Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Musonius Rufus: "On Sexual Indulgence"

Inwood: "Musonius advanced the distinctive view that the natural function of sexual activity is only to produce offspring; hence all other sexual relations, heterosexual or homosexual, are improper and reveal a lack of self-control."

Saturday, August 16, 2003

The Celibacy FAQ [via charlesbricebroadway]

"A mostly light-hearted guide to issues connected to sexual abstinence, maintained by Martin Poulter and posted regularly to, alt.answers and news.answers"

I take Musonius Rufus as my guide to celibacy.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

In the Case of Martha Nussbaum - First Things (June/July 1994).

"This is the story of Martha Nussbaum's part in the Colorado trial. The reader will want to keep in mind the distinction between advocacy and scholarship, assuming there is still such a distinction in the contemporary academy. Equally important for this story are distinctions between misstatement, misrepresentation, and deliberate falsehood."

. . . .

"In her first filing, Nussbaum declared that "in all of these [pre- Christian Mediterranean] traditions and civilizations, same-sex romantic relationships, attachments, and sexual conduct were highly regarded. . . . Such relationships were never considered shameful. . . . Thus, prior to the Christian tradition, there is no evidence that natural law theories regarded same-sex erotic attachments as immoral, 'unnatural,' or improper.""

. . . .

"[W]hen one holds oneself out to public authority as a scholarly expert, does one forswear dissembling and distortion however deeply one desires to advance a cause? The link between behavior of the sort engaged in by Mohr and Nussbaum and the phenomenon of "political correctness" in the academic world is well worth considering. One can only imagine the fate of a historian who did what Mohr did as part of an effort not to support "abortion rights" but to protect fetal rights, or the fate of a philosopher who did what Nussbaum did not to advance the cause of the homosexual movement but to oppose it. Something in the academy has gone radically wrong."

Thursday, August 07, 2003

CBB (Charles Brice Broadway) just conducted a discussion on the Stoic International Forum on The Stoic View of Sex.

"Gaius Musonius Rufus [who is CBB's source] was a Stoic philosopher who taught in Rome" (Inwood, pg. 615).

"Musonius advanced the distinctive view that the natural function of sexual activity is only to produce offspring; hence all other sexual relations, heterosexual or homosexual, are improper and reveal a lack of self-control. Even in marriage, sex for pleasure alone is wrong. The goal of marriage is the rearing of many children (abortion and exposure of infants being contrary to nature) and the cultivation of companionship between spouses, which is both a a symbol of and the foundation for social relations generally. Though we may suspect the influence of Roman social values on this teaching, Musonius supports his position with arguments based on natural teleology. His central theme is the importance of self-control in the service of a rationally articulated understanding of human nature" (pg. 616).

Dr. Garrett continues the Stoic Forum thread with "A couple points in responose to Charles' post on Rufus and sexuality."

CBB concludes[?] the thread starting with Celibacy.

He says finally:

"I think any reasonable person who put aside their own marital status, sexual orientation, political leanings, or what have you and stepped behind a veil of ignorance would conclude that the celibacy/procreation stance is the only proper one. Most of my arguments came from trying to defeat this position because I inclined to try and preserve sex for pleasure as a preferred course of action without falling into hedonism. I failed.

"I understand that this may be a tough pill for some to swallow, and I can't change this. I think it is quite possible for the Sage to have sex and to remain a Sage, but I do not think the Sage would choose sex purely for the pleasure it brings."

Inwood (pg. 615) says that Musonius wrote nothing, that accounts of his lectures were published after his death, and that only extracts of twenty-one of the accounts survive. The only English translation of these writings seems to be Cora E. Lutz's 'Musonius Rufus "The Roman Socrates'", Yale Classical Studies 10: 3-147, 1947.

Inwood, Brad (1998). "Musonius Rufus" in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 6. London: Routledge.