International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine

Harming Future Persons

Ethics, Genetics and the Nonidentity Problem

Editors: Roberts, Melinda A., Wasserman, David T. (Eds.)

  • Examines what we owe future persons from both moral and legal perspectives
  • Deeply probes particular concerns in areas ranging from the new reproductive technologies to the structure of morality
  • Ranges from the practical (is it wrong to bring an impaired child into existence?) to the theoretical (can "bad" acts be "bad for" no one?)
  • Is written by the most noted scholars and theorists amongst those working today on matters relating to future persons
  • Extends and applies the powerful work Derek Parfit commenced in his brilliant and influential book Reasons and Persons
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Softcover $269.00
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About this book

This collection of essays investigates the obligations we have in respect of future persons, from our own future offspring to distant future generations. Can we harm them? Can we wrong them? Can the fact that our choice brings a worse off person into existence in place of a better off but "nonidentical" person make that choice wrong?

We intuitively think we are obligated to treat future persons in accordance with certain stringent standards—roughly those we think apply to our treatment of existing persons. We think we ought to create better lives for at least some future persons when we can do so without making things worse for too many existing or other future persons. We think it would be wrong to engage in risky behaviors today that will have clearly adverse effects for the children we intend one day to conceive. And we think it would be wrong to act today in a way that would turn the Earth of the future into a miserable place.

Each of these intuitive points is, however, challenged by the nonidentity problem. That problem arises from the observation that future persons often owe their very existence to choices that appear to make things worse for those same persons. New reproductive technologies, for example, can be both risky and essential to one person’s coming into existence in place of a "nonidentical" other or no one at all. But so can a myriad of other choices, whether made just prior to conception or centuries before—choices that seem to have nothing to do with procreation but in fact help to determine the timing and manner of conception of any particular future person and thus the identity of that person. Where the person’s life is worth living, it is difficult to see how he or she has been harmed, or made worse off, or wronged, by such an identity-determining choice. We then face the full power of the nonidentity problem: if the choice is not bad for the future person it seems most adversely to affect, then on what basis do we say that choice is wrong?

The nonidentity problem has implications for moral theory, population policy, procreative choice, children’s rights, bioethics, environmental ethics, the law and reparations for historical injustices. The contributors to this collection offer new understandings of the nonidentity problem and evaluate an array of proposed solutions to it. Aimed at philosophers, legal scholars, bioethicists and students in all these disciplines, this collection is a thorough exploration of one of the most fascinating and important moral issues of our time.

 

 

 

Reviews

From the reviews:

“This volume is intentionally and wholeheartedly a philosophical book dealing with conceptual analysis (a lot of papers address aspects of ‘harm’), the analysis of ethical judgments, meta-ethical questions (the tension between deontology and consequentialism) and the ontology (or semantics) of future and non-existing persons. … this book is highly recommended for everyone interested in the impact of our actions on future people–not for philosophers only.” (Michael Quante, Medicine Health Care & Philosophy, Issue 4, 2010)

Table of contents (16 chapters)

  • The Intractability of the Nonidentity Problem

    Heyd, David

    Pages 3-25

  • Rights and the Asymmetry Between Creating Good and Bad Lives

    Persson, Ingmar

    Pages 29-47

  • Asymmetries in the Morality of Causing People to Exist

    McMahan, Jeff

    Pages 49-68

  • Who Cares About Identity?

    Holtug, Nils

    Pages 71-92

  • Do Future Persons Presently Have Alternate Possible Identities?

    Wolf, Clark

    Pages 93-114

Buy this book

eBook $209.00
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-1-4020-5697-0
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $269.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-4020-5696-3
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
Softcover $269.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-94-007-2604-8
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Harming Future Persons
Book Subtitle
Ethics, Genetics and the Nonidentity Problem
Editors
  • Melinda A. Roberts
  • David T. Wasserman
Series Title
International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine
Series Volume
35
Copyright
2009
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Copyright Holder
Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
eBook ISBN
978-1-4020-5697-0
DOI
10.1007/978-1-4020-5697-0
Hardcover ISBN
978-1-4020-5696-3
Softcover ISBN
978-94-007-2604-8
Series ISSN
1567-8008
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
VII, 335
Topics