1. What is special about philosophical questions as opposed to scientific or historical
- Philosophy wants to change our minds by argument rather than fact
- Philosophy is always open to refutation and its attitude is skepticism
- Philosophy has no methods for solving problems
- Philosophy holds nothing sacred
- Rational argument is crucial
2. When distinguished from sex, what does the term gender refer to? Is the distinction
clear? Why might one want (as Roughgarden does) to speak only of gender?
- Gender is social; gender roles based on biological sex
3. What is Roughgarden’s most important contention in the passage you read from
- Evolution supports diversity because diverse species can survive changing
- Asexual species are evolutionary dead ends because once the environment changes or
once there is a bad mutation, the species can’t continue
4. What is the relation of reproduction to sex (necessary? sufficient? morally
- Many organisms reproduce asexually
- There are drawbacks to reproduction, such as cost of meiosis (if you’re a gene, the
chances of being transmitted are 50%, cost of mate search, twofold cost of sex (if you
need two organisms to create one organism)
- But sex is better for genes since they allow species to continue even if infected by a
- Aquinas says reproduction is morally required for sex, since the natural function of
sex (its purpose) is reproduction - Nagel says the connection between sex and reproduction is irrelevant to perversions,
since reproduction is biological while sex is physiological
- Even if something perverts the reproductive function, it isn’t a sexual perversion
- He says the purpose of sex isn’t reproduction, but a reciprocal conversation; a
feedback loop where Romeo senses Juliet who senses Romeo sensing her, etc.
- Goldman says the ends of sexual acts aren’t essential to understanding sexuality, since
sexual desire is simply the desire for certain pleasures and sexual activity fulfills
- Goldman says that even if we allow that nature’s purpose of sex is reproduction, it
doesn’t logically follow that it should be ours
- The desire for sex isn’t necessarily a desire to reproduce
- The means-end analysis thatAquinas likes – there is a specific function of sex, and
any sex that doesn’t fulfill this function is either wrong or incomplete
- Goldman says this is inconsistent, since homosexual acts are condemned but kissing
5. What is the moral philosophy called Utilitarianism? How does it differ from
Deontology, from Natural Law Theory, and from Virtue Theory?
- Utilitarianism = do what maximizes utility (if pleasure is good and sex brings
pleasure, then sex is good)
- Deontology = you must or must not do this, period (categorical imperative – means
not an end)
- Teleology = do what best fulfills your goal (ex. if the natural function of sex is to
reproduce, then we should have the kind of sex that begets reproduction; if we want
pleasure, then we should have the kind of sex that begets pleasure)
- Natural law is teleological because of means-ends (naturalness and functions)
- Virtue ethics = cultivate good habits (Aristotle and golden mean) – acts exhibit virtue
if they are rational and social
- We should question whether sex is rational and social and whether it is being pursued
in appropriate measure 6. In philosophy, what does it mean to “beg the question”? Give an example.
- Circular reasoning is circular reasoning because the reasoning is circular
7. What are the main views expressed in the Symposium about the nature of erotic
- Phaedrus: better to make love with someone who isn’t in love with you – love makes
you act well because you will be ashamed if your lover sees you acting badly because
you want to be the best possible person for them and sacrifice yourself for them – it’s
better to love than be loved because loving changes us while being loved doesn’t
- Pausanias: love is expressed in emotional responses, ex. being willing to kill for love,
and the truest love is between man and boy
- Eryximachus: love is expressed in the body through reconciling opposites to create
- Aristophanes: originally we were two, male dyads, female dyads, and
hermaphrodites, and people long for the other half – when people found their other
half, they starved to death because all they wanted to do was embrace, so Zeus put
genitals in front so they could have sex while embracing
- Agathon: praises love, saying love is the happiest god and the most beautiful and the
best and the bravest, wisest, etc.
- Socrates: in love you want what you lack; love longs for beauty so it much lack
- Diotima: love is neither ugly nor beautiful but something in between, and love is of
the beautiful and love is a lover of wisdom and knowledge
- No one does anything bad on purpose because everyone wants the good, so if you
want the bad, you made a mistake about what is good
- If you love an individual person, why do you love him?
- If it’s because he’s beautiful, then you must love everyone else who is equally
- So what you love must not really exist – you love forms – you love beauty itself - Alcibiades: love is really about the individual, since he loves Socrates and only
8. Define the Puritan, Lawrentian (or Inverted Puritan) and Pansexual models of the
place of sex in the human person.
- Puritan model = sex is of the animal body, and reason belongs to the higher soul and
is often opposed to the body’s impulses, so lust is bad but is disinfected by love and
- The problem is that both love and lust our part of our lives and bodily functions
- Lawrentian model = when we intellectualize our sex drives, we corrupt them, so only
lust marks our authentic nature
- Pansexual model = all motivation comes from eros, so we need to transform eros into
something higher like art or literature
9. In the passage you read fromAquinas, what is the role of the idea of "natural
function"? How does it relate to the ban on adultery, homosexuality, incest, and
- To live well, we must follow nature
- We can derive a natural function by looking at what end a thing typically
accomplishes or why it exists, ex. the heart exists to pump blood rather than to beat
- The natural function of sex is procreation
- Homosexuality is bad because it hinders the begetting of children
- Incest is bad because it’s against right reason (procreation) and misuses a woman
- Masturbation is bad because there is no begetting of children
- Adultery is bad because it harms children and the institution of marriage
10. What does Kant see as the particular virtues of marriage in relation to sexual
- Marriage removes the issue of objectification - Instead of using another person as a means to an end, both of you are giving
yourselves to the other person
- You transfer your rights to another person, and when you marry that person, you gain
your rights back; thus a mutual exchange
- Sex without marriage is degrading because we want to use another person’s body for
11. What is essentialism? What is essentialist feminism?
- Essentialism = certain properties are shared universally by a group
- Feminism is anti-essentialism
12. What are the three key factors in the process of evolution by natural selection?
- We need a source of variability for progress
- We need heritability so things are transmitted from generations
- We need selection to occur
13. “The sexual process is in fact the precise opposite of reproduction”. What do
Szathmáry and Maynard Smith mean by this?
