Alcorn: Same-sex marriage is a philosophical impossibility

Published 11:06 am Monday, September 24, 2012

You can indeed put a square peg into a round hole—if the peg is small enough that its corners get in even when its straight sides do not conform to the curved sides of the round hole. But this semantic trick does not constitute an actual fit, and it is still true “you cannot put a square peg in a round hole.” So it is with many notions; we have done something without accomplishing anything.

A profound challenge to same-sex “marriage” is so obvious it often “goes without saying.” It is not only anatomically unnatural, obstetrically unsuccessful and morally problematic, it is even ontologically impossible.

This is a most sober and serious supplement to a satire I offered here a year ago:

“If a triangle can have four sides and a circle can be square, then I guess red can be the new green and black can be called white. If these things were possible, then I guess two men living together and two women living together can be considered a marriage.”

Some readers failed (or were humorlessly unwilling) to recognize the literary genre satire, and some evidenced they do not even know what satire is. Then, read Jonathan Swift or more populists satirists as Mark Twain, Will Rogers or Garrison Keillor.

Or Abraham Lincoln. One reader thoughtfully reminded me of a famous statement by this down-to-earth philosopher: “How many legs does a dog have if you count its tail as a leg? Answer: Four. Counting a tail as a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

If literary rhetoric cannot be understood or if some simply reject its expression, we will employ philosophy. Ontology (often called metaphysics as a technical term Aristotle introduced) is the study of the nature of being or existence. You cannot get more basic than this, and this is what we do here.

Some complained my satire offered no evidence or reason and is nothing more than a silly story. They are mistaken. It displays evidence and expresses reason—they just do not want to recognize them. Likely, they will also dismiss philosophy and logic as beyond them. Where this is so, they betray not having gone far enough in their own thinking.

Nothing has meaning, much less existence, if it does not have properties that belong to the universe of the thing. With only particulars and no universals, the thing does not belong to any broader thing and is betrayed as a notion and not a concept.

A red ball possesses the properties red and round. Calling a green round object or a red square object a red ball does not make it a red ball. Calling same-sex “marriage” does not make it marriage.

The universe in this philosophic consideration is marriage, which is — by its very definition and essence — the complimentary wedding of male and female. Other properties of this particular can be health, ethnic, and intelligence. All such are non-essentials (the term is “accidentals”) and can vary greatly and still be marriage. This is so because these are either consistent with or indifferent to the essence of the universal. In contrast, same-sex by its very nature is dissonant and incongruous with the essence of marriage.

Again in the taxonomy of philosophy, the accidental properties of a given marriage are irrelevant to its essence. They just happen to be present without being necessary. What is not an accidental property is an essential property. These are accidental properties but heterosexuality is an essential property when the universe is marriage. Again: a green ball is not a red ball precisely because the property red is absent.

Without such essential properties as sex that is compatible and complimentary, an alleged marriage simply is not marriage at all. Without this, the relationship might be a beautiful and wonderful socially or even domestically — but it is not marriage.

I have been reluctant to offer this line of reasoning, because following it requires some knowledge of the terms and categories of technical philosophy. (This, without also showing the invalidity of same-sex marriage by its violation of the laws of identity and contradiction.) But this dimension needs to be factored into any comprehensive consideration. It should be sufficient for some, then, to allow there is this factor even if they need to reread to follow it.

Neither a male-male nor a female-female relationship has the essential — i.e., of the essence — property of male-female. Same-sex marriage is neither validated nor created. It is metaphysically impossible. So to think is a logical fallacy; so to speak is semantic nonsense.