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Objectivism, Pornography and Masturbation

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The Individual
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Castle, I believe I affirmed your thought process in my earlier post. I said the prostitution is *not* because depravity is a mutual value, it is the means to another end. The affair, in contrast, is simply an expression of depravity, and hatred of the good is not a value, it is a dis-value. "Value" implies more than something you pursue, it also has to be something that somehow benefits you. Destruction can never be a legitimate value.

I can imagine cases in which theft or prostitution might be acceptable as a last resort. Clearly, they are not situations that apply in the normal developed world, and so do not apply, so we can judge prostitution and theft as immoral in a developed and civil society. But to say they are always, everywhere wrong, regardless of context, is a bit much for me.

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I generally agree that prostitution is immoral, but think that it should be noted that circumstances can occur(infrequently) that might change that. A woman with a hungry child in and extremely impoverished area might very well do so morally; Fantine from Les Miserables, for example or even Kira from We the Living sort of engaged in it to help Leo.

Yes, Fantine even sold her two front teeth for little Cosette, what she did for her little girl, was absolutely moral, what the Thenardiers did , on the other hand, wasn't. Kira was a whore, not a prostitute though, the way I see prostitution it's sex for hire and way more indescriminate, but I'd rather not get into that in this thread, because that's already covered in a thread on WTL.

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How was I judgmental Gert-Jan?

I don't think I was judgmental when I said prostitution is evil and morally degrading or prostitution is anti-life. I was stating objective moral standards.

If one chooses prostitution as a means of acquiring money or earning a living, no one, not even the government, has the right to intervene.

But the act of prostituting one's body is a moral crime.

Those who self-immolate certainly have no respect for their body.

And what do you mean by "we all self immolate to a certain extend?" I don't think I've ever self-immolated myself. It would be insanity.

I think you jumped to conclusions.

Look as I read it you stated that it is moral crime. I am not an expert on objectivism and I want to learn about it. I am and therefore I will think and I have chosen that I will not take anything dogmaticly. So I see this website as a chance test my believes and understandings. I've read some of Rand's books and I like them and I like objectivism, at least to the extend that I understood. I think it is also wise to say that I probably have a diffrent cultrural background then you, I am Dutch.

I do agree that sex (especialy with strangers ) has it dangers. As I see it, it is still a value for value transaction. I wouldn't advise anyone to practice prostitution, but as a matter of fact I read on a blog a woman who is in debt and wanting to try prostitution for extra income. She said it was hard at first but after a couple of times she started to like it. Now I don't know what conclusions one can draw of that, but it seems to me that it is better than being in debt and not trying to get out.

About self-immolation, I do not mean cutting one-self or any of that obvious kinds. I mean for instance that people smoke, which is generally seen as bad (I don't know if this is so by objective standards). Rand wrote: "When man thinks there is a fire in his mind, it is proper that he holds fire at his fingertips" (I apologize if I misquoted that. Useing traffic one has a greater chance of getting hurt than if one chooses to stay in bed per unit of time statisticly. Doing hard fisical work can damage one's body. Sitting at a computer all day can result in repetative stress disorder. One can get hurt if one plays sports, and one damages himself if one does not.

What I want illustrate is that one should make choices by what one understands to be right and if you choose so I think that we should agree to disagree

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I would think that masturbation is amoral.

Pornography is contextual (people's definition of porn changes, for some it is simply naked people for some it is grphic sex).

I'm assuming since Ms.Rand did a Playboy interview she did not disapprove of Playboy.

Prostitution leaving out sexual slavery?

That I'm unsure of. while it seems a repulsive act there are other things I deem repulsive that are simply jobs that must be done and I'm glad I'm not the one having to do it... giving enemas, cleaning septic systems, etc. I feel its immoral but feeling isn't enough. Since one's body is one's to use as one chooses I'm starting to believe that maybe to be consistent that is amoral as well.

And what about strippers?

Again, kind of icky.. but I've known several young ladies who put themselves through school that way and made a nice living. (yes, the old joke about strippers "putting themsleves trhough college" but actually is often true.) I would think using your..erh..assets... to fund your education is more moral than say.. taking govt funded loans to do so.

What about sex toys?

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I really don't see how someone can just say that masturbation is completely immoral. If you look at it as the highlight of your day (American Beauty reference) then that would be immoral. If it gets in the way of your happiness at all then it is immoral. Masturbation allows one to keep his sexual stress low. If you view it in that light then I don't see how it can be wrong.

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I would think that masturbation is amoral.

