- Paperback: 296 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (1 Jun. 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199756317
- ISBN-13: 978-0199756315
- Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 2.3 x 14 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,321,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Point/Counterpoint) Paperback – 1 Jun 2012
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this is a very useful book, especially in the way that it sets out the public reason arguments for and against same-sex marriage, and so lets readers evaluate which are more persuasive ... The book can and should be widely used in undergraduate courses in philosophy as well as other disciplines, and could be useful in law or public policy graduate programs, as well as appealing to the general educated public. (Matthew Lister, Criminal Law and Philosophy)
...a valuable introduction to the debate (Megan Pearson, London School of Economics Review of Books)
... a valuable addition to the debate. (Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
John Corvino is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wayne State University Maggie Gallagher is co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
I thoroughly enjoyed Corvino's opening essay. I found it very clear, mostly thorough, extremely well-written, periodically funny, and I felt the vast majority was logically rigorous. While most of his arguments are "emotionless", he spends a little time humanizing the issue by recounting a gay wedding and an interview with some gay dads--this would be a decent reason to loan the book to opponents of same-sex marriage even if they are unaffected by the arguments themselves. His essay is not perfect, however, and it missed some important points which I will bring up shortly.
To be honest, I found Gallagher's opening essay painful to read--though please hear me out to the end. Much of the pain was stylistic: I found it repetitive, frequently unclear, often incomplete, and also less engaging--Corvino is the better writer, though that doesn't necessarily mean he should win the debate. As for content, unlike Corvino, Gallagher spent very little time countering the other side's claims. Her essay would have been much more useful to me if she had spent some time doing so, since I was mostly unable to rebut my own objections to her points. My other main content complaint is that her most important and longest argument was completely ineffective on me: to her, "marriage equality" is just not "true" because "marriage" means male-female--that's the definition. To me, I do not share her Platonic ideal (and I don't believe many people do)--I fully expect social institutions to evolve over time and serve multiple roles as society continues to change. I cannot imagine a marriage equality supporter who is affected by this argument, so I question its usefulness. It does, however, give insight into Gallagher's reasoning. To her credit many of her arguments are independent of this one.
The second half of her essay was more valuable to me. It used consequentialist arguments--bad things will happen if marriage equality is realized. I did not agree with many of her actual arguments, but nonetheless I was forced to seriously consider the merit of her overarching position. Will bad things really happen if gay people can get married? Why have I not seriously considered this before? I then realized something important--very few consequentialist arguments with solid evidence are presented by either side. For instance, one of Gallagher's arguments is that gay marriage will produce fatherlessness by changing straight men's ideas of marriage into something where fidelity is optional because gay men provide an example population that very often has open relationships. The important question is, then, do straight men on planet Earth truly change their behavior in the face of gay marriage, all logical arguments aside? Gallagher's hard evidence only supports the claim that gay men have lots of open relationships and not the conclusion itself. Corvino offers several abstract rebuttals that amount to "it really shouldn't". Is there any hard evidence either way? This, I believe, is the absolute heart of the disagreement. I do not believe this or similar assertions, while Gallagher truly does--she ends her arguments ominously with, "We shall see." And yet, neither of us has presented rigorous evidence for our case; all we have are claims and suppositions. I find her's unlikely, she finds mine unlikely. In a way, I feel I have achieved disagreement with her.
I must say I found most of Gallagher's arguments difficult to unwind. She often had valid points, but I felt they were buried and that I had to complete or fix her arguments or translate them from a foreign language into my own.
The two brief response essays were not particularly useful to me. Corvino repeats some of his previous counterarguments, as he had already addressed Gallagher's main objections, though he again stays abstract. Gallagher largely ignores Corvino and repeats her own arguments again (repetition was a theme with her text; eg. she included several quotes verbatim in multiple places). When she does address Corvino, she seems to misunderstand him, so I didn't find those rebuttals useful. I wish they had replaced the rebuttals with role reversals, where each author tried to argue for the other's position using the arguments they had learned, in an attempt to really achieve disagreement.
To answer my previous questions, I consider even the best consequentialist counterarguments presented extremely unlikely, so I am more solidly pro-gay marriage than ever. I do feel I now understand several specific, fundamental sources of disagreement. However, because in my view both sides "missed the boat" and only partially achieved disagreement and their arguments were both incomplete in a crucial way, I give it a 4 out of 5. If you have not seriously given time to consider opponents' views, it is worth the time to do so with this book, despite the potential pain.
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