Metaphysics is a serious discipline at university, in which brainy men (and they are all men) write papers arguing about the nature of reality. The word has been heartlessly mangled, and is now a label used popularly to categorize new age claptrap. In fact, it is actually all about what kind of shit exists in the world, and what that shit’s qualities might be.
Take the color red, for example. Before I studied philosophy I just took it as a range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, or some such. That’s because I had a math degree. It’s actually a much deeper question. Even if “red” is a range of frequencies, we still aren’t any closer to figuring out what it is. We’re just wondering about the nature of describing radiation by wavelength, and subdividing it by spectral colors.
I’m not smart enough to be a metaphysician, but I get to hang out with these guys fairly often, and one of the things they all love to do, is to sit around arguing about determinism.
Determinism is another word that a mathematician thinks he knows, because he took the 100-level physics series as a schoolboy. We think it has to do with cause-and-effect.
If I see a baseball suddenly accelerate in R3, I think there must be some reason. I saw that baseball traveling due east at 40 m/s, and suddenly it is traveling WNW at 30 m/s, accelerating 30 degrees from the plane. I don’t know exactly what happened. I think there must be a crazy fastball pitcher someplace, and a guy with a bat. Whatever it was, something made that baseball change velocity in three degrees of freedom. Isaac Newton told me that shit can’t just happen on its own. The acceleration had to have been determined by some underlying cause.
Determinism, as its defined philosophically, encompasses a much wider and deeper set of questions. These lead to a bunch of conclusions that touch upon the concept of human freedom. As a result, we wonder if all of the choices we think we make, with a clear head, are actually choices.
Say I come to your house. If you live in Seattle, you probably won’t invite me in. If you live in Biloxi, you probably will. In Mississippi, you invite your neighbors in as a matter of course. If you keep someone standing, dick-in-hand, on the porch, and talk to him through the screen door, you’re considered an asshole. People get the hint you don’t like them.
In Seattle, you don’t even invite your friends in your house, unless you’re hosting a party. In fact, if a guest expects to come in, the homeowner will likely find him rude and pushy. Everyone cools his heels on the porch, and no one takes it personally.
One can speculate that person x is making the free choice to invite person y into his house, but is he? Much of what we do is a matter of custom. Certain things were impressed upon x throughout his life, and while x might imagine that he is freely choosing to invite y through the door, we can not be certain. In fact, a pretty compelling case can be made that all manner of moral and personal choices are decided not based on will, but on prior programming.
And so we arrive at the point. Many men walk down that aisle with the idea that they are making a free, sober, and conscious choice. Each one of these dopes would likely claim that he is using an act of will, to wife up that girl who made eyes at them at the supermarket, a year prior. He’ll explain that she’s funny, great in the sack, and a lot of fun to go road-tripping with.
The problem, as I see it, is that there is not a single benefit to signing on that marriage certificate, in front of the priest. All the fun shit your girl does with you now, will not magically become more fun once you are married. The hot sex you’re both having now, will not get better after the wedding. So, upon what incentive is the choice to marry based?
Thus I think marriage is an obvious example of the paucity of the libertarian thesis. Most men who think that they are freely consenting to marriage seem to actually be playing a role or bowing to the expectations of others.
Since contemporary society affords a man no benefits for marriage, and only piles liabilities upon him when he signs on for the job of “husband,” it’s easier to believe that marriages are now compulsory.