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What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense Paperback – December 11, 2012
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"What Is Marriage? There is the question. Thanks to these three eloquent authors for so cogently reminding us of that, and for showing us how reflective reason answers it."
-- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
"This book brilliantly explains why the definition of marriage is so critical and why the strengthening of marriages is absolutely essential to our freedom and our future."
-- Dr. Rick Warren, Author of The Purpose Driven Life and Pastor of Saddleback Church
"A lot more is at stake in the marriage debate than the definition of a word, and this book reveals just how much. Its defense of marriage is philosophical and sociological, not theological, but people of all faiths will find it illuminating and edifying."
-- Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna College
"What Is Marriage? is the most insightful, eloquent, and influential defense of marriage as it has been historically and rightly understood. People of all traditions--and everyone who cares about the future of this central and sacred social institution--owe Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George an extraordinary debt."
-- Meir Soloveichik, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University
"With many countries on the verge of redefining a basic social institution, What Is Marriage? issues an urgent call for full deliberation of what is at stake. The authors make a compelling secular case for marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman, whose special status is based on society's interest in the nurture and education of children."
-- Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University
"What a joy to see this book by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, which presents the most philosophically astute and historically accurate defense of traditional marriage to date. It exposes the incoherence of attempts to radically redefine marriage by showing the inherent wisdom in what is our oldest social institution."
-- David Novak, J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair in Jewish Studies, University of Toronto
About the Author
Sherif Girgis is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton University and a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Princeton, where he won prizes for best senior thesis in ethics and best thesis in philosophy, as well as the Dante Society of America's national Dante Prize, he obtained a B.Phil. in moral, political, and legal philosophy from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
Ryan T. Anderson is William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the editor of Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute. A Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he is a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He has worked as assistant editor of First Things and was a Journalism Fellow of the Phillips Foundation. His writings have appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, First Things, the Weekly Standard, National Review, the New Atlantis, and the Claremont Review of Books.
Robert P. George is a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and previously served on the President's Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. He is a recipient of the United States Presidential Citizens Medal and the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland.
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Given the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is still willing to entertain the idea that principled and universally accessible reasoning to support the traditional view of marriage has ever existed. For those on either side of this issue who would be intellectually honest, the reasoning that is presented in this book can be used as a crucible in which to challenge or refine your own beliefs. For those who no longer care, it offers a compelling explanation of why you should.
I won't be sorry to set aside the time I need to reexamine their line of reasoning. In fact, I look forward to reading it again.
The most pressing chapter, in a way, seemed to be "A Cruel Bargain?", where the authors address the charge of heartlessness in wanting to restrict marriage to (at least formally) procreative couples. I will not review their arguments here, although I think they do a careful job of analyzing and responding to this charge. It struck me, however, that part of the problem is that the popular image of (heterosexual) marriage--the one in a zillion books and movies--is not really about the conjugal ideal that the authors present here. It is purely about emotional attachment, which makes it quite natural that some people could say: "why not put any two adults in front of that altar?" Or: "why not put any number of adults in front of that altar?" Or: "why not put the same individuals any number of times in front of the altar?" (The latter is largely the case already!) In this regard, the conjugal view of marriage may actually include a crucial self-abnegating element, a sense of formal idealism and social duty that colors and perhaps even constrains affection as a principle of action. On this view, the impulse behind arranged marriages may not be fundamentally unreasonable, even if such marriages can be imprudently or insensitively managed. (But are they bungled more often than the self-arranged marriages of today?) Perhaps the arranged marriage is the absolute example of non-gay marriage. Just a thought. In any case, today's popular image of heterosexual marriage is in many ways closer to the revisionist model than the conjugal model, which makes the moderate popularity of the "fairness" argument more understandable.