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  • Definitions of Marriage

    This thread is best understood as split off from Outis' thread. The purpose of this thread is to examine different philosophical, anthropological, and especially legal definitions of marriage, and to examine the potential consequences of embracing one definition over other possibilities. For any given proposed definition, both internal consistency and legal consequences are up for examination.

    I've put forward an argument substantially similar to the one put forward by George, Girgis, and Anderson in What is Marriage?, and am particularly interested in examining how it lines up with the questions I put forward above.

    There. Thread started.
    Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

  • #2
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
      This thread is best understood as split off from Outis' thread. The purpose of this thread is to examine different philosophical, anthropological, and especially legal definitions of marriage, and to examine the potential consequences of embracing one definition over other possibilities. For any given proposed definition, both internal consistency and legal consequences are up for examination.

      I've put forward an argument substantially similar to the one put forward by George, Girgis, and Anderson in What is Marriage?, and am particularly interested in examining how it lines up with the questions I put forward above.

      There. Thread started.
      Thank you. I look forward to discussing this issue with you, and with the others who join in if they choose.

      ETA: If you would be so kind, would you re-post the definition that you gave in the other thread?

      Comment


      • #4
        Here is the first explanation I gave in the other thread.
        There is a type of relationship, only possible between one man and one woman, which is not only internally coherent but which has been entirely essential to the foundation of western civilization for more than 2,000 years. The relationship between a man and woman who come together in a permanent union in order to provide a home for any children their sexual union may produce is clearly different from a loving relationship between any two (or more) adults: the first type of relationship is ordered toward making sure that father and mother are both present in the lives of their children, who are of course the future of the society; the latter is ordered toward the happiness of the participants. Calling these two substantively and teleologically distinct types of relationships by the same name is intellectually incoherent.

        Let us say that American copper manufacturers decide that their product is regarded as inferior to the product of steel manufacturers, and that this is unfair: they are both, after all, metal manufacturers, and it's not fair that steel manufacturers get lucrative contracts to provide girders for buildings and copper manufacturers do not. They petition the government to allow them to sell their copper products as steel.

        This situation is, of course, absurd: steel and copper are not interchangeable, and, as useful as they both are for their own respective purposes, forcing people to regard them as equivalent results in shoddy construction jobs all around. Marriage as an institution has a fundamentally different purpose from the sorts of relationship possible between persons of the same sex; marriage, as the environment in which children are most frequently and reliably prepared for life as citizens by being raised by their own biological parents, is not interchangeable with a relationship between persons of the same sex, no matter how loving or fulfilling. There is an obvious and qualitative difference, just as there is between copper and steel.

        You're not enlightened, my friend. You're as much a product of your own time and its biases as those who opposed mixed-race marriages: both positions are historically anomalous, and I have little doubt that, within my lifetime, society as a whole will recognize that accepting people of all sorts of sexual attractions does not in any way require us to redefine an institution whose purpose remains unique and indispensable, and in fact that imposing the sorts of expectations that only make sense in the context of a heterosexual union ordered toward the begetting and rearing of children tends to grate on those whose motivation is mutual satisfaction. When we have expanded the term "marriage" to include any relationship between any number of consenting adults that can be dissolved for any reason or at any time, we will find that we still need a name for the institution that permanently binds a man and woman together as husband and wife so that they will be present as father and mother to any children they may produce together, and that this particular kind of arrangement is important enough to society to warrant special protection.
        Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

        Comment


        • #5
          Look forward to this thread.
          The State. Ideas so good they have to be mandatory.

          sigpic

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
            There is a type of relationship, only possible between one man and one woman, which is not only internally coherent but which has been entirely essential to the foundation of western civilization for more than 2,000 years. The relationship between a man and woman who come together in a permanent union in order to provide a home for any children their sexual union may produce is clearly different from a loving relationship between any two (or more) adults: the first type of relationship is ordered toward making sure that father and mother are both present in the lives of their children, who are of course the future of the society; the latter is ordered toward the happiness of the participants. Calling these two substantively and teleologically distinct types of relationships by the same name is intellectually incoherent.
            I think there's some question-begging going on here, that being the idea that marriage must be narrowly defined so as not to include numerous sufficient conditions. Saying that "marriage" must either be the union of couples for the rearing of offspring or the union of couples for mutual happiness seems to be like saying "supper" must either be a meal for sustaining health and energy or a meal for the enjoyment of food. Clearly, a five-course tasting menu and a McDonald's Value Meal are "substantively and teleologically distinct" types of meals, yet we call them both "supper." So I'd argue the implicit premise of this paragraph, that the term "marriage" cannot umbrella distinct types of relationships.


            Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
            Let us say that American copper manufacturers decide that their product is regarded as inferior to the product of steel manufacturers, and that this is unfair: they are both, after all, metal manufacturers, and it's not fair that steel manufacturers get lucrative contracts to provide girders for buildings and copper manufacturers do not. They petition the government to allow them to sell their copper products as steel.

