This paper engages with two compelling challenges to physicalism, each designed to show that the nature of experience is elusive from the standpoint of physical science. It is argued that the physicalist is ultimately well placed to meet both challenges.
One widely used method for allocating health care resources involves the use of cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) to rank treatments in terms of quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) gained. CEA has been criticized for discriminating against people with disabilities by valuing their lives less than those of non-disabled people. Avoiding discrimination seems to lead to the ’QALY trap’: we cannot value saving lives equally and still value raising quality of life. This paper reviews existing responses to the QALY trap and argues that all (...) are problematic. Instead, we argue that adopting a moderate form of prioritarianism avoids the QALY trap and disability discrimination. (shrink)
Rape and sexual assault are major problems. In the majority of rape and sexual assault cases consent is the central issue. Consent is, to borrow a phrase, the ‘moral magic’ that converts an impermissible act into a permissible one. In recent years, a handful of companies have tried to launch ‘consent apps’ which aim to educate young people about the nature of sexual consent and allow them to record signals of consent for future verification. Although ostensibly aimed at addressing the (...) problems of rape and sexual assault on university campuses, these apps have attracted a number of critics. In this paper, I subject the phenomenon of consent apps to philosophical scrutiny. I argue that the consent apps that have been launched to date are unhelpful because they fail to address the landscape of ethical and epistemic problems that would arise in the typical rape or sexual assault case: they produce distorted and decontextualised records of consent which may in turn exacerbate the other problems associated with rape and sexual assault. Furthermore, because of the tradeoffs involved, it is unlikely that app-based technologies could ever be created that would significantly address the problems of rape and sexual assault. (shrink)
David Lewis has recently deployed a contextualist strategy for defending ordinary claims to know.1 In this paper, I wish to extend that strategy to ordinary claims about freedom.2 The result is a species of compatibilism that, while foreign to current debates, has a good deal going for it.
We have synthesized a 582,970-base pair Mycoplasma genitalium genome. This synthetic genome, named M. genitalium JCVI-1.0, contains all the genes of wild-type M. genitalium G37 except MG408, which was disrupted by an antibiotic marker to block pathogenicity and to allow for selection. To identify the genome as synthetic, we inserted "watermarks" at intergenic sites known to tolerate transposon insertions. Overlapping "cassettes" of 5 to 7 kilobases (kb), assembled from chemically synthesized oligonucleotides, were joined by in vitro recombination to produce intermediate (...) assemblies of approximately 24 kb, 72 kb ("1/8 genome"), and 144 kb ("1/4 genome"), which were all cloned as bacterial artificial chromosomes in Escherichia coli. Most of these intermediate clones were sequenced, and clones of all four 1/4 genomes with the correct sequence were identified. The complete synthetic genome was assembled by transformation-associated recombination cloning in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, then isolated and sequenced. A clone with the correct sequence was identified. The methods described here will be generally useful for constructing large DNA molecules from chemically synthesized pieces and also from combinations of natural and synthetic DNA segments. 10.1126/science.1151721. (shrink)
This paper challenges arguments that systematic patterns of intelligent behavior license the claim that representations must play a role in the cognitive system analogous to that played by syntactical structures in a computer program. In place of traditional computational models, I argue that research inspired by Dynamical Systems theory can support an alternative view of representations. My suggestion is that we treat linguistic and representational structures as providing complex multi-dimensional targets for the development of individual brains. This approach acknowledges the (...) indispensability of the intentional or representational idiom in psychological explanation without locating representations in the brains of intelligent agents. (shrink)
