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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2019
Is Procreation Immoral?

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editor’s introduction
1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Sarah Conly Issue Introduction
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2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Anca Gheaus More Co-parents, Fewer Children: Multiparenting and Sustainable Population
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Some philosophers argue that we should limit procreation—for instance, to one child per person or one child per couple—in order to reduce our aggregate carbon footprint. I provide additional support to the claim that population size is a matter of justice, by explaining that we have a duty of justice towards the current generation of children to pass on to them a sustainable population. But instead of, or, more likely, alongside with, having fewer children in in each family, we could also create families with more than two parents. I explore this possibility by pointing out the ways in which multi-parenting can advance children’s interests: in higher levels of well-being, in non-monopolistic child-rearing, and in a future opportunity to become themselves parents.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Leonard Kahn Is There an Obligation to Abort?: Act Utilitarianism and the Ethics of Procreation
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Most Act-Utilitarians, including Singer are Permissivists who claim that their theory usually permits abortion. In contrast, a minority, including Hare and Tännsjö, are Restrictionists who assert that Act-Utilitarianism (AU) usually limits abortion. I argue that both Permissivists and Restrictionists have misunderstood AU’s radical implications for abortion: AU entails that abortion is, in most cases in the economically developed world, morally obligatory. According to AU, it is morally obligatory for A to do F in circumstances C if and only if A’s doing F in C produces at least as much total net value as any other action that A could do in C. As mentioned above, AU has generally been seen to be fairly permissive about abortion. A little more exactly, AU is usually thought to hold that abortion is morally permissible in most cases, even during the second and third trimester. But not all AUs are Permissivists. Restrictionists maintain that the value of the future good that the fetus will experience over an entire life is likely to often outweigh the value of the good that its female parent will lose if the fetus is not aborted. Neither Permissivists nor Restrictionists have understood AU’s implications for abortion, at least as it concerns those living in economically developed countries today. First, Restrictionists have failed to recognize the marginal costs that a person in the developed world incurs on future people. One life lived now in the developed world consumes more resources (and contributes more to global warming) than a life lived in the developing world, and in the process makes the prospects of future people considerably worse. Restrictionists ignore these costs when they claim that it is often morally impermissible to abort fetuses. Second, Permissivists have not gone far enough when they have claimed that abortion is morally permissible. Singer and others have argued that we in the developed world ought to redirect much of our wealth to the underdeveloped world because its marginal value is much higher there than here. But the average cost of raising a child in the United States is almost $13,000 per year. Hence, by forgoing a child (including aborting a fetus) one can save and maintain, on average, between 6 and 65 people per year. Thus, AU entails that almost everyone in the developed world who is financially capable of supporting a child should not do so, even if that means aborting a fetus.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Trevor Hedberg The Duty to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Limits of Permissible Procreation
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Many environmental philosophers have argued that there is an obligation for individuals to reduce their individual carbon footprints. However, few of them have addressed whether this obligation would entail a corresponding duty to limit one’s family size. In this paper, I examine several reasons that one might view procreative acts as an exception to a more general duty to reduce one’s individual greenhouse gas emissions. I conclude that none of these reasons are convincing. Thus, if there is an obligation to reduce one’s unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, then people should also limit the size of their families when they have the means to do so.
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Gerald K. Harrison Antinatalism and Moral Particularism
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I believe most acts of human procreation are immoral, and I believe this despite also believing in the truth of moral particularism. In this paper I explain why. I argue that procreative acts possess numerous features that, in other contexts, seem typically to operate with negative moral valences. Other things being equal this gives us reason to believe they will operate negatively in the context of procreative acts as well. However, most people’s intuitions represent procreative acts to be morally permissible in most circumstances. Given moral particularism, this would normally be good evidence that procreative acts are indeed morally permissible and that the features that operate negatively elsewhere, simply do not do so in the context of procreative acts in particular. But I argue that we have no good reason to think our intuitions about the ethics of human procreation are accurate. Our most reliable source of insight into the ethics human procreative acts are not our intuitions those acts themselves, but our intuitions about the typical moral valences of the features such acts possess. If that is correct, then acts of human procreation are most likely wrong.
book reviews
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Valerie Soon Review of Elizabeth Anderson’s Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It)
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7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Jessica Logue Review of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity
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8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Krista Karbowski Thomason Review of Agnes Callard’s Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming
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9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 20 > Issue: 1
Steve Ross Review of Charles W. Mills’ Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism
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