Arousal as intoxication, and the infinite regress of reciprocal meta-desire; diabolical theorems

It’s time to write this shit down. I have not totally clarified these thoughts in my mind, and I doubt that I can communicate them in an optimal manner here and now, but I’ll begin my attempt anyway.

Before I begin: a warning. If you read and understand this theorem, you may never want to be involved in a sexual/romantic relationship ever (again). If the reasoning holds up, then the conclusion is that sex or romantic relationships are inherently anti-rational, unavoidably non-consensual (and therefore unethical).

I have delayed publishing these ideas. I thought I should wait until I can formulate these concepts with maximal clarity and precision. And, crucially, come up with a refutation. There must be something wrong with this terrible conclusion. It would be irresponsible to unleash it upon the world unless I can supply the cure as well.

I changed my mind, and decided to do ahead with this. My delaying doesn’t really lower the risk. The ideas aren’t wholly original, so someone else might write something pretty close before I get around to it. Maybe they already have. And the context of the ideas as I present them, alongside the other stuff I’ve published here, particularly my autobiographical stuff, may prevent them being taken so seriously. That’s all to the good. Maybe I can play an innoculative role, while a more complete disproof can be constructed.

I’ve come up with two arguments.

A. Psychological argument

This argument is related to the extremist feminist (strawman?) argument that says all (heterosexual) sex is rape. My argument is gender neutral, so it applies to both sexes equally, and it applies to homosexuals too.

You can’t consent when you’re drunk. Why not? What is it about intoxication that precludes a person in that state from being able to consent? It’s not essentially about the chemical structure of alcohol. It’s about the psychological state of drunkenness, and its behavioural consequences.

There are parallels between the drunk mind and the horny mind. Horniness makes a person stupider. It makes them feel and want different things, compared to when they are not aroused. It leads them to engage in behaviours that the would not be interested in if they weren’t horny. And it’s temporary. After they go back to a normal state of mind, they might regret their previous actions.

Sexual arousal is known to be something that compromises fully informed, rational decision-making. So why isn’t it considered something that nullifies the ability to consent?

And isn’t romantic love nearly as bad? It’s less of a strong, intense thing than arousal. But it’s a longer-term condition. People do really stupid shit ‘for love’. Love is a drug, an addiction, etc. The withdrawal symptoms, known as heartbreak, can be strong enough to kill.

No one wants to have sex without arousal or love. In this way, this is an argument for the abolition of sex.

B. Psycho-praxeological argument

This argument doesn’t necessarily refer to sex, in either sense, i.e. fucking or male/female. It’s about necessary preconditions for two people (of any sex) to rationally enter into a relationship.

Imagine two people who might possibly get together. We’ll call them Adam and Eve. What needs to be true for them to pair up, as two rational individuals, both being respectful of each other’s autonomy?

Let’s say Adam wants Eve. That seems to be a necessary condition for a relationship. But it’s quite insufficient. For Adam to pursue Eve purely on the basis of his own desire, without regard for what she wants, would be mistaken. If this pursuit was vigorous and relentless then it could lead to rape. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Adam wanting to grab Eve and have his wicked way with her–I don’t argue for the emasculation of male desire. It’s an argument that says there’s gotta be more.

So, Adam should want Eve to want him.

(Site note: Let’s say Eve wants Adam to want her. Note that this doesn’t mean she actually wants Adam. If she doesn’t want him, then surely something’s missing, in terms of setting up this relationship. Because Adam, in his enlightened state, wants her to want him. If he knew she didn’t want him, he wouldn’t want to be with her.

To want to be wanted by unwanted people… is the mindset of those we might call attention whores. Or literal whores. Pornstars, sugar-babies, etc. They’re about profiting from the desires of others (usually men) without reciprocating that desire. My point here doesn’t rely on moral judgements about these activities. The point is that something crucial seems to be missing, in terms of a proper relationship, if both individuals don’t really want each other.)

So far we’ve got:

  1. Adam wants Eve
  2. Adam wants Eve to want him
  3. And vice-versa for both of the above

There is a symmetry in the desires as described above. Point 1 is a first-order desire. Point 2 is a second-order desire: a desire for a (1st-order) desire. I’m convinced that both are necessary. What about a 3rd item in the sequence? Adam’s 3rd-order desire would be:

Adam wants Eve to want Adam to want Eve to want him.

