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Is Homosexual Conduct Wrong? A Philosophical Exchange.

Ediltns' mtle: Ihe folloxi'itig (irgiiuii'iiLs air laltt'ii from iwo le^al deposilioiis in Ihi' recently cotichid/'d tvial in Dt'iii'ri: Colorado, on lhe constiliitionfdily of Amendment 2, which Ixirs locid ordinances prutcrling Iwmosexnfds and Usbians from disaiminalion. John Flnnis is a profexsor of law ul Oxffjrd llniversiiy. Martha Nnsshaum, a frei/umi T\'R contiilmtor. i.\ a profe.ssor af philo.softhy at lirimni [niversily.


hciiiidcriyingtiiought i.s on the following lines. Ill 111asiLii haling, as in being nuistui bated or sodomized, one's body is treated iis insirunuiual for Llie seeming (tf lhe experieiiliiil satisl'aclioii ofihe cou.sciotisseir. Thti.s one disintegiatesoiicscii'iii two ways. (/) by Heating one's body as a mere insti itnieni ol' ihc consciously operating sell', and (2) by making one's choosing .sell' tJie quasi-siave of the experiencing self which is demanding gratification. The worthlessness oi the giatificaiioii. and the disintegration ofoneseU. are hoth the result ol'the laci lhat, in these sorts olbchavior. one's conciuci is not ihc acluali/ing and experiencingi)ra real common good. Marriage, witli its double blessingprocri'alion and IVifiitlship is a real common good. Moreover, it is a common good thai can be boili actualized and experienced in lhe orgasmic union ofihe reproductive organs nf a man and a womnn united in commitmcnl to Lliatgood. tlonjugal scxLiiil activity, andas Plato iind ,-\i islotle and Plularch and Kant all arguert/vconjugal activiiy is free fVom lhe shamcfiilness ol'inslrumeniali/alion dial is [oiind in masuirbaling and in being masliirbated 01 sodomized. At the very hearl ofihe reflections of Plaio. Xenophon. .\risioile. Musonius Rufus and Plutarch on tlic homoeiotic ciilitire around ilicin is the very deliberate and careful jndgmeni that homosexual continci (and indeed all extiaiiiiiriial sexual gialiilcalion) is ladicaliy incapable ol' parlieipaling in, or actualizing, ibe common good (.jl'tVieiidsliip. Friends who engage in sucb conduct are i'oilowing a naiurai impuise and douhiicss often wish lheir geuital conduct to he an intimate expression of lheir miilual ai'fection. Bui tbev are deceiving ibemscivt-s. The ^ucmpt lo express affeciion i)\' orgasmic nonmantal sex is the pursuit ofan illusion. The union of the reproductive

oigans (ilbusband and wile [fally unilt's tbem biologically (and their biological reality is part oi. not merely an instrument o(*, their///'nHJ/f//reality); lhat orgasmic union therdore can actualize and allow ihem to experience tlieir real common goodlheir marriage with tbe Iwo goods. (bildren and friendship, which are the pajt-sofits wholeness as an intelligihle common good. But the common good orfriends who are uot and aiiinol be mai ried (man and man. man and IKA, woman and woman) has nothing to do witli their having children by each oLher. and llieir reproductive organs cannot makf them a biological {aiul tberefoi'c a personal) unit. So their genilal acts together canuot do what they may hope and imagine. In giving lheir citusideicd judgment llial bomosexual conduci ciLimol actualize tlie good oi'lViendsbip. Plato and the many philosophers who followed him intimate an answer to the questions why it should hcconsiderfdslianifful louse, oriillowanothei to sbody to give pleasure, and why this use oi'onc's bo<iy difters ('rom one s hodiiy piu ticipalion in countless other acliviiie.s (e.g., games) in which t)ne takes and/orgets pleasure. Tlieir is thai pleasure isindfedagood, when it is lhe experienced aspect of one's participali(jn in some inlelligiblc good, such asaiask going well, or a ganif or a dance or a meal oi a reunion. Ol'course, llif actiVtition ol'sexual orgaiiswith a\iew to the pleasures oi'orgasni is sometimes spoken of a.s if it were a game. But it diHiers from real games in tliat its point is not lhe exercise ofskiil: raibfr. this aciivatioii of reproductive oi gaus is Incused tipon ihf i:)O(ly precisely as a source oi' pleasure Ibr one's consciousness. So ihis is a "use ol the body" in a strongly diiicrent sense oi "use."The body now is I'unctioningnot in tbewayone, as a bodily person, acis to instantiate some other intelligible good, bill precisely as providing a ser\ice to one's consciousness, lo satish' one's desire for satisfaction. Tbis disintegriLy is much nioreoljviouswben masturbation issoliuu). Fiiends arc tempted to think that pleasm'ingeach other by some forms of mutual masturbation cotild be an instanliation or actualization oi'promotion of their IVien(isbi[). lim ibat line of ibougbi ovcrlot)ks tlic lai t tbal if tlieir friendship is nol marital... activation of their reproductive organs caiinoi be. in real-

