Re: There They Go Again...

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From: Ernest N. Prabhakar (
Date: Wed Sep 13 2000 - 07:59:56 PDT

Sorry for the straggling reply, but I only FoRK my home email, and I'm busy
practicing what I preach in the evenings. :-)

I found Tony's reply the most interesting, so for simplicity I'll focus on

on 9/12/00 10:50 AM, Tony Berkman at wrote:

> I think Nietzsche would argue that we are ALL interested in just our own
> happiness. For some of us that may be in helping others find
> happiness.

Nietzsche went insane, as I recall (did he commit suicide?). I would
certainly concede that the vast majority of people are -primarily- concerned
with their own happiness. However, I have met very few people who were
*only* interested in their own happiness (the modern trendiness of
'selfishness' not withstanding). And those tend to end up like Nietzsche...

There's also a distinction between seeking one's happiness (as an
instantaneous emotional state) vs. one's long-term well being (an
integrative personal state), but that's not strictly relevant for this

> And by 'fulfilled lif' do you mean your own notion of a
> fulfilled life and, if not, whose?

Of course its mine - if it wasn't, I wouldn't argue for it. :-) However, I
don't think it is only mine, as I consider myself to draw heavily on both
Socratic and Christian philosophy. More below.

>> One thing I firmly believe (after almost 6 months) is that marriage is not
>> 50-50 - it is 100-100.
> Perhaps, but I've seen enough altruistic marriages that end in divorce to
> know that this is not necessarily so.

Altruism != love, though they are related. Besides, I am just claiming a
necessary, not sufficient condition.

Also, I certainly would never argue marriage creates happiness. It can
enhance it, from the opportunity to be with someone you love who loves you.
But you gotta bring happiness into a marriage, not try to extract happiness
from marriage.

> Please elaborate on why you consider divorce a tragedy. I think it's more
> of a tragedy to stay married to someone who no longer or never did make you
> happy.

Think of a runner in the Olympics who sprains an ankle in the last mile of a
marathon, and thus can't finish the race. I consider that a tragedy, as
they were aspiring to a higher goal. To make them try to finish the race
with a sprained ankle would be even crueler, but that makes the loss no less

on 9/12/00 9:01 PM, Jeff Bone at wrote:
> In my case, I consider mine a triumph.

And with all due respect to Jeff, I would argue that for him it was a
tragedy that they had to go through a marriage in order to end up with a
healthy divorce. ;-) And that the marriage issues were just relationship
issues that got forced to the surface.

> And why do you link humanity so strongly with the ideal of
> "unconditional married love". What makes marriage a part of being
> human?

Actually, there were three separate linkages I glossed over. One, I link
humanity with the ability to make conscious moral choices. I believe that
is what separates us from animals, and maps onto common definitions of
"inhuman", "humane", and "humanitarian." This is an ontological statement.

Two, I believe love (as a commitment, not just an emotion) is the best
"conscious moral choice" a human can make. This is a value judgement,
though in some circles it is almost a tautology.

Three, I believe marriage ("a long-term committed relationship with
socially-reinforced barriers to exit") is the optimal environment for the
exercise of such love. This, in its crudest form, is an economic statement
-- I think most economists would agree that barriers to exit increase
incentives to cooperation, lengthen planning horizons, and reduce
transaction costs. Prisoner's dilemma and all that. ;-)

> How many people would strive for "unconditional married love" if
> most couples were unmarried? It sounds to me like you are evangelizing
> based upon your own happy marriage (and maybe I'm mistaken and you are
> unmarried), but IMO the exception doesn't prove the rule....

Actually, it is the opposite. I was single until I was 32 (not even in any
sort of long-term, or even short-term relationships). I became married
precisely *because* I wanted to deepen my experience of love. So, I would
argue my beliefs shape my experience more than vice versa. There's probably
documentary evidence for that somewhere in the FoRK archive...

One last point:
Alexander Blakely at wrote:
> Marriage licenses, like passports and driver's licenses, should have
> expiration dates. People's passport and drivers license photos are almost
> always unflattering, but even the good ones must be updated because people
> change. If our outsides change over the years, why do we assume that our
> insides don't change?

Well, the corollary of my argument (that being human is the ability to make
conscious choices) is that "essential" humanity is precisely the ability to
make commitments that *are* invariant. To invoke Chesterton again, a vow is
the statement that at some intrinsic level I will *always* be the person who
wants/feels/believes what I do now. Which is a reasonable working
definition of "maturity" - the ability to accept long-term responsibility.

I'd go further. I would argue the foundation of society is more properly
these sort of reckless, unconditional "vows" that it is our more legalistic
concept of 'contracts' (which is why society historically rewards people who
make such vows, e.g. soldiers, priests, citizens, and married couples). That
ultimately the people we trust are those whom we believe do not and will not
change on the essentials (e.g., integrity), rather than those over whom we
have contractual leverage. Even if that trust may be an imperfect illusion.

But that's another topic for another day...

Thanks, I haven't had this much fun in months! Great to hear from some of
the lurkers...


on 9/12/00 2:17 PM, Tom Whore at wrote:
> (and to all those who have recntly tied the knot, pass along your phot
> urls. I want to see more people in this state of bliss:) )

Ernest N. Prabhakar, Ph.D.

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