Final Examination


Please make a note that

  1. Editable format submissions are due to me as email attachments (;) by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, 5/12.
  2. Everyone is required to answer question #0--the remaining four questions are entirely your choice;
  3. Make sure that the questions you are answering are clearly indicated--if I have to guess which question you are answering, I will not grade it even if I have a good idea which question you intended to answer; and,
  4. No late examinations will be accepted under just about any circumstances.

Except for the Extra Credit question, each question is worth 60 points. I do not mind if you work in groups to help think about these questions, but your answers must be your own.

Obviously, you should start on this examination as soon as possible. Pace yourself. Don't procrastinate. Get started immediately and spend time on it every day without fail. Be sure to edit your final copy carefully. Read answers aloud to catch errors in grammar and improve clarity. Ideally, have someone go over your drafts to make sure you avoid any 'awk's, 'ack's, or, particularly, any 'nfs's.

Be sure, in short, that each answer is complete, well-expressed, clear, and precise. The best way to do that is to refrain from handing in rough drafts. If you have any questions or puzzles, or require further clarification of any sort, please do not hesitate to contact me (; 3976, 944-2756).

Please also note that the following maximums and minimums must be scrupulously observed:

  • No less than a 12 pt. font.
  • No less than 1.5 line spacing.
  • No less than 1 inch margins on all sides.
  • No more than two full pages for each answer.

Of course these are maximums and minimums only. You may, for instance, use less than one page for each answer or use greater than a 10pt font. That said, each answer is worth up to 60 points: You should find yourself having to carefully edit and rephrase to keep under the two page maximum. This is very important. You have to make each and every word count. It is generally more difficult to write a clear and complete answer in less space than more.

As with the midterm examination, it is crucial that you have a very clear conception of

  1. What is being asked; and,
  2. What is required, by the question, to provide a thoughtful, clear, and precise answer.

I am happy to help you with (1), but (2) is entirely up to you. This is the last opportunity you will have in this class to think, and think well, about the various important issues we have discussed. Make it count.

Finally, please note that quotes are not allowed. Failure to observe this requirement will result in a score of 0/60 for each question in which text is quoted.

0. The Unbearable Complexity of Being Human

Explain as clearly as you can Frankfurt's conception of love and Blackburn's conception of lust. Using these conceptions and in light of all the various forms of sex and sexual entertainment we've examined this semester, explain the relationship between love, lust, and sex so as to explain:

  1. The tension between love and lust;
  2. How casual sex with a friend-with-benefits can lead to 'catching feels';
  3. The distinction between mere assault and sexual assault (rape); and,
  4. The relevance of love, lust, and sex to human flourishing.

Harry Frankfurt, "The Reasons of Love", Chapter One
Harry Frankfurt, "The Reasons of Love", Chapter Two
Harry Frankfurt, "The Reasons of Love", Chapter Three

Simon Blackburn, "Lust", Intro
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 1
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 2
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 3
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 4
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 5
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 6
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 7
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 8
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 9
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 10
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 11
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 12
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 13
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 14
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", Notes

1. The Promiscuity Scold

Elliston (Frederick Elliston, "In Defense of Promiscuity") spells out five arguments condemning promiscuity and gives what he no doubt views as decisive counter-arguments:

  1. The Western Norm and Technology;
  2. The Inseparability Premise and Promiscuity;
  3. Promiscuity as a Threat to Monogamy;
  4. Lying, Deceiving, and Exploiting; and,
  5. Personal Emotional Security and Growth

Which of these arguments do you think is the best of the five? That is, which argument do you think poses the most significant challenge to Elliston's project of defending the moral acceptability of promiscuity. Justify your answer. What is the argument, as you construe it from Elliston's account? Are Elliston's responses to it satisfactory? Why or why not? Finally, is there a sense or are there senses of objectification of the ten we've considered this semester, (quoting from Halwani, Raja Halwani, "On Fucking Around",

Martha Nussbaum lists seven different ways to objectify someone. Rae Langton adds three. I quote them at length (this is also useful for the discussion in Part II). Nussbaum’s list:

  1. Instrumentality: The objectifier treats the object as a tool of his or her purposes.
  2. Denial of autonomy: The objectifier treats the object as lacking in autonomy and self-determination.
  3. Inertness: The Objectifier treats the object as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity.
  4. Fungibility: The objectifier treats the object as interchangeable (a) with other objects of the same type and/or (b) with objects of other types.
  5. Violability: The objectifier treats the object as lacking in boundary integrity, as something that is permissible to break up, smash, break into.
  6. Ownership: The objectifier treats the object as something owned by another, can be bought and sold, and so on.
  7. Denial of subjectivity: The objectifier treats the object as something whose experience and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.9

