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Derivative deprivation and the wrong of abortion

Stratton-Lake, P. (2021) Derivative deprivation and the wrong of abortion. Bioethics, 35 (3). pp. 277-283. ISSN 1467-8519

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12842


In his ‘The Identity Objection to the future‐like‐ours argument’ (Bioethics, 2019, 33: 287–293), Brill argues that Marquis's 'future of value' account of the wrong of abortion is still vulnerable to the identity objection—the claim that the foetus and the later person are not numerically identical, so the later person's valuable experiences are not the foetus's future experiences—even if it is conceded that the future organism, as well as the person, has experiences. This is because the organism has these experiences in a different way from the person. The person has them directly, and the organism has them only derivatively. This implies, he maintains, that the organism cannot be deprived of those experiences in a way that is wrong. Only the person can be deprived in this morally relevant way. But, I argue, if the organism genuinely has those experiences