Amending Marriage

 

Same Sex Marriage

Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

While some States in the United States have passed laws allowing same-sex marriage, other states have passed laws to ban it. Some states have even taken an extra step by amending the state constitutions to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. On May 8th, 2012 North Carolina voters went to the polls to decide whether or not their state constitution would be amended to “defend” marriage. While this matter is interesting from a legal perspective, my main interest is from a philosophical perspective, mainly regarding the quality of the arguments in favor of such restrictions on marriage as well as their ethics.

As I have done in other essays on the subject of same-sex marriage, I will quickly run through the stock fallacious arguments given for such laws. The first stock argument is that marriage between a single man and woman is a matter of tradition. This is, obviously enough, a fallacious appeal to tradition. The mere fact that something is a tradition hardly shows that it is right or correct. To use the usual counterexample, slavery was (and is in some places) a well-established tradition, yet this hardly serves to justify it.

A second fallacious argument is that marriage between a man and a women is what most people do, thus it is correct. In other words, it is a common practice and thus is right. Obviously enough, this is merely a fallacious appeal to common practice. There are, obviously enough, many bad practices that are quite common (like lying), but their being common does not make them good.

A third common fallacious argument is that most people believe that marriage should be between a man and woman. Even if it is assumed that this is true, this would still seem to be a fallacious appeal to belief. After all, the mere fact that most people believe something (like the earth being believed to be the center of the solar system) does not prove that it is true.

Now that the easy to dismiss fallacious arguments are out of the way,  I can look at some of the other arguments that have been presented in support of such laws.

One stock argument is essentially an appeal to religion, specifically Christianity (at least the versions that forbid polygamy). The argument typically goes that since God married Adam to Eve, this defines marriage in the biblical sense. Those with clever wits often put it more rhetorically by saying that it was “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Since marriage is defined by the Christian faith as between one man and one woman, that is what the law should be. As might be imagined, there are many problems with this.

One obvious legal problem is that to the degree the proponents of such laws claim that it is based on a specific faith, they are in danger of violating the first amendment of the United State constitution, namely the bit that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While I am not a constitutional lawyer, I would suspect that a plausible case could be made that creating a law explicitly based on a religion does involve the establishment of a religion. In addition to the obvious legal problems, there is also the moral concern regarding the imposition of a specific faith’s values upon the population as a whole. This would seem to be a clear and direct violate of religious liberty and thus would seem to be morally unacceptable.

A second obvious problem is that basing the law on a religious view would seem to require that this view be established as correct. After all, if it is claimed that marriage is such that it can only between a man and a woman because of what God wants, then it needs to be established that God exists and that this is what God, in fact, wants. Otherwise, the law would have no established foundation and would be as sensible as basing a law on a myth or fictional tale. Naturally, if it can be shown that marriage is between one man and one woman as a matter of metaphysical necessity, then that would nicely establish the foundation of the law. In fact, it would show that no such law would really be needed since no one else could, in fact, be married. To use analogy, we do not need laws that ban people from driving their cars faster than the speed of light-they simply cannot do this because of the nature of reality.

There are, of course, non-religious arguments for these laws. A rather common argument is that the laws are needed to protect the sanctity of marriage. The idea seems to be that allowing same-sex marriage would be harmful to marriage (and presumably the married) and thus, on the principle of preventing harm, same-sex marriage should be outlawed by a constitutional amendment.

One obvious point of concern is whether or not allowing same sex-marriage harms marriage and heterosexual couples. While, of course, it might upset them that people are doing something they do not like (getting married), that is obviously not sufficient justification. What would be needed would be objective evidence that same sex-marriage would do enough harm to marriage and married couples to warrant forbidding same sex-marriage. The evidence for this seems to be, obviously enough, sorely lacking and the burden of proof rests on those who would make an imposition on the liberty of others to show that such an imposition is warranted.

