Living Life on the Cancelable Edge


I have quite a few cancelable views under my belt. The principal of these views, perhaps, is that I have one, and through existential generalization, I believe you do as well. One of these cancelable opinions is that arranged marriages are not all that bad, and I would actually endorse it at some margins. Before we proceed with the arguments against this view, this post and posts like this are unusual because the certainty rating I would attach to this post is not of the argument I make or how convinced I am of those arguments. Instead, it is the updated certainty rating of my original position, which is cancelable (by the way).

One argument against my position is that arranged marriages do not scale for an extended length of time (see India). Maybe a better framing of this argument is that because it is being replaced by other forms of marriage, prominently love marriage, it clues us into an aspect of human nature. Maybe, as Dostoyevsky pointed out, the desire to impose our will just to prove that we are human supersedes whatever benefits we might get from an arranged marriage. In other words, the decline of arranged marriages

points to this possibility: the rationale that makes people perpetuate arranged marriages is not as fulfilling to them as the prospect of choosing one's lifelong partner.

Along these same lines, one of the precepts of my cancellable view is that people essentially chase the wind in trying to find happiness framed as notions of soulmates or some other variation. This inevitably leads to a delay in marriage and the loss of prospects of having children for some. In essence, my main argument for arranged marriages is a consequentialist utilitarian type argument; where the main moral framework is that we have fewer children and family sizes are shrinking (I flesh this out more here), which is terrible. The challenge to this opinion is quite simple and convincing. It is Benthamite in some sense where the fact that happiness or self-fulfillment from choosing one's partner is hard to achieve does not mean it should not be a goal worth striving for. I would counter this by saying that it is not obvious to me that happiness should be the end an end in itself. I would stress other values like meaning, and in most cases, happiness is a by-product. The counter to this counter is that if happiness is a by-product, it is a landmark telling us that we are on the right track to some aspect of meaning (or it could be a misfiring)—a signal to which we should pay attention. Thus, if you are unhappy with your partner as you begin the marriage, what are the odds of your marriage's success? Driving this point home is the question of what happens when children come into the mix. This critique is poignant because, upon the entrance of children, we enter a "harm and fairness" moral framework, which, from what I can tell, is a significant part of the utilitarian point of view.

Perhaps the most moving case against arranged marriages is that arranged marriages perpetuate prevailing inequalities, and in theory, love marriages do not necessarily do so. This case, i.e., inequality, transcends this domain because we are effectively more segregated by income than ever before. But point taken, as arranged marriages, no doubt perpetuates a form of class inequality that no one desires. (For the record, I would question that intuition).

Overall, a keen reader might ask, what does this mean for your point of view, Thomas? What is your ideal system? Well, I will answer this in later posts (possibly a Wednesday thoughts post). I will say, however, that my certainty rating has definitely decreased as I am less gung-ho about arranged marriages than I was at the beginning of this endeavor.

Certainty rating: 32%


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