In this paper we are going to study the moral issues connected with homosexuality, look back into the historical attitudes and compare them with modern views.
In the 29th century, the German psychologist Karoly Maria Benkert used the term “homosexuality” for the first time. The word itself was somewhat new, but the problems of sexuality, in general, were discussed hundreds of year ago already. The philosophical discussions of this matter started from Symposium of Plato and to queer theory. Thus the attraction to the same sex has a rather long social history. In the West arose the idea of natural law, actually forbidding homosexualism. Nowadays the concepts of natural law are still valid for some philosophical and social debates. A significant role is played by another new social trend in the West – gay liberation movement.
The problem of homosexuality is indeed widely discussed and it often even involves some public and legal issues as well. There is rarely some in-between attitude to the matter. Usually, the views are polarized, people look at homosexuality either positively or negatively. There are exceptions as well, and there are people who consider gay and lesbian relations have the same chance of realization of good as heterosexual relations.
Usually, the idea the homosexual relations are moral or morally acceptable comes from some religious groups, human rights groups, some medical organizations, gay rights groups and so on.
Political support comes from some governmental agencies that defend the equal rights of gays and lesbians. “Entities well-known for this viewpoint include the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (USA), Stonewall and OutRage! (United Kingdom), Reform Judaism, certain segments of the Anglican Communion, the European Union, Amnesty International, American Academy of Pediatrics, etc.” (Berman, Paul 30). Their main argument is that those relations that can occur between two grown-up persons cannot be considered immoral. Immoral according to them is the creation of such laws, that can restrict rights of lesbians and gays, who are in relations. Another argument is that such kind of relationships appeared a long time ago and nowadays they still exist. The supporters of these ideas state that in any society in any population there will be a group of people who would be of another sexual orientation. Some people think that homosexuality is morally acceptable because of natural occurrence, some state that there should be no scriptural prohibition of homosexual relations, some believe that ecclesiastical ban has to do only with pederasty as that was a mode of the same- sex practice during ancient times, to some people scriptural prohibition is associated with patriarchal bias.
Some state that the words of Jesus Christ “ love God as one’s neighbor” and to “ love one’s neighbor as oneself” are the fundamental laws of morality and that these laws proclaim the principles of absolute equality thus can be as well applied in the case of homosexuality. But all these people, in fact, agree that sex between two persons of one sex and the same- sex marriage should not be considered immoral. There is an opinion as well that homosexual relations are natural as the examples of such ties in animals’ world could prove it and maybe these relations could be integral to species’ survival.
Advocates of homosexual phenomenon compare homophobia, racism, and sexism, as the society from the West concluded that racism and sexism were not morally acceptable, probably they will come to the same conclusion concerning homosexual discrimination. This argument is one of the most often used ones. The basis of it is that it is not that important what homosexuals think and whether it is correct or not, but they have their views, and it is the same as when people were sure that the white race was right and the black was worse or that men had sexual superiority and so on, later on, all this was considered to be senseless and wrong. In the case when homosexuals are restricted or are deemed to be social outcasts there is discrimination, and discrimination of any kind is not acceptable. On the other hand, people who care for racial discrimination find such comparison offensive, as they state that homosexuality presupposes some different behavior, whereas people of different races do not behave differently.
There is a point of view that sexual orientation is not a choice a person makes, but an inherited or genetic matter. They underline that if this is a matter of heredity as well as the color of the skin than it can not be considered immoral as this is not a moral concern at all. Besides such factors as genes cannot be changed by the wish of a person, and thus gay men and lesbians should get the same rights as other people. However, according to scientific research, we can not be sure yet whether homosexuality is a matter if genetic or it isn’t. The only fact that stays for sure is that sexual orientation cannot be reverted.
Talking about historical, philosophical views, we should mention that in ancient Greece there was no division between heterosexual and homosexual. Nowadays we can judge about these issues from works of ancient philosophers, from plays by Aristophanes, from Greek vases and other artworks. Religion played an important role in building the attitude to sex relations, but by the 18th and 19th centuries the domination of the theological framework upon the discussion of the same sex problem was not that strong anymore, and the problem of homosexualism became of more considerable interest to medical men and psychologists. “This discourse, in turn, linked up with considerations about the state and its need for a growing population, good soldiers, and intact families marked by clearly defined gender roles. At the same time, the dramatic increase in school attendance rates and the average length of time spent in school reduced transgenerational contact, and hence also the frequency of transgenerational sex. Same-sex relations between persons of roughly the same age became the norm” (Dover, K.J., 99).
