11.1. Sex and marriage
There are a number of what are called "natural" societies, which are the last topics we will discuss in our investigation into the basic moral implications of human life. Actually, there are three of them, or perhaps two and a half: marriage (technically called conjugal society, though I won't use the term), the family (including the children), and civil society. The first society naturally develops into the second, which therefore is a kind of extension of it.
These societies are "natural" in the sense that a person either is a member whether he wants to be or not (as a child in the family, or a person in civil society), or that the conditions of the society are not open completely to a person's free choice, as in marriage. Certain things that might be called "marriage" actually contradict what marriage is about, and are morally wrong.
Let us begin, then, with marriage. For a more extended treatment of marriage as a society than you will find here, see my book, Social Philosophy. I will try to include what is necessary to make a case for the moral conclusions.
Preliminary note: I am going to be referring to "the other person" as "he," following what is still acceptable English usage. This is apt to sound as if what is being written is from the woman's point of view; but of course this is not the case. It is the generic use of the pronoun, and refers as much to a woman as to a man. Everything that is said in this chapter, unless specifically stated, refers to both women and men. If the language ever comes up with a pronoun that it totally divorced from gender and is not a grammatical abomination, then this chapter will have to be rewritten. Until then, indulgence is requested.
Marriage is the society which provides the opportunity for the exercise of the sex faculties consistently.
Sex, then, implies marriage. Why is this? Sex, as I said in Chapter 7, is a multi-function act that involves pleasure, another person, and is the type of act that is reproductive. There are two basic reasons why this entails forming a society: first, since it is morally wrong to try to prevent there being any children from one's sexual activity (since this would deny its reproductiveness), then one must be in a situation in which children who may be caused can be brought up decently toward adulthood. But children need the influence of both parents for this; single parent families can be allowed only when the Double Effect applies, because this sort of thing has a danger of damage to the child. Hence, it is contradictory for two people to have sex and say, "Well, if there are children, I (or you) will be able to care for them by my (your) self."
Secondly, the sexual act itself tends by nature to attach a person by strong emotional ties to the partner. Recent experiments with "open marriages" have shown that even couples who thought they were willing to let their partners have sex with anyone else they wanted found that extremely often at least one of the partners could not cope emotionally with this.
Hence, even if one person knows that he will not become attached to his sex partner, he cannot predict that the other will not become permanently emotionally dependent on him, because the act is of its nature apt to have this effect. Hence, to leave the other person means using the other for one's own satisfaction, and violates the personhood of the other.
Therefore, the sexual act in itself is the act of marriage of two people, and consequently it is wrong to exercise it outside a marriage.
Sex is not simply the "friendliest thing two people can do." It is that, but it is more than that; it is by nature committing.
Marriage forms a society between two people until one of them dies.
The reason for this is threefold. First, marriage must last at least until any children reach adulthood, or it contradicts the nature of the children (and therefore the reproductive nature of sex in its consequences). Secondly, since the attachment of sex does not have any natural limit, it contradicts this aspect of its nature to terminate a marriage when a partner "falls out of love." Thirdly, since old people have a need for companionship and--yes, sex--and since old people are not attractive any longer, the only practical way this need can be met is if marriages remain through old age.
Young people are apt not to realize this last point, which becomes very important as one becomes old. And in our youth-oriented society, we find many, many very lonely and sexually frustrated old people who only now realize the terrible effects of divorce upon themselves.
Separation from a marriage partner is not morally wrong when the Double Effect applies; but remarriage after separation is has bad effects which make it for practical purposes always morally wrong.
If a person is beaten or otherwise abused by a marriage partner, then the bad effects of separation (on both partners and the children) may be less severe than the bad effects on all concerned with staying together. Remember, since others (especially the children) are involved, the "worst case" must be used, and one cannot impose one's own ideas of what is bad on others: in general, it is worse to be deprived of parents than to have two parents who are quarreling constantly.
This might occur. But if remarriage after separation is allowed, then (a) this creates an incentive to separate when one person "falls in love" with someone else, and so undermines the stability of what is in any case a difficult relationship; (b) people tend to enter marriage with the idea that "if it doesn't work, we can try with someone else," which undermines even the initial commitment; (c) children, who have "parents" who are not their parents suffer greatly; (d) a partner who deeply loves the other (and is therefore greatly attached) might out of love be predisposed not to fight the other's desire to be "free," and thus the love in marriage works against itself when divorce is allowed.
On the other hand, if remarriage is never allowed, then this creates an incentive for the couple to work out the difficulty, because they realize that they must live together, and hence have to adapt to the realities of the situation. This in fact is what love really is. Hence, the impossibility of remarriage after separation acts to create the conditions under which in practice a rational marriage is possible.
And the practical consequences of allowing remarriage after separation is that the "extreme cases" very rapidly become watered down (because those on the borderline of the "extreme" justly resent not being allowed what others not really different can do), and so divorce and remarriage, instead of being extremely unusual, becomes almost the norm.
