David Levy on Perversion

Philosophy Research Archives 7:431-442 (1981)
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In "Perversion and the Unnatural as Moral Categories" (Ethics, 90:191-202, January 1980) David Levy argues against a number of theories of perversion by means of the method of counter-example. This is inappropriate since many familiar accounts are not attempts to provide a "one-over-many" formula for a core of clear cases. Rather, like Levy himself, many understand perversions as "unnatural" or "non-human" actions, i.e. as distortions of human nature. Here there is agreement on the intension of the term. Differences in the extension arise in virtue of the relational character of the meaning. For what counts as a distortion of human nature depends on the paradigm of human nature one endorses. In these cases the appropriate way to decide between competing lists of perversions is to evaluate the competing paradigms of human nature on which they rest. Typically these paradigms embody important value assumptions.



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