Intuitively, same-sex marriage would not harm marriage or married couples. After all, it is difficult to imagine what sort of damage would be inflicted. Would married couples love each other less? Would there be more cases of domestic violence or adultery? Would married parents be suddenly more inclined to abuse their children? None of this seems even remotely likely.

But, suppose it is assumed that marriage must be protected. If this is taken seriously, then it would certainly seem to follow that it would need to be legally protected from whatever might damage its sanctity. To use an analogy, laws to protect people from murder are not just limited to, for example, making it illegal to murder someone with aluminum baseball bat. Rather, it is the murdering that matters. The same should apply to marriage: if marriage must be protected by making it between one man and one woman, then surely it must also be protected against whatever would damage its sanctity. As such, it would seem equally reasonable to ban marriages involving any sort of person whose actions or nature might do damage to the sanctity of a marriage.

Intuitively, allowing immoral people to marry would seem to damage its sanctity. As such, people would need to establish their moral goodness before marriage and presumably any straying from the path of virtue (such as by having an affair or otherwise failing in their vows) would result in the marriage being suspended or even nullified. Naturally enough, people who intend to get married in the hopes of financial gain, from lust, or for any reason that would sully the sanctity of marriage would need to be prevented from getting married. Given all these dire threats to the sanctity of marriage, it would seem that if the matter is serious enough to warrant a constitutional amendment it would also warrant the creation of a full government agency to regulate and protect the sanctity of marriage. After all, if the defenders of the sanctity of marriage were content to merely prevent same-sex marriage, one might suspect that they were acting from mere prejudice against same sex couples rather than by a sincere desire to protect marriage. While this might seem as big government violating liberty, those supporting such laws will surely see that there is little difference between same-sex couples that they cannot marry because marriage must be protected and telling anyone who would violate the sanctity of marriage that they cannot marry. As such, more general restrictions on who can get married (such as people who are not morally good or who are not marrying purely from love) would seem no more (or less) unjust that preventing same sex marriage.

Naturally, being a person with a social conscience and a professional ethicist, I would be willing to accept the position of Marriage Czar and head up the Sanctity Defense Agency to ensure that marriage remains eternally pure and unsullied. No doubt I would have to spend most of my time dissolving existing pseudo-marriages, but I am sure people will thank me for this in the end.

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37 Comments.

  1. I had to laugh at argument two there, “it’s what most people do”. Yes, the reason it’s what most people do is because doing it in any other way is ILLEGAL.
    The argument for not allowing people to do something in the future is that they couldn’t do it in the past.
    And the circle goes around and around…
    Another topic that astounds me, do people really have nothing better to do than tell other people how to live?

  2. There is an argument for the existence of such a law that I haven’t read proposed or debated in news outlets or from thoughtful bloggers as yourself, but that relates to the idea of protecting marriage. However, rather than protection of the institution of marriage from so-called corruption, looking at the protection of the Nature of Marriage, .

    There is something to be said for defending marriage as the social (and in particular cases, religious) recognition and/or consecration of a particular part of our biological function: the perpetuation of the species through sexual reproduction. Written into our very genetic structure, formed by the forces of natural selection, our sexual organs, differentiated by gender, are for the purpose of coupling male and female gametes to create a new human life. Just as civilization has transcended the pack structure, marriage transcends the primal mating structure into the creation of stable family units, but family units that are still based on that basic genetic and biological function of reproduction. Marriage then is not merely the consecration, or societal recognition, of the attraction & love between two any given unrelated individuals. Marriage is the consecration and societal recognition of the family formed by humanity’s basic reproductive process and its transcendence, which by necessity requires male and female participation (even if we’re talking in vitro fertilization, there has to be the donation of a male gamete).

    In that case, defending “marriage” in our laws becomes not so much about defending some idealistic view of the purity of marriage, but rather the protection of what marriage is, the fundamental nature of marriage as an extension of our basic biology, that which is written into our very DNA. Defending marriage by law becomes a case of defending against the idea of relativism, a blow against the notion that marriage can mean whatever we decide it means, just as we’ve taken to denigrating Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Identity, Justice and other absolutes to subjectives. Instead we should ever be pursuing the noble, and very human, quest after what those mean as objective absolutes.

