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News: Quotes Problem in Forum

Just a quick note to let you know that I am aware of the problem with single and double quotes in forum posts. For some reason, the forum software increases the number of quote marks. This is a known bug, and will apparently be dealt with in the software update (so, within the next couple of months I should think).

In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

Gareth.
 
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Author Topic: Homosexuality justified under Thomas Nagel's theory of perception  (Read 90 times)
Alexander
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« on: 05/03/09 @ 19:37 »

On reading Rowan William's essay titled The Body's Grace, in which he consistently quotes T. Nagel, he makes the point that humans, in order to be 'aroused', need to be perceived by someone whom you are perceiving back that is to say "identifying me with my body" requires other people, requires intercourse (in its broadest of meanings). " sex has a related structure: it involves a desire that one's partner be aroused by the recognition of one's desire that he or she be aroused...For my body to be the cause of joy, the end of homecoming, for me, it must be there for someone else, be perceived, accepted, nurtured.

Because of this involvement with other people, Williams argues that this is precisely why people need a language for "sexual failure, immaturity, even perversion". Solitary acts of a sexual nature are dismissed because they do not meet the criterion for a proper "self-awareness". Thus what is he trying to say? That sex is justified because it is our ultimate aim to be self-aware? I think so. If we take it to mean that a relationship of equal status ship of perception is welcomed and encouraged, then surely homosexuality is the best form one can get, somewhat ironically. Why?

Williams writes that "because there is an unbalance in the relation such that the desire of the other for me is irrelevant or minimal - rape, paedophilia, bestiality, they lead to no "exposed spontaneity"...."These asymmetrical" sexual practices have some claim to be called perverse in that they leave one agent in effective control of the situation, [with unequal desire reflected],".

If this is so then surely in a great many cultural settings, the socially licensed norm of heterosexual intercourse is a "perversion" as well?

I found his essay extremely interesting, and wondered if you all had the same response?

Please I invite you to discuss any counter arguements to Nagel (I'm not convinced William's actually agrees with this, even though it's in his essay ... In brackets...)



Topic open to discussion  Smiley








Since this is a sort of mini essay I'll just give you a reference to this essay.

http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm
« Last Edit: 05/03/09 @ 19:41 by Alexander » Logged

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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #1 on: 06/03/09 @ 11:23 »

Hi Alex,

Firstly, thanks for bringing this essay to my attention. I found it very interesting, and it's good to know that we have an Archbishop who is not averse to philosophy!

As regards Williams' use of Nagel, I wouldn't say that he "consistently quotes" him, but merely uses one point Nagel makes about sexual desire. Also, this point is used to advance a general theory of human sexuality, and not specifically homosexuality. So, I think your post heading here is a bit 'tabloid'! (You have a career waiting you in Fleet Street should you ever feel inclined!).

However, I think Williams does make an interesting point about homosexuality: firstly, since it is 'non-functional' love (i.e. not for making babies), then it should be seen as on a par with non-procreational heterosexual love; secondly, since being heterosexual (or celibate) is no guarantee that you are living right in the eyes of God, because sexuality is about more than just making sure your actions are legal. This last point is very important, and this is what Williams highlights as important about homosexuality: because there is no other purpose to it (no natural procreative function) then it questions the very nature of what love and desire are - this, Williams argues, is why people often feel threatened by it.

I'm not sure it's fair to say that Williams thinks certain heterosexual attitudes are perverse, or that homosexuality is an ideal, but I take your point. These are the sort of points that a tabloid newspaper might seize on and distort his message, but there is almost an inversion of the norm here. However, I think it is just used as a means of highlighting the central concern. Williams' (and Nagel's) point about mutuality is the central message: it is that which should define what is right in sexual morality, not what is merely legal or according to the literal message of scripture (whatever that might be interpreted to be).

Lastly, I'm not sure how you see Williams relationship to Nagel's philosophy of perception as problematic - perhaps you could expand on this point? I haven't read the particular essay that Williams quotes from, but do you think that he does so selectively?

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Alexander
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« Reply #2 on: 06/03/09 @ 20:27 »

I am pleased to see that I could have a career in a potentially profitable position in writing Wink.


I think in the end, the point he is trying to make boils down to the fact that the sexual choices you make "are about how much we want our bodily selves to mean, rather than what emotional needs we're meeting or what laws we're satisfying". . He also says that "the worst thing we can do with the notion of sexual fidelity is to legalise it in such a way that it stands quite apart from the venutres of dangers of growth and is simply a public bond, enforceable by religious sanctions". This last one is of course a specific reference to the church, the main criticisers of homosexuality, yet at the same time he defends the bible by quoting Romans 3.31 "Does this mean that we are using faith to undermine law? By no means: we are placing law on a firmer footing". I myself however am not quite sure how that quotation works, how exactly does it place it on a firmer footing?

How exactly is it then that the bible can defend hetrosexuality on the grounds of anything other than their interpretations of NLTas procreation purposes, but if they do, then surely homosexuality can fit under those categories as well?

In addition to this I wasn't trying to argue that William's or Nagel thought Homosexuality was an ideal, more that it inadvertantly came about as a rather ironic better alternative, not to say it is the best as he will go to say later. I don't really think he's getting at best or worst either.

I found the text quite challenging conceptually as well, so possibly I haven't quite understood what he is getting at.
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #3 on: Yesterday at 16:20 »

I guess putting the law on a firmer footing means acting according to its spirit, and our own understanding: so, if the law says 'x', and we do 'x' just because the law says, then our actions are just surface actions; but if we reinterpret 'x' or come to a deeper understanding of it so that it is more meaningful, then our adherence to the law is stronger. So, I guess williams is saying that fidelity and 'normal' sexuality will be stronger expressions of love if they are based on the type of understanding he is promoting (and not just being 'normal' or 'legal' for the sake of social convention).

I'm not clear on your second point (and I'm not sure what you mean by NLT). I think Williams IS defending homsexuality AND heterosexuality as possible expressions of a higher form of physical love - both CAN be. However, with homosexuality this is more obvious, because it is less accepted, and there isn't the byproduct of procreation.

And yes, it is quite a challenging text I think - but worth reading a few times if this is particularly intersesting to you.
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