Gay Rights and Some Logical Fallacies 12 June 2006Posted by Todd in Democratic Theory, Gay Rights, Homosexuality, Inequality & Stratification, Philosophy & Social Theory.
[A further refinement of my argument about the biological origins of homosexuality and their relationship to our current arguments about equality and freedom for gay men and women in the United States:]
Natural = Moral
This is called, loosely, the “naturalistic fallacy” (philosophers have tighter definitions of this fallacy, but this will do for my purposes). The naturalistic fallacy argues that something that is natural is necessarily moral. The fallacy does not mean that things which are natural aren't moral, just that they aren't necessarily so. There is also an inverse fallacy, the "moralistic fallacy," which is that the current moral construction of something in society is natural. Anti-gay forces make this moralistic fallacy in their assumption that their construction of morality (i.e., monogamous, sexually excluse, heterosexual, nuclear family unit) is necessarily natural. The naturalistic fallacy is made by the pro-gay advocates in defending themselves in the public sphere.
It is important to point out that in fact as the dominant cultural force and defenders of status quo, the anti-gay forces are the ones in the position to define the terms of the argument, and they have defined it around naturalness. Because they don't have scientific backing on their argument, for the past 10 years they've been trying to move away from it, but it is still at the core of their rationale for disallowing homosexuality and institutionalizing second-class citizenship.
The key problem with this whole line of reasoning and the whole question of morality in the public sphere is that democracies were set up on the principle that moral debates were private. The public sphere functions on determining harm and foreclosing or denying rights only when harm is the result. Harm in democracies has the narrowest of definitions, and means only the infringement of another individual's rights. This switch away from morality and religion, toward rational weighing of individual rights was a brilliant move which aimed to stop incredible amounts of violence which had been wracking Europe for a few hundred years at the time. One of the biggest problems with American democracy is that we've never fully enacted disestablishmentarianism (i.e., get the church the fuck out of my democracy).
In any case, although I think homosexuality is completely natural (that is, it's a biological part of the human phenotypic diversity), I think people should start screaming loud and long about the democratic harm principle. I challenge anyone to think of a rational reason why homosexuality should be in any way restricted (other than the ways that we would likewise restrict heterosexuality) and why homosexual persons should not receive equal treatment under the law, including all the same rights and privileges as hets. I have never heard a single compelling argument based in the democratic harm principle.
Anti-gay forces have three arguments: 1) it has ever been thus (revealing their utter ignorance of history and anthropology), an argument that is neither here nor there, as tradition is never an acceptable end-in-itself in a democracy; or 2) it's unnatural (revealing their utter ignorance of biology, genetics, evolution, anthropology) and therefore immoral, the naturalistic fallacy that is neither here nor there in democracy; or 3) god says so, but god has no place or power in a democratic public sphere. None of these goes to the harm principle, therefore none of them is acceptable reasons for the abridging of rights in a democracy.
[posted with ecto]