Water can Wet You, and Fire can Burn

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A learned reader asks that since technology reduces the risk of pregnancy, the influence of conception-morality on sex-morality is lessened, why do I conclude that  sex-morality  can nonetheless be completely deduced from conception-morality?

He asks for clarification, which I would be glad to provide, if I could. I fear my powers of description, in the limited space here, are unequal to the task. Let me at least offer a summation of the argument, which can be, as needed, drawn out in more rigorous detail at a time when time permits.

I hold that morality is a matter of duty, and that thought is a matter of logic.

Logically, sexual reproduction is a member of the category sexual reproduction. While a sterile woman, or a woman seeking temporary sterility via contraception, can have herself personally a different motive for engaging in the act of sexual reproduction than the final cause of sexual reproduction, I submit that the nature of the sexual reproductive act is such that it has an innate final cause independent of the personal motives of those engaging in it. The final cause of the sexual reproductive act is sexual reproduction. The result of sexual reproduction is the reproduction of the species, namely, the birth of a baby.

Once reason why this point is difficult to argue is that “sex is sex” seems to me to be a tautology. While the motive for the sexual act, namely, a desire for short term pleasure, and the reality of the sexual act, namely, the reproductive act, can be divided in speech, in reality this is merely two ways of describing one thing. The two ways are the motives of the individuals and the final cause of the act in and of itself.

Morally, I submit that it is both a matter of duty and of mere prudence when engaging in any act to make reasonable provision for the effects and side-effects of the act.

In the case of the sexual act, it is both a matter of duty and prudence not to encourage any emotion or passion which is inappropriate, inapt, rude, wrong, dishonorable, or false-to-facts to the reality.

I take it as an axiom, and one which I think all sane people actually believe, whether they know it consciously or not, that our emotions and passions are supposed to fit or to correspond to reality, to be true, in the same way and for the same reason that our speech and acts should fit or correspond to reality, or be true.

The emotion true to sex is true love; the emotion false to sex is mere pleasure, self-gratification, selfishness or betrayal.

In true love, if sex with a sterile woman by accident or miracle produces a child, the logical emotional response is overwhelming joy. In mere pleasure, if sex with a sterile woman by accident or miracle produces a child, the logical emotional response is more selfishness, combined with a desire to abandon the mother and kill or abandon the child in the womb. Attempting to train or to cajole the selfish emotions after the fact into the proper emotional response of true love is something like a shotgun wedding, and is apt to be successful only when dealing with a man of ironclad self-will and a pristine sense of honor–and such a man is unlikely to be dallying with women merely for his own pleasure to begin with.

The simplest, best, and clearest way to overcome this and the countless other crimes, acts of passion, murders, betrayals, exploitations and accidents that otherwise surround the sex act is to enforce a law and a custom of matrimony. If we also have pity for the mother of our children, making the matrimony lifelong and inescapable except for cause of infidelity, cruelty, or abandonment is likewise simple and best.

In sum, my argument is that treating one’s sex partners as nothing more than partners in a business venture, or dealing with them as one nation deals with another, as sovereigns willing to enter only temporary alliances, is false to facts. Such treatment does not correspond to reality. Its not the way humans act or can act. It is false.

That the artificial sterility called contraception is more reliable than in times past alters only one factor in only the prudential half of the argument. The two factors in assessing prudence are (1) the likelihood of the harm and (2) the magnitude of the harm. Contraception lowers likelihood. The magnitude is the same. Since human beings are altricial (our young need us), it does infinite harm to a child to have his father either kill him in the womb or abandon him. I take it as self-evident that fathers should care for their children. Even if the chance of fatherhood is low, since (a) the final cause of the sex act is sexual reproduction, a due concern that our passions and emotions be true to reality imposes a duty not to engage in sex except when reproduction will be an incentive to cause joy rather than an incentive to cause child-murder and (b) prudence requires provision be made to raise the resulting child when engaging in the child-making act — even when the chance of actually making a child is low — therefore you should not fornicate.

As best I can tell, there are three axioms here in dispute. (1) I hold morality is a matter of logic applied to human action (2) I hold that final causes, not just mechanical causes, exist (3) I hold that emotions and passions must correspond to reality, that is, should be true and sane rather than false and insane.

To father a child on an unmarried woman is to impose upon yourself the duties of fatherhood which include the duty to train or cajole your emotions and passions to correspond to those duties, i.e., to love the child and, since children prosper better in loving households, to love the mother. Love is by its nature unselfish. If you loved the mother, you would have married her, since it is by marriage and only by marriage that you can give yourself with utter unselfishness to her, utterly completely. Non-marriage demonstrates selfishness, which, in light of the duties involved in child-rearing, is false to facts.

So I think we disagree at several fundamental points.

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