Philosophy of sex is an aspect of applied philosophy involved with the study of sex and love. It includes both ethics of phenomena such as prostitution, rape, sexual harassment, sexual identity, the age of consent, homosexuality, and conceptual analysis of concepts such as "what is sex?" It also includes questions of sexuality and sexual identity and the ontological status of gender. Leading contemporary philosophers of sex include Alan Soble and Judith Butler.
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?
Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection and to the simplest pleasure. An example of this range of meanings is that the love of a mother differs from the love of a spouse, which differs from the love of food. Most commonly, love refers to a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment.
Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology.
Contemporary philosophy of sex is sometimes informed by Western feminism. Issues raised by feminists regarding gender differences, sexual politics, and the nature of sexual identity are important questions in the philosophy of sex.
Feminism is a range of social movements, political movements, and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism incorporates the position that societies prioritize the male point of view, and that women are treated unfairly within those societies. Efforts to change that include fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.
Throughout much of the history of Western philosophy, questions of sex and sexuality have been considered only within the general subject of ethics. There have, however, been deviations from this pattern out of which emerge a tradition of speaking of sexual issues in their own right.
The Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love is a professional group within the membership of the American Philosophical Association.
The American Philosophical Association (APA) is the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States. Founded in 1900, its mission is to promote the exchange of ideas among philosophers, to encourage creative and scholarly activity in philosophy, to facilitate the professional work and teaching of philosophers, and to represent philosophy as a discipline.
Moral evaluations of sexual activity are determined by judgments on the nature of the sexual impulse. In this light, philosophies fall into two camps:
A negative understanding of sexuality, such as from Immanuel Kant, believes that sexuality undermines values, and challenges our moral treatment of other persons. Sex, says Kant, "makes of the loved person an Object of appetite".In this understanding, sex is often advised only for the purpose of procreation. Sometimes sexual celibacy is considered to lead to the best, or most moral life.
Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time, and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.
A positive understanding of sexuality – such as from Russell Vannoy, Irving Singer – sees sexual activity as pleasing the self and the other at the same time.
Thomas Nagel proposes that only sexual interactions with mutual sexual arousal are natural to human sexuality. Perverted sexual encounters or events would be those in which this reciprocal arousal is absent, and in which a person remains fully a subject of the sexual experience or fully an object.
In moral philosophy, deontological ethics or deontology is the normative ethical theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules, rather than based on the consequences of the action.
Sir Bernard Arthur Owen Williams, FBA was an English moral philosopher. His publications include Problems of the Self (1973), Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985), Shame and Necessity (1993), and Truth and Truthfulness (2002). He was knighted in 1999.
Robert C. Solomon was an American professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for more than 30 years. Professor Solomon won many teaching honors, including the Standard Oil Outstanding Teaching Award in 1973; the University of Texas President's Associates Teaching Award (twice); a Fulbright Lecture Award; University Research and National Endowment for the Humanities Grants; and the Chad Oliver Plan II Teaching Award in 1998.
Laurence BonJour is an American philosopher and Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Washington.
Robert N. Audi is an American philosopher whose major work has focused on epistemology, ethics, and the theory of action. He is O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and previously held a Chair in the Business School there. His 2005 book, The Good in the Right, updates and strengthens Rossian intuitionism and develops the epistemology of ethics. He has also written important works of political philosophy, particularly on the relationship between church and state. He is a past president of the American Philosophical Association and the Society of Christian Philosophers.
Michael Levin is an American philosopher and writer. He is a professor of philosophy at City University of New York. He has published on metaphysics, epistemology, race, homosexuality, animal rights, the philosophy of archaeology, the philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, and the philosophy of science.
