FYS 101 Flesh & Desire: The Philosophy of Sex & Love

While love has been a favorite, albeit minor, theme of some philosophers, most philosophers have been strangely un- philosophical when it comes to thinking about sex, sexuality and the body in general. This unreflective attitude is somewhat ironic given philosophy’s central preoccupation with the human condition. While our sexuality, our sexual desire, and our love relationships have an undeniably profound influence on our individual, personal lives and on our social lives, philosophers expend relatively little intellectual effort reflecting on these facts of our lived experience. This is all the more surprising once we contrast it with how much time and money the popular culture industry spends and expends on selling us love and sex.

This course is the study of the philosophical (metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political & aesthetic) dimensions of human sexuality and love. The course will focus on some of the following questions: what is the nature and meaning of love? Is it a feeling, an attitude, a mode of behavior, an action? Is it rooted in biology or is it a product of culture and cultivation? What is the relationship, if any, between sexual desire and love? Is love important or valuable for human existence? What is sexual desire and is it important or valuable? Is it possible that love and sexual desire are disruptive forces in human society? What, morally speaking, is the right way to behave with regard to our sexuality and with regard to love relationships? What makes some sexual desires “abnormal” or “unnatural”? How influential are cultural and social forces in shaping our conceptions of love and sexuality? How and why are sex and love relevant politically? Should they be? As a philosophy course, emphasis will be placed on the development of the analytical skills necessary for thinking clearly, carefully, critically and effectively about issues which, burdened as they are by long histories of  intense fears and desires, all too rarely receive clear-headed attention.

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