The (dis)value of commitment to one's spouse

In After Marriage? Oxford University Press (2015)
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The chapter advances two claims: first, that commitment to one’s spouse is only instrumentally valuable, adding no intrinsic value to the relationship. Moreover, commitment has costs: it partially forecloses the future, thus making one less attentive to life’s possibilities; therefore, it would be desirable for people to achieve the same goods without commitment. The second, more ambitious, claim is that commitment in general, and marital commitments in particular, are problematic instruments for securing the good of romantic and sexual love. It makes sense to prefer that another person’s (perhaps especially, romantic or sexual) love for you is sustained by inclination rather than commitment. In addition, the pragmatic reasons for commitment are weak in relation to activities that, ideally, are process-oriented rather than goal-oriented—such as loving another person.

Author's Profile

Anca Gheaus
Central European University


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