On Love

Love is broken down in different categories, such as the love one has for objects or activities which is very different from the love one has for beings. One could say they love music, but one could also say they love their parents. Certainly, one would not love music in the same way they love their parents. Even the love one has for beings is further categorized by love for pets, friends, family or for a significant other. Again, one could love their pet, but this would be entirely different (hopefully-quite disturbing if not) from the love they would have for their significant other. What is the nature of love? While each of these types of love are recognizably different, what essentially connects them so that each could appropriately be described as “love?”

St. Thomas Aquinas states: “An act of love always tends toward two things: to the good that one wills, and to the person for whom one wills it; since to love a person is to wish that person good.” For Aquinas, “to love a person is to wish that person good,” which, in other words, is to care about the person. What does it mean to “care” about someone? To “care” could mean two things. The term “care” is akin to “concern” or “significance.” To say one “loves,” and thus “cares,” about another is to say one has “concern” for another person or is to say another person is “significant” is one’s life. “Concern” is as Aquinas has noted, wanting what is best for the person. “Significance” is akin to “meaningful” or “importance.” One would be “significant” to another if they contributed to one’s life in some meaningful or important way, regardless of the frequency of interaction. For example, “significance” could be a being (or object or activity) who (which) has the ability to cause another to feel a certain way which the person enjoys.

Furthermore, if one were to say they “love,” thus “care,” about music, one would be saying they are “concerned” with music and music is “significant” in their lives. One would not want anything to happen which could destroy the creation of music because music is meaningful to their lives, thus the connection to “concern” and “significance” is evident. Therefore, for all types of love, it appears “concern” and “significance” play a role.

However, while to “care” is a necessary condition for any type of love, it certainly is not a sufficient condition for love. One could “care” about others, have “concern” for others, but not “love” others simply because the others are not “significant” in one’s life. The “care” which leads to “love” is of the sort in which one not only has “concern” for the being (or object or activity), but the being (or object or activity) plays a “significant” role in one’s life. To “love” requires a unique type of “care” consisting of both “concern” and “significance.”

If, to have “concern” for another (being or object or activity), as noted earlier is to want what is best for them (or it), even if what is best for the other person (or object or activity) goes against one’s own self-interest, then one would pursue what is best for the other person (or object or activity) regardless of what is in one’s own self-interest. However, if to “love” also requires “significance” and “significance” is how another (being or object or activity) contributes in a meaningful or important way to one’s life, then what is in one’s self-interest is achieved. Therefore, love is a unique balance between “selflessness” and “self-interest.” At some times, more “selfless” and at other times more “self-interested.”

The above can be easily recognized in relationships between beings, for example, a mother sacrificing her life to save her child’s life or euthanizing a suffering and dying pet even though the owner doesn’t want to lose the animal. However, this is also true of objects or activities. For example, one could “love” the local art scene and seek to support the local art scene even though they have to make sacrifices which go against their own “self-interest” to do so. In the former cases, one sacrifices their own “self-interest” out of “concern” for what they “love.” In the latter case, one sacrifices part of their own “self-interest” out of “concern” for what they “love” in order to preserve the continuation of what they “love,” which accommodates their own “self-interest” in the long run.

If to “love” is to “care” about another, to have “concern” for another who is “significant” in one’s life, then another aspect of love is unavoidably “pain.” “Pain” should be understood, in this sense, as emotional distress. If one “loves” another (being or object or activity), then the being or object is capable of causing one pain. One can’t love another who is incapable of causing them pain.

For example, a man “loves” his wife. He wants what is best for her and she contributes to his life in a meaningful and important way. If she died, it would be “painful” for him. However, if the man did not “love” his wife, her death might be inconvenient (funerals are so much work-why again can’t she just be buried in the backyard?), he might feel “pain” for his children because he “loves” his children and they “loved” their mother, but he himself would not feel “pain” over his wife’s death.

Numerous examples of this can be given. Consider the act of lying in regards to the connection between “love” and “pain.” If one lies to another person, and the other person lied to feels no emotional distress over it, obviously one didn’t “care” too much about the liar. The connection also applies to objects and activities. If a person “loves” soccer, and the entire sport of soccer was destroyed, collapsed under the anarchy of soccer hooligans, then the person would be caused “pain” because something they had “concern” for, which was “significant” in their life, was no longer in their life.

