The Argument From Transfer
Bioethics. 1996 Jan; 10(1): 27-42.
Utilitarian arguments on bioethical issues regarding human reproduction typically start with the view that it is wrong, other things being equal, not to procreate when this would have resulted in an additional being with a life worth living. The paper takes this view for granted and examines the common utilitarian claim that overpopulation and destitution in the world mean that, in practice, this obligation to procreate, other things being equal, often turns into a (categorical) obligation not to procreate. A version of this argument is defended -- a version called the argument from transfer -- according to which, rather than having additional children and care for them in order to make them happy, many people in the West ought to abstain from procreation and take care of destitute children already existing. The reasoning leading up to this conclusion raises some philosophical questions, seldom discussed in connection with bioethics, which indicate that the argument from transfer, although supporting the claim above, cannot neutralise the obligation to create more happy people as easily as assumed by utilitarians. It is argued that the argument from transfer may place many people facing the choice of procreation in a peculiar moral dilemma.
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