Review of Metaphysics 54 (4):815 - 858 (2001)

Edward Halper
University of Georgia
FEW PHILOSOPHERS, NONE APPROACHING HIS STATURE, would agree with Hegel’s claim that we have an ethical duty to marry. More commonly, philosophers sanction marriage as ethically permissible, as Kant does, or even, at least in recent years, reject marriage as ethically illegitimate. Hegel’s view reflects his understanding of the family as a moral institution, that is, an institution in which mere participation is a moral act and, therefore, obligatory. The notion that the family is or, at least, is supposed to be moral has become so deeply ingrained that it may sound perverse to suppose that its morality needs any sort of justification; on the other hand, it is difficult to understand why marriage and family should be obligatory. The first aim of this paper is to answer the question, why does Hegel think that marriage is a moral institution that we have a duty to enter? The issue here is not how to recover or preserve “family values” but why the family has any value at all morally. To refine the issue, I will contrast Hegel’s approach with that of someone who, surprisingly, denies the intrinsic moral value of the family, Aristotle.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph200154443
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