Philosophy and Medicine

Abortion and the Moral Significance of Merely Possible Persons

Finding Middle Ground in Hard Cases

Authors: Roberts, Melinda A.

  • Explores whether our moral obligation is to make "happy people," as Narveson put it, or to make "people happy"
  • Describes a form of consequentialism tempered by deontological principle
  • Introduces lawyers and philosophers working in applied ethics to the issues in moral theory, population ethics and social choice theory
  • Concludes with concrete results that are both controversial and (relatively) straightforward, modest and non-doctrinal
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About this book

This book has two main goals. The first is to give an account, called Variabilism, of the moral significance of merely possible persons—persons who, relative to a particular circumstance, or possible future or world, could but in fact never do exist. The second is to use Variabilism to illuminate abortion.

According to Variabilism, merely possible persons—just like anyone else—matter morally but matter variably. Where we understand that a person incurs a loss whenever agents could have created more wellbeing for that person and instead create less, Variabilism asserts that the moral significance of any loss is a function of where that loss is incurred in relation to the person who incurs it. That is: a loss incurred at a world where the person who incurs that loss does or will exist has full more significance, according to Variabilism, while a loss incurred by that same person at a world where that person never exists at all has no moral significance whatsoever.

Some other views deem all merely possible persons and all of their losses to matter morally. Still other views deem no merely possible persons and none of their losses to matter morally. Variabilism, instead, takes a middle ground between these two extreme positions. It thus opens the door to a certain middle ground on procreative choice in general and abortion in particular. Thus, given that, for persons, thinking and coming into existence come together, Variabilism supports the argument that the early abortion is ordinarily permissible when it is what the woman wants. That is so, since the loss incurred when, as an effect of the early abortion, a given person is never brought into existence to begin with has no moral significance at all. In contrast, the late abortion is ordinarily subject to a different analysis. For the loss incurred in that case has full moral significance, according to Variabilism, since it is incurred at a world where the person who incurs it already exists.

Table of contents (6 chapters)

  • Introduction

    Roberts, Melinda A.

    Pages 1-40

  • The Moral Significance of Merely Possible Persons

    Roberts, Melinda A.

    Pages 41-92

  • The Abortion Paradox

    Roberts, Melinda A.

    Pages 93-119

  • Three More Arguments Against Early Abortion

    Roberts, Melinda A.

    Pages 121-143

  • Abortion and Variabilism

    Roberts, Melinda A.

    Pages 145-164

Buy this book

eBook $159.00
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-90-481-3792-3
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $209.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-90-481-3791-6
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
Softcover $209.00
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-94-007-3228-5
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Abortion and the Moral Significance of Merely Possible Persons
Book Subtitle
Finding Middle Ground in Hard Cases
Authors
Series Title
Philosophy and Medicine
Series Volume
107
Copyright
2010
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Copyright Holder
Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
eBook ISBN
978-90-481-3792-3
DOI
10.1007/978-90-481-3792-3
Hardcover ISBN
978-90-481-3791-6
Softcover ISBN
978-94-007-3228-5
Series ISSN
0376-7418
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
VIII, 190
Topics