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It’s not “natural” to be monogamous

by Greg Krehbiel on 16 February 2017

Scarlett Johansson says monogamy is “not natural.” (HT Instapundit.)

I think the idea of marriage is very romantic; it’s a beautiful idea, and the practice of it can be a very beautiful thing. I don’t think that it’s natural to be a monogamous person ….

I agree. But I don’t think “natural” means either “moral” or “normative.” “Natural” simply means what we’d do without social and moral rules.

There are all kinds of things that are natural to humans. Stealing. Bullying. Lying. Cheating. Following charismatic but maniacal leaders.

Social rules impose monogamy on us because it seems to be the best way to reconcile all our conflicting desires and create a structure that benefits the most people. (See Eggs are Expensive, Sperm is Cheap for more on this.)

2017-02-16  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 8

  1. Robin R.
    16 February 2017 @ 9:48 pm

    You’re really a kind of utilitarian on these issues.

  2. William
    16 February 2017 @ 9:49 pm

    Those that ascribe to the Judeo-Christian tradition would likely say the intent and design of the Creator was for monogamy to be natural. Yet, due to sin and resulting depravity, monogamy is not natural.

  3. Greg Krehbiel GregK
    16 February 2017 @ 9:55 pm

    @Robin, you’re right. I’m very utilitatian about this.

    @William, it’s hard to say what would be “natural” in some world we have no access to.

  4. pentamom
    17 February 2017 @ 8:59 am

    Well, if we have access to it through having revelation about it, we can. But that’s another topic.

    Your bullying, lying, cheating point raises a thought. I think to make this analysis the way SJ does without observing what other things are “natural”, you need a measure of implicit self-righteousness. For SJ (just using her as an archetype; don’t know what she’d actually say) it’s not “natural” to be a bully because that’s BAD and I Wouldn’t Do That. But sexual promiscuity is now good (perhaps not the highest good, but still in the category of good as opposed to bad) by her measure, so we can look at that as natural.

    Whatever is natural is good, and whatever we don’t like ain’t natural. Neatly circular. This is of course not anyone’s conscious epistemology but I think it reflects the thinking of the Scarlett Johanssons of the world fairly accurately.

  5. pentamom
    17 February 2017 @ 9:01 am

    BTW, I agree with you about monogamy not being “natural” (at least in the current state of things, hat tip to William) but I’m just looking at how “natural” is being used as a lever to define morality here.

  6. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    17 February 2017 @ 9:42 am

    I get the sense she’s using “natural” in the sense of “comes easily.” She keeps saying how much work it requires to be monogamous.

  7. William
    17 February 2017 @ 12:24 pm

    Just because something is challenging, doesn’t necessitate it being unnatural. She indicates parenthood is a struggle but she doesn’t express that as unnatural…more like she embraces it. No judgment, but it seemed more like she was making a justification to do what she wanted than a reasoned argument about nature.

    Approximately 14 million Jews and 2 billion Christians would likely argue pentamom’s point that revelation could provide access. Yet, as she rightfully stated, that’s another topic. My initial point was that there could be another dimension to consider on the topic.

  8. Robin R.
    17 February 2017 @ 12:54 pm

    Wow, another dimension.