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What's So Metaphysical About Sex?

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I have not read Leonard Piekoff's book about the philosophy of Ayn Rand, but I am wondering why sex is something metaphysical rather than just physical. Furthermore, isn't the idea that heterosexual sex is better than homosexual sex an epistemological idea, just as the laws of physics themselves are epistemological and not metaphysical?

From http://attitudeadjustment.tripod.com/Books/OPAR.htm it seems that it could go either way according to the metaphysics of sex, so it leads me to believe that sex is in some way epistemological, in the sense that it's not just sex that is good, but some version of sex that is good. Otherwise, since men and women are metaphysically the same in that they both posess consciousness and volition, but epistemologically different in that one is the concept of a man and one is the concept of a woman, there would be no basis to metaphysically discriminate between the sexes, and thus, no basis to discriminate between heterosexuality and homosexuality.

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I have not read Leonard Piekoff's book about the philosophy of Ayn Rand, but [...]

1. The correct spelling of his name is P-E-I-koff.

2. You don't need to read OPAR to learn about the Objectivist view of human sexuality. Ayn Rand created Objectivism. Read her views. Start with the entries under "Sex," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, pp. 457-459, and then follow those excerpts to their original sources for more discussion.

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I know of two definitions of metaphysical, neither of which seem to be applied here consistently. The first definition is more-or-less synonymous with 'conceptual'. The second is the study of existence as such, rather than the existence of some particular thing or other (being qua being).

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Can someone give me a definition for metaphysical? I always thought it was somewhat mystical. Doesn't seem at all like something rand would condone.

Ayn Rand: "I use the word 'metaphysical' to mean: that which pertains to reality, to the nature of things, to existence."

That is from "Metaphysical," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 291. See also the "Metaphysics" entry on pp. 294-295.

Metaphysics (also known as ontology) is one of the five branches of Objectivism. The others are: epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics.

The Ayn Rand Lexicon is, I hold, the most important single volume for an initial study of Objectivism. It lists the source for each excerpt from Ayn Rand's writings. You can then go to that source for more information.

P. S. -- Ayn Rand's name is spelled with a capital R, just as the name of her philosophy is spelled with a capital O.

Edited by BurgessLau
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This is clearly false. If it was true, all humans would be "men" and sex would not even be possible, let alone discussed here.

That's not what I meant by metaphysically the same. Sorry, I wasn't thinking clearly. I meant that consciousness was a metaphysical concept but that male and female were epistemological ones. You can destinguish between male and female physically but not in terms of the way their consciousness works.

Edited by Starblade
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Yeah, more and more evidence seems to indicate that men and women actually think differently. Maybe on some similar principles, but in some way they have distinct hard-wiring.

Nevertheless, they are both conscious and they both posess volition. Concepts requires measurement omission, yet you are stuck on the details.

If the details about the general differences between men and women are important, then why not the details about the specific differences between any given man and any given woman, or any given man and any other given man, or any given woman and any other given woman? What gives us justification to go THIS far and not THAT far in discriminating?

BTW, this doesn't mean I reject Ayn Rand's sexuality. I just believe this to be a general case, not an all encompassing, individual ignoring ought.

Edited by Starblade
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Since we, elsewhere, reached a basic agreement, I'll just respond to the principle you mention here.

Men and women share similarities, certainly, and in other ways they are distinct--in the same way, all men are similar in some ways and, in other ways, distinct. Depending on what your asking, these differences can be relevant or irrelevant.

Even now I'm not entirely certain what question you were asking, but let's assume it is why a woman should not be president when a man should. The relevant information, then, would be, "Is there some relevant difference between men and women that would cause a man to properly fulfill that role and a woman not?" I say no, but Rand said yes. Rand believed that a) it was necessary for a woman to look up to a man in order to be happy and b ) as president a woman could not sufficiently admire any man. The relationship between any woman president and any man would be that of leader to follower. Rand took this to be the proper relationship of a man to a woman, not a woman to a man.