And we see what we now have in our society, in little more than two generations: what used to be marriage is now serial polygamy, with half the couples who get "married" divorcing.
Now then, just as marriage is one of the implications of sex, so sex is one of the implications of marriage. Since marriage is the society whose function is to enable sex to be exercised consistently, it follow that
Homosexual couples cannot marry.
Note that this does not say that they "may not" marry or are "forbidden" to marry. It is impossible for them to have a marriage. The reason is that homosexual sexual acts are morally wrong; hence their sexual activity cannot be exercised toward each other consistently inside or outside a permanent commitment.
It is not morally wrong for two homosexuals who love each other but have no intention of having sexual relations to agree to live together permanently, provided that this is not putting them in danger of having sex with each other. But this is not a marriage, strictly speaking, even though it may have many of the characteristics of marriage.
For heterosexuals to live together with no intention of ever having sex is not a marriage, and to go through a marriage ceremony with this in mind is morally wrong.
Living together "as brother and sister," as they say, is not morally wrong, and, using the Double Effect, it would not be wrong for two people to commit themselves to each other for this kind of life (a special case of this was, presumably, Mary the mother of Jesus and Joseph, if what the Bible says is true). The Double Effect must be used, because it involves the bad effect of committing both parties to the non-exercise of sex, when opportunities for a true marriage with someone else might appear. But this living together, which has all the characteristics of marriage except sex, is not a marriage.
The reason it would be wrong to go through a marriage ceremony with this in mind would be that the marriage gives each partner the right to have sex with the other; and it is in general contradictory to extend this right with the intention that the other person never exercise it. The reason for doing something like this would have to be very serious in order to make the Double Effect apply (e.g. if it were the only way to prevent a woman's being "given" to someone else against her will).
Since sex has a reproductive dimension, it also follows that to enter marriage with the intention of having sex but never having a child is immoral.
We saw that contraception is wrong, and having sex only at infertile times has the bad effect of denying the reproductive aspect of the whole of one's sexuality. If one enters "marriage" with the intention of having no children means that one intends all of one's sexual activity in the "marriage" to be non-reproductive, which contradicts one of its aspects. Hence, sex would not be used consistently in this kind of relationship, and it is therefore not a marriage.
This does not mean, of course, that a couple has to intend to have "lots and lots" of children; in general, as we saw, a couple has to limit the number of children they cause to begin to exist to the number that can be decently brought up by them. This may be no more than one child. It is only a contradiction when the intention is to have no children at all.
Of course, this does not mean that an older couple cannot marry, even though they realize that no children can result from their sexual activity. They do not intend not to have any children, and their activity is such that it is the kind of activity that is reproductive; it is just that they realize that children are not, by nature, possible for them. Hence, they have not chosen to make their sexual activity less than what it is; it is less than what it would have been if they were younger; but it now is what it is, without children. Hence, this is still a consistent use of sexuality, and is a true marriage--though not a complete as a marriage that results in children.
And a couple who marry and find that one or the other is infertile have a marriage. They do not intend childlessness; it is just that their sexuality can't have children; and so they act consistently with what it is. They do not have to adopt a child for their marriage to be a true one, though of course there is nothing wrong with adopting a child, and this can for various reasons be a very good act.
[See also Modes, 6.4.2]
11.2. Marriage and love
That is a sketch of the relation between sex and marriage. Now what is the relation between marriage and love? It isn't what you think it is.
Marriage is the only society which presupposes that the members have actual love for each other.
First, let us define what actual love is.
DEFINITION: Love is the choice whose goal is someone else's goal.
That is, it is the choice to do what is good for someone other than oneself. But since "good" is subjective, this has some rather startling implications.
Love is the acceptance of the other person's notion of "good" and acting accordingly, rather than the imposition of one's own idea of what is "good" on the other person.
To do what you think is "good for" another person is not an act of love, especially if this contradicts what the other person thinks is good for him. Then you are imposing your subjective ideals on the other person and refusing to recognize his self-determination (which involves choosing for himself his own ideals). This is the opposite of love, even though it is what many people think love is all about.
Love is a willingness to be used by another person.
That is, it is a willingness to let the other person's will and ideals determine the direction of one's own choices. It gives up self-determination and allows control to be exercised by the other person. Thus, love is not fulfilling for the self; self-fulfillment is precisely irrelevant where love is involved.
It is not love to do what is morally wrong or damaging to oneself because one's beloved wants this. It is immoral to choose what is wrong out of such misguided "love."
The reason is that it is a violation of the beloved's nature for him to want his lover to do what is wrong or for him to want the beloved to violate his own nature. Hence, to choose this would be to choose the violation of the beloved's nature, which is clearly contradictory to love.
So love is a willingness to be used by one's beloved, but it cannot be a willingness to be abused by him.
Now then, the reason why marriage presupposes love is that sex without love implies a contradiction. Since the sex drive is so strong and the emotions involved so violent, the strength of the emotions, if left to themselves, would tend to make one use the other person for the sake of one's own gratification, and would therefore violate the respect one owes to the self-determination of the other.
