right (or in the case of salt, an inanimate one), and was not "made for" our nourishment. Even the fundamentalists would have to admit that God gave the other creatures to the man for his use, which indicates that he didn't make them specifically for his use. But let's face it; living things are in equilibrium, and even if they can be used by human beings, they are ends in themselves; otherwise mosquitoes who do not sting humans have failed to achieve the purpose of their existence.
But since the food is just something that can be eaten, then if you eat something non-nourishing that can be eaten without doing harm to your body, this is not inconsistent with eating, even though it doesn't fulfill the nutritive function of eating, as I said above. But the point here is that there is nothing wrong, say, with cooking things which were alive and altering their chemical composition and then eating them. If doing something like this takes the nutritional value out of them, then they simply get transformed into something that can be eaten without harm, that tastes good, and doesn't have any food value. So there's no problem with eating them now that they're in that state, any more than there's any problem with eating what was in that state to begin with. You haven't "suppressed the foodness of the food" because it wasn't by nature "food" in the first place; it was just something which happened to be edible.
There is also this conclusion which we can make before we get into the application to sexuality:
Conclusion 6f: One need not morally have as a goal any of the functions of the faculty in exercising the faculty.
For instance, there is nothing morally wrong with eating something that doesn't taste good to you (even that tastes bad), and that isn't nourishing, just to please your daughter who was making her first venture into cooking. You don't have as a goal the enjoyment of the sensations of eating, nor do you have as a goal getting any nourishment from it; your sole purpose in this act of eating is to see your daughter happy. No problem. You haven't done anything inconsistent with the act of eating, and the act can be used to give pleasure to another who is watching you eat; and so you use it for some purpose it doesn't by nature have, but which it can have by accident of circumstance. This is consistent.
But why is eating something that tastes bad not contrary to the sensation of taste? Because "good" and "bad" are not objective properties; from which, as I said in Chapter 7 of Section 5 of the first part 1.5.7 and repeated in Chapter 4 of Section 2 of the third part 3.2.4, what is a "pleasure" or a pleasant sensation, and what is a "pain," depend on our assessment of whether it is or is not consistent with our subjectively established view of the way things "ought" to be. A sensation like a taste is simply a sensation; the label "pleasant" or "unpleasant" is added to it by our evaluative judgment.
Of course, sensations that are spontaneously regarded as unpleasant are our built-in warning that what is perceived is dangerous to the organism (or would be, if it was in its primitive condition), and we have to take into account whether the sensation reports anything in fact damaging to the organism before we can choose to experience it, running the risk of damage. But when this is not the case, as in eating caviar or fried ants, then there is nothing wrong with eating the food and experiencing the taste simply as a taste.
Similarly, you can eat just to keep someone else who is eating company, whether or not the food is in fact nourishing, and/or tastes good. But in this case, you wouldn't be eating it because you're hungry (and so you don't need it), or are particularly interested in experiencing the taste. Your purpose has nothing to do with the function of the act as such; but as long as it's not going to make you sick or is going to add to a weight problem you have, this is perfectly moral.
One of the reasons this has not been brought into ethics books until recently is that what I call the "function" of the faculty (the act it produces when it is put into instability) has traditionally been called the "purpose" of the faculty. But calling the acts of multiple-function faculties "purposes" would naturally lead the Scholastics, who were so fond of classifying and arranging things, into thinking of hierarchies of purposes, so that one purpose was the main or "real" purpose, and the others were subordinate to it. For instance, the taste of food, as obviously a natural incentive to eat, was looked on as the "secondary purpose" of eating, and nutrition was the "primary" or "real" purpose, with the taste being a kind of means toward it, or subordinate to it.
Hence, as I said in discussing the kinds of values in Chapter 4 of Section 7 of the fourth part 4.7.4, it would on this showing appear as a kind of perversion of the purposes of eating if you ate for the sake of the taste rather than for the nourishment. But as I pointed out there, since an "incentive" is precisely something which is intended to be a motivator for what it is an incentive for, then the taste is by nature intended as a motive for eating--or is the purpose we would naturally have in eating, as far as our consciousness went; while the nutrition was the thing that nature slipped in unbeknownst to us. Hence, if taste is an incentive to eat, it is perfectly consistent with the nature of the faculty to make the taste your primary motive rather than the nutrition. In fact, since the sensation of taste is immaterial (and therefore basically spiritual) and the nutritive act has no spiritual "dimension" to it at all, then you could argue just as cogently that it would be a "perversion of the natural order of things" if you subordinated the immaterial act to the material one. Hoist with their own petard!
The medievals were a little too ready, I think, to read God's mind--understandably, since for them morality was supposed to be something basically positive, doing "the good" which was seeking God's will. So you had to figure out what God wanted you to do. And I must say, they did a darn good job of analyzing nature and its moral demands accurately, because they were consistent with the way things are, not with the logic of their initial premise.
At any rate, the fact is that eating has the two functions of producing a pleasant or unpleasant sensation and running the nutritive activity of maintaining or achieving biological equilibrium; and which of these is "primary" and which is "secondary" is morally irrelevant. You can't directly contradict either of them in the exercise of the act of eating; but you don't have to have as a goal either of them. As long as you don't suppress one so that you pretend that the act doesn't have this other function in the circumstances when by its nature it does, you can eat or drink or do anything at all for the glory of God or for any other purpose you want to name.
Now then, with all of that under our belts, we are ready to discuss sex rationally.
Logically speaking, this should be a set of sub-conclusions under Conclusion 6; but it's going a little far, I think, to start talking about Conclusion 6g1, 6g1a, and so on; so let me label the basic conclusion about sexuality in this way:
Conclusion 7: It is morally wrong to exercise the sexual faculty in such a way that one of its functions is suppressed or contradicted in the exercise.