However, it is important to note, one can be caused “pain” by others who they do not “love.” Being lied to can cause “pain” even if one doesn’t “love” the liar. “Concern” for others can cause “pain” even if the others are not “significant,” thus “loved,” in one’s life. “Pain” doesn’t necessarily (inevitably) entail “love,” but, “love” necessarily (unavoidably) entails “pain.” “Pain” is not a sufficient condition for “love,” but “pain” is a necessary condition for “love.” Therefore, “pain” is another aspect of the nature of all types of “love.”

So ultimately, what in the hell is “love?” “Love,” is concern, significance, selflessness, self-interest, and pain. Sound like fun?

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Recruiting International Students

The issue with this case seems to be, “Is it morally permissible for higher education recruitment agents for international students to be paid on a commission, per student enrolled, basis?” In order to try to answer this question, I will begin by offering main arguments for and against the issue. Next, I will analyze this issue from two viewpoints. First, I will look at the issue from the viewpoint of Immanuel Kant regarding treating others with intrinsic value. Secondly, I will analyze the issue from the viewpoints of David Hume and Louis Pojman. Ultimately I will argue using commission based recruitment in itself is not unethical and asserting it is would be committing a couple of logical fallacies. I will argue it is those who seek to exploit international students by treating them merely with instrumental value who are unethical.

The argument in favor of the use of commission based recruitment in higher education is a linked argument. The argument asserts the tough economy, international students being good for schools, enrollment of international students dwindling and commission based recruitment agencies being better for recruiting students are all combined reasons why institutions should use commission based recruitment agencies. The premises regarding the tough economy and the enrollment of international students dwindling are matters of empirical fact, even if one proves either of them false it wouldn’t seem to answer if under true circumstances if using commission based recruitment is ethical. The same seems to hold for the premise about commission based recruitment being better at recruiting students. Whether or not this is true doesn’t determine if commission based recruitment is ethical. Therefore, the main premise I would like to focus on is the premise that international students are good for schools.

The argument opposed to the use of commission based recruitment in higher education is a convergent argument. The three main premises on this side of the argument are that commission based recruiting is against the law for domestic students, international students suffer, and domestic students suffer. Regarding the premise that domestic students suffer, the reasons given for this are because the more spots given to more sought after international students would limit the opportunities for domestic students. If the issue is if commission based recruiting is unethical, then this domestic students suffer premise seems irrelevant, because the increase of international student enrollments can be done with our without commission based recruiting.

Regarding the premise that commission based recruiting is illegal for domestic students (so, by extension it should be illegal for international students), the reason it is illegal is because a number of for-profit colleges were using commission based recruiting to get students to file for student loans from the US government which the students could never possibly repay. International students can’t get student loans from the US government. But, this premise does implicitly assert commission based recruiting is directly related to self-interested motives for placing students with institutions. The issue of self-interested motivations for placing students with institutions can be incorporated with the premise that international students suffer. So, the premise I will focus on from this side of the argument is the premise regarding international students suffering.

Next, I would like to analyze the issue from a perspective inspired by Kant. Kant argued people, as reasoning and willing so thus autonomous beings, have intrinsic value. Due to having intrinsic value, people should never be treated with instrumental value. People, according to Kant, should never be treated with merely instrumental value, or in other words as a means to an end, but instead with intrinsic value, or in other words as an end within themselves. Many have argued international students are good for institutions because, primarily, international students pay if not full tuition then many times more in tuition than domestic students and institutions during tough economic times need the money to make up for budget shortfalls. It seems at the heart of the issue is money because if domestic students paid full tuition then in tough economic times institutions would not be seeking out international students. The enrollment of international students, even under the most cost effective methods of commission based recruiting, still requires the institution pay the recruiter 10-15% of the students first year’s tuition. So, if domestic students paid full tuition, why would institutions pay 10-15% of an international student’s first year’s tuition to a recruiter? It seems international students are a means to a monetary end. If this is the case, then institutions are treating international students with instrumental value, thus, unethically. However, granted, it could be argued, institutions are not treating international students with merely instrumental value. For this argument to be made, it would have to be shown the international students are being accommodated and integrated autonomously into the institution. However, regardless of autonomous accommodation and integration into the institution, the international students are primarily sought after simply for money, not for what they can autonomously offer the institution as human beings.