ity, an instantiation oracuializatioti ol their friendsbi|)"sf;ommon good. In ri'alily, whatever the generous bopes and dreams wilh which lhe loving paiiners surround their use oi their genitais, that use cannot express more than is expressed if two .suangcTS engage in genital activity to give each other orgasm, or a prostitute pleasures a client, or a man pleasures himself. Hence. Plato's judgment, al tlie decisive moment of the (iiir^ns. that llierc isn()ini[)oilaul distinction in essential moral woriblessness between soliiary maslurhatioii, being sodomized as a pi ostituttr and beiug sodomi/ed for the pleasure ofil Societies sucb as classical Athens and contenipoiiiry Kngland {and virtually every olher) draw a distinction between behavior i'ound ineielv (perhaps extremely) oiTensive (sticli as eating excrement) and beliavior Ui be repudiated as desiructive oi human character and relationships. Copulation of humans with animals is repudiated because il ireals human sexual activity andsalisfaclion itssomclbingappropi'ialelysouglu iu a manner' ibal. like the coupling (if auinials, is divorced iVom ibe expressing oi'an inielligible common goodand so treats liunian hodiiy life, in one ofiis most intense aciixities, as merely animal. The deliberale genital cotipling of persons of the same sex is repudiated tbra very similar reason. It is not simply thai it is sterile and disposes lbe participants Loan abdication of rcsponsiliiliLy Ibr the I'titure of htimaiikind. Nor is it simply lhat it cannot rm//)'actualize the miilual devotion thai some liomosexual persons hope lo iTianifest and experience by it; nor merely ibal il harms ibc personalities oi its partic ipanis by ils disintegrative nianipulaticinofclifierent parts of lheir one personal reality. It is that it treats human sexual capacities in away tliat is deeply hostile to theself-understimding of those members of the community wbo are willing locomniil themselves to r<'al marriage [even <ine that happens to be sterile] in ihe undetsianding tbat ils sexual joys are not mere insti unientsor accompanimenis to. or mere compensation ibr, the accomplishmonis oiinarriage's responsibilities, liut ralher are lhe
aclufdizing and fixpmeticinfrof lhe iiuelli-

gent conunilnient to share in tbose responsibililies ... This pattern ol judgment, boib widespread and sound. c<)ncludes as follows. Homosexual orientationthe