Sex has, in itself, three functions: (1) it produces a complex and strong sensation; (2) it involves another person; and (3) it is the kind of thing that produces a child. I hasten to point out that these are not listed in any kind of hierarchical order, because which of them is the primary function and which is secondary is (a) unanswerable,(1)
and (b) makes no difference, because choosing the act for its supposed "primary" function still doesn't allow you to contradict any of the others.
But let us draw a first conclusion immediately:
Conclusion 7a: It is not morally wrong to have sex for some purpose which has nothing to do with any of its natural functions, as long as none of them are contradicted in the exercise of the faculty.
That is, it is perfectly moral to have sex because it's the night of your fiftieth wedding anniversary, and you think that having sex is an appropriate way to commemorate it, even though neither you nor your partner feel particularly sexy (though neither is unwilling to do the act) and even though it's obviously impossible to conceive a child at this age.
When, years and years ago, I was doing my "pre-Cana" studies my church required as a preparation for marriage, I was told that it was morally wrong not to have sex for the purpose of "procreation," at least as a secondary motive. Even way back then, I remember, I knew there was something wrong with this, or how could elderly people marry? Perhaps, like Abraham, they shouldn't laugh when told that their act might result in a child.
But of course to say that you have to want children or want "love" in the act is to miss making the distinction that not having something as a goal is not the same as contradicting the function of the act. Hence, if you have some arrangement with your spouse that you have sex on Tuesdays no matter what, there's no moral problem in having sex just to keep to the schedule.
Conclusion 7b: There is nothing morally wrong in technologically suppressing the functions of sex if the intention is to make it easy not to exercise the act.
That is, if there is such a thing as an "anaphrodisiac," or something that takes away sexual desire or even makes you temporarily incapable of sexual activity, then there's nothing morally wrong with taking it if exams are coming up and you don't want to be bothered with sexual urges. To be, as St. Paul says, "on fire" is a nuisance; and like a headache, it can be suppressed.(2)
There is a variation on this. A woman who was going into a place where she had reason to believe she might be raped could, in spite of what I am going to say about contraceptives below, take a contraceptive in order to avoid getting pregnant as a result of the rape; because the act would be performed (if it is performed) against her will, and so she has no intention of exercising the act without one of its functions--she has no intention of exercising it at all. Taking the pill (or using some other device) is in itself not wrong; it has a good effect (she doesn't get pregnant if she is raped); the suppression of the function of the act is not the means to the good effect (because if she isn't raped, she obviously doesn't get pregnant anyway); she doesn't want to have sex with any rapist; and the harm she would be doing to herself is minimal compared to the harm in being raped and then having to cope with the pregnancy.(3)
By the same token, I think that a woman whose husband demands sex out of all reason, getting her pregnant when it would be irrational to have children, and who shows no consideration for either her feelings or the results of his act, but "demands his rights," is actually being raped by him. In this case, I think she is justified in taking contraceptives, supposing she remonstrates with her husband and tries and fails to make him see reason; because she is not really willing to have sex in this case, but is coerced into it--and therefore can, using the Double Effect, now take steps to prevent an undesirable side-effect of what she is forced into. That is, in these cases, I don't see how you can simultaneously be unwilling to perform the act and be choosing to perform it as if it were not what it really is.
But now what are the implications in choosing to perform the act?
Conclusion 7c: Masturbation is morally wrong.
Masturbation, doesn't suppress the functions of involving another person and reproduction, in the sense that it doesn't do anything to prevent them (because there's no one else there, and so reproduction also can't occur) but is an exercise of the sex faculty in which it makes no sense to claim that the faculty has anything to do with these other functions. In this sense, performing the act in a way in which the other two functions cannot be fulfilled is in practice the same thing as suppressing the functions.
That is, the act as performed involves only the satisfaction (or release of tension) and cannot perform its other functions when exercised in this way. Even masturbating to acquire sperm which will then be inseminated into a woman so that she can have a baby, or masturbating to acquire sperm for testing and so on, is not morally legitimate. In this case your goal is reproduction, say; but this is not to say that the act as you perform it is a reproductive sort of act. The fact, for instance, that you urinate into a bottle for testing to find out whether you are diabetic does not make the act of urinating an act of medical discovery; it is simply what it is: the act of eliminating waste, and what you can do with it afterwards doesn't give it that function. (Of course, doing this is perfectly moral. What I am saying is that this shows that the fact that you want to use the sperm to make a baby with doesn't make the act of masturbating reproductive.)
And you can see that the ejaculation of semen when men masturbate makes no sense in the context of masturbation, except as the release of built-up body fluids. But semen is not just "body fluids"; it contains gametes, or sex cells, which fertilize ova in a woman. Hence, the ejaculation of semen is not, in this respect, analogous to urination, which is simply the elimination of material the body can't use. Masturbation is a pretense that there isn't any significant difference between them, which is fundamentally dishonest.
Furthermore, it is difficult to masturbate without fantasizing about performing the sex act with another person. Sexual arousal almost always involves images of another person, and, for instance, with men, manipulating one's penis and not even imagining having sex with someone else would be apt not lead to arousal; and if it did, then the imagery would spontaneously appear, and could only be put out of one's mind with great difficulty; and doing so would probably destroy the arousal before orgasm.
What I am saying here is that it is next to impossible to masturbate without imagining that you are doing something else with the act, and involving another person in it. This is an indication that the act is more than simply the sensation and the release of body fluids; and so to use it as if it were nothing more is to contradict what the faculty is in the very exercise of the faculty.
That is, you are simply not being honest with yourself if you think that masturbation is consistent with sex, if in the very act of masturbating you are fantasizing that the act is involving someone else.
