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TitlePersonal and Moral Identity
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Managing Editor:

Govert A. den Hartogh, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The titles published in this series are listed at the end of this volume.

Page 161

160 Jan Steutel and Ben Spiecker

inclinations and success in refraining from having sex with prepubes-
cent boys.

So our intuitions regarding the homosexual paedophile seem to
point in opposite directions, thereby confirming both the Aristotelian
and the Kantian account of the morally virtuous person. We think,
however, that we can tackle this problem by acknowledging that
virtuousness is not an absolute quality but a matter of degree, ranging
from immature to full-grown virtuousness, from virtuousness that is
deficient to virtuousness that is perfect, from limited to complete
virtuousness. Given this obvious fact, we can argue that our paedo-
phile exhibits a certain kind of virtuousness in controlling his sexual
inclinations. In particular he exhibits well-developed and morally
infused virtues of will-power like self-control and some form of
persistency. Nevertheless, there is something wrong with him. Be-
cause the inclinations he must try to control are morally reprehensible,
his overall virtuousness is far from perfect. Indeed, if he would suc-
ceed in changing his sexual orientation and ceased to be troubled by
paedophile urges and fantasies, he would certainly consider himself
more virtuous than he now actually is. Then his virtuousness would be
more complete: he wouldn't just have virtuous normative beliefs and
some virtues ofwill-power, but also virtuous sexual preferences, or at
least no vicious ones.

In other words, the thesis that virtuousness as such implies
harmony is not confirmed by our example of the homosexual paedo-
phile: the person shows virtuousness in his persistent control of the
central part of his sexual identity. But if we, perhaps according to
Aristotle's intentions, restrict the scope of the harmony thesis and see
it as only applicable to full or complete virtuousness, it definitely gets
some support of the example of the paedophile: harmonising his
sexual orientation with his justified normative beliefs is a way of
perfecting his virtuousness. So being fully morally virtuous seems to
require an integrated structure of reason, affection, and behaviour in
such a manner that both affection and behaviour are attuned to proper
practical judgement.

Now let's have a closer look at the responsibility thesis.
According to the Aristotelian view we can be held responsible for our
feelings because they are dependent on choice. Of course we cannot

Page 162

Sexual Identity and Moral Virtuousness 161

choose our affections directly like we choose our actions, but we can
choose them indirectly by moderating or cultivating our inner life. The
Kantian view, however, is sceptical about the possibility of fashioning
our emotions according to reason. We can, of course, choose to mould
or change our feelings by means of habituation or other forms of
training, but our efforts, even if sustained, will often not be very
successful, as a consequence of which holding people responsible for
their affective life would often be inappropriate.

What, if any, are the implications of conflicts between the
central and the normative part of our sexual identity for the responsi-
bility thesis? Does the fact that such tensions occur support the Aristo-
telian or rather the Kantian view? In trying to find an answer to these
questions our starting-point will again be the example of the homo-
sexual paedophile. Can he be held responsible and therefore be
blamed for his erotic fantasy structures and arousal cue-response

To start with we could argue that the answer to this question
must be in the negative, because it is quite implausible that our paedo-
phile has chosen his sexual orientation. It is often reported that people
have the subjective feeling that they had no influence whatsoever on
their own basic sexual preferences. What kind of sexual orientation
we have is not chosen but discovered, not the result of our active
intervention but something that simply happens to us. And why would
that be different in case of a homosexual paedophile orientation?

However, this argument, even if based on true premises,
doesn't do the work it is supposed to do. The fact that one hasn't
chosen but is simply stuck with one's sexual orientation is only a
necessary but certainly not a sufficient condition for not being respon-
sible for one's basic sexual preferences. For even if one cannot be
blamed for being confronted with certain sexual feelings and inclina-
tions at a certain time or age, one still may be blamed for not subse-
quently moulding them into a more desirable form. Though we might
accept the fact that the paedophile didn't choose his basic preferences,
we can still hold him responsible for having them if we assume that he
could have changed them by taking the appropriate measures. So the
next question is: are we capable of changing our sexual orientation?

Page 321

326 Index of Subjects


Virtue ethics 6,16,99,111,114,

Virtues 6,16,17,20,85,88,

- of integrity

Virtuousness 17,147,148,149,
50, 151,158,159,160,165

Wanton(ishlm) 40,41,128,131,

Well-being 10,27,28,118,139,

Page 322


1. 0. Lagerspetz: Trust: The Tacit Demand. 1998 ISBN 0-7923-4874-5
2. W. van der Burg and T. van Willigenburg (eds.): Reflective Equilibrium. Essays in

Honour of Robert Heeger. 1998 ISBN 0-7923-5066-9
3. J. G. Murphy: Character, Liberty, and Law. Kantian Essays in Theory and Practice.

1998 ISBN 0-7923-5275-0
4. B. C. Postow: Reasons for Action. Toward a Normative Theory and Meta-Level

Criteria. 1999 ISBN 0-7923-5700-0
5. D. Richter: Ethics After Anscombe. Post "Modern Moral Philosophy". 2000

ISBN 0-7923-6093-1
6. G. den Hartogh (ed.): The Good Life as a Public Good. 2000 ISBN 0-7923-6167-9
7. T. van den Beld ( ed.): Moral Responsibility and Ontology. 2000 ISBN 0-7923-6255-1
8. M.J. Almeida (ed.): Imperceptible Harms and Benefits. 2000 ISBN 0-7923-6464-3
9. J.A. Corlett: Responsibility and Punishment. 2001 ISBN 0-7923-7167-4

10. M. Gore Forrester: Moral Beliefs and Moral Theory. 2002 ISBN 1-4020-0687-X
11. A.W. Musschenga, W. van Haaften, B. Spiecker and M. Slors (eds.): Personal and

Moral Identity. 2002 ISBN 1-4020-0764-7


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