The backlash against the Olympic Games reflects the failure of the major global institutions in dealing with the social and ethical consequences of globalisation in areas such as the environment, poverty, terrorism and natural disasters. Disillusionment with the Olympic Games mirrors the disenchantment with the perceived values of globalisation, including winning at any price, commercial exploitation by MNCs, intense national rivalry, cronyism, cheating and corruption and the competitive advantage of advanced nations. How could the Olympic Movement reverse this perception? The (...) most important change would be in the area of leadership. Revitalising the Olympic spirit will require a revolution at the IOC. Character, credibility and communication will be the critical success factors. Before appointing the next President of the IOC, there is an exciting opportunity to reconceptualise the Games as a platform for building a framework of global values to counter-balance the naked economic priorities currently dictating the pattern of globalisation. In reinventing the Olympic Games, it is important to recognise that the modern Games are based upon an anachronism. The idea that amateur sport is both the key to individual moral development and world harmony is largely an invention of the British aristocracy, whereas the original Greek Games not only celebrated the classical ideal of `a sound mind in a sound body', but also involved professional athletes and commercial activity. In making the Olympic Charter relevant to the 21st century, and in making the Olympics more than just a speculator sporting event, there is a strong case for the Games to include a wider spectrum of activities, including arts programs and policy forums, which address the well-being of all humanity in a competitive global economy. (shrink)
This article summarizes a variety of current as well as previous research in support of a new theory of consciousness. Evidence has been steadily accumulating that information about a stimulus complex is distributed to many neuronal populations dispersed throughout the brain and is represented by the departure from randomness of the temporal pattern of neural discharges within these large ensembles. Zero phase lag synchronization occurs between discharges of neurons in different brain regions and is enhanced by presentation of stimuli. This (...) evidence further suggests that spatiotemporal patterns of coherence, which have been identified by spatial principal component analysis, may encode a multidimensional representation of a present or past event. How such distributed information is integrated into a holistic percept constitutes the binding problem. How a percept defined by a spatial distribution of nonrandomness can be subjectively experienced constitutes the problem of consciousness. Explanations based on a discrete connectionistic network cannot be reconciled with the relevant facts. Evidence is presented herein of invariant features of brain electrical activity found to change reversibly with loss and return of consciousness in a study of 176 patients anesthetized during surgical procedures. A review of relevant research areas, as well as the anesthesia data, leads to a postulation that consciousness is a property of quantumlike processes, within a brain field resonating within a core of structures, which may be the neural substrate of consciousness. This core includes regions of the prefrontal cortex, the frontal cortex, the pre- and paracentral cortex, thalamus, limbic system, and basal ganglia. (shrink)
Wittgenstein has often been criticized, and even dismissed, for being a patron of ordinary language, a champion of the vernacular, a defender of the status quo. One critic has written: 'When Wittgenstein set up the actual use of language as a standard, that was equivalent to accepting a certain set up of culture and belief as a standard ... It is lucky no such philosophy was thought of until recently or we should still be under the sway of witch doctors (...) ...' In what follows I want to show just how wide of the mark criticisms of this sort are. (shrink)
At the core of the concept of supervenience are certain general maxims— notably, that there can be no A-differences without B-differences and that Bindiscernibility must bring A-discernibility. Supervenience is thus conceived as a matter of modal covariance between two sets of things in a given category, usually properties. The perennial issues surrounding supervenience concern: (a) the variety of specifically formulated theses that serve the core maxims and the patterns of entailment that obtain among these theses, and (b) the relations that (...) obtain between supervenience theses and such salient concepts of metaphysics as reduction, dependence and determination. The regions of philosophical inquiry that gave rise to contemporary analytic philosophical interest in supervenience, and in which the notion is still most prominently applied are, famously, meta-ethics and the philosophy of mind. In the former case the history of supervenience can be traced back through Hare to Moore; in the latter case the line can be traced back from the pathfinding work of Kim through the famous resurrection of the notion of supervenience in Davidson’s work to the emergentist theorists of mind in the early part of this century.1 Publication on the topic of supervenience has exploded so that a brief treatment of recent work could provide an even remotely comprehensive survey only by degenerating into a list.2 So I shall settle for concentrating on the two groups of issues that were identified above, that is those concerning the logical character and metaphysical significance of supervenience theses, interposing some comments on the specific topic of supervenience in the philosophy of mind. I will emphasise and sympathise with that deflationary strand of recent work that invites soberand cautious re-appraisal of the role of supervenience theses in philosophical enquiry. (shrink)