Langton’s additional three:

  1. Reduction to body: One treats [the person] as identified with his or her body, or body parts.
  2. Reduction to appearance: One treats [the person] primarily in terms of how he or she looks, or how he or she appears to the senses.
  3. Silencing: One treats [the person] as silent, lacking the capacity to speak.10

which pose a special moral challenge to promiscuity? That is, does promiscuity pose a special risk of objectification--even if not necessarily, as Halwani argues--which are problematic for promiscuity? How should Elliston respond to this argument, were he given it?

2. The Traditional View

In “Humanae Vitae”, Pope Paul VI asserts a traditional view of the relationship between sex, love, and marriage:

Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love,' "the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” Marriage is not, then, the effect of chance or the product of evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love. By means of the reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to them, husband and wife tend towards the communion of their beings in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives...

Under this light, there clearly appear the characteristic marks and demands of conjugal love, and it is of supreme importance to have an exact idea of these. This love is first of all fully human, that is to say, of the senses and of the spirit at the same time. It is not, then, a simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and principally, an act of the free will, intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become only one heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection.

Then, this love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner's self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.

Again, this love is faithful and exclusive until death. Thus, in fact, do bride and groom conceive it to be on the day when they freely and in full awareness assume the duty of the marriage bond. A fidelity, this, which can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble and meritorious, as no one can deny. The example of so many married persons down through the centuries shows, not only that fidelity is according to the nature of marriage, but also that it is a source of profound and lasting happiness and, finally, this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents."

Reflecting on Igor Primoratz, Sexual Morality: Is Consent Enough? (pdf), clearly mere consent does not suffice for the permissibility of sex under the traditional view expressed above. What, then, is required for permissible sex according to the above passage? Which conceptions of love we've considered this semester might best fit or support the traditional view? Given our discussions of sex, love, and marriage this semester, should the traditional view be rejected? Why or why not?

3. The Fire Within

In an attempt to rehabilitate the phenomenon of lust from its condemnation at the hands of panicked Christians, Blackburn draws on Thomas Hobbes to develop a conception of lust. What is Hobbesian Unity? Is Hobbesian Unity an ideal we desperately seek but can never truly realize? Why or why not?

Either way, it is clear that lust is a powerful force in our lives, finding as it does expression in everything from hair styles, cosmetics, and clothing styles to plastic surgery and erotic entertainment (so-called "gentlemen's" clubs, etc.)  Augustine (excerpt, pdf), of course, explained in great detail why this force is detrimental and to be discouraged so far as possible--or even eliminated altogether.  In light of the pressure women especially, but men also, experience in trying to be sexually attractive, has lust too strong a hold on us? Is lust, that is, a force to wallow in and embrace, or is it too powerful and thus must be treated gingerly or at least with a great deal of respect? If the former, what do we do about the societal pressures that come from emphasizing lust? If the latter, what would we do differently?

Finally, a strong indication of the importance of lust in our lives in a capitalist society, at least, can be seen in the various ways in which lust not only drives entire industries (erotic and pornographic entertainment, obviously), but is used in marketing goods and services which prima facie have nothing whatsoever to do with love, lust, or sex (a bikini-clad woman washing a car to sell... hamburgers, for example). Thus the first law of marketing: Sex sells! Yet in a capitalist society we are also taught to market ourselves--explicitly so, in the case of LinkedIn profiles. What are some examples of people who successfully market themselves using, in effect, lust? What have they done to be successful? Is their success a model the rest of ought to emulate in marketing ourselves? Why or why not?

4. Making a Living at the Expense of Love

Consider the following all-too-common problem: Stable, committed, sexual, and loving relationships are difficult if not impossible for sex workers like strippers, porn actors and actresses, and prostitutes to maintain. Let us take this challenge for sex workers to be a fact a theory of love must explain. Which of the following theories of love best explain this fact? Justify your answer.

  • Plato's Theory
  • Augustine's Theory
  • Singer's Theory
  • Firestone's Theory
  • Nozick's Theory
  • Baier's Theory
  • Frankfurt's Theory

Augustine, "The City of God" (excerpt, pdf)

Irving Singer, "The Nature of Love" (excerpt, pdf)

Robert Nozick, "Loves Bond" (pdf)

Annette Baier, "Unsafe Loves" (pdf)

Harry Frankfurt, "The Reasons of Love", Chapter One
Harry Frankfurt, "The Reasons of Love", Chapter Two
Harry Frankfurt, "The Reasons of Love", Chapter Three

5. Catching Feels

An intriguing and curious fact emerged from our discussion of the 'hook-up' culture: Over time--maybe two weeks, maybe a month--casual sex with a given partner becomes less casual and more meaningful. One is in danger, then, of catching feels--of developing feelings of affection, attachment, jealousy, and perhaps even love for one's partner.