On the other side of the issue, many have argued international students suffer. It is argued international students could end up paying too much for a lower quality institution because these students lack the information to bargain and compare offers from different schools. Recruiters only offer information on the schools with which they have arrangements for payment. It is also argued commission based recruiters will lie to students, will misrepresent themselves and the institutions, will encourage and participate in fraudulent activities during the application process, will pressure students into enrollment, and will bring in students who are mismatched to the institution. These arguments stems from the idea that commission based recruitment is inherently unethical because it is motivated by self interest not the interests of the students and not the interests of the institutions. If such claims are true universally, then this would be various degrees of exploitation ranging from outright harmful, to mutually advantageous, to non-consensual, to consensual. Harmful being one taking unfair advantage of another. Mutually advantageous being even though both parties gain something, one party is still at a loss. Non-consensual being one party not agreeing to the arrangements, because possibly of not being fully informed or being lied to or due to fraud. Consensual being both parties having full knowledge of the arrangements, one party agreeing to being at a loss. In any case of exploitation, one party is being treated with instrumental value for the gain of the other. In this specific case, if the claims against commission based recruiting are universally true, then international students are being exploited and treated with instrumental value for the self interested gain of the recruiters. Thus, if these claims are universally true, then commission based recruiting is unethical.

However, the question to consider is, are such claims universally true? Is it absolutely true that every commission based recruiter will put their own self interest above the interests of the students and the institutions? Hume argues empirically “To the most careless observer there appear to be such dispositions as benevolence and generosity, such affections as love, friendship, compassion, gratitude.” Furthermore, Hume argues, “What a malignant philosophy must it be that will not allow to humanity and friendship the same privileges which are undisputably granted to the darker passions of enmity and resentment.” Hume is arguing against egoism, a theory which asserts that human actions and emotions are all based off self interest. For Hume, it is obvious via observation there exists un-self interested actions and emotions. Hume asserts people act vengefully without regard to their own safety or welfare, thus self interest. He argues there is something fundamentally mean or wicked in a human disposition which tries to say that “darker” emotions and actions are done without regard to self interest, but kinder emotions and actions are done from self interest. From a viewpoint inspired by Hume, we can observe commission based jobs where self interest is not given the highest priority. Yes, some car salesmen are sleazes, but not all car salesmen are merely motivated by self interest. There seems to be something fundamentally mean or wicked to say every commission based recruiter will treat students and institutions as merely means to a monetary end. In fact, to make such an assertion is a logical fallacy called a hasty generalization.

Pojman also discusses egoism, self interest and altuism. Pojman argues the assertion one must be either altruistic or egoistic is a false dilemma. Pojman uses evolutionary empirical evidence to assert if most people were living in self sacrificing altruism then they would be wiped out over time by egoists. Altruists (aka suckers) would, evolutionarily, decline in numbers as egoists (aka cheaters) take advantage of them and increase in numbers. After a time, Pojman argues, the egoists would also die out because they would have no one left to exploit. Pojman asserts this is a false dilemma because there exists a third option, a reciprocal altruist (aka grudgers), who follow a Rule of Reciprocity. In other words, the reciprocal altruists would help each other and the altruists but not the egoists. Therefore, according to Pojman, the grudgers would evolutionarily thrive where the suckers and cheaters would not. Looking at the commission based recruitment issue from a viewpoint inspired by Pojman, if all commission based recruiters were merely cheaters acting out of their own self interest, there would be no way the recruiter position could be maintained in the economic environment-metaphorically speaking, they would all die out. To say commission based recruiting must be universally self interested or universally un-self interested is, similar to Pojman’s assertion, a logical fallacy called a false dilemma. There is a third option, one could very well work out of the self interest of maintaining their job by doing what is beneficial for the students and the institutions. Just like the car salesmen, the grudgers of the commission based recruitment world, will recognize they will not be able to survive unless they do what is right for the students and the institutions.

Ultimately, commission based recruiting in itself is not unethical. To say it is would be committing the fallacies of hasty generalization and false dilemma. What is unethical, is one person (or organization or institution) treating another as merely a means to a monetary end. In the case of higher education institutions and commission based recruitment, some of the institutions and the recruiters could be unethical in their treatment of international students, but that doesn’t mean all of them are. Weeding out those who do treat others as means to an end, through enforceable standards, would be the best solution.