As medicine became more popular, this was followed by the science accounting for a natural phenomenon with the basis of mechanistic causes. Doctors concluded that sexuality is innate.
“Instead of specific acts defining a person, as in the medieval view, an entire physical and mental makeup, usually portrayed as somehow defective or pathological, is ascribed to the modern category of ‘homosexual.’ Although there are historical precursors to these ideas” (Berman, Paul, 35).
Aristotle, for example, tried to present a psychological explanation of passive homosexual relations. According to these ideas, people didn’t choose whether to be or not to be homosexual and this would not be fair to make them come through criminal punishment. Human beings were considered not to choose to make something evil, they could be mentally or psychologically ill and thus needed medical help. They could be mentally or psychologically ill and thus needed medical help.
The name of Aristotle is connected with natural law theory. Aristotle underlined that reason was the distinctive human function; Stoics stated that human being belongs to some part of the natural order of the cosmos and both came out with the conclusion that “True law is right reason in agreement with nature” (Finnis, John, 12). The main idea of Aristotle’s approach was that natural law could be changed as time passes, he was not talking about sexual relations, he was not as much concerned with this matter as Plato for example.
The religious views on homosexual relations are different, depending on the religion. Some religions considered same-sex relations sacred, some considered such kind of relations sinful and thus forbidden.
Most Buddhism and Hinduism schools believe that there is no big difference between heterosexual and homosexual relations, they state that all desires, including the sexual one, should be transcended to get salvation. Buddha’s teachings do not mention specifically homosexual relations. There is, however, a tradition that Buddhist monks restrain themselves in their sexual relations and homoeroticism and gender variance were prohibited for them. But there is some Buddhist leaders, who think that homosexuality could be accepted as a norm. According to the third of Five Precepts of Buddhism underlines that a person should restrain his sexual misconduct and some people stated that this point could be referred to homosexual relations as well. “The Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism interprets sexual misconduct to include lesbian and gay sex, and indeed any sex other than penis-vagina intercourse, including oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation or other sexual activity with the hand” (Dover, K.J., 101), on the other hand the Dalai Lama said that homosexual relations could be mutually pleasant and enjoyable and supported general human rights for all people not depending upon their sexual orientation.
In Hinduism, religion homosexuality is not considered an acquired sin, but of an inborn nature. In sacred texts, we could read about homosexuality as the third sex or the third nature. In Kama Sutra there are descriptions of different types of homosexual relations, either between women or men.
As for my personal opinion concerning the issues of homosexuality, I could say that this problem is not that simple and there are still a lot of facts that we do not see simply on the surface. On the one hand, everybody is free to make his own choice and if a person wants to make sex with somebody of his sex, why should it be prohibited for him if he does not harm to surrounding people. On the other hand, although most people state that this is innate and biological and not conscious choice of a person, I think that it is not corresponding to natural laws – to have homosexual sex relations. If to consider the natural main “goal” of making sex – this is having children and prolonging species. In this case, homosexual sex is absolutely “useless”. But if to consider sex as a source of pleasure only, then it sounds logical that as long as somebody does not harm others, he is free to choose any form of sex he likes. Another serious problem and the serious decision is about homosexual marriages, homosexual relations are nowhere officially recorded, but some homosexuals would also like to legislate their marriages officially. To my opinion, this is not acceptable, since I am convinced that a family should also be created with the aim of childbirth and upbringing and it is not possible by homosexual couples, even if they decided to adopt a kind he will be at any rate deprived of his right of having a female mother and a male father, this could also do harm to him, besides he could suffer from the attitude of his friends, who would know that his parents are not usual or not “normal”.
So, the problem of homosexual relationships is rather complicated and many-sided, and thus all the decisions were taken and all the laws concerning it should be carefully considered and studied from different points of view.
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