Agree or no, that is a relevant difference that would divide the proper realms of the sexes, were it true. Another is something I recently read about how men and women learn in fundamentally different ways and, when separate in their education, both tend to learn much more. Because of relevant differences, they ought to do different things if that study is true.

[Edit: the 'b )' was turned into an emoticon so I changed it.]

Edited by aleph_0
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"Is there some relevant difference between men and women that would cause a man to properly fulfill that role and a woman not?" I say no, but Rand said yes. Rand believed that a) it was necessary for a woman to look up to a man in order to be happy and b ) as president a woman could not sufficiently admire any man.

Depending on how you mean "properly fulfill", I'd like to offer this clarification. Agreement or disagreement aside, Rand did not say that a women could not "properly fulfill the role". What she said was that a rational woman should not WANT to. She thought a woman could be quite capable of doing the job.

This particular line has been discussed (at length) here.

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Depending on how you mean "properly fulfill", I'd like to offer this clarification. Agreement or disagreement aside, Rand did not say that a women could not "properly fulfill the role". What she said was that a rational woman should not WANT to. She thought a woman could be quite capable of doing the job.

This particular line has been discussed (at length) here.

Ah, okay.

However, back to my original question... why did Ayn Rand tend to use the term metaphysical for something that was purely physical AND for something that was purely ontic? I can understand that certain things are metaphysical, but not sex. Sex depends on the PARTICULAR state of existence, that is, that biologically the dominant life forms reproduce sexually. Even sensations are tenative, since existence doesn't say that the universe exists in particulars, but consciousness implies that there exists something conscious, and something of which to be conscious. Still, the means by which this happens... isn't it entirely physical? That is, I'd put sex and sensation as epistemic, not metaphysical.

So, my question remains: What's so metaphysical about sex?

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Ontic meaning something relating to existence, I don't see why it would be contradictory to refer to the metaphysical as both something physical and ontic. What I do think is strange is the two proper definitions of 'metaphysical'. In the philosophical sense of the study of being, gender really isn't metaphysical but simply physical. In the sense of being conceptual, however, differences in gender affect your approach to life. I've always had a hard time defining what makes something masculine or feminine, but whatever the difference, this difference could be termed "metaphysical".

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Metaphysical essentially means things that are part of reality. And it is true that men and women think differently with regards to sex because of metaphysical biological reasons. People are a combonation of mind and body. Biology drives sexual attraction. People can choose to act against their biology and their metaphysical status as male or female because they possess volition. However doing so results in a contradiction and a war between a persons metaphysical status as male of female and the biological functions that implies and their choice to act against the identity that is thereown. This is immoral. And it is the state homosexuals CHOOSE to inflict upon themselves because at the root they MUST unadmittedly HATE their own identity and so they choose to act in a way that negates it.

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People can choose to act against their biology and their metaphysical status as male or female because they possess volition.

You assume too much. Is it not likely that some people's biology just works differently from the norm? I see no evidence to support the claim that all people that are attracted to those of the same sex are choosing to go against their nature. On the contrary, I would imagine that someone who chooses such a path when it could mean being killed (as was the case in the not so distant past, and still is if you are under the Sharia for instance) is not going against his nature.

People choose to go against their nature when there is incentive to do so or when they are ignorant of what their nature demands. While now days there may be incentives to become homosexual (join the group, easier to find partners, become a minority deserving special attention etc.) it was not always so - and yet homosexuals have existed for a long time.

It is deeply immoral for a guy attracted to men to find a woman, marry her and have kids.

Back to the original question, I see nothing in reality that demands that our reproductive organs or physical stimuli that give us pleasure have any grand significance associated to them. There are plenty of other things that demand the willing participation of others as well, that is no merit to that argument either.

I have yet to see a single rational argument to the effect that "proper" sex is a "celebration of values".

mrocktor

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Hello All,

The issue of homosexuality is still somewhat contentious in the Objectivist community, but most would agree that it is not inherently immoral. On his radio show, Dr. Peikoff opined that homosexuality is "unnatural, but not immoral." I agree with this stance.