Using the controversy over the MMR vaccine, I consider the reasons why non-experts should defer to experts, and I sketch a model for understanding cases where they fail to defer. I first suggest that an intuitively plausible model of the expert/non-expert relationship is complicated by shifting epistemic standards. One possible moderate response to this challenge, based on a more complex notion of non-experts' relationship with experts, seems unappealing as an account of the MMR controversy. A more radical suggestion is that (...) non-experts might have a political reason to defer to experts, when not doing so will involve ‘epistemological free-riding’. I investigate the implications. (shrink)
In the first part of the paper, three objections to the precautionary principle are outlined: the principle requires some account of how to balance risks of significant harms; the principle focuses on action and ignores the costs of inaction; and the principle threatens epistemic anarchy. I argue that these objections may overlook two distinctive features of precautionary thought: a suspicion of the value of “full scientific certainty”; and a desire to distinguish environmental doings from allowings. In Section 2, I argue (...) that any simple distinction between environmental doings and allowings is untenable. However, I argue that the appeal of such a distinction can be captured within a relational account of environmental equity. In Section 3 I show how the proposed account of environmental justice can generate a justification for distinctively “precautionary” policy-making. (shrink)
There have been essentially two types of theoretical approaches to account for the grammatical relations associated with the causee argument of causative constructions. Ignoring the specifics of particular theories, there are transitivity based approaches in which the causee is a direct object when the embedded clause is intransitive, and an indirect object or oblique when the embedded clause is transitive. This pattern finds considerable cross-linguistic support. On the other hand, there are languages in which the causee exhibits alternative grammatical relations (...) irrespective of transitivity: the causee direct object correlates with direct causation, while indirect object or oblique causees are associated with indirect causation. Such phenomena have motivated a semantic approach.Focusing primarily on data from Spanish, we account for both sorts of phenomena by proposing a novel extension of Dowty's [(1991) Language 67, 547–619] proto-property proposal, thereby rendering it a comprehensive model of argument selection for both simple and complex predicates. According to Dowty's original Argument Selection Principle, the most proto-patientive argument in a single argument structure tends to be encoded as a direct object. In the case of causatives with intransitive base predicates, the most proto-patientive argument will be the causee. However, if the embedded clause is transitive, the causee will be less proto-patientive that the embedded patient, and will not be encoded as a direct object. Thus, the Argument Selection Principle, operating in a syntagmatic fashion over co-arguments, effectively derives the transitivity-determined causee encodings. In order to address the effects associated with the semantic approach, we develop paradigmatic interpretation of the Argument Selection Principle. That is, when the causee argument varies in degree of proto-patientivity, the most proto-patientive alternant is encoded as a direct object, and any decrease in proto-patientivity is reflected by relational encodings that are sequentially lower than direct object on the relational hierarchy. Thus, the transitivity and semantic effects of causee encoding are accounted for by the interaction of the syntagmatic and paradigmatic argument selection strategies. We propose that these two strategies represent organizing principles for argument selection information associated with lexical entries. (shrink)
A democratic society does not embody a permanent and internally consistent set of values but attempts to accommodate disagreement between incommensurable values. One of the purposes of the law is to manage such disagreement by ensuring that disputes are settled in a way that advances the interests of stability without foreclosing options. In this respect the function of the formal dissenting judgment has been neglected in the English literature. By contrast there is a rich US literature which reveals an ambivalent (...) attitude to the practice of dissent. The article discusses the nature of the disagreements that are predominant in dissenting judgments. It claims that the practise of dissent follows the development of democracy and that the majority of dissents in courts of last resort raise legitimate disagreement about fundamental incommensurable values. These concern disagreements between deontological and consequentialist values, between different conceptions of the legislative powers of the judiciary and between principle and pragmatism. Because the outcome of an appeal is contingent, the dissent may be as important as the majority in identifying the choices to be made and signalling the principles that are immanent in the law. The legal and political basis of the right to publish a dissent is discussed and arguments for and against the publication of dissents considered with the conclusion that constraints on the right to dissent would be self-defeating. (shrink)
