Love and Nonexistence

Philosophy and Public Affairs 36 (3):266-288 (2008)
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This is the second of three papers on issues of personal identity, existence, and nonexistence. Here I argue that the birth of a child leads us to before and after value judgments that appear to be inconsistent. Consider, for example, a 14-year-old girl who decides to have a baby. We tend to think that the birth of a child to a 14-year-old would be a very unfortunate event, and hence that she should not decide to have a child. But once the child has been born, we are loath to say that it shouldn't have been born. This conundrum is one of several that Derek Parfit considers in Part IV of Reasons and Persons. I suggest a solution that Parfit doesn't consider. Parfit's discussion is predicated on the assumption that our value judgments must be consistent, in the sense that they could be satisfied by some possible distribution of value across the possibilities. As we would say in logic, there must be a model of our value judgments, consisting in a distribution of value. I think that the present case gives us reason to reject this assumption



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