Freedom to Burn Religious Texts

In this case it seems the issue is: “Is it morally permissible to burn religious texts?” To try to answer this question, I will first outline the arguments which assert it is not morally permissible to burn religious texts. Then, I will argue against these arguments using arguments by John Stuart Mill and John Locke. Ultimately, I will argue burning religious texts is morally permissible because it can promote tolerance and it preserves freedom of religion.

Those who argue it is not morally permissible to burn religious texts assert, overall it seems, that it is detrimental to the greater good to burn religious texts. First, it is argued it is harmful because it furthers intolerance and bigotry. Second, it is harmful to freedom of religion.

In his Harm Principle, Mill argued “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” and not just harm, but imminent serious harm. As a utilitarian principle, Mill is concerned with the utility of the principle, meaning, that the principle will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The first objection to the burning of religious texts asserts it is harmful because it furthers intolerance and bigotry. Mill also argued “there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered.” and there should be “absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral or theological.” For Mill, freedom of expression should be protected because the truth of any issue can be determined only when all views are represented, and because people best appreciate the truth when it is achieved through their own reason and experience, which leads to the greatest good for the greatest number. It has also been argued protecting expression which is considered hateful or upsetting actually helps society become more tolerant of other viewpoints which are not so extreme. The burning of religious texts is disrespectful and repulsive, but people from many different religious backgrounds were exposed to the view, used their reason to determine and appreciate the truth that burning religious texts is disrespectful and repulsive, and most significantly, they came together to condemn Pastor Jones’ actions. People of many different religious backgrounds came together all sharing a common viewpoint. It seems that in itself demonstrates tolerance and camaraderie, all of which was born of a hateful act of expression.

Another argument against the moral permissibility to burning religious texts is that it is dangerous to freedom of expression. In this case, citizens burning religious texts is in no way government sanctioning of one religion over another, thus is not government restricting religious practice. So, in this sense, it would not be dangerous to freedom of religion because no one with authority to persecute others is saying anyone else can’t follow their religion. Locke argued for a robust concept of freedom of religion in society. Locke argued “it cannot be supposed the people should give any one or more of their fellow men authority over them for any other purpose than for their own preservation, or to extend the limits of their jurisdiction beyond the limits of this life.” He asserted all citizens should have full liberty to worship as they choose and no one should ever force their religious views on another. So, the question becomes, would burning a religious text be forcing religious views on another? It doesn’t seem so, because no one has to participate in or view the burning of the religious text nor acknowledge or accept that the burning of the religious text is in itself moral. However, the question could also be asked, is restricting others from burning religious texts forcing religious views on another? By the government restricting people from burning religious texts, the government would be forcing the public to observe and treat the texts as sacred (at least in the sense that the texts are in a protected class which makes them unable to be burned out of protest, when nothing else is protected from this sort of expression). By the government restricting people from burning religious texts the government would be forcing a religious viewpoint onto the people. In this sense, burning religious texts actually ensures and preserves the freedom of religion.

I have argued it is morally permissible to burn religious texts because it could actually promote tolerance and it preserves the freedom of religion.

Doggie Livestock

The issue with this case seems to be: “Are we morally obligated to legally regulate dog breeding facilities?” particularly in response to Missouri Proposition B. In order to try to answer this question, I will first outline the arguments against regulating dog breeding facilities. I will argue against the points made by those opposed to regulations by using a number of ethical theories by Tom Regan, Michael Pollan, Aristotle and Peter Singer. I will argue we are morally obligated to legally regulate dog breeding facilities because animals have intrinsic value, animals should be treated with respect and dignity, virtue requires breeders not place monetary gain over the treatment of the animals, and even if it leads to euthanizing animals, it is for the greater good.

Those against regulating dog breeding facilities offer four main arguments. First, regulations are unnecessary, due to breeders have an incentive to take good care of the dogs, because raising the dogs is a source of income. Second, regulations on dog breeding facilities would lead to more government control over agriculture. Third, the regulations force hardline vegan standards on unwilling breeders. Fourth, the regulations would lead to greater animal cruelty, because it forces breeders to euthanize or dispose of otherwise healthy dogs, because the law would prevent animals from staying in over crowded facilities.

