Marriage and Morals

Marriage and Morals (1929) is a book by the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell that questions the Victorian notions of morality regarding sex and marriage.

QuotesEdit

  • Love as a relation between men and women was ruined by the desire to make sure of the legitimacy of children.
    • Ch. 3: The Dominion of the Father
I believe marriage to be the best and most important relation that can exist between two human beings.
Those who have never known the deep intimacy and the intense companionship of happy mutual love have missed the best thing that life has to give...
  • I believe myself that romantic love is the source of the most intense delights that life has to offer. In the relation of a man and woman who love each other with passion and imagination and tenderness, there is something of inestimable value, to be ignorant of which is a great misfortune to any human being.
    • Ch. 3: The Dominion of the Father
  • The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
    • Ch. 5: Christian Ethics
  • It seems to be the fate of idealists to obtain what they have struggled for in a form which destroys their ideals.
    • Ch. 7: The Liberation of Women
  • If the old morality is to be re-established, certain things are essential; some of them are already done, but experience shows that these alone are not effective. The first essential is that the education of girls should be such as to make them stupid and superstitious and ignorant; this requisite is already fulfilled in schools over which the churches have any control. The next requisite is a very severe censorship upon all books giving information on sex subjects [...] These conditions, however, since they exist already, are clearly insufficient. The only thing that will suffice is to remove from young women all opportunity of being alone with men: girls must be forbidden to earn their living by work outside the home; they must never be allowed an outing unless accompanied by their mother or an aunt; the regrettable practice of going to dances without a chaperon must be sternly stamped out. [...] [P]erhaps it would be wise to subject all unmarried women once a month to medical examination by police doctors, and to send to a penitentiary all such as were found to be not virgins. The use of contraceptives must, of course, be eradicated, and it must be illegal in conversation with unmarried women to throw doubt upon the dogma of eternal damnation. These measures, if carried out vigorously for a hundred years or more, may perhaps do something to stem the rising tide of immorality. I think, however, that in order to avoid the risk of certain abuses, it would be necessary that all policemen and all medical men should be castrated. Perhaps it would be wise to carry this policy a step further, in view of the inherent depravity of the male character. I am inclined to think that moralists would be well advised to advocate that all men should be castrated, with the exception of ministers of religion. Since reading Elmer Gantry, I have begun to feel that even this exception is perhaps not quite wise.
    • Ch. 7: The Liberation of Women
  • The desire to understand the world and the desire to reform it are the two great engines of progress, without which human society would stand still or retrogress.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • Science enables us to realise our purposes, and if our purposes are evil, the result is disaster.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • [E]ven frank pornography would do less harm if it were open and unashamed than it does when it is rendered interesting by secrecy and stealth.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • Nine-tenths of the appeal of pornography is due to the indecent feelings concerning sex which moralists inculcate in the young; the other tenth is physiological, and will occur in one way or another whatever the state of the law may be.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • Homosexuality between men, though not between women, is illegal in England, and it would be very difficult to present any argument for change of the law in this respect which would not itself be illegal on the ground of obscenity. And yet every person who has taken the trouble to study the subject knows that this law is the effect of a barbarous and ignorant superstition, in favour of which no rational argument of any sort or kind can be advanced.
There is only one way to avoid indecency, and that is to avoid mystery.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • The taboo against nakedness is an obstacle to a decent attitude on the subject of sex... It is good for children to see each other and their parents naked whenever it so happens naturally. There will be a short period, probably at about three years old, when the child is interested in the differences between his father and his mother, and compares them with the differences between himself and his sister, but this period is soon over, and after this he takes no more interest in nudity than in clothes. So long as parents are unwilling to be seen naked by their children, the children will necessarily have a sense that there is a mystery, and having that sense they will become prurient and indecent. There is only one way to avoid indecency, and that is to avoid mystery.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • There are also many important grounds of health in favour of nudity in suitable circumstances, such as out-of-doors in sunny weather. Sunshine on the bare skin has an exceedingly health-giving effect. Moreover anyone who has watched children running about in the open-air without their clothes must have been struck by the fact that they hold themselves much better and move more freely and more gracefully than when they are dressed. The same thing is true of grown-up people. The proper place for nudity is out-of-doors in the sunshine and in the water. If our conventions allowed of this, it would soon cease to make any sexual appeal; we should all hold ourselves better, we should be healthier from the contact of air and sun with the skin, and our standards of beauty would more nearly coincide with standards of health, since they would concern themselves with the body and its carriage, not only with the face. In this respect the practice of the Greeks was to be commended.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives.
