Friday, July 01, 2005

Redefining Marriage

So Spain has approved gay marriage, and right-wing groups are upset that they're "redefining marriage". But they don't speak English in Spain. Spanish actions are no threat to English words.

8 comments:

  1. Marriage is a concept that transcends language.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Concepts can't be redefined.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the idea is that the institution of marriage is being redefined. It can't be about the English word. It does make sense to say that something could redefine what an institution is about. It would be more accurate to say that it's a transformation of the institution, but it's not as if there's no thesis that this sort of statement could have in mind. It's just not the best way to put it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know, Jeremy. I'm not saying that the idea behind opposition to this sort of move is so obviously ridiculous. I disagree with it, but on policy grounds, not pithy semantic ones.

    It does seem as though some elements on the Right are concerned about English words; I blogged a couple of months ago about someone complaining about metaphorical uses of "family", including pets and the like. I think that we agree that this sort of complaint is just silly.

    I grant that we're talking about a major policy change. My point is merely that describing it as "redefining marriage" is sort of dumb.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I certainly agree with you that it's not correct, in a policy sense, to present this issue as a semantic one. However, I think it's obvious why they do that -- it sounds better to complain about redefining marriage than to complain about somebody being given equal rights. It's a framing issue. When they successfully get you to argue semantics with them (as you are doing in this post), they win, because it's no longer a conversation about people's rights at that point. If you point to their complaints about semantics and simply always argue that they're avoiding the real point, and then you win.

    I also think your semantic point in this post is mistaken. Spanish actions can affect English words, because tomorrow I could say "some gay people got married in Spain", and then I would be using the English word marriage in the way that they don't want it to be used. I'm not going to bother to use the Spanish word instead.

    And I'm not really understanding what it is about concepts that makes them not susceptible to redefinition. Could you explain that?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't think I'm meeting them on their own ground, Alexis. I'm saying that their ground is a ridiculous way of looking at things.

    I also think your semantic point in this post is mistaken. Spanish actions can affect English words, because tomorrow I could say "some gay people got married in Spain", and then I would be using the English word marriage in the way that they don't want it to be used. I'm not going to bother to use the Spanish word instead.

    If 'marriage' really needs to be REDEFINED in order to apply to gay people, then we're not speaking proper English if we say, "two gay people got married". That would be like saying, "I just gave birth to a male baby daughter".

    Regardless of what events HAPPEN in Spain, the fact that we can describe these acts (even if they were mere hypothetical acts) as marriages demonstrates that our LANGUAGE permits gay marriage.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Spaniards are now joined by the United Church of Christ. Those pernicious forces of truth, justice, and tolerance look pretty unstoppable now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Heh.

    Although I disagree with the wisdom of the advocated policy (I think), your post made me chuckle quite a bit. Everyone likes a good philosophical joke.

    ReplyDelete