            This situation is, of course, absurd: steel and copper are not interchangeable, and, as useful as they both are for their own respective purposes, forcing people to regard them as equivalent results in shoddy construction jobs all around. Marriage as an institution has a fundamentally different purpose from the sorts of relationship possible between persons of the same sex; marriage, as the environment in which children are most frequently and reliably prepared for life as citizens by being raised by their own biological parents, is not interchangeable with a relationship between persons of the same sex, no matter how loving or fulfilling. There is an obvious and qualitative difference, just as there is between copper and steel.
            Well, we've got a couple problems here. First and foremost, you're making an analogy that rests on the "inferior" product, if allowed, resulting in a worsened state of being for the people involved. If copper is used in place of steel, the consumers of CopSteel are harmed. The real-world correlation would be that same-sex marriages (or non-procreative marriages, as this logic is broadly applied) create demonstrably worse conditions for at least those people in the same-sex marriage. I believe this discussion has been played out pretty fully: there's no evidence that same-sex marriages create a necessarily worse environment for either the people in those marriages or people in "traditional" ("superior," to adopt the analogy!) marriages. This holds true even for the children involved . . . though if we're at the point of talking about children being reared in same-sex marriages, we've already blown a pretty big hole in the first paragraph!

            Secondly, we're back to the question-begging of the first paragraph: the idea that "marriage" means something more equivalent to "a metal of specific physical properties" and less equivalent to "a category of metals" — to retain the analogy's language. I see no reason to believe this is or must be the case, that marriage must be either for the production and rearing of children or the mutual happiness of a set of people.

            Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
            You're not enlightened, my friend. You're as much a product of your own time and its biases as those who opposed mixed-race marriages: both positions are historically anomalous, and I have little doubt that, within my lifetime, society as a whole will recognize that accepting people of all sorts of sexual attractions does not in any way require us to redefine an institution whose purpose remains unique and indispensable, and in fact that imposing the sorts of expectations that only make sense in the context of a heterosexual union ordered toward the begetting and rearing of children tends to grate on those whose motivation is mutual satisfaction. When we have expanded the term "marriage" to include any relationship between any number of consenting adults that can be dissolved for any reason or at any time, we will find that we still need a name for the institution that permanently binds a man and woman together as husband and wife so that they will be present as father and mother to any children they may produce together, and that this particular kind of arrangement is important enough to society to warrant special protection.
            We'll probably just keep on calling it "marriage." And expand the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit).

            —Sam
            "I wonder about the trees. / Why do we wish to bear / Forever the noise of these / More than another noise / So close to our dwelling place?" — Robert Frost, "The Sound of Trees"

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
              There is a type of relationship, only possible between one man and one woman, which is not only internally coherent but which has been entirely essential to the foundation of western civilization for more than 2,000 years. The relationship between a man and woman who come together in a permanent union in order to provide a home for any children their sexual union may produce is clearly different from a loving relationship between any two (or more) adults: the first type of relationship is ordered toward making sure that father and mother are both present in the lives of their children, who are of course the future of the society; the latter is ordered toward the happiness of the participants. Calling these two substantively and teleologically distinct types of relationships by the same name is intellectually incoherent.
              We need to dissect this paragraph first.

              You just invalidated as "marriage" any union of two adults that are known in advance to not be fertile, who have decided to have no children for whatever reason, including health concerns or simply a desire to be child-free. To borrow your analogy used later, these are "copper" marriages, regardless of the genders of the participants.

              You also just invalidated several marriages that you probably consider historical: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon.

              More to the point, you're begging the question on one particular issue: teleologically, polyandry and polygyny are identical to the scenario you posted above, with the exception of the "one man and one woman." You have NOT excluded these, nor do you give any rationale as to why a monogamous marriage should be included in your proposed teleology, yet polyandry and polygyny should not.

              Comment


              • #8
                Spartacus:

                1) Women eventually become infertile. Given a marriage that has produced children, does the nature of the union change once the woman becomes infertile and the children reach adulthood (for some reasonable definition of adulthood)? Should we relabel the name of the union?
                2)If a couple not known to be infertile make a union, are they married? What happens when subsequent to the union they are found to be infertile? Should we relabel the name of the union?
                Last edited by Paprika; 02-16-2014, 10:53 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm kind of disappointed that you didn't alter your argument after the last time it was dissected...
                  I'm not here anymore.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Carrikature View Post
                    I'm kind of disappointed that you didn't alter your argument after the last time it was dissected...
                    I was asked to re-post my definition, so I did