Now of course, the sex act does, among other things in men at least, release body fluids, which need releasing from time to time; so that there is nothing to worry about if ejaculations occur spontaneously. The point is that you can't choose to perform the act in such a way that only this can happen and nothing else. But if it happens, you can rejoice in the relief, and you need not take steps to prevent it.
Conclusion 7c1: Mutual masturbation is morally wrong.
The reason for this is that, first of all, there isn't any essential difference between two (or more, I suppose) people's masturbating themselves in the presence of others because they enjoy the act more in others' company and in their actually masturbating each other. In the former case, the act is what it would be if you were alone and simply imagined someone watching you; and so it is contrary to both of the other functions of the faculty. That kind of thing "involves" another person only by the wildest stretch of terms (considering that the "involvement" really means the union of the two sex organs in this context).
The latter case is discussed here because it is masturbation; but it really belongs under Conclusion 7e, because the other person is involved, in a sense, and may well be deriving sexual gratification from the act; but it is obvious that this kind of sexual activity can't have anything to do with reproduction; and so it is an exercise of the sexual faculty as if reproduction had nothing to do with it.
What is called "onanism" is a variation on this. It is having sex by the union of the two organs but removing the penis just before orgasm precisely so that reproduction will not occur. In this case it is even clearer that the use of the sex faculty (a) recognizes that the act is reproductive and (b) prevents it from being what it is recognized to be. Essentially, this is a case of mutual masturbation, and though more "natural" than using the hands to accomplish the task, it is no more moral.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with manipulating the sex organs and causing sexual pleasure as foreplay to the act of reproductive-type sexual intercourse. In that case, the faculty is being exercised for all of its functions; it is just that at various times in the course of the exercise one or the other is stressed; but in the whole act, none of them are excluded, as in the case of mutual masturbation.
Conclusion 7d: It is morally wrong to have sex with inanimate objects or living beings of a different species from human beings.
Sex with inanimate objects in general is the same as masturbating with a technological assist. When the inanimate object is a human corpse, of course, there is the added dimension that it is sex with an inanimate object as if it were still a human being, not to mention the implied rape of the person it used to be; because the presumption is that the living person would not have wanted his body to be sexually assaulted.
But note that the corpse is in itself just an inanimate object; so those who think, "What's wrong with using inanimate objects for sexual pleasure, if you feel like it?" have no logical case against necrophilia; because the corpse clearly doesn't in fact mind.
And this is what I was talking about when I mentioned that our age has made a religion of sex. There are still some things that we shrink from, like necrophilia, and consider "sick." But our acceptance of "free sexual expression" will not allow us to say that there is anything really wrong with these things, because if we say they are wrong, logically speaking we have to say other things we have accepted are wrong. And if someone likes sex with corpses, who are you to say that it shouldn't be done just because it disgusts you? Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.
Sex with inanimate objects makes, of course, a mockery both of the involvement of another person and the reproductive aspect of sex; there is no way either of them can occur in this type of sexual exercise.
Sex with other animals is analogous to rape if the animal reacts unfavorably to the act; but of course it isn't really rape, because the animal can't be unwilling to do the act, since it can't will at all. Similarly, if the animal seems to like it, this doesn't make the act consistent with "involving another person," because the animal isn't a person, and can't be willing to do the act. Nevertheless, I suppose it would be closer to fulfilling this function of the faculty than masturbation or sex with an animate object, even though animals by nature do not actively tend to have sex with anything but their own species, and in some sense would have to be trained to do the act, resisting (I would presume) at least at first.
But the real reason why sex with animals is morally wrong, of course, is that there is no way this could be construed as reproductive. The human ovum cannot be fertilized with anything but human sperm, and human sperm cannot fertilize anything but a human ovum; and so this kind of use of the sexual faculties is inconsistent with its reproductive function.
But if you hold that sex doesn't "really" have a "reproductive function" at all, then that means that training an animal to have sex with you is all right (because, sex not being reproductive, you wouldn't be going against its nature), and so, as one college student once remarked at a question on a sex survey, "What's wrong with a little bestiality?" Her answer was at least logical, based on the premise she held.
Conclusion 7e: It is morally wrong to have sex to orgasm in a human being other than in the corresponding sexual organ of the other person.
The meaning of "sex to orgasm" here means that oral sex, for instance, is legitimate as foreplay (providing one of the partners is not disgusted by it, in which case it is a form of rape) leading up to the union of the two sexual organs, where the sexual act can be reproductive.
Sexual activity in other parts of the body than the sexual organs, when this is all there is to the sexual activity (i.e., it "completes" itself outside the sexual organ of the partner), cannot be construed to be the type of sexual activity that is reproductive; and hence the ejaculation of semen makes no sense, because that is a reproductive act. Semen is not food, nor is it an enema, nor is it body lotion; and to pretend it is is dishonest. A person who has this type of sexual activity has to say that as far as his use of his sexual organs is concerned, sex has nothing to do with reproduction; but in fact it does. It doesn't always produce a child; but it is always the kind of thing that is child-productive. Sex outside the corresponding organ is not this kind of thing at all; there is no way it could be reproductive in this type of sexual activity.
I am perhaps beginning to hit a nerve here. It means that people might have to give up some very pleasurable sexual activity, because it's not reproductive. But beware of the reaction, "But sex isn't just for having children, Blair! You have to look at the whole picture!" Look at Conclusion 7a; this is no Augustine talking. In fact, as other conclusions will say, it is perfectly all right to have sex after menopause, for instance, when you know no children can result, and it is morally wrong to rape a woman in order to have a child by her, or to inseminate a woman artificially in order to have a child. You have to look at the whole picture. Sex is not just reproductive; and the reproductive type of sexual activity (i.e. that involving the two sexual organs) isn't always in fact reproductive either; but sex is a reproductive type of activity; and what I am saying is that to use something which (among other things) is a reproductive type of activity as if it weren't a reproductive type of activity at all is to pretend that it isn't what it is. It isn't I who am not looking at the whole picture. Those who want to engage in oral sex or anal sex or some other type of what we still today call "kinky" sex are the ones who are shutting out part of the whole picture and pretending that the part remaining is the whole.