No.

Amorality begins when:

- life is no longer your standard of value - eg. you decided to end your life

OR

- you are not able to excercise your volitional capacity freely - your actions are not a matter of choice

OR

- no moral option is available to you eventhough you are free to choose

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No.

Amorality begins when:

- life is no longer your standard of value - eg. you decided to end your life

OR

- you are not able to excercise your volitional capacity freely - your actions are not a matter of choice

OR

- no moral option is available to you eventhough you are free to choose

er.. the definition of "amoral" is something in which morality is not a factor.. when something is neither immoral or moral.. it is neutral.

Now you can of course disagree with my statement that the act is morally neutral but I find your response to be fully inaccurate.

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er.. the definition of "amoral" is something in which morality is not a factor.. when something is neither immoral or moral.. it is neutral.

And what Sophia provided was the general context of when an action falls into the realm of that definition according to Objectivist ethics. Her response is wholly consistent with Objectivism.

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I think you jumped to conclusions.

Look as I read it you stated that it is moral crime. I am not an expert on Objectivism and I want to learn about it. I am and therefore I will think and I have chosen that I will not take anything dogmatically. So I see this website as a chance test my believes and understandings. I've read some of Rand's books and I like them and I like Objectivism, at least to the extend that I understood. I think it is also wise to say that I probably have a different cultural background then you, I am Dutch.

I do agree that sex (especially with strangers ) has it dangers. As I see it, it is still a value for value transaction. I wouldn't advise anyone to practice prostitution, but as a matter of fact I read on a blog a woman who is in debt and wanting to try prostitution for extra income. She said it was hard at first but after a couple of times she started to like it. Now I don't know what conclusions one can draw of that, but it seems to me that it is better than being in debt and not trying to get out.

About self-immolation, I do not mean cutting one-self or any of that obvious kinds. I mean for instance that people smoke, which is generally seen as bad (I don't know if this is so by objective standards). Rand wrote: "When man thinks there is a fire in his mind, it is proper that he holds fire at his fingertips" (I apologize if I misquoted that. Using traffic one has a greater chance of getting hurt than if one chooses to stay in bed per unit of time statistically. Doing hard physical work can damage one's body. Sitting at a computer all day can result in repetitive stress disorder. One can get hurt if one plays sports, and one damages himself if one does not.

What I want illustrate is that one should make choices by what one understands to be right and if you choose so I think that we should agree to disagree

When Rand wrote "When man thinks there is a fire in his mind, it is proper that he holds fire at his fingertips" it is not meant as a positive comment for smoking. It is symbolism.

Self-immolation is the deliberate attempt to harm or sacrifice oneself. Doing hard physical labor or intensive sports isn't a deliberate harm to one's body. Furthermore a sportsman can prevent such injuries to his body by playing responsibly and maintaining his body well.

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And what Sophia provided was the general context of when an action falls into the realm of that definition according to Objectivist ethics. Her response is wholly consistent with Objectivism.

Is mine not?

I don't believe that Objectivism declares that nothing is morally neutral..?

We're talking about a bodily function here. So my understanding would be it is inherently amoral (neutral) until a context is added to it that makes it otherwise.

Like eating.

Morally neutral until I find out you're eating dead babies.

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I am and therefore I will think and I have chosen that I will not take anything dogmaticly. So I see this website as a chance test my believes and understandings.

This website is not as you see it, it is as its owner made it to be. The only way to see what this website is would be to read the rules.

The rules say that you may test your believes in the debate forum, if anyone wants to debate you, and you may use the rest of the forum to learn about Objectivism, not to test beliefs that are in no way related to Objectivism.

Understanding Objectivism does not mean that you have to accept it first. You can read about Objectivism, and understand it, without taking it at all, let alone dogmatically. What you cannot do is refuse to acknowledge Objectivism, and continue posting your unrelated opinions on various issues. That would ruin the website for everyone else who is posting here because they wish to discuss Objectivism.

I wouldn't advise anyone to practice prostitution, but as a matter of fact I read on a blog a woman who is in debt and wanting to try prostitution for extra income. She said it was hard at first but after a couple of times she started to like it. Now I don't know what conclusions one can draw of that, but it seems to me that it is better than being in debt and not trying to get out.

I have no doubt in my mind that you think prostitution is OK. I believe you, there's no need to keep repeating it, and I don't see how doing so would test your beliefs. If you would've instead asked why Objectivism disagrees with you, and then questioned specific points others raise, then at least the conversation would've moved forward on a note that's related to Objectivism, and I would've actually answered you, instead of posting a speech about site rules.

