Cartesian sex in legoland
December 18, 2015 § 43 Comments
Ever since Descartes it has been hipster to think of the interior subjective world of phenomena as utterly distinct from the exterior material objective world of reality. As a result, we post-cartesians tend to think of motivation or intention as something which can be separated from action or behavior: as nothing but an interior, fully, and solely subjective phenomenon. We think that an intentional action can be literally broken apart into a really distinct subjective intention combined with an objective action.
This reductionism has consequences, and one of those consequences is that we have a tendency to find pre-cartesian thought about sex incomprehensible. Or, more accurately, we think we comprehend it and find that it – what we think we have comprehended – is abhorrent to reason. We project our own worldview upon it, so that when we read that intercourse even with one’s wife must be motivated by the procreation of children we think that the ‘motivated by’ part refers to a rarified interior disposition, utterly divorced from the concrete behavior we are actually choosing.
Reality begs to differ with Descartes though. A man with different motivations chooses different actions. A surgeon who is trying to murder his patient may, at a certain fuzzy resolution, look like he is choosing the same objective behaviors as a surgeon who is trying to save his patient. But an accidental cut to the aorta is different in species from a deliberate choice to cut the aorta: it is a different objective behavior, not merely a different motivation.
Reductionist post cartesians think of actions and motivations as separable things, each of which can exist on its own. They are like lego blocks which can be arranged and rearranged arbitrarily: for a given actual concrete deliberately chosen action, any one of an arbitrary number of motivations may apply. Morality then becomes reducible to nothing but ‘motivation’, understood as an entirely subjective phenomenon.
Reductionism can be a very useful conceptual tool. But it is a mistake to think that reality, as an ontological matter, is actually partitioned into distinct elements of Being by our conceptual reductions. It is a mistake to think that the male and the human can be dis-integrated from each other and treated as separate ontological objects in reality.
So sexual reductionists take the moral principle that licit sex must (among other things) be motivated by procreation to mean that husband and wife must summon, within the isolated purely subjective cartesian realm of their interior being, in the IMAX theater of the mind, a pure desire-object, a desire to actually conceive a child right now in this very act. But that of course is to treat motivation as something utterly distinct and severed from the choice of action. It is to treat actions and motivations as distinct lego blocks such that ‘sex motivated by procreation’ is not a deliberate choice of a particular kind of behavior, but a purely subjective motivation block fitted together with a purely objective ‘intercourse’ behavior block; an objective behavior block which could go together, in all of its detail and at all resolutions of objective understanding, with virtually any arbitrary and purely subjective ‘motivation’.
The cartesian separation of reality into ontologically distinct subjective and objective worlds makes reality incomprehensible. If there are two utterly distinct worlds then a given ontic object has to exist in one or the other. So economic value and morality become purely subjective; at the same time consciousness becomes merely an epiphenomenon of matter and energy swirling about in response to the mathematical dictates of physical laws.
Human acts are not – in actual reality as opposed to the post-cartesian house of mirrors – reducible to arbitrary combinations of utterly distinct subjective and objective ontic lego blocks, one made of nothing but purely subjective ‘motivation’ and the other of nothing but purely objective ‘behavior’. Cartesian metaphysics applied to sex leads to hacking acts of a human person into pieces at the ontological level and rearranging them how we please, or in whatever way fits our preconceived notions.
Is it any wonder then that modern man is starting to literally hack apart his sex organs and rearrange them how he sees fit?