The term "metaphysical" is often used in the other fields of philsophy to denote issues which are all-encompassing, fundamental, and relate to reality as a whole. For example, the question of whether or not one should choose life or not is considered a "meta-ethical" question. One's overall view of life and the universe, benevolent or malevolent, is a "metaphysical value judgment."

I believe that issues of sex and sexuality can be considered metaphysical in two important ways:

1) One's approach to and enjoyment of sex is based on his metaphysical value judgments. One who highly values his life and sees a benevolent universe around him, and whose partner approaches life from this same perspective, will get a greater emotional/psychological reward from sex.

2) The experience of masculinity or feminity as a value relates to one's fundamental view of himself as a physical entity of a certain type in reality. If asked: "Why do you value being a man?", my response is "Because I *am* a man, and I highly value this physical manifestation of my self in reality." The fact that this issue realtes to a certain state of *being* makes it metaphysical, in my eyes.

--Dan Edge

Edited by dan_edge
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  • 7 months later...

Joy is the feeling associated with successful action. Pain is the feeling associated with failure. Since all objective evaluations of success and failure must be subordinated to life as the standard of value, then fundamentally speaking joy is the feeling of life, pain the feeling of death. Orgasm being the most intense of all physical pleasures, Ayn rand deemed it a profound state of "metaphysical joy," or in other words- a heightened state of experiencing one's own existence, a state of consciousness where one's ephemeral emotional experience touches the core of its own standard.

...I am wondering why sex is something metaphysical rather than just physical.

This is poorly phrased question, but I imagine that you are asking why one would attach psychological importance to the act of sex.

The answer, as I have said above, is that pleasure serves a specific objective purpose in the life of a conscious entity. If you divorce psychological value from the act of sex, what value is left. To quote John Galt "...man is indivisible entity, an integrated unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness..."

A rational man does not divorce experience from value. Any man who does, succeeds only in divorcing himself from existence.

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Yeah, more and more evidence seems to indicate that men and women actually think differently. Maybe on some similar principles, but in some way they have distinct hard-wiring.

Please be careful. It is wrong to say men and women "think differently" if all you mean is that some researchers have shown statistical differences in what men and women think about, or their style of verbal expression. "Think" is more specific. Men and women do not have different methods of cognition.

If men and women do think differently, then I'm transgendered!

--Schefflera

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Please be careful. It is wrong to say men and women "think differently" if all you mean is that some researchers have shown statistical differences in what men and women think about, or their style of verbal expression. "Think" is more specific. Men and women do not have different methods of cognition.

If men and women do think differently, then I'm transgendered!

--Schefflera

I think he is refering to differences in brain structure and function that have been found recently due largely to technological improvements in nuerology. Women and men, for example use diferent parts of their brains when performing identical tasks.

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I think he is refering to differences in brain structure and function that have been found recently due largely to technological improvements in nuerology. Women and men, for example use diferent parts of their brains when performing identical tasks.

That's like saying that since I use a pen and paper, and you use a calculator, we add differently.

(Of course, that's not a precise analogy. There are more differences between pen/paper and calculator than between male/female brains.)

--Schefflera

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That's like saying that since I use a pen and paper, and you use a calculator, we add differently.

(Of course, that's not a precise analogy. There are more differences between pen/paper and calculator than between male/female brains.)

--Schefflera

Isn't this last a rather bold claim to make without knowing a lot about neurology? Given how complex the human brain is I doubt they will only find a really tiny difference; using a completely different area of the brain sounds like a rather major one to me.

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That's like saying that since I use a pen and paper, and you use a calculator, we add differently.

(Of course, that's not a precise analogy. There are more differences between pen/paper and calculator than between male/female brains.)

--Schefflera

There is a considerable difference between a calculator and pen/paper. Calculator is much, much faster. And the differences this leads to are considerable. Similiarly, devoting larger parts of the brain specific tasks results in those tasks being accomplished easier and faster. It doesn't mean that you will come to a different answer, but it does mean that you will probably evaluate some things differently. One significant particular difference they have found is in eyesight. Women notice colors and details more while men are wired to be more cognizant of movement. This is a perfect alibi, by the way, for not noticing your wife's haircut or outfit. :blush:

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