Since the sexual revolution, the traditional family’s moral authority has been the subject of an increasingly politicized debate. The family’s detractors have viewed it as an arbitrary social arrangement which perpetuates injustice and legitimates violations of individual rights. Those who defend it, on the other hand, insist that it is the only possible source of human values and suggest that those outside it are somehow deficient or deviant.
In this strident and polarized atmosphere, philosopher Jacob Joshua Ross offers a long-overdue assessment of the family’s relation to morality, arguing that the family is not a rigid, static institution with inflexible codes of behavior, but rather a dynamic social structure from which human morality—and human nature—emerge. Ross first explores the foundations of ethical belief, maintaining that the traditional family is intimately linked to the evolution of human morality in societies throughout the world. While he accepts the relativity of moral codes, Ross defends “true” or rational morality as the minimal and universal code on which all families depend—a code which has evolved as a result of the needs and constraints of our shared humanity, and on which all societies may one day hope to agree. Ross applies this view to many of the sensitive issues confronting today’s families, such as divorce and single parenthood, adoption, surrogacy, and gay marriage.