Sex, Temperance and VirtueProf. Stan van Hooft (Deakin University)
221 Burwood Highway
- Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Centre for Citizenship and Globalization and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences
According to Raja Halwani, “The virtue of temperance and the vice of intemperance are the virtue and the vice when it comes to sex and sexual activity because they hit at the core of the issues of sex, namely sexual desire itself.” The purpose of my paper is to elaborate on this claim, critique parts of it, and offer a fuller account of the virtues that pertain to sex. I begin by criticising Halwani’s conception of virtue ethics and accuse him of wrongly importing considerations from moral theory. I then explore his neo-Aristotelian account of temperance, arguing that it fails to capture what is distinctive about sexuality so as to raise specifically virtue-ethical concerns as opposed to moral ones. Halwani’s dependence on the notion of moral wrongness in relation to sexuality cannot be supported in an Aristotelian framework. I then invoke Michel Foucault to argue that the sphere of sexuality is marked by distinctive ethical constraints that tie in with Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia and that the virtue of temperance should therefore be conceived differently.
Stan van Hooft is Professor of philosophy at Deakin University. His is the author of numerous works, including, most recently, Hope (Acumen, 2011) and Cosmopolitanism: A Philosophy for Global Ethics (Acumen, 2009), which was shortlisted for the Australian Museum Eureka prize for research in ethics in 2010. Professor van Hooft’s current research centres on Global Ethics and Political Philosophy, the concept of caring in contemporary moral theory and the role of hope in politics and religion.
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