Note that this type of sexual expression is pleasurable (and so that function is fulfilled--I can't imagine why you would do it unless you liked it; but then humans, especially in sex, can do some pretty unimaginable things); and it also can be, in a sense, an expression of love, if the other person wants the act and it gives the other person pleasure.
It can't be a true expression of love, however, because love doesn't want just the pleasure of the beloved, but the beloved's fulfillment, and so love would be against doing to the beloved something that contradicted the beloved's reality, even if the beloved wanted it. If your beloved wanted you to chop her hand off, would you do it? And if you did, would this be an act of love just because she wanted it? How could it be wanting her fulfillment if she wanted what was damaging to herself and you cooperated in it? Hence, if this kind of sexual expression is contradictory to what the use of the sexual organs is, it is so on both sides; and so you not only are violating yourself, sexually, you are violating your beloved--and how can this be love?
It is for reasons like this that I don't like Joseph Fletcher's "do the loving thing" type of situation ethics that I discussed in the preceding section. Acts like this are apt to be justified on the grounds that they are "loving" when all they "fulfill" is feelings, not the reality of the other person. And anyone who says that the way you feel is the way you are obviously has rotten teeth, since his "true reality" tells him to avoid the dentist at all costs.
Note that this applies to sex with the same sex and non-reproductive types of sex with sex with the opposite sex. But since there is no reproductive type of use of the sexual faculty with another person of the same sex, we can draw the following sub-conclusion:
Conclusion 7e1: All homosexual uses of the sexual organs are morally wrong.
The objection might be raised that a homosexual's nature is that he is attracted to someone of the same sex and can only receive sexual satisfaction with someone of the same sex; and so homosexual intercourse is fulfilling of his nature.
There have been attempts to show that such "natures" are actually only "second nature" and are acquired and not innate, on the grounds that God couldn't have given a person a nature that could only fulfill itself by contradicting itself. But this is both not true and irrelevant. In the first place, it is not true, because God has caused all kinds of deformed humans to exist (following the laws of the genes, which also caused them--see Sections 4 and 5 of the first part); and certainly having two heads is not something that is "acquired" by evil acts, nor is intolerance to mother's milk so that you die if you nurse at your own mother's breast. Given the horrors one sees in the obstetric and neonatal wards of hospitals, it would be hard to establish that God "couldn't" have allowed the homosexual aberration in people from the very beginning.
In the second place, I find it very difficult to imagine a person's deliberately choosing to become homosexual, whatever his moral attitude toward the acts themselves, because of the enormous social pressure against it. Even in our age which values "tolerance"--especially sexual tolerance--above everything else, there are still huge numbers of people who not only despise homosexuals, but actively want them eradicated from the face of the earth. The same goes for sadists, child molesters, rapists, and others. You don't set as your goal to become a child molester or a rapist; if you become one, it is in spite of yourself, and so is as much an "act of God" as getting polio or diphtheria.
In any case, whether the person was homosexual from the beginning or got to be homosexual because of circumstances of his past life, the fact now is that as his reality is now constituted, he cannot (and in all probability irrevocably cannot) have meaningful sexual gratification with the opposite sex (even when he is capable of performing the act of heterosexual intercourse), and can only fulfill the emotional and sensual aspect of the faculty with a member of the same sex.
But his act of fulfilling this aspect of the faculty, and (we can add) the act of giving sexual satisfaction to another (a version of sexual love) denies the reproductive function of sex. And so one of the aspects of the sexual faculty cannot be fulfilled without denying the other. But what the moral obligation says is that you can't fulfill one aspect of yourself at the expense of contradicting some other aspect.
And there is no moral imperative that says that (a) the faculty must ever be exercised, or (b) that all aspects of it must be fulfilled in the exercise. It is only that none of them must be contradicted in the exercise of the faculty.
Before you react too harshly to my cruelty, consider whether you think a child-molester should ever be allowed sexual gratification, even if he had nothing to do with getting himself into the condition where he can receive sexual satisfaction only by having sex with six-year-old girls. Consider whether you think a person who can only gratify himself sexually if he rapes another should ever be allowed to fulfill himself. Consider whether a person whose nature--acquired or innate--means that, like a black widow spider, he must kill whatever he mates with to receive any gratification should ever be allowed to fulfill himself.
One may sympathize with such people, but it would be the rare normal person who (a) does not recognize this sort of thing as an aberration rather than a "different life style," and (b) would not say that the person involved must forego (or even, in the cases where others' rights are involved, be forced to forego) any sexual gratification or any fulfillment of the emotional side of his sexuality for his whole life long. He must not even perform one act of killing his sexual partner, however satisfied he might be by it, and even if no other sexual gratification is possible for him.
Now the homosexual is not quite in the same position (unless he's "into" sado-masochism), because he isn't damaging the other person in the sense of doing anything that the other is unwilling to have done, or inflicting physical harm on him. The only damage involved is that the other person also is exercising his sexual faculty in such a way that it cannot be construed to be reproductive. But still, the homosexual cannot have homosexual intercourse without having both himself and his partner exercise their sexual faculty inconsistently with one of its functions.
Conclusion 7e2: There is nothing morally wrong with a homosexual's (a) being a homosexual, (b) remaining celibate, (c) having heterosexual intercourse if he is capable of it, and/or (d) expressing his love for others of the same sex by other means than use of the sexual organs.