Solutions (if you will) presumably range from never repeating casual sexual encounters with one person to engaging multiple partners at each encounter to drawing a firm limit on time spent with any one person.

So it seems that genuinely casual sex is at best fleeting. Sex pulls at least some of us--inexoribly, it seems--towards romantic love and all the complications it entails.

Why, though? Of the various accounts of romantic love we've considered, whether ancient, medieval, or contemporary, which ones might best explain the phenomenon of catching feels? What is at stake in mere sex that makes romantic love a potential threat for those seeking to remain unattached?

6. Rule 34

Without taking a stand on how best to define 'pornography', it is apparent that putative examples of pornography have as much power to disturb us as they have to sexually excite us. Note that this fact may confirm Victorian fears, or it may result from those same Victorian fears. Moreover, what we find disturbing or exciting is highly variable from individual to individual.

In any case, we might say that pornography is curiously divergent in the sense that the same image may not just attract or fascinate some but not others--it may for the others be quite repellent. That is, instead of being merely uninterested in or neutral towards a pornographic image or video as one would expect, we may find it altogether off-putting and maybe even horrible if we do not find it arousing. For example, people are rarely neutral with respect to images and videos of bestiality. They either find the material altogether repulsive or stimulating. Let us take this as an odd fact to be explained. The question is, why would pornographic images and videos diverge in their impact, and yet be equally impactful either way? Would Blackburn be able to answer this question? If so, how? If not, why not? How would you answer the question?

Michael Rea, "What is Pornography?" (pdf)

Simon Blackburn, "Lust", Intro
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 1
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 2
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 3
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 4
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 5
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 6
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 7
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 8
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 9
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 10
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 11
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 12
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 13
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", ch 14
Simon Blackburn, "Lust", Notes

7. Love, Sex, and Lust: A Curious Trinity

It can be argued that love, sex, and lust are neither sufficient nor necessary for one another taken singly or in pairs. For example, while it is true that one can have love, sex, and lust together, it is also easy to imagine cases in which there is love without either sex or lust, or cases in which there is sex without love or lust. The combinatorics are straightforward, as the following table demonstrates (where a term appearing in parenthesis indicates its absence from the personal/social relationship.)

love sex lust
love sex (lust)
love (sex) lust
love (sex) (lust)
(love) sex lust
(love) sex (lust)
(love) (sex) lust
(love) (sex) (lust)

Put another way, the above table exhausts the range of human personal/social relationships qua love, sex, and lust.

Give an example from popular culture (movies, tv, celebrities) or literature of each kind of personal/social relationship. Are some of these examples better than others with respect to human flourishing? Are some of these kinds of personal/social relationships to be avoided for the sake of human flourishing? Explain the features of the personal/social relationships which either contribute to or detract from human flourishing, and rank all the kinds of relationships accordingly. Finally, what implications do your answers to the above questions have for understanding the relationship between love, sex, and lust?

8. The Joy of Kink

Nagel (Thomas Nagel: Sexual Perversion pdf) develops an account of sexual desire in order to establish a standard for normal sex and thus make sense of its perversion. Nagel's account is more liberal than the traditional view, which counts any sexual activity not involving vaginal intercourse between a man and woman married to each other for the purpose of procreation a perversion. Nevertheless, Nagel concludes that many sexual activities are perversions on his understanding of what counts as normal. What, precisely, is Nagel's account, and how does it allow for a greater range of normal sexual activity than the Church?

One puzzle for Nagel's account is whether it always correctly identifies sexual perversions. For example, someone might argue that anal sex is perverse, yet Nagel's account treats it as normal sex. And in class we briefly mentioned how Nagel very much wants to conclude that the sexual relationship between a sadist and a masochist is perverse, yet it is not clear that his own account of normal sex justifies this conclusion. There seems, in other words, to be some tension between our intuitive understanding of perversion and Nagel's account of perversion. For each of the following examples of sexual activity, explain whether it is perverse on Nagel's account, whether it is intuitively perverse, and, in those cases where intuition and Nagelian perversion diverge, explain which you think correct.

