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Same Sex Marriage

Essay by   •  November 2, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  3,504 Words (15 Pages)  •  3,134 Views

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The widespread failure and dissolution of marriages appears to give rise to a paradox in the dispute about same-sex marriage: why would anybody want to be included in the practice of marriage that seems to mean less than it ever has? However, there are many arguments both for and against the legalization and/or acknowledgement of same-sex marriage. On the one hand, should anybody oppose this inclusion on the grounds that the current heterosexual conception of marriage is crucial for the well being of society, especially considering the state of society as it is today. More than half of all marriages end in divorce. On the other hand, even a casual observation of nature, not just of humans, reveals the vital distinctions between male and female and the need that each has for the other.


Is reason, unaided by observation, a source of knowledge? Without the benefit of history and/or observation, can same-sex marriages reasonably and logically be validated? Philosophy has always been fundamentally concerned with the nature of truth and one's knowledge of reality. Its central demand is the independence of the individual person, thinking for oneself about life, knowledge, religion, truth and reality. However, throughout the centuries of human existence, different philosophers have formulated distinct approaches and theories with regard to these extensive ideas. One philosophical principle that has been fervently debated by great minds through the years is the notion of "a priori" knowledge, or knowledge "based on reason and logic independent of sense experience".

It is generally accepted that there is a posteriori or empirical knowledge Ð'- knowledge based on sense perception. The sentiment and commitment of a homosexual couple is the same as in a heterosexual couple, and therefore the homosexual couple feels there should be no distinction made between the two. The remaining question is whether all knowledge is empirical. Can an "a priori" argument be made for same-sex marriage?

Supporters of the "a priori" have used three different strategies. The first is to articulate and defend a concept of "a priori" knowledge and to argue that there is knowledge satisfying the conditions in the analysis. The second is to identify criteria of the "a priori". This approach involves arguing that some propositions that we know have a feature and that propositions having this feature cannot be known on the basis of experience. The third focuses on specific cases of knowledge, arguing that there is no plausible empiricist account of such knowledge.

Given the information above, an "a priori" argument for same-sex marriage could be stated as follows: (1) if I have the concept same-sex marriage, then it exists. (2) I have the concept of a same-sex marriage. (3) Therefore, a same-sex marriage exists.

Critics of the "a priori" have responded along all three fronts. Some offer alternative analyses of the concept and argue that the alleged examples of "a priori" knowledge do not satisfy the conditions in the analysis. Others reject the alleged criteria of the "a priori", by arguing either that we do not know "any propositions having the alleged criterion or that we can know empirically propositions having". Finally, some provide empiricist accounts of the knowledge alleged to be obtainable only "a priori".

Since the conclusion of the argument is clearly not knowable "a priori", one of the premises in the argument's unmistakably valid reasoning is either false or not knowable "a priori". The question is Ð'- can one safely make one or the other claim? It must be argued that one cannot, that one is committed to both premise 1 and 2, and to their being knowable "a priori". If this is correct, then the arguer is committed to the clearly absurd conclusion that we can know "a priori" that same-sex marriage exists.

Immanuel Kant claims that necessity is a condition of the "a priori". The principle he seems to endorse is: If A knows that B is necessarily true then A knows "a priori" that B. "Experience tells us, indeed, what is, but not that it must necessarily be so, and not otherwise. It therefore gives us no true universality; and reason, which is so insistent upon this kind of knowledge, is therefore more stimulated by it than satisfied. Such universal modes of knowledge, which at the same time possess the character of inner necessity, must in themselves, independently of experience, be clear and certain. They are therefore entitled knowledge "a priori"; whereas, on the other hand, that which is borrowed solely from experience is, as we say, known only a posteriori, or empirically."

According to Kant, objects of perception do not passively form the human mind; it actively forms the raw material of objects given in perception. It adds something of its own to knowledge. Certainly one can think independently of sensible experience. This does not mean, however, that the understanding is not tempted to use perceptions to go beyond objects of experience. Kant endeavored to make clear once and for all the specific role the human "knower" plays in determining the "creation" of knowledge.

One can think Ð'- i.e., put together pure concepts of understanding without reference to perception in space and time; but such thinking does not produce knowledge. It is merely "speculative" or "colloquial speech". One can rearrange the concepts in any way one wishes; one can think whatever one wants. However, the result is not knowledge, for knowledge requires that theories be verified by sensible experience and/or observation. Knowledge is always tied to perception; it combines both understanding and sensibility. An object of knowledge is always at the same time an object that can be tied to a sensible intuition Ð'- what is sensed.

Accumulation of knowledge is a process that involves sensory input together with innate cognitive response. Kant argues that the operation of this cognitive faculty is very subtle and hence difficult to perceive. What is "a priori" for a person might just be a posteriori for another person in a different period of time. That is to say, experience acquired by people in the past might just be accepted as "a priori" by the future generation (impure "a priori"). On the other hand, a pure "a priori" represents knowledge that is devoid of any empirical origins. Therefore, "knowledge "a priori""



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