That is, as I said in chapter 7, the emotions of sex are in themselves selfish, not other-directed. And so not to make a deliberate choice to restrict one's own gratification and recognize the needs and desires of the partner is to violate the partner's nature.
Sex becomes an act of love when one adjusts one's activity to the desires of one's partner and the realities of the act itself.
That is, when one foregoes one's own satisfaction for the sake of the other's, then the act becomes an act of love. If one does not do this, then the act tends to violate the nature of the partner; and thus, sex presupposes love to be engaged in in a human way.
Since sex needs love in order to be consistent, then marriage presupposes actual love of the couple for each other.
Fortunately, there is an aspect of the sexual drive that disposes one toward loving the other person. The sexual drive tends to make a person notice what is good and attractive about the other person as a person and tends to blind one to the other's less noble qualities. Thus, one tends to think of a person one is in love with as a paragon, and to feel quite humble in relation to him.
Thus, even though the satisfaction of the emotions connected with the act of sex tends to be selfish, the sex drive looked at as a whole tends toward a predisposition in favor of respect for the other person as a person, or toward actual love. Even if this were not so, love would be presupposed in marriage, however.
Therefore, polygamous marriages are morally wrong.
That is, marriages of many wives to one husband (polygyny) or many husbands to one wife (polyandria), subordinate the personhood of the people on the multiple side to the personhood of the single partner. It would be a sophism for a man with two wives, for instance, to say that he is "sacrificing his own notion of what is good to theirs." To which one's? Each of his wives will have her own ideals; and the man cannot adopt both; hence, one will be "the favorite," and the other will not have the respect she deserves.
It also follows that it is immoral to get married for the sake of one's own fulfillment.
It is also folly to do so. Marriage is not for one's own gain, but for the sake of the other person. It must be the other's fulfillment that is more important than one's own; and marriage is not a kind of "fifty-fifty" thing where the intention is "I'll help you if you help me." The reason is that if this is the attitude, then it becomes a kind of economic-type relationship, and the love aspect of it is lost. Each person keeps his own notion of what is good and simply yields to the other insofar as there is reciprocity.
But in an intimate relationship that lasts for years, this clash of notions of "good" that are retained eventually is recognized as a fundamental incompatibility of values, which makes it impossible to continue living together.
Hence, there must be the willingness to give up one's values and adjust them to the reality of the partner, or the marriage will tend to contradict itself.
This does not mean that one cannot predict happiness from marriage; it is just that one's own happiness must not be the goal for which one chooses to marry.
The reason why it is possible (and likely, if the marriage is entered consistently with its reality by both partners) that one will be happy being married is this:
One's motive is the happiness of the other person. But in a good marriage, the other person loves one; therefore, the other person becomes happy by one's own fulfillment. Hence, in a good marriage a person acts to fulfill himself, not for his own sake, but because this is the best way to make his partner happy.
One also acts for one's partner's fulfillment, of course, and does not stand in his way. Hence, there is happiness at seeing the other person fulfill himself as well as the satisfaction of fulfilling oneself for the satisfaction of the other person.
The best of both worlds, in other words.
Note that this particular multi-layered happiness comes only if one's intention is giving up seeking one's happiness for its own sake. If this is not done, the goal-seeking of each partner interferes with that of the other, and they must defer to the other, respecting the other's rights. In a true marriage, rights do not really enter into the motivation, because one is interested in subordinating oneself to the goals of the other person, not simply being careful not to violate the other's nature.
Even if the marriage is less than ideal, the attitude of love makes being "used" unimportant to one; and many difficult times are got through this way.
Since marriage presupposes actual love, then there is no authority in marriage.
It used to be held that in "conjugal society" (marriage), the man "by nature" had the authority, because the man was stronger and more aggressive. But authority has nothing to do with physical strength or aggressiveness. Authority, remember, is basically the right to command and punish; and since commanding means telling another what the other must do, the characteristic which would give a person "natural" authority would be wisdom, not strength.
But neither sex has by nature more wisdom than the other, because "degrees" of wisdom depend on how much information one can be conscious of at one time (so that one can understand more or less complex relationships); but this limitation of brain-capacity is not sexually dependent. Hence, neither sex has anything by nature which would give it authority over the other.
Further, if marriage presupposes actual love, authority is not needed, because authority exists to motivate non-fulfilling behavior on the part of those who are basically self-interested. But in marriage, the partners are interested in the other person primarily, and will therefore tend to want to do what the other wants, and do not need to be threatened to do so.
Hence, it is morally wrong for one partner to presume to give orders to the other and impose sanctions for disobedience.
This, of course, does not mean that there is not leadership in a marriage. But which of the partners is the leader depends on which has the greater wisdom and ability to persuade, not on maleness or femaleness. And, in fact, throughout history women have been the actual leaders in many if not most marriages, whatever their legal position.
Of course, the notion that men had authority over their wives led to many abuses of the personhood of women, even by men acting in good faith. It is time for the theory behind this to be revealed for the sophism it is.
