Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sex and Causality

Via Brains, I came across an article in the NYT, written by John Tierney, about the different reasons for having sex.

For now, thanks to psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, we can at last count the whys. After asking nearly 2,000 people why they'd had sex, the researchers have assembled and categorized a total of 237 reasons -- everything from ''I wanted to feel closer to God'' to ''I was drunk.'' They even found a few people who claimed to have been motivated by the desire to have a child.

The researchers, Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, believe their list, published in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, is the most thorough taxonomy of sexual motivation ever compiled. This seems entirely plausible.

Of course, the reasons are all post facto: reasons given by people after they've had sex, which probably means the little details get abstracted over.

My quibble though is about something else. "I wanted to feel closer to God" sounds like an entirely plausible reason to want to have sex. But "I was drunk"? Does drunken-ness have any causal power, besides the power to lower inhibitions? So if I was drunk and somehow ended up having sex, the implication is that if I had not been drunk, I would not have had sex. Or ~p->~q where p stands for "I was drunk" and q for "I had sex". And not p->q (I was drunk, so I had sex). Drunken-ness, it seems to me, cannot have any causal power, when it comes to sex. Sure, it may lower one's inhibitions, and therefore lead to sex but only in the presence of certain other causal factors such as "I wanted to do something interesting" or "I had a headache" or "I thought this was my best way of avoiding a hangover".