The uncomfortable truth about wrongful life cases

Philosophical Studies 164 (3):623-641 (2013)

Hyun-Seop Kim
Seoul National University
Our ambivalent attitudes toward the notion of ‘a life worth living’ present a philosophical puzzle: Why are we of two minds about the birth of a severely disabled child? Is the child’s life worth living or not worth living? Between these two apparently incompatible evaluative judgments, which is true? If one judgment is true and the other false, what makes us continue to find both evaluations appealing? Indeed, how can we manage to hold these inconsistent judgments simultaneously at all? I critically examine two solutions to this puzzle: the hidden-indexical account and Velleman’s anti-realist account. I propose an alternative explanation which appeals to (a) state-given, as opposed to object-given, reasons for belief and (b) the distinction between belief and acceptance. I argue that (1) the fact that a severely disabled life is not worth living provides object-given reason to believe that that life is not worth living, but (2) after the birth of a severely disabled child, the psychological utility of positive evaluation gives us a state-given reason to believe that that child’s life is worth living, and a reason to accept that, in our relation with the child, her life is worth living. I conclude by drawing a practical lesson about wrongful life suits
Keywords Life worth living  Wrongful life  Hidden-indexical  State-given reason  Belief  Acceptance
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-9877-8
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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Controlling Attitudes.Pamela Hieronymi - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (1):45-74.

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