The first argument offered by those opposed to regulating dog breeding facilities is the breeders have a monetary incentive to take good care of the dogs, therefore, it is unnecessary to implement regulations on dog breeding facilities. What if breeders don’t have a monetary incentive to take good care of the dogs? The Huffington Post noted the Better Business Bureau received over 352 complaints against Missouri breeders in 2009 regarding the health of the animals. The Columbian Missourian noted the non-profit organization Operation Bark rescued approximately 3,700 dogs and noted approximately 350 commercial breeders went out of business in Missouri because of unhealthy facilities. For these breeders, perhaps the monetary incentive for healthy breeding facilities wasn’t enough or, perhaps, they had more of a monetary incentive not to provide the animals with healthy living conditions, or perhaps they are just simply bad business people who can‘t recognize the monetary incentive. The question then becomes, is it moral to treat dogs in these breeding facilities as merely a means to a monetary end? Regan argues animals, just like humans, have intrinsic value, meaning they have value simply for what they are and not for how they can benefit others. Regan asserts, animals and humans, are all “subjects of a life that is better or worse for us, logically independently of anyone else’s valuing us or finding us useful.” What Regan means by this is humans and animals all have lives which the quality of matters independently and individually to them. Due to this, humans and animals, should never be treated merely as a means to an end. Under the argument offered by opponents of regulating dog breeding facilities, animals are merely tools to a monetary end. Due to the animals being mere tools, these breeders can treat them in whatever way that best achieves their purpose of monetary gain. Therefore, if there is not a compelling and outright monetary incentive to treat animals well, which in at least some cases there appears to have not been, then breeders will not treat animals well.

The second argument offered by opponents of regulating dog breeding facilities asserts more regulations on dog breeding facilities would lead to more government control over agriculture. Missouri Proposition B states its intent is to “prohibit cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills by requiring large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with basic food and water, adequate shelter from the elements, necessary veterinary care, adequate space to turn around and stretch his or her limbs, and regular exercise.” The bill states nothing about any other sort of animal and even excludes dogs in numerous other situations. I have searched without success for any reasons exactly why regulations on dog breeding facilities would transfer over to other agricultural businesses. At this point, this premise for the opponents argument seems like nothing but a slippery slope fallacy. However, giving the argument the benefit of the doubt, what if the regulations in question did transfer over to other livestock? The regulations in the bill call for access to nutritious food, amount appropriate for healthy weight atleast once a day, potable water free of contaminants, veterinary care atleast once a year and prompt treatment of injuries or illness, humane euthanasia, constant access to indoor areas to get away from the elements which is cleaned atleast once a day, sufficient space in animals enclosures to be able to turn around and stretch their limbs without impediment, and unfettered access to an outside solid ground area with proper drainage and some protection from the elements. The living environments of hundreds of thousands of animals at industrial farms wouldn’t be up to these regulations. Pollan argues industrial farms “offer a nightmarish glimpse of what capitalism can look like in the absence of moral or regulatory constraint,” because, the animals are treated merely as commodities to be raised and slaughtered as cost effectively as possible. Pollan’s argument regarding the “mutualism of species” asserts animals and humans have evolved together, dependent upon each other for survival in a relationship where humans raise animals, thus ensuring the survival of the animals’ species, and animals provide themselves as food, thus ensuring human survival. The problem, as Pollan sees it, is not eating animals or raising animals as a commodity, it is raising animals as merely a commodity. Pollan argues, “For any animal, happiness seems to consist in the opportunity to express its creaturely nature.” If the exact same regulations outlined in Missouri Proposition B are applied to other livestock, then it would be simply allowing the animals our society uses for nourishment and monetary gain to express their creaturely natures.

