03 December 2016

Marriage--Biological and Social Reality

In last Saturday's reflection on the meaning of conservatism, I contrasted conservative views of the origins of the state with liberal views. Most liberal theorists move from the individual directly to the origins of the state in some kind of compact among those individuals, Conservatism sees a more historical account of the state with the emergence of intermediate institutions such as household and village before the state. The importance of these intermediate institutions and the conservative theory of government will become more apparent in subsequent posts.


In that last post, I noted Aristotle's view that the state is made up, not of individuals, but of households. Some reflections, then, on the origin of the household.


The household as traditionally understood begins, of course, with marriage. So what is marriage? This post will look at marriage as both a social reality and a biological reality.


Marriage constitutes part of the social reality created my human beings. Marriage, government, money, religion, schools, professional associations, and economic institutions are the most obvious constituents of the social reality of modern mankind. Marriage has been constituted in various ways in different places and time.by human beings. Societies have establish all kinds of customs regarding how many wives or husbands constitute a marriage, minimum age requirements,  what degrees of consanquinity between partners is acceptable, whether marriages should be exogamous or endogamous, and on and on. It is not, as Christian call it, holy matrimony created by God. As such, we can define marriage any way we want. This social reality is based, however, on a fundamental biological reality: the existence of two genders.


Over the course of four million years, biological evolution has yielded two sexes for the reproduction and rearing of offspring to perpetuate the human species. Human reproductive organs possess an evolved compatibility. The male's external reproductive organs and the female's mostly internal reproductive organs when properly functioning enable intercourse and reproduction. Although instinct does not determine human behavior the same way that it does in other species, natural tendencies involving various visual, auditory, and olfactory cues influence human mating. Facial appearance, voice pitch, and the more subtle influences of pheromones such androstadienone and copulance draw the sexes together. Sexual desire itself as a visceral urge is expressed through human sexual intercourse. These biological phenomena assist in establishing human mating generally and finding genetically advantageous mates specifically.


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Men and women have been engaging in sexual intercourse, giving birth, rearing children, and forming extensive kinship networks based upon consanguinity since the emergence of homo sapiens. Wherever humans inhabit the globe, they establish families. And wherever humans establish families, they do so through the pairing of the two genders.


Despite the rise of modern thinking on marriage as partnerships and sex as recreation or physical expressions of emotional affections, it still seems that the begetting of children and family formation constitute the object or purpose of marriage. Scores of young people today even have children before they marry.


Another somewhat esoteric way to see this is to look at marriage from the perspective of Aristotle's four causes:


Formal cause--the institutional reality of marriage as defined in family codes.

Material cause--a man and a woman.

Efficient cause--visceral drives for sexual intercourse, the act of intercourse, and pregnancy itself.

Final cause--birth of a child.

An intractable social problem from which our country suffers today is that missing formal cause, where children are born out of wedlock.


One way perhaps to clarify discourse on this topic (at the expense of brevity) is to define the biological reality as the bonding, pairing, or conjunction of the sexes and the institutional reality as marriage.











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