But I doubt anyone's going to start discussing and questioning your points, even if the mods decide to allow it for a while, because they don't seem all that interesting, and have no connection to the theme of the website.

As I see it, it is still a value for value transaction.

I have no argument against that, that's exactly how you see it. But you don't mention what your definition of value is. According to the Objectivist definition of value, you're wrong.

Is mine not?

I don't believe that Objectivism declares that nothing is morally neutral..?

We're talking about a bodily function here. So my understanding would be it is inherently amoral (neutral) until a context is added to it that makes it otherwise.

Like eating.

Morally neutral until I find out you're eating dead babies.

Eating is never morally neutral. It's either a moral or immoral choice, depending on context. Just because someone doesn't know which, it doesn;t mean it's morally neutral. Same with sex.

A-moral means outside the realm of morality: issues like 2+2=4, or being tall, are a-moral matters, because they aren't subject to an individual's choice.

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Is mine not?

You said,

Now you can of course disagree with my statement that the act is morally neutral but I find your response to be fully inaccurate.

Her response was not inaccurate, it is consistent with Objectivism.

You said;

I would think that masturbation is amoral.

So you are saying that by default it is amoral (even though the determination of the amorality of masturbation would also require a context).

And then you said;

I don't believe that Objectivism declares that nothing is morally neutral.?

Which is correct, except in the situations which Sophia notes, so masturbation is not by default amoral absent a context. The fact that the morality is not determinable without a context does not make it amoral by default. That is because masturbation CANNOT occur without a context. The correct answer is not "Masturbation is amoral absent context", it is "The morality (moral, immoral or amoral) of masturbation cannot be determined without a context.

That is why your statement "I would think that masturbation is amoral." is incorrect.

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Ok.. I get what you're saying but I still have to say that since the immorality or morality of the act is based entirely in the context that the act in theory is morally neutral. It doesn't become anything else until context is applied.

Since the OP didn't say "is masturbating to child porn moral"

or "is masturbating to phone sex with your spouse when apart for a long period of time moral"

the question as asked leaves it neutral.

edited for typo

Edited by QuoVadis
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I don't believe that Objectivism declares that nothing is morally neutral..?

We're talking about a bodily function here. So my understanding would be it is inherently amoral (neutral) until a context is added to it that makes it otherwise.

The problem is that you're misunderstanding what "amorality" refers to. Morality refers to a set of principles which guide your choices so that they lead to your ultimate goal of life. If those presuppositions are false -- if you do not have choice or if you do not choose to live -- then the concept of morality is inapplicable. Otherwise, the concept of morality applies: either a choice does sustain your life, in which case it is moral, or it does not, in which case it is immoral.

"Amoral" means that there cannot be a moral principle, meaning that the question is entirely outside the realm of morality. If a terrorist holds a gun to your head and demands they you murder your wife lest be blow your head off, you cannot apply moral principles to determine what is the proper action (assuming that you can't kill the terrorist). You can always invoke the "context" card and say that a certain choice is amoral until you add enough context to make a moral evaluation -- this does not mean that all choices are inherently amoral. Moral evaluation cannot be performed in an epistemological vacuum, you always require some knowledge context to evaluate an action. That does not mean that morality is an empty concept and that all actions are "inherently amoral".

When a man repeatedly fails to make love to his wife who desires him, because he has chosen to relieve himself in the alley, despite professing to love his wife, then it is clear that his choice is immoral. There may be some context where masturbation is the moral choice.

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There may be some context where masturbation is the moral choice.

Perhaps the context I mentioned above?

(ahh..not the child porn one)

I think we're having a semantic quibble here regarding the issue of my statement that it is amoral until the the context is added. I have trouble accepting that any biological function is anything other than neutral until specific context is added.

Like sexual tofu..it has no flavour but what you add to it.

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I think we're having a semantic quibble here regarding the issue of my statement that it is amoral until the the context is added.

It's not semantic. The morality of something, even a bodily function, cannot be determined until a context has been added. The determination of such morality includes determining whether or not the action is amoral. Therefore an action cannot be determined to be amoral without a context. Thus, the morality of any action must have a context before it can be determined. This fits nicely within reality because ALL actions exist within a context, known or otherwise. There is no such thing as contextless masturbation (or any other action for that matter).

