Philosophy of Love and Sex Paper #3

Due date: May 4, handed in electronically by 11:59 pm Central Time.



Do not write on a topic you have already written on.

Paper topics

Topic A. Wrongful thoughts

Aquinas thinks that one commits the sin of "morose delectation" when one's reason either makes oneself feel "unlawful passions", say "when a man deliberately provokes himself to a movement of anger, or of lust", or when "it fails to check the unlawful movement of a passion; for instance, when a man, having deliberately considered that a rising movement of passion is inordinate [i.e., inappropriate from the point of view of the purpose of this passion], continues, notwithstanding, to dwell upon it, and fails to drive it away" (Summa Theologica, I-II, 74, 6)

(1) Can one ever act immorally solely by thinking or feeling a certain way if one does not express the thought in any way in external action?  (2) Conversely, can someone ever be morally praiseworthy just for thinking or feeling in some way?  Justify your answers.  Does consistency require the same answer to both questions?   If you answer one of these questions in the positive, give an account of the kinds of thoughts or feelings that are like that.  In answering this question, you should think about at least two of the following moral theories: Aristotleís idea that human happiness consists in the life of virtue, Kantís idea that we should treat others as ends and never as mere means, and/or utilitarianism (you can read more about it at 

Topic B. Polygyny

Tucker thinks that polygyny benefits some classes of people and harms others.  Which ones are benefited and harmed according to him?  Do you think he is right in his judgment?  Is a polygynous arrangement compatible with (a) the equality between men and women and (b) a joint identity between lovers?  What kinds of insights into polygyny does the film series Big Love (you must have watched at least one episode of Big Love to write on this) present you with?  Could one rationally accept polygyny while rejecting polyandry or vice versa?

Topic C. Objectification and pornography

What do you think treating someone as an object or as a sex object means? (Does it just mean being aroused at the person?) Given this definition, does it follow that objectification is always wrong? Why or why not?  Does the production of pornography objectify women?  If so, which women (the models or others or all)?  Does consumption of pornography objectify women?  Make sure you make use of at least some of your own ideas in this paper.

Topic D. Perversion

Why do people tend to think there is such a thing as perversion (donít limit yourself just to sexual perversion)? We looked at some accounts of sexual perversion. Which of these theories is the best one? Why? (You donít need to go into an in-depth examination of the other theories.) Do you think the theory is true? If not, could it be improved on, or is the concept of sexual perversion hopelessly flawed? If there were a viable concept of perversion, do you think it would be wrong to engage in sexually perverted activity?  Why or why not?

Topic E. Contraception

Choose one of the philosophical arguments against contraception we read or discussed in class. Carefully explain the argument and its assumptions. Does the conclusion follow from the assumptions? How might an opponent of the argument attack the assumptions of the argument? Who would win the argument and why?

Topic F. Corvino's argument for the acceptability of homosexual activity

Corvino argues that homosexual activity achieves the same goods that heterosexual activity by an infertile couple does, and hence is permissible.  What are these goods?  Is he right that these are achieved in both cases, and that no others are achieved in the infertile heterosexual case?  Corvino's argument requires some principle roughly like: "Any activity which promotes these goods is morally acceptable".  What exact formulation of this principle does his argument use?  E.g., does he need to say that literally any activity that promotes these goods is morally acceptable, or maybe any activity that promotes these goods and avoids evils (which kinds of evils? we do not want circularity here) is acceptable, or...?  Is this principle true?  Why or why not?  (Here you should consider whether there are any potential counterexamples to the principle that any activity that promotes these goods is morally acceptable, e.g., cases of infertile incest.)  How would Girgis, George and Anderson respond to Corvino's argument?  Who would be right and why?

Topic G. Premarital sex [if you havenít already written on this]

Carefully summarize one of the arguments by May or Punzo against premarital sex, making clear all the assumptions in the argument. Next, offer the most powerful objection you can to this argument. Then do your best to respond on May or Punzo's behalf to the objection. Which side in the argument wins?

Topic H. Marriage and same-sex marriage

What do Girgis, George and Anderson think marriage is?How do they justify the permissibility of marriage between infertile people?Why do they think people of the same sex cannot marry?How might one best respond to their argument against same-sex marriage?Which side wins the argument?