Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Mary's moral dilemma

Mary has a moral dilemma. She wants to be a good liberal but she is concerned about the real world effects of liberal morality:

The first part of the moral dilemma is easy to explain. Liberalism says that the highest moral good is a freedom to act on our will unimpeded (as long as we don't impede others). Therefore, women should be "free to express themselves sexually" and in order to extend this freedom (to remove negative consequences) there should be easy access to abortion, contraceptives and an absence of judgement from others, hence no slut shaming.

The liberal approach to nature deepens this account of morality. Traditionally, humans were thought to stand within nature and therefore we attempted to discern our higher nature and to work within a natural order of being. But liberal modernity has tended to see nature instead as something that we stand outside of and have mastery over, so that we may then use nature to fulfil whatever our wants may be.

Therefore, it is often pointless to say to a liberal things like "open relationships will lead to jealousy" or "men will tend to have a stronger commitment to raising their own biological children". The instinctive liberal response will be that nature shouldn't get in the way of whatever people desire and that it is simply wrong to let jealousy or paternal instincts place limits on schemes to maximise individual choice. Some liberals will assume that objections do not really express aspects of nature, but are simply one group of people attempting to put their own wants ahead of others, i.e. that it is an attempt to assert power over others.

Mary wants to accept the liberal approach to morality. But she has noticed a problem. Women have been told that they should express themselves sexually without restraint. The real world effects of this message are considerable. It has led many women to treat their teens and twenties as party girl years in which they compete for relationships with a relatively small number of sexually attractive men. These men then have a wealth of options and can play the field. In the meantime, the family man culture takes a hit - many of the men left behind begin to take a more dismal view of relationships.

So how is Mary's moral dilemma resolved? I know a lot of men would like to resolve it by suggesting that women be free to express themselves sexually - with their husbands. But this too is inadequate. Our sexuality isn't meant to be freely expressed. It has its own proper ends, even within marriage. It can be a significant force for good, more deeply uniting a husband and wife in love, or it can make our relationships and our own being more base - it can disorder relationships and aspects of self.

Here's another complication in resolving the dilemma. Culture has a major effect in shaping how people behave. It is therefore difficult to resolve the issue at an individual level. For instance, the higher forms of relationships are not easily achieved. They require that both the husband and wife were raised as children within a stable, loving family setting so that they both grow up capable of secure attachments. They require that both the husband and wife grow up in a high trust culture, so that each is willing to make themselves vulnerable to the other (otherwise they will aim, in self-protection, at independence). They require that both are raised in a culture that encourages a sense of loyalty and mutuality between the sexes, rather than one that promotes the idea of men and women as competing sex classes. They require that both are raised in a culture that places love and spiritual goods above hedonistic or materialistic ones. They require that both are raised in a culture that promotes moral prudence - a capacity to discern higher moral goods and to act virtuously to attain them.

What this means is that leaving the issue to people to determine as individuals will rule out, for most people, the opportunity to experience the higher expressions of sexuality. It requires a community to deliberately create and uphold a culture for these higher expressions of sexuality to become widely available.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

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