The third argument offered asserts the regulations force hardline vegan standards on unwilling breeders. What exactly is meant by “hardline vegan standards”? I was able to locate arguments offered by opponents which asserted the construction of kennels with unfettered indoor/outdoor access would be to costly for them to do. I also found other arguments which asserted the restrictions on a max of 50 breeding dogs and the restrictions on having breeding females breed only twice per season were too prohibitive because the breeders would lose money. Regarding the indoor/outdoor, max amount of breeding dogs, and resting times between breeding, these arguments offered by opponents all go back to treating the animals as merely commodities, treating the animals as merely means to a monetary end. Simply, the opponents are arguing there is not a monetary incentive for breeders to comply with these regulations. If this is the case, then the breeders are acknowledging their treatment of the animals rests on the monetary incentive to them. Essentially, the hardline vegan standards argument amounts to the breeders desire for money over the welfare of the animals. Aristotle argued in nature, animals are of a lower hierarchy than humans because humans have the ability to reason, therefore, animals are to be used to serve the needs of humans. However, Aristotle also argued to be moral, is to use reason to live a virtuous life. The virtuous life, according to Aristotle, is one in which excellence of virtue, practical wisdom and flourishing and/or happiness, are all present and displayed through a moderate disposition. Aristotle argues the virtuous disposition is one in which character traits are either not too excessive in nature nor too deficient in nature. For example, kindness would be a moderate character trait in between the excess of being a push over or the deficient of being a jerk. Prudent would be a moderate character trait in between the excess of greed and the deficient of frivolous. Using Aristotle’s argument regarding the virtuous life, humans breeding dogs for an income is not wrong in and of itself, but humans deficiently focusing on money over the care of the animals or excessively focusing on the care of the animals over money would be immoral. The question then becomes, at what point is the care of the animals to an excess? The opponents seem to be arguing the indoor/outdoor kennels, resting time between breeding and max on 50 dogs is excessive care. To respond, in an Aristotlian way, let’s use practical wisdom. Using practical wisdom, a virtuous person who is kind, thoughtful and compassionate, would not breed hundreds of female dogs, emaciated from having their fourth litter in the season, all crammed together exposed to the elements, as it is not conducive to flourishing and happiness of their own virtuous character. Using practical wisdom, a virtuous person with a moderate disposition would view each situation individually and see if their response to the situation is conducive to the flourishing and happiness of their virtuous character. The problem is the empirical evidence shows that too many breeders have excessively or deficiently placed monetary gain over virtue.

The final argument offered by opponents assert the regulations would cause more animal suffering because the 50 dog max would force them to euthanize otherwise healthy dogs. Leading up to the implementation of the bill, which has actually now been re-worked to take out the regulation regarding the 50 dog max, numerous national animal welfare organizations like the Humane Society and the ASPCA were expanding to be able to take in the increase of dogs and find as many as possible homes. So, instead of those healthy dogs living as a part of a mass of other dogs, many of them could have been given homes. Apart from hypothetical speculation on just how many healthy dogs would have been euthanized versus given homes, what if otherwise healthy dogs were euthanized? Would this lead to more animal suffering? Singer argues moral consideration should be given equally to any being that can suffer. The suffering of any sentient being has the same equal worth as the suffering of any other sentient being. As a utilitarian, Singer asserts the morally right thing to do is minimize suffering. So, the question then is which would cause the least amount of suffering-letting dogs stay in the breeding facilities or euthanizing them? Let’s look at the concept of suffering. Physically and mentally, living in conditions which are cramped, where one is unable to move much and is used merely to have pups, doesn’t promote the optimal amount of happiness possible, produces at the very least some suffering and it is prolonged, over many years. Euthanizing is definitely not promoting the optimal amount of happiness possible, but it is done to minimize pain and is certainly not prolonged over years. Neither option promotes the optimal amount of happiness possible, both options (granted) involve some suffering, but, the animals continuing to live in dog breeding facilities for years prolongs the suffering. Therefore, to minimize suffering, it would actually be more moral to euthanize the animals. To minimize suffering, even if the regulations led to euthanizing animals, it would be for the greater good.

I have argued we do have a moral obligation to legally regulate dog breeding facilities. First, because animals are subjects of life with intrinsic value. Secondly, because animals with intrinsic value should be treated with dignity and respect. Thirdly, because a virtuous dog breeder would use their practical wisdom to treat animals with dignity and respect, but far too many dog breeders have placed monetary gain over virtue. Fourthly, because even if the regulations do lead to euthanizing animals, it minimizes suffering, so is for the greater good.

