The Philosophical Institution of Marriage

December 17, 2011 by NG1988  
Published in Marriage

A view on the institution of marriage.

            Ever since I was a little girl my mother and grandmother especially always talked of, “when you get married,” and “when you grow up you’ll marry a doctor or a lawyer”. Getting married has always been something everyone in my family, as I’m sure it is for most people, has aspired to. Of my blood relatives over the age of 18, 74% of us are married. I’ve always felt as though it’s simply what we’re meant to do. I never thought of marriage being a contractual agreement binding one to another and prohibiting certain actions of that person through an act of ownership.

            The four restrictive principles outlined by Rachels in “The Right Thing to Do,” (247-249) make marriage seem more reflective of a business deal rather than a union of two individuals made through mutual love. The first principle surrounds the requirement “to enter a formal contractual relation,” (247) in which individuals agree to conditions made out by the contractors and agree that dissolution of the marriage may only be proceeded through the legal system (247). The second, third and fourth principles all pertain to the monogamous marriage in which a marriage must only involve two individuals; one may only have one marriage unless the previous marriage was dissolved by a legal divorce or the death of a spouse and that while in a marriage all sexual relations outside the union are prohibited (248).

            Although I personally agree with the institution of marriage and all the obligations and prohibitions that go along with it, I can see how such an institution would not suit all persons at all times. I have known people to be in steady relationships with one individual but also engage in other relations at the same time and that seems to be working for them. I’ve also heard of polygamous marriages that are very successful (ever seen “Sister Wives”?). It is my opinion that marriage might not be an institution in which all persons fit the mold. Polygamy wouldn’t be suited for me just as monogamy wouldn’t be suited for a polygamist.


Rachels, James. The Right Thing To Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. 2010. Print.

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