Genderless Marriages, Neutral Constitutions, Bloodless Persons and the Unbearable Lightness of the Good

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2 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    Robin (if I may), you say, A neutral state is non-neutral by virtue of its “leave-it-to-the-individual”-neutrality

    I think I’d not agree with this, at least not as a general statement. Do you think it applies to, say, questions about religion, too, so that if the state is neutral between different religions (w/in bounds) it’s not really being neutral, but must be favoring a “no religion” view? That seems pretty clearly wrong to me, and I think that the same sort of argument applies in other areas, too. I’m not at all sure why the position you set out should apply in the case of marriage, if not in religion. Perhaps there’s something special about marriage, but I don’t see it. It’s true that we have to legally define marriage in some sense, but that says nothing about how individuals must approach the institution or the good its to provide. In this way marriage is much like religion in my example, I think.

    Now, there’s another idea sometimes lurking in the background here. That’s that if the state doesn’t support a particular religion, or a particular gendered conception of marriage, these will lose out over time- they need the state’s support to survive, or something like that. Perhaps that’s so, though I think it’s not obvious. But even if it is so, this doesn’t show that the state isn’t “really” neutral in some important sense, just that these views are not ones that are inherently attractive. I can see why that might depress proponents of views that lose adherents over time, but don’t see why the rest of us should care.

    I’m a bit worried that there are some other conflations here, too, about “political” and “comprehensive” liberal views, but want to leave this now to see what’s meant about neutrality, and if you think that, say, a state that leaves religious choice to individuals is being “non neutral” as to religious choice. (Of course, it’s not neutral between the choice of neutrality or non-neutrality, but that’s a completely different position than that the state should follow a particular religious position- here contrast, say, the US and the French approaches.)

  2. nidefatt says:

    Your analysis of the creeping nihilism in the meaning of marriage is good, except you left out children. People can contract a good number of the things you mention without marriage. Marriage just does it all it one go. What society really wants to talk about is how icky some of it feels about the idea of being kissed by a member of their own gender. What it has some practical worries about is what’s all this mean for the future- families have always been odd, they seem to be collapsing, and now the idea of marriage is falling apart! Who gets to raise offspring- the bio parent, the legal parent, society, the village, TV?? What’s the importance of having kids raised as we currently do it? It seems like it’s off topic, but it really isn’t- when we talk about “marriage” we mean children. Religious nutjobs aside. What’s the impact of the meaninglessness of marital unions on how we define the fundamental building block of society- the family?