11.3. The family
Since marriage involves sex, and sex tends to produce children, marriage naturally tends to evolve into the family. To begin, keep in mind the following warning:
Beware the fallacy that "every child should be a wanted child." It sounds plausible; but it is quite possibly that attitude that has been responsible for the increase in battered children. The reason is that when a couple "wants" a child, they are thinking of how "fulfilling" having a child would be; and children are rarely fulfilling to the parents--they tend to be the opposite. Parents, then, "wanting" children, are unprepared for the fact that children force many many restrictions on parents' own goal-seeking; and they tend to resent the demands and the nuisance children are, once the newness has worn off. And then they take it out on the kids.
The common goal of the family is to provide the opportunity for the children to grow up into adults who can utilize as far as possible their self-determination.
The children's development, then, is the common goal of the family as a society; and the parents have the obligation of adjusting their lives to this goal; and if it means giving up or postponing careers, then this is the way things are.
It is morally wrong for parents to seek their own self-development at the expense of the development of the children.
That is, if there is a choice between parents' advancement where the children have less of a chance to develop or the children's greater development at the expense of missed opportunities for the parents in their careers, then the parents' development is the one that is to yield.
The reason, of course, is that the parents have caused the children to begin to exist, and therefore have to take the consequences of their action. The children did not ask to be born; it is the parents' action which produced them; and therefore, the parents have no right to expect the children to be subordinate to their own development.
This does not mean that parents may not make their children do things; because children have to be taught that they have obligations and must make contributions to societies they are in, without necessarily receiving any compensation for their service. But this sort of thing may be done because it prepares the children for adult life, not because children are handy labor-saving devices for parents.
(Any parent knows anyway that it is twice as much work to make the kids do something as it is to do it yourself.)
Parents have authority over their children, and may (and in general must) command them and punish them when they disobey.
The reason is that children think abstractly and are not concretely aware of the consequences of their acts (or believe that by wishing the consequences not to occur, they will not). Hence, they cannot for a long time make--or be expected to make--rational choices. Parents, then, have the obligation of forcing them to do what is concretely rational, based on the parents' knowledge of consequences, so that the children will not unwittingly do themselves damage.
Parents have joint authority over their children.
That is, each parent, who was fully responsible for their being a child (since each one could have prevented the act that caused it), therefore has full authority over the child. The authority is not divided half-and-half, nor is it vested in one or the other parent and "delegated" to the other one. A command from one parent is just as much to be obeyed as a command from the other. This follows, of course, from the fact that neither partner in the marriage has authority over the other one.
And what follows from this is that
It is morally wrong for one parent to countermand a command of the other, unless he clearly sees that the command would be damaging to the child if obeyed. A command by either parent must stand and be supported by the other parent, even if he does not agree with it.
Not to do this is to act as if you have the authority and your partner either doesn't have it or has it on sufferance from you, both of which are false.
Even if one parent commands something that violates a right of the child (does him damage), the releasing of the child from obedience has to be done in such a way that the child does not get the impression that he can disobey when he feels like disobeying or must come running to the other parent to see if it is all right to obey.
Parental commands should not seem arbitrary to the child, but it must also be clear that the reason the child has to obey is the authority of the parent, not the cogency of the reasons.
The reason for this is that the child must learn the difference between commands and good advice. If commands are given in such a way that the attempt is to persuade the child by the reasons for the action, then this reduces the commands to the level of advice, and prevents the child from learning that what gives commands their force is not their wisdom but the sanctioning power of the authority.
At the same time, since commands in society have to be consistent with the common goal and the common good of the society, then the child is to be given reasons for the command to show that the command itself should be reasonable, even though the motivating force is not solely the reasonableness of the command.
Parents must punish children for violations of their commands.
If they don't actually carry out the sanctions, the commands lose their force as commands, and once again degenerate into advice; thus preventing the child from learning the hard lesson that in society one must do what is not "reasonable" in the sense of "personally advantageous," and that not to do so is to incur penalty from the society.
Parental authority diminishes as the child grows up and eventually ceases when the child gets into a position to be able to choose his own life.
A child turns into an adult when society in general passes from helping him develop himself to expecting him to contribute to the society. Thus, the self-development of an adult is his own business, and is irrelevant to the society. Instead of helping an adult develop himself, the society simply does not hinder self-development. But the adult also becomes a full member of the society, and thus the society now expects cooperative acts from him.
When this occurs varies from culture to culture and person to person. In some cultures, this happens right at puberty (usually signaled by some sort of ceremony). In our culture, when a person finishes going full-time to school (and is in a position to work full-time), then he is an adult. Even people in their twenties, therefore, who are going for Doctorates and are working part-time are not yet fully adults in our culture (though they are close enough as makes no difference). But undergraduates in college are still children, because society has no expectations of non-self-fulfilling conduct from them; and therefore, parents still have some authority over them.
Obviously, when adulthood occurs is not something that is fixed by nature, but depends on social expectations, and so may legitimately vary from culture to culture.
The family ceases to exist as a society when the last child becomes an adult.
This does not mean that there is not a loving relationship among the members of what used to be the family, nor does it mean that adult children must leave home. What it means is that (a) parents no longer have a moral obligation to subordinate their own self-development to that of their children, but simply not to hinder their self-development; and (b) that children no longer have a moral obligation to obey their parents, but only the obligation to respect them (as causes of their beginning to exist).
When an adult child lives at home, then, his reality is that of a boarder, though, of course, he is still loved by his parents. They may set rules for what is to be done in their house; but this is not because they have any authority over him as parents, but because the house is theirs and he is their guest. If he doesn't like the rules, he is free to move out; in which case, the parents cannot morally try to control his life.
But getting our child to adulthood brings us to the third "natural" society.
[See also Modes, 6.4.3]
11.4. Civil society
This last of the "natural" societies, or societies that one belongs to by demands of nature rather than for purposes of pursuing specific goals, is called "civil society" or sometimes "the state," and is the society whose authority is called "government."
DEFINITION: Civil society is the society whose common goal is the common good of the members.
That is, civil society is the society whose function it is (whose common goal is) to see to it that no right of any member is trampled on (the common good)--or in other words, that each member has a chance to lead at least a minimally human life.
[See also Modes, 6.4.4]
22.214.171.124. Its necessity
Whenever there is a large number of people together, it is to be expected that the activities of some will violate the rights of others (even with good will, since some people will not necessarily have enough sophistication to recognize that others have the rights they in fact have).
It is also to be expected that there will be those who will not be able to defend themselves by their own resources.
From this it follows that
In all but the smallest aggregations of people, it is impossible for people to lead a human existence unless they cooperate for the common good. Therefore, there must exist a society which has this function; and by definition this is civil society.
Hence, civil society is necessary for human existence.
it is immoral for a person to refuse to belong to civil society
The reason is that this is a refusal to cooperate to see that the people's rights are not violated; and since a person expects that others are not to violate his rights (and this can't be done without cooperation), he contradicts himself if he excludes himself from the cooperative venture which has this function.
So civil society is a society which people can't morally avoid belonging to, as I said in the preceding chapter.
And of course, it follows from this that a person is bound by the laws of the civil society he belongs to, and is subject to its authority.
It used to be held that the family was the unit of civil society, which was therefore a system of cooperating families. This may have been true in the days of the "extended family," where more than one marriage with children lived together as a kind of minor civil society united by "blood" under the authority of the patriarch (or matriarch, depending on the culture). But it is no longer true in our culture, and it wasn't fully true there.
DEFINITION: The citizen is the member of civil society. He is any adult who was born in the society, or who has been received by law as a member (the "naturalized" citizen).
Children in a society have a kind of "citizenship" in that the society has the obligation to prevent violations of their human rights; but they are not citizens in the sense that the society can make demands on them for cooperative activity. What is done with children must have their own development as its primary purpose. Hence, they are not full members of the society until they reach adulthood.
The point here is that the member of civil society is not the family (so that society commands the families, and they transmit the commands to the individual), but the individual adult, whether he is a member of a family or not.
We will see something of civil society's relation to the family later.
DEFINITION: Government is the authority of civil society.
11.4.2. The Principle of Subsidiarity
But if the function of civil society is the preservation of the members' rights, then since human beings as people have the generic right to do what they please, it follows that for the government to do too much for its citizens would be for it to prevent the citizens from determining themselves; and this would be to violate their right.
Therefore, the welfare state is a morally wrong state, even if the people in it live in prosperity.
The society has exceeded its authority in giving the people more than they need to be minimally human, because it discourages their taking control over their lives, and thus dehumanizes them.
We saw this earlier.
DEFINITION: The Principle of Subsidiarity is the principle on which civil society is to function: In supplying the human needs of the citizens, it must not do more than what in practice the citizens cannot do for themselves (either alone or by forming voluntary groups).
That is, if the citizens can supply a need by themselves--in practice--then the government is to keep hands off. The problem, of course, comes in what you mean by "in practice." People can get across the Ohio river in small boats and ferries, or could band together to build bridges; but in practice, this would be so difficult and expensive that it would create hardship to leave it to individuals. Hence, the government can build bridges. But for the government to guarantee an income, say, of the equivalent of fifteen thousand 1990 dollars to every citizen would not only be to do something that practically everyone could do for himself, it would create a disincentive to take low-paying jobs (which can lead to higher-paying ones) and would discourage self-development.
In general, the government's function is to step in when it sees that a citizen or group of citizens is actually having his rights violated (either negative ones or by not being allowed--for any reason--to get what he needs to live a human life), and then to take steps to see to it that the right is upheld.
It should try to do this with as little interference with the freedom of other citizens (including paying taxes) as possible.
[See also Modes, 6.4.4]
11.4.3. The Principle of Least Demand
Since civil society is a society, then it can pass laws (in this case, for the common good). This means that it can make demands on some citizens for the preservation of the rights of others.
