Liberalism, autonomy and conjugal love

Res Publica 9 (3):285-301 (2003)
Abstract
This paper argues that a liberal state is justified in promoting relationships of conjugal love – the form of relationship that is the basis of the institution of marriage – on the grounds that they are essential to the development and maintenance of autonomy. A deep human need is that the detail of our lives be recognized (accepted, affirmed, granted importance) by others (or by an other). Autonomy can be compromised when this need is not met. So a state concerned with autonomy ought to be concerned with relationships in which people can be given recognition. This argument justifies support for friendship as well as conjugal love; why is the latter particularly special? The answer is that in conjugal love partners value each other exclusively (i.e., in a way they do not value anyone else). Conjugal relations therefore recognise the uniqueness and individual value of a person's life in away that friendship does not
Keywords friendship  liberalism  love  marriage  recognition
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