    Creating a bulwark against the rapid increase in relativism and and the dominance of subjectivity, even if by means of legalistic tactics, is a cry from the majority that Truth should be Truth, in this case represented by Marriage should be Marriage and nothing else than what it is. Perhaps our society will come up with a new term to represent the relationship that is sought by those in love and of the same marriage, but as long as humanity is what it is, it cannot be marriage.

  3. @David

    “There is something to be said for defending marriage as the social (and in particular cases, religious) recognition and/or consecration of a particular part of our biological function: the perpetuation of the species through sexual reproduction.”

    That’s certainly an interesting way to frame it, however it has some immediate consequences that extend beyond gay marriage: If we argue against gay marriage on the grounds that such a couple could not sexually reproduce with each other, then consistency would require us to extend such a ban to any couple who could not sexually reproduce with each other.

    You would have to ban the marriage of couples who were infertile for any reason, whether due to age, injury, disease, or what-have-you.

    A hard case you would have to decide on is what if the female partner in a heterosexual couple was fertile but the male partner was not? If you would allow them to marry on the grounds they could still have a baby through assisted means such as a sperm donor, it seems you would have to permit lesbian marriages since the same argument would presumably work in their favor as well.

    Also, there are many children waiting for adoptive or foster parents; are you comfortable arguing that a family who has a child naturally is somehow superior to a family who adopted an orphaned child? You would, after all, seem to be willing to allow the first kind of family, but not the second.

    These seem very difficult to argue for, so I assume this may play into why the position you detailed isn’t more widely engaged by proponents and critics of gay marriage.

  4. Mike,

    You said that “A third common fallacious argument is that most people believe that marriage should be between a man and woman.”

    I don’t think this is necessarily fallacious as a line of argument. For example, it seems at least plausible to argue that the laws of a community should agree with the majority beliefs of that community; on this view, a ‘law’ is essentially a means to codify the attitudes of the community creating it.

    At least on the face of it, this seems to be supported by our political system where we vote either directly ourselves–or indirectly through representatives–on our laws. It seems quite plausible to interpret this as a system designed to codify the attitudes of such voters into law.

    Now, 1) if that’s the case, and 2) if we are not trying to sort out what the ‘best’ system would look like but rather work within the one we have, it seems legitimate to argue from a) the majority beliefs or attitudes of a community to b) what laws should govern that community.

    Would you comment on that?

  5. @Asur

    I did not mean to imply that fertility would be the grounds or requirement by which marriage should be approved or defined, but was trying to make the case that marriage was the recognition of an intended relationship between male and female to reproduce and the recognition by society and/or the faith community of that couples intent to start a family: fulfilling their intended biological function, but now as a recognized social unit.

    In that case, male and female who say “Hey, I think you’re keen, and you think I’m keen, and I think we’d have keen kids together.” are the basis of a marriage because it is their intent, whether able to fulfill that or not, of creating this family by means of reproduction, which ideally would be ennobled by mutual sacrifice (ie love) and affection. So then if a couple says “Hey, I think you’re keen, and you think I’m keen, and could we have kids, they’d be keen.” still has the intent of fulfilling the natural reproductive aspect of marriage, therefor a potential marriage still exists within the definition I’m positing as worthy of defense by law.

    I hope that any couple, married or not, or even individual who had the means and wherewithal would adopt! But the ability to have or take care of children as the definition of marriage is not the argument I’m attempting, but rather that marriage is by its nature the reflection of an intended, by nature, relationship between male and female humans to procreate, not predicated on whether that intent is successful or not.

  6. @Dave

    If you separate intent from innate ability and simply focus on intent, then a gay couple who intend to have children should be able to marry according to your reasoning.

    You say that “marriage is by its nature the reflection of an intended, by nature, relationship between male and female humans to procreate, not predicated on whether that intent is successful or not.”

