Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Decline of Marriage Means We Should Build Up, Not Give Up

Philip Cohen notes the continuing marriage decline, and concludes that we should give up. Marriage, he thinks, will become irrelevant, even if it doesn't disappear.

I think this is exactly the wrong conclusion.

Marriage is coming back among the most educated, thoughtful, plan-ahead people.  There is every reason to believe that they will continue to reap the benefits that marriage has always bestowed.  In fact, as the non-marrying fraction of parents grows, the relative benefits of marriage will get even bigger.  And these benefits are not just to married families, but to society as a whole.  Especially to society as a whole.

I believe that more people will see the growing benefits of marriage, and head back to the institution.  The average person, I think, can see when one path benefits them more than another.  The most educated couples are leading the way.  But good social trends trickle down, just as bad ones sometimes do.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Emotions Are Judgments That We Make in Our Inner Conversation

Jonathan Haidt, in Righteous Minds, says that emotions are not just feelings but moral judgments. They move us to act.  Reason tries to guide our emotionally inspired actions.  Haidt thinks the right proportion between emotion and reason is like the proportion between an elephant and its rider.

Margaret Archer, in Being Human, says that emotions are part of an inner conversation between the self we are now (the 'I' in microsociological terms) and the self we want to be in the future (the 'You'). These emotions are also judgments. 

Archer's emotions include moral judgments drawn from social discourse, but also practical judgments drawn from our works, and natural judgments drawn from our biology.

I think both Haidt and Archer are on to something powerful.  The two theories can be reconciled.  I will try to pursue this fruitful idea.