Standard Article


  1. Elizabeth Brake

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee440

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Brake, E. 2013. Marriage. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Marriage can be broadly defined as a legal, social, or religious institution which regulates, recognizes, and supports intimate personal relationships, typically sexual, between at least two parties. The historical and cultural variability of marital forms and purposes makes a narrower definition difficult. Unsurprisingly, in light of this variousness, much philosophical debate over marriage concerns its proper definition. Debates in moral philosophy have focused on defining the proper purpose of marriage, and accordingly, its essential form, obligations, and relation to the human good. Debates in political philosophy have concerned what legal definition of marriage justice requires; recent focal points of these debates have included same-sex marriage, polygamy, and the effects of marriage law on gender equality.


  • feminist philosophy;
  • legal and political;
  • practical (applied) ethics;
  • church and state;
  • marriage