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We have seen how the logic of contract and the movement to conquer nature have resulted in a triumph of autonomy and the demise of family. The family thus stands in need of a defense. Defense of the family means defense of an institution, and that defense requires some defense of the nature that these institutions react to and reflect. This is where contemporary advocates have focused their attention. Both the modern principles—the principle of contract and the move to conquer nature—are partial truths, and it is best to understand how they each fit into a proper understanding of married life. We can see the partial truth of these principles by seeing how today’s defenders of marriage and family life appeal to anatomy, on the one hand, and love, on the other hand. The defense of marriage and family life in the name of love must ultimately supplement the defense in the name of anatomy.

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This document originally appeared in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ. Reprinted by permission. Copyright restrictions may apply.