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Being a transvestite all my life I have wrestled with the reasons why I have this need and, essentially, compulsion. Some seem to argue that transvestism has a organic origin while others say it is developmental in some way. I would appreciate constructive views on this.

I'm not sure that the questioner is seeking an excuse or explanation to "explain away" the condition. The words "wrestled" and "compulsion" suggest some psychic pain about the questioner's transvestism. If that is so, the pop-psychological advice to "be who you are," to accept yourself in the face of the negative assessments other people make about the condition, is short-sighted. According to the American Psychiatric Association (see DSM-IV [1994] and DSM-IV-TR [2000]), "fetishistic transvestism" is a sexual mental disorder if the condition [the sexual desires, in part] is accompanied by psychic pain (or, which we can ignore for our discussion, functional impairment). The goal of therapy is to cure the patient by eliminating the psychic pain/distress (this is a modification of the medical model of physical ailments). This elimination, however, can be sought and/or attained in two very different ways. The root problem is a conflict between the patient's desires and the patient's own negative belief...

Is cybersex a sexual encounter? If you discover that your partner engages in it, is he/she cheating on you?

Allen, Louise Collins's earlier essay in Social Theory & Practice bears the title "Emotional Adultery," and she argues (not merely reporting her feelings) that cybersex might indeed be morally and pragmatically suspicious for the sorts of reasons you mention. I have always been struck by how deeply conservative her arguments are, especially because much of her essay is also "feminist." I have elsewhere argued that religious and secular conservatives, on the one hand, and some feminists, on the other, are sexual-philosophy "bed partners" (i.e., are not having mere at-a-distance phone sex), and both make sure to keep away from megaphones so as not to spill these potentially embarrassing beans too widely and loudly.
Jerrold's reply is nicely done. Philosophers and legal scholars have been addressing these questions. If you want to explore them in more depth, take a look at Louise Collins, "Is Cybersex Sex?" in A. Soble and N. Power, eds., The Philosophy of Sex , 5th edition (Rowman, 2007), pp. 115-131. In an earlier paper (in Social Theory and Practice ) she deals more directly with the "cheating" issue (see her note 24 for the bibliographic information). Other essays worth reading are listed in her notes as well on pp. 497-98 of POS5e . The most interesting, perhaps, are Aaron Ben-Ze'ev's Love Online and John Portmann's chapter "Chatting is Not Cheating." Portmann, by the way, argues that cybersex is not sex because it lacks physical contact (a necessary condition). Collins makes the point that a condom on a penis prevents contact, so if Portmann is right, any coitus in which a condom is used is not sex. Hmmm. We need to do some philosophical work on "contact." Other problems with Portmann's account are...

I studied philosophy in university and I recall that one of my tutors for symbolic logic was trying to walk me through a problem by saying that if you have a large enough set of premises, two of them will inevitably contradict one another. I've always had trouble understanding (and consequently, accepting) this proposition because: if one conceives of reality as a set of claims (e.g., I am right-handed, electron X is in position Y, 2 + 2 = 4, etc.) there are an infinite number of "premises" to the "argument" that is reality and consequently reality is self-contradictory. Am I missing something here? Can you explain which of us is right about this and in which sense? I should mention that I don't necessarily have a problem with reality being self-contradictory, but that really throws symbolic logic out the window (and doesn't throw it out the window at the same time)! Thanks to all respondents for their time. -JAK

Maybe the tutor was thinking something like this (I seem to recall it from Popper). Let's consider only atomic (simple) contingent propositions (A, B, C, ... , Z) that are logically independent of each other. The probability that an atomic contingent proposition is true is less than 1 and greater than 0 (an atomic contingent proposition is true in at least one possible world and false in at least one possible world). Suppose P(A) is X (where 0 < X < 1). And suppose P(B) is Y (where 0 < Y < 1). Sure, the set {A, B} is consistent (or satisfiable), and the conjunction A&B will be true in at least one possible world. But there's a hitch: P(A&B) is the product of X and Y, which means that P(A&B) is less than P(A) and less than P(B). Let's increase the number of atomic propositions in our set to get {A1, A2, A3, ... , An}. Again, the set will be consistent, but the probability that the set (or long conjunction) is true is the product of the individual probabilities of each proposition; the more propositions...

Dear Philosopher(s), I would like to ask what would be Wittgenstein's view about sexuality? I'm not sure whether Wittgenstein would consider sexuality philosophically interesting. Note that I'm interested in what would be strictly Wittgenstein; NOT Wittgensteinian. Thank you for your time.

Let's see. Does this count? Ludwig Wittgenstein, Zettel #504: Love is not a feeling. Love is put to the test, pain not. One does not say:"That was not true pain, or it would not have gone off so quickly."[Liebe ist kein Gefühl. Liebe wird erprobt, Schmerzen nicht. Man sagt nicht:"Das war kein wahrer Schmerz, sonst hätte er nicht so schnell nachgelassen."] [ Zettel , ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright(Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1970), pp. 89, 89e.] Probably not. There has been gossip, some perhaps mildly confirmed, about his homosexuality (e.g., his taste for rough trade), and the possible influence this had on his ethics. Beyond that--you're right. Nothing. Still, take a look at "Wittgenstein, Ludwig," by Wendy Lynne Lee, in Soble, ed., Sex from Plato to Paglia: A Philosophical Encyclopedia , vol. 2, pp. 1076-1081 (Greenwood, 2006). Lee does admit at the outset that she will be discussing three "Wittgensteinian themes" that bear upon sexuality. I doubt we can do...

