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Eros and Ethos: A New Theory of Sexual Ethics Kindle Edition
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Stotts makes a formal philosophical case—from metaphysics up—that sexual attraction and desire are not irreducible primaries; they are neither unintelligible nor mystical. Instead, sexuality is an important expression of our ethical lives, one of the most powerful forces driving our flourishing and continued moral development. Understanding it and properly integrating it into our lives is thus essential to living well, and for many people, a vital channel to creating rich and lasting happiness.
Through his analysis, Stotts illuminates the nature of erotic love, why and how it acts as both a moral reflection and a moral impetus, and why (for most people) it is a necessity for happiness. He walks us through the prerequisites to healthy erotic love—independence, a commitment to honest self-awareness, self-esteem, a willingness to be open and vulnerable with our partner, and character development (specifically, cultivating our sexual attraction to align with our conscious moral judgments)—and how achieving a proper integration of sexuality into our lives creates a virtuous cycle that contributes to our lifelong growth and flourishing. Erotic love “plays a larger role in the creation of ourselves, in our moral development, and in the very ways in which we experience the world than any other kind of human bond. It does this through intimacy, co-internalization of values, shared history and the creation of a shared identity, psychological visibility, mirroring…”
Because Stotts aims for clarity (and generally achieves it, in both method and definition of terms), Eros and Ethos is a relatively accessible book, despite the depths of its analysis. While I fear that those who have given philosophy little conscious thought may struggle through the first chapter, the foundation he lays there is essential to building a full and convincing argument and also acts as a microcosm in demonstrating one of his fundamental points: the importance of consciously choosing beliefs through an active process of reason rather than passively accepting ideas and values without careful and critical examination.
For those willing to put in the work of self-examination and conscious, rational value development, this book provides both a foundation and a roadmap for developing and maintaining unity of self (alignment among reason, values, beliefs, and sentiments (emotions)), which creates internal tranquility and sets the stage for integrating sexuality in a life-affirming way, as a powerful means to experiencing the most joyful and profound reverence for our lives and values.
The book would benefit from a more thorough and professional editing, but this small shortcoming is not significant enough to detract from its message. The organization, depth, and value of the ideas and argument (which, to my knowledge, has never been so thoroughly developed and presented anywhere else) merit a five star rating.
If happiness is our goal, how can we do anything less than fight fiercely to achieve the most morally profound and soul-enhancing adventure life has to offer? At the very least, we should spend a few hours reading this book.
As the author then digs in more specifically to the topics of human sex and sexuality, I found it to be the most realistic, meaningful discussion of these topics that I have yet encountered. He offers some excellent suggestions not only for evaluating this area in our own lives, but also for ways that we might have more open, honest, and meaningful discussions of sex and sexuality with others around us. I took to heart the point that sex and romance are too important an area of human life to relegate to the conversational shadows, as unfortunately they have been for so long. Recent cultural events and the obvious lack of communication, lack of understanding, and sometimes lack of care about sex and consent only underscore this point.
I will definitely be reading this book again to better absorb all of the details, and I am now eagerly awaiting the second volume, in which the author promises to address more specific topics of sex and sexuality based on the ideas that he has laid down in the present volume. This was a fantastic book, an excellent purchase, and well worth my time.
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