Greta Christina on Atheism and Sexuality

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 9, 2010 in Video

One money quote:

Personal revulsion should not translate into moral revulsion…

If we don’t like porn and our sexual partner does, we don’t get to say, “Porn upsets me, therefore you’re a bad person for enjoying it.” If we want our relationship to be monogamous and our sexual partner doesn’t, we don’t get to say, “Non-monogamy freaks me out, and you’re a bad person for wanting it.” If we’re not interested in bondage and our sexual partner wants to try it, we don’t get to say, “Bondage scares me, therefore you’re a bad person for being curious about it.”

And the reverse of that is also true. If we are interested in bondage and our partner isn’t, we don’t get to accuse them of being unadventurous and uptight….

We need to base our decisions on principles of consent, honesty, fairness, and harm, not on the principle of what we find disgusting.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sabio Lantz February 9, 2010 at 2:07 am

Wonderful video. And I agree that we should base our decisions on principles of consent, honesty, fairness and non-harm. But, I don’t think we ought to believe these because they are hardwired in us. We may believe them because they ARE hardwired, but that is different from “ought” (naturalistic fallacy). I think her philosophy was poor here.

Humans, besides cooperation and fairness, also have hardwired violence and deceit modules to name a few nefarious heuristics. Many Religious folks will take the divine command theory to justify the principles she states and claim she is just free-loading on these Christian values while throwing out others.

Of course I agree with her, but agreeing is an emotional thing. Is this just an emotive fest cloaked in the guise of science and reason? Do you think desirism settles this?

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Beelzebub February 9, 2010 at 2:15 am

Cool, what an articulate woman. Watched half of it, looking forward to the other half.

I can corroborate what she said about the fact that no matter what you do, someone is going to find it disgusting. I read some hilarious comments on a gay man’s blog where each time vaginal intercourse was discussed, someone got grossed out. On the flip side, Leonardo da Vince thought normal male and female sexual intercourse was so disgusting that he wondered how the species could propagate. And as Christina said, some (many?) people think abstinence is weird and unnatural. You can’t please all the people all the time — you can’t please all the people any of the time.

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Haukur February 9, 2010 at 3:03 am

If we want our relationship to be monogamous and our sexual partner doesn’t, we don’t get to say, “Non-monogamy freaks me out, and you’re a bad person for wanting it.”

Well, we live in a society with certain social mores and an expectation of monogamy is among them. If you enter into a love relationship with a person and one day that person springs polyamory on you then you’re kind of entitled to react adversely.

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Beelzebub February 9, 2010 at 4:28 am

Haukur: Well, we live in a society with certain social mores and an expectation of monogamy is among them. If you enter into a love relationship with a person and one day that person springs polyamory on you then you’re kind of entitled to react adversely.  

It’s a matter of timing and the intention of deception. If two people enter into a monogamous relationship each knowing the other expects absolute fidelity; then one day one announces the intention of polyamory, I would call that deception and deceit, and therefore dishonest and immoral. However, if both people are up-front from the beginning, then I agree with the original statement.

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Hermes February 9, 2010 at 7:03 am

The ’7 year itch’ isn’t a myth, though the time span for the itch differs and in some rare cases doesn’t happen much or at all.

Addictions including love run in cycles. Consider your prior relationships where you were deeply in love. Do you constantly think about that person now? Every few years, do you want to see them again? Do your thoughts about your current SO rise and fall over the years — if you’ve been with them for a long time?

With that in mind, the struggle is to bridge those gaps where one or both of you aren’t in love, if there was love, and the relationship was/is positive.

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lukeprog February 9, 2010 at 8:49 am

Sabio,

As I’m fond of saying, I don’t know. I’m stuck in meta-ethics. I’ll leave applied ethical speculations to Alonzo for now. :)

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Sabio Lantz February 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

@ Luke
Yeah, I am stuck on meta-ethics too. Besides, I know that it is very rare for people to decide their meta-ethics and then change their behavior. Usually, I think people decide how to re-inforce their system of ethics with an appropriate meta-ethics.
But I do think when it comes to legal theories, as opposed to personal theories, thinking about meta-ethics is more important, perhaps.

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eric February 9, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Haukur: Well, we live in a society with certain social mores and an expectation of monogamy is among them. If you enter into a love relationship with a person and one day that person springs polyamory on you then you’re kind of entitled to react adversely.

your reaction is your own deal. all she’s saying is that your reaction doesn’t determine moral from immoral. polyamory may make you cry or puke or bleed from every pore, and if your spouse suddenly decides they are poly then you can end the relationship. but your grounds for doing so are that you don’t like polyamory, and, therefore, you don’t like your spouse anymore. not that your spouse is a bad person.

if you hate lady gaga and your spouse decides they like her you are entitled to react adversely (i know i would), but this does not prove that lady gaga is evil (there are other proofs for that).

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Haukur February 10, 2010 at 4:54 am

eric: your reaction is your own deal. all she’s saying is that your reaction doesn’t determine moral from immoral. polyamory may make you cry or puke or bleed from every pore, and if your spouse suddenly decides they are poly then you can end the relationship. but your grounds for doing so are that you don’t like polyamory, and, therefore, you don’t like your spouse anymore. not that your spouse is a bad person.

Well, I guess this depends on what sort of metaethics you adhere to. I don’t think I can entirely subscribe to the theory that “your reaction doesn’t determine moral from immoral”. Stuff that makes people “cry or puke or bleed from every pore” is probably nasty stuff.

Is morality in people’s hearts or in abstract philosophical systems?

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eric February 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Haukur: I guess this depends on what sort of metaethics you adhere to…Is morality in people’s hearts or in abstract philosophical systems?

i’m not entirely sure what sort of meta-ethics i adhere to, but i would say that morality is a bit of an abstract concept itself, and that there’s just blood in people’s hearts. maybe those are indicators…
and i’m pretty sure that Greta Christina would argue that many people’s hearts produce homophobia, which i’m also pretty sure is hard for her to accept as a good moral reaction.

is the notion of morality being in people’s hearts a form of moral relativism? or would you suppose that true objective and consistent morality is in everyone’s hearts but some people don’t speak or read heart-ese very well?

Haukur: Stuff that makes people “cry or puke or bleed from every pore” is probably nasty stuff.

agreed. i believe i already mentioned lady gaga.

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