  • Group Sex (Orgies, "Dogging", etc.)
  • Anonymous Sex ("Glory Holes", "Mask Parties", etc.)
  • Public Sex
  • Swinger Sex ("Key Parties", Cuckolding, etc.)
  • Sex with ET (Yes, ET)

Finally, Priest (Graham Priest: Sexual Perversion pdf) argues that we cannot make sense of sexual perversion because we cannot make sense of normal sex. Do you find Priest's argument persuasive? Why or why not? If so, is nothing so peculiar as to be off the table, sexually speaking?

9. Mercenary Sex

In “Charges Against Prostitution” (Lars Ericsson: Charges Against Prostitution pdf), Ericsson explains and responds to what he calls the “Feminist Charge” against prostitution. Explain the Feminist Charge, and explain how Ericsson tries to meet the charge. How does Pateman (Carole Pateman: Defending Prostitution pdf) respond to Ericsson's claim that "so many feminists seem unable to understand that contempt for harlotry involves contempt for the female sex"? Is her response persuasive? Why or why not? In the final analysis and in light of our tentative explorations of the relationship between love, lust, and sex, is mercenary sex merely selling a sexual service as Ericsson insists, or is it more complicated in such a way that mercenary sex work is wholly unlike, say, cocktail waitressing?

10. The Wrong Lesson

In “What's Wrong With Rape”(Pamela Foa: What's Wrong With Rape? pdf), Foa explains what she calls the “Rape Model of Sex”:

Though we may sometimes speak as though sexual activity is most pleasurable between friends, we do not teach each other to treat our sexual partners as friends. Middle-class children, whom I take to be our cultural models, are instructed from the earliest possible time to ignore their sexual feelings. Long before intercourse can be a central issue, when children are prepubescent, boys are instructed to lunge for a kiss and girls are instructed to permit nothing more than a peck on the cheek. This encouragement of miniature adult sexual behavior is instructive on several levels.

It teaches the child that courting behavior is rarely spontaneous and rarely something which gives pleasure to the people involved-that is, it is not like typical playing with friends. It gives the child a glimpse of how adults do behave, or are expected to behave, and therefore of what is expected in future life and social interactions. Importantly, boys are instructed not to be attentive to the claims of girls with respect to their desires and needs. And girls are instructed not to consult their feelings as a means of or at least a check on what behavior they should engage in.

Every American girl, be she philosopher-to-be or not, is well acquainted with the slippery-slope argument by the time she is ten. She is told that if she permits herself to become involved in anything more than a peck on the cheek, anything but the most innocent type of sexual behavior, she will inevitably become involved in behavior that will result in intercourse and pregnancy. And such behavior is wrong. That is, she is told that if she acquiesces to any degree to her feelings, then she will be doing something immoral.

Meanwhile, every American boy is instructed, whether explicitly or not, that the girls have been given this argument (as a weapon) and that therefore, since everything that a girl says will be a reflection of this argument (and not of her feelings), they are to ignore everything that she says. Girls are told never to consult their feelings (they can only induce them to the edge of the slippery slope); they are always to say "no." Boys are told that it is a sign of their growing manhood to be able to get a girl way beyond the edge of the slope, and that it is standard procedure for girls to say "no" independently of their feelings. Thus, reasonably enough, boys act as far as one can tell independently of the explicit information they are currently receiving from the girl.

Foa's article was published in 1977. Is Foa's assertion that western society adopts the Rape Model of Sex true today? If so, what should be done to change it? If not, what has changed since 1977? Regardless, given our discussions on these topics, is there, in light of all we've studied this semester, a defensible model of sex that should be taught to girls and boys? If so, how do you justify it? If not, why not?

Extra Credit (30)

This course is predicated on the notion that thinking carefully about romantic love can help us understand these important features of our lives and so, perhaps, lead better lives.

A skeptic, however, might argue as follows:

Romantic love is a mystery, else there would have been no course on the philosophy of love and sex in the first place. Since any attempt to understand the mystery of romantic love will either succeed or fail, the course finds itself in a dilemma. For 1) if the attempt to understand romantic love fails, the mystery will have proven to be impenetrable to us, and the course fails. Yet 2) if it succeeds and we do manage to understand romantic love, we will thereby have erased the mystery of romantic love, which is precisely what made romantic love so important to us in the first place. So again the course fails. All things considered, then, it is better if the course were never offered!

Is the skeptic right? If you agree with the skeptic, which horn of the dilemma do you think impaled the course? If you disagree with the skeptic, how did we escape the dilemma? Finally, what do you think Plato would say in response to the skeptic?