Abington professor publishes new edition of 'Philosophy of Sex'

July 30, 2007

Abington, Pa. -- Sex refers to biology and reproduction, but the mind offers the most important lesson for humans according to a Penn State scholar in the newest edition of his book "The Philosophy of Sex" (Rowman & Littlefield: 2007). Alan Soble, a contemporary philosopher, founder of the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love, and lecturer of philosophy at Penn State Abington in suburban Philadelphia, said the collection of essays examines views on what role sex plays in the human experience, as well as what constitutes "normal" sex, as opposed to "perverted" sex.

Some philosophers, labeled the "pessimists of sexuality," including Kant, St. Augustine, and (sometimes) Sigmund Freud, perceive sexual desire as "unbefitting the dignity of the human person." Others, considered the "optimists," including contemporary philosopher Irving Singer and (sometimes) Freud, contend that "sexuality is a natural bonding mechanism that joins people together both sexually and nonsexually."

Medieval Roman Catholic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas argued that any sex act that does not include the possibility of procreation is unnatural. For contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel, however, any sexual act that includes the mutual recognition of arousal by the participants is psychologically natural, even if not procreative.

Another topic in "The Philosophy of Sex" is the issue of consent. For example, some say that casual sex is immoral because it is not connected to love and instead is motivated by the lust of people treating themselves and/or others as objects. Others argue that consent by itself makes sex between adults morally permissible.

"Philosophy over the long haul may not change minds in any way, but I hope the book makes people think in new and different ways," said Soble. "Many of the perspectives in the book originated from some of the greatest philosophers ever -- Sigmund Freud, Immanuel Kant, Plato, the list goes on and on. The main goal is to keep people alive and active mentally."

Soble gives lectures based on his research at colleges and universities across the country. One recent lecture, titled "Sex, Beauty and Madness -- and What's Love Got to Do with It?" was given at Wichita State University. While the book is meant for everyone, he has come to realize that those who appreciate his classes, books and presentations most are usually under age 30.

"My research makes the most impact on young people. Older people are willing to discuss the philosophy of sex intellectually, but it is not the most important thing they are thinking about," he said. "For young folks, I try to expose them to many different thinkers so they have something to think about as they continue to develop emotionally and intellectually."

Soble is the author of Sex from Plato to Paglia: A Philosophical Encyclopedia" (Greenwood Press, 2006), "Pornography, Sex and Feminism" (Prometheus, 2002), "The Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Introduction" (Paragon House, 1998), "Sexual Investigations" (New York University Press, 1996), "The Structure of Love" (Yale University Press, 1990) and "Pornography: Marxism, Feminism and the Future of Sexuality" (Yale University Press, 1986).

He is the editor of "Sex, Love, and Friendship" (Rodopi, 1997), "The Philosophy of Sex" (Rowman and Littlefield, first edition, 1980; second edition, 1991; third edition, 1997; fourth edition, 2002), and "Eros, Agape and Philia: Readings in the Philosophy of Love" (Paragon House, 1989; corrected and reprinted, 1999).

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 28, 2017