Non-identity, self-defeat, and attitudes to future children

Philosophical Studies 145 (2):193 - 214 (2009)
Although most people believe that it is morally wrong to intentionally create children who have an impairment, it is widely held that we cannot criticize such procreative choices unless we find a solution to Parfit’s non-identity problem. I argue that we can. Jonathan Glover has recently argued that, in certain circumstances, such choices would be self-defeating even if morally permissible. I argue that although the scope of Glover’s argument is too limited, it nevertheless directs attention to a moral defect in the attitudes that could motivate such procreative choices, attitudes that, properly characterized, turn out to be person-affecting in character. I conclude by arguing that prospective parents who want to create a child with an impairment face a dilemma. If they want to avoid the charge that their aim is morally defective, they must deny that the desired impairment is harmful. But this would commit them to endorsing the controversial claim that it is morally permissible or even required to turn normal children into impaired ones.
Keywords Procreative ethics  The non-identity problem  Parfit  Future people  Disability  Harm
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