Is Having Children a Moral Good? / Why isn’t Bertrand Russell a Triangle?


This paper was presented at the Political Studies Association Undergraduate Conference in Brighton, 24th March 2016. Unfortunately, I was unable to record the talk. However, I have posted a link to my reading notes which should give a good idea of what was discussed.

“In contemporary Western culture,” writes Christine Overall, “it ironically appears that one needs to have reasons not to have children, but no reasons are required to have them.” Diana Tietjens Meyers observed that in discussions with even the most articulate individuals, those who want to have kids fail to provide good reason. Discussions on the topic of having kids, no matter how rigorous the debate, usually ends with the party in favour of having children falling back onto some mysterious and compelling feeling that they can’t explain. I think that considering a child is a sentient being, reasons to create one require explanation.

But then, outside of my research for this paper, I found that even if there is a rigorous debate surrounding moral questions, people always fell back onto “some mysterious and compelling feeling”. I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard an articulate, intelligent, compassionate person explain in detail why, to give another example, eating meat is morally wrong and then watch them consume meat.

My problem then, is not with those who do not engage in moral philosophy. My problem is with those who do engage with moral philosophy and yet act in a way that contradicts their conclusions.

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