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Controlling animalistic impulses

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Viewpoint has been host to numerous disputes and controversies in its time, yet the question of whether or not human beings are animals caught me by surprise. Dan Amiri, in his Nov. 21 letter, “Encourage chastity, not ‘free talk,'” attempted to make the point, among others, that human beings are more than animals. He was trying to emphasize the fact that unlike animals, we have reason and free will, and we can use these to decide to go against what our baser passions sometimes tell us to do. When an animal’s instinct tells it to have sex, it cannot disobey, because it has no higher reason or will to tell it otherwise. Humans, because we are rational animals with a free will, can disobey this desire. In fact this very mastery over our baser passions is a mark of our humanity.

In a discussion of premarital sex on campus (Joey Falco, Nov. 20, “Disloyal fathers”), perhaps this point needs to be raised. While it’s true that some, perhaps even many, students are having sex outside of marriage, does the frequency of the practice make it morally defensible? Falco and others are right to bring our attention the problems of sexual assault, rape, venereal diseases and unplanned pregnancies, which often go unnoticed at Notre Dame and other campuses. Plays and movements such as “Loyal Daughters” and “The Vagina Monologues” seek to make people aware of these devastatingly painful realities. Yet one must realize that they are the consequences of a larger problem, one which the very proponents of these plays often serve to exacerbate.

A culture of sexual “liberation,” without definition of sex’s proper place within society or one’s life, will necessarily lead to a climate of sexual unrestraint. Amiri sought to remind us that we can rise above our animalistic instincts and choose to restrain our sexual impulses for a greater good. The question, then, is not if man is an animal, but whether we as a society can truly live up to our humanity.

Chris Spellman


off campus

Dec. 5