It’s easy to write and read that sentence, but I have difficulty in holding its meaning clearly in mind. Does it describe something necessary, like points 1 and 2 seem to be? Is there an argument for that? Because if so… we’ll have a problem.

I know how to write the sentence that describes the next step in the sequence: a 4th-order desire. It should be just as, let’s say, cognitively valid as the first two points. But it seems even murkier. We can extend the sequence of higher-order desires indefinitely. From which follows the problems:

  • These ‘desires’ are increasingly obscure and hard to understand. So who can actually have them?
  • Adam can’t, psychologically, have an infinite number of these desires in his finite brain.

The argument for the necessity of Adam’s 2nd-order desire is: Adam should respect Eve’s autonomy, so he should seek only a relationship with her that would involve her reciprocated desire.

To list Adam’s relevant desires, rephrased:

  1. Adam desires Eve
  2. Adam desires Eve’s reciprocated desire

Here’s my argument for the necessity for the 3rd step in the sequence. Adam will rationally pursue a state of affairs such that Eve will lust after him. That is: he will not rape her, he’ll seek to attract and seduce her. But his respect for Eve’s autonomy shouldn’t stop at the physical level. It should extend to the psychological level. This doesn’t mean that building attraction and performing seduction is an evil, manipulative, abusive process in and of itself. It just means that Adam should want Eve to WANT to be involved in it.

This implies the 3rd-order desire.

If it’s missing, then what does that look like?

Adam’s attempting to pick up Eve. He doesn’t care whether she’s receptive to this or not. I think it’s clear that Adam’s missing something here.

Let’s draw up the list of desires again.

  1. Adam wants Eve
  2. Adam wants Eve to reciprocate [point 1]
  3. Adam wants Eve to reciprocate [point 2]
  4. etc…

The sequence has a definite start, but no end. It can continue indefinitely. That is, for every item in the sequence, which is one of Adam’s desires, switch Adam and Eve around, so we’re talking about Eve’s desire–that’s something new for Adam to desire. That’s how you can generate the sentence that describes the next item in the sequence. But do we have a general argument that compels us to take all of these items as ‘necessary’, as I’ve tried to show for items 2 and 3?

I think one can be constructed like this. Each of Adam’s listed desires mark a possible state of affairs to pursue. That is, each desire implies action. Specifically, interpersonal interaction with Eve. This interaction might result in success (a relationship starting, continuing, developing) or disappointment (rejection). It’s given that Adam’s interested in success here. Eve, as a conscious rational human, has the ability to potentially understand any sort of strategy that Adam uses here. His interest extends to getting Even involved in the interaction, not just willingly, but joyfully, enthusiastically, etc.

In this way, the higher-order desire requirement incrementally grows. Without limit. I’ve already stated why that’s problematic.

On possible responses

I’ve already noted the ad hominem argument, based on yours truly, as revealed through this blog. The psycho-praxeological argument has this sort of built-in, even separated from context. Because God knows only some sort of neurotic-autist could have come up with that.

There’s also the argument from negative consequences. If we take this seriously, nobody will have sex, we won’t reproduce, and we’ll go extinct. (Or one can bite the other bullet regarding the concept of sexual consent.)

They might be classified as fallacious reasoning. I think they’ll rightly be considered reasonable counter-arguments anyway.

As for the second argument, perhaps the infinite sequence of higher-order desires doesn’t need to be apprehended and internalised all at once (for this is impossible) but instead incrementally developed over the evolution of a relationship.

 

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3 thoughts on “Arousal as intoxication, and the infinite regress of reciprocal meta-desire; diabolical theorems

  1. I wish to analyse some higher-order desires in the sequence. First, some notation to help us:

    A -> E

    The arrow marks desire. This expression denotes basic, first-order desire: Adam wants Eve.

    A -> (E -> A)

    This denotes Adam’s second-order desire. The expression in parentheses, pointed at by an arrow, denotes a desired state of affairs. Adam wants it to be the case that Eve wants him. The rest of the sequence uses no additional symbols:

    – 3rd order: A -> (E -> (A -> E))
    – 4th order: A – > (E -> (A -> (E -> A)))
    – 5th order: A -> (E -> (A -> (E -> (A -> E))))

    To get the next expression in the sequence, use this formula. Start with ‘A -> ()’, then take the previous expression, reverse the As and Es, and put that in the parentheses.