Selling Sex

The issue seems to be: “Is it morally permissible for business owners to use their businesses to promote sexual autonomy?” In order to try to answer this question, I will first go over the arguments in favor of business owners using their businesses to promote sexual autonomy. Next, I will analyze the arguments in relation to different ethical principles, namely the Harm Principle, the Principle of Consistency, and the Basic Rights Principle. Finally, I will argue, no, it is not morally permissible for business owners to use their businesses to promote sexual autonomy, specifically in the ways allegedly noted, because these actions actually harm individual sexual autonomy.

There are several main arguments in favor of business owners using their businesses to promote sexual autonomy. First, it is argued the nature of the business, meaning the fashion industry, is sexual, therefore using a business to promote sexual autonomy is just an extension of the fashion industry. Also it is argued the sexualized culture at the business helps morale because sex brings people closer together and those in or hoping for sexual relationships will gladly spend more time at work. Furthermore, it is argued the promotion of sexual autonomy is consensual because employees sign a release form acknowledging they are aware they will be working in a sexualized culture, and those who participate consensually in the sexual behaviors at work are preserving their right to decide for themselves what is appropriate for them and then their right to act on that decision. Also it is argued the promotion of sexual autonomy at work confronts taboos about sex. Additionally, it is argued restrictions against such actions would be unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of expression, which would result in legal moralism (the state using their authority to enforce a particular morality) or legal paternalism (the state restricting the decisions of mentally competent adults “for their own good”).

John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian Harm Principle states, “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” and not just harm, but imminent serious harm. As a utilitarian principle, Mill is concerned with the utility of the principle, namely, that the principle will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. For Mill, freedom of expression should be protected because the truth of any issue can be determined only when all views are represented, and because people best appreciate the truth when it is achieved through their own reason and experience, which leads to the greatest good for the greatest number. If indeed promotion of sexual autonomy at work helps morale, then this would be the good for the greatest number. Also, confronting taboos about sex and promoting sexual autonomy where consenting adults decide for themselves what is appropriate and then act on it, would be promoting the truth about sex in general for society and independently for each individual. Freedom of expression regarding sex is one more view for others to incorporate into their reason and experience in order to reach the truth.

However, many argue far more people are harmed by such actions then are benefited from the freedom of expression. As a consequential theory, all that matters is the consequences of the actions and if actions can be shown to cause serious harm to others, then the actions are wrong. It has been argued pornography is “akin to libelous speech” against women, “a sort of false advertising” about who women are and what women want, which causes harm to women’s “reputation, credibility, opportunities and earning potentials.” Some arguments focus on the harm to men, asserting the actions promoted conditions men to view women as objects which leads to men being unable to have healthy relationships with women. However, the greater harm may very well be in the notion of autonomy itself. Mill’s theory is not autonomy centered, but if one is seeking to promote individual sexual autonomy and the promotion of sexual autonomy in the ways he is allegedly doing so is causing a serious amount of harm to individual autonomy, then his actions would be impermissible.

Looking at the point that the fashion industry is sexualized, therefore, sexualized actions are merely an extension of the fashion industry. The point with this argument seems to be, the fashion industry is sexualized and he works in the fashion industry, so having a sexualized culture at work is appropriate to promote sexual autonomy. I would like to look at this point using Immanuel Kant’s deontological Consistency Principle, which is tied to his Categorical Imperative. Kant’s Categorical Imperative asserts “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become universal law.” The Consistency Principle asserts immoral acts can only work based on the essence of immorality, meaning, immoral acts only achieve the desired results if the person committing the act is making an exception for themselves or holding themselves to special standards. The universalization of immoral acts, according to Kant, would lead to the act no longer being able to achieve the desired results. In the claim it is okay to have a sexualized culture at a fashion business because the fashion industry is sexualized, it is implied one is making an exception for oneself. The desire, seems to be, to have a sexualized culture at work to promote sexual autonomy. The actions in question are calling women derogatory names, committing sex acts with and in front of employees, using sexually explicit ads and using adult magazines as wall paper. What if these actions were universalized? What if every place of employment promoted sexual autonomy by committing such acts? The acts would fail to promote sexual autonomy, because the acts would force one view of sexual autonomy onto others who may have a different view. The only way these acts can promote anything like sexual autonomy is if they are not universalized.

