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Rethinking Procreation: Why it Matters Why We Have Children

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abstract

Attempts to explain the intuitive wrongfulness in alleged ‘wrongful life’ cases commonly do so by attributing harmful wrongdoing to the procreators in question. Such an approach identifies the resulting child as having been, in some sense, culpably harmed by their coming into existence. By contrast, and enlarging on work elsewhere, this paper explores the relevance of procreative motivation, rather than harm, for determining the morality of procreative conduct. I begin by reviewing the main objection to the harm-based approach, which arises out of Derek Parfit's analysis of the non-identity problem and its implications for preconception cases. Most attempts to avoid the non-identity objection adopt either an impersonal harm approach or draw on some version of a metaphysical modal counterpart theory to defend a person-affecting harm account. But here I develop an alternative view. The proposed account construes the wrongness in the considered cases as ‘evil’ rather than harm, and the type of evil in question as being of a non-grievance, welfare-connected, collective kind. Understanding the wrongness in this way offers a basis for the view that it matters morally why we procreate, and not just whether or how we do so.

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