What the first alternative above says is that the orientation itself is not morally wrong, any more than blindness or being crippled or being paranoid is morally wrong; it is the act of sexual intercourse with another of the same sex that is morally wrong, because it is inconsistent with the faculty that is being exercised. Homosexual intercourse by a "straight" is of course also morally wrong; and so the wrongness is in the act, not the nature of the person. The nature is abnormal; but this has no moral overtones, any more than left-handedness, which is abnormal, has moral overtones.(4) Homosexuality is a vice only if the person willingly is in this state, in the sense that he is satisfied with his orientation and chooses to act consistently with the way he feels.
The second alternative, given the fact that the person who would consider it is in the state he is in against his will, may in practice be impossible; and then he is in the condition I described in the preceding chapter in discussing psychological disorders. But he has nothing morally to worry about if he has lapses into homosexual sex in spite of himself.
Considering the third alternative, it is not morally wrong for a homosexual to marry a person of the opposite sex, always supposing that the other person knows of his condition and doesn't have delusions that marriage will "cure" him; and that therefore she (or of course he) is marrying someone who will never be able to relate to her sexually the way a heterosexual would, and so will not be able to give her full satisfaction either.
But it is not, as I said in Conclusion 7a, immoral to have sex when there isn't much gratification in the act, as long as it is in itself the type of act which is calculated to perform all of the functions of the sex faculty. It would be analogous to having sex after menopause, when no children can occur because of the sterility of one of the partners. The type of act is a reproductive one; it is just that no children will result from it. Similarly, for a homosexual to have heterosexual intercourse is the type of act that is consistent with all of the functions of sex, in spite of the fact that he feels the way a heterosexual feels when having homosexual intercourse. The fact that he might feel "disgusted" and "dirty" in performing the act, while he feels that homosexual intercourse is "beautiful" and "uplifting" and so on is no contradiction of the act, because these evaluative labels are tacked onto the act by the person, not inherent in it as such, as I have said so often.
As to the fourth alternative, kissing, hugging, and doing such things with a member of the same sex, this is morally legitimate to the extent that it is not likely to lead one to lose control and go on to homosexual use of the sex organs. When touching and so on become sexual foreplay is, of course, up to the conscience of both parties. But it must be remarked here that one cannot simply take into account one's own control, but must be aware of the degree of self-control one's partner has in drawing the limits of what can morally be done in a given case.
The point here is that just as heterosexuals can engage in a certain amount of fondling of each other without its becoming a "proximate occasion of sin," homosexuals are not barred from doing the same thing just because they are of the same sex. There is, of course, nothing wrong with loving another person of the same sex; heterosexuals do this all the time, and call it "friendship," because it has no sexual overtones. Heterosexuals also fondle each other, pat each other on the back, even (in some cultures) kiss each other, without any thought of its being morally wrong. What would be wrong with homosexuals doing this is that it is likely to lead to homosexual intercourse, and so has a possible effect that it wouldn't have with heterosexuals. But of course if a person loves another, he intends the other's fulfillment; and far from being "dirty," this is the most noble attitude a person can have toward another; and there is certainly nothing wrong with expressing it.
Conclusion 7f: Rape is morally wrong.
Rape is, of course, sex with someone who is not willing to have sex, or is not willing to have sex in the way in which the person forces him to have sex.
In addition to violating the rights of the other person, this is also against the function of sex as involving another person; because, since it involves another person, the other's personhood or self determination (as described in Chapter 6 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.6) must be taken into account and respected.
Legally, there is a form of rape that can occur even if the other person is willing. If the other person is a child, then even if he wants sex, the act on the part of the adult is one of "statutory rape," and is considered as rape for legal purposes, on the grounds that the child is not capable of making informed consent. Morally speaking, this is analogous to why homosexual sex is wrong with respect to the reproductive aspect of sex. Here, the act doesn't exactly contradict the willingness of the other person; but the other person is not in a condition to realize the full implications of what he is doing, and so can't really be said to be "willing" to perform an act which can have serious repercussions he can't be expected to foresee. Just as sex with other organs than the sexual one is sex in a context in which the reproductive aspect cannot have anything to do with the act, so sex with a child is sex in a context in which the willing consent of the other person can't be said to have anything to do with the act, since it can't really occur.
There are other ways also in which rape can occur, even though they haven't until recently been recognized legally as rape. A man can rape his wife if he forces her to have sex when she actively does not want to have sex, or demands that she engage in some kind of foreplay that she finds disgusting and does not want to do.
Note, by the way, that rape is wrong even to have a child by the woman. I can't imagine anyone thinking that it was all right to rape someone because you wanted her to have your baby; I am just mentioning it to show that the reproductive aspect of sex does not override the other aspects of the act. And in fact even the most traditional Scholastic who holds that reproduction is the "primary purpose" of sex has never held that rape is legitimate in order to fulfill this "primary purpose." So actually my position has been in the background of Scholasticism for many centuries.
As to doing something that is felt to be disgusting, while it is wrong to force someone else to do this, there is nothing wrong with being willing to do something one finds disgusting (as long as it isn't morally wrong, of course) in order to gratify the other person. In fact, the act is that much more of an act of love in this case, since one foregoes one's own gratification for the sake of the other's greater enjoyment. A person can even be willing to make a habit of it and to try to make it enjoyable to oneself. This is, as I said, not contrary to the function of gratification, because it is attaching an evaluative label to the act.
Finally on this topic, it is not an act of rape if the other person is not particularly eager to have sex, but is not positively unwilling to have it. There is nothing morally wrong with having sex with your partner because you want it, even if she isn't receptive at the moment, as long as she is willing to do it with you. Again, this function of the faculty need not be fulfilled; it is just that it must not be contradicted.
Conclusion 7g: Contraception is morally wrong.
I imagine you could have seen this coming from quite a while back. In fact, contraception is more obviously wrong than homosexual sex or sex with animals, because when you use a contraceptive you are doing so because you know that (a) the act as you perform it is reproductive, and so might result in a child, and (b) you want it not to be able to result in a child; you are precisely suppressing the function of reproductivity. It is the sexual analogate of eating and throwing up.
