Thursday, October 02, 2014

On Rational and sub-Rational Thought

I was thinking, in the context of my last post, on the rise of nude selfies.

The sexual revolution has long been with us, as has photography. Porn as a commercial enterprise has been with us for, to a first approximation, ever, yet the phenomenon of otherwise well-brought-up young women taking semi-pornographic photos of themselves is relatively recent, even in the context of enabling technologies such as digital cameras and high-speed internet. Opinions will differ, but I'm inclined to regard the violations of chastity inherent therein as relatively benign compared with what are now treated socially as routine violations, such as fornication and divorce. Yet the newness of nude selfies, along with the apparent "foreverness" of the internet, make these especially controversial.

Has morality changed? I think not, or rather, not morality per se; what we are observing is the erosion of inhibition -- "hang ups", if you will -- against having oneself appear nude in images. But morality is not the same as inhibition. An inhibition may point to a moral insight, or perhaps a social convention that we trespass at our peril. But inhibition, that state of being uncomfortable with certain actions, is not the same as the proper consideration of the laws of God and our fellow citizens, and may be a sorry substitute for it for a couple of reasons I can think of.

But maybe not. Let me again draw a comparison to racism (or, if you prefer, "racism"). Believe it or not, I do not personally consider myself a racist, since I regard both racism and anti-racism as "faulty philosophical priors". I do consider myself a realist, and I strive mightily to pass this realism to my children; that realism is stood in opposition to anti-racism with far more strength and frequency than it is against racism is driven by the obverse priorities of public education, not by my personal scale of values.

Yet what if empirical engagement with reality is a non-transmissible eccentricity? What if all my effort is only setting loose two beautiful blonde racists upon the world?

Too damn bad. If realism isn't an option, then there is probably some level of racism that optimizes my daughters' individual flourishing. Obviously, too much racism would, for instance, impair their social functioning in professional environments characterized by some level of ethnic diversity; but too little racism would leave them defenseless before, for another instance, sexually predatory gangs of Pakistanis.

To bring this analogy full circle, if we can't get sexual morality, then sexual inhibition would have to do. And likewise, too much inhibition could be expected to cripple marital intimacy, while too little of it leaves them with a "thousand cock stare" and selfies on 4Chan.

Hitting those sweet spots are challenges in their own right. Better, I think, to strive for realism, and morality.

No comments: