Marriage As Rooted In Pre-Social Goods And As Having Radical Potential

Courtney at Feministing is quite skeptical of marriage but characterizes Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) as making a relatively compelling case for “the radical potential to be found in the privacy of the family unit” in her new memoir, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage:

[Gilbert] writes, “It is not we as individuals, then, who must bend uncomfortably around the institution of marriage; rather, it is the institution of marriage that has to bend uncomfortably around us. Because ‘they’ (the powers-that-be) have never been entirely able to stop ‘us’ (two people) from connecting our lives together and creating a secret world of our own.” She references slaves, who married one another in secret ceremonies in various times and places, and the contemporary struggle for gay marriage legislation in the U.S. She goes on:

To somehow suggest that society invented marriage, and then forced human beings to bond with each other, is perhaps absurd. It’s like suggesting that society invented dentists, and then forced people to grow teeth. We invented marriage. Couples invented marriage. We also invented divorce, mind you. And we invented fidelity, too, as well as romantic misery. In face, we invented the whole damn sloppy mess of love and intimacy and aversion and euphoria and failure. But most important of all, most subversively of all, most stubbornly of all, we invented privacy.

I’ve rarely read anything, especially from a mainstream memoir like this one, so convincing as to the radical potential of marriage. I’m not rushing to pick out a ring anytime soon, but I’ve certainly been given food for thought.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • njustus

    that’s an interesting quote.

    i am reminded of jesus’ words (and i’m probably going to skew them badly) to the effect that
    ‘man was not made for marriage, but marriage for man’.
    i think he said that about the sabbath, come to think of it.
    but it’s the idea that– the commitment of the two individuals is what makes the sacrament/relationship sacred, not the ritual somehow imposing a divine, legitimizing quality on a relationship.


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