Dr. Budziszewski seems to have the right kind of intellect for a formal treatise on sex- he can be strictly logical but he seems to have the most fun exploring the confusions and ambiguities of his students' inchoate opinions.
Like in his other books, he excels particularly at the intersection of philosophy and psychology. In fact I would say he models extremely well the right way to handle the bordering territories of those fields of inquiry: first, let your guide be logic, and if confusions crop up, loosen up your thinking and consider the ways that a person's psychology encourages certain fallacies. The possibility of confusedly, unconsciously knowing without knowing what you know- Plato's remembering or anamnesis- allows Budziszewski to navigate through the many confusing things that his students have remarked about sex over the years.
One student thinks that designing babies in test tubes is disgusting, and also thinks that sex doesn't have to mean anything, without seeing the contradiction this entails. (If it is disgusting that babies come apart from sex, then we cannot say "sex doesn't have to mean anything." If sex doesn't have to mean anything, then it has no intrinsic meaning. In which case we ought not be disgusted by babies from test tubes.)
Budziszewski shows his humor here as a defender of Aristotle, in the first chapter saying "The first objection is that it is rubbish to talk about natural meanings and purposes, because we merely imagine such things. According to the objector's way of thinking, meanings and purposes aren't natural- they aren't really in the things themselves- they are merely in the eye of the beholder. But is this true? Take the lungs, for instance. When we say that their purpose is to oxygenate the blood, are we just making that up? Of course not. The purpose of oxygenation isn't in the eye of the beholder; it's in the design of the lungs themselves. There is no reason for us to have lungs apart from it. Suppose a young man is more interested in using his lungs to get high by sniffing glue. What would you think of me if I said, 'That's interesting- I guess the purpose of MY lungs is to oxygenate my blood, but the purpose of his lungs is to get high?' You'd think me a fool, and rightly so."
Another student asserts bitterly that the sole meaning of happiness is pleasure, and that if we are never fulfilled completely by pleasure, we had better just get used to the disappointment. Budziszewski quotes St. Thomas, who wrote "Happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether [sates it], else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired." Budziszewski continues: "It is as though my student had read the passage, but drawn the wrong conclusion. She was determined to pitch her tend on a plain of salt. 'I will not be burned. I will not be moved. I will not be taken in.' "
Five stars, almost four, because the chapter on the phenomenology of romance alters the dialectical pace of the book a bit too much. Still, five stars because the subject matter is so superbly handled.
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