“Should I marry you?” How philosophers answer

Romance is in the air, so here is a repost of my round-up of philosophers talking to their sweethearts – collected from conversations overheard at smoky cafés, college libraries, mountain caves, and seminar rooms the world over.

The Aristotelian: “I wish to marry you, for I know that my happiness, both of body and soul, is contingent upon our union in the best and deepest of friendships.”

The Utilitarian: “The question is: Would our marriage contribute to the greatest happiness for the greatest number? Please consider waiting for me, dearest, while the best social science does its calculations.”

The Freudian: “You do remind me of mother, but I’m afraid you are too Jung for me.”

The Kantian: “I do not love you. Indeed, I find you repulsive in every way. But if I do thus marry you, I can be certain that my motives for marrying are pure and dutiful.”

The Paternalist: “Those who know best have decided that I should marry you. Who am I to question their wisdom and authority?”

The Machiavellian: “Why bother? It is better to be feared than loved, and I can get what I want from you more simply by a judicious mix of threats, bribes, and occasional indulgences.”

The Stoic: “You and I are creatures of Time and Chance, and to embrace you is to embrace a dead thing.”

The Pessimist: “Over half of all marriages end in divorce, so why don’t you just take half my stuff now, and we’ll go our separate ways and save ourselves a lot of grief.”

The Christian: “I will not marry you, for as the Apostle says, ‘It is better for a man not to marry.’”

The Socratic: “I don’t know.”

The Malthusian: “In this world of limited resources, would it not be wrong of us to contribute to the geometrically-increasing rate of population growth?”

The Altruist: “Love is selfless, and I would like you to know upfront that I will get no personal benefit from our marriage; but I will do it because I love you, and love is sacrifice, and marrying you will be a major sacrifice for me.”

The Existentialist: “If I commit to you, I thereby commit all of mankind to you, and the responsibility for a decision of that enormity fills me with dread.”

The Nietzschean: “We are fated to marry and remarry for all eternity, and I embrace my fate vigorously!”

The John-Buridanist: “I feel like an ass for saying this, but I simply cannot decide.”

The Berkeleyan: “Esse est percipi – or To be is to be perceived, should your Latin need brushing up. So if we marry in the forest, as I know you have your heart set upon, sweetest, we must not be alone but have plenty of witnesses to ensure the existence of our matrimonial state.”

The Humean: “Marriage is neither a matter of fact nor a relation of ideas, so I commit it to the flames.”

The Platonist: “As a philosopher-king candidate, I cannot marry you, for our selves and our offspring belong to all communally, while marriage is a private and selfish thing.”

The Heraclitean: “Can I marry you? I cannot marry you twice — nay, I cannot even marry you once, for the you and the I have no identity in the flux and flow.”

The Parmenidean: “I cannot marry you, for to marry is to change from not being married to being married and, as has been proved, one cannot change from not being to being.”

The Lutheran: “You give me many reasons for marriage — but reason is the Devil’s whore, so I fling my feces upon your Satanic temptations.”

The Marxist: “I spit upon bourgeois marriage, yet our synthesis will breed a mass of revolutionaries dedicated to the cause.”

The Hobbesian: “If we do marry, I can assure you that our relationship will be nasty, brutish, and short, and we will once again become solitary.”

The Cartesian: “Before we can marry, I must first be certain that your proposal isn’t a ruse by an evil demon to deceive and torment me.”

The Leibnizian: “It is impossible for us to marry, for our monads are complete within themselves and must of pre-established necessity realize all of their possibilities independently.”

The Adam-Smithian: “I know, dearest, that I have kept you on pins and needles waiting, but my price in the dating market is high this season, so in good faith I would like to negotiate further.”

The Hegelian: “The generative World-Spirit moves within me greatly, and I will not shrink from crushing to pieces the innocent flower that you are in bringing forth the Divine Self-realization.”

The Voltairean: “I do not agree with your opinion about the desirability of our marriage, but I will fight to the death for your right to marry someone else.”

The Ockhamist: “No, because entities must not be bred beyond necessity.”

The Schopenhaurian: “Every man needs many women — even though they are the intellectually-limited, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and unaesthetic sex. But marriage? What irrationally self-destructive will could induce me to that sorry state?”

The Foucauldian: “Power remains power, whether masked or not in hierarchically-imposed social structures like ‘marriage,’ so the question is meaningless.”

The Russellian: “In marriage, two become one — which means that if I marry you, then I would become one with you — which means I would be marrying myself — which is a paradox.”

The Popperian: “To marry would be assenting to a universal future proposition that cannot logically be affirmed. But I can promise to try to falsify our commitment regularly.”

The Augustinean: “I lust for you, and for that I tremble that God in his infinite justice will condemn me to damnation for all eternity.”

The Objectivist: “Before one can say I do, one must know how to say the I.”

And now we know why philosophers have been as successful as they have been in discovering true, eternal love.

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