    I just don’t see why you want to use marriage to protect sexual procreation. Why would that need an institution sanctioning or protecting it?

    It’s not as if sexual procreation required marriage to occur.

    It seems to me that marriage doesn’t sanction or protect a biological function like sexual procreation but rather serves a social function instead.

    If that’s true, then there doesn’t seem to be much reason to restrict it according to biology, such as restricting it to being between a male and a female.

  7. It would seem at the core of this subject is individual rights and freedom. And that should be protected at all cost. So, two people of the same sex should be allowed to “marry” if they so wish. And importantly, if laws exist to benefit the “married” coupled, those laws should equally benefit same sex couples who get “married”.

    The definition of marriage would appears to cause some “impediment” in the thinking of the rights and freedom that should be afforded to same sex couples and even hermophrodites who might wish get to “married”.

    Therefore we may need diffirent words to describe the legal union of couples in “marriage” that fundamentally have access to the same human rights, legal rights and equal benefits – how about a new word “Garriage” to define same sex couples who “marry”- you could even have “Man-rriage” and “Girl-rriage” to distinquish between men & women of the same sex “marriages”. Then again sticking to individual rights and freedom the choice of words to use might be best coming from those same sex folks who wish to get “married”…

  8. @Asur

    forgive me for continuing to be inarticulate in the point I’m trying to make. Your responses assume that my argument for the law is a protection of the institution of marriage, which is an idea I think should be pulled from the regular arguments of the pundits; in any country where over 50% of the marriages end in divorce, no United States citizen has any ground for trying to protect the sanctity of the institution. What I am arguing for is that such laws protect the meaning of the term “marriage” because, even within the notion that language is fluid, which as an English major I understand better than most, some categories should remain with absolute and static definitions. Marriage is a category of relationship that should remain absolute in its original function as a term to define the relationship I described above. The argument for or against legally recognized relationships between unrelated individuals who hold deep and meaningful affection for each other is a whole separate argument from what I’m proposing, though it’s what most people are applying to these laws, perhaps even the meaning behind these laws. I’m attempting to articulate that there may be reasons other than keeping homosexual relationships from being recognized for someone voting for such a law about marriage–in my case, one of preserving philosophical categories and the meanings of important words.

  9. Gargnob,

    For some folks the greatest joy in life is denying others joy.

  10. David,

    You raise some interesting points.

    But, as far as reproduction goes, it would not seem to be the case that the nature of reproduction entails anything about marriage especially in the legal sense of the term as it is used today.

    That said, an appeal to a natural order foundation for marriage is interesting. However, it could probably be addressed by arguing that what is natural for humans is not the one-man-one-woman marriage being “defended” in NC, but rather a natural human tendency to love and seek companionship.

  11. Asur,

    From a democratic standpoint, you do have it right. After all, what is law in a democracy is typically what most people vote for (or their representatives vote for). As such, this does have an appeal to the degree that democracy is appealing.

    The concern is, of course, that the majority (or those who would pass as the majority) might wish to violate the basic rights of others. Because of this threat we also have (and should have) safeguards against the tyranny of the majority. So, for example, if NC decided to amend their constitution to make slavery legal once again, then I would be inclined to say that even though the majority might have decided for this, this decision is beyond their legitimate right. As Locke might put it, they lack the right to take away the liberty of others on this basis.

  12. POD,

    I do agree that we should have various forms of “marriage.” I’ve argued elsewhere for three versions. One is a religious marriage that has no legal status and is set up by each church as it sees fit. This way each faith can protect its views without violating the legal rights of people. The second is a contractual relationship which specifies all the legal rights and obligations of the couple. This would be open to any adult of legal age and competence. The third would be a love expression in which couples could formally announce their love and establish a union that had no legal status.

    This would, I think, be a good solution. That way people who are opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds could maintain their views without causing any legal harm to their fellow citizens and people would be free to engage in legal contracts as they wished. Thus, religious freedom and personal liberty would be protected.

