Inquiry 19 (1-4):27 – 39 (1976)
Incest taboos should be seen as involving non?sexual objections to sexual relations, that is, objections based on who people are in relation to each other, rather than their activities. What is at stake is brought out by considering certain objections to father?daughter incest and certain features of taboos. The objections that matter do not depend on social ties and distinctions having a biological basis, but there is nonetheless a biological element in incest taboos. To see it, one must look to the nature of the Oedipus complex, and to the conditions for the development of the individual and of society. There may be prohibitions which are necessary (to morality, to society, to humanity) even though they may not be justifiable within a narrower conception (e.g. utilitarian) of morality and justification. And so taboos which are universal (occur, in one form or another, in every society), and absolute (allow no questioning), and impose strict liability (allow no excuse), may not be irrational: they may mark the boundaries that shape a way of life
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