|A few observations in response. |
Chris and I have both had fun, while seriously arguing our opposing views, and we are both hoping those on both sides of this issue will see this debate does not have to entail animosity, regardless of the personal and emotional nature of the subject. Chris, at least, has been exemplary in this effort, and I have tried.
Well, Regi, I think you've been terrific too. And this is extremely important to me. Over the years, I have seen countless discussions of this topic across many forums. I don't think I remember one that has been so... civil. I do understand why people get deeply upset over the charges and countercharges that are made. But the discussion does not have to be that way. I suspect I'd have a very different attitude if the people on SOLO HQ were in favor of criminalizing certain sexual activities. Morality---and manners---end where a gun begins.
As Rand said in For the New Intellectual: "If men of good will wish to come together for the purpose of upholding reason and establishing a rational society, they should begin by following the example of the cowboys in Western movies when the sheriff tells them at the door to a conference room: 'Gentlemen, leave your guns outside.' " Amen.
Understand that this is not a totally moot issue; governments across the globe continue to criminalize all sorts of personal and private activities that are none of their business.
Now, I suspect Glenn F. is right that Cass meant that it was none of Regi's business either. I don't want to speak for Regi, but I think that despite his negative assessment of homosexuality, he, himself, would argue that, ultimately, it is none of his business.
The problem, however, is that it becomes everybody's business if we accept the argument that homosexuality is "abnormal." On an Objectivist-oriented forum, I should think everybody would know why: life, Rand said, is the standard of moral values; "that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil."
So, here's where the issue of the "normal" (Ed's point) becomes a bit fuzzy to me. I remarked parenthetically in the article that I understood Regi's use of the word to mean in "the nature of things." The problem is that I think there is a very fine line in the way in which that word is used. If one adheres to the belief that sexual orientation is strictly a product of volition, that men and women must choose the sexual values to sustain their lives as rational beings, and that "normal" choices are thereby healthy, and good, it follows that "abnormal" ones are unhealthy (Regi provides a litany of statistics to attempt to prove this point). And if life is the standard of moral values, then "abnormal" choices are anti-life and, thereby, evil.
That's why I believe that this identification of the "normal" can become a moral sledgehammer. So, it's not that I'm calling into question the use of the word normal as "in the nature of things." I'm calling into question the strict application of that word to the realm of sexuality. Now, I'll grant that if it is proper to question "the-use-of-a-specific-sense-of-a-word" in the case of the "normal," all bets are off in my use of the word "dialectic." But I go out of my way to explain what I mean and what I don't mean. The problem with the word "normal" as used by Regi, and as filtered through an objective standard of morality, is that it seems to have implications for the morality of those who are "abnormal."
Now, I know that Regi says it doesn't. For example, he writes here in another thread:
Can a homosexual change? Honestly, James, I doubt very much someone who has been a homosexual for very long will change, because they are probably never going to reach that place in their life where they want to. Even if that should happen (and it has) the reinforcement of those particular habitualized behaviors is so strong, and changing them so difficult and painful, I must honestly say, I think there is little possibility of change, except under some extraordinary circumstances.
Does that let those homosexuals who have decided it is not an appropriate practice "off the hook" morally, I mean, if they cannot change. Yes, I think it does in this sense. We are morally responsible only for what we know and what we can do. I think it would be wrong for the homosexual to attempt to pass-off his behavior as, "normal," but it is not immoral. And, of course, the homosexual must take all the ordinary precautions in sex to insure no one, including himself, is harmed.
I'm not doubting Regi's sincerity here. Obviously, he has a much more complex and nuanced view of the tenacity of sexual habits. But I don't see how one avoids the judgment that the abnormal is the immoral if one adopts Regi's approach. And on an Objectivist forum, I don't see how one avoids the implication that Objectivism, as defined by Regi, is anti-homosexual. (Of course, I've challenged that identification, but that's what started this whole debate!)
So, Ed, I'll accept that it is important to acknowledge "when a specific justification of an application of the word normal is either ruled-out, or ruled-in." My point is that once you accept Regi's specific metaphysical use it has ethical implications as well. And how could it not, if one understands the connection between the metaphysical and the moral in Objectivism?
BTW, I do think Glenn L. raises some very fine points in this regard as well.
I must confess that I don't see what the hullabaloo is all about. I have no clue where sexual orientation comes from. In general, I agree with those who see "sexualities" (plural) rather than a monolithic homo- or hetero- or even bi-sexuality (these are modern constructions that would have been alien to many ancient cultures, including the Greek, upon which so much of our philosophical edifice is built). I suspect that there is a constellation of many factors at work, in shifting variations over time among individuals, and that these factors include genetics, biology, environmental and situational conditions, and, yes, choice. Whatever specific mix is manifested in any particular person's life, I think the only area where morality comes into question is in the way in which we live our lives (living authentically, with honesty, integrity, independence, etc.), not who we are or what we feel.
Ayn Rand spoke of love as a response to values; Nathaniel Branden spoke of the unique functions of psychological visibility and of the connections between self-esteem and romantic love. I see no reason why the more general, exalted view of love presented by Rand and Branden cannot apply with equal dignity to those who seek such love among members of their own sex.
(Edited by sciabarra on 9/13, 5:53am)