Monday, April 08, 2013

The Moral Irrelevance of "Choice"

Pedophiles ought to be free to have sex with children. After all, pedophilia is not a choice. No person would choose pedophilia. If you think it is a choice, when did you chose not to be a pedophile? We can only guess at the number of young pedophiles, discovering their orientation and society's reaction to it, who take their own lives or suffer other (often self-inflicted) harms as a result of this condemnation.

Of course, the argument above is not valid. However, it follows a pattern established by those who defend homosexual marriage.

At this point, defenders of homosexual marriage will likely think of the differences between homosexual acts and sex with children. Homosexual relationships are between consenting adults who freely choose and, on the whole, know better than anybody else what they are getting into. Both participants choose to take their life down that particular road. Is there any reason to deny them the freedom to do so?

Those differences - not the issue of "choice" - distinguish what is morally permissible from what is not.

What if homosexuality became a choice? Let us assume that doctors discover that a particular drug targeted to alter a part of the brain "cures" homosexuality. Would it be permissible to coerce people into "treatment" by punishing and condemning those who did not? In this case, the claim that homosexuality is not a choice offers no defense. Now it is a choice. To live one's life without "treatment" is something one would choose to do.

I put "treatment" in quotes because "treating" somebody for homosexuality is like "treating" them for speaking English. In fact, no treatment is necessary because the individual does not have an illness. "Treating" a non-illness or non-injury is a misuse of language.

Does a straight man have a right to marry another man? Homosexuals demand the right to marry others because homosexuality is not a choice. Perhaps we should set up a test where the so-called "right" to marry somebody of another gender only applies to those who are certified to have untreatable homosexuality? Straight people will continue to be denied the right to marry somebody of another gender.

If we are talking about a true freedom here, we are talking about something that people have a right to even if they would not choose it. A person who would never choose to pay money to attend a sporting event still has the freedom to do so if he chooses. A person who would never stand on the steps of a court house and give a speech defending white supremacy still has the freedom to do so if he chooses. There is no defense of either of these - the freedom to pay to see a sporting event or the freedom of speech - grounded on the premise that one did not choose to be a sports fan or a racist. Sports fans and those who are not sports fans, racists and those who are not racists, have the same rights NOT grounded on any type of "choice" argument.

The right to marry somebody of the same gender applies equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals. It is not only independent of their choice, it is independent of their interests.

Where, then, do we get the illusion that choice matters?

It is a fact that condemnation is irrelevant where it does no good. If we cannot mold a desire through condemnation and punishment, then it makes no sense to do so. Condemnation and punishment are harms, which means that there is a prima-facie case to be made against them, except where they can do some good. When applied to a fixed desire, they do no good. Therefore, one should not praise or condemn where desires are fixed.

However, even if pedophilia is not a choice, condemnation of sex with children is still does some good. It helps to mold the interests of some who are not pedophiles who may seek to have sex with children for other reasons. Even if it were the case that pedophilia is not a choice, condemnation and punishment may serve to promote counter-weights to this fixed desire that prevent people from acting on it or drives them to seek treatment.

Similarly, even if homosexuality were not a choice, condemnation and punishment may be justified for the same types of reasons. It would prevent homosexual acts not motivated by homosexuality itself. Furthermore, it would serve to create counter-weights to the desire for a sexual relationship with somebody of the same gender that would prevent some people from acting on that desire.

The question is: Are there any good reasons to establish such counter-weights? In the first case, the health and safety of children say "yes". In the second case, there are no good reasons to establish those counter-weights, and many reasons not to.

Once again, "choice" is not a determining or even a relevant factor here. It is the effectiveness of praise and condemnation and whether or not they are done for good reason that matters.

The argument for homosexual marriage is quite simple - there is no good reason to prevent it.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. My "choice" to marry my wife, be hetro, and live with the person I love is great. If you disagree with others (of either sex with either sex) having the same great life, please comment with a good reason.

Otherwise, look up bigot and look in a mirror.


Randy said...

"Does a straight man have a right to marry another man?"

Surely yes. However, US (and other) courts, in their frantic efforts to deny gay people equal rights, have pretended that sexual orientation is something somehow independent of sex, and therefore could not be protected against discrimination and could form the basis for criminal penalties and disenfranchisement (prior to Romer and Lawrence, in the US).

It's been my view that orientation is irrelevant, and any law that draws a line based on sexual orientation is actually drawing a line based on sex, and is probably illegal.

I don't think anyone has argued this in the Prop 8 case except for one amicus brief filed by National Women's Law Center et al. I think this is because the court doesn't really care to hear this argument any more, as it's been (wrongly) rejected before.

Also of interest is a brief filed by Dr Maria Nieto, about people who don't fall into the neatly-drawn binary boxes of male and female, or man and woman.