  13. @Mike

    “The concern is, of course, that the majority (or those who would pass as the majority) might wish to violate the basic rights of others. Because of this threat we also have (and should have) safeguards against the tyranny of the majority.”

    This sounds as if ‘basic rights’ are the sorts of things that are discovered rather than created.

    Is that really true? Where do they come from?

    It seems to me that our basic rights are those rights the majority of us agree we should all have. But, in your example, we can somehow rely on them to protect us from the tyranny of the majority.

    This seems a bit like saying “Bob, I don’t completely trust you, so I’m assigning you to protect me from yourself.”

    It seems that if we can actually make an appeal to basic rights, they’d have to be arrived at independently of our opinions on what they should be…but, I just don’t see anywhere else for them to come from.

    If they are just codifications of our opinions, then if our opinions change, it would seem that our basic rights must change as well.

  14. However, it could probably be addressed by arguing that what is natural for humans is not the one-man-one-woman marriage being “defended” in NC, but rather a natural human tendency to love and seek companionship.

    I don’t see this as being a case of one nature or another for humans: it is a natural, biological characteristic that it takes male and female to reproduce according to our genetic design by natural selection, AND it is natural for humans to develop relationships based on love and desire for companionship. Marriage, ideally, is the synthesis of those two parts of human nature, biological and emotional (and/or spiritual).

    However, I agree that generally law doesn’t view marriage within these terms, perhaps making my entire argument void practically speaking. Indeed it seems that it is a rare day when any lawmaker takes time to make sure terms are well defined before they start applying laws to them … c’est l’etat.

  15. swallerstein (amos)

    If marriage is so great a good, as many claim, why do not let as many people as possible, whether gay or not, share in that good?

    It seems downright selfish and meanspirited not to let others share in such a good, as is claimed.

    What are opponents of gay marriage frightened of?

    Are their marriages so shakey, based on such a fragile relationship that the fact that people of the same sex marry will break them up?

    If marriage is as pointless, as my experience tells me, why not let everyone, gay or not, learn through their own mistakes?

  16. Mike,

    My refinement is, where there are benefits that go to marriage couples, those benefits, should go to all marriage couples, including same sex couples. for example in the UK, taxes are structured to benefit married couples. This should equally apply to same sex married couples -and some may argue to unmarried couples. There should not be any discrimination in sharing the benefits of marriage.

    My understanding is, the evidence show that marriage is broadly good for society – irrespective of high divorce rate (which I think should not discourage the promotion of the marriage institution anyway); Until we find a better way of eatablishing a more “consistent, productive and valuable” form of the union of love-ones, no matter what the sexes.

  17. Asur,

    “This sounds as if ‘basic rights’ are the sorts of things that are discovered rather than created.
    Is that really true? Where do they come from?”

    An excellent question to which I do not have an original answer. One option is to go with Locke’s approach-all rights seem to ultimately come from God. Another option is to go with Hobbes (what is not against reason may be done with right, or something like that). Another option is to go with Mill’s approach and base them on utility.

    Now, if we go with group consensus, then we get whatever the majority (or those passing as or influencing the majority) decide and, as you note, we have limited defenses against that-unless we appeal to those stronger than the majority (or at least able to intimidate or persuade them).

    As far as protecting our rights against the majority goes-that is an important problem. After all, just having rights amounts to nothing without the ability to back them up in some manner. So, it might just come down to a practical thing-we create some defenders (like the courts) that can stand up against the majority. Then we hope that the majority does not decide to just roll over the defenders.

  18. swallerstein,

    There are apparently some legal goods, at least in the US (like being able to get spousal insurance coverage, plus the inheritance thing). But, I do agree that all those legal rights should be assignable by a person to whoever they wish.

    I suspect that the opposition to same sex marriage is often based primarily on emotion-just fear and dislike (or hate). I must admit that I do not quite get the extent to which people will go to “defend” marriage. This is more, I think, a matter for psychology rather than philosophy.