Thus, civil society can restrict by law the freedom of some citizens when their exercise of their freedom deprives some other citizens of some right they have. It can prevent, for instance, people from making pornographic films using children, even if the children are paid.
Civil society can also tax the relatively affluent citizens in order to have money to function and to supply money to those who cannot in practice supply their own needs.
In protecting the citizens against violations of their rights, whether by giving what is needed to avoid dehumanization or by restricting activities that harm citizens, the Principle of Least Demand must be followed.
DEFINITION: The Principle of Least Demand states that the government's action in protecting citizens' rights must be the one that makes the least demand on the least number of citizens.
That is, even if a certain type of action could be more efficient in correcting an injustice, if that action makes greater demands on the citizenry than necessary, it is not to be taken. The reason is that civil society must leave the citizens as free as is compatible with their cooperation in the common good; otherwise, it goes against the basic self-determination of the persons in society, and is thus self-contradictory.
Civil society, then, is to be "just" rather than "compassionate." If citizens are dehumanized, the government must do something about the matter; but if they are simply less well off than other citizens, or even not as well off as they might be or could be with governmental help, the government must keep hands off.
[See also Modes, 6.4.4]
11.4.4. A note on "Christian civil society"
Since many of the people reading this book will probably be Christian, it is perhaps worth raising the question (if civil society is to be just rather than compassionate) of to what extent civil society can base itself on the Christian principles of turning the other cheek, doing more than what is commanded, and so on. Can civil society be Christian, in fact?
It seems strange to say this, but No, it must not be Christian, in the sense that it is generous and accepting of injustices and so on.
It is all right for an individual (using the Double Effect) to allow others to treat him unjustly and to violate his rights--to offer the other cheek when slapped, to give his shirt to a person who forces him to give his coat, and so on--choosing the benefit to the violator rather than the harm to himself. It is also perfectly all right for an individual to do for others more than he strictly has to do, and even to do so much that he himself is deprived, if the Double Effect can justify this (as it often can).
But civil society cannot act this way. The reason is that people do not freely choose to be in civil society, and so if, for example, the government decides that it would be "more Christian" not to defend the citizens against an attack, choosing the benefit of the attacking society and merely permitting the violation of the rights of the citizens, the government would be contradicting the very function of civil society, which is the protection of the rights of the citizens.
Again, if the government does more than what is the minimum necessary to avoid (relative) dehumanization of the less-well-off citizens, then it can only do this by making demands on the richer ones. But since the richer cannot avoid being in the society, they are not free to refuse the demands, which puts them in the contradictory position of being forced to do for others more than they have to do for others. Thus, the rights of the rich would be violated by the government's generosity--and it can't use the Double Effect to justify this, because by the supposition, it isn't protecting a right of the poor, but just doing what is a good thing to do to the poor.
This is not to say that there can't be freely-joined organizations within civil society whose function is to perform generous acts and act, in general in a Christian way as a group. Various churches and religious orders, in fact, usually exist in societies and have that function. The point is that, just by the nature of civil society, these generous activities cannot be taken over by civil society itself without its contradicting itself.
11.4.5. Defense of society: war
Since citizens cannot lead human lives unless civil society functions, then civil society has as much right to function as human beings have to live. It follows from this that
Using the Double Effect, civil society must defend itself and its citizens when attacked.
This is not merely a right the society has, but a moral obligation of the government. The reason is that, as we saw in the preceding section, the government's very existence has as its purpose the defense of the rights of the citizens; and hence if it is attacked and refuses to defend itself, it is allowing the citizens' rights to be trampled on. It cannot allow itself to be overthrown, because the preservation of the citizens' rights depend on its functioning.
Civil society defends itself against its members by passing laws with sufficient sanctions to deter overthrow of the society. We saw this earlier in sections 10.1.3. and 10.1.3.1. What now concerns us, then, is the defense of aggression by other societies.
The first way to defend itself against aggression, and the way which must be used first is to be strong enough to discourage aggression.
That is, the society must present a posture to potentially hostile societies that makes it clear that if the other society decides to attack, it is not likely to succeed, and that the cost to the attacking society would outweigh the gain from the attack.
The reason this must be done first is that if it succeeds, no lives are lost on either side. That is, war is prevented by this posture; and the citizens must be defended short of war if at all possible.
Does this mean that things like nuclear stockpiles and the ability to destroy the world ten times over are justifiable? Yes. Even though such weapons may not morally be used (as we will see shortly, they may be stockpiled as if to be used if this is likely to prevent a war, using the Double Effect.
The reasoning goes this way: 1) The act of having the weapons is not of itself wrong; wrongness would be involved in using them. Nor is the act of having them as if to use them wrong, because by having them no information is conveyed to potential attackers as to whether they will be used to repel an attack.
That is, potential attackers will see that the defending side can destroy the whole attacking nation, and therefore might do so, even if it is morally wrong to do so. The attacker cannot count on the morality of the defending government, and therefore does not know whether the weapons will be used or not. Hence, having the weapons as if to use them (even though one has no actual intention of using them) is not a lie, since no information is conveyed.
