Archive for April, 2009

Sex with Minors?

by Jason Stotts

One problem with the lack of knowledge of sexual issues is a loss of clarity regarding these issues. Indeed, there is a very rich vocabulary in English to cover most every sexual possibility and to clearly differentiate one from the next. Unfortunately, people frequently do not know these terms and end up having to describe the situation, or worse end up using incorrect terms. Such is that case of sex with minors.

Let us say that you heard that your neighbor recently had sex with a minor and is now in court facing charges. You might label him a pedophile, right? No! It matters what age the minor is and what stage of development they are at. You see, pedophilia is a precise term and it means attraction towards pre-pubescent minors. Let me repeat this so that you can’t possibly miss it:

Pedophilia is attraction towards pre-pubescent minors.

Pedophilia is not simply having sex with a minor, nor does the actual age of the minor have much to do with whether it is pedophilia or not. It is whether the child has yet to hit puberty that determines whether it is pedophilia. If the child has not yet hit puberty, then it is pedophilia, if the child has already hit puberty, then it is…what? It turns out there is an English term for this as well (although it’s obviously not very well known). The term is ephebophilia and it means attraction to post-pubescent minors. That is, persons after puberty but before the legal age of adulthood/consent.

Ephebophilia is attraction towards post-pubescent minors.

Thus, both pedophilia and ephebophilia refer to the attraction of a person to minors. However, they are very different in that the former is for pre-pubescent minors and the latter for post-pubescent minors.

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Kinsey and Sexual identity

by Jason Stotts

For those few of you who have never heard of him, Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956) was an American sex researcher and a pioneer in the field of sex research. He is best known for his two books “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948) and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” (1953). But, perhaps his most important contribution to the field is the way in which he thought about sexuality. Kinsey was convinced that rigid sexual categories of “homosexual” and “heterosexual” were woefully incapable of capturing the true range of human sexuality and the ways in which real people experience their own desires. Consequently, he developed the “Kinsey Scale.”

The Kinsey Scale is a 0-6 scale of sexual identity. On the scale “0” represents a “true heterosexual”, that is, someone who experiences only desires for the opposite sex as well as only has sexual activity with persons of the opposite sex. The “6” represents a “true homosexual”, that is, someone who experiences only desires for the same sex as well as only has sexual activity with persons of the opposite sex. The “3” represents a “true bisexual,” that is, someone who experiences equal desires for both sexes. The scale is meant to be a continuum, so a person can be at any point along it, depending on which sex they desire. It is important to note too that this scale is not rigid and can change over time as people have changes in desires. Kinsey explains his scale thus:

[Humans] do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories… The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.

While emphasizing the continuity of the gradations between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual histories, it has seemed desirable to develop some sort of classification which could be based on the relative amounts of heterosexual and homosexual experience or response in each history… An individual may be assigned a position on this scale, for each period in his life…. A seven-point scale comes nearer to showing the many gradations that actually exist. (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 639, 656)

Most people, when they first hear of the Kinsey scale immediately place themselves on 0 or 6, depending on how they self-identify. The fact is, though, that most people fall in between these poles. Indeed, most of us have, at one time or another, experienced a desire that was atypical for our orientation or even experimented with a person of the “wrong” sex. What the Kinsey scale helps us to understand is that being heterosexual or homosexual is about being primarily oriented to one sex or the other, but that does not mean that one is exclusively oriented to that sex.

Indeed, I would imagine that most people who identify as 0’s and 6’s are actually 1’s and 5’s, since all of us, at some time or another, experience desires that are outside our standard orientation. This is to be expected as sexual identity is more fluid than most people suppose, since it results from our antecedent value judgments and these evolve as we grow, mature, and live out our lives. Thus, if we greatly value human excellence we will be attracted to a person who embodies this. This is why, for those familiar with The Fountainhead, the relationship between Howard Roark and Gail Wynand seems almost as though they were lovers. In a way, they were lovers, although their relationship never moved beyond an intense friendship (a form of love). Whether this was a function of their characters or a function of Rand’s disgust with homosexuality, is harder to say.

The broader point that Kinsey teaches us, though, is that to think of our sexual identities in terms of rigid categories misrepresents the way the world really is. We need to come to acknowledge that bisexuality and homosexuality are as natural as heterosexuality, even if they are not as common.

