The Personalist Project

Over at the Witherspoon Institute Robert George has a characteristically thoughtful and helpful article on pornography and public morality.

He shows the limits of the distinction (favored by liberals and libertarians) between public and private acts.

Theorists of public morality—from the ancient Greek philosophers and Roman jurists on—have noticed that apparently private acts of vice, when they multiply and become widespread, can imperil important public interests.

(And this is not yet to mention the still deeper moral truth that even my most secret and isolated sinful act has repercussions for others; that every wrong, no matter how small and hidden, proportionately lowers the tone and quality of the moral atmosphere we all share.)

It’s an illusion to imagine that our society could legalize and normalize such things as pornography, drug abuse, prostitution, polygamy and homosexual relationships without drastically undermining the common good.  For instance, such social conditions would make it difficult if not impossible to raise children in innocence and with due reverence for the dignity, beauty and life-giving purpose of human sexuality. This in turn would make strong, lasting and chaste marriages less and less the norm, meaning more and more children would be raised in broken homes and prone to all the pathologies and dependencies that follow.

It is in a special way a matter of justice to children. Parents’ efforts to bring up their children as respecters of themselves and others will be helped or hindered—perhaps profoundly—by the cultural structure in which children are reared. Whether children themselves ever get a glimpse of pornographic images in childhood is a side issue. A decent social milieu cannot be established or maintained simply by shielding children from such images. It is the attitudes, habits, dispositions, imagination, ideology, values, and choices shaped by a culture in which pornography flourishes that will, in the end, deprive many children of what can without logical or moral strain be characterized as their right to a healthy sexuality. In a society in which sex is de-personalized, and thus degraded, even conscientious parents will have enormous difficulty transmitting to their children the capacity to view themselves and others as persons, rather than as objects of sexual desire and satisfaction.

Awareness of this reality is one of the reason I am alarmed and dismayed to hear so many politicians and pundits speaking of the so-called “social issues” as a distraction from the economic crisis our nation is facing.  The reverse is nearer the truth.  The economic problems are a symptom of a much deeper moral crisis.

Comments (1)

Jules van Schaijik

#1, Nov 12, 2011 6:57am

Reminds me of another thing I admire about Steve Jobs: his fight to keep pornography off the iPhone and iPad. He caught lots of flak for that. He was called arrogant, controlling, censuring, and no better than the Big Brother he had set out to destroy in 1984. (See Apple's justly famous ad, aired during the 1984 superbowl.)

One person emailed Jobs, saying that the iPad was supposed to be revolutionary, that "revolutions are about freedom," and that, besides, "Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree." Jobs replied:

Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.

And then he added, echoing some of George's reasoning,

... you might care more about porn when you have kids.

Read more in this interesting article, which includes these lines:

Steve Jobs last aspiration was "A Porn Free World" ... he was desirous to [find] ways through which the internet, mobiles, PC's and tablets might be free from the filthy porn content... especially for the youth. He dreamed to make a pure pro-family tech world without pornography, obscene and sex oriented stuff.

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