2)The act has a good effect: it is likely to prevent a war by an attacker who is stronger in other ways. There are numerous bad effects: the possibility that the weapons will be used; the possibility that the attacker will get itself into a superior position in the "arms race" and attack before the defending nation can build up a deterrent; the money that is diverted from other uses to build up the deterrent. 3) None of these bad effects is a means to the good effect. 4) None of the bad effects is a motive; the motive is solely to deter attack. 5)The sum of the bad effects is not greater than what would happen if the stockpiling were not done.
This fifth point, of course, is also in dispute. On the assumption that not having the stockpile of weapons would encourage a reasonable attacker to attack, then it is fulfilled.
These are the grounds on which stockpiling weapons of mass destruction can be justified. Whether these conditions are met in the situation of the United States vs. the Soviet Union is not a matter of morality, but of factuality. The point here is that it is not inherently evil to have such weapons, and whether it is right or wrong in a specific case depends on the specific facts of that case, not the general principle of the "horror of nuclear war" or the "evil of nuclear weapons."
If deterrence does not work, and if an attack has either happened or is in active preparation, the nation may defend itself by commanding some of its citizens to take action defending their country.
In defending itself, the only legitimate action must be that which blocks the attack by the attacking nation.
That is, attacking enemy people may be killed and property of the attacking country may be destroyed only when the death and destruction can be kept out of the choice.
Destroying whole cities and demoralizing the nation, as we saw in defending ourselves against Germany and Japan, can be a very efficient way to end the war. But the end does not justify the means, and destroying whole cities is not in any stretch of the imagination blocking an attack by those citizens, who for the most part are doing what they would be doing whether there was a war or not. Hence, their death is the means to the "breaking of the will" of the attacking country, and so must be chosen.
In general the enemy army is a legitimate target for defensive action, because an army makes no sense except in the context of war--and so it may be presumed to be "the other nation as aggressive or attacking." Similarly, the manufacture of munitions and weapons of war is a warlike activity, and can therefore be destroyed as an act of blocking aggression without choosing the death and destruction. If some few civilians happen to be in the area of a munitions factory to be bombed, in general their deaths need not be chosen in defending one's country, any more than a person who is defending himself against an attack chooses the harm that comes to a bystander who happens to be watching the fight.
But destruction of activities that make sense in time of peace (such as food production, which can be used to feed the army, but is obviously something that goes on anyway, war or not) would involve not only the defense, but also the harm to the enemy nation, and so would enter the choice.
Hence, weapons of mass destruction cannot be used in defense of one's country.
There is nothing especially forbidden about using nuclear weapons, as long as they are not weapons of mass destruction, and can be used against military targets as described above. In fact, the so-called "neutron bomb" which was a shell not a bomb, and whose function was to destroy the attacking army while doing no damage to property is a morally more acceptable weapon in itself than conventional weapons. The only thing it has against it (supposing it would work) is the possibility of escalation, once it is used, into the use of weapons of mass destruction. This fear, it seems to me, was based more on panic at the word "nuclear" than on fact.
There is more to the subject, of course; but let this be enough for defense of a society.
[See also Modes, 6.4.4]
11.4.6. Civil society and the family
I said earlier that the member of civil society is the individual citizen, not the family; but of course, it is still true that one of the major concerns of civil society is the protection of the family, since the citizens are parents in families not by choice so much as by nature, and therefore have the implied rights to have the family's existence not be hindered by what others do.
Civil society and the people in it must not take the attitude that one "freely chooses" to get married, in a sense analogous to freely choosing to buy a car or join a club.
The reasons for this are first, that marriage (and the resulting family) is the only way that sex can be consistently engaged it, and, while one may (using the Double Effect) remain a virgin, to exercise one's sexual faculties is a relatively inalienable right, not a "free choice." It is a need of nature. Secondly, one does not get married for the sake of one's own fulfillment (as one buys a car or joins a club), and hence it is unjust to treat this choice as if it were at all like choices that involve personal goals and values.
Thus to make it economically disadvantageous to get married or to have children is to coerce people economically into not getting married, or into not having any children. The first coercion would be unjust, the second immoral.
I say this, because "equal pay for equal work," when enacted into law does precisely this. It penalizes those who have economic responsibility for more than themselves by lowering their income to the level of those who have the same job description but whose income supports no one but themselves. Thus, an income which allows a single person to take a trip to Europe every year may not even meet the necessities of a family of four.
"So what?" you say. "It was your choice to get married." This is precisely the attitude that is morally wrong.
There is an extended discussion on the contradictions involved in "equal pay for equal work" in my book Ethics with Applications to Economic Life and Business, which I refer you to. I put it here because that concept tends to be destructive of the family, something that civil society must not allow.
But this raises another host of thorny issues, which must be left to an extended treatise on the morality of society (which is another of the things that I have no book on as such, though much of it can be found not only in the book just mentioned, but in my Social Philosophy). Hence, let us terminate this inadequate overview at this point.