In order for you to claim masturbation is amoral, you must know the context. Simply not knowing the context of the action of masturbation does not therefore make that act amoral; it makes the morality of that action indeterminable. It's not a semantic issue, it is an issue of making a proper judgement of the act based on what you know of the act.

Edited by RationalBiker
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I have trouble accepting that any biological function is anything other than neutral until specific context is added.

I think you are mixing two separate concepts here. Mastrubation is not a biological function.

Sexual drive IS and since not a matter of human choice - morally neutral.

Felling hunger does not lie in the shere of morality but how you go about satisfying your hunger is.

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I think we're having a semantic quibble here regarding the issue of my statement that it is amoral until the the context is added.
If you think this is a "semantic quibble", that means that you are defining the word "amoral" different from how I do. If so, I'd like to see how you define "moral", "immoral" and "amoral". Otherwise this is a logical quibble -- I hold that it is a logical quibble. And it's not a quibble. But maybe you really are operating in terms of completely different concepts under the label of "moral", "immoral" and "amoral". I know that many people do consider "rejection of morality" to be what "amoral" means -- of course, as we know, such "amorality" is in fact immorality. It's not a totally lunatic position to equate "rejection of morality" with the concept "amoral", in fact it's entirely analogous to the relationship between "theist" and "atheist" as contrasted to "agnostic". But clearly, you didn't mean that "amoral" refers to the rejection of morality. And so what we're left with is that which has no moral value (positive or negative). The only such things are those that are outside the realm "chosen to advance life as your ultimate goal", i.e. things with no choice, or the situation where you do not hold life as your ultimate goal.
I have trouble accepting that any biological function is anything other than neutral until specific context is added.
The metaphysically given cannot be morally evaluated; but masturbation is not metaphysically given. No matter what those wankers tell you.
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"Amoral" means that there cannot be a moral principle, meaning that the question is entirely outside the realm of morality.

Deosn't amoral just mean no moral principles apply? For example, all living beings except for man are amoral creatures, morality doens't apply to them. Or what is the morality of the color blue or the taste of strawberries? None.

If a terrorist holds a gun to your head and demands they you murder your wife lest be blow your head off, you cannot apply moral principles to determine what is the proper action (assuming that you can't kill the terrorist).

In this example the terrorist is acting immorally, we can agree on that much. Morality cannot guide your actions here because such emergency situations are outside the norm. Still, I'd say the propper action, if fighting back is not possible, would be to allow the terrorist to kill me, because I do not buy my life from a terrorist at the price of someone whose life I value.

There may be some context where masturbation is the moral choice.

A single man who can't find a date. A married man or woman whose spouse is absent for the time being. I can think of many others.

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Deosn't amoral just mean no moral principles apply?
I think that is pretty much what I said: no principle is possible, no principle applies.
Still, I'd say the propper action, if fighting back is not possible, would be to allow the terrorist to kill me, because I do not buy my life from a terrorist at the price of someone whose life I value.
In other words, your own life is subordinate to that of other things or people that you value. I don't see how you can conclude that is the proper action. How about this: you are not buying your life, you are acting to preserve your life.
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Yes. I can stand the idea of my own death. I cannot stand the idea of killing someone I love. Of what value would my continued life be then?

You get to find someone else you love, later on? Or get to continue with your work or hobby (whichever is your central purpose in life, presumably work). Someone you love is not more valuable than your life. You love them because they make your life better. But they do not (or at least, should not) give your life its meaning or value to you. If that is the case I find it hard to understand why they would love you, as you would at that point be something of an empty shell.

On the topic of amorality, I think that an amoral action is one in which you cannot talk about morality, like actions under the influence of force, or inanimate objects, or the actions of other people (in so far as you are considering only their impact on you, as opposed to whether their actions fits in their standard of values). I think you might call QuoVadis is talking about should have some sort of word attached to it. I mean, we have concepts for actions, and we then label them morally based on context. But they have to be in some state, which should have some sort of word to denote it, prior to the introduction of context. Perhaps pre-moral would do? That is, it is before questions of morality can even arise (since morality lies in context, not actions themselves).

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Yes. I can stand the idea of my own death. I cannot stand the idea of killing someone I love. Of what value would my continued life be then?

If someone you loved passed away, it doesn't mean your life would no longer have any value.

Surely there are still things you treasure just as much as your loved one.

Ayn Rand lost her husband which she said was her greatest value but she didn't lose the will to live. She was crushed by her husband's demise no doubt and she learned to cope with it. There are things which still mattered a lot to her - her philosophy, her love for life, etc.

Edited by The Individual
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