Resolved: Contracts require at least two parties

In this thread, jtgain opines

In my opinion, this is not the worst analogy in the history of analogies, and I feel comfortable saying so only because I recognize the splendorous bounty of the universe–surely somewhere, somehow, someone has come up with a worse analogy. In that thread, jtgain brought this analogy up repeatedly with no clear recognition of the critiques raised against it, until finally a moderator made him stop. He then complained in ATMB, at which point I suggested a new thread might be in order where the terrible analogy could be put out of its misery (or perhaps jtgain could muster a truly brilliant defense of it that would make everybody change their minds about how awful it is).

So here’s the thread.

I’ll start:

-Although it is arguably a change to the word’s meaning to say that two men can be “married” to one another, everyone can recognize what the word means in this case. There’s no mystery about how it would work: it’s just the application of the word to new circumstances.
-A contract is necessarily an agreement between two parties. We could change the law such that minors could sign contracts, and that would equally be a change to the word’s meaning, but it’d be obvious what it meant under those circumstances. If I propose a law that says a ten-year-old’s signature on a contract is legally binding, there’s very little confusion about the effect of the law.
-A washing machine cannot consent to anything. Suggesting that someone could enter into a marriage contract with a washing machine means changing the word “contract” into something wholly unrecognizable. What on earth would that mean?
-The laws around marriage, including taxes, custody, inheritance, spousal benefits through various programs, etc., easily adapt to SSM. It is wholly opaque what it would mean if a washing machine were a partner in a marriage. Does the washing machine’s warranty apply to its spouse? If the human throws out the washing machine, is it entitled to alimony payments? If the human’s children stop coming to school, is the washing machine a custodial parent who can be charged with aiding truancy?

jtgain’s basic idea appears to be that any change whatsoever to a word’s meaning is equivalent to any other change to any other word’s meaning. This is a profoundly foolish idea.

We just changed the definition of “contract”, so now it only requires one person. So a contract no longer necessarily requires two parties.

Your argument seems to be that we can change one part of the definition of “marriage”, but not any of the other parts. That isn’t the case - we can call whatever we want, whatever we want.


Did you read anything else I wrote? Please explain what it means to change the definition this way, because I think the word you’re looking for isn’t “contract,” it’s “blog.”

Does it still require offer and acceptance?

So everytime someone fills their washing machine with a load, they are committing rape?

I’m not sure a contract with a washing machine is completely unreasonable. After all, the state (under some circumstances) can sue the washing machine. What does that even mean? How can an object be a party to a suit? Well, we’ve found a way, but you’ll have to ask a lawyer why it’s possible.

Likewise, although I can’t see how an object can be a party to contract, I’m not sure we can say it’s impossible, given the subtleties and intricacies of the legal system.

Correct. The argument is thus:

Party A: If you can change the definition of marriage to allow SSM, why can’t you at some point down the road allow marriage between one person and his pet or an inanimate object.

Party B: Because pets or inanimate objects cannot consent to a contract. A contract requires two parties.
Now, Party B’s statement is absolutely true. But there is absolutely nothing to prevent a legislature from altering the common law meaning of a contract to allow a unilateral one between a person and a non-human entity. It could be done tomorrow. Is there any disputing that?

Prior to 15 years ago, the argument could be thus:

Party A: Why can’t same sex couples marry?

Party B: Because same sex partners may not legally consent to a marriage contract. A marriage contract requires two parties of the opposite sex.
Do we agree that Party B’s argument in this case is terribly unpersuasive? It is unpersuasive because the legislature or the courts (as they have) can amend the common law definition of marriage so that the opposite sex requirement is removed. They can likewise remove the mutual consent rule for contracts.

So, one can say that the argument for marrying appliances is absurd, would never be raised, or would never be legalized, or that there is no comparison between marrying a human being and marrying an appliance. However, it is not a persuasive rebuttal to declare what the current state of contract law requires.

I stated such in the prior thread in rebuttal. My statement was never, at least IMHO, properly refuted, so I continued to use it. I disagree with the suggestion that my argument was fully thrashed, beaten, and exposed as a weak statement to the point where even stating it would be considered arguing in bad faith.

It is possible I missed a post here and there, and if that happened and I simply ignored someone, it was not my intention. If I did something that made someone feel I was ignoring a rebuttal to my idea, then I apologize for giving that impression.

Under the Contracts Act of 2084, contracts between human parties require offer and acceptance. Contracts between a human party and a non-human party do not require such offer and acceptance.

Again, you’re totally failing to address the points above. Why is this? You and Shodan are arguing the same way–as if, by ignoring the specifics of what others say, everyone else will ignore what others say. That’s not a good strategy.

Please reread the OP and respond to it specifically.

  1. Yes, changing the definition of marriage to include SSM is less of a drastic change to the term than my proposed change to the definition of a contract. It doesn’t change the fact that changes to definitions of terms can be small or they can be large. It’s just a matter of degree.

  2. Again, you are simply restating the current definition of a contract just as Party B in my hypo above is restating the then-current definition of marriage. Nothing says it cannot be changed.