Summary of Chapter 11
Marriage is the society which provides the opportunity for the consistent exercise of the sex faculties. A society is needed because the reproductive aspect of sex tends to attach people to each other. The society lasts until one of the partners dies, because of the children, the attachment, and the need older people have of sex and companionship. Separation may be allowed using the Double Effect, but the consequences of remarriage with someone else after separation are too serious for it to be allowed in practice: it creates an incentive for divorce, it weakens the commitment from the beginning, children tend to be harmed by it, it tends to make love work against itself, and the exceptional cases become the rule in a short time.
Homosexuals cannot marry, because their use of sex is not consistent anyway. To live together without sex is not a marriage, and to go through a ceremony of marriage intending not to have sex is morally wrong, since it yields a right to another, but supposes the other is not going to exercise it. To enter marriage intending to have sex but never children is immoral. In cases, however, where there is infertility, there is a marriage, and there is no contradiction.
Love is the choice whose goal is someone else's good, which means accepting the other person's notion of "good" rather than one's own; love is willingness to be used, but it is not love to violate one's own nature for the beloved, because this contradicts the beloved's nature. The emotional aspect of sex is in itself selfish, and tends toward exploitation of the other partner unless it is made into an act of love by adjusting one's activity to the desires of the partner and the realities of the act. Since sex needs love for consistent exercise, marriage presupposed actual love of each partner for the other. This excludes polygamous marriages, and it means that one's own fulfillment must not be the motive for marrying. This does not prevent happiness in marriage, however. Since marriage presupposes love, there is no authority in a marriage, because neither partner is by nature wiser than the other, and authority is not needed. There is leadership, however; but this depends on which partner is in fact more persuasive.
Since sex is reproductive, marriage evolves naturally into the family, whose common goal is to provide the opportunity for the children to grow up into adults who can utilize as far as possible their self-determination. It is morally wrong for parents to seek their own self-development at the expense of the children. Parents jointly have authority over their children and musts command them and punish disobedience, or the children will not understand what authority is. Neither parent may countermand a command of the other, unless the command does damage to the child. Parental authority diminishes as the child grows, and ceases altogether when he becomes an adult, or a person society expects acts from, as opposed to helping in his self-development. The family ceases to exist as a society when the last child becomes an adult, though the members may have loving relationships and live together.
Civil society is the society whose common goal is the common goal (the rights) of the members. It must exist, because even people of good will can inadvertently violate others' rights; and so people must cooperate to prevent this. Therefore, it is immoral to refuse to belong to civil society. The citizen is the member of civil society: this is any adult who was born in the country or any "naturalized" person. Government is the authority of civil society.
Civil society must leave its members self-determining as much as possible; therefore, the welfare state is morally wrong. The Principle of Subsidiarity states that government is not to supply needs that the citizens can either supply themselves or can supply by forming smaller groups. When making demands of citizens in performing its function, civil society must use the Principle of Least Demand, that is, choose the course of action that makes the smallest demands on the smallest number of citizens, not necessarily the most efficient way to get the job done.
Civil society must not do more than the minimum to avoid dehumanization, and therefore cannot be "Christian" in the sense of permitting overthrow or injustice against itself (the citizens) or doing more than it has to. In either case, it violates the rights of the citizens and therefore contradicts its reason for existence.
Since civil society's functioning is necessary for human existence, civil society (and government) can defend itself against aggression from without as well as (by laws) aggression from within. The first way to do this is to be strong enough to deter aggression; and it this can only be done by stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, then this is legitimate, using the Principle of Double Effect. If deterrence fails, the nation may command some of its citizens to go to war to defend it. But the only legitimate actions in war are those which block attacks from the enemy; enemy deaths, suffering, and the destruction of enemy property must not be chosen. Therefore, weapons of mass destruction must not be used.
One of civil society's major concerns is to protect the family, since people enter into it by a relatively inalienable right of nature. Hence, acts that hinder marrying and having children are morally wrong; it is wrong to equate the choice to get married with choices that are in pursuit of one's own goals. Specifically, equal pay for equal work in effect penalizes those who have more people to support than themselves, and tends toward destruction of the family.
Exercises and questions for discussion
1. If the sex act is itself the act of marriage, doesn't this mean that people nowadays are practicing polygamy? What does this sort of thing do to children?
2. Isn't it natural for people to be promiscuous? If so, isn't it contrary to nature to commit yourself to one partner for life? Therefore, isn't marriage the way the book describes it morally wrong?
3. If (a) you can't count on getting something out of marriage (since it's based on love, not "fulfillment") and you can't get out of marriage once you make the commitment, then why get married? (This, you recall, was St. Peter's question when Jesus said that divorce was forbidden.)
4. If marriage is "total giving" and "complete openness," does this mean (a) that a spouse should be willing to take abuse from the other, or (b) that a spouse cannot keep anything about himself private without the spouse's knowing about it?
5. If there is no authority in marriage, then who should make the decisions for the couple?
6. Is a progressive income tax justified by the Principle of Least Demand, if there are expenses that the government has to meet?