The Ethics of Parenthood

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In The Ethics of Parenthood Norvin Richards explores the moral relationship between parents and children from slightly before the cradle to slightly before the grave. Richards maintains that biological parents do ordinarily have a right to raise their children, not as a property right but as an instance of our general right to continue whatever we have begun. The contention is that creating a child is a first act of parenthood, hence it ordinarily carries a right to continue as parent to that child. Implications are drawn for a wide range of cases, including those of Baby Jessica and Baby Richard, prenatal abandonment, babies switched at birth and sent home with the wrong parents, and families separated by war or natural disaster.

A second contention is that children have a claim of their own to have their autonomy respected, and that this claim is stronger the better the grounds for believing that what the child's actions express is a self of the child's own. A final set of chapters concern parents and their grown children. Views are offered about what duties parents have at this stage of life, about what is required in order to treat grown children as adults, and about what obligations grown children have to their parents.

In the final chapter Richards discusses the contention that parents sometimes have an obligation to die rather than permit their children to make the sacrifices needed to keep them alive, arguing that a leading view about this undervalues both love and autonomy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Ethics of Parenthood addresses questions that are socially important, as well as philosophically intriguing. It is also a very human booktreating problems that many people face in their daily lives with an appreciation for the details that make them unique.
It will be a useful resource for future scholarship on questions of familial ethics."--Joseph Millum, Philosophy in Review

"I recommend The Ethics of Parenthood. It offers a careful and broad analysis of many issues in family ethics while reaching out to the relevant disciplines of psychology and law." --Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

"This is an excellent work of philosophy that deals with a subject, that is, considering its importance, vastly undertreated. It certainly belongs in libraries of colleges with undergraduate and graduate programs in philosophy, and its arguments deserve to be taken seriously in discussions of personal and social ethics." --Metapsychology

"The Ethics of Parenthood has several virtues. First, it is clearly written and argued. Second, it includes critical reflection upon our commonsense beliefs about the parent-child relationship in a way that is sensitive to the realities of family life. Third, it includes a discussion of a variety of actual cases, some very well known and some that are less so. Finally, for Richards when there is a conflict concerning the rights and obligations of parents and children, no single person or entity trumps the others. For those interested in considering such issues in particular and the moral dimensions of the parent-child relationship more broadly, I highly recommend a close reading of The Ethics of Parenthood. --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"The writing is generally very clear. No specialized philosophical background is required and an intelligent lay reader could understand it. Its accessibility does not compromise its philosophical quality, however. The author wrestles with interesting problems and offers interesting and novel solutions." David Benatar, Philosophy, University of Cape town

"This manuscript is an engagingly written and wide-ranging discussion of ethical issues in parenthood and the parent-child relationship that is both analytically rigorous and a pleasure to read. It is skillfully argued without being pedantic or dry. The topics he discusses are not new - indeed, they have been discussed by many other philosophers over the years, as his footnotes begin to suggest - but Richards has his own individual slant on them so that even when he takes positions that are not particularly contentious, the arguments he gives do not simply recapitulate the work of others." Jeff Blustein, Professor of Bioethics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and adjunct Associate Professor of Philosophy, Barnard College

"[T]he entire book is an important contribution to the literature. Richards's writing is clear and careful, and he takes great pains to consider and respond to various objections to the arguments he makes. One may not always agree with Richards's conclusions, but they are always clearly articulated and forcefully defended. This book is a must-read for philosophers interested in parenthood, children, and the family."--Social Theory and Practice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199731749
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Norvin Richards is Professor of Philosophy at University of Alabama.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Rights of Biological Parents
Chapter 2: Who has Parent Rights?
Chapter 3: Whose Child is This?
Chapter 4: Abuse, Neglect, and the State
Chapter 5: The Autonomy of Children
Chapter 6: Raising a Child
Chapter 7: Moral Education
Chapter 8: Bad Behavior
Chapter 9: Loving One Another
Chapter 10: Having Grown Children
Chapter 11: Filial Obligations
Chapter 12: The Graceful Exit

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