What We Owe to Those We Make: A Causalist Account of Procreators' Parental Obligations
Earl, Jacob C.
Little, Margaret O
Nearly everyone believes that we have special moral obligations to care for the children we create. Surprisingly, a satisfying philosophical justification of this belief has proved elusive. Causalist accounts ground these obligations in the harm procreators would impose on their children by causing them to exist and subsequently failing to care for them. Despite their intuitive appeal and their advantages over alternative views, causalist accounts of procreators’ parental obligations face two significant challenges. First, how could merely creating someone harm her, since harm seems to require making the victim worse off than she otherwise would have been? Second, why must procreators provide further aid to their progeny, given that creation itself usually imparts the expected benefit of a life well worth living? I solve these problems by arguing, first, that agents have moral reasons to keep others from suffering noncomparative harms—states that are intrinsically bad for someone but not necessarily worse for her than any available alternative. Second, I argue that benefiting a moral patient can never fully justify imposing the significant risk that she will never develop her potential for autonomous functioning, since she could not possibly consent to such a harm. These arguments yield a novel causalist account of procreators’ parental obligations: procreators have strong moral reasons to ensure that their progeny develop their capacity for autonomy, lest the progeny be unjustifiably harmed by being created.
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