Ancient Sexual Ethics

An interesting quote from Victor Mattews’ The Social World of Ancient Israel 1250-587 BCE (pp 31):

For traditional societies, social justice, and not sexual conduct, is the basis for morality. Consequently, teaching dealing with virginity, marriage, divorce, infidelity, adultery, promiscuity, and rape are concerned not only with the sexual relationships of individuals or couples, but also with the social and economic relationships between the households in the village as a whole.

 It is interesting that more ancient forms of ethics/law were concerned with the integrity of the whole group rather than the rights of individuals. It is not that individuals did not have rights, it is just that individual desires (the desire to sleep with whomever you wish) were to be regulated on the basis of the impact those desires would have if fulfilled. 
The more modern ethic of authenticity (the idea that what I want is uniquely best for me if I seek it in the way that I know best because I am me) leads to an eventual kind of virtue that I predict cannot be sustained. If everybody gets what they want then only some people can get what they need. And if everybody’s sexual impulses are equally good, then nobody’s are particularly bad or dastardly. 

 

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