Some have argued that sex is not always reproductive, and so when you are using a contraceptive, you aren't really suppressing this aspect of it, because (a) you don't necessarily use contraceptives all the time (i.e. you want to have some children), and (b) you are really just lessening the chances that a child will result this time.
Now it is certainly true that the act of sex is not always reproductive, even during the fertile years of the couple. Even during the woman's fertile time of the month during these years, it is still not inevitable that a given act of sex will actually result in a child; and during infertile times of the woman's menstrual cycle, the chances are much less even to nil that a child will result from the act. Let me, before going further, draw the following conclusion:
Conclusion 7g1: It is not morally wrong to have sex when one (or even both) of the partners is infertile.
In this case, the reproductive aspect of the use of the faculty is not fulfilled, but as long as the act is a reproductive type of act (i.e. one uniting the sexual organs of the male and female), then it is perfectly consistent with the nature of the act that no child in fact result from the act. So you don't have to be bothered trying to figure out whether your partner is fertile before deciding whether to have sex or not.
Now as to point (a) above, that you do intend to have a child or two, but just not from this act. You have, in this, recognized that your sexuality involves children; and this is something that must be recognized; and so let us draw another conclusion:
Conclusion 7g2: It is immoral to choose to have sex with a partner with the intention that no child ever result from the whole series of acts.
That is, it is inconsistent with the reproductive function of sexuality if you intend to have sex but want to see to it that there never is a child from your sexual activity. Here, it doesn't matter what means you use to avoid there being a child--i.e. whether you use contraceptives and suppress the reproductive function of the act in its very exercise, or whether you only have sex during infertile periods so that no children can "by nature" come about. In this latter case, each individual act is morally legitimate, as we just saw; but the effect of the whole series of acts is to deny that your sexual activity has anything to do with children. In other words, it is just accidental that your sexual activity happens to unite the male and female sex organs, because you are doing so in such a way that it might just as well be oral sex, because you are precisely seeing to it that your sexual activity will not be reproductive.
Nevertheless, there is a variation on this: Let me lead up to it by drawing the following conclusion first:
Conclusion 7g3: A couple has a moral obligation not to have any more children than they can rear decently.
It is certainly true that, since children are human beings, they have a right to a decent chance for development toward adulthood; and this means that their parents must (a) be together, and (b) have the physical, financial, and emotional resources to be able to bring up their children in a decent way. These resources are in most cases limited; and so the children resulting from exceeding these limits would be deprived of their rights, and that is morally wrong. Hence, you can't have sex and "let God take care of the consequences." You have to have reason to believe that you can support the child (in all the ways children need support) before you can be willing to do something which will produce a child.
Given that, then it can be morally necessary for a couple not to have any more children; or it can be morally necessary for them to space out their children (e.g. because otherwise, they are not emotionally capable of coping with them).
But this does not mean, except in extreme cases (e.g. those in which the woman's infertile times cannot in practice be known), that the couple must forego sex until well into menopause.
Conclusion 7g4: It is morally legitimate to have sex during infertile periods to limit the number of children one is going to have, using the Principle of the Double Effect.
This is, of course, the famous "rhythm" or "natural family planning," or "sympto-thermal" method of family planning. The assumption is that the couple is not choosing to have sex and have no children at all, but is simply limiting the number of children to what they can afford to bring up decently. It may be, for instance, that they already have as many children as they can afford, and morally cannot have any more.
In this case, if they have sex only during the infertile times of the woman, no further children will result, and the effect of that is that the rest of their sexual lives will not result in any children. But since they have had children (or if they intend to have some children in the future), then obviously this is not the same as saying that their sexual intercourse as a whole has nothing to do with children, because they have had or will have children. Secondly, each act they perform is in itself morally legitimate, because they are not suppressing any function of the sex faculty, because at this time the faculty does not have the function. Finally, since the problem is in the effect of the series of acts they perform, then the Double Effect can be used: The act is not wrong in itself; there is a good effect (not having a child you can't support); the bad effect is not a means to the good one (obviously, because the bad effect only occurs after all the acts are over); there is no intention of denying the reproductive nature of sexual intercourse (i.e. if they could afford a child, they would not be unwilling to have another); and the wrong avoided of having a child they couldn't bring up is greater than the wrong of having a series of sexual acts that are not completely what sex is capable of being.
Hence, it is not true that traditional morality forbids family planning; in fact, it demands it. It just forbids contraception as a means of limiting the number of children.
To return, then, to the attempt to justify contraception, point (b) under Conclusion 7g, that you are just "lessening the chances of a child's resulting," this is obviously a sophism. If the contraceptive is used and a child results anyway, the couple doesn't say, "Well, those are the breaks," they consider the contraceptive to have failed. That is, the contraceptive is used to "lessen the chances" down to zero by changing the nature of the act and making it non-reproductive while it is reproductive.
This is not quite the same as having sex during infertile periods and having a child "by accident." Since the act was a reproductive type activity, the "failure" is only in the effect you hoped for, not in something's "not working properly," as in the case of the contraceptive. The distinction is quite subtle here, but it is significant. In the one case, what you did to the act didn't work, and you had a child; and so what you did to it made no sense. In the other case, the act did what it did, and resulted in something that you knew could happen from it, but which is going to cause you difficulties now that it did happen; but it is consistent with the act as you used it. But it is not consistent with the act as used with a contraceptive, obviously, that there be a child from it.
