The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation / Edition 1

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In recent years scientific research and popular opinion have favored the idea that sexual orientations are determined at birth. In this book, philosopher and legal theorist Edward Stein investigates scientific research on sexual orientation and shows that it is deeply flawed. He argues that this research assumes a picture of sexual desire that reflects unquestioned cultural stereotypes rather than cross-cultural scientific facts, and that it suffers from serious methodological problems. He then asks whether sexual orientation is amenable to empirical study and if it is useful for our understanding of human nature to categorize people based on their sexual desires. Perhaps most importantly, Stein examines some of the ethical issues surrounding such research, including gay and lesbian civil rights and the implications of parents trying to select or change the sexual orientation of their children.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In a refreshingly daring work, Stein raises metaphysical, methodological and ethical questions that challenge all sides of the debate with an eye toward reevaluating previous studies and developing new criteria for future research."—Publishers Weekly

"Here Edward Stein explains, analyzes, and criticizes the notion that sexual orientation is biological, and therefore not chosen or changeable, and therefore an unfair basis for moral condemnation and also therefore protected from discrimination by our norms and laws requiring equality. He brings his prodigious skill as an analytic philosopher to bear on a conceptual, scientific, ethical and legal problem of great complexity, not only putting the problem on a new footing but setting an example for honesty, clarity and care in thinking about controversial social issues. Stein reminds us that slipshod pro-gay thinking is not really pro-gay. I wish he could write us a book every year."—Janet E. Halley, Professor of Law and Robert E. Paradise Faculty Scholar, Stanford University

"The Mismeasure of Desire is the best analysis in print of the many theories of what causes sexual orientation. Stein's analysis bears importantly on constitutional issues such as the level of equal protection scrutiny courts should apply to sexual orientation classifications and the rationality of anti-gay of 'no promo homo' state policies."—William Eskridge, Yale Law School

"[This] well-researched and well-written primer should be the first title on any queer studies reading list.... Highly recommended for most larger libraries and all gay studies collections."—Library Journal

Jeffrey Ingram
As with most gems of philosophical debate, Stein's book poses a lot more questions than it answers, but his intelligent, well-researched, and well-written primer should be the first title on any queer studies reading list....More interesting and more accessible than its rather daunting title would suggest.
Library Journal
Library Journal
As with most gems of philosophical debate, Stein's book poses a lot more questions than it answers, but his intelligent, well-researched, and well-written primer should be the first title on any queer studies reading list. Stein, a law degree candidate and philosophy lecturer from Yale, critically examines the entire concept of scientific research into sexual orientation. The book is divided into three parts: metaphysical (i.e., What is sexual orientation?), scientific (Where does it come from?), and ethical (What should be done with knowledge gained from such research?). The work builds beautifully from the fundamentals, refining the often mixed-up concepts of sexual desire, orientation, and gender. The two major branches of scientific research into sexual orientation are also examined. Finally, Stein explores the ethical questions raised by the application of results of this research. More interesting and more accessible than its rather daunting title would suggest, this book is highly recommended for most larger libraries and all gay studies collections.--Jeffery Ingram, Newport P.L., OR Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195142440
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Series: Ideologies of Desire Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward Stein is an Associate Professor of Law at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He is the author of Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from M.I.T., a J.D. from Yale Law School, and he has previously taught at Yale University, New York University, Mount Holyoke College, and Williams College.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Metaphysics
1. Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation
2. What Is a Sexual Orientation?
3. Human Kinds
4. Essentialism and Constructionism about Sexual Orientation
Part II: Science
5. The Emerging Scientific Program for the Study of Sexual Orientation
6. Animal Models and Evolutionary Accounts in the Emerging Research Program
7. Critique of the Emerging Research Program
8. Experiential Theories of Sexual Orientation
9. Sexual Orientation and Choice
Part III: Ethics
10. Lesbian and Gay Rights and the Science of Sexual Orientation
11. Selecting and Changing the Sexual Orientation of Children
12. Should Scientific Research on Sexual Orientation Be Done?

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