Pornography is a topic often battled over. If the person is of legal age and accessing pornography by non-illegal means then what is the problem with it? Why do so many people have such outrage against it and want to close it down or belittle those who access it?

This is a large question with many different answers. Much, a ton, has been written about it, by scholars and by polemicists. The best I can do for you, without merely repeating myself (a tedious task), is to send you to my books Pornography, Sex, and Feminism (Prometheus, 2002) -- which is reader-friendly, i.e., I stay away from jargon and present the views in a comprehensible way -- and my much earlier and quite different (yet still accessible) Pornography: Marxism, Feminism, and the Future of Sexuality (Yale Univ. Press, 1986) -- a rather pretentious title, I must admit now. You might also find interesting Chapter 6 ("Pornography") of my Sexual Investigations (NYU Univ. Press, 1996). I'm sure other panelists can send you to their own favorites on the topic, including Catharine MacKinnon's Only Words . A helpful bibliography on porngraphy is listed at the end of my Philosophy of Sex , 5th edition (2007) -- a wide spectrum of views is represented. Good luck.

Does a person have any moral/legal OBLIGATION to have sex with his/her partner in a relation of marriage? Thanks.

Dear Question-Asker: I am preparing another reply to your question. It is an issue that always arises in my Philosophy of Sex course. My students provide different answers to it, and many disagree with Sally Haslanger's stringent "inalienable right" response. I can at this time give you only a promissory note (an IOU) to answer your question, or show you various answers to it. Stayed tuned. Thanks for your patience.
I'm back, after only three days of teaching, grading, and occasionally goofing off. Here are a few thoughts about the issue and Professor Haslanger's reply to the question. (1) Professor Haslanger writes, “Certainly there is noobligation to have sex with someone you don't desire outside of marriage, sothe source of the obligation must be marriage.” This claim nearly begs thequestion. What holds for marriage might hold also for longstandingrelationships, or for couples who live together without a formal marriage, andvice versa. So the “certainly” is suspicious. Martha Nussbaum, for one, inraising a different question (one about how to attenuate noxious sexualobjectification), sees no relevant difference between sexual relations in alongstanding relationship without formal marriage and sexual relations in onewith formal marriage. (“Objectification,” in my Philosophy of Sex , 4 th edition, pp. 381-419.) Indeed,Haslanger’s “rights” answer to the question applies equally to marriage,nonmarital...

I think that the reason we hate is because we FIRST loved. An example would be that Americans hate terrorists because they love their country. A man hates the other man that sleeps with his wife, because he loves his wife. Does this idea have any relevance in modern philosophy, or has it already been covered? I'm not very versed with philosophical writings.

While we are thinking about the relationship between love and hate, what about love-love and hate-hate? Would X hate Y just because Y hates X? And so forth. Here's a version of something I cover in my introduction to philosophy course. Consider the psychological hypothesis that in order for a person to be able to love another person, he or she must already have been loved by someone else (earlier). For example, parents must love their children if their children are to be able to love other persons later. But how were the parents able to love their children? By our hypothesis, by being loved by someone else, say, their parents. But why were they able to love? We have a causal stream paradox. Perhaps at one point, way back, there was someone who was able to love in the absence of himself or herself being loved. This original unloved lover started things going. But then our hypothesis is false. Or perhaps God loved that person, who was not loved by any other person, in which case we can get the stream of...

I am having an affair with a married man who is my coworker. I did not begin the affair, he pursued me. His wife does not know. I feel guilty about it but I am in love with him. He says that he loves me but that he also loves his wife because although she is abusive and he feels no attraction to her she was there for him when he was very ill two years ago. Are my actions unethical? If she doesn't know and I am truly in love with him is it okay? Are his actions more unethical than mine?

What is this question, the confession of a character in Desperate Housewives ? Glad to serve as your priest, or shrink: (1) "I am having an affair with a married man who ismy coworker. I did not begin the affair, he pursued me." What does this matter, that "he pursued me," if you ended up in bed together? Why mention something irrelevant? I suspect because it might not be true; you are engaging in rationalizing exculpation ("it's not my doing!") to evade responsibility. Are you conveniently forgetting or suppressing your attempts (either conscious or unconscious) to get him interested? Men very often approach only a woman who has already sent them subtle inviting messages. You ask, at the end , "Are his actions more unethical than mine?" This, too, suggests, that you are concerned with apportioning responsibility. ("He's worse than I am!") (2) "His wife doesnot know." How do you know this? Because he told you that he didn't tell her? Maybe he's lying. (He's...

My girlfriend likes to hang out with some people at our school who like to call themselves whores, sluts, and the like. They will sit around and say things like "Gee, you're such a slut! Don't give me that look, I'm just a whore as well!" They also don’t care when other people refer to them in the same manner. This kind of talk really bothers me; I find it insulting, demeaning, and distasteful. It has only been leveled at me once before I told them not to include me in it, and they have honored my request. The thing is, I just find it downright impolite, and it drives me crazy to hear them talk like that. It is not at all an accurate description of any of them, they just do it for the hell of it, I guess. Now, my question is, am I being too sensitive? It has nothing to do with me directly, but it still bothers me and makes me feel uncomfortable. I just do not see the need to be like that at all, it just seems pointless and demeaning. Do I have the right to feel so strongly about it and be hurt that my...

Let's see if I got this right. Your GF and her GFs call themselves "sluts," and this bothers you, because you find it demeaning, etc., yet "slut," you say, "is not at all an accurate description of any of them." Well, what if it were? What if they often partied in the football team locker room? Would you find their behavior, and not merely the word, demeaning to themselves? My guess if that if you think the word is demeaning, then you also think the behavior is demeaning. That, I submit, is your mistake.

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