The Virtues of the Family

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Free Press, Jan 1, 1994 - Social Science - 303 pages
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Since the sexual revolution, the traditional family's moral authority has been the subject of an increasingly politicized debate. The family's detractors have viewed it as an arbitrary social arrangement which perpetuates injustice and legitimates violations of individual rights. Those who defend it, on the other hand, insist that it is the only possible source of human values and suggest that those outside it are somehow deficient or deviant. In this strident and polarized atmosphere, philosopher Jacob Joshua Ross offers a long-overdue assessment of the family's relation to morality, arguing that the family is not a rigid, static institution with inflexible codes of behavior, but rather a dynamic social structure from which human morality - and human nature - emerge. Ross first explores the foundations of ethical belief, maintaining that the traditional family is intimately linked to the evolution of human morality in societies throughout the world. While he accepts the relativity of moral codes, Ross defends "true" or rational morality as the minimal and universal code on which all families depend - a code which has evolved as a result of the needs and constraints of our shared humanity, and on which all societies may one day hope to agree. Ross applies this view to many of the sensitive issues confronting today's families, such as divorce and single parenthood, adoption, surrogacy, and gay marriage. He asserts that although many people, for practical reasons, feel compelled today to seek answers outside the traditional family, this does not undermine the family's moral authority. On the contrary, Ross defends the traditional conception of the family against those who perceive parentsas mere "caretakers" of children, arguing that concepts such as intergenerational loyalty, sexual exclusivity between husband and wife, and the duty to educate and nurture one's children evolve naturally from the unique relationships which develop among family members - relationships which are irreducible to questions of rights and entitlements.

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The Attack on the Family
Positive Morality and Objectivism

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About the author (1994)

Ross is associate professor of philosophy at Tel-Aviv University.

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