The Marriage Commitment—Reply to Landau

Philosophy 80 (2):279-284 (2005)
The Bachelor's Argument against marriage, as I described it in this journal,1 says that marriage involves taking an imprudent risk of finding oneself committed to a relationship with someone one does not love. The evidence indicates that many people who marry eventually find themselves without the feelings for the other person which made a marital relationship seem worthwhile in the first place; and were that to happen to us, it would seem highly undesirable nonetheless to be locked into a relationship with our spouse as a result of the commitment we made when we married. I went on to argue that several obvious responses to this argument fail. In particular, if we enter into marriage without genuinely intending to keep our promise of maintaining a relationship with our spouse, we will be making an insincere promise. Alternatively, if our promise is sincere, but the morality of promise-keeping is such that when our feelings for the other person fade away the moral force of our commitment is canceled, then the commitment itself seems otiose. However, I did not consider all of the possible responses to the argument, and Iddo Landau has recently made an interesting suggestion about how to interpret the marriage commitment in a way that does not render it immoral or pointless.2 His proposal is that what we are committing ourselves to when we marry is ‘to invest work in performing certain acts that are likely to sustain the
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819105000288
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Elizabeth Brake (2011). Is Divorce Promise-Breaking? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (1):23-39.

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