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Natural goodness, sex, and the perverted faculty argument

Friday, November 4, 2022, 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Abstract: There is a longstanding and widely held view, often associated with Catholicism, that intrinsically nonprocreative human sex acts are intrinsically immoral. Some philosophers who hold this view, such as Edward Feser, claim that they can defend the view on purely philosophical grounds by relying on the perverted faculty argument. This paper argues that Feser’s defense of the perverted faculty argument does not work because Feser fails to recognize the full implications of the species-dependence of natural goodness. By drawing on the work of Peter Geach and Philippa Foot, this paper presents a view of natural goodness that adequately accounts for the species-dependence of such goodness. Using this adequate account, the paper argues that at least some intrinsically nonprocreative human sex acts contribute to human flourishing.

Bio: Christopher Arroyo earned his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University. He is Professor of Philosophy at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island and is also the Associate Editor of New Blackfriars. His scholarship focuses on Philippa Foot’s account of natural goodness and on Catholic sexual ethics, especially Catholic teaching on homosexuality. He is the author of Kantian Ethics and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate: An Introduction (Springer, 2017).