Girgis on Philosophy, Marriage, and Moral Grandstanding


Continuing the high-level debate on marriage in The Public Discourse, Sherif Girgis responds to two of his academic critics who label views like his homophobic and bigoted, and hope to drive people like Girgis out of the academic world:

No serious philosopher would deny, in so many words, that to demonize opponents is to betray the vocation of philosophy. Yet some academic philosophers are so bound to the cause of redefining civil marriage that they would marginalize dissenters with epithets and analyze them as specimens of psychological pathology. Chappell, though he goes on to ask serious questions, is at pains to deny that he deems our argument worth engaging. For him, it is, like misogyny, merely unreasonable, subrational, and bigoted. Linking to Chappell’s critique, Brian Leiter repeats the charge and presumes to diagnose us.

The fervent policing of this newfound academic consensus, with its chilling effect on discourse, might be defensible if proponents of the conjugal view were, like Nazis or cannibals, advocates of ideas and policies repugnant to deep, enduring principles of our civilization. Yet even within the small, unrepresentative society that is academic philosophy, the very idea of same-sex marriage would have seemed mostly baffling (perhaps even patriarchally motivated) less than a generation ago. One might see the striking subsequent development as an epiphany of timeless moral principle denied the human race (including the sexual-traditionalist Mahatma Gandhi and other partisans of cruel and complacent class ideologies) these several millennia; or one might judge the cause of redefining civil marriage to be a fashionable application of a perfectly disputable view of sex and human goods that has grown to dominate in the academy from its proximate roots in the ’50s and ’60s, in Sanger and Hefner, Kinsey and Reich.