Justice is done—and done the right way—in SCOTUS' decision on marriage equality

Mark D. White

Ssm flagsToday the Supreme Court of the United States—now, thanks to Justice Scalia's dissent in yesterday's King v Burwell dissent, "officially" known as SCOTUS—declared marriage to be a right for all, covering both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. In his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy affirms same-sex marriage to be a matter of rights and dignity; Chief Justice Roberts, in his dissent, regards it as a matter of policy best left to the voters.

I agree with Kennedy, as I explain at Psychology Today. For more details on the opinions themselves (found here), I recommend Orin Kerr's summary at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Game Theory and Marriage: Spousonomics, part 2

Mark D. White

Spousonomics Following up on my last post, it so happens that one of the authors of Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes, Paula Szuchman, wrote a post at The Wall Street Journal's "Ideas Market" blog today, previewing several of the key points of the book. I was trying to reserve judgment on the book until I read it, but based on this blog post, it is no better than most pop economics (and may be even worse, given its subject matter).

You can read my opinion on the matter in a post titled "How Not to Apply Game Theory to Marriage" at Psychology Today.

Game Theory and Dating: Female Competition as Prisoners' Dilemma

Mark D. White

As some may know, I was initially attracted into academic economics by Gary Becker's work on the family, summarized in A Treatise on the Family (as well as Richard Posner's Sex and Reason). More recently I've developed methodological concerns with the neglect of explicit moral motivation in the models, which I've been meaning to explore (as I did with respect to law-and-economics in the past). But as an internal critique, I've always wondering why mating/dating behavior (before marriage or committed cohabitation) has not been looked at to any extent in the literature. Models of marital matching usually use an "as-if" approach, claiming that people would match up as the mathematical sorting frameworks predict, but that doesn't help to describe, explain, or predict real-world dating.

Spousonomics So my latest Psychology Today blog post is my first attempt to look at some of this, inspired specifically by psychologist Maryanne Fisher's extensive work on female competition (summarized in this Psychology Today blog post of her own, which introduced me to the topic) and generally by the new book Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes, which popularizes the economics of marriage in the manner of Freakonomics. In my post, I explain why female competition for "good men" is a prisoners' dilemma, and suggest several ways of avoiding this fate.

Christmas, Religion, and a New God

Jonathan B. Wight

It’s Christmas Day, and snow is falling gently in Richmond, Virginia.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus—if shopping malls are any indication.

Santa rules, but is there a God?  This is the subject of John Shelby Spong’s latest book, Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell (2010).  Spong is the controversial Episcopal bishop and prolific author who argued in previous books that Christianity had to modernize or die. Religion’s dogmas are deadening because they conflict with science and current common sense.  “One cannot restore life by doing a facelift on a corpse,” he wrote, in one of the memorable lines (p. 142). 

This isn’t particularly new; what is new is that an Episcopal bishop (now retired) is writing this.  Spong is speaking tomorrow in Richmond at my church—and the church he previously led—historic St. Paul’s Episcopal.  This is the church where, according to local legend, Robert E. Lee set the tone for the post-Civil War society by kneeling alongside a black man at the altar to receive communion. 

Spong is also willing to break with the past to forge a new direction for understanding religion and ethics.  Spong’s conclusion is that there is no God, at least not one of heaven and hell.  Rather, we must understand God (or love) as an internal link with the evolving consciousness of humanity.  This conclusion ends up being startlingly similar to Teilhard de Chardin’s thesis in his remarkable work, The Phenomenon of Man (1955). 

One is reminded of Adam Smith’s doctrine that belief in an afterlife is required if people are to develop self control needed for justice.  Is that an outdated notion?  Will humanity outgrow needing the threat of an afterlife (whether in Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism), by adopting a new universal consciousness?

Merry Christmas and happy dreams for the future…

Call for Papers: Reasons of Love

Mark D. White

With thanks to PEA Soup, I am utterly fascinated and intrigued by this call:

Reasons of Love
International Conference
Institute of Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
30 May-1 June 2011

This conference’s title is ambiguous on purpose. The relationship between
love and reasons for action is highly interesting and complicated. It is
not clear how love is related to reasons. Love might be a response to
certain normative reasons, since it seems fitting to love certain objects.
However, love also seems to create reasons and not to be a response to
certain appropriate reasons. Love’s relationship to morality is also
complex. It is not clear how the normative reasons for acting morally are
related to the reasons of love. It is sometimes argued that love is not a
virtue because the reasons for acting morally are not the same as the
reasons for acting lovingly. But the notion of ‘unprincipled virtue’ seems
to make room for love as a motive of morally praiseworthy actions.

This conference seeks to provide an opportunity to discuss these issues.
Related questions are the following: Do ‘the reasons of love’ constitute a
genuine, distinctive category of reasons?  Are different kinds of love
related to different kinds of reasons? What are the requirements of love,
as opposed to the requirements of duty? Are love’s reasons rational or non-
rational? Can love require to act immorally? If so, are love’s
requirements more or less important than those of morality? Is an action
out of love more praiseworthy than an action done out of a sense of duty?
Are there normative reasons for acting lovingly and to what extent do they
justify partiality? How are we to understand ‘acting lovingly’?

Keynote speakers:
Diane Jeske (Iowa), Michael Smith (Princeton) and R. Jay Wallace (Berkeley)


We invite abstract submissions on any issue related to the main topic as
stated above.  Graduate students are encouraged to participate.

The deadline for submission is December 1, 2010. Notification of
acceptance will be sent by January 20, 2011. Abstracts of 1500-2000 words
should be sent to  and

At the conference 40 minute slots will be available for presentation,
followed by 20 minutes of discussion.

A selection of papers will be submitted to Philosophical Explorations for

Conference organizers:
Esther Kroeker, Katrien Schaubroeck, Stefaan E. Cuypers, Willem Lemmens