  3. Consent is not needed for a non-human party to a contract under this new law.

  4. All of these things only apply to human marriage contracts. Since humans cannot enjoy warranties and washing machine cannot spend money, these new marriage contracts would exist for the sole purpose of recognizing one’s love, affection, bond, and promise to love, honor, and cherish the non-human party to the marriage contract.

Same sex marriage does put a twist on some current marriage law regarding biological children and paternity testing.

The thing is, you repeatedly suggested we should make this change. To what ends? You’ve told us how a contract with an appliance is unlike a contract with a human. How is it like a contract with a human? What does it even do? Why are we using the word “contract” for it, when it’s so completely unlike a contract?

If these contracts exist only to recognize one’s love and their promise, what’s the point of giving them a legal status? Why does the state need to be involved at all?

What would be the legal significance of a contract with an inanimate object? how would current law need to be modified in order to account for this significance?

With gay marriage it is very easy to see what all of this means. Just eliminate any reference to the sex of the partners from the current legal framework and your done.

With appliance marriage I honestly have no idea how such a thing would work, so I can’t really say that I am in favor or opposed because it makes no sense.

Perhaps a better facetious counter factual would be to discuss the possibility that a woman could marry Walmart, since the company Walmart, unlike a dishwasher is at least a legal entity.

Your points are being directly and specifically addressed. You may not like the results, but it is untrue that your points are being ignored.

It means that we have changed the definition of a legal term to suit a new set of circumstances. It’s too bad it makes you uncomfortable, but any resistance to the new definition is a sign of bigotry.


To be clear, of course we can change any word to mean whatever we want. The terrible part about your analogy is that you’re equating a minor change to the word “marriage,” made for very strong reasons, with a complete about-face change to the word “contract,” made for no discernible reason at all.

You quoted the title of the thread and showed no evidence at all of reading it. Claiming the points were addressed is not the same thing as addressing them. jtgain in his latest post finally addressed the points; he had not done so earlier.

If you need to stamp your foot and insist you DID TOO address the points, go ahead, but until you actually do so, I don’t see that there’s any reason to respond to you further.

“I propose we allow women to vote”

“What? Women have never voted in this country. What’s next allowing washing machines to vote?”

“No, how would a washing machine even vote?”

“It doesn’t matter. Any time you propose any change, it is ridiculous, because some other changes would be ridiculous. They are both changes, and so ridiculous. If we could change the definition of voter to include women we could change anything to mean anything. We could declare up is down, hot is cold, freedom is slavery. It’s Orwellian! We can never change anything, because some changes are bad, therefore all changes are bad. We can’t change the speed limit on the street next to the school from 30 to 25, because if we did that someone might change it to 900, or .00001. We can’t allow reasonable changes, because what if later a change was unreasonable, and we’d be so used to change that we wouldn’t even know the change was bad?”

Isn’t everything?

Say you propose literally any change to any law. Maybe we should require two witnesses if you’re signing a will, you say. And I reply: Maybe we should require ten, or twenty! Maybe we should require them to all have been born in the same year! Maybe we should require purple paper and yellow ink! Maybe we should only allow them to be signed indoors on weekdays, and outdoors on weekends!

In a way, I guess any change implies every possible change. And yet somehow we soldier on with civilization, changing laws here and there even though each time suggests the godlike ability to loose a wondrously unlimited supply of new definitions o’er the land again and again; it’s amazing, except, of course, it’s not.

Doesn’t matter to me. Christians aren’t married, their joining is something else other than marriage. Older cultures and religions invented marriage and they would be horrified to see Christians co-opting the word for their blasphemy. Marriage is only something reserved for non-Christians as far as I’m concerned

We could however imagine a situation where the state would recognize a marriage to a washing machine. It wouldn’t be a contract, obviously, more like an official recognition of the deep feelings the person has for his washing machine, which would probably be psychologically positive for the person, and also would make him feel included rather than rejected.

For the record, there was once on late Opalcat’s board a female poster who was in love with the Berlin wall (yes, after it was demolished. It seemed irrelevant to her). She had a website, was arguing that her feelings were legitimate, and mentioned she had been in contact over the years with many people like her, “in love” with inanimate objects. She would presumably have supported a state sanctioned marriage with walls.

I easily found an article about her . The article mentions that her “orientation” is a known, if unusual, condition. (and in fact, this wikipedia article refers to a sexologist who believes it is a legitimate sexual orientation)

“Who you can have sex with” is a different issue from “who you can marry” and I do not believe it would be good for the government to start issuing official certifications of love (or any other emotional state).

For SSM, it’s not the law that’s changing the meaning of the word “marriage” – it’s we speakers of the English language. Not all of us, of course, but enough of us that it’s pretty clear that the word “marriage” is now widely used (by many, but not all), to include gay unions as well as straight ones.

Anyone disagree?

So for any change to the word “contract” to be comparable, it would have to be a change in usage by the speakers of the language in which the law just ‘catches up’ late to the party.