Polygamy: Ethics and Life

7 July 2016

In todays society the idea of Polygamy is looked down upon. Polygamy is the act when a person has one or more spouses. Three objections that might be made are; first, Bentham’s utilitarian view, which says all people should maximize good/ pleasures, second, based on the Intuitionism view that says there is no “one” principle, and third, Russell’s utilitarian view that polygamy is nature. In this paper I will use a Virtue Ethics theory to defend the view that Polygamy is morally impermissible because it shows bad character.

Polygamy is an issue in today’s societies where people are married too more than one person. In most cases polygamist relationships usually take place under one household. Meaning Polygamists usually live in the same house. Polygamist relationships are formed for a variety of different reasons whether it be economic religious or for satisfaction. From the religious aspect many people partake in polygamy because they want to follow their anscestors they believe that god wanted them to practice it and it would bring them closer to God. Polygamy was an accepted and approved practice in the Old Testament era.

Polygamy: Ethics and Life Essay Example

But now a days it is a practice that is looked upon in many different ways throughout the world. As of today, over fifty countries have legalized polygamy. However, more importantly, here in the United States we have deemed polygamy illegal. Having multiple marriages is not only unhealthy, but they are unquestionably not what marriages were intended to be. The United States believes marriage should be sanctioned between two people. Aristotle believes that in life a person should have intrinsic happiness called eudaimonia, which is lifelong flourishing happiness.

Having more than one spouse would mean that they are decreasing happiness in life. Polygamy could be considered not virtuous because when a person is married to more than one person, it goes to show how they are mistreated in the relationship. Having more than one wife means your not giving one person your undivided attention, which is breaking marriage vows because your supposed to be dedicated to that one person.

Marriage should be the happiest part of life, being unfaithful to one person would violate the duties of happiness in life. Once a person says there wedding vows, they are agreeing to be faithful to their spouse, having more than one marriage means they are causing more harm than good. The theory Aristotle believes is, a person has to perform virtuous acts until you become a virtuous person, morally and intellectually. He uses practical wisdom, which determines the virtuous things to do. Virtue ethics is based around the idea of what right thing to do, at the right times, in the right way, and for the right reasons.

Having more than one spouse in any situation will never be the right thing to do, especially since we should be virtuous people. Aristotle’s theory supports the fact that Polygamy is impermissible because he says virtue ethics are based on character. Having a physical marriage with more than one person would imply in todays that one has a poor character and will never have one final good in life. Scruton also agrees by saying that living well includes having the capacity to love. By loving someone we become virtuous and develop good habits.

Scruton says that we should form virtuous habits, by channeling our desires to promote capacity for love, not to stunt it. By achieving this body and mind is united. Not only does it unite the body and mind, it also unites it us personally and sexually. Uniting the body and mind with your spouse strengthens character, and having a good character is our duty according to virtue ethics. The first objection against polygamy being impermissible would be from Russell. His philosophic objection would be that he believes that polygamy is nature and it’s the natural thing to do in life.

He thinks that traditional sexual morality is outdated and shouldn’t be used in today’s societies. Russell has four theories that he believes in, the first one being, no babies before twenty. Second, experience sex before marriage, which gives a good understanding of the difference between lust and love. Third, keep money out of sex. Fourth, divorce with a child should be mutual consent, without a child it’s based on the person. As long as you don’t break those guidelines according to Russell its alright to be in a polygamist relationship.

Scruton would respond to Russell’s theory by saying that love is a virtue and people should develop virtuous habits. Marriage with more than one person would not be forming virtuous habits. He says that living well in life includes the capacity to have flourishing love, both erotic and fidelity. Scruton has three theories that he believes every person in life should do in order to have love. The first one is to form a virtuous habit, an example would be loving one person. Second, channeling our desires a certain way. Third, to promote capacity for love, not stunt it.

He would object to Russell’s theory because uniting the body and mind, personally and sexually, strengthens character. Having a good character in life is the virtuous thing to do. Based on Scruton’s three theory’s I would say that Russell’s objections are invalid because they don’t show flourishing love throughout one’s life. The second objection would be a Utilitarian point of view. Bentham’s theory is that in life we should maximize good/ pleasures for all people, and minimize pain. He believes that all people are considered equally, not one person is held up higher than another one.

Bentham would say that marriage too more than one person would be put into three categories. The first one would be the intensity or duration of the marriage to each individual person, it would be the initial pleasures of the marriages. Second, the purity of the marriages would be the follow up pleasures. Third, to what extent the marriages affected multiple people. Aristotle’s virtue ethics theory against Bentham utilitarian theory would be we have functions as humans. In life, we should use reason to determine the activity of the soul, in accordance with a virtuous reason.

Aristotle says that we need to restrict our actions for our own good, so by being faithful to one spouse we are showing good character in life. The third objection would be using the Intuitionism theory that there is no “one” principle in life. Intuitionists believe that we have morally significant relationships, which could be with more than one person. They base decisions in life off of the principles of prima facie duties vs. absolute duties. In life they believe that we develop intuition in the sense that we reflect on prima facie duties, which come to a “considered opinion” on what to do.

Polygamist relationships don’t violate the duties of intuitionism because intuitionists believe free will is what they are given in life. They don’t believe that they have to follow the norm of society, an example would be them marrying more than one spouse. Polygamy to them would be considered the right thing to do since its there personal opinions. There is no right or wrong answer in Intuitionism, they don’t have guidelines that say certain principles in life are acceptable and aren’t acceptable. To them there is no one right way in life.

If a person wants more than one spouse than there’s nothing stopping them. Virtue ethics believes the exact opposite in the way that, they say it’s morally impermissible to have more than one spouse. Virtue ethics is all based on character, and having more than one marriage doesn’t say very good things about your character. Love is a virtue that should be shared between two people according to Scruton. Life should be about strengthening your character and a good way to do that is to have a faithful marriage with only one person.

Polygamy, the act in which a marriage includes more than two partners, is impermissible because it does not promote having a good character. In life we should ask ourselves two questions, the first being what should we do, the answer is to have good character. The second, what kind of person should we be, a person with quality characteristics. According to virtue ethics having a good character with good virtues is the most important thing in life. The objections against Polygamy being impermissible only make the subject stronger.

The objections against these theories are that we should have a good character, and having a good character means a person living a life full of intrinsic good. However, people can debate other reasons why polygamy is good, like I said earlier, people would say it’s the more economical practice. Religious people would argue the fact that polygamy is the right thing to do, because they base their opinions on their ancestors. Another theory virtue ethics uses, is living well includes having the capacity to have flourishing love. Virtuous love with one person, develops virtuous habits with that one single person, not multiple people.

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