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But sexual orientation is not a concept.

I disagree, I think it is. I haven't seen any evidence to convince me otherwise, and my own introspection points me in that direction.

(I doubt that women having long hair and wearing makeup is a universal human practice).

I didn't say "universal", I specifically said, "in general".

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You're implying here that the primary purpose of our organs is to procreate, therefore that should be the primary purpose of using them.  Hmmm....

By "metaphysical connection" I mean there is an abstract concept in the sexual preferences of an individual which can be connected to facts of reality.

I am not intending to provide a comprehensive list here, just point out that there are facts involved in regards to sex which are metaphysically given, and that conceptual knowledge and practices regarding sex must either be consistent with them, or contradict them.

Of course, there are other such metaphysical facts: for example, the fact that humans are conceptual and volitional. If you study the branch of aesthetics you will also see there is a metaphysical need for humans to experience abstract ideas in reality. These things, combined with the biological purpose of one's sex organs, can lead one in a certain direction. These are all metaphysically given factors in determining sexual orientation and preference, as are others. They have to be combined in order to generate the basic context necessary for the value-judgements one makes regarding sex -- not taken apart from the others (i.e. context-dropping). There is also the case where unnecessary or unrelated context is included by an individual based on a fuzzy valuation, for example, in people who get sexually excited at the sight of some particular inanimate object.

Does sex have an important role for humans other than for procreation? Absolutely -- because we are conceptual, volitional, and we need to experience our abstractions in reality.

One's pride in oneself and in one's own values is both an emotional response and an abstract concept in itself, and sex is the means of bringing that concept into reality. For everyone, sex is the means of bringing -some- abstract concept they are holding into reality, but that concept varies from person to person depending on that individual's value-judgements throughout their life. It is a summation of their entire lives, not just some aspect of it or other, but everything they are.

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No more than most cultural conventions have a metaphysical connection.

Do you honestly think that femininity is a "cultural convention"?

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I disagree, I think it is.  I haven't seen any evidence to convince me otherwise, and my own introspection points me in that direction.
How does one form the concept of their own sexual orientation? I'm not sure that even makes sense...

Do you honestly think that femininity is a "cultural convention"?

Yes.

Edited by Hal

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But sexual orientation is not a concept.

I disagree, I think it is. I haven't seen any evidence to convince me otherwise, and my own introspection points me in that direction.

Sexual orientation as I understand it by Objectivist standards is-orientation to your highest value.

Perhaps homosexuality is based on a premise that could be changed, but I don't think it is conciously chosen, any more than a man falls in love with one particular woman BY CHOICE. What you are attracted to is based on a premise, but unless you conciously question all your premises, you may never find it, and even if you did, you might then consciously choose to keep it.

Do you consciously choose who YOU are attracted to?

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I disagree, I think it is.  I haven't seen any evidence to convince me otherwise, and my own introspection points me in that direction.

In your reply to Hal's message, March 7, 633 am, are you saying that you believe that one's own sexual orientation is a concept?

If so, why do you believe that?

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In your reply to Hal's message, March 7, 633 am, are you saying that you believe that one's own sexual orientation is a concept?

If so, why do you believe that?

Because through my own introspection, I can ask myself "why is person X attractive to me?" and I can come up with answers, and establish a connection between those answers and metaphysically given facts.

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Sexual orientation as I understand it by Objectivist standards is-orientation to your highest value.

Precisely. And the reasons for femininity/masculinity are grounded in reality, not in "cultural convention".

A woman, in general, is feminine because she wants to attract a man.

Metaphysically, she needs a man in order to get pregnant. Psychologically, she needs a man in order to "complete" herself. One leads to the other, and this is even true in women who decide never to have children.

How does she do this, when men do not need a woman, metaphysically, in order to be "complete"? (Men do not get pregnant). By becoming of value to men.

Why do men, in general, value femininity? Personally, I think it is because that properly feminine women are hero-worshippers, and men view this as the ultimate & ideal type of friend to have -- one who not only shares his values, but also appreciates him as her hero.

Note that, since a man, in general, does not have an incomplete biological function, he does not, in general, develop femininity or hero-worship (in a sexual context).

I think it is an edge case when a man decides (subconsciously) to value masculinity, or a feminine man, or some mixture of both. That would be consistent with the fact that the percentage of the population who are homosexual is never significant. If it were a normal case in reality, it would be a much higher percentage, approaching 50%.

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Because through my own introspection, I can ask myself "why is person X attractive to me?" and I can come up with answers, and establish a connection between those answers and metaphysically given facts.

