True Love and Childless Couples

A reader ( “I am unclear of you definition of marriage. But it seems that you are working on the premise that sex is necessary for a marriage and therefore a marriage’s primary purpose for marriage is to produce children.

“The logic flow thus. Since sex is necessary in a marriage, and you have made it clear that the consequence of sex is children (or at least “unintentionally engender a baby”,) then it must therefore be necessary for a marriage to produce children.

“Or, since A = B, and B = C, then A = C. Wherein A is marriage, B is sex, and C is the creation of a baby.

“If so, since sex is necessary and children are result of sex, then for what purpose would a couple who does not want children get married?”

My answer: The childless couple are acting upon passions and appetites which naturally lead to children, but which they, as humans with free will, are free not to follow to their final outcome. There is nothing morally wrong with marrying merely for romantic love and missing out on the joys of family love. My argument needs only say that the two types of love are naturally harmonious to each other, not that one causes the other.

Perhaps it sounds as if I am stating a positive (if A then B) but actually my argument only needs a negative (No B without A).

If fathering bastards is a bad thing (what we now delicately call single-parent families), and if fathering bastards cannot happen when no sex takes place outside of marriage, then sex outside marriage is a bad thing even if, in a particular case, by lucky accident or careful prophylactic, no child might be fathered.

By a parallel argument, if sex without love is a bad thing, and if sex without love is deterred, even a little, by an enforceable and public vow of eternal love, then sex without that vow is a bad thing even if, in a particular case, by lucky accident or stern virginal chastity, the woman might fornicate with no one but her one true love.

Allow me to make a further distinction: The reason why marriage evolved as an institution, and the reason why any particular couple might wish to join that institution, are two separate (but not entirely unrelated) things.

The reason motivating a particular couple might be good or bad: and we can estimate the moral health of the reason from the degree to which it is harmonious with the institution itself. If the reason is alien or hostile to the purpose of the institution, we judge against it: marrying for money, or bigamy, or brother-sister marriages do not deserve the flowers and applause and well-wishes with which joyful kith and kin welcome a proper marriage.

I submit that the final cause of the institution of marriage is rooted in nature, rooted in the fact that we are mammals. Amoebas who reproduce asexually or Cuckoos who abandon their eggs would have no need to develop such an institution. The institution of marriage wisely means to channel our sexual appetites and passions away from morbid or unhappy outcomes and toward healthy and happy ones. It does so by defining certain sexual practices as chaste (monogamy) and all other practices as unchaste (fornication, adultery, incest, pederasty, buggery).

The childless married couple gets married to enjoy the peculiar companionship and love we as mammals are privileged to enjoy. If that couple were to fall in love with each other, it would be sweet; if that couple were to accidentally engender a baby, there would be joy even in the midst of their consternation over having their plans upset. If the childless couple remained sterile, there is no moral condemnation involved.

The childless couple, so to speak, are travelers on the road, even if they do not want to follow the road all the way to Rome. Even if the travelers do not go to Rome, this does not mean the road does not go to Rome. It is still correct to say the road was built for and meant to go to Rome. But neither does it mean that someone floundering in the swamp, far from the road, is a traveler.

The floundering people in this case would be a childless and unwed couple who merely share a room, or share a bed without love. They suffer the same risks as I have said previously. They might fall in love; or they might make a baby; or they might grow coarse enough to be content with having sex without love. Any one of these outcomes would be a disaster.