  19. I do like the idea of making marriage flexible, like negotiating a contract where the partners decide what obligations they’ll have towards each other and the extent to which they can proxy for each other in dealings with other people.

    If it were an available option, I’m curious how many people would go for the whole enchilada and allow their partner to fully proxy for them such that each could represent the other in personal, business, and legal dealings as if representing themselves.

    Scary, but interesting.

    Anyway, my vote is for marriage to become a contract between two or more adults (of whatever gender…) granting whatever duties and rights towards each other they wanted to give.

  20. Dennis Sceviour

    I cannot judge the moral issue, but I am concerned about the economics. I doubt re-defined marriage would be financially beneficial. However, the legislatures have passed divorce laws (not that long ago divorce was illegal). The divorce courts have been very profitable for some and disastrous for others. I suspect some of the purpose of a hyphenated-marriage is to exploit the economic possibilities of gaining profitably in a divorce.

    The issue of conflicts in law is recurrent in the past few articles. We already know about the problem of hyphenated-citizenship. However, giving one more example of conflicts in law seems to accomplish very little. For example, I cannot see how a definition of “religious worker” would accomplish anything, except make another court case for profit. In fact, such a new definition would probably make conflicts in law even worse, unless that is the intention.

    I support the North Carolina constitutional amendment.

  21. Hi Dennis,

    I’m a bit puzzled over your concern about whether “re-defined marriage would be financially beneficial.”

    Why would that be relevant to whether same-sex marriages should be allowed?

    I admit I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘hyphenated-marriage’, so perhaps that’s where I’m not following you.

  22. Dennis Sceviour

    Asur,
    “Why would that be relevant to whether same-sex marriages should be allowed?”
    It is not. It is relevant to a same-sex divorce.

    “I admit I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘hyphenated-marriage’…”
    Same-sex has a hyphen between the two words.

  23. A company could make an app (iMarriage) that allows people to set out all their legal obligations to each other and thus define their marriage. They could then go and get their marriage certified. Or, perhaps, the app would do that as well (and update the couple’s Facebook status and albums as well). :)

  24. Dennis,

    Making same-sex marriage would increase the number of divorces (by increasing the number of marriages). It would also have some economic impact (for example, the spousal insurance thing would have some effect). However, I’m not sure how this impacts the ethics or legality of the matter.

  25. Dennis Sceviour

    Mike,
    Perhaps it is time for me to introduce another radical theory of mine. If you have been following me so far on the definition of intrinsic then:

    “Morality is an intrinsic property, and ethics is an extrinsic property.”

    I cannot comment on the morality of the issue in this article, except to say it does not interest me. It is none of my business. However, I can comment on the ethical issue.

    I see an ethical problem with the identity of people and things. That is, there is difficulty when using someone else’s identity or definition for something. For example, Ford would not allow GM to produce a Mustang, and GM would not allow Ford to manufacture a Chevy. Therefore, traditional married couples may object to the usage of the word marriage that is not in keeping with their life’s undertaking. On the other hand, this would conflict with the fallacy of tradition. Also, a re-definition of words seems necessary at times, particularly when there is a diverse understanding. For example, I might find it necessary to take a more definitive position on intrinsic as it has no universal philosophical definition.

    The matter impacts legality by adding to conflicts in law. The North Carolina amendment has solved these issues by not allowing same-sex marriage.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_marriage_laws

  26. Dennis,

    What do you see as separating the ‘moral’ from the ‘ethical’?

    Most people would use those terms interchangeably, so your reasoning seems a bit shady without articulating how you are distinguishing them.

    Putting that aside, your analogy between car manufacturers and married couples doesn’t follow: Ford can not allow GM to produce a Mustang because Ford owns “Mustang” as a brand; however, married couples do not similarly own marriage, hence they have no say by virtue of being a married couple as to what “marriage” is.