drus points to the militarv advantages acter. Like Pausanias in Plato's S\mp{h deliix-rafe wiiiiiigness to promote and engage in homosexual actsis a stand- deri\ed In including homosexual tou- siiim, .\iistotle is critical of relationships |)les in a lighting tone: het ause of their that arc superficial and concerned only ing denial oi liie intrinsic aptness oi sexual inlertoiu'se lo actuali/e luid give intense lo\f, each will fight better, wish- wilb hodiiy pleasure; I>ut he Inids in nmlc-nialc relalionshipsincluding ing to sliow himself in lhe besi light expression io tb<- exchisiveness and many iliat l>egin in this waythe poienopeti-ended commiuiient o( marriage before his lover. Tlie speech ol Patisatiiil for much richer developments. nias criticizes males who seek physical as something good in iiseli'. .-^11 wbo pleasure alone in iheir homijsexual accepl that liomosexual arts can l>e a he ideal city of ihc Greek Stoics was iclationsliips, ;uid praises those who humanly appropriate tis<- of sexual biiili around lhe idea of pairs ol" seek in sex deeper spii-iuial fommuiiicacapacities nitisi. if consisU'ni, regard male lovers whose- bonds gave the lion. Pausanias menlions ihat niants sexual capacities, organs and acts as iiisirument.s to be put to whatever suils will sometimes promulgate the view that cit\ rich sourcesoiniotivation iorviitue. .Although the Sioics wished lheir "wise same-sex relations are shameiul in lhe purposes ofihe iiuiividiial "seli" order to discourage the kind of tommu- man" to eliminate most passions from his wiio has thciii. Such an acceptance is life, they encouraged bim lo Ibsier a type (ommonly (and in my opinion rightly) nity of dedication to political liberty judged to be an active threat to the sta- thai such relations foster. The speech of oi'erotic love ihal they defined as "the attempt to ibrni a friendship inspired hv bilitv of existing and future marriages; Aristophanes holds that all human the pcrceivc'd hcaiitv (tf young men in it makes nonsense, ibr example, of the l>eings are disided hahes oi" iornierlv whole lu-ings, and thai sexual <lesire is ihfir piime."Tliev held that tins love, view thai aduiier\ is per se (and not the pursuit of one's losi oiher hall; he unlike olher passions, was supportive of merely betause ii mav involve decep\ii llie and philosophical activitv. tion), and in an imporiani way, incoii- poinls out that tbe superior [x-ople in Ftulliermore. Finniss argument, in ;ui\ society are those whose lost "otliei slsteiit with conjugal love. A political communiiv thai judges that lhe stability hail" is of lhe same sexespecially the his article against homosexuality, is a and edutative generosilv oi'family lii'e is niaic-male pairssiiue these are likel\ bad moral argumeni hy any .standard, secular of theological. First of all. il ori'undaiiu'utal imporiance lo the com- tt> be tbe sirongest and most warlike assumes that tbe purpose of a bomosexmunitv's [jresenl aiid luluie can rigbllv and civieally minded people. Finally. Socrates"s speech recounts a pio( ess oi' ual act is always c)r usuallv casual bodilv judge llial il has a compelling interest pleasure and the instrumental use of in dcn\ing ibai homosexual conduct is religious-nnslical education in wbi( h a valid, humanly acceptable choice and male-male loxe plays a central guiding another person ior one's owii gratiilcation. ]M\\ ibis is a I'alse premise, easily role and is a primary source of insight form of liie, and in doing whatever it disproved bv lhe long bistorical tradiand inspiraiion into tlie nature ol tbe properly can, as a communiiy with tion I have described and by the conuniqueiv wide inu siill suhsidiaiy func- good and heautifui. temponu^ lives of real men and Plato's Phaedrus contains a doselv tions, lo discourage such conduct. related praise of the intelltctual. politi- women. Fiiinis oiVers uo e\idence for ibis pr'-niise, or for (he equally false cal and spiriiual benelils oi'a Hie cciilOHN FiNNIS ifred aiound male-nialc love. Plalo savs idc-a lhat [jrocreative relations cannot ihai the highesi Ibrin oi himian liie is be selilsh aud manipuiative. Second, Integrity one in which a male pursues "the love iiaving argued that a relatioiisiiij) is beliniiis s argtimenis againsi homt)se\- ofa young man along with philfisophy." ler if il seeks not casual pleasure bin the and is transported hy passionate desire. creation of a community, he then uality sci themselves in a tradition of "naiiiral law" argumentation tbal Me dcs( ribes ibe experience of falling assumes without argument lhat the only son of conimiiuiiy a sexual relationship in love wilh anothe r male in mo\ing derives irom ancient tireek traditions. can create is a "procieative coinnuuiiiy." The lerm "law < > nature" was (irsi used terms, and tlei'ends relationships ihat f A b\ i'lato in his f^^^r^VjA. The approach is are nuUiial and leciprtical o\er relation- Tliis is. oi'coui"se. plainly false. . sexual furtlierde\elopedby.\iisiotle, and, ships thai are one-sided, He depicts bis relaiit>nsbi() may create, qtiite apart above all, hv the Greek and Roman Sto- pairs of lo\frs as spending their liie from tbe possibility oi'procreation, a ics, who are tisuallv considered to he the together in the pursuit oi intellec tual communitv oi'love and frientlship. foimdersof natural law argumcntiUioii and spiritual activities, combined with which no religious iracliiion would deny in lhe modern l<-gal tradilion. through lo be important human goods, hideed, political participation, (.\lthough no ibcir inlluend'on Roman law. This in many moral tradiiions, including mai liages for ibese lovers are menbeing so, it isworib looking to see lioned. il was LIU" view oi'ihe time tbat lliose of Plato aud Aiisiotle, ihc procrewhether those traditions did in fact use this form oi'life does not prevent iis ative communiiy is ranked beneaih "natural law" arguments to rule homo- participants iVoni having a wile ai other communiiies created bv sex. since sexual conduct morally or legally subit is thought tliat the procreative comiioiiie. whom they saw onh rareiy and standai'd. mtmity will piobabh noi be based on for procreative purposes.) Aristotle speaks iar less ahout sexual the besi sort of liieudship and lhe Plalo's dialogues contain several deepc;si spiritual concerns. Thai may exiiemely moving celel)rations of male- love than dtjes Plato, hut it is evident tliai he too linds in mal<--male relation- not be true in a culture that values male love, and judge this form of he lo I>e, on the whole. Mi|><-rioi" to male- ships llic potential ioi the highesi form women more highly ihan ancieni Greek culture did; but ihc' possibilily of love female love bctiuise ol ils potential for of fiicndship. a iriciulshi]) based on spirituality and triendsbip. The Sympo- mutual wc-ll-wisbing and muiiial aware- and (Vic nclsbip helwc-en individuals of sinrii contains a series oi speeches, each ness oi'good (baraciei and good aims. lhe same sex has not i)een removed by expressing ronveniionai views about He does not iind this poicniial in male- iliesc historical changes. this subject that Plato depicts in an ibni;ile relationships, since he holds appealing light, fhe speech by PhaeM.ARrHA Nl SSHAtM that iemales are incapable of good char