Continuous recordings of brain electrical activity were obtained from a group of 176 patients throughout surgical procedures using general anesthesia. Artifact-free data from the 19 electrodes of the International 10/20 System were subjected to quantitative analysis of the electroencephalogram (QEEG). Induction was variously accomplished with etomidate, propofol or thiopental. Anesthesia was maintained throughout the procedures by isoflurane, desflurane or sevoflurane (N = 68), total intravenous anesthesia using propofol (N = 49), or nitrous oxide plus narcotics (N = 59). A set (...) of QEEG measures were found which reversibly displayed high heterogeneity of variance between four states as follows: (1) during induction; (2) just after loss of consciousness (LOC); (3) just before return of consciousness (ROC); (4) just after ROC. Homogeneity of variance across all agents within states was found. Topographic statistical probability images were compared between states. At LOC, power increased in all frequency bands in the power spectrum with the exception of a decrease in gamma activity, and there was a marked anteriorization of power. Additionally, a significant change occurred in hemispheric relationships, with prefrontal and frontal regions of each hemisphere becoming more closely coupled, and anterior and posterior regions on each hemisphere, as well as homologous regions between the two hemispheres, uncoupling. All of these changes reversed upon ROC. Variable resolution electromagnetic tomography (VARETA) was performed to localize salient features of power anteriorization in three dimensions. A common set of neuroanatomical regions appeared to be the locus of the most probable generators of the observed EEG changes. (shrink)
In recent years, the argument from inductive risk against value free science has enjoyed a revival. This paper investigates and clarifies this argument through means of a case-study: neonicitinoid research. Sect. 1 argues that the argument from inductive risk is best conceptualised as a claim about scientists’ communicative obligations. Sect. 2 then shows why this argument is inapplicable to “public communication”. Sect. 3 outlines non-epistemic reasons why non-epistemic values should not play a role in public communicative contexts. Sect. 4 analyses (...) the implications of these arguments both for the specific case of neonicitinoid research and for understanding the limits of the argument from inductive risk. Sect. 5 sketches the broader implications of my claims for understanding the “Value Free Ideal” for science. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Gregor Betz has defended the value-free ideal: “the justification of scientific findings should not be based on non-epistemic values”against the methodological critique, by reference to the work of the International Panel on Climate Change . This paper argues that Betz’s defence is unsuccessful. First, Betz’s argument is sketched, and it is shown that the IPCC does not avoid the need to “translate” claims. In Section 2, it is argued that Betz mischaracterises the force of the methodological (...) critique. Section 3 shows why the methodological critique still applies to the work of the IPCC even on a refined version of Betz’s argument. Section 4 then considers an alternative way of defending the work of the IPCC which is in-line with, but does not clearly vindicate, the value-free ideal. (shrink)
To understand rational response to ethical disagreement, we need to consider how epistemic and ethical factors interact. The notion of an ethical peer is developed, and the roles that epistemic and ethical peers play in disagreement are compared. In the light of some literary examples, the view that conciliation in response to an ethical peer can be called for, even if that peer is an epistemic inferior, is defended.
We begin with a puzzle: why do some know-how attributions entail ability attributions while others do not? After rejecting the tempting response that know-how attributions are ambiguous, we argue that a satisfactory answer to the puzzle must acknowledge the connection between know-how and concept possession (specifically, reasonable conceptual mastery, or understanding). This connection appears at first to be grounded solely in the cognitive nature of certain activities. However, we show that, contra anti-intellectualists, the connection between know-how and concept possession can (...) be generalized via reflection on the cognitive nature of intentional action and the potential of certain misunderstandings to undermine know-how even when the corresponding abilities and associated propositional knowledge are in place. Such considerations make explicit the intimate relation between know-how and understanding, motivating a general intellectualist analysis of the former in terms of the latter. (shrink)
This study examines the use of a video news release in a specific story. Press coverage and editorial criticism in the case showed that journalists do not articulate sufficiently how the news owners' sway, through institutional controls, can lead to a hegemony of expedient action in the newsroom. Critical self-reflection by news workers will better enable journalists to ethically deliberate news choices that balance their responsibilities to owners, peers, and the public.
