Socrates: We have previously established what contraception is, Glaucon, and why by its very definition it is contrary to life. So then, what reason do you suppose men and women have to use contraception?
Glaucon: That’s easy, Socrates. Liberty. Freedom from consequence.
Socrates: Do you mean liberty or license?
Glaucon: Is there a difference?
Socrates: Indeed there is, Glaucon. One allows a man to do whatever he wants, the other allows him to do what he ought.
Glaucon: I don’t understand.
Socrates: Let us come at this from the other direction, then, by looking at the opposites. What do you say is the opposite of liberty?
Glaucon: I should say slavery and oppression are liberty’s opposites.
Socrates: Let us first address one and then the other, since slavery and oppression are two different things. What do you say?
Glaucon: That seems the only reasonable route to take, Socrates.
Socrates: Well then, we shall start with slavery. How shall we define slavery?
Glaucon: That’s simple. Slavery is the forced servitude of a human being.
Socrates: Ah, but Glaucon, that is not so simple. For you seem to be asserting two things: first, that slavery reduces a human being to an object to be used by another, and second, that slavery deprives one of the use of his free will. Am I right to observe so?
Glaucon: Yes, Socrates, I suppose I am asserting both of those things.
Socrates: Perhaps slavery and oppression are more closely related than we first though, then.
Glaucon: What do you mean?
Socrates: Would you not say that oppression is also the deprivation of the use of one’s free will?
Glaucon: Indeed. I see what you mean now. Slavery and oppression both deprive one of the use of his free will. Only slavery is worse because, in addition to this, it also reduces a human being to an object to be used.
Socrates: Precisely. Let us more closely examine the deprivation of free will since both slavery and oppression accomplish this. We will address the objectification of the human being after that.
Glaucon: That sounds perfectly reasonable.
Socrates: Regarding the deprivation of free will, then, would you say that only external forces can do such a thing or internal forces also?
Glaucon: You’ve lost me again, Socrates.
Socrates: We can agree that external forces such as other men or the State can deprive a man of the use of his free will by enslaving him or oppressing him.
Glaucon: Of course.
Socrates: But would you also say that a man can be deprived of the full use of his free will by his own passions? For instance, an overeater cannot control himself in the sight of food, and his passions impede his own free will which knows the food is not good for him, and he indulges. Would you say that his passions have enslaved or oppressed his free will?
Glaucon: But he still chooses the food, does he not? Is that not an exercise of the will?
Socrates: Have you ever done something which you know is not good to do? Or worse still, have you ever failed to recognize that a thing is not good for you because you have been blinded, so to speak, by your passions?
Glaucon: Yes, I believe I have.
Socrates: You were unable to choose the good, then, because you were unable even to see it.
Socrates: It was not truly a free exercise of the will, then, was it? But rather an act of a will enslaved by the passions?
Glaucon: Yes, I see what you mean.
Socrates: This is what I mean by a man who is not free to do what he ought. He does not truly have freedom or liberty.
Glaucon: But license is different, you say?
Socrates: Does not a man who is enslaved to his passions still have license to do what he wants?
Glaucon: I suppose he does.
Socrates: Do you wish to amend your answer, then, about why men and women use contraception?
Glaucon: I suppose it is for the sake of license, to do whatever one wants without consequence.
Socrates: In a way, then, they are seeking enslavement to their own passions, the very opposite of liberty.
Glaucon: How so?
Socrates: To do what one wants is to follow one’s passions, is it not?
Socrates: Does not removing perceived consequences make it easier to follow one’s passions without regard to the intellect or will?
Glaucon: Yes, I suppose it does.
Socrates: Thus making the act easier to repeat.
Socrates: Does the repetition of the action and absence of perceived consequences weaken the will or strengthen it against the passions?
Glaucon: Weakens it, clearly.
Socrates: So that it will eventually become enslaved to the passions.
Glaucon: Ah yes, I see.
Socrates: But Glaucon, we’ve almost forgotten the second part of your definition of slavery. What are we to say about the objectification of a human being?
Glaucon: You’ve already shown me how contraception enslaves a man to his passions. Do you also mean to say that it violates liberty by objectifying a human being?
Socrates: You are jumping ahead, Glaucon. Let us take this one step at a time, so as to be sure not to miss the slightest thing.
Glaucon: I’m all ears.
Socrates: What is the natural end of a sexual encounter? In other words, what is the natural purpose of sexual intercourse?
Glaucon: Procreation, the continuation of a species. Naturally.
Socrates: Would you say that the unification of the couple is not an end?
Glaucon: On the contrary, that is also very much an end.
Socrates: What do you call me, in my essence?
Glaucon: A man.
Socrates: And what is it that makes me a man?
Glaucon: Your ability to reason separates you from the animals, your body separates you from the spiritual beings, and your ability to father children separates you from female humans. Thus, you can only be a man.
Socrates: And you’re sure I need all three of those things to be a man?
Glaucon: If any of the three were missing, you would be something else.
Socrates: If I wished to give myself, my very essence, to another as a gift, then, I would have to give all three parts to the other.
Glaucon: Indeed. For if you only gave one or two of the parts, you would not be giving your very essence.
Socrates: Is this true of the unification of a couple in sexual intercourse? Can they be truly united if one is withholding part of his or her essence?
Glaucon: I suppose not.
Socrates: What is the end of a contracepted sexual act?
Glaucon: Pleasure, I suppose.
Socrates: Is that all?
Glaucon: Unification of the couple as well, just as we said with the sexual encounter that does not make use of contraception.
Socrates: But we agreed that unification is impossible if the man or the woman withholds part of his or her essence, did we not?
Glaucon: We did.
Socrates: And did we not agree that part of my essence is my ability to father children? Is it not so with a woman also, that part of her essence is her ability to bear children?
Glaucon: We did, indeed.
Socrates: And contraception withholds these very things, does it not?
Glaucon: It does. I see now that pleasure can be the only end of a contracepted sexual act.
Socrates: What is the means to that end?
Glaucon: The other person.
Socrates: Let me make sure I have heard you correctly, Glaucon. You say that the other person is a means to obtain a pleasurable experience.
Glaucon: Yes, I suppose that is what I am saying.
Socrates: That person, then, has been used as an object, isn’t that so?
Glaucon: Indeed, Socrates, you are right.
Socrates: Let us return to our definition of slavery. We said that slavery both reduces the human person to an object to be used and deprives one of the use of his free will.
Glaucon: We did.
Socrates: And we have discovered that contraception does both of these things also.
Glaucon: We did.
Socrates: And slavery, we agreed, is the opposite of liberty.
Socrates: Contraception, then, must also be the opposite of liberty.
Glaucon: Socrates, you have again opened my eyes.
** Next Friday: Socrates and Glaucon on the pursuit of happiness.