What does this process have to do with producing a concept -- or, even more mystifying, with your sexual orientation being a concept?

"A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted." (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition, p. 13.

What two or more units did you integrate?

Or were you simply trying to say that you understand your own sexual orientation from observation of yourself alone?

Edited by BurgessLau

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And the reasons for femininity/masculinity are grounded in reality, not in "cultural convention".

Have the terms femininity and masculinity been defined in this thread?

If so, could someone direct me to them? If not, could someone -- preferably those using them -- define the ideas named by these two terms?

Formal definitions -- by genus and differentia -- might keep this discussion tied to reality.

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Have the terms femininity and masculinity been defined in this thread?

If so, could someone direct me to them? If not, could someone -- preferably those using them -- define the ideas named by these two terms?

Formal definitions -- by genus and differentia -- might keep this discussion tied to reality.

Femininity is the psychological state of a person in which hero-worship -- the desire to look up to man -- is the essential characteristic.

Masculinity is the psychological state of a person in which being a hero is the essential characteristic.

For reference I would direct you to page 166 of Lexicon for a piece of what Ayn Rand had to say on the subject.

I will also direct you to page 343-349 of the paperback edition of OPAR, the section titled "Sex as Metaphysical".

The dominant principle here is that sex, which was once purely biological, becomes spiritual in the life of a conceptual being (i.e. man) -- without losing its referents to biology. To quote Dr. Peikoff from that section: "Dominantly, sex is an emotion; and the cause of emotion is intellectual." -- page 345

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What does this process have to do with producing a concept -- or, even more mystifying, with your sexual orientation being a concept?

"A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted." (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition, p. 13.

What two or more units did you integrate?

Or were you simply trying to say that you understand your own sexual orientation from observation of yourself alone?

Are you implying that "homosexual', 'heterosexual', 'bisexual' (and whatever else) are -not- concepts in reality, but only in one's mind? Or that they are concepts over which one has no control in grasping and are therefore somehow axiomatic/part of man's nature?

I think that most people can probably grasp these concepts implicitly long before they learn the actual words which represent them, and can only identify themselves as being one or the other after puberty and some valuation -- either implicit or explicit.

I have already stated at least two units that have been mentally integrated to form this concept. The fact that humans -have- a sex, is one. Next, the biological separation of procreation function. Further, the fact that men are conceptual and volitional beings. All of these are components of the concept, but not an exhaustive list. If you want a comprehensive list of all my percepts which led me to the concept "I am a heterosexual" -- well, I'm not sure I can remember them all.

I would also like to ask: if homosexuality were as metaphysically valid as heterosexuality, how come the population isn't 50% homosexual and 50% heterosexual? (or 33/33/33 split between homo-, hetero-, bi-.. or whatever other sexual orientation concepts one wishes to come up with).

Statistically, if all are equally valid, then the split would be more even. Why isn't it? "Cultural convention", again? How come then that this particular "cultural convention" is consistent throughout the entire history of man, and no others are?

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Are you implying that "homosexual', 'heterosexual', 'bisexual' (and whatever else) are -not- concepts in reality, but only in one's mind?  Or that they are concepts over which one has no control in grasping and are therefore somehow axiomatic/part of man's nature? 

I'd be most curious to find out what you think the "(whatever else)" is.

I think that most people can probably grasp these concepts implicitly long before they learn the actual words which represent them, and can only identify themselves as being one or the other after puberty and some valuation -- either implicit or explicit.
Speaking for myself, I had no attraction to anything prior to puberty. I was a naive child and that's the way that my parents liked it, so I taught myself everything I needed to know about sex and learned the rest from my first girl (yes, girl) friend.

There was nothing to implicitly grasp for me before puberty because I wasn't attracted to anyone, man or woman.

I would also like to ask: if homosexuality were as metaphysically valid as heterosexuality, how come the population isn't 50% homosexual and 50% heterosexual? (or 33/33/33 split between homo-, hetero-, bi-.. or whatever other  sexual orientation concepts one wishes to come up with). 

You do realize you're attacking a straw man here don't you? Statistics don't determine metaphysical validity. The fact that gay people are a small part of the overall population is beside the point. If there was one lonely guy who had a defective gene which caused him to be gay, would it be "metaphysically valid" in your view since he was the only one?

(Disclaimer on last paragraph: I am still not fully endorsing the "homosexual gene" theory. The purpose of the last paragraph was simply to show it is impossible to determine metaphysical validity by statistics.)