Kantian ethics refers to a deontological ethical theory ascribed to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. The theory, developed as a result of Enlightenment rationalism, is based on the view that the only intrinsically good thing is a good will; an action can only be good if its maxim – the principle behind it – is duty to the moral law. Central to Kant's construction of the moral law is the categorical imperative, which acts on all people, regardless of their interests or desires. Kant formulated the categorical imperative in various ways. His principle of universalizability requires that, for an action to be permissible, it must be possible to apply it to all people without a contradiction occurring. If a contradiction occurs the act violates Aristotle's "Non-contradiction" concept which states that just actions cannot lead to contradictions. Kant's formulation of humanity, the second section of the Categorical Imperative, states that as an end in itself humans are required never to treat others merely as a means to an end, but always, additionally, as ends in themselves. The formulation of autonomy concludes that rational agents are bound to the moral law by their own will, while Kant's concept of the Kingdom of Ends requires that people act as if the principles of their actions establish a law for a hypothetical kingdom. Kant also distinguished between perfect and imperfect duties. A perfect duty, such as the duty not to lie, always holds true; an imperfect duty, such as the duty to give to charity, can be made flexible and applied in particular time and place.
Gregory Pence is an American philosopher.
Abul-Qasim al-Hussein bin Mufaddal bin Muhammad, better known as Raghib Isfahani, was an eleventh-century Muslim scholar of Qur'anic exegesis and the Arabic language.
Kathleen Marie Higgins is an American Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin where she has been teaching for over thirty years. She specializes in aesthetics, philosophy of music, nineteenth and twentieth-century continental philosophy, and philosophy of emotion.
Alan Gerald Soble is an American philosopher and author of several books on the philosophy of sex. He taught at the University of New Orleans from 1986 to 2006. He is currently Adjunct Professor of philosophy at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Michael C. Rea is an analytic philosopher and, since 2017, John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in metaphysics and philosophy of religion and has competence in epistemology and applied ethics as well. He is currently writing a book on divine hiddenness, in which he appeals to quantifier pluralism and argues that God cannot be quantified over by humans. Also, he is scheduled to give the 2017 Gifford Lectures, where he will also talk about divine hiddenness.
Jamie Lindemann Nelson is a philosophy professor and bioethicist currently teaching at Michigan State University. Nelson earned her doctorate in philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980 and taught at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and St. John's University before moving to Michigan State University. In addition, Nelson was an Associate for Ethical Studies at The Hastings Center from 1990–95 and is both a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and a Fellow of the Hastings Center. Nelson currently teaches courses on biomedical ethics, ethical theory, moral psychology, feminist theory, and philosophy of language.
Allen William Wood is an American philosopher specializing in the work of Immanuel Kant and German Idealism, with particular interests in ethics and social philosophy. He is the Ruth Norman Halls professor of philosophy at Indiana University and has held professorships and visiting appointments at numerous universities in the United States and Europe. In addition to popularising and clarifying the ethical thought of Immanuel Kant, Wood has also mounted arguments against the validity of 'trolley problems' in moral philosophy.
Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation, published as Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic in the United States, is a 1986 book about the philosophy of sex by the philosopher Roger Scruton, in which the author discusses sexual desire and erotic love, arguing against the idea that the former expresses the animal part of human nature while the latter is an expression of its rational side. The book was first published in the United Kingdom by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and in the United States by Free Press.
Diana Meyers is a philosopher working in the philosophy of action and in the philosophy of feminism. Meyers is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut.
Eva Feder Kittay is an American philosopher. She is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy (Emerita) at Stony Brook University. Her primary interests include feminist philosophy, ethics, social and political theory, metaphor, and the application of these disciplines to disability studies. Kittay has also attempted to bring philosophical concerns into the public spotlight, including leading The Women's Committee of One Hundred in 1995, an organization that opposed the perceived punitive nature of the social welfare reforms taking place in the United States at the time.
Cheshire Calhoun is Professor of Philosophy at Arizona State University and research professor at the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona. She is best known for her work in feminist philosophy as well as writing on gay and lesbian philosophy and the morality of same-sex marriage.
Richard Kraut is the Charles and Emma Morrison Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University.