Aristotle on Same-Sex Marriage

enhanced-buzz-17644-1364326215-0Anne Cipione Period 7

“Men agree that the good is happiness, but differ as to what this is.” In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle explains many ways in which people can reach happiness and fulfill their function. And with these statements, in my opinion, Aristotle would agree that the right for homosexuals to be legally married would allow them to fulfill their function and reach full potential of happiness. “Happiness is believed to be the most desirable thing in the world,” thus, why hinder someone from achieving what is thought to be the most desirable thing?

In Book 1 Section 7 of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle’s opening sentence is this, “The good is the final end, and happiness is this.” Well, one might ask, how is same-sex marriage the final end? Aristotle writes earlier in his book about how wealth is “contrary to nature” and “[it] is not the good of which we are in search.”  However, “we might rather take pleasure…to be ends” rather than wealth. Thus, pleasure is the ends (i.e. the good) and pleasure is happiness. When a homosexual individual, or anyone for that matter, experiences this pleasure from being with the one they love, they are becoming that much closer to reaching their full potential of happiness and their function. If one cannot fulfill their function of life, thight ask, how is gay marriage the final end? s.” happiness. h these statements, in my opinion, Aristotle clearly agrees that riren why are they living? Is the purpose of the state not to help the people fulfill their function?

Aristotle also believes “for we always choose [happiness] for itself, and never for the sake of something else.” Those in favor of same-sex marriage do not hold this view just for the sake of angering people who disagree with their views but to increase quality of life and happiness for all through equal access to the right to marry.  “For it is always for the sake of the end that all else is done.” People generally want to be happy and be able to enjoy life with their partner. Imagine not being able to be happy to your full potential because the people (the state) who are supposed to be helping you live to full happiness believe it is right to hinder your happiness just because of who you love.

According to Aristotle, “man is naturally a social being.” Therefore, people naturally create communities and relationships with each other based on their natural instinct. However, in today’s society, it is not legally sanctioned to create a marriage between two people of the same sex. Aristotle never says it is unnatural for those relationships to form and grow.

The good of man is to “exercise his faculties in accordance with excellence.” There is no specific faculty is which this rule applies or does not apply. A natural faculty one might have is to make others happy. Such a person might make people happy in many different ways. One might find that happiness in a personal way and want to spend their life with them. The original person with the faculty to make people happy has done their job with excellence: make others as happy as possible. If this happiness can only be found by being together and getting married, why get in the way of a man’s function?

This, however, is my favorite example of finding the right love for each type of person, homosexual or heterosexual. “The carpenter and the geometer both look for the right angle, but in different ways.” I find this to be a perfect example to exemplify the perspective from which to accept same-sex marriage. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals are looking for the same thing in the long run: love. However, heterosexuals are looking to find their long-lasting love in a member of the opposite sex while homosexuals prefer to find their long-lasting love in a member of the same sex. They find pleasurable things in different people. Both ultimately want love and whatever way they find that love, it is their right to take ownership and be able to be proud of that love.

“Now, good things have been divided into three classes, external goods on the one hand, and on the other goods of the soul and goods of the body; and the goods of the soul are commonly said to be goods in the fullest sense, and more good than any other.” Clearly, love is a good of the soul. Homosexuals are being denied one of the best “goods” one can experience in life. To deny someone a pleasurable experience in life, solely based on who they choose to love, is unethical and should not be allowed in today’s society especially with multiple efforts to stop discrimination against many different groups of people.

“For pleasure is an affection of the soul, and each man takes pleasure in that which he is said to love, – he who loves horses in horses, he who loves sight-seeing in sight-seeing, and in the same way he who loves justice in acts of justice, and generally the lover of excellence or virtue in virtuous acts or the manifestation of excellence.” The same idea can be applied to a homosexual’s pleasure. Just as the same way Aristotle stated that a man who loves a horse loves a horse because that is what he finds pleasure in, a homosexual finds pleasure in a member of the same sex. This is no different than finding pleasure in any activity. Let one love what he wants to love and he will find happiness.

Finally, Aristotle believes that “a man is not very likely to be happy if he is very ugly in person, or of low birth, or alone in the world, or childless…” Telling a homosexual that he or she cannot be legally married, is almost forcing them to be “alone.” If they cannot legally marry, they are alone, from a legal perspective, and according the Aristotle, not likely to be very happy. Also, childless is another way Aristotle believes man is not likely to be happy. Adoption agencies today are very strict when it comes to adoptions. The chance of a non-married couple allowed to adopt a baby versus the chance of a married couple is very low. Adoption agencies prefer to send babies off to happy, healthy homes with married parents. And as stated above, a married couple will be happier and in return, have a better chance of receiving permission to adopt the baby. Continuing the cycle, the adopted child’s life, in turn, will increase in happiness due to the increased level of love it is receiving and by seeing society’s acceptance of the child’s family structure. If one does not receive any love, they do not give any love in return. As a result, they are unhappy and not fulfilling their function as a human being.

If people disagree that people of the same sex should be allowed to get married it may be based on religious views or other personal views. However, if one agrees with Aristotle or maybe takes advice from Aristotle’s writings, they may change their mind or agree that same-sex marriage increases happiness, allows man to fulfill their function as a human being, and should, in fact, be legalized. He states many things that should lead you to believe this such as: happiness is the final end, happiness is done solely for the sake of happiness, man naturally chooses to be social and form relationships, happiness is the most desirable thing in the world, man is to exercise his God-given abilities to the best of his ability, love is a good for the soul, pleasure is an affection of the soul, and man is not likely to be happy if he is alone or childless. These reasons, if you understand the meanings behind them as written above, should give you enough evidence allowing anyone, no matter what sexual orientation, should be allowed to be married and live a life-long relationship filled with love and happiness in order to better the world. If more people are happy, the world would be more peaceful.

Word Count: 1336

Works Cited:

Stopera, Matt. “BuzzFeed.” BuzzFeed. N.p., 26 Mar. 2013. Web. 08 May 2013.         <http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-absolute-best-signs-against-doma-and-prop-8-at-the-supre?sub=2110825_1017539?sub=2110825_1017560&gt;.

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One thought on “Aristotle on Same-Sex Marriage

  1. Interesting article Anne, though perhaps you might be surprised to know that philosophical opposition to SSM is often based precisely on Aristotelian arguments about fulfilling the end? I think it would make more sense to use Mill as a defense of SSM, since he focuses more on pleasure. While for Aristotle pleasure is *an* end, it is not *the* final end, and he considers that unless a pleasure is consistent with the final end, then it is not a pleasure that should be pursued. Opponents of SSM would use Aristotle to argue that our reproductive systems are ordered precisely towards reproduction (which means that is their end), and therefore that sex that is inherently not ordered towards that end frustrates the good when it comes to the use of that part of ourselves, and that what does not accomplish the good of the part cannot accomplish the good of the whole (i.e., the whole person). So, as you can see, it is a complicated matter. I think it would have been more natural to use Mill in defense of that position, since he does not care so much about what natural ends there may be in ourselves or our functions, but rather on whether something leads more people to a pleasant existence.

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