MEETING MUST START BY 6.30PM
I have been informed by the staff at Molly Malone's that they will need the
bar downstairs where we meet from 8.30pm onwards. This means that we have to
finish by this time on Sundays. I should therefore be most grateful if we
did START by six thirty at the latest. I took the opportunity to ask them if
they could open the bar for us during the meeting. They still have to come
back to me on this.
PETRA LOOKING FOR A FLAT SHARE.
Petra has asked to canvas you to help her find a flat share/bed sit in the
centre of Madrid if possible. Please contact her directly : firstname.lastname@example.org
or tel 62011257
WALK TO COTOS/PEÑALARA THIS SATURDAY
Kim is organizing an unofficial walk to Cotos this Saturday, we meet in
Nuevos Ministerios Renfe station at 9.30am near the main ticket office. Some
real walking might be involved although the bars in Cotos are quite decent,
just in case.
Talking about pleasure and excitement, this Sunday we are discussing "love
without sex." I imagine that this is one of those subjects where experience
is desirable but not necessary.
Take care and see you soon
Mayte; Almería (Villa de Níjar);
Paloma; Marbella (near Elviria);
SUNDAY 6.00pm START at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs----
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Love without sex
I think we need to set some parameters to this discussion. I will exclude
issues related to sexual problems due to infirmity or disease. This makes
the issue a medical problem and not a philosophical one. I will also exclude
the idea that sex, and indirectly love, should be something practiced only
within marriage. It might look like a moral issue, but in fact it is a
social engineering problem and not a philosophical problem. Although, of
course, the institution of marriage does have philosophical implications.
Hence, a philosophical issue would be what are the implications of love and
sex to normal people? To decide who is a normal person we need only apply
the 'duck test.' If a person looks normal, says normal things, and behaves
normally, then we can assume that they are normal until proven otherwise.
What do we mean by sex in the context of this discussion? For our purposes
we can distinguish four functions of sex. l) the mechanics of a male
physically fertilizing a female ovum. ll) the pleasurable and emotional
experience people have when in physical contact with each other. lll) the
physical appearance of individuals in a social context. lV) gender,
By physical appearance (lll) I mean the effect we have on others purely on
what we physically look like. For example, the use of attractive models to
sell goods. Or our feelings about what people think if our partner was
attractive or not. Physical sexual pleasure (lV) is just that and I think we
more or less know what we are talking about. The fertilization process (l)
is of course nature's way of bringing together male and female genes
together to reproduce. However, today a male need not necessarily be in
physical contact with a female to make this happen. In Vitro Fertilisation
and genetic engineering have revolutionized how reproduction (of humans)
takes place, but this has only been the case these past few decades.
It is only now that we can distinguish the concept of sex into these four
constituent functions. Well into the 20th century, the idea that
fertilisation could be done without physical contact was unthinkable. Hence
if society wanted more members it was necessary to bring males and females
together. And in a wider social context, it was inconceivable that the
pleasure part (lll) was not linked to the reproduction process (l). At least
lip service was paid to this idea as some societies still do.
However, bring males and females together to beget children also had the
side effect of making the mechanical experience very desirable. Which is not
bad in itself, but of course, and I speculate here, it could easily lead to
an untenable situation. There might be more children in a family unit than
what the partners can look after. Marriage is supposed to create stability
for the offspring to grow in and mature. This is done through the
cooperation of the parents; one looks after the offspring and the other
provides for the groups, many times some activities can alternate between
partners. This must surely be the first institution to employ the concept of
division of labour. At least in mammals, an element of parental stability is
necessary for the up bringing of the young. But it is also true that others
can take the place of the natural parents should they be absent. (I will not
discuss the idea of group survival that seems to be liked the fostering
principle and which is rejected by Dawkins.)
In fact the monogamous model of a marriage partnership is not the only model
there is. The polygamous model is also very common and the tribal model,
where the offspring are cared for by the whole community, are also
prevalent. These two models also have their advantages and disadvantage,
which we need no go into here.
It is also not surprising that we should be considering an issue couched in
a dualistic language: love, being metaphysical, and sex being physical. And
whilst many philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz, Spinoza and
others) have seen a problem in trying to link or find a causal relationship
between the metaphysical and the physical, this has never been a big issue
for those whose only interests were social engineering. For example,
religions find no problem with linking the metaphysical idea of a deity to
having more children (physical process). Or politicians from linking
national patriotism (metaphysical) with dying on the battle front
(physical). Hence, for many centuries we have been brought up to think and
believe that love-sex-reproduction go together in one package deal with all
the necessary infrastructure to support this set up.
If philosophy is the love of wisdom, then we can blame or praise philosophy,
or rather its agents or subcontractors (L Floridi's idea) , for separating
this packaged bundle into its constituent parts. Medical science has given
us reproductive rights without the need of physical contact. Engineering has
provided us with shelter, self defence and higher crop yields. And of course
commerce has given us a workable system, even if not totally fair, to
distribute scarce resources. In the past it was one package deal.
Today, we can not only pick and choose which part of the package deal we
want but we can also subcontract what we choose. For example, if we want
children, we can have the children and then subcontract their up bringing to
a nanny or an elite school. Or we can indulge in the physical pleasures of
the package and then leave it to some plastic surgeon or friendly
microbiologist to keep our body fit for purpose. And when our metaphysics
gets all tangled up with our physics we just go to a psychiatrist to sort it
all out for us. In the past we only needed one social engineer to sort
everything out and keep us going.
So what exactly are we talking about when we consider love without sex? We
can reasonably start by excluding sex to mean the reproductive function (l).
