In 2010 Steve Jobs created a bit of a sensation when he decided to ban from Apple devices any app that was deemed pornographic in nature.

“Folks who want porn can buy an android,” Jobs famously wrote to one customer.  

So what did Jobs have against porn? Walter Isaacson, in his highly impressive 2011 biography of Jobs, detailed a correspondence the Apple co-founder had with tech blogger Ryan Tate, who thought Jobs’ wish to give Apple users “freedom from porn” was hypocritical to Apple’s spirit of revolutionary freedom.

“You might care more about porn when you have kids,” Jobs replied. “It’s not about freedom, it’s about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users.”

The comment is striking for its sheer banality. Jobs is employing a variation of the ad hominem logical fallacy here, suggesting that Tate can’t understand why pornography is bad because he doesn’t have kids.

It’s clear from the statement that Jobs, a pretty smart fellow, believed deeply that pornography is wrong, but he was unable to articulate how or why. Why is that?

An answer can perhaps be found in the writings of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. In his book After Virtue, MacIntyre describes how Enlightenment thinkers—among them Kant, Hume, and later Kierkegaard—attempted to fashion a new philosophical foundation, one that essentially preserved traditional morals but untethered them from the Aristotelian framework and religious ideas on which they were based.  

The problem? It didn’t work.

If MacIntyre is correct that many of our morals today are “incoherent fragments of a once coherent scheme of thought and action,” it would help explain why Jobs felt that pornography is fundamentally wrong, but could not articulate why. Like us, he lived in a world that still holds on to some traditional morals, only now they’re devoid of an intellectual foundation.

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