Tom Gilson

“Reason and Compassion in the Marriage Debate | Public Discourse”

When I wrote my review of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense I was at a loss for how to summarize its arguments in short form, so I took an alternate tack of discussing where the book fits into the current debate.

What I was unable to do, R.J. Snell accomplished masterfully in his review at Public Discourse. His review begins,

Discourse about marriage is often short on reason and compassion. Arguments and objections can be mercilessly logical, forgetful of persons behind the positions; at other times reason seems to have taken a holiday, replaced with a kind of shrill indignation.

Perhaps failure is inevitable when marriage means too many things. Interlocutors cannot avoid speaking at cross-purposes when terms are in flux, and positions cannot but appear arbitrary if marriage is formless and mutable.

Given the confusion, it is understandable why the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article “What Is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson drew so much attention, because they asked the marriage debate’s vital question. Definitions clear away weeds, clarity fosters productive disagreement, and subsequent rejoinders to the essay were numerous and pointed—a good sign that tackling the definition was needed.

Given the conversation stirred by the article, this winter’s release of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Girgis, George, and Anderson is welcome (eBooks go on sale today; hard copies in early December). Augmenting and developing their earlier arguments, the book responds to objections, while tackling an impressive range of philosophical, legal, and social-scientific issues in a relatively slim volume.

From there he goes on to outline the main arguments in the book, meanwhile reflecting nicely the book’s thoughtful and charitable tone.

As well as he did in condensing the content, though, you really need to read the book. It’s available now for ebook readers  (Kindle, Nook, iBooks), and if that’s not your preferred mode you can pre-order the paperback today for delivery a couple weeks from now..

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