Two Views of Marriage: Appendix
A reply to Sherif Girgis.


17. Epistemological skepticism is about things that can be shown. Moral skepticism is about things that cannot be shown.

18. The expectation that persons will be protected equally under the law is the political consequence of believing that value does not depend on who it is that finds it.

19. You find value as a conscious, mentally competent person. To find the value that something has, you must ask how such a person would look upon it, and you can do so — through empathetic extension prompted by the careful observation of whats — only if you are such a person yourself. (As such a person, you might say that you would find value in others’ restricting your liberty or making decisions on your behalf if you were incompetent. You also might say that others may defend themselves if you attack them.)

20. You do value whats that are not experiences, but you value them — yourself or on behalf of others — as the kind of thing that has experiences, and so if experience is relevant to the valuation you have to take it into account. That’s what I meant when I wrote: “[Girgis] assigns to the body’s reproductive function a fixed value for two classes of person between whom that function’s fulfillment in experience differs greatly, yet for whom the value of sexual intimacy as the expression of love is the same.” It is also part of what the “experiential” in my definition of marriage is meant to convey. (The rest I explain below, at III:11 and III:14.)

21. You find value in states of affairs of which you are not conscious — for example, that your embryonic body was not destroyed. But the moral importance of not murdering a child in the womb or a person who dreamlessly sleeps is based on the value that that person finds or will find in existing. You understand what he would ask in relation to your situation of choice by knowing what you would ask if the roles were reversed.

22. Thus we also explain why sexually abusing an unconscious person “who never finds out and sustains no lasting physical or psychological injuries” is worse than clipping his or her toenails without permission. It is not enough to say that people have bodies and not just minds. You have to ask how persons would value various treatments of their unconscious bodies.

23. My view has no trouble distinguishing vandalism of property from violation of bodies. You distinguish your body from your property, then make a derivative distinction between other bodies and objects that are not bodies.

III. Maximal Experiential Union
1. It is what two people promise to seek when they say to each other, as in a wedding vow, “Because we are in love, I will give myself to you and only to you, and take your good as fully equal to my own, and spend my life with you whatever concrete form that takes.” By extension they promise to their children, should there be any, that they will raise them lovingly in a single stable home, but they do not promise this until such children become recognizable by the public sign of conception.

2. As a promise, it is fulfilled by acts of will and not just feelings, though feelings may help motivate the will. It is also motivated by the goodness of the life they build together and their desire to preserve its value.

3. Requited love is not private.

4. Girgis reduces “being in love” to “feelings” to “urgent desire and ecstatic delight” in order to conclude, with helpful italics, that whatever we are now talking about is best understood as a “bloom on marriage.” I am uncertain as to the meaning of this.

5. For two persons to be in love is not just for them to have certain kinds of feeling. It is also a distinct behavior, and as such it is public signs. Here are some of them: courtship; prioritizing the relationship above other relationships; physical and sexual expression of affection and love; seeking the beloved’s good more urgently and comprehensively than the good of any other person; merging domestic affairs and making a permanent, exclusive, public commitment — the point at which it becomes maximal experiential union.

6. Of course being in love does not require constant strong romantic feeling; you can be in love with someone through an argument or at a time when you feel nothing much at all. But to fall in love does require having romantic feelings, and to remain in love implies their ongoing potential.

7. Of course your feeling toward the beloved changes with time; but at all times it is different from nonromantic feeling, just as being in love with someone is at all times different from friendship and other kinds of relationship.

8. You have only your own romantic feelings, just as you fall in love only with the people you fall in love with. This does not mean we may not take feeling into consideration when asking what someone’s relationship is like and what kind of value it might have — any more than your having only your own headaches means that you shouldn’t offer me some aspirin when I’m rubbing my head and telling you I have a migraine, or that the government should not try to preserve conditions that allow a pharmaceutical industry.