    • Ch. 9: The Place of Love in Human Life
Nature did not construct human beings to stand alone...
  • Passionate mutual love while it lasts... breaks down the hard walls of the ego, producing a new being composed of two in one. Nature did not construct human beings to stand alone, since they cannot fulfil her biological purpose except with the help of another; and civilized people cannot fully satisfy their sexual instinct without love... Those who have never known the deep intimacy and the intense companionship of happy mutual love have missed the best thing that life has to give; unconsciously, if not consciously, they feel this, and the resulting disappointment inclines them towards envy, oppression and cruelty. To give due place to passionate love should be therefore a matter which concerns the sociologist, since, if they miss this experience, men and women cannot attain their full stature, and cannot feel towards the rest of the world that kind of generous warmth without which their social activities are pretty sure to be harmful.
    • Ch. 9: The Place of Love in Human Life
  • I believe marriage to be the best and most important relation that can exist between two human beings.
    • Ch. 10: Marriage
  • It is illegal in England to state in print that a wife can and should derive sexual pleasure from intercourse. (I have myself heard a pamphlet condemned as obscene in a court of law on this among other grounds.) It is on the above outlook in regard to sex that the attitude of the law, the church, and the old-fashioned educators of the young is based.
    • Ch. 8: The Taboo on Sex Knowledge
  • Even in civilized mankind faint traces of a monogamous instinct can sometimes be perceived.
    • Ch. 10: Marriage
  • I hold, of course, as every humane person must, that divorce should be granted on more grounds than are admitted in the English law, but I do not recognise in easy divorce a solution of the troubles of marriage. Where a marriage is childless, divorce may be often the right solution, even when both parties are doing their best to behave decently; but where there are children the stability of marriage is to my mind a matter of considerable importance... I think that, where a marriage is fruitful and both parties to it are reasonable and decent, the expectation ought to be that it will be lifelong, but not that it will exclude other sex relations.
    • Ch. 10: Marriage
I should not hold it desirable that either a man or a woman should enter upon the serious business of a marriage intended to lead to children without having had previous sexual experience.
To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
  • Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution.
    • Ch. 11: Prostitution
  • I should not hold it desirable that either a man or a woman should enter upon the serious business of a marriage intended to lead to children without having had previous sexual experience.
    • Ch. 11: Trial Marriage
  • The psychology of adultery has been falsified by conventional morals, which assume, in monogamous countries, that attraction to one person cannot coexist with a serious affection for another. Everybody knows that this is untrue.
    • Ch. 16: Divorce
  • To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
    • Ch. 19: Sex and Individual Well-Being
  • Gluttony is regarded by the Catholic Church as one of the seven deadly sins, and those who practice it are placed by Dante in one of the deeper circles of hell, but it is a somewhat vague sin, since it is hard to say where a legitimate interest in food ceases, and guilt begins to be incurred. Is it wicked to eat anything that is not nourishing? If so, with every salted almond we risk damnation.
    • Ch. 20: The Place of Sex Among Human Values
  • I am not suggesting that there should be no morality and no self-restraint in regard to sex, any more than in regard to food. In regard to food we have restraints of three kinds, those of law, those of manners, and those of health. We regard it as wrong to steal food, to take more than our share at a common meal, and to eat in ways that are likely to make us ill. Restraints of a similar kind are essential where sex is concerned, but in this case they are much more complex and involve much more self-control. Moreover, since one human being ought not to have property in another, the analogue of stealing is not adultery, but rape, which obviously must be forbidden by law. The questions that arise in regard to health are concerned almost entirely with venereal disease.
    • Ch. 20: The Place of Sex Among Human Values
  • Joy of life... depends upon a certain spontaneity in regard to sex. Where sex is repressed, only work remains, and a gospel of work for work's sake never produced any work worth doing.
    • Ch. 20: The Place of Sex Among Human Values
  • So long as there is death there will be sorrow, and so long as there is sorrow it can be no part of the duty of human beings to increase its amount, in spite of the fact that a few rare spirits know how to transmute it.
    • Ch. 20: The Place of Sex Among Human Values

Quotes about Marriage and MoralsEdit

  • An audacious and provocative book, in which truths are spiced with half-truths, and Mr Russell's scepticism and his dogmatism wage their familiar conflict.
    • New Statesman, as quoted in Let the people think: a selection of essays by Bertrand Russell (1941), p. 119

External linksEdit

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
Last modified on 4 January 2014, at 06:55