Fehige Yiftach J. H. | Too Trivial Or Too Implausible: On Naturalizing Human Sexuality


The main focus of my presentation will be the proper metaphysics of human sexuality insofar as it has an impact on proposals to account naturalistically for human sexuality. The very attempt to “naturalize” human sexuality is a metaphysical matter. The principle aim of my presentation is twofold, namely to attempt a clarification of the very idea to provide a naturalistic account of human sexuality, and to assess its feasibility. Reflections on transsexuality and conceptual analysis will facilitate my critical discussion of the idea to account naturalistically for human sexuality. The topic of this paper relates inevitably to the much broader meta-philosophical problem of how to relate metaphysics to the conclusions of the modern sciences. This problem obtains because modern science, contrary to widespread belief, does not only ask “what?” or “how?” questions to provide the facts needed for further philosophical analysis in a metaphysical manner in order to solve “why?” questions. This becomes apparent when contemplating, for instance, evolutionary biology. In this branch of modern biology “’why?’ is the most frequently asked question. In addition, metaphysics seems to ask “what?” questions in order to reveal facts about the world that are inaccessible to the sciences. Thus, it is safe to say that metaphysics and the modern sciences inevitably intersect. This fact cannot be overestimated when contemplating sexual diversity with respect to a proper assessment of a diversity of experiences that are associated with human sexuality. Culturally, in Western societies we have reached a point where scientific concepts dominate more and more the conceptual mediation of experience, which is paramount when accepting the view that there is no experience that is not conceptually mediated.
In my presentation I will argue that the very project of naturalizing human sexuality in a non-trivial sense very likely will have to take the form of reductive naturalism, and that reductive naturalism is not a very compelling metaphysics for human sexuality. I will develop my philosophical argument in four steps. In a first step I will clarify what I mean by metaphysics, and why I think that it matters crucially to get a better sense of the proper metaphysics for human sexuality when relating body and society in a meaningful manner (I). In a second step I will demonstrate why I think that naturalizing human sexuality in a non-trivial sense must take the form of reductive naturalism (II). Subsequently, facilitated by a discussion of transsexuality I develop what I would like to term the sexual body paradox (SBP) in order to show that reductive naturalism runs into serious difficulties when accounting for human sexuality (III). In a fourth step I will propose one possible solution to SBP in order to support the idea of a metaphysics of human sexuality that allows for a genuine pluralism of sexual bodies (IV). Such a metaphysics will not be presented, although hinted at by pointing out some interesting aspects of the work of the biologist Joan Roughgarden.