Sex and the Virtuous Kantian Agent

In Raja Halwani (ed.), Sex and Ethics: Essays in Sexuality, Virtue, and the Good Life. Palgrave-Macmillan (2006)
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Abstract

This paper explores how a virtuous Kantian agent would regard and express her sexuality. I argue both that Kant has a rich account of virtue, and that a virtuous Kantian agent should view her sexuality as a good thing–as an important aspect of her animal nature. On my view, the virtuous agent does not seek to suppress her sexuality, but rather to find modes and contexts for its expression that allow the agent to maintain her self-respect and to avoid degrading others. The paper begins by considering reasons, grounded in Kant’s texts, why one might reasonably think that Kant has a pejorative view of sexuality, and only the thinnest account of virtue, to offer. I then aim to correct this picture by more carefully and fully exploring Kant’s work, putting his apparently negative comments about sex, and apparently narrow account of virtue, in their proper context. I also dispute—based on Kant’s own principles—some of Kant’s claims about homosexual sex and masturbation as violations of duties to oneself as an animal and moral being. Finally, I conclude the paper with an account of the virtuous Kantian agent’s proper attitude toward her sexuality.

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Lara Denis
Agnes Scott College

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