Abortion, Prenatal Injury, and What Matters in Alternative Possible Lives
Wednesday 1 December, 2021at 13:15 - 15:00
The Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies invites you to the annual Burman lectures in philosophy. This years invited lecturer is Professor Jeff McMahan, University of Oxford. He will give three open lectures over three days on the topic "The Ethics of Creating, Saving, and Ending Lives".
Lecture 1: Abortion, Prenatal Injury, and What Matters in Alternative Possible Lives
Wednesday December 1, 13.15-15.00, Hörsal NAT.D.450
Abstract: There are certain assumptions about the nature of interests and the basis of rational egoistic concern that imply that death is not a misfortune for an individual of our kind for a certain period after that individual comes into existence. If this implication is correct, and if the nature of a fetus provides no basis for attributing to it a moral status that makes killing it wrong even though its death is not a harm, then there may be no moral reason not to have a painless abortion. On these assumptions, having an abortion is relevantly like preventing a person from coming into existence, which most regard as permissible. Yet the same assumptions imply that a fetus has no present interest in avoiding a painless injury. The obvious response is that, although abortion does not frustrate any interest of the fetus, prenatal injury is likely to frustrate interests that the fetus will later have independently of whether it is injured. I will argue, however, that although this is true to a limited extent, it is insufficient to show that prenatal injury will later be worse for the injured person in the relevant sense of “worse for.” I will conclude that the infliction of prenatal injury is often relevantly like causing a less well-off person to exist rather than a different, better-off person.
More Burman lectures
Lecture 2: The Population Ethics Asymmetry and the Permissibility of Procreation
Thursday December 2, 13.15-15.00, Hörsal NAT.D.450