Natural Law Theory and the Enjoyment of Sex

“The Unnecessary Science” is a great title. I had a protracted discussion with a committed Thomist on another forum who emphasized how complicated classical theism is, and said it was even more complicated than particle physics. I could not disagree with that, but responded that that was besides the point. Particle physics is as complex as it is because this is necessitated in order to account for the empirical observations that are made. Classical theism just seems to be complicated for its own sake, to make it impressive and intimidating, and also to make it more difficult to refute. This does not mean it provides any real enlightenment or understanding to our universe beyond what could be accomplished by less complicated models.

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The author of the article appears not to have read much of what Feser has actually written about what natural law theory says re: sexual ethics.


Oh, dear God! I like to bash Natural Law as much as the next guy, but this is just bad.

Here you go:

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First, I disagree that classical theism (CT) is more complex than particle physics. Whoever said that probably doesn’t know the technical details of particle physics. CT is more sophisticated than the typical level of atheist vs. Christian discussion on internet forums but that is no different than many other philosophical theories.

Secondly, it’s certainly not true that CT is complex because people deliberately make it to be impressive and intimidating. That is a pretty uncharitable thing to say about a view you disagree with. The features of CT are needed to maintain a coherent view of God if you held the same assumptions as theists. You can disagree with those assumptions but that’s different from accusing your opponent of deliberate sophistry.

Does CT provide more enlightenment compared to other models of theism or atheism? If you hold to the same basic assumptions and metaphysical intuitions that theists do, I would say yes, it certainly does. For example, since learning more about CT I have been able to make better sense of certain issues in theism such as the relationship between God and nature and divine hiddenness. These are not answered as well in a theistic personalist (TP) conception of God, in my opinion.


I agree with @structureoftruth’s assessment.

Here’s a reply I tried to post on Jonathan M. S. Pearce’s blog (it’s still in moderation):

Hi Jonathan,

Reading your blog suggests to me that you have a lot of catching up to do. Quoting Monty Python is not going to impress Ed Feser, as it ridicules a view he does not hold and never has held. Incidentally, Ed, as his Wikipedia biography states, has six children.

For some general reading (lots of good links here to blog articles by Feser): Love and sex round-up.

Regarding the Perverted Faculty Argument, here’s an excerpt from Feser’s online blog article, How to be a pervert (February 2017):

The perversion of a human faculty essentially involves both using the faculty but doing so in a way that is positively contrary to its natural end. As I’ve explained before, simply to refrain from using a faculty at all is not to pervert it. Using a faculty for something that is merely other than its natural end is also not to pervert it. Hence, suppose faculty F exists for the sake of end E. There is nothing perverse about not using F at all, and there is nothing perverse about using F but for the sake of some other end G. What is perverse is using F but in a way that actively prevents E from being realized. It is this contrariness to the very point of the faculty, this outright frustration of its function, that is the heart of the perversity...

Perverting a faculty is somewhat like this. A faculty F is of its nature directed toward end E and in perverting it one directs the faculty instead away from E. With one hand, as it were, one gives E – just by virtue of using F, which inherently points toward E – while with the other hand one takes E away.

You can also scroll down to view readers’ comments (I’ve written a lot of comments, myself, many of them critical, as you’ll see - especially this one and follow-up comments). I suggest you read them all, to get a feel for how Thomists argue.

You should also have a look at Ed’s online paper, “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument.” Here’s a short excerpt from p. 400:

Nor does the premise imply that there is anything inherently wrong with having sex during pregnancy, or during infertile periods, or with a sterile spouse, or after menopause, or in general under circumstances in which it is foreseen that conception will not result. For none of this involves using one’s sexual faculties in a way that actively frustrates their natural end. Foreseeing that a certain sexual act will in fact not result in conception is not the same thing as actively altering the relevant organs or the nature of the act in a way that would make it impossible for them to lead to conception even if they were in good working order.

See also William M. Briggs’ online article, Can You Find A Counterexample To Feser’s Defense Of The Perverted Faculty Argument? (March 21, 2017) and the comments by readers.

Finally, for a critical article, I suggest you have a look at The Perverted Faculty Argument: A reply to Edward Feser by Angra Maiyu (January 30, 2019).

By the way: Aquinas maintained (see his reply to objection 3) that in the Garden of Eden, sexual pleasure would have actually been even greater than it is now, but he insisted that the sexual appetite would have been governed by reason. Whatever else Aquinas was, he was not a Puritan.

I forgot to mention a paper by Timothy Hsiao, “The Perverted Faculty Argument” in Philosophia Christi (Vol. 19, No. 1, 2017):

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