The Ethics of Incest

Philosophy in the Contemporary World 13 (1):48-55 (2006)
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In this article I challenge two common arguments against incest: the genetics argument (that incest is immoral because it might lead to the conception of a genetically deformed child), and the family argument (that incest is immoral because it undermines the family, the emotional center for the individual). These arguments, I contend, commit us to condemning not only incest, but also a wide range ofbehaviors that we currently permit. I thus present the reader with a dilemma: on pain of inconsistency, we must either accept certain forms of incest in order to maintain these other moral judgments, or reject these judgments in order to maintain our condemnation ofincest. The reader is free to decide which alternative is preferable, but I suggest that the former is a much less radical shift in our moral system as a whole.



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Jeff Sebo
New York University

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