Marriage, contract, and the state
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This thesis is a work of applied moral and political philosophy which analyses the moral value of marriage and argues for a restructuring of the legal institution of marriage in accordance with principles of justice. The first section contains exegesis and criticism of Kant's and Hegel's accounts of marriage. Kant's focus is on the contractual exchange of rights, Hegel's on the nature of the relationship between the spouses. In the second section, I consider Kantian, Hegelian, and eudaimonistic accounts of the moral value of marriage and conclude that moral value is found in the relationship between the spouses, not in the rights established through the marriage contract. In order to defend the position that loving relationships have moral value, I elucidate what moral value love for a particular other has within a universalist ethics. While I argue that marriage has no moral value which is not to be found in such relationships, I defend a Hegelian account which locates social value in the institution of marriage precisely because it promotes such relationships. In the final section, I argue that the principle of liberal neutrality requires that the principle of freedom of contract should apply to marriage. While I defend the institution of marriage against certain feminist criticisms, I also argue that justice requires that the state recognize same-sex and polygamous unions as marriages. Freedom of contract may be limited under certain conditions in the interest of gender equality; I argue for an interpretation of Rawls' principle of equal opportunity which entails that liberalism is committed to addressing gender inequality even at the expense of freedom of contract.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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