The Just Family

By Richard Dien Winfield

Subjects: Social Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Social and Political Thought
Paperback : 9780791439982, 273 pages, October 1998
Hardcover : 9780791439975, 273 pages, October 1998

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Table of contents


Introduction The Perplexities of Conceiving the Family as a Normative Institution

Obstacles to an Independent Family Ethics

The Incongruence of Family Ethics with Property Right, Morality, and Politics 

The Specter of Relativism and Nihilism Haunting Family Ethics

Multiculturalism and Family Values ,

Freedom and Family Ethics

Chapter I Ethical Community as the Framework for Family Ethics

The Rationale for the Renewed Turn to Ethical Community

The Fatal Limits of the Communitarian Turn

Liberating Ethical Community from its Communitarian Deformation  Property and Morality as Preconditions of Ethical Community

Ethical Community as the Obligatory Complement of Property Right and Morality

Hegel and the Rehabilitation of Ethical Community

The Place of the Family in the Division of Ethical Community

Chapter II Nature, Psychology, and the Normativity of the Family

The Role of Nature in the Family

The Contingency of Sexual Differentiation and Bisexual Reproduction in the Family

The Contingency of Parenting in the Family

The Family and the Human Metabolism with


The Family and Evolution

The Family and the Birth of Culture

Traditional Kinship and Family Ethics

The Natural and Psychological Prerequisites of the Family

Chapter III Friendship Morals versus Family Ethics

The Confusion in the Classical Conception of Friendship

The Lacuna of Friendship in Modern Ethics

Family Relations in Contrast to Friendship

Chapter IV Marriage

With What Must Family Ethics Begin?

Marriage as First Topic of Family Ethics

Methodological Quandaries in Conceiving Marriage

Marriage and Nature

Marriage Versus Contract

Marriage and Love

he Eligibility to Marry

Same Sex Marriage

Incest and Marriage

Monogamy, Polygamy, and Bigamy

Marital Right and the Extended Family

Preliminary Formalities to Marriage

Formal Versus Informal Marriage

The Grounds of Choice in Marriage

Marriage and Family Name

Chapter V The Conduct of Married Life

The Internal Relation of Spouses

Marital Property Relations

The Scope of Mutual Care and Welfare in Marital Conduct

External Marital Rights and Duties

The Violation and Enforcement of Marital Right

Chapter VI The Ethics of Parenting

Objections to Child Rearing in the Family

Historical Presuppositions of Ethical Parenting

The Qualifications for Parenting

Modes of Assuming Parental Duty

The Parent-Child Relation

The Resolution of Parental Conflict and Abuse

Parent-Child Relations Afar Maturity

Marriage and Parenting

Sibling Relations and Family Ethics

Chapter VII The Dissolution of the Family through Divorce, Death, and Disability

The Right to Divorce

Consent, Fault and the Grounds for Divorce

Property Settlements and Alimony in the Divorce of Spouses without Dependents

Divorce Settlements of Spouses with Dependents

Death in the Family and Inheritance

The Domestic Implications of Depersonalization

Chapter VIII The Family in Relation to Civil Society and the State

The Elementary Normative Structure of Family and Civil Society

The Effect of Family Freedom Upon Civil Society

The Impact of Civil Society Upon Family Right

Family and State


Works Cited


Provides a comprehensive and systematic family ethic, addressing major issues fueling the family values debate.


The Just Family presents a comprehensive and systematic theory of family values, determining both how marriage and parent-child relations should be structured as ethical institutions of freedom and how the rights and duties of family membership can be upheld in unity with social and political justice.

Richard Dien Winfield is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Stylistics: Rethinking the Artforms After Hegel; Freedom and Modernity; and Reason and Justice, all published by SUNY Press; and Systematic Aesthetics; Law In Civil Society; Overcoming Foundations: Studies In Systematic Philosophy; and The Just Economy.


"Winfield locates his treatment of the family within the context of a broader theory of justice, and shows how it fits into this larger framework as a unique part of a greater whole. He considers the entire range of issues concerning the family including marriage, common property, love and sexual relations—both heterosexual and homosexual—children and their upbringing, divorce and death, inheritance, etc. What is most gratifying though is that Winfield provides arguments and not just opinions about how these relations and practices constituting the family ought to be ordered.

"Winfield's book comes at a time when there is a need for philosophical reflection on questions of family values, children's rights, and same-sex marriage. He has developed interesting, thoughtful, and controversial arguments about all these matters. By providing a unified normative account of the family in all its dimensions, Winfield has accomplished something of intellectual importance." — Robert Berman, Xavier University of Louisiana

"Winfield canvasses a wide range of philosophical issues related to civil society, the state, and family relations. He boldly advances a unique perspective that will vivify and challenge future work in these areas." — Raymond Angelo Belliotti, State University of New York at Fredonia