No, let's face it; the couple that uses contraceptives of any form, whether pills or diaphragms, or acupuncture, or electronic devices, or any other means that human ingenuity can devise, wants to use a reproductive act which they know is reproductive as they use it (because otherwise why try to suppress that function?) and so they want to use a reproductive act unreproductively, and that is simply dishonest. They want to pretend, because they can alter the outcome of the act, that it isn't what it is while it is what it is; and that sort of pretense is the essence of immorality.
I'm sorry; but this hypocrisy has been with us for quite a number of years now, and it has spawned all kinds of offspring, such as children having children, not to mention acceptance of homosexual sex, bestiality, "swinging" and partner-swapping, and a host of other social and moral ills. It has pretty effectively destroyed the family (in the name, of all things, of "family planning") by making the family irrelevant. Families are necessary for the well-being of children; but if sex has nothing to do with children, why bother with marriage; and then the children are regarded as "mistakes" or "failures"--and woe to them if they are!
I will say more of this when I treat marriage and the family in the next part; all I am saying at the moment is in the context of the act itself and its self-consistency.
I don't want these comments about the social consequences to be construed as implying that the immorality lies in them. What I mean is that, since contraception represents a fundamentally unrealistic way of looking at sex in its reproductive dimension, it isn't at all surprising to find that (a) an act performed with such blindness as to what one is doing would have other consequences not taken into account, and (b) that these consequences would be blamed on anything but the attitude that caused them.
Let me give just one more example. The divorce of sex from children has been touted as beneficial for the children, because "every child should be a wanted child." The idea is supposed to be that unwanted children tend to be battered children. But then why are there so many more battered children now than there used to be? Precisely because people have a child because they want one. In the old days, when people recognized that if they had sex, they had to take the consequences, they were willing to accept the responsibility of a child, and were prepared to make sacrifices if necessary for him. Nowadays, since people can control whether they have a child or not, they "want" a child in the sense that they want one for their own fulfillment. But a child is not something you go to the showroom and pick out (though it's getting that way, isn't it) and that you can send back if it's still under warranty. Children cry and defecate and demand attention, and give no quarter; they're cute only at intervals. If you "want" a child in that sense of desiring one, you very soon discover that this one is not what you bargained for; and you either grow up very fast, or you take it out on the kid. In olden days, you were grown up before the child arrived; at present we have cultivated the attitude that technology is going to leave us as perpetual children, never having to take the consequences of our acts.
The final topic I want to treat on this non-social aspect of sexuality also has overtones of this childishness. It is the following:
Conclusion 7h: Artificial insemination is morally wrong.
Why is this? It is a use, to be sure, of the woman's sexual organs for the sake of reproduction; but it is done in such a way that the other two functions of the faculty cannot be fulfilled. If the inseminating is done by a doctor, for instance, he certainly doesn't want to arouse the woman; it must be a purely mechanical procedure for the two of them. Hence, it is intended not to give sexual gratification nor to involve the other person who is the "partner" in this case, but only to reproduce, as if the woman were a test tube and an incubator, not a human being.
Even if the inseminator is the husband, he is acting as a disinterested party in this act; and it is certainly not the union of the two sexual organs. The act is "open to life," as the Papal encyclicals say; but in this case, it is not "open to love."
Even if the couple want to have each other's child because they love each other, this act is not a act of sexual love, in spite of the fact that it uses the sexual organ of the woman, and used the sexual organ of the man at another time to get the sperm. The intention is good; but the end does not justify the means.
There is also the problem in the effect of such activity that, if the sperm is not that of the husband of the woman, or he is not the inseminator, the child has two (or more) "fathers." There is the sperm donor (the biological father), the one who got the woman pregnant (the "active father," who might be the doctor), and the husband of the mother. Which one is the "real" father? There is no answer to this question.
I don't really need to say any more on this topic, I think. If anyone has read through the rest of what I said and been reasonably convinced that it might be true, then it should be easy for him to realize that technological possibility does not automatically translate into moral rightness.
Let me just mention what I said earlier, however; technological means of assisting the sperm of an act of sexual intercourse to fertilize the woman's ovum is morally legitimate.
Why artificial insemination, "test-tube babies," surrogate motherhood, and all the rest of it has come to the fore just after the contraceptive mentality was established is that it is just another manifestation of the same childish attitude of wanting something without taking the nature of the act or the consequences into account.
There are women who cannot have a child by their husbands; but they "want a baby," and think that because they want one, they have a right to one. To fulfill this longing, they then get themselves inseminated without ever considering the rights of the child they are causing to exist. As we will see later, a child has the right to be brought up by both of his biological parents; and only by using the Double Effect can he be brought up by someone else. But that use of the Double Effect supposes he is already born; it is morally wrong to bring a child into the world in such a way that he can't be brought up by his biological parents--as when the sperm comes from a donor not the husband, or even the mother is a "surrogate," who agrees to give up her own child as if she weren't his mother at all. But this deals with rights, and I will leave further discussion of it till later. The point I am making now is that the contraceptive mentality could be predicted to result in the ignoring and consequent trampling upon the rights of the child; and our country now is full of children who have been thrown out with the trash, and we are wringing our hands and wanting the government to do something about it, and reaching for any "solution" to the problem that doesn't involve giving up "reproductive freedom," which is its cause.
But since further exploration of this involves rights, marriage, and the family let us leave it till later, and let this be all about the use of the sexual faculty.
There is one final topic dealing with control over your actions:
Conclusion 8: It is morally wrong to get yourself into a situation in which you can act without being able to control your actions.
There are two variations on this, the first of which we already discussed in the preceding section dealing with emotions. Since emotions can take over control, it is immoral to choose to get into a situation in which you foresee they might in fact take over control and lead you into doing something morally wrong. I will take it that this needs nothing further said.
But it is this aspect of our nature which is violated in getting drunk, because if you get drunk, you either are in--or pass through--a condition in which you can act, but in which your inhibitions are lowered enough so that you cannot in practice control yourself. You are, in getting to this state, using your self-control to act in an uncontrolled way, which is clearly a contradiction. This also applies, of course, to getting high on drugs which have the same effect.