In any case, this is not what we usually mean in an utterance, love without
We can also exclude the social function of sex (lll), although this is not
as straight forward as sex as a reproduction process. Whilst the
reproduction function is value neutral, the social function is not void of
value judgment. Some would make it a necessary and/or sufficient condition
to be with someone who is also socially attractive before involving
themselves with them. But, of course, this condition being socially based
can change with what society accepts at a given time. A good example of this
racially mixed marriages, today this would be regarded as normal but a few
decades back it would have been considered a taboo even to talk about it.
Today it is acceptable for a women to partner with a shorter man. Although
social attraction is not a necessary condition it does have a baring on how
individuals and society evolve.
Sex as pleasurable euphoria (ll) is most probably what we are talking about
here. Indeed, why should this activity have this effect on human beings? It
cannot be a necessary condition for the reproductive process because as I
have argued; this can be done artificially without any physical human
contact. This leaves us with the pleasure part of the activity. So what is
the purpose or function here?
We can interpret this question as asking what is the biological function of
the pleasure part in sex? In which case it is beyond our scope. Or we can
mean the question to be, why make sex pleasurable? I would hazard a guess
and speculate that it is a form of communication. And a form of
communication that proves Dawkin's idea that communication is manipulation.
Think about it. The reproductive process is the most dangerous event all
human beings have to be involved in their life time. It is dangerous for the
newly born, it is dangerous for the mother and it is also dangerous for the
male. And if you are wondering how the reproductive event can be dangerous
for the male, this event means competing with others for a mate which can
turn into an aggressive fight out. And it can be dangerous because sex is
one of the quickest ways to transmit some serious and dangerous diseases and
infections. So, at least in principle, the male is no less at risk than the
mother and newborn. With such a high risk, there must be a pay off,
Of course, some will say that the pay off is having children, but that's a
metaphysical idea since it involves a value judgment about reproduction and
maybe a spiritual value as well. But nature did make value judgments when
the reproductive process in mammals was being evolved a few million years
ago. Hence, the pay off must be immediate and sufficient enough to make it
attractive. If the payoff came later we can say that the transaction was
based on payment being made in advance with delivery at a later date. I
doubt that this model would have been very successful. To start with, those
many millennia years ago, no one knew if they were going to live that long.
And today this model only works in the insurance industry (for different
reasons) and the exclusive sports car industry. In general human beings use
the cash on delivery model.
Nature is not stupid, even if it might be amoral. The physical euphoria (ll)
is very intense, very addictive and very short lived. In other words, the
right combination to make us come back for seconds helpings of this
pleasurable experience. And until we managed to control the sex package, a
sexual experience meant that the chances of the event resulting into
conception and reproduction were very high. This chance increased every time
we participated in this activity. I would suggest that the pleasure in the
sex act (ll) is none other than communication. It communicates the message
that this behaviour is desirable and it manipulated our behaviour by making
us repeat the experience.
Could it be that today love without sex we can only mean love without a
certain type of physical pleasure. But is this logically and grammatically
the same as love without, for example, a television or love without steam
pudding? The issue here is whether there is any difference between sexual
pleasure (lll) and any other sort of pleasure we experience? Of course, I am
asking this question in a moral neutral context or maybe no more neutral
than any other pleasure.
What is love? It has been some time since there was a block buster book
about love that promised to solve all our problems. Or I might have been too
busy to notice. One of the more popular of these books is Dr John Gray's,
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (1992). And I refer to this book for
no other reason that I happen to have a copy and we are discussing an issue
in applied philosophy.
This is what Gray has to say about men and women falling in love:
- "When a man is in love he is motivated to be the best he can be
in order to serve others. "
- "Women are happy when they believe their needs will be met. She
needs to feel loved and cherished." But this is qualified by, "They [women]
wanted to relax and just be taken care of for a while. They were tired of
sharing everything with others."
On Mars, men had a win/lose philosophy; I win and don't care if you lose. On
Venus, women had lose/win philosophy. I lose so that you can win and as long
as everyone was making a sacrifice everyone was taken care of. The theme of
this book is that "love is magical, and it can last, if we remember our
What is evident for us is that we might have a problem trying to define love
that applies to both males and females. This diametrically different male
and female strategies (they are also at diametrical ends of a game theory
matrix) might also explain why the physical euphoria has to be so intense
for males and females to come together in the first place. With such
opposite mind sets the pay off must be really high to bring these two
together, if that is there is going to be any reporoduction.
Of course, we know that love ought to be a win/win situation, but the
problem is getting there and staying there. However, a win/win situation
implies at least two things. Both parties have to give up something and both
parties have to receive something. But the necessary condition for a win/win
situation is that each party wants to give up something they want and
receive something they also want. So under normal circumstances (see
introduction) love without sex can exist if both parties agree to this state
of affairs. I am not, of course, including societies where marriage (the
complete package deal) is still strongly used for social engineering,
sometimes even to the point of physical harm if someone does not abide by
the rules. An element of free agency is necessary for this discussion.
The question then becomes, how important is sex for men and women today? Of
course, I don't want to be presumptuous to imagine how important sex (as
pleasure (ll)) is for women, but consider what Gray says about men.
".... He had glimpsed through his telescope a vision he described as awesome
beauty and grace, He had discovered the Venusians [women]. His body is on
fire." And so on until we are told that when a "man is in love he is
motivated to be the best he can be in order to serve others." Unfortunately,
we are not exactly told whether serving others also includes serving
breakfast in bed. Whatever it means, we are all best advised to remember
Gray's warning in chapter one: "But as the magic [of love] recedes and daily
life takes over, it emerges that men continue to expect women to think and
act like men, and women expect men to feel and behave like women."
Or as they say in the packaged tour industry, "you pays your money, and you
takes your choice."