Enzo Titolo

Politics, Paranoispiricies, neologisms, diary, creative, ruminations

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Sex As a Nutritive Function

In college, I was influenced a great deal by Aristotle's De Anima (as well as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five (and the concept of Buddhist compassion)). Aristotle and Vonnegut stated that the self is really part of a greater self across our species now and is connected to the past and the future of our species.

That is, I'm an individual, but my soul or life force is connected to the life force that led to me and the life force that flows in me towards my individual future and the future of my progeny.

One of my favorite lines from De Anima is sex (reproduction) is a nutritive function. How is reproduction like eating? It doesn't make ME feel full but it allows my life force to continue into the future. Homo Sapiens’ reproductive sex for us as individual members of a species is nutritive, just as eating something allows ME individually to move into the future.

You are what you eat and whom you make love with. This is why I don't comment on what people or eating or fucking as long as it doesn't seem like it will do physical harm.

Since the modern era, sex and reproduction are not necessarily causally related due to technology like contraceptives, so need not be solely a merging of life forces, reproduction between two individuals, in concert with sex and love, which is holy.

Where, perhaps, I am perverted, is that I celebrate the contraceptive and its new freedoms. Reproduction is no longer causally related to sex. I believe that sexual couples should be prepared to communicate about sexual responsibilities since conception and birth is still a possibility, and since sex is personal, and since there are diseases related to sex. That is still a lot.

But now sex is liberated to be a nutritive function for me as an individual animal as well as a smart and compassionate person who wants to connect with others. That is my vision for ‘sex positive.’ I think it should be approached with responsibility, compassion, understanding, and communication -- that is with responsibility, but it can also be fun if there is trust.

This is a lot of work. A lot of people are not ready or prepared to do this work. And, even if they are, they might not be coupled with someone that wants to 'make love' with them. 'Good pornography'* can take some of the pressure off these folks.

It can also allow individuals and couples to explore fantasies that they can experiment with, think about or talk about. Sometimes people realize they are gay or kinky in some way, or not, after exploring pornography in a private, safe setting.

Sometimes couples find porn a good way to get into the mood or to see if a certain new fantasy spices up their sex and personal lives. I find that fantasy can take us out of ourselves so that we can know who we are more.** An analogy: we send probes to space and learn about the earth's present and origin by exploring the moon and the solar system and stars... I also find fantasy fun, like a break, but I think it teaches me something about myself, too, and how I relate to the world in ways that I didn't realize in my workaday routine.

*I define ‘good pornography’ as that which is produced without coercion in conditions of respect, free will, and good working and paying conditions.

**Something similar to this is the use of drugs as an exploration of the self, the world and society that takes us outside our normal perceptions.

About De Anima by Aristotle:

“The soul comprises several faculties: e.g., cognition, appetite….

Book II begins with an important formulation: the soul is the "form of the living body which potentially has life" (the organism's first actuality). Having a soul distinguishes living from inanimate objects. The soul's nutritive faculty is essential for all organisms, but animals have the faculty of sensation, separating them from plants. Thus begins a hierarchy of faculties from nutrition to intellect. In sensation, the sense organ and sense-object, like the soul and body, participate in the Form/Matter relationship. The sense organ receives the object's Form, not its matter, in Aristotle's words, "as the wax takes the sign from the ring without the iron and gold." He discusses each of the five senses, and makes a famous distinction among perceptual elements (special, common, incidental).

Aristotle concludes discussing sensation in Book III by proposing functions of the perceptive faculty that integrate individual senses. Imagination, a faculty producing imagery, mediates between sensation and intellect. Aristotle's remarks about intellect are among his most renowned, fecund, and difficult. He describes the intellectual faculty, which includes thinking and supposition, with the same physiological approach of his sensory theory. The organ of thought receives the Form of the thought-object to realize thinking. He calls the intellect a repository of Forms and distinguishes the active from the passive intellect, providing inspiration for Thomas Aquinas's psychology. Aristotle concludes with a discussion of motivation, i.e., what puts the organism into action.

No other work contains a psychological theory like that presented in De Anima, excepting Aquinas's derivative. Its resemblance to attribute (behaviorist) theories of the mind cannot obscure Aristotle's radically different foundation. His Form-Matter and Actuality-Potentiality concepts are not explanatory, only a framework for inquiry. Its relevance, as Lawson-Tancred notes, to modern psychology depends upon identifying an empirical approach to Aristotle's Form. Aristotle's proposal that life has, or is, a principle provides an alternative point of departure for scientists who find contemporary materialist dogma lacking direction. De Anima, one of the most important books ever written, and long neglected by scientific psychology, still puts life in an eternal debate.”
Joseph C. Hager, Ph.D.


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