                    That said, having the chance to hammer out the difficulties in the argument in a more formal setting is a good thing. With that in mind, I'm probably going to be more deliberate about responding in this thread from this point on. My schedule and temperament may not always permit careful posts, but I hope it will be fairly obvious when I've put careful thought into a post and when I've just spouted off some useless witticism.
                    Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Spartacus, would you prefer to handle this as a zero-sum debate, or as a plus-sum "iron sharpens iron" analysis? I'll admit right off, I'm not going to be able to bring all my skills to bear in the latter, but I'm willing to follow your lead.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Sam View Post
                        I think there's some question-begging going on here, that being the idea that marriage must be narrowly defined so as not to include numerous sufficient conditions. Saying that "marriage" must either be the union of couples for the rearing of offspring or the union of couples for mutual happiness seems to be like saying "supper" must either be a meal for sustaining health and energy or a meal for the enjoyment of food. Clearly, a five-course tasting menu and a McDonald's Value Meal are "substantively and teleologically distinct" types of meals, yet we call them both "supper." So I'd argue the implicit premise of this paragraph, that the term "marriage" cannot umbrella distinct types of relationships.
                        You're right that this is too strong a dichotomy, and I think I addressed this in subsequent posts in the other thread. Marriage, as a sub-set of committed relationships between adults, serves a very particular purpose, and one of the questions that this discussion ultimately needs to answer is whether man-woman marriage is sufficiently distinct from other variations on the theme to warrant particular legal recognition and protection.

                        And that is not to say that other adult relationships do not warrant other kinds of protections: our society faces what I would consider unprecedented centralization of power in both government and corporations, and it is in society's interests to draw individuals together against the ever-increasing power of the government-corporate complex: human flourishing consists of so much more than protection from criminals and access to material goods, and the federal government and corporations are pretty powerless to provide these human goods. If nothing else, it behooves us to strengthen the social safety net at the grassroots level, and there is so much more to building a strong society than just having strong marriages. How exactly we can best promote various types of socially valuable relationships is, in my mind, an open question.

                        Well, we've got a couple problems here. First and foremost, you're making an analogy that rests on the "inferior" product, if allowed, resulting in a worsened state of being for the people involved. If copper is used in place of steel, the consumers of CopSteel are harmed. The real-world correlation would be that same-sex marriages (or non-procreative marriages, as this logic is broadly applied) create demonstrably worse conditions for at least those people in the same-sex marriage. I believe this discussion has been played out pretty fully: there's no evidence that same-sex marriages create a necessarily worse environment for either the people in those marriages or people in "traditional" ("superior," to adopt the analogy!) marriages. This holds true even for the children involved . . . though if we're at the point of talking about children being reared in same-sex marriages, we've already blown a pretty big hole in the first paragraph!
                        The building in question is not a particular family, but society in general, which needs voluntary and gratuitous relationships between adults in any case, but which also relies on a very particular sub-set of these relationships to fulfill a certain set of functions. I have nothing against same-sex couples raising children who are in need of a loving home, but a relationship between a man and a woman is capable not only of raising children, but of creating them, as well.

                        Secondly, we're back to the question-begging of the first paragraph: the idea that "marriage" means something more equivalent to "a metal of specific physical properties" and less equivalent to "a category of metals" — to retain the analogy's language. I see no reason to believe this is or must be the case, that marriage must be either for the production and rearing of children or the mutual happiness of a set of people.

                        We'll probably just keep on calling it "marriage." And expand the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit).

                        —Sam
                        Thank you for your input. Am I correct in assuming that you are the artist formerly known as Angsar_Seraph?
                        Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                          This thread is best understood as split off from Outis' thread. The purpose of this thread is to examine different philosophical, anthropological, and especially legal definitions of marriage, and to examine the potential consequences of embracing one definition over other possibilities. For any given proposed definition, both internal consistency and legal consequences are up for examination.

                          I've put forward an argument substantially similar to the one put forward by George, Girgis, and Anderson in What is Marriage?, and am particularly interested in examining how it lines up with the questions I put forward above.

                          There. Thread started.
                          I am especially interested in the anthropological aspect of this debate, as I have contemplated my own marriage and it's significance in the larger scheme of all aspects considered, I am drawn back again and again to the subtleties of the legal definitions as they are taken collectively, as a whole and not sub-divided into categories that aren't even worth mention in this debate.
                          Last edited by GoBahnsen; 02-17-2014, 12:05 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Outis View Post
                            Spartacus, would you prefer to handle this as a zero-sum debate, or as a plus-sum "iron sharpens iron" analysis? I'll admit right off, I'm not going to be able to bring all my skills to bear in the latter, but I'm willing to follow your lead.
                            I think I lean toward the latter in my personal inclinations: as you can probably tell from my posts, I have no argument against acknowledging the value of other relationships, but I think there is an argument to be made that a very particular kind of relationship has a very particular value. Saying that marriage as I have defined it has a particular value is not to say that other relationships have none.

                            If there is a zero-sum debate to be had, it is to be found in what I outlined as the first question for debate in the previous thread: is my definition internally coherent and rational? If, as you and Lao suggested in the previous thread, my argument cannot stand without religion as a crutch, then all policy discussion is moot. If you'd be more comfortable in a zero-sum debate, I'd suggest honing in on that question.
                            Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                              Marriage, as a sub-set of committed relationships between adults, serves a very particular purpose, and one of the questions that this discussion ultimately needs to answer is whether man-woman marriage is sufficiently distinct from other variations on the theme to warrant particular legal recognition and protection.
                              That's a question I have. Where does the assumption come from that marriage only serves a very particular purpose? To the best of my understanding, marriage can serve all, or some, of several specific purposes. Why the restriction to one purpose?

                              And if that's not your intent, a clarification here would be welcome.

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