How 'Natural' are 'Kinds' of Sexual Orientation?
Hacking (Ian)
Source: Law and Philosophy, Volume 21, Number 3, May 2002, pp. 335-347(13)
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

    A comment on Edward Stein's Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation. It supports his chief theses, but has reservations about his idea of a "human natural kind". I here express great caution about "natural kind": Stein's use of the idea of a human kind is different from my former use. Items classified by a natural kind are indifferent to how they are classified; items classified by a human kind react to and interact with that classification. Research on sexual orientation assumes that orientations are indifferent. This is a mistake. Yet Stein's opinion that no research could be scientifically fruitful seems overly strong. We simply do not know what the fruits might be or how they would affect us. (Note: This article is also reprinted in Law Phil 21(3) My 2002 in order to be included with other comments and a reply by Stein.) (PI): A comment on Edward Stein's Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation. It supports his chief theses, but has reservations about his idea of a "human natural kind". I here express great caution about "natural kind": Stein's use of the idea of a human kind is different from my former use. Items classified by a natural kind are indifferent to how they are classified; items classified by a human kind react to and interact with that classification. Research on sexual orientation assumes that orientations are indifferent. This is a mistake. Yet Stein's opinion that no research could be scientifically fruitful seems overly strong. We simply do not know what the fruits might be or how they would affect us. (Note: this article was also printed by mistake in Law Phil 21(1) Ja 2002 and reprinted here along with other comments and a reply by Stein.) (Intro): Edward Stein’s book is an encyclopedic study of, in the words
    of its subtitle,The Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation.
    1 It is an authoritative history of twentieth century scientific
    approaches to sexual orientations, too often described simplistically
    as the scientific study of homosexuality. It is also a rich body of
    analysis, distinctions and arguments. I was reminded of late mediaeval
    works that explained, with a ruthless thoroughness, every
    conceivable argument on a topic, pro and con.
    The book is being most noticed for the question posed by its final
    chapter, “Should Scientific Work on Sexual Orientation be Done?”
    To oversimplify, Stein’s short answer is, probably not. Or at any rate,
    the research will not prove to be a good way to change attitudes to
    the variety of sexual orientations. I shall not address this question
    directly except for a few words at the end, but I do share many of
    Stein’s reservations.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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