This paper reports on an ongoing ARC Discovery Project that is conducting design research into learning in collaborative virtual worlds (CVW).The paper will describe three design components of the project: (a) pedagogical design, (b)technical and graphics design, and (c) learning research design. The perspectives of each design team will be discussed and how the three teams worked together to produce the CVW. The development of productive failure learning activities for the CVW will be discussed and there will be an interactive (...) demonstration of the project's CVW. (shrink)
Short-term or working memory provides temporary storage of information in the brain after an experience and is associated with conscious awareness. Neurons sensitive to the multiple stimulus attributes comprising an experience are distributed within many brain regions. Such distributed cell assemblies, activated by an event, are the most plausible system to represent the WM of that event. Studies with a variety of imaging technologies have implicated widespread brain regions in the mediation of WM for different categories of information. Each kind (...) of WM may thus be expected to involve many brain regions rather than a local, uniquely dedicated set of cells. Neurons in a distributed “cell assembly” may be self-selected by their temporally coherent activations. The process by which this fragmented representation of the recent past is reassembled to accomplish essentially automatic and reliable recognition of a recurrent event constitutes an important problem. One plausible mechanism to achieve the identification of past with previous events would require that the representational system mediating WM must coexist in spatial extent and somehow overlap in temporal activation with cell ensembles registering input from subsequent events. The detection of such a postulated mechanism required an experimental approach which would focus upon spatial patterns of coherent activation while information about different events was stored in WM and retrieved, rather than focusing upon the temporal sequences of activation in localized regions of interest. For this purpose, the familiar delayed matching from sample task was modified. A series of information-free flashes, or “noncontingent probes,” was presented before an initial series of visual information items, the Priming Sample, which were to be held in WM during a Delay Period. A second series of visual information items were then presented, the Matching Sample. The task required detection of any item in the second series which had beenabsentfrom the initial series. Thirty such trials with a particular category of visual information constituted a single task. Several DMS tasks with this standardized design, but with different categories of visual information, were presented within each test session. The information categories included letters of the alphabet, single digit numbers, or faces from a school yearbook. Event-related potentials , were computed from 21 standardized electrode placements, separately for information-free probes and for information items in each interval of the trials within a task. Because each electrode is particularly sensitive to coherent activation of neurons in the immediately underlying brain regions, topographic maps were constructed and interpolated across the surface of the scalp. The momentary fluctuations of the resulting voltage “landscapes” throughout the task were then subjected to quantitative analysis. Distinctive landscapes sometimes persisted for prolonged periods, implying sustained engagement of very large populations of neurons. “Difference landscapes” were constructed by subtraction of topographic maps evoked by noncontingent probes during the Delay Period from maps of probe ERPs before the presentation of the initial information in the Priming Sample. Such probe difference landscapes displayed recurrent high similarity to momentary landscapes elicited during subsequent presentation of the information items in the Matching Sample. It seemed as if the distributed cell assembly continuously engaged by mediation of WM of the diverse attributes of the initial stimuli was being dynamically compared to the ensembles engaged by registration of the subsequent stimuli. Spatial Principal Component Analysis was applied to the sequences of momentary voltage landscapes observed throughout trials of each task. This method sought a small number of spatial patterns with which these large sets of inhomogeneous spatial distributions of voltage could be reconstructed. This is the spatial analog of the reconstruction of local ERPs by temporal principal components, as often described previously. Five Spatial Principal Components were found which accounted for about 90% of the total variance of voltage across the surface of the scalp throughout every task. Theloadings,or distinguishing topographic features, of these SPCs, were highly similar during every cognitive task for every subject. However,factor scores,or relative average contribution to the overall voltage distributions, of the different SPCs varied substantially among subjects between the tasks and momentarily within successive intervals of each task. These five SPCs may reflect coherent activation of huge distributed ensembles of neurons which comprise independent but interacting functional brain subsystems. These subsystems may correspond to basic resources available to individuals for allocation to mediate conscious evaluation of information during cognitive activity, providing a filter to bind together fractionated representations of the past to evaluate the present. (shrink)
In this paper, I set out two ethical complications for Rid and Wendler’s proposal that a “Patient Preference Predictor” (PPP) should be used to aid decision making about incapacitated patients’ care. Both of these worries concern how a PPP might categorize patients. In the first section of the paper, I set out some general considerations about the “ethics of apt categorization” within stratified medicine and show how these challenge certain PPPs. In the second section, I argue for a more specific—but (...) more contentious—claim that proper respect for the autonomy of incapacitated patients might require us to act on reasons which they could endorse and show how this claim places important limits on the categories employed by an ethically acceptable PPP. The conclusion shows how these concerns about apt categorization relate to more familiar worries about Rid and Wendler’s proposals. (shrink)
