Kant and Arendt on the Challenges of Good Sex and Temptations of Bad Sex

In D. Boonin (ed.), Sexual Ethics Handbook. pp. 73-92 (2022)
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This paper considers why obtaining and sustaining a good sexual life tends to be so challenging and why the temptation to settle for a bad one can be so alluring. We engage these questions by cultivating ideas found in the traditions of feminist philosophy and the philosophy of sex and love in dialogue with the works of two unlikely, canonical bedfellows—Immanuel Kant and Hannah Arendt. We propose that some sources of these challenges and temptations are patterned and manifold in that they involve trying to transform, develop, integrate certain unruly emotional structures in oneself, including together with others. Other equally patterned and unruly sources track inherited oppressive or oppressed behaviors and feelings that make emotionally healthy, morally responsible realizations of sexual ways and being more difficult for all parties involved. In contrast to these patterned challenges, some difficulties that face us stem from the fact that humans are genuinely different from one another and evolving—individually, jointly, and collectively—in their sexual needs and wants.

Author Profiles

Helga Varden
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


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