Fractured Fatherhood: An Analytic Philosophy Perspective on Moral and Legal Paternity

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Abstract

Fathers are typically thought to have an array of rights and responsibilities with respect to their children. However, the traditional concept of father is fractured. It comprises various descriptive and normative elements, and increasingly, the descriptive elements are not exemplified in one man, which raises legal and social problems about the assignment of paternal rights and responsibilities. From the perspective of analytic philosophy, I illustrate these problems with a variety of decisions by U.S. courts and propose an “allocative” approach that allows paternal rights and responsibilities to be held by distinct men. I argue that we must revise our concept of father to respond appropriately to its fragmentation and suggest implications for family theorists and researchers.

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