The philosophical debate concerning marriage extends to the fundamental definition of marriage which refers; to a lawful agreement and civil status, a religious right, and social practice that vary legal jurisdiction, religion doctrines, and culture. This paper will examine the philosophical aspects of marriage and family issues.
Marriage is presented as an institution that regulates social behavior such as sex, reproduction and family life. This seemingly philosophical phenomenon traces its roots back to the classical period where many philosophers reacted upon some substantial subjects regarding marriage and family life. History presents the variation in marital practices, for instance, polygyny, extra-marital issues, same-sex marriages, polygamy, monogamy, and divorces. All these issues have created arguments among philosophers. An assumption can be made that the very many marital problems are caused by the fact that the morals of the society are eroded.
The leading Marxist theory Frederick Engels argues that the evolution of the family unit from monogamy to polygamy was a moral achievement that, according to him, took place way before the keeping of written records (Frederick, 1884). He emphasized that during the savagery period, group marriage predominated while during medieval that he refers to as barbarism period, a form of pairing became common. However, the sound and pivotal change in how society viewed marriage about family life occurred with the beginning of civilization. The steering factor that led to modern monogamy was the change in property relations (Poster, 2013). Frederick views this as a great moral development. He was majorly testing whether monogamous societies are morally advanced than the polygamous society. Monogamy develops out of the pairing family in the transitional period between the stages of barbarism. It is a critical victory that is one of the signs that civilization is at onset. It is also corresponding to the supremacy of the man, the obvious purpose being to produce children of undisputed paternity where such paternity is demanded because these children are later to come into their father's property as his natural heirs (Frederick, 1884).
Rogers Scruton, on the other hand, was also disturbed by the morality of the society regarding marriage and family life. He studied the trend of social views on divorce and emphasized that stigma in society is related is directly related to guilt and furthermore can lead to the regulation of societal behavior in a positive manner (Scruton, 2000). Research has shown that where the community ceases to respond to the moral faults with public sanctions they will also cease to feel the guilt about those faults and consequently their conscience will begin to fail. Scruton (2000) further argues that as societal conscience deteriorates; the norms once held in place by guilt over unjustifiable actions may disintegrate as the disposition to maintain social norms through stigma and shame become seemingly detestable. This is a new form of bad behavior rather than a cure for the unjustifiable actions. Through this analysis, Scruton was trying to establish whether freedom from guilt and stigma is liberating, or whether the movement to freedom is the cracked stepping stone to dysfunction.
With the two arguments, it can clearly be deduced that in many cultural, religious and civil settings, marriage is given different approaches. There are societies that use polygamy as their source of enhancing reproductive success (Bilefsky, 2006) while other societies view it as a way of mistreating females, enhancing chauvinism, under-representing females and making them jealous. To the men, such societies may say that they are subjected to pressure with anxiety on how to provide for a family that they are not well conversant with. Other societies also have faith in monogamous marriage because apart from being characterized by civilization and modernity, it is mainly sound and pivotal in modern society and represents happiness as wealth do. This is a signal that when one is economically and productively set and happy respectively, they would have a greater quality of life. Therefore, in a polygamous marriage there is so much disorientation of quality family life and the result is that parents may lead a single life; that is a typical platform for advocating divorce. Children are left and neglected without being shown full paternal love and care.
Monogamy is the standard approach to modern marriages. It gives the family an assurance of protection, support, and closure. It can, therefore, be said that loss of stigma and more so push for individualism, I am a part of any remarks of a collectivist society. While civilization shaped the monogamous lifestyle, it may be noted that the approval and legality of divorce contributed to the serial monogamous lifestyle. When the reality is acknowledged that the family has passed through successive appearances, the subject at once occurs whether this appearance can be permanent in the future. The only response that can be provided is that family must advance as society does, and change as society changes, just like it has done in the past. The family is the creature of the social system, and will reflect its culture. As the monogamous family has enhanced very much since the beginning of civilization, and very logically in modern times, it is at least presumable that the family is capable of still further enhancement until the gender parity is eradicated. Should the monogamous family in the far prospect fail to answer the requirements of society then it is not possible to envisage the nature of its heirs (Scruton, 2013).
The question remains whether the society is enhancing the collapse of sexual morality or changing back into the patterns most evolutionarily suitable for the prospect species. However, this depends on how the society is to define evolutionarily suitable. The society should determine whether it will define it for a greater population or a more successful and intelligent population. This is a way of also building barricades to future family issues that arise from divorces and extra-marital relations.
In conclusion, this paper has examined the philosophical perception of marriage and family issues and how society contributes to family matters. The modern society has neglected many things in terms of moral and ethical issues; people cannot distinguish what is wrong and right. The old society was a symbol of morality and people upheld the expectations of the society. However, with the modernization and globalization of cultural practices, things have acquired new forms that do not only neglect the morality in the society but also contradicts it.
Bilesfky, Dan. Isiklar journal; Polygamy Fosters Culture Clashes (and regrets) in Turkey. The New York Times. New York Times; 10 July, 2006
Engels, Frederick. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Eleanor Burke Leacock (ed.), New York: International, 1884 (1972)
Poster, Mark. Critical Theory of the Family- Chapter Two. Critical Theory of the Family, 2013 URL http://www.hnet.uci.edu/mposter/CTF/chapter2.html>
Scruton, Roger. Bring Back Stigma City Journal, 2000
Scruton, Roger. Identity, family, marriage: our core conservative values have been betrayed. The Guardian, 2013 URL http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/11/identity-family-marriage-conservative-values-betrayed/
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