Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Part 45: (Obergefell v. Hodges (Gay Marriage), the Contextual Self and the Self Coupled): Dialogues on a Philosophy for the Individual

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)

With this post Flora Sapio and I (and friends from time to time) continue an experiment in collaborative dialogue. The object is to approach the issue of philosophical inquiry from another, and perhaps more fundamentally ancient, manner. We begin, with this post, to develop a philosophy for the individual that itself is grounded on the negation of the isolated self as a basis for thought, and for elaboration. This conversation, like many of its kind, will develop naturally, in fits and starts. Your participation is encouraged. For ease of reading Flora Sapio is identified as (FS), and Larry Catá Backer as (LCB).

The friends continue their discussion in which Flora Sapio responds to the friends.   

Contents: HERE.

FS: I can imagine that the reason why during feudal Japan ronins were referred to as “prisoners” was the social rule whereby ronins were expected to commit ritual suicide upon the loss of their master, either because of the master's death, or because of his fall from power. Feudal Japan must have attributed great importance to stable coupled relations – the “marriage” between ronin and daimyo - if ronins were required to follow the daimyo into death. Therefore, those who violated the rule meant to protect stable coupled relations were branded as criminals. This is all very clear and easy to understand.

Man marries for the most diverse reasons, and even those who do not marry form stable bonds. Social relations are the building blocks of society, and man cannot live in a state of transience. This, too, is very clear and easy to understand.

But, since we are talking about marriage, I want to invite you to consider a society where marriage customs have become so open as to legalize temporary marriage (نكاح المتعة). This is not what Zygmunt Bauman would call “liquid love”, but an actual marriage where the duration is determined in advance. Sometimes, the marriage contract can be stipulated in writing. Sometimes, the contract can be concluded orally. There is no maximum or minimum duration for this kind of marriage but, because of one reason or another, you cannot conclude a temporary marriage with the same person twice. Therefore, once the marriage contract ends, one of the partners is discarded and then has to marry someone else. In this hypothetical society, a person may conclude several temporary marriages.

In a society where everyone still thinks of marriage in traditional terms, as an eternal bond, while temporary marriage has become central to social relations, does the threat to the family as the foundation of society come from those who want a traditional marriage, or does it come from the very existence of temporary marriage?

In such a hypothetical society, the transient individual would be neither the foundation for a differentiated self (that foundation perhaps has to be looked for elsewhere) nor a target for the guardians of morality, but the most natural product of the centrality of temporary marriage. With this, I am not saying that relations between individuals should never change over time. On the other hand, don't you guys think that partners in a temporary marriage perhaps are just unable to make exactly the same kind and amount of investment they would make, were they in an old-fashioned marriage? After all, halfway through their marriage, while still being married, having young kids and putting in 8 hours of work a day, they would need to start looking for a new partner...

I think that if anyone were ever to campaign for temporary marriage, I would be with Justice Scalia.

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