Blackburn: Lust is a Virtue

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Simon Blackburn thinks lust should not just be removed from the vice list but be added to the virtues.

"According to the Sunday Times, Prof Blackburn has defined lust as "the enthusiastic desire for sexual activity and its pleasures for its own sake". The philosopher says that if reciprocated, lust leads to pleasure and "best flourishes when unencumbered by bad philosophy and ideology... which prevent its freedom of flow". He points out that thirst is not criticised although it can lead to drunkenness and in the same way lust should not be condemned just because it can get out of hand, the paper says."

I read this to my friend sitting next to me, and before I even finished, he said, "Oh, that's just winning the argument by definition! It's a shame that a professional philosopher like Blackburn would take the low road."

Blackburn apparently knows nothing of the frequent comments by evangelical Christians that sexual desire is a good thing created by God and that lust is when people act on that desire by dwelling on it too long or too much when lusting after someone or some mental image that isn't the proper object of such desire (which for a Christian would be one's husband or wife only). It seems fairly clear to me that the people he's calling puritanical aren't using the same definition of 'lust' at all and are in fact agreeing with him on his main point, though probably differing a bit on the details. The point both agree on: there's nothing wrong with sexual desire any more than there's something wrong with appetites for food. When it becomes sexual lust or gluttony is the problem.

Maybe he's ignorant of evangelical Christianity. If so, yet another philosopher demonstrates that he knows nothing of what he's talking about in criticizing Christianity. That's bad. But maybe he's just deliberately framing the debate differently. If so, then he's being unfair. Redefining 'lust' to make it sound like you're making a radical claim and then taking the moral high ground over Christians really is taking the low road.

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