English and Australian judges have, over the past few decades, severely questioned the juridical distinctiveness and utility of the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. The popular assertion in this country has been that the rule is really only a sub-species of the law of private nuisance. By contrast, the Australian judiciary has abandoned the rule altogether, preferring to expand the law of negligence to capture the rule's former territory. This article seeks to defend the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. In (...) particular it asserts that, by reference to their historical origins, the rule in Rylands v Fletcher and the law of private nuisance can be seen to be quite different creatures. It also argues that there is strong case for the rule's continued vitality, and that it would be a grave mistake to abandon it in favour of a yet more expansive law of negligence. (shrink)
In three experiments we studied lay observers’ attributions of responsibility for an antisocial act (homicide). We systematically varied both the degree to which the action was coerced by external circumstances and the degree to which the actor endorsed and accepted ownership of the act, a psychological state that philosophers have termed ‘identiﬁcation’. Our ﬁndings with respect to identiﬁcation were highly consistent. The more an actor was identiﬁed with an action, the more likely observers were to assign responsibility to the actor, (...) even when the action was performed under constraints so powerful that no other behavioral option was available. Our ﬁndings indicate that social cognition involving assignment of responsibility for an action is a more complex process than previous research has indicated. It would appear that laypersons’ judgments of moral responsibility may, in some circumstances, accord with philosophical views in which freedom and determinism are regarded to be compatible. (shrink)
In this article I ask two questions prompted by the phenomenon of ‘politically patterned’ climate change denial. First, can an individual's political commitments provide her with good reasons not to defer to cognitive experts’ testimony? Building on work in philosophy of science on inductive risk, I argue they can. Second, can an individual's political commitments provide her with good reasons not to defer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's testimony? I argue that they cannot, because of the high epistemic (...) standards which govern that body's assertions. The conclusion discusses the theoretical and practical implications of my arguments. (shrink)
In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls devised the method of reflective equilibrium in an attempt to broker consensus between ethical approaches emphasising individual moral judgements, and those emphasising moral principles, expanding this method in the later paper; “The Independence of Moral Theory”, to produce wide reflective equilibrium. In a number of essays compiled in Justice and Justification, Norman Daniels articulated a more comprehensive version of Rawls's methodology in response to something of a similar struggle within contemporary bioethics, between those (...) bioethical approaches emphasising individual moral judgements, those emphasising bioethical principles and those emphasising bioethical theory; the casuists, the principlists and the descriptivists respectively. In addition to the level of considered moral judgements and that of moral principles that comprise Rawls's reflective equilibrium, Daniels's model proposes a third level of interconnecting background theories in order to incorporate the three dominant strands of contemporary bioethics, to broker consensus between those whose considered moral judgements are in conflict, and to guard against the endpoint of the reflective equilibrium being overly determined by these judgements. However, it is unclear whether his method aids the objectives he set, or whether it in fact hinders them. (shrink)
Representational theorists identify experiences’ phenomenal properties with their representational properties. Qualia theorists reject this identity, insisting that experiences’ phenomenal properties can come apart from and completely outrun their representational properties. Qualia theorists account for phenomenal properties in terms of “qualia,” intrinsic mental properties they allege experiences to instantiate. The debate between representational theorists and qualia theorists has focused on whether phenomenal properties really can come apart from and completely outrun representational properties. As a result, qualia theorists have failed (1) to (...) explain how experiences owe their phenomenal properties to their instantiation of qualia and (2) to clarify the nature of subjects’ epistemic access to qualia. I survey qualia theorists’ options for dealing with each issue and find them all wanting. (shrink)
We normally think that public health policy is an important political activity. In turn, we normally understand the value of public health policy in terms of the promotion of health or some health-related good (such as opportunity for health), on the basis of the assumption that health is an important constituent or determinant of wellbeing. In this paper, I argue that the assumption that the value of public health policy should be understood in terms of health leads us to overlook (...) important benefits generated by such policy. To capture these benefits we need to understand the ends of public health policy in terms of the promotion of 'physical safety'. I then go on to argue that the idea that 'health' is an important category for evaluating or estimating individuals' wellbeing in the normative context of social policy is confused. I then clarify the relationship between my arguments and QALY-based accounts of health assessment. In the final section of the paper, I defend this surprising conclusion against various attacks. (shrink)
Pre-natal-diagnosis technologies allow parents to discover whether their child is likely to suffer from serious disability. One argument for state funding of access to such technologies is that doing so would be “cost-effective”, in the sense that the expected financial costs of such a programme would be outweighed by expected “benefits”, stemming from the births of fewer children with serious disabilities. This argument is extremely controversial. This paper argues that the argument may not be as unacceptable as is often assumed. (...) In doing so, it sets out a more general framework for assessing the relevance of efficiency calculations to policy-making. The final section also investigates the relationship between the paper’s arguments and claims about parental responsibility for child-bearing and rearing, with reference to Scanlon’s work on “substantive responsibility”. (shrink)