The family as mystery: why taking into account transcendence is needed in current family debates

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The family is an “ideologically and politically charged” theme, especially when morality and religion are involved. This chapter joins Cristina L.H. Traina’s search for new approaches. Her proposal to characterize the family as responding to the call of our shared human precarity is examined for its ability to illuminate both the specificity of the family and its current controversial nature. To this end, a comparison is made with two alternative approaches. Jean-Philippe Pierron points to the symbolic nature of speaking about the family. Contrary to reified language, symbols allow expression of the ambiguous experiences that characterize family ties as both given and actively formed or ‘made.’ A second alternative, inspired by Gabriel Marcel, is to approach the family as mystery. This assumes not the naming of a core problem like the ambiguity between given and made, but the recognition of the unnameable but strong moral significance of the family. Marcel’s use of mystery, moreover, is spiritual; it points to a transcendent dimension. There are clear connections to this mystery character in everyday family life, which are elaborated in the last section. The comparison of the three approaches shows how attention to the transcendent dimension can stimulate moral debate beyond current impasses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe transcendent character of the good
Subtitle of host publicationphilosophical and theological perspectives
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781003305323
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2022

Publication series

Name Routledge studies in ethics and moral theory

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