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


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“Why did you get married?” said Scrooge.
“Because I fell in love.”
“Because you fell in love!” growled Scrooge . . .
— Charles Dickens,
A Christmas Carol

Most of what is wrong with Mr. Girgis’s reply to my article discloses itself when we consider a man who has testicular azoospermia, knows it, falls in love with a woman, and tells her that to a certainty they cannot have children. If these two want to marry, Girgis would marry them. His reason is that the sex they will have is oriented to procreation. But it is not. They will never have children, and their knowing this will make it impossible for them to see their union as procreatively oriented. Thus falls apart Girgis’s explanation of why they should follow the norms he and I care about: The reality of their relationship precisely does not call for life-sharing in order to foster children they know they will not have.

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Why do they want to marry? Is it not because they are in love, have committed to spending their lives together, and want the law to protect their commitment when it comes to such things as property and health care? And are a same-sex couple not also able to make this commitment and deserve such protection?

Both the same-sex couple and the man with testicular azoospermia and his wife have reason to follow marital norms, which I presented and Girgis has ignored. Where there exist children to protect, I want our law to enforce the norms, by making it harder to divorce and by making unwed parents jointly responsible for their children’s welfare. I did not mention it, but I also advocate using the tax code to encourage people who are married and can do so to procreate, and who have procreated but not married to do so. All of this would underscore the serious implications of procreative-type sex (which means: sex that might lead to procreation — not, as Girgis has it, sex like this), and would do so more directly, hence more clearly, than marriage law of the kind traditionalists favor.

Girgis also has ignored this proposal, an omission that reduces his discussion of the sociology of parenting to irrelevance, though it does set him up to falsely claim that I present a brief in Partilla and Riddell’s defense. His implausible view of sex, according to which it is only about the getting of pleasure if not had like this, and his belief that wanting to spend your life with someone can mean nothing other than wanting to spend every waking second with that person, are not true to human experience. And he really is the dualist, because he is making judgments of value based on generalizations about bodies rather than generalizations about being a person — that is, existing in the first person with one’s body and mind united.

To answer Girgis’s several objections, I make the following “oracular pronouncements.”

I. Persons
1. You have a certain point of view; you perceive the world and act upon it from a perspective that is different from mine or anyone else’s.

2. You cannot escape this perspective. You cannot see the world through my eyes or through no one’s eyes, but must see it through your own, and hear it through your ears, and act upon it with your limbs, and so on.

3. What would it even mean to think that your mind inhabits your body as a “vehicle” or “extrinsic instrument”? This makes sense only if you can form some idea of your mind’s not inhabiting your body, of the two existing separate like snapped-apart Lego pieces — and that is just how you cannot think of yourself.

4. Don’t say, “Existing as just a mind would be like dreaming.” When you dream you still have a body.

5. Your mind is not just thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and so on, but their continuity and unification as a point of view. It is your perspective without being any particular part of your perspective.

6. That you have this perspective through your body, that you look out through your eyes and perceive and act upon the world through your brain, is the unity of your mind and your body.

7. You cannot show your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, will, and so on to others, and you cannot show them to yourself; they are not things that can be shown. All the same you have them. And you have them.

8. What can be shown is the world as you perceive and think about and act upon it, and this includes your body and others’, the sounds you and they make as speech, the marks you and they make as writing, and so on, as well as the posited causal history leading up to all this.

9. Through things that can be shown you recognize other minds.

10. Recognize, for it is not an inference. You do not think, “There is a body like mine, moving much as mine does, etc., and so there is also a mind like mine.” At once, you see the body as coming with a mind and a unique perspective that cannot be shown — much as at once you see the configuration of ink on the page as writing.

11. You form some idea of what a person is thinking, feeling, and so on through things that can be shown — his testimony, his actions, his circumstances. You see someone shiver in the snow and understand that he is cold. I call this the “empathetic extension” of your point of view, because it is possible only inasmuch as you can form some idea of yourself shivering in the snow and giving public signs of it similar to his. But again, it is not an inference. And again, there is not this thing being cold to observe and categorize as if sorting Lego pieces by color. Yet any one of us could certainly be cold and show it.


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