42 / CHRONICLESnletters come from close to the surfacenof our hearts and intellects—but whonon earth is qualified to say what mightnlie deeper?nAn informal survey of 11 newspapersnin eight Midwestern statesn—editors in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota,nMissouri, Montana, Nebraska,nNorth Dakota, and South Dakota answerednmy query—turns up resultsnwhich should surprise no one whonlistens to friends or reads his localnpaper thoroughly. Of the 11 editorialpageneditors responding, seven listednlocal issues as taking up most of thenspace in their letters columns duringn1985. The biggest single topic in Aurora,nIllinois, triggering a four-monthnSexual DesirenIn Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophynof the Erotic (New York: BasicnBooks; $25.00) Roger Scruton hasnprovided us with a subtle and originalndiscussion of the sexual gamut,nfrom the oldest profession to the lastnword in sadomasochism. Scruton’snargument turns on what he calls then”rule of authority,” the privilege wenaccord ourselves (and others) innusing the first person perspective.nAs men and women, we know—asnwe know nothing else—when wenfeel pleasure or pain, and if someonenelse honestly says he is in pain,nwe accept the statement. From this,nScruton argues that sexual desire isnalways towards some other man ornwoman whose “first person” perspectivenwe acknowledge.nEven in the absence of a divinenCreator, we can make moral judgmentsnagainst perversions like paedophilia,nsadomasochism, and—nmore tentatively, he argues —nhomosexuality, because the pervertsndo not fully honor the othernessnof other people: “Like the bestialnman and the necrophiliac, thenpaedophile cannot surrender himselfnto the full challenge of anothernperspective, but must confine hisnattentions to that which he can alsoncontrol.”nMuch of the book makes use ofnthe phenomenological approach—nREVISIONSnflood of letters, was a “proposal byn1,000 Hindu doctors and lawyers tonbuild the nahon’s third Hindu templento serve the needs of 30,000 ChicagoareanHindus.” Grand Island, Nebraska,nhad a brouhaha over propertyntaxes. Other Midwestern citizens werenin an uproar mainly over local nuclearnwaste disposal (Sioux Falls, South Dakota);na referendum to build a hotel onnthe civic center parking lot (RapidnCity, South Dakota); perceived localnschool district blunders (Billings,nMontana); the pros and cons of citymanagerngovernment (St. Joseph, Missouri);nand a local school bond issuen(Bismarck, North Dakota).nOf the remaining four editors, henresponding to the “surface” is Scruton’snexpression. In the attempt tonexplore the surface he makes a sensitivenuse of literary materials. (Hisncomparison of Sappho and Proust,nwhile it is impossible in one sense,nbrilliantiy lights up the differencesnbetween lesbians and male homosexuals.)nIt is when he descends tonthe depths of human nature that henbegins to get into trouble. Relyingnon a handful of books, he proceedsnto take on entire fields of researchnon which he passes judgment withnas little fairness as accuracy. PierrenVanden Berghe, a brilliant sociologistnwriting from a biological perspective,nis mocked for work thatnScruton has only seen secondhandn—a rhetorical style which the philosophernmight better have left tonthe left-wing critics who are mercilesslynattacking his book back innBritain.nStill, Sexual Desire is a majorncontribution to the study of morals.nMost of the technical arguments arenconfined to a single chapter (plus annappendix). The result is a book thatnis always forceful and often memorable.nHis central argument on thendignity of persons is as original as itnis obvious, now that he has said it.nScruton has given us a healthy antidotento Freud and Foucault that nonone interested in the subject—andnwho isn’t?—can afford to ignore.nnnfrom Peoria, Illinois, cited free tradenversus protectionism as engenderingnthe most letters to the editor in 1985;nWichita, Kansas, said most peoplenwrote about fundamentalism and relatednissues (“abortion, creationism,nfamily values, etc.”); and people in St.nPaul, Minnesota, and Fargo, NorthnDakota, were most concerned aboutnabortion. (The Fargo editor made anpoint of telling me that most of thenletters were antiabortion. Thosendarned North Dakotans insist onnthinking unconstitutionally!)nAbortion was a secondary issuen—turned up on the editors’ lists butnnot in #1 ranking—in four cities;nfinancial and psychological troubles ofnmodern farmers showed up sevenntimes; and local and national taxationnand the Federal deficit were importantnconcerns in five cities.nNational defense/”Star Wars”/armsncontrol—it was called all three—wasnan issue of concern in only threencities, ranking #4 in St. Paul and #5nin Peoria and Fargo. No wonder theynnever come here to talk with us.nOther secondary topics listed wereninhumanity to animals (“somebodynshot a dog with an arrow” —nAmericans must surely rank up therenwith the Brits in their hot defense ofnmistreated animals), an ACLU challengento a lit cross atop a fire departmentnbuilding, white versus Hispanicncommunities, medical malpractice,nand the seat-belt law (all of the abovenfrom Aurora, whose editor presentednthe most detailed list), along with Centralnand South America, terrorism, thenReagan Administration, local unemployment,nRoman Catholicism versusnFundamentalism, snow removal, andncable TV service.nHow shallow, some might say. Hownutterly inane. How . . . dull. Hugebelliednbabies are dying in Ethiopia,nand the born-agains are taking over thenworld, and none of this matters becausenwe’ll all be glow-in-the-dark dustnin a few years if we don’t start talking,nreally talking, to each other — andnthose hicks in Grand Island are worriednabout property taxes? God help usnall.nWell, God does. He causes us all tonbe born with natural and functionalninstincts, one of which is to care mostnabout what is most immediate in timenand space. Yes, it’s an animal sort ofn