A non-religious argument against the use of pornography begins with the observation that it often does not make the user happy. These sorts of users do not believe that they would want to look at it again if they had the time and opportunity. While they may acknowledge that viewing it leads to powerful sensations of physical pleasure (which explains its draw), their experience is that it does not produce a lasting feeling satisfaction or the belief that they are living well. Quite the opposite, actually, it makes them feel sad, lonely, and pathetic. At any rate, that it undermines their happiness renders their act of viewing pornography as one that is not choiceworthy. There is no good reason to do it; it detracts from living a happy life.
By ‘happy life’ or ‘happiness’ in general I mean the ultimate end of human action; like Aristotle, I envisage it as a state of affairs more than a feeling, though it does involve good feelings. I admit, I haven’t give a robust definition of happiness or the constituents of human flourishing, but note that it goes beyond merely experiencing physical pleasure. We might also think that happiness involves virtuous activity and good relationships with others since the act of viewing pornography produces sadness and loneliness. With these preliminary thoughts in mind, the argument against viewing pornography goes like this:
- If an action militates against happiness, it is not choiceworthy.
- Viewing pornography militates against happiness.
- Therefore, viewing pornography is not choiceworthy.
- If an action is not choiceworthy, then choosing to perform that action is not wise.
- Therefore, viewing pornography is not wise.
As stated, this is not necessarily a moral argument; it can easily be read as merely a prudential argument about what is rational to do. But I think it is a bit more than that, because living wisely is part of living morally and prudentially. In any event, the conclusion that viewing pornography is not choiceworthy is a good enough reason not to do it.
The obvious objection to this argument is that viewing pornography should not undermine one’s happiness whether ‘happiness’ is construed in terms of one’s subjective feelings or one’s objective states of affairs. I’ll pass over this for now except to say that the burden of proof is on the objector to tell people how they should feel and what a life well-lived truly involves.