Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Essence of Marriage

Rational-Charitable Marriage versus Hedonistic Prideful-Marriage

Nearly all the philosophers, generally speaking, have included "rational" in their definition of man. Man understands. In case anyone denies it, let us remember that a rational case must be given for the denial to make sense in the first place.

Human nature is, in summation, a rational substance in relationship. Thus, insofar as a man acts in accord with his reason he acts naturally, in a way that is suitable to his own nature and being. Insofar as a man allows his irrational passions to cloud his rational thought processes and the actions which flow properly from them, he thinks and acts in an unnatural way, contrary to his nature.

For human beings natural acts are rational acts –they are valuable insofar as they connect a man’s intellect to Reality.

Now, in the case of human sexuality the primary rational end of the reproductive organs is reproduction, and it is because of this primary reproductive end that the organs are labeled "reproductive" in the first place.

There is a second rational end of reproductive organs as well, which flows from the first. It is spousal unity, in the interest of the continued existence of the family. Humans are endowed with reason and capable of using it excellently or poorly. Rational excellence however implies education, and all education takes time. It takes longer to teach children to reason well than it does to teach birds to fly. The father therefore ought to remain united with the mother the entire time required to ensure the proper education of the children begotten as a result of their union. Human reproduction therefore includes not only physical parenthood, but intellectual parenthood. Ideally one is not only a biological parent, but a teacher as well.

Thus, just as older birds teach younger birds to fly, so too must older humans teach younger humans to reason –theoretical reason and practical reason, knowledge and virtue.

Thus, biological reproduction and the unity of spouses in the interest of the education of the rising generation constitute the two intelligible ends of the reproductive organs: and together reproduction and education comprise the essence of marriage and the natural family.

Now, there are subordinate third, fourth and fifth ends of marriage as well. These ends include:

3. Mutual Help
4. Satisfying Physical Desires
5. Fostering Reciprocal Love.

These are secondary ingredients in a marriage. None of these ends however constitute the essence of marriage, in and of themselves, or in any combination. Here is why.

"Mutual Help"

A. "Mutual help can be achieved by living with anyone, like a roommate for example, but a roommate is not a spouse! So mutual help cannot be considered the essence of marriage.
B. We do not consider a married couple divorced simply because one or both spouses suffer an accident that renders them handicapped and therefore incapable of helping each other. However, if mutual help were the essence of marriage, we would be forced into the absurd claim that paralyzed spouses were no longer married!

"Satisfying Ones Physical Desires"

A. Satisfying ones physical desires can be achieved in any number of ways, from masturbation to a one night stand. These behaviors are immoral, but they may "abate one’s concupiscence." However we do not consider two persons who were involved in a one night stand "married" do we? No! So satisfying one’s physical desires can not constitute the essence of marriage either.

B. Further, some married couples are rendered incapable of satisfying each others physical desires due to handicap, but we do not consider them therefore divorced, do we? But if satisfying ones physical desires were the essence of marriage, we would be forced into this absurd conclusion!

"Fostering Reciprocal Love"

Fostering Reciprocal Charitable Love and/or Erotic Love"

A. Fostering reciprocal charitable love, can be accomplished by philanthropic organizations, churches or societies of friends. So charitable love cannot be the essence of marriage!
B. Even when one or both partners act selfishly toward each other for a long period of time we do not consider their marriage no longer valid. There are many cases in which couples go through long dark periods of selfishness and then come out into the bright day of charity. This may not be ideal, but selfishness does not constitute divorce in and of itself.
C. What about erotic love? Eros is romantic attraction. Many couples fall in and out of romantic attraction for long or short periods of time. Falling out of romantic attraction however does not imply that a couple is no longer married, so Eros cannot be the essence of marriage. Many couples report falling in and out of Eros over and over and then building stronger more permanent emotional connection over time. The point is that emotions are fluid, they change every day, but if Eros were the essence of marriage, couples would be entering and exiting marriages every time their feelings changed! Eros therefore cannot be the essence of marriage.
D. In addition, romantic attraction can be felt by multiple persons for multiple persons at the same time. Does this mean that a group of people can be married? I don’t think so. Some claim an erotic attraction to their own parents or children, as in cases of incest. Recently one twenty-something made national news when he and his grandmother declared that they were romantically attracted to one another and in a relationship. If Eros were the "essence of marriage" though, it would force us into the absurd conclusion that marriage is anything anyone wants it to be, at any time. This is ridiculous on its face. If this were true then incest, polygamy, polyandry, communal marriages, etc. would all have to be considered valid if "Eros" were the essence of marriage.
E. Not only is Eros not the essence of marriage, but same-sex couples cannot share a Good Eros, or in other words a rational Eros.
F. There are two forms of love. The first is a lower and imperfect form love called "The love of desire," "concupiscence" or sensitive love –involving predominantly the senses –it is primarily directed toward objects, places, animals and so on. The second form of love is called volitional love. In its highest state this form of love requires that the person come out of him or her self, and love another, not his or her own enjoyment and interest in the other, but for the good of the other first. So, in other words, romantic attraction must be governed by the good in order for it to be a good romantic attraction. If Eros however, becomes the ultimate principle upon which one chooses to act, Eros becomes a god. Eros, having become a god, becomes a demon. Suicide pairs, pacts, murders, a father leaves his wife and young children for another women all in the name of "Eros." Many atrocities have been committed in the name of love. Thus, Eros must be governed by the good, for it to be a good Eros, and the good is that which is in accord with the nature of the subject, whether object, plant, animal or man. It is perfective and fulfilling of all things and therefore that which all things seek and the story of how a thing works according to its nature. The following phrases are synonymous with the good, the first principle of practical reason. "Act in accord with nature," "act rationally" "act in accord with a well-formed conscious." Indeed, properly defined, "act in a loving way serves as well." Understanding the Good requires charity. One must negate self-interest and put the other first in order to see him or her as he or she is. Same-sex couples fail to do this however. Altruistic failure is implicit in the nature of any same-sex relationship. The reason for this is that the human body is self-evidently procreative by its physical design. If the homosexual put the other first he or she would observe this and refuse to enter into the relationship. Further, for this type of relationship to even be possible for the homosexual he or she would have to conceptualize him or herself as an abstract consciousness, inhabiting an impersonal body –the ghost in the machine view. Implicit in this view is the notion that one is not ones own body, and that the body is just an impersonal earth suit. This is obviously false, however. We are our bodies. Our bodies are a very important part of who we are. If we are not our bodies then where are we? In order to for the homosexual to enter into a charitable relationship he or she would have to recognize both his own body as well as the body of his partner for what they are, procreative by their very design. Thus, charity would dictate that they never enter into the relationship in the first place. It is the violence of carnal desire that animates same-sex relationships, not volitional love.