Furthermore, Kant’s notion of autonomy, as in the ability to reason and will, is a central to what gives individuals intrinsic value, instead of instrumental value. For Kant, those with intrinsic value are never to be used merely as a means to an end, but as an end in themselves. Intrinsic value, argued Kant, gives individuals rights to not be treated like a tool to be used by another then discarded when they are no longer useful. Such actions do not support autonomy under this view. I need to define a very important term, namely, pornography. Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin define, in part, pornography as “the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures or words that also includes women dehumanized as sexual objects, things or commodities,” women “in postures of sexual submission or servility or display” and/or “reduced to body parts.” The issue is not simple nudity and the issue is not sexually graphic material where women are treated with respect and equality. The issue is dehumanizing women as sexual objects by calling them “sluts,” or reducing women to body parts with advertising focused specifically on that body part and calling women “c-nts” or, requesting photographs of employees and encouraging firing “ugly” employees, or as alleged by a former employee, reducing women to sexual servility by turning them into “sex slaves.” All of these actions reduce a woman to a tool with merely instrumental value. One could argue, if the woman consents, wouldn’t this be allowing the woman autonomy? Kant argued to allow oneself “to be used for the satisfaction of sexual desire, to make oneself an object of demand, is to dispose over oneself as over a thing” and when one does so, one is reduced to “a thing on which another satisfies his appetite.” Kant argues if one consents to the objectification, one is treating themselves as a tool, which means they are denying themselves autonomy.

A main argument offered in the case rests on the equal basic right of freedom of expression, and argues restricting conduct or language would restrict freedom of expression. John Rawls’ Basic Rights Principle, which states “each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme for all.” Rawls argues a list of basic rights, which includes the freedom of expression, originates from and enables the citizenry’s moral power to judge if social systems are just and moral power to work to bring about the good in the society. One primary good, or circumstance within society which allows the citizenry to exercise their moral powers, is, for Rawls, the combined freedom to think for oneself and the liberty to decide for oneself what is right and wrong, in other words, autonomy. One who promotes such actions obviously views sex differently from some others and is a competent adult. The government restricting one’s language and actions would be forcing a particular morality on him and restricting his decisions, thus would be restricting his liberty to think for himself and decide what is right and wrong-would be restricting his autonomy. One’s freedom of expression allows for individuals to judge if a social system is just and work to bring about the good in society because by one’s behavior being in the public realm, it allows for open discussion, and subsequent judgments, about such actions within the social system and allows for individuals to work toward their judgments about whether these types of behavior are good for the society.

However, Catharine MacKinnon argues pornography, objectification and derogatory language about women all violate women’s equal basic rights to freedom of expression. MacKinnon argues pornography (and implicitly by extension objectification and derogatory language) conditions men “to treat women as their sexual subordinates” which, therefore, “systematically and differentially silences” women. MacKinnon offers three reasons for her conclusion, namely, being viewed as sexual subordinates causes women to be reluctant to speak up, if women do speak up their comments are given very little serious attention, and if women do speak up their comments are misconstrued or misunderstood. To add to MacKinnon’s argument, if women are not speaking up they may be able to use their moral power to judge if a social system is just, but their judgments, without being in the public realm, have no way to work toward the good of society. Additionally, if women’s comments are not being considered seriously, or if their comments are being misunderstood or misconstrued, then women cannot exercise fully their moral power to work toward the good of society because their comments intended to work toward the good of society are not being received as intended, causing their abilities to be hindered. If women cannot work toward the good of society, their autonomy is restricted because, being individual members of society, they can‘t act toward their own good. Also, it is argued pornography, objectification and derogatory language prevents an individual’s abilities to be autonomous because it “reinforces a dominant public perception” about women and sexuality which prevents both women and men from deciding for themselves what is appropriate for them and then acting on that decision.

Such alleged actions are morally impermissible because they harm individual sexual autonomy. First, if such actions were universalized, then it would be forcing one view of sexuality onto everyone, thus destroying the concept of sexual autonomy. Secondly, such actions reduce people to mere tools with only instrumental value. Thirdly, if one consents to be treated as such, they are reducing themselves to a mere tool. Fourthly, such actions seriously hinder women’s freedom of speech, which in turn prevents women from being able to work toward the good of society, thus limiting their autonomy. Fifthly, such actions reinforce dominant ideals about what women and sexuality should be which prevents men and women from deciding for themselves what sexuality should be then acting on it. Therefore, no, it is not morally permissible for business owners to use their businesses to promote sexual autonomy in the ways that has been described.