Let me say, however, that there is nothing wrong with losing control of yourself, as long as you can't act when in this situation; if not, it would be morally wrong to go to sleep. For the same reason there is nothing immoral about deliberately taking a sleeping pill or an anesthetic that knocked you out. In these cases, you are out of control but inactive. Similarly, if you happen to need to be operated on when there is no medical anesthetic available, there would be nothing morally wrong with getting so drunk that you pass out and cant't feel the operation. In this context, the time you would be out of control and capable of acting would be minimal, the context in which you would be out of control and capable of acting could probably guarantee that you wouldn't do anything foolish, and certainly avoiding facing the pain would balance of whatever bad effects there would be of drinking so much.
Secondly, there is nothing wrong with drinking (or using marijuana or some other relaxant) to lessen your control over yourself for the sake of relaxation or conviviality or to overcome stress, as long as (a) you don't see any reason to believe that you will pass beyond this stage into the drunken stage where you can't control yourself and might do something you would normally be ashamed of doing, and (b) you aren't in any danger of becoming addicted to the stuff.
Marijuana, since (at the time I write this, at least) it is illegal, however, has the moral problem of your being a "scofflaw" if you use it. That is, using marijuana even though there is a law against it, just because it is not immoral in itself to use it in moderation is the equivalent of saying that the government can't morally tell you what you can't do unless the act is morally wrong--and that's simply not true, as we will see in the next part when we deal with what society is all about. Government, for the sake of the "common good," can tell people not to things that are in themselves perfectly moral, like drive on the left-hand side of the road. There's nothing morally preferable about one side of the road rather than the other; but no one really thinks that because of this, government doesn't have any right to pick one side as the legal side and the other as illegal. Hence, it is morally wrong to use marijuana in our country at the moment because it is illegal. What I was saying above is that in itself, supposing it can be used without losing control of yourself, the only moral problem is the dangers it poses to health.
As to addictive substances, there is nothing in itself wrong with becoming habituated to something and dependent on it. We are "addicted" to food and water by our very nature; and many of us are psychologically addicted to things like brushing our teeth and taking showers and so on; we would feel really strange working out in a gym and then just dressing over our sweaty body--even though there's nothing morally wrong in doing so. Such things are what we call "habits," not "addictions"; but there isn't a really significant distinction between them, morally.
Some addictions, however, are to things that do do harm to a person's health, especially his mental health; and moreover are such that the person needs more and more of the drug in order to be able to function at all; and they are apt to become the be-all and end-all of one's whole existence. This is true addiction. Obviously, this situation where a single act is going to become so vital that one's whole life revolves around it, and which is harmful to one's health to boot, is something that a person must morally avoid getting into if he realizes that he is in danger of doing so.
I do not want what I am saying to be construed as an endorsement for these drugs, especially since I might be thought to be saying that marijuana in itself is harmless. As far as I can tell from the objective data (which is hard to come by, since there is propaganda on both sides), it probably is dangerous, but no more dangerous, possibly less so, than alcohol. But alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug, and the fact that it has been accepted for centuries doesn't make it less so.
I am simply saying that it is not immoral to choose to drink in moderation, or (in itself) to choose to use other drugs in moderation as long as you realize that the harmful effects are going to be avoided. But even here, it is very easy to delude yourself that you are using the drugs in moderation when you aren't; and so, since the only benefit you get, really, is a feeling, by far the wiser course of action is to stay away from alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and all the rest of them altogether; you have a tremendous amount to lose by taking them, and very little, really, to gain; and with some of them it is Russian roulette.(5)Next
1. I delivered a paper once on contraception, and a philosopher or Theologian from Australia wrote me a letter objecting to it on the grounds that "love" was what the act was really all about, and so considerations of love overrode the "biological effect." I wrote back saying asking where he got his evidence that love was even in the act at all, since the urge clearly sought its own gratification and in itself didn't give a hang about whether the partner felt good about the act or not; and it would be hard to argue that the ejaculation of sperm had nothing to do with reproduction. But if love means "unselfish caring about the other person as a person," it was certainly hard to find how the act automatically has this aspect to it. So his "obvious" primary "purpose" of sex was the one there was least empirical justification for, while the others shouted out at you.
2. Paul, in that passage of First Corinthians, offers marriage as an antidote--which couldn't, I would think, morally be the sole motive for marrying, since marriage involves an intimate partnership with another person, who must be taken into account. By the way, "It is better to marry than to 'burn'" is sometimes taken to mean, "It is better to marry than (to sin and) go to hell"; but that isn't the sense of the Greek at all. Note that the wording also indicates that Paul is not saying that the sole reason for marrying can be not "burning."
3. I owe this to Rev. William O'Donnell, a very traditional and orthodox expert on medical ethics, who told it to me in a private conversation as something he was tentatively exploring, concerning nuns sent into missionary fields where rape was possible. I think he is perfectly right; and have taken his ball and run with it. If I'm being rash, then he can repudiate my too-hasty acceptance of what he was exploring; if we're both right, then he's the one who deserves the credit.
4. This abnormality, with its tendency to urge one to an act inconsistent with itself, is what the Catholic Church is getting at when it calls the homosexual orientation an "objective disorder." It is not in itself morally wrong, but if followed, fulfills itself in a morally wrong act.
5. I think coffee, which contains the drug caffeine, of course (as do tea and cola drinks), deserves only a footnote, because it has very few damaging effects, and is not all that addictive. The program for the medicine I once tested advised cutting down on caffeine, and before starting it I cut out my morning double cup of strong coffee altogether. I had a headache in the morning for two days, as I remember, but nothing much else; hardly significant withdrawal symptoms.