Statistically, if all are equally valid, then the split would be more even.  Why isn't it?  "Cultural convention", again?  How come then that this particular "cultural convention" is consistent throughout the entire history of man, and no others are?

Well, there could be two obvious reasons why there have been gay people througout the entire history of man:

1. Homosexuality is a biological defect seen in a small population all througout history.

2. Homosexuality is a psychological defect seen in a small population all througout history.

Now, the fact that it is present in such a small population either way may be the reason the trait has survived for so long. Under Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection, a species whose population was majority homosexual woulld obviously fade away within a few generations. However, the fact that gay people constitute such a small percentage of the population keeps humans alive and, thus, for whatever reason, gay people consistantly appear throughout history in a small minority of the population. What that reason is still needs to be determined by a scientist.

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Are you implying that "homosexual', 'heterosexual', 'bisexual' (and whatever else) are -not- concepts in reality, but only in one's mind?

Yes, concepts are not "in reality" (as you are using the phrase, to distinguish outside from inside).

Concepts exist -- but only inside the mind. Concepts do not exist outside the mind. Nor is a concept the same thing as its referents. A concept is an abstraction -- a kind of mental entity -- which refers to things (referents) outside the mind (in extrospection) or inside the mind (in introspection).

Or that they are concepts over which one has no control in grasping and are therefore somehow axiomatic/part of man's nature? 

No. What you said -- in your March 7, 137 pm reply to Hal's March 7, 633 am comment -- that started this secondary but crucial discussion is that one's own sexual orientation is a concept. That is false. A concept is not its referents. A concept is a mental entity created through a process of abstraction from sense-perception of referents.

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I have already stated at least two units that have been mentally integrated to form this concept.  The fact that humans -have- a sex, is one.  Next, the biological separation of procreation function.  Further, the fact that men are conceptual and volitional beings.  All of these are components of the concept, but not an exhaustive list.  If you want a comprehensive list of all my percepts which led me to the concept "I am a heterosexual" -- well, I'm not sure I can remember them all.

Thank you for taking the time to explain. It is clear to me now, working from your answer above, that you do not understand the process of concept formation. The "units" you have described above are not units of sexual orientation (which is the idea -- probably not a concept -- we are discussing here). They are facts -- in this case, characteristics of man -- but they are not units of sexual orientation.

The concept table refers to countless units such as the table I am typing on, the kitchen table in the house in which I lived as a child, and a huge table in the reading room in my local library. These are all units of the concept table. The fact that a table has a function -- providing a surface for placing things -- is a characteristic of a table (every table) but is not a unit of the concept table.

Ayn Rand discusses all this in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. See p. 6 for this definition: "A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or similar members." A unit is not a characteristic, but a member of a group of things.

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Thank you for taking the time to explain. It is clear to me now, working from your answer above, that you do not understand the process of concept formation.

I apologize, I have used the wrong word. You are of course correct in regards to "concept".

What I really meant was not "concept", but rather "conclusion", or "decision". Sorry to have confused the issue. I was using the word "concept" in a more casual sense to mean "an abstract idea", and I should have known better than to do that in here.

Edited by TomL

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You do realize you're attacking a straw man here don't you? Statistics don't determine metaphysical validity. The fact that gay people are a small part of the overall population is beside the point. If there was one lonely guy who had a defective gene which caused him to be gay, would it be "metaphysically valid" in your view since he was the only one?

(Disclaimer on last paragraph: I am still not fully endorsing the "homosexual gene" theory. The purpose of the last paragraph was simply to show it is impossible to determine metaphysical validity by statistics.)

My point is that if sexuality is a conclusion, arrived at by a mental process (whether implicit or explicit) and not genetic, then the distribution would be more even that it is. I don't deny that if there is a "homosexuality gene" that it would be capable of causing the distrubution as it current is.

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Yes, concepts are not "in reality" (as you are using the phrase, to distinguish outside from inside).

Of course they aren't. I meant that the conclusion is based upon and refers to something reality. I'm sorry again if I wasn't clear in my wording. I was accused in another thread of being "pedantic" and perhaps I swung the other way too far.

My intended question was: Do you think that "sexual orientation" refers to something that is only in one's mind and does not refer to anything in reality (such as a "cultural convention")?

The way the term has been used "cultural convention" means something with no reference to anything in reality, but rather an artificial construct due to the mind of some individual and propogated through popularity and second-handedness.

I am very disheartened in this conversation to learn that this whole time you've only been interested in my use of the word "concept" and are not really interested in the ideas of the thread. Bummer.

