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Research Seminar in Post-Kantian European Philosophy, 2019/2020

Unless otherwise stated, Post-Kantian European Philosophy Research Group seminars take place on Tuesdays, 5:30–7:30pm in Room S0.11 (ground floor of Social Studies). All welcome. For further information, please contact tbc

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PG Work in Progress Seminar

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Location: S2.77, The Cowling Room

Speaker: Emily Bassett

Title: 'Responsibility for Sexual Desire'


Sexual desire is a rich topic dominated by conflicting intuitions - the uncontrollable nature of sexual desire and the indisputable existence of sexual repression often go hand in hand in literary works from the Aeneid to Anna Karenina. Questions of responsibility for sexual desire in particular are muddied by these warring opinions on the nature of sexual desire.

In this paper, I will draw on one account of sexual desire offered by Shaffer. Shaffer rejects what he calls 'propositional theories' of sexual desire - which appear more amenable to questions of responsibility - in favour of an account of sexual desire that is emotion-like, which I begin by outlining. Following this, I move to Shaffer's argument that his account is not parallel to emotions in one key way: sexual desires, unlike emotions, are not appropriately subject to reasons. In exploring whether this argument holds, I touch upon correlative concerns about opening sexual desires up to questions of responsibility, and draw to the conclusion that it is at least intuitively possible to talk about responsibility for sexual desire. However, I also hold this conclusion would be best served with a clear delineation of what it means for something to appropriately be subject to reasons.

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