Review of Stephen Kershnar’s Book Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis
Written by Admin on December 7, 2016
[EDIT: In light of the recent uproar about Milo Yiannopoulos, I think it would be helpful to repost this article.
Christians have an objective moral standard by which they condemn rape, including pedophilia.
But what do men like Kershnar have? He has an atheistic, materialistic worldview, in which there is no way to account for moral laws or justify moral indignation against things like rape. Kershnar is consistent when he claims that pedophilia is not necessarily morally wrong within his worldview. It logically follows from atheism that pedophilia is not wrong.
Kershnar is a philosophy teacher at the State University of New York. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40]
Here’s an outstanding excerpt from the book, which is designed to cleanse your palate before you start vomiting: “Thesis: Skepticism. We should be skeptical about what we know about the effect of adultchild sex on children.” (p. xi) Kershnar on the same page says that, “Most people in response to discussions of adult-child sex claim that they do not need scientific studies to tell them that adult-child sexuality is harmful, bad, wrong, imprudent, and ugly. They claim to know these things without reference to, or even caring about, empirical studies on the topic.” I daresay. Someone didn’t submit their thoughts to the Lords of Peer-Reviewed Studies, and Almighty Empirical Evidences. It’s almost as if these people don’t need a PhD to know that having sex with children is wrong. Just what is this world coming to? These are probably the same people who rip tags off their mattresses too.
You might think everything in the book is the fever dream of a logician who has lost touch with children, I mean, reality. Not so. For example, he candidly admits that he thinks the practice of adult-child sex is disgusting. “The activity intuitively strikes many people, including myself, as sick, disgusting, and wrong.” (p. xi) Brilliant. I thought for a moment he was about to say something weird.
To be fair, his study is focused pretty strictly on consensual sex between adults and children, and by children he means prepubescent, not merely “under 18”. And he says, “The problem is that it is not clear whether these judgments are justified and whether they are aesthetic or moral.” (p. xi) Strictly speaking, he is correct to say we cannot make moral judgments merely because we find something disgusting. I can’t fathom the minds of people who like meatloaf, but at least they’re not Pelagians (yet). As a Christian, I have the Word of God to direct my moral imperatives, so it is possible for me to make moral judgments prior to having any empirical evidence about them. The problem is Kershnar’s worldview precludes this possibility from the outset. Kershnar adheres to some degree to consequentialist ethics (p. xi, xx, and 20), as he dismisses theism and divine command theory (p. 32), or the idea that something is immoral if it violates God’s commands. Consequentialist ethics is the idea that something is immoral because it has bad consequences. We can’t know for certain that something is bad until there is empirical evidence that it is bad. How do we find out if bestiality is wrong? Well, by golly, we need research participants! I mean, we need our research to be respectable, after all. Some other juicy avenues you’ll want to explore in this book are: he denies the existence of “exploitation” as an ethical category, and tries to argue that even if it exists it isn’t immoral (chapter 5); pedophiliac fantasies aren’t so bad (chapter 7); and bestiality is basically ok. All of this is based on the hard evidence of empiricism. And so Scientists everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
Five questions I would like to ask Stephen Kershnar:
- Why do you find divine command theory implausible?
- You seem to believe that there must be some empirical evidence that an action is harmful in order for it be justifiably believed to be immoral. Why adopt this ethic in the first place? Is it any less arbitrary than divine command theory?
- You connect your dismissal of exploitation as a moral category with medieval discussions of just price. Why do you think these disparate issues are related?
- If we’re all evolved animals, where do rights come from? How can one make a materialistic basis for
- Can non empirical knowledge be justified with certainty?