On Copulation Cadaver Art

In yesterday’s episode, John C. Wright, windbag, made the following statement: "In Germany, meanwhile, an enemy of humanity artist poses human corpses in postures of copulation, called "Copulation Art." I notice that this offends no principle of the hedonist or utilitarian philosophy, nor can Objectivists mount a coherent argument against the practice. The article is here. (h/t theofloinn)"

A real Objectivist was kind enough to prove me wrong. robertjwizard writes:

Do you think there actually are principles to a hedonistic or utilitarian philosophy? I mean outside of "do what you feel like" for the first and "do what you feel like and do a little calculus to make it pleasurable for as many others as well" for the second. My own view is that it is a barren, dangerous, non-philosophy that offers man no guidance at all. It does not tell man what to value, nor how to value. A philosophy that offers no values to pursue, nor any virtues to perform is without principle and is not rightly a philosophy.

That said this copulation art is nothing short of pure, unadulterated nihilism. It is destruction of the most offensive kind. I don’t care what the "artist’s" motivation is, even one of simple greed. Every part of it is what sex is not. Sex is an act that consists of a union of mind and body, spirit and the flesh, between a man and woman who share kindred souls – love for each other.

Now the spectacle of two people writhing together on the floor with no values involved like two pigs (apologies to pigs, I mean no disrespect) in slop is bad enough. But it is almost to witness a sacrament next to this in its damnation of man.

This shows sex as not only without values but without the possibility of values. And not only as without body, but without life meaning sex as decay as a perverted thing of an automaton pumping away with rotting flesh into rotting flesh. It is sex as death, and death as sex. It takes both mind and body out of the equation of sex and turns it into a celebration of decay, death, rot, of nothing. It is art for Gary Ridgeway or Jeffrey Dalhmer.

This is as much argument against this as I can muster in one sitting. Sorry, I thought I could do better, but something like this evokes more of a primal scream of rage in me than a dispassionate response. I would say lastly though that any Objectivist that was ok with this is not an Objectivist. Put me on record, no Objectivist could possibly find anything at all of value in this. Not if Objectivism has the slightest bit of meaning. Now, a libertarian…. well that can be a different animal altogether…

My comment:

I concede the point: Your argument is against the copulation art, and is coherent, and is based on Objectivist principles, which take an heroic (non-nihilistic) view of man as central. I was wrong.

"Do you think there actually are principles to a hedonistic or utilitarian philosophy?"

There are two definitions of the word "principle" which are brothers, but do not look alike.

The first is to define principle as the axioms or first assumptions of a system of reasoning. Hedonistic or utilitarian reason does indeed have axioms: equating the good of an act with the pleasure it produces is an axiom, not a conclusion, of their reasoning.

The second is to define principle as an elevated, noble, or supreme standard of behavior, a standard that does not change even in adversity, the glittering banner of battle never to be deserted even if it costs you your life. By this definition, a hedonist or a utilitarian cannot have a principle: one cannot have as a "principle" for which one is willing to suffer and die the smug feeling that nothing is worth suffering nor dying for.

"This is as much argument against this as I can muster in one sitting. Sorry, I thought I could do better, but something like this evokes more of a primal scream of rage in me than a dispassionate response."

Your argument is a good one so far as it goes, but the reason why I am no longer an Objectivist is that I found such arguments did not go far enough. You are correct to scream in primal rage, because you are correct to see the obscenity of cadaver copulation as a lie, and a vicious lie, aimed at robbing sex of the real and objective value, sacred and mysterious, that it really has. You know that what is being attacked is precious, and you correctly observe that the attacker is anti-man, anti-mind, anti-life.

The proper emotional response in my Christian philosophy is to hate what is hateful; you and I share that response. To value something is, among other things, to look at it with love. If I look at life, man, and sex as something good, very good, when I hear these things slanders and demeaned — and this art is a slander of sex and life and man — I must react with hate, because what is sacred is being desecrated.

I amassuming you would agree that "what is hateful" is an objective fact, not a mere personal sentiment. "What is hateful" is what is objectively and honestly worthy of hatred, not merely what pleases not my taste.

So far we agree. Here is the contrast:

I can say that an intelligent being, God, the Creator, intelligently and deliberately assigned the objective values to the objects in His creation: when and where my judgment of what is hateful matches His legislated ordainment of what is hateful, I am objectively correct.

You, as an Objectivist, (I assume) can say that man has a particular nature, that reality has a particular nature, and man’s relation to reality requires specific virtues and values in response: to be alive logically necessitates to value life, and hence life-value must serve as the axiom of all other principles, hence again to value anti-life (as this copulation art does) offends an objective principle.

If so, you are deducing a rational principle from a mere brute matter of fact: it is not your intelligence agreeing with a value judgment made by another intelligence (as with me), but your intelligence somehow "agreeing" with a brute fact of life produced but not deliberately created by the unintelligent processes of physics or the equally unintelligent existential circumstances of metaphysics. How an intelligent value judgment can agree with an unintelligent brute fact is something of a mystery and a paradox to me: among philosophers it is called the Naturalistic Fallacy, deducing an "ought" from an  "is".

To me, it looks like you are right and your philosophy cannot provide a good reason to say why you are right; whereas my philosophy comes to the same right conclusion but also can provide a logically coherent reason why I am right. The same God who created Man’s reason and Man’s world arranged matters so that the world and our reason agree that all things God created was good. To offend that good, the good that comes from a rational creator of both man and nature, in the Christian metaphysic, offends both man and nature.

A man who was an Ojectivist in all other ways, but held to the aesthetic judgment that man is merely an animal like other animals, evolved by blind natural processes from pond scum, and deserving no other dignity aside from that due intelligent pond scum, would be a type of Libertarian. He would value everything an Objectivist values, and be logically consistent with his axioms, but he would conclude that the raw material of human corpses posed to make an aesthetic statement that sex is meaningless is nobody’s business but his own.

My challenge to you, and to all Objectivists, is to show why the value judgment that man’s life is sacred is logically necessary given the Objectivist axioms, for it seems to me that one can adopt all Objectivist axioms save only that axiom of the sacredness of human life, and be a perfect logical and self-consistent "Objectivist nihilist" i.e. a libertarian after the fashion of Robert Heinlein.

If so, Objectivism has a weakness, that is, an arbitrary assumption at its root. Christianity does not share this weakness. One cannot be a Christian nihilist: one cannot both believe that a divine God assumed human form and suffered and died tosave mankind (which is the central and essential belief of Christianity, shared by no other religion), and at the same time and in the same sense believe mankind to be not worth saving because nothing is worth anything.