Another attack on western philosophy, because, sex

Philosophy as a Way of Life
7 min readJan 29, 2020

“I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic.” No, that’s not me. Except for the academic part. I am, as some of my readers know, a man. Heterosexual. The phrase in quotes is found right at the beginning of an article by Victoria Brooks entitled “Why we need a new philosophy of sex,” published at The Conversation.

As politically incorrect as I’m sure it will sound, I am extremely skeptical of such declarations, particularly at the onset of a piece of philosophical writing. But that’s because, according to Brooks, I bought into the (dead, white, male) western philosophical canon. A grave mistake, apparently. Right before the sentence quoted above, Brooks sets the stage for her diatribe:

“A number of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes. Unsurprisingly, I experienced some ethical dilemmas. Because I was researching the ethics of sexuality, my research involved potentially having sex with men and women at the beach.”

Wait, what? In order to do research she had to have sex with strangers, despite the fact that — as she affirms in the following paragraph — she was, at the time, in a relationship? Brooks thought that she “desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy … that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality.”

Before we continue, since there is more (much more), let me make one thing fundamentally clear. I agree with Brooks that whatever current standards of ethics we adhere to ought, always, to be questioned and, if necessary, updated or even entirely replaced. I also agree with the notion that the socio-economic-bio-cultural background of any given philosopher will influence in more or less subtle ways that philosopher’s outlook on any topic, particularly ethics. I would only add the caveat that, of course, that’s true for any philosopher, including Brooks herself.

All of that said, however, it strikes me as somewhat bizarre to claim that one needs a philosophy that “does not judge” and is “aligned” with one’s sexuality. First off, ethics is a prescriptive discipline, therefore it judges, by definition. If you want descriptions instead, the psychology and sociology departments are located across the street. Second, to require that an ethical philosophy aligns a

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Philosophy as a Way of Life

by Massimo Pigliucci. Practical philosophy, science, pseudoscience & good reasoning. Complete index of articles at https://massimopigliucci.org/essays/