Edited by TomL

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What precisely do you mean by the terms 'tabula rasa' and 'subconscious choice' in this context? As far as I'm aware, tabula rasa within Objectivism denotes the fact that humans are not born with any pre-existing concepts. But sexual orientation is not a concept.

Here is the source of my confusion. I wrote something where I used the word "choice" and Hal used the word "concept", and I wasn't catching what he was getting at.

Hal: if tabula rasa means "no pre-existing concepts", then it also means "no pre-existing conclusions", because how can one draw a "conclusion" (such as "I am a heterosexual") with no concepts (such as "I", or "heterosexual")?

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Hal: if tabula rasa means "no pre-existing concepts", then it also means "no pre-existing conclusions", because how can one draw a "conclusion" (such as "I am a heterosexual") with no concepts (such as "I", or "heterosexual")?

I'm not really sure what you mean. I think concepts like 'heterosexual' and 'homosexual' are fairly useless, but being attracted to men (for instance) could be genetic without violating the principle of tabula rasa, in the same way that liking chocolate or finding the smell of faeces disgusting could be (I'm not saying that these are same thing, simply pointing out the difference between a concept and a preference/attraction). If a person discovers that he is solely attracted to men, he might end up believing he is a homosexual (and similarly for a person who is attracted solely to women)

Edited by Hal

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but being attracted to men (for instance) could be genetic without violating the principle of tabula rasa

True enough. But if you are asserting that sexual preference is genetic, then it cannot be volitional.

There are plenty of cases of people who have swapped sexual orientation in their lifetimes, and who were perfectly satisfied at different times they were the opposite orientation. One example I can think of is "Honey" on the show "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl" (which I watch, by the way), who was married and has a daughter -- and then left her husband for a woman.

I will submit that if anyone can volitionally change their sexual orientation, then everyone has that ability, regardless of whatever variant of "genetic determinism" you wish to ascribe to. If it is genetic, then it is not up to anyone's decision, and noone can do such a thing. Thus, there could be no "Honey's" in the world.

It is possible for any man or woman, given the right premises -- and acting on them consistently over time -- to convert sexual orientation, in either direction (to or from homosexuality). I contend that volition has primacy over "genetics" in the realm of value-judgements.

I do not think that liking chocolate is genetic either. I think is it also volitional. Some people do not like butter because it is slimy, greasy fat. Others do -- for precisely that reason. It is a value-judgement.

I honestly don't know about the smell of feces. It might be part of the physiological pleasure/pain mechanism, or it might be volitional. But I am not sure that matters much, the point is that if its not voltional, it is part of the pleasure/pain mechanism, which is not something you can ascribe sexual orientation to (without throwing the cases of volitional choice in sexual orientation out the window).

The only things a human baby has automatically are physical pleasure and pain and the suckling instinct. (As far as I am aware. If anyone knows anything obvious I'm missing that is readily observable in any infant, let me know). That's it. It has to learn (and evaluate) everything else -- including the fact that what is feels are "physical pleasure" and "physical pain".

Edited by TomL

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I would say that the reasons for physical attraction depend on a large number of factors, some of which will be volitional and some of which wont. I personally believe (although I know I couldnt conclusively prove) that sexual attraction isnt genetic but is largely dependent on childhood and early teenage conditioning and imprinting. Perhaps genetics may influence a person's preference to some degree, but this can be (and normally is) overridden by social conditioning and conscious choices. This would explain why someone can 'switch' from liking men to liking women, although I doubt this would be volitional in most cases (compare: A person changes from preferring blondes to preferring redheads. Is this because he sat down one night and 'chose' to like redheads instead, or is it a combination of hundreds and hundreds of different things that he has experienced?).

I wasnt actually claiming that sexual attraction was genetic, just pointing out that this possibility couldnt be dismissed via an appeal to tabula rasa alone.

I also think that subconscious 'choices' is a horribly misleading term. I dont deny that the processes that label stands for occur, but I object to the label itself. I'd prefer to refer the word choice for things that are chosen consciously and volitionaly (is your heart rate a 'subconscious choice' for instance? A lot of people can alter theirs at will. How about 'choosing' to feel pain? There doesnt seem to be a clear distinction here).

Edited by Hal

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Just to clarify, I'm talking purely about physical attraction here, in as much as it can be seperated from sexual attraction altogether. Volitional choice and values obviously play a far greater role when it comes to attraction 'overall' than they do in the raw physical side.

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