Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Critical Thinker and an Ally?

Tauriq Moosa, a critical thinking tutor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, asks, “Is Incest Wrong?”

Assuming we are talking about consensual incest (consanguinamory), which Moosa is, our answer is “Of course not!” See what I wrote about why some consider consanguinamory wrong and why it is illegal in some places, and read my answers to the common arguments against this freedom of association and freedom to marry. Of course not everyone is right for everyone else, but that any given person is not right for a certain close relative when it comes to romance, sex, or marriage does not meant that consanguinamory is inherently wrong.

But let’s get to what Moosa wrote.

For example, there is no good reason to justify the oppression of gay people or women – though there are plenty of reasons people do. Thus because there are no good arguments to support oppressing gay people, the idea should be discarded and indeed opposed where it arises.


Moosa brings up the case of the Finlaysons, writing…

This seems entirely based on mere repulsion. To try articulate why incest should be viewed as inherently wrong is difficult and there’s no clear argument. Here are a few arguments that my students and others have offered.

Firstly, the old, tired argument that “It’s not natural”.

Ah, Discredited Argument #5.

This argument must, like cancers and earthquakes, disappear from our planet. Cancers and earthquakes, by the way, are also natural. The philosopher Julian Baggini has correctly said that something being natural tells us no more about its moral property than if you said something was red. Good and bad things are natural, so not everything that is natural is good (or bad).

Good way of putting it.

Secondly, people claim that incest creates ‘deformed’ children.

Ah, Discredited Argument #18.

This is not entirely true. There is a greater risk of various handicaps, true, due to a closer sharing of genetics. But there is a danger in every form of child creation that the child might be handicapped. There might be a difference in degree of risk in incestuous sex acts but certainly not in kind. And, similarly, if we continued with this logic, it seems that any person who has an increased risk of having children with disabilities ought not to reproduce (or should be condemned). The fact that we don’t condemn or restrict people with a verified increased risk of producing disabled children indicates that even this reason isn’t solid.


Furthermore, this assumes sex acts are solely for having children, whereas this is nonsense, since we have effective contraceptives and other measures to prevent pregnancy.


Thirdly, and oddly, people exclaim it’s “just” repugnant.

And that’s Discredited Argument #1. As with the others, Moosa does a great job on it.

In considering this case, we are not encouraging incest, nor do we have to say we ‘like’ it. We don’t even have to say it is good or right. However, incestuous acts certainly need not be worth condemning a young lady over, nor does she deserve to be treated like someone requiring therapy. There is little justification for thinking she’s done something wrong.

What’s occurring here is inflating outrage – I don’t think there is such a thing as “moral” outrage – and personal disgust at an act, which has not harmed anybody else, to the point of having a lady’s life threatened for no good reason. Whatever the political situation, if we respect an adult’s right to engage freely in sexual acts with other consenting adults, it’s not clear why we draw a line based on genetics.

Well said. Thank you! No doubt, some of Moosa’s students have at least experimented with consanguinamory, and some could be in a lasting relationship. It must be a relief for them to know that Moosa offers kindness rather than unjust condemnation.
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  1. I have a friend now who is feeling terribly guilty because as of lately, she has started to develope feelings for a cousin of hers. I should, and probably will send her to this page. She does need to read this.

  2. Ms. D, thanks for your comments. Please to refer her here.

    Also, have her read about what to tell family and friends.

  3. Well, that comment got a little messed up but you get the idea.

  4. I live in South Africa...

    I AM SO PROUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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