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Ruminations on Meta-Ethics

by Jason Stotts

Teleology is the field of philosophy concerned with achieving ends (telos is Greek for “end”). In teleology, one judges the efficacy of the means in question to achieve a particular end. For example, if my goal is to write a sentence on a piece of paper, then a pen is “good” for this end, while a leaf is not. In teleology, one is merely judging the efficacy of a particular means of achieving a particular end. Importantly, one is not judging the end. Rather, the only thing in question in teleology is the efficacy of the means to achieve the end. Those means that can fulfill the end in question are teleologically good, while those means that cannot fulfill the end in question are teleologically bad. Further, some means are teleologically better for achieving ends and vice-versa.

Ethics, on the other hand is the field of philosophy that is concerned with human action. Consequently, Ethics is concerned both with the ends that people choose and with the means they employ to achieve those ends. In order for Ethics to operate, an ultimate end must be identified by which all other ends and means will be evaluated; that is, Ethics relies on an ultimate end as a standard. For example, in Utilitarianism the ultimate end is the greatest good for the greatest number, in christianity the ultimate end is their god’s will, in Aristotelianism the ultimate end is Eudaimonia, in Objectivism the ultimate end is an individual’s life, etc. Once an ultimate end is chosen for the ethical system, then the system operates teleologically with one judging the efficacy of means and lesser ends (which are also means to larger ends). Thus, ethics is a sub-set of teleology. This is important to understand as the converse is not true: teleology is not a sub-set of ethics just as it is that case that all dogs are mammals, but not all mammals are dogs.

It is also important to understand that the ultimate goal of ethics is not a part of ethical system in the same way as other parts of the system. The ultimate goal of an ethical system is the standard by which the rest of the system is judged and cannot itself be subject to judgment within the ethical system of which it is the ultimate goal as it cannot be the standard by which it is itself judged. Thus, a Utilitarian cannot morally judged the principle of Utility as it forms the basis for his ethical system. This does not mean that ultimate ends cannot be judged, but rather only that they cannot be judged within the framework of their own systems. However, they can be judged epistemologically, metaphysically, logically, etc. Further, ultimate ends can be attacked based on the reasons for which they were postulated as ultimate ends. For example, since there are no reasons to believe in a god, any system of ethics that relies on a god can be attacked epistemologically for failing to have reasons for belief. It is, however, dubious to attack one ethical system with another directly (even if one can prove that one’s ultimate end is true both metaphysically and epistemologically).

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How to Lie with Numbers

by Jason Stotts

Most people don’t realize how easy it is to lie with numbers as they don’t understand statistics or the difference between a causal connection and a correlation. For a great demonstration of this, see this essay where Stephen ironically proves that exercise causes obesity.

Also, XKCD chimes in on the issue of causality and correlation.

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Aristotle and Causation

by Jason Stotts

Aristotle develops the idea of the “four causes” in his Physics (III.3.194b16) and Metaphysics (I.3; II; V.1,2; ). The four causes are: Efficient (“the primary source of change or rest”), Material (“that out of which a thing comes to be”), Formal (“the form or the archetype”), Final (the “end or that for the sake of which a thing is done”). Aristotle maintains that understanding these causes is necessary to truly understand a thing.

Although Aristotle does apply these to humans in De Anima, the Nicomachean Ethics, and the Eudemian Ethics (among others), it is clear that he primarily uses them to explain non-human existents. For example, the two most famous examples in Aristotle’s writings are of the bronze sphere and the Oak tree. In each example, he elaborates the four causes with respect to each of these. However, this does not mean that he does not apply them to humans as well.

When we think about humans, the four causes become somewhat more complicated. The material cause is easy: we have animal bodies made up of muscle, fat, bones, etc. The formal cause is slightly more complicated, but not that hard: our DNA codes for a particular type of being and we may say the the resultant distinct “humanness” is our soul (in the Aristotelian tradition, not in the perverted Platonic tradition that christians follow). But what about the efficient cause? Can we really look at the chemical reactions in our brains as the source of our movement? No, the efficient cause in humans is our mind’s ability to understand the world around us, to understand possibilities and potentials, to evaluate ends, and then to will action. We are our own efficient causes.

The greatest problem with applying the four causes to humans, though, is the final cause. Indeed, if we are being rash we may jump to the conclusion that our final cause is in our DNA and outside or our control. However, this would be impertinent. While my DNA is responsible for laying the blueprint my body follows in developing, it hardly forces me to be human. Before me pursue this, let us look to the example of the Oak tree we moved past above. The telos of an acorn is a full mature Oak tree. The acorn has no control over whether or not it will be an Oak tree one day, if the situation is advantageous, then the acorn will develop correctly. If the situation is not, then it will not develop correctly. Importantly, the acorn has no control over whether or not it will ever develop into a large majestic Oak. Humans, on the other hand, have control over the course of our lives. We can choose to exercise our distinctly human faculties or we can choose not to (we cannot, however, choose not to choose). This complicates matters as it means that our efficient cause (our reason and will) can be directly responsible for the actualization of our final cause (developing into a full mature adult human).

