Sexual Identity and Moral Virtuousness

  • Jan Steutel
  • Ben Spiecker
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 11)


This chapter’s aim is twofold: (i) to give a brief account of the nature and components of sexual identity, and (ii) to evaluate, on the basis of this account, the Aristotelian and Kantian view on the affective life of the virtuous person. First, the Aristotelian view is explained in terms of the harmony thesis (virtuousness is expressed in emotions and feelings that are in harmony with the judgements of practical reason) and the responsibility thesis (the indicated harmony may be produced by cultivating our feelings and emotions, which involves that we can be held responsible for our affective life as such). The Kantian view is presented as an account of virtuousness which challenges both the harmony and the responsibility thesis. Second, different components of sexual identity are distinguished, in particular our feelings and appetites that are expressive of our sexual orientation, our normative views and attitudes regarding sexual desires and behaviour, our interpretation of our basic sexual preferences, and our public presentation of our sexual orientation. There may be all kinds of tensions or conflicts between these components, as will be explained by introducing the example of a paedophile. Third, it is argued that our intuitions regarding the example of the paedophile sustain the harmony thesis and, therefore, give some support to the Aristotelian view. However, on the basis of empirical research into the treatment of so-called paraphiliacs it is demonstrated that the example of the paedophile disconfirms the responsibility thesis and, consequently, gives some support to the Kantian view.

Key Words

Aristotle gender harmony Kant paedophilia responsibility sexual identity virtue 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Steutel
  • Ben Spiecker

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