Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

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.


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