Although "mutual help," "satisfying one’s physical desires" and "fostering reciprocal love" are non-substantial secondary ends of marriage and proper to it, the primary essence of the institution lies in the combination of the two primary rational ends, the second of which flows from the first: reproduction and continued unity in the interest of education .

It is true that reproduction alone does not constitute a marriage. A male may impregnate a female and then leave her. This is not the essence of marriage. It is only when the male and female reproduce and commit to remain together to educate their rational offspring that a marriage is born.

These are the only ends that are unique to marriage and comprise its eesence as a concept. These two ends together, therefore constitute the essence of marriage, along with the secondary ends of mutual help, satisfying desires and fostering reciprocal love.

K. Homosexuals are incapable of real love. Love is an attraction to a good perceived in a thing. Man’s will is ordered toward the good, just as his eye is ordered toward light and his intellect is ordered toward Truth by way of reason. True love then, like truth and goodness, is immaterial, although it resonates physically with emotions and sentiments. Love has degrees and is subject to be continued...

Answers to Common Rebuttals:

Now I would like to take some time to answer a common rebuttal to the essence of marriage put forth by homosexualists, infertility. Some deny that reproduction and unity, marriage, can be the only rational ends of the reproductive organ in act citing a merely apparent contradiction; cases in which a married couple discovers that one or both partners are infertile due to privation or are simply beyond the age of conception.

This objection however fails, for the following reason.Privations such as infertility, blindness, a missing arm, leg, etc. are accidental properties, not substantial. Accidental properties, such as privations, do not change the formal aspect of the subject. Just because a man is blind does not change the fact that he is a man, nor does it change the fact that the primary intelligible end of the eye is color and light. A man is still a man even if he is missing an arm, and indeed, a man is still a man even if he loses his ability to reason due to mental trauma. The whole is self-evidently greater than the sum of its parts and even when one or more parts fail to function properly, the whole remains what it is. The existence of privation does not change the form or intelligible end of the whole, it simply blocks the whole from succesfully realizing its full potential.We understand this and as a result we seek to cure blindness and other ailments when and wherever we can. This agreement is implicit in the whole field of medicine. When a part fails to function properly we attempt to correct it rather than change our conceptualization of what it is altogether. Thus, accidents such as infertility, blindness or even the loss of reason are not substantial and therefore do not change the intelligible end of the subjects which possess them, but rather they are simply deficiencies in actuality.

Reproductive-type acts therefore, within the bounds of a permanant committed relationship, whether or not they are reproductive in effect, retain a rational, and not merely emotional, nature, and thus they are conjugal acts/marital acts/human acts/free acts and they are the product of a unified human agent and a single unified reproductive principle made up of a two in one flesh substace, (father plays form and mother matter) and they remain marital, even when they fail to result in actual reproduction, due to privation beyond the control of the couple involved.


A Challenge for Detractors:

Those who object to the rational and thus natural definition of marriage tend to make the case that marriage is about, "shared values, mutual respect and romantic attraction." To these objectors I would ask if they would allow say, a ten year old and a ninety year old who, "share the same values, mutual respect and romantic attraction" to marry? Would they allow a thousand men who, "share values and romantic attraction to marry?" etc.

There does not seem to be anything in their principle that one could use to intelligibly deny these types of relationships from being conceptualized as "marriage."I would also ask these objectors if their definition would open the institution so wide that it would become virtually unintelligible as a concept. Just think, if a term is so broad that it can mean anything at all, does it not actually mean nothing at all?I would also ask the objector if he or she would agree that Eros, or romantic attraction must be governed by the good, in order for it to be a good type of romantic attraction. Just think, all sorts of evil acts have been committed in history in the name of Eros, romantic attraction, suicide pairs, pacts, murders, a man leaves his children and wife for another woman, all in the name of Eros.

The detractor ought to take this into account: the good is that which is in accord with the nature of the subject, whether object, plant, animal or man. It is perfective and fulfilling of all things and therefore that which all things seek and the story of how a thing works according to its nature.
The good must govern the passions by way of the will, the rational appetite. In the words of the Artist in the Ambulance, "We were told it long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element.' The head rules the belly through the chest--the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment--these are the indespensible liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal."
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