Even worse, though, is that our final cause is not a foregone conclusion as it is in the case of the acorn and Oak. We are not born knowing what it means to develop into a full mature adult human and if we do not work at learning what this means, then we may never so develop. Consequently, it is imperative for humans to study our final cause and how to best develop our distinctly human faculties.

In order to do this involves inquiry into what is called metaphysical biology in the Aristotelian tradition or philosophy of personhood in general. The whole object is to understand human nature and what our final cause might look like. It is, in fact, a precondition of any system of Ethics to understand human nature as if the object of the inquiry is not understand, the inquiry can never hope to come to fruition.

I point this out because it is all too common to miss this and begin an inquiry into human action (Ethics) without understanding human nature. This, I think, is one of the major causes of the failures of Ethics in any history of Ethics, whether Western or not.

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Atheism Posters

by Jason Stotts



I’ve just come across this site of motivational posters for Atheists. Go there, enjoy yourself.


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A Unique Case

by Jason Stotts

I spend lots of time reading books on sexual attraction, fantasy, paraphilias, etc. I do this in order to make sure that I’ve covered at least all of the major issues in my book and that my theory will be able to account for all cases.

In this research, one of the most interesting things I’ve found is that there are different kinds of sexual attraction. Primarily there are two fundamental kinds of sexual attraction: homosexual and heterosexual. However, some people report that their attraction stems from a person’s character with no thought to gender. That is, their attraction is based completely on non-sexual characteristics and, therefore, they could be attracted to persons of either gender. What makes this case strange is that this is not what is usually considered bisexuality.

A bisexual is person attracted to either gender. This is an important point as a “true” bisexual will experience attractions for women qua women and for men qua men. The case above is a person who experiences attraction to a person qua character (or specific characteristics) and not qua gender. Now, these attractions will typically lead this person to have a sexual response to the person to whom they are attracted, but the basis of their attraction is not sexual. While this kind of attraction is rare, it is a documented phenomenon and explainable in terms of existent theories of attraction.

Another, an rarer, category is of the asexual. This is a person who does not experience sexual attraction at all. There could be many reasons for this, but we need not explore them here. The salient point is that these positions constitute the entire known range of possibilities of attraction: homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, “person attraction”, and asexual.

I bring this up to provide background for the unique case I’ve just found. A friend of mine recently told me that he is attracted to androgyny. Androgyny, for those who do not know, is when a person has sexual characteristics of both sexes. Etymologically, the word comes from the combination of the Greeks words for both men (andro-) and women (gyno-). That is, my friend experiences a strong attraction for persons possessing both male and female sexual characteristics. This could be a man who has feminizing characteristics or a woman who has masculinizing characteristics. However, he was clear that he was not attracted to emasculated men (or vice versa), but rather the juxtaposition of the masculine with the feminine in the same person.

There is much more I need to learn from him before I can fully understand his position, but I can make at least some remarks now. As I see it, there are a number of explanations for his attraction. It could be that this is a new category of sexual attraction, such that some people desire people of one sex who also have characteristics of the other sex. Alternatively, it could be that this desire is a nascent, and undifferentiated, form of bisexuality and that as he ages and matures in his sexuality, he will split his attraction from having both genders represented in one person to attractions to both sexes. Alternatively, although I don’t think this is the case with my friend, it could be that he is actually a true bisexual or homosexual and is using the case of the androgynous person as a transition into accepting his identity as bisexual or homosexual. This position is likely if he is repressing his true attractions, although I don’t think this is the case.

As I talk with him more about his attractions, I hope to be able to understand exactly their origin and whether they represent a new category of sexual attraction.

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A Victory for Reason!

by Jason Stotts

Today the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is now legal in Iowa! (http://tinyurl.com/dld5ev)

Of course, the “social conservatives”, i.e. the Religious Reich, is upset over the fact that now four states allow godless homosexuals to marry. However, it looks like the trend in the country is moving towards truly treating homosexuals as real people with rights, instead of some sort of abomination against the christian god.

Reason: 1, Faith: 0

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