The Worth Of A Child

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Thomas Murray's graceful and humane book illuminates one of the most morally complex areas of everyday life: the relationship between parents and children. What do children mean to their parents, and how far do parental obligations go? What, from the beginning of life to its end, is the worth of a child?

Ethicist Murray leaves the rarefied air of abstract moral philosophy in order to reflect on the moral perplexities of ordinary life and ordinary people. Observing that abstract moral terms such as altruism and selfishness can be buried in the everyday doings of families, he maintains that ethical theory needs a richer description than it now has of the moral life of parents and children. How far should adults go in their quest for children? What options are available to women who do not want to bear a child now? Should couples be allowed to reject a child because of genetic disability or "wrong" gender? How can we weigh the competing claims of the genetic and the rearing parents to a particular child?

The Worth of a Child couples impressive learning with a conversational style. Only by getting down to cases, Murray insists, can we reach moral conclusions that are unsentimental, farsighted, and just.
In an era of intense public and private acrimony about the place and meaning of "family values," his practical wisdom about extraordinary difficult moral issues offers compelling reading for both experienced and prospective parents, as well as for ethicists, social and behavioral scientists, and legal theorists.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Should you have a second child to provide a bone marrow transplant for your first child? Do biological fathers have rights over their children? Murray (Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics, School of Medecine, Case Western Univ.) doesn't think these questions have universal answers. His book is mostly an attack on mistaken ways of forcing answers. He dislikes theories that make the family and its relations a marketplace, theories that make justification depend on consent, and all theories that simply apply universal principles to solutions of particular cases. Murray cautiously sympathizes with Mary Midgley's claim (Can't We Make Moral Judgments? St. Martin's, 1991) that there is a basic human nature that limits what we can do and also gives us something in common with which to oppose most of the usual biases. But within this general framework he wants to say that the best we can do is ask what makes humans flourish, examine all the facts, identify all the rival values, try to put ourselves in the positions of the partisans, and develop a kind of Rawlsian reflective equilibrium. This well-written book appeals to common sense but offers no clear conclusions. Even so, it is good reading, and many general readers will think it a great find on the library shelf.Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520088368
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/11/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas H. Murray is Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics, School of Medicine, Case Western University. He is the editor of Feeling Good and Doing Better (1984), and Which Babies Shall Live? (1985).

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Table of Contents

1 Why Do Adults Have Children? 1
2 Families, the Marketplace, and Values: New Ways of Making Babies 14
3 Adoption and the Meanings of Parenthood 41
4 Research on Children and the Scope of Responsible Parenthood 70
5 Moral Obligations to the Not-Yet-Born Child 96
6 Prenatal Testing and the Quest for the Perfect Child 115
7 Abortion and the Place of Motherhood 142
8 Tapestry and Web 167
Notes 187
Index 203
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