    As the arrows and parens follow a predictable pattern, we could leave them out:

    1. AE
    2. AEA
    3. AEAE
    4. AEAEA
    5. AEAEAE

    It’s even easier to generate the next in the sequence here: take the previous and append either A or E to the end (A follows E; E follows A).

    It’s quite trivial to write expression for 42th order desire: AEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEAEA

    To turn these expressions into English sentences, you can insert ‘wants’ between the first two symbols, then insert ‘to want’ before each other symbol.

    AEA: Adam wants Eve to want Adam

    AEAEAEA (6OD): Adam wants Eve to want Adam to want Eve to want Adam to want Eve to want Adam

    But to understand the 6th or 42nd in terms of Adam’s desire for Eve’s meta-desires… it’s very murky. It’s not clear that this corresponds to anything real in human psychology. The higher we go, the murkier it seems.

    I’ve discussed in practical, psychological terms second- and third-order desires. I’ll try to do the same for fourth-order desire now.

    It is: AEAEA or Adam wants Eve to want Adam to want Eve to want Adam. Or Adam’s desire for Eve to reciprocate his third-order desire for her. I said this third-order desire is implied in Adam’s desire for Eve’s desirous involvement in his pursuit of her, his process of attracting or seducing her. Or courting her. This is a bit tenuous, I admit. Let’s go with it for now.

    What would Eve’s reciprocation of this desire amount to? How is Adam’s desire for this distinct from his third-order desire? Does it need to be truly psychologically distinct, that is, for Adam to have two consciously-distinguishable desires here, or could there be a continuous, gradual evolution from 3rd- to 4th-order? That would imply the existence of desire somehow existing between 3rd- and 4th-order, or being a mixture of desires.

    It’d be easier to examine this with lower-order desires, so let’s try it with the 1st and 2nd.

    Adam wants Eve. Adam wants Eve to want him. These are two different propositions, but it seems quite plausible that in human psychology, they are not necessarily distinct. They functionally belong together, as their purpose is to motivate Adam to get his hands on Eve. And doing this in an intelligent, psychologically-sensitive way would become more evolutionarily successful than a simpleminded caveman way.

    And so it is with the higher-order desires? Perhaps.

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  2. Further areas to explore the psycho-praxeological implications of reciprocal meta-desire:

    1. Relationships other than romantic. Friendship. Employment. Political leadership… I suspect it might have interesting applications to *unequal* relationships, to social hierarchy.

    2. Animals. Non-verbal creatures have desires, it seems. A dog wants to mate with a bitch. Well, he behaves like he does. (I’m not going to solve the problem of other minds.) We ascribe consciousness to explain a mating dog’s behaviour: he perceives the bitch and he has a desire for her that motivates him to move toward her. Does he want the bitch to reciprocate his desire? Does he have this capacity? What does having this capacity entail? It entails some degree of ‘theory of mind’. I think dogs have this: they show empathy-like behaviours. I don’t know if this factors into mating for dogs

    Theory of mind refers to the ability to be aware of mental states. What’s relevant here is awareness of others’ desires.

    A dog can smell a bitch in heat. That’s something approaching meta-cognition, isn’t it? The state of being in heat includes being more receptive to mating males, so we are tempted to ascribe a *desire* to mate. So if the dog prefers a bitch in heat over one that’s not, that’s something *like* second-order desire.

    There’s nothing a dog can do to make a bitch go into heat. So there’s no point in him having a desire for her to be in heat. So there’s no evolutionary pressure to develop full second-order sexual desire in dogs. At least, not male ones.

    But there are ARE things men and women can do to each other, in terms of signals we send each other, that fire up our desires. So there’s benefit in developing mastery over this signalling system, including building RESISTANCE against them. Or we’d be at the mercy of whoever. Hence, the evolution of ever-higher standards for sexual partners. Higher demands for hygiene, health, beauty, strength, good behaviour. Manifested as a feeling of repulsion at sexual-interest signals from lifeforms who doesn’t measure up.

    That’s why it’s not generally easy to satisfy the sex drive. It couldn’t be any other way. I should develop this point into a complete essay. Someone’s probably already written and developed this point but… I’ll have to start somewhere.

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