The science of family life continues to make huge strides: Study Looks At Women, Marriage And Divorce and discovers that shacking up and premarital pregnancy make for shaky marriages. How revolutionary! Similar findings may eventually lead scholars to propose sophisticated theoretical concepts like “commitment and integrity” and “moral orientation,” or maybe eventually even “virtue and faith,” to explain otherwise puzzling data.
Such conceptual advances may lead to previously unthought-of questions that when asked advance knowledge yet further. Recent examples include the startling discoveries that traditional households, oppressive though they may be from the standpoint of liberal metaphysics, are radically less prone to violence and abuse than non-traditional ones, and that divorce not only makes kids miserable, it usually makes their parents miserable too. The former discovery would never have been made if someone had not thought of disaggregating married households from other arrangements in studies of domestic violence, nor the latter if someone had not questioned the proposition that letting people go off and do what they feel like doing makes for their greater happiness. And neither move would have been possible without what I suppose in modern academia must count as radical conceptual innovation.