Sexual Use and What to Do about It

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Alan Soble counters the large dilemmas presented by Immanuel Kant in his article “Sexual Use and What to Do about It”. Soble makes very strong points when he is both agreeing and disagreeing with Kant in his article. The “sex problem” that is discussed by philosophers is a battle of what makes sex immoral and harmful to humanity. The root of the objectification of the body, and luring someone under false pretenses, into sexual activity is viewed as harmful to both the person doing the objectifying and the person being objectified. Soble outlines “Kant’s sex problem” and Kant’s solution, Soble also gives his own solutions, and in learning both I feel the solution is in externalism.
Immanuel Kant defines his second formulation of the Categorical Imperative as knowing the value of a person. It is demeaning to use a person without his or her consent for self-gratification, especially sexually. Kant describes this as using a person simply to serve a means rather than an end, simply put rather than being a concrete loving act with the end of creating new life sex treated as only “scratching an itch”. The idea that Kant, “must take on the other’s ends for their own sake, not because that is an effective way to advance my goals in using the other,” is a way of saying that a man must care enough about the other person treat them as fairly and justly as he wants to be treated (Soble 228). To Soble the “Kantian sex problem” is at the root rather or not all of Kant’s requirements can be met at all in sexual activity¬¬. As Kant lays out all that goes into the second formulation of the Categorical Imperative he describes taking on one another’s ends, but also what it means to make a person simply an end to one’s own needs.
Two people entering willingly into matrimony, and entering into sexual activity mutual with a shared end could meet the solution supplied by Kant. For two people to commit themselves physically and emotionally in the way Kant describes a true marriage is the strongest sanction. However, the idea of taking on one another’s means becomes void if both people give consent of using the other. Entering knowingly into a sexual relationship that will doing nothing but fulfill a means is acceptable as long as it is not harmful to either person. This seems to be rather odd contradictions to Kant’s strong stand point on marriage, but it could be thought that he is referring to a married couple using one another. The human race tends to use sex as a coping mechanism, something to turn when one needs to feel numb or separate from the world. Matthew Stacey says, “What Kant wants if for the mind to always be in control of the body and for us to be temperate in our indulgences,” in his article “Kant on Sex and Marriage: What Kant Should Have Said” (Stacey 20). For this to be possible a person’s control would seem to be on a level that is nearly inhuman.
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