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March 29, 2006


Well put, Steve. And jealousy as an emotion is a contingent phenomenon, which means that it can be circumvented under various conditions (see http://tinyurl.com/pv9mt for a related argument).

I think Saletan is partly correct, but he has confused the effect with the essence of the thing. Jealousy can be understood as the intuitive and reasonable reaction to a violation of the intimacy and unity in the telos of human sexuality. But it is one flesh union that is at the core, as a necessary aspect of human sexuality, rather than emotional responses. It is what grounds the response and makes it reasonable in the first place.

Keep up the good work!

Good analysis, Steve. Just a feeler here: could Saletan's line of reasoning also be used to insist that parents have only one child? After all, we wouldn't want that child to vie for her parents' affections and be jealous of her siblings.

At its core, Saletan's opposition to polygamy seems to be based on its inherent instability due to jealousy. Well, last I checked, a large number of monogamous relationships in our country ain't exactly stable, either. I could provide plenty of examples, just like Saletan.

Jealousy is not neccessarily negative, just for the record.

Steve W, I'm a big fan of STR and of your work in particular, but I don't understand your point here.

>Sounds like pickin’ and choosin’ to
>me. What about the rest of human
>nature? What about the clear
>reproductive purpose of sexuality?
>What about the clear heterosexual
>purpose of the sexual organs?

How does any of these points offer any kind of response to polygamy? In a polygamous relationship all of this generally exists and works as expected. We even have Biblical example of it with Jacob, David, Solomon, et al., working as expected.

There are good reasons to oppose polygamy, but arguing it from the perspective of biological function doesn't seem reasonable.

To Steve from Charlotte...

I think the point that (blog post author) Steve was trying to make is that if you're going to use human nature in a discussion of the validity of homosexuality (and how it might be more valid than polygamy), it's incorrect to stop at the human emotion of jealousy.

If you entreat human nature at all, you really need to bring in the other aspects that (author) Steve mentioned. They maybe don't say much about homosexuality versus polygamy (as you point out), but they arguably say a lot about homosexuality versus (monogamous) heterosexuality.

One further point about the illegitimacy of using jealousy as a differentiator between homosexuality and polygamy... If the respective spouses never find out about each other, then no harm is done :-). So the "sin" in this case is reduced to mere indiscretion.

If Mr. Saletan wants to argue that we "ought" to behave better than this, and not merely be responsible for discretion in our hypothetical polygamous relationships, then he needs to appeal to something beyond the "Golden Rule" in his moral code. But of course that lets God (and his standards for sexuality) in the door.

Cliff is right. The reason I brought up the reproductive purpose of sexuality and the heterosexual purpose of the sexual organs was not to argue *against* polygamy, but to show that if you argue against polygamy using human nature, your respect for human nature should lead you to also question homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Cliff makes an interesting point. It seems that Saletan focuses on correlative factors rather than causative factors. Jealousy might or might not motivate and correlate to people being incensed about adultery (or, more broadly, sharing one’s sexual partner with someone else). But that doesn’t answer the why question. It doesn’t give us a reason why adultery is wrong. For we can conceive of cases where there is no jealousy and where it’s still wrong (Cliff’s example).

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