  27. Dennis Sceviour

    Asur,
    There is nothing new in the duality, except that it is new to philosophy. Psychology has long noted the duality of introverted and extroverted personalities, popularized by Carl Jung. I was trying to bring philosophy up date with more contemporary terms. I believe clearer definitions are necessary to solve some of the more intricate problems in philosophy. Thus, morality is the study of how people ought to behave, and ethics is the study of how things or systems ought to behave.

    An advantage is the new definitions do not try to manoeuvre the reader into any particular ethic. Another advantage to a new definition for ethics and morality is that it now encompasses environmental ethics and economics. They are now in the proper broader perspective. It does force philosophy to examine other academic disciplines and to take a multi-disciplinary approach to philosophical inquiry. It is shocking to find that even recent writers on morality report as if the topics of sociology and anthropology never existed.

  28. Hi Dennis,

    I agree with you that any field of serious inquiry ignores cognate fields only to its own detriment.

    I’m not sure, though, that your division of the ethical from the moral is justified: For example, if we are talking about how systems ought to behave and we are talking about systems of people (such as political institutions, etc), there are no ‘behaviors’ done by these systems that are not done by the people constituting them, hence talking about how such systems ought to behave is really just talking about how people ought to behave. If that’s the case, your distinction between ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ collapses.

    However, if you’re talking about how systems that have no connection to people ought to behave, ‘ethical’ seems a very strange term to use–it would seem to simply mean something like ‘efficiency’ or ‘optimization’, so my question then would be why introduce ‘ethical’ and risk confusing people regarding what you meant?

  29. Dennis Sceviour

    Asur,
    I believe the definitions clear up confusion. Systems usually, if not always, have a connection with people. The designer of a bridge must determine different ethical issues including traffic usage and environmental impacts. These are extrinsic ethical issues. However, the designers sexual preference, or religious beliefs are intrinsic moral decisions that in no way effect the design of the bridge. The differentiation makes it easy to separate issues; otherwise, a blend of morality and ethics makes faulty judgement.

  30. Sexual preference is a moral decision?

    That implies that there’s a right and wrong to the matter. Are you arguing that? ^^

  31. Dennis Sceviour

    Asur,
    As I said before, I cannot judge the moral issue, but I am concerned about the economics.

  32. I usually just lazily mash together the moral and the ethical, despite getting called on it from time to time. :)

  33. Asur,

    Sexual preference could be a moral decision. However, I am inclined to think that it is generally not even a decision at all. Sexual activity is, of course, a matter of decision (in general).

    I’ve written about orientation being a choice in other posts, mainly in response to claims that it is a choice. If it is a choice, it could be a moral one.

  34. Hi Mike,

    I recall taking an intro Ethics course whose text distinguished ‘ethics’ from ‘morals’ on the grounds that ‘moral’ had something of a religious connotation that ‘ethical’ did not.

    I thought this was silly at the time and paid it no heed.

    You seem to be acknowledging, though, that there is a legitimate difference between them; would you tell me what you are referring to?

    I’d rather not sound behind the times in less hospitable forums than this, if I have the chance to correct an error here.

  35. Asur,

    To be honest, I don’t distinguish between them and it is common usage to use them as synonyms. However, some folks do make the distinction between them. For example, I have heard people distinguish between profession ethics and personal morals. So, if you are behind the times, so am I.

    Naturally, I am fine with folks making a distinction for a good reason, provided that they make it clear what they mean by the terms and why they are making said distinction.

  36. What is a rebuttal to those who argue that if gay marriage is sanctioned, then any marriage is legitimate, such as between a man and his goat?

  37. Easy enough-the goat thing is just a slippery slope argument. If we allow men and women to get married, we can obviously stop there without sliding to goat marriage. If we then allow men to marry men and women to marry women, there seems to be no reason to slide to goat marriage. Marriage is, from the standpoint of law, a legal contract between two people. As such, we can easily stop the slide on the principle that goats are not people. So, just as we do not have to worry about goats getting driver’s licenses or voting, we do not really have to worry about people marrying them.

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