Essays in Philosophy

Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2019

Is Procreation Immoral?

Gerald K. Harrison
Pages 66-88

Antinatalism and Moral Particularism

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.