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The Moral Status of Babies and Our Obligations to Them

Porter, Lindsey (2012) The Moral Status of Babies and Our Obligations to Them. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis explores who counts: who is part of the so-called moral community, and why. If personhood is the measure of full moral considerability—as many take it to be—then marginal humans will not count as fully morally considerable. At best, we will have to say that they matter the way that sentient non-human animals do. Most of us will find this unsavoury. To give an account of the moral status of marginal humans just is to give an account of moral status—of what features are morally salient or valuable. To this end, I discuss one of the most puzzling examples of marginal humanity: babies. I look at how we can account (if indeed we can) for the moral status of babies on a personhood-bound account of moral status, and more broadly at how we can account for the moral requirements on us with respect to babies. In part one, I explore the moral status of babies by looking at whether birth can change moral status. I look at the two most plausible accounts of the moral significance of birth, both of which rely on variants of a relational account of moral significance. I argue that neither can successfully motivate the claim that birth is morally significant; but that relationships can change the moral quality of an act by changing the moral context. In part two, I explore other ways of accounting for moral obligations to babies. I discuss how we ought to understand the most central of our special obligations to babies: parental obligations. I argue that a causal account of parental obligation is the best such account, and I discuss important consequences of this view.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: moral status, marginal humans, personhood, special obligations, parenthood, abortion, infanticide
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.566309
Depositing User: Ms Lindsey Porter
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2013 14:19
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2016 14:11
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3253

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