Monday, October 04, 2010

Kekes, On the Human Condition II

Your well-being depends upon fulfilling the values you hold dear, and this fulfillment depends upon your being in control of yourself. You must correct the beliefs, motives, and emotions which do not map appropriately to this set of values. This is the control of yourself which you must have.

Of course, mistakes will be made. You might change attitudes in a direction from bad to worse, such as when you move from over-eagerness about an endeavor that was good for you to depressive dejection about it and a mistaken belief that it is not worthwhile or possible for you.

Kekes raises the point that the ways of self-control are too varied to be distilled into one summary gist. In this regard, kinds of compatibilism other than his are mistaken for ignoring the variation in beliefs, emotions and motives which are the objects of self-control. Also, libertarianism is mistaken for denying that there is a satisfactory sense of self-control that does not appeal to a transcendence of the natural world and its laws. Hard determinists are incorrect in denying the reality of self-control. Kekes tries in this way to carve out a unique approach to the issue of the age-old question of free will.

there are peculiarities of your character to which you must pay attention in resolving the way to increased self-control. You have either mistaken beliefs, inappropriate emotions or conflicting motives which must be ferreted out and changed. There are no simple recipes for this.

The critical reflection upon your attitudes which enables you to increase control of yourself occurs within you. It has special significance for contributing to your well-being and not for existing outside the natural causal order. It has causes prior to it in your genetic makeup and your upbringing but these do not eliminate its importance. Therefore, Kekes's compatibilism is not committed to the standard objections which incompatibilists may raise. Also, his view is different from simpler forms of compatibilism in that it does not either equate freedom and responsibility to this critical reflection or reduce critical reflection to and specific formula.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Case Against Premarital Sex

This is to say, while one is in the courting and childrearing age, to have sex with a person before deciding that he is a good marriage choice for oneself. Of course, it is a matter of consenting adults not harming anyone without his full understanding and enthusiastic concurrence. So, the way this act is wrong is by being a very bad choice for oneself, not by being a matter of harming another by doing something to him to which he hasn't given consent. Because this fact is not obvious, we can know that there are people being harmed due to their failure to understand the significance of this fact. If a man and woman have premarital sex, they harm themselves and harm each other.

Let's see if I can muster the case. There is a certain window in time when the human being searches for a mate. This window must not be wasted on a poor choices, which may occupy us for several years or even many years. While dating or being married to someone with whom one ought not to be married, one wastes precious years of the mate-choosing period. But engaging in premarital sex seals this deal. One begins a potential multi-year endeavor the likely success of which one has insufficient evidence. One hopes that the love and the depth and harmony of the interface of characters in a certain pair of lives will grow while one enjoys the sex. But it may not grow. One may find years gone and no satisfactory mating relationship.

Therefore, abstaining and waiting many years in which one searches for an appropriate mate and builds a relationship of depth may be the prudent way of looking for a mate. How else will one be able to ferret out the true characters of sufficient numbers of candidates by whom one finds oneself smitten? It's a roll of the dice unless one follows the contours of human nature as it in fact is. We do better abstaining from premarital sex because (a.) bringing sex in early in a relationship with a potential mate is consistent with bringing it in early with many poor mating relationships, and (b.) bringing sex in early radically elongates the duration of those poor relationships because we prefer fewer sexual partners when we are in mating mode. So, (b.) reminds that we don't want to hop from bed to bed every couple of weeks and we want a single, lengthy relationship. And (a.) reminds us that we are more likely to frustrate these preferences if we have premarital sex.

It's simple math: If you're going to go to the bedroom with someone, it better be someone one is well justified in preferring as a mate; otherwise, one either bed-hops amongst scores of mates or has a high risk of having some lengthy and unsatisfactory mating relationships.

This is a case against premarital sex. The wrongness of premarital sex is not piquant; it's subtle. It is less reprehensible than it might be if its wrongness were more obvious. And it's not a terrible wrong because it doesn't completely prevent anyone from having a good life. But it may indeed be a wrong to oneself and to others for the reasons I've given.

To put a finer point on it: One may end up unhappy, when the mating season is over and nature has closed its door, for having engaged in premarital sex. This normally involves having done things which brought others to this unhappy fate along with oneself. Premarital sex is a serious matter, though not a terrible wrong. It is like laziness, a vice which can seriously damage a life, but it's worse than that for it involves bringing another along with oneself.

Human nature doesn't make it only pleasant to do the right thing. It is rather less carefully designed than that. There are conflicting motives, dissatisfactions, such as the desire one has at age twenty for fulfilling sex. These dissatisfactions are not written out of the script; the script isn't that tight. Get your kids used to it and able to adapt to it. They might be more likely to find a fantastic spouse by age 25.

But while human nature isn't perfectly swimmingly easy to adapt to, one can increase one's ability to thrive under its set of dispositions. Doing so, one notices a certain ease increase and a struggle subside. This is where virtue and depth of character lie. The disposition to abstain from premarital sex may be included amongst the virtues.

I'm not sure that this case is sound. But it's the first case that has occurred to me in many years of thinking about the matter. I find it highly compelling. It may admit of exceptions, as the viciousness of laziness has exceptions under certain circumstances.

UPDATE: Clarification: If you sleep around, you aren't meeting likely mates but people who are interested in sleeping around. Some of these might be interested in doing both at once, and so may you. But you will be unlikely to make such a match, let alone one that is good marriage material. On the other hand, if you are having premarital sex with one person as boyfriend or girlfriend over time, then when you find out he or she is not an appropriate mate for you, it will be difficult to extricate yourself from the tangled web linking you together. They say that breaking up is hard to do, as Neal Sedaka said. You will hope things change into a wonderful engagement and marriage, but they won't. The other option is to shop for mates without having sex. Get to know candidates very well. This option has neither of the drawbacks of the of the two options which include premarital sex. It will take time, of course, but it will probably take less time and be more accurate in picking out an appropriate mate.