- In reproduction, one cell divides in two
- In sex, two cells fuse to form one
- Single cell organisms reproduce without sex
14. How does the existence of sexual reproduction seem to create difficulties for the
theory of evolution by natural selection? List four disadvantages of sexual
reproduction over parthenogenesis (= all-female, self-cloning).
- Cost of meiosis
- Twofold cost of sex - With parthenogenesis, we don’t need to find a partner to mate with and population
can evolve more rapidly
15. Distinguish the “cost of meiosis” from the “two-fold cost of sex”.
- Cost of meiosis = if you’re a gene, chances of getting reproduced are 50%
- Twofold cost of sex = you have to feed two people and you need two people to have
one, but two parents double child’s chance of survival – you take two people and
create one instead of vice versa
16. The sexes according to Fausto-Sterling: how many sexes should we recognize? How
are they defined? What is a true hermaphrodite?A“ferm”?A“merm”?
- Five sexes
- Herms have one testis and one ovary
- Merms have testes and some female genitalia but no ovaries
- Ferms have ovaries and some male genitalia but no testes
17. What is the significance of the fact that gametes come in two very different sizes?
Does it necessarily entail that men will be aggressive and women coy?
- Some evolutionary psychologists suggest that because women have very few eggs,
they are more selective about who they mate with than men, who have many sperm
and can thus produce many offspring
- However, when you control for social and cultural norms, it turns out that men and
women are actually equally monogamous/promiscuous
- Also, in different species gametes are different sizes, and in some species men carry
the babies and women don’t
18. What are the “twelve steps” (biological and social) that determine the various
aspects of sex, gender, and sexual orientation? Do they always go together?
- Gamete differentiation - Chromosomes
- Fetal hormones
- External anatomy
- Gonadal sex
- Physiological reproductive functions
- Hormonal influences in adolescence and adulthood
- Secondary sex characteristics
- Social roles in partnership, child raising
- Social roles in wider social/political sphere
- Gender identity and style
- Sexual orientation
19. How is gender identity related to other aspects of gender?
- Gender identity impacts social role and generally correlates with sex designation
20. Explain the possibility, and discuss the pros and cons, of a sexual system in which
gender was regarded as a continuum rather than a dichotomy.
- This would allow for greater individual expression when people don’t conform to
21. What is the difference, explained in Overall’s article Cisgender and Transgender
persons, between “acquired identities” and “aspirational identities”?
- Acquired identity = no work to maintain
- Aspirational identity = requires performance to maintain 22. In the same article, what does Overall mean by a "system of compulsory gender"?
Why do you suppose such a system exists? What might be its advantages and
- Everyone has to choose a gender; they can’t be outside it
- This allows people to “fit in” and have certain social roles but forces conformity
23. If a biological phenomenon or process is natural, what, if anything, does this imply
about its frequency?About its normative status or value?About its moral status?
About its desirability?
- Just because something is doesn’t mean it should be
- Except in a teleological model where what is natural is what is good
24. In his article on "Sexual Perversion", does Nagel actually designate some practices
as perversions? Why? or Why not?
- For there to be perversions, we have to assume that some sexual desires or practices
are natural and some are unnatural
- Certain practices are without question perversions, ex. shoe fetishism
- But unnatural sexual thoughts can also be a perversion since they are unnatural
- Perversion is a psychological rather than a physiological one
- Perversion is when there is no reciprocity or interpersonality
- Homosexuality isn’t a perversion because it’s simply a sexual preference in which
- We might be able to classify sadism and masochism as perversions since there’s no
- We need a certain definition of sexual ethics to establish what perversion might be
- There is nothing to suggest non-perverse sex is better than perverse sex
- If the question is about enjoyment, this might be more important than whether sex is
perverted or not 25. What is the main critical contention—applying to both Aquinas and Nagel—in
Goldman’s article “Plain Sex”?
- Sex isn’t just the means to another end (ex. reproduction or communication)
- Sexual desire is simply the desire for physical pleasure
26. What is Goldman’s central positive claim about the nature of erotic sex in the same
- The emphasis is on sexual desire (the longing for physical contact) and sex is activity
that tends to fulfill it
- Sex is not intrinsically a moral category; immorality in sex only comes from
immorality that could also be applied elsewhere, ex. rape is immoral because of force
- The only way to evaluate sex is by degrees of pleasure derived from it, not in moral
- Perversions are statistical aberrations without moral content
27. Define the two positions (“reductionist” and “intentionalist”) contrasted in
Morgan’s article “Sex in the Head”?
- Reductionism = sex is simply the quelling of an appetite
- Intentionalism = sex exists in the mental – the nature of sexual pleasure can be
transformed by the significance the person or the situation has for us
28. What is Morgan’s core criticism of reductionism? Do you agree? Why, or why not?
- The reductionist view must show that sexual pleasure is a uniform phenomenon that
manifests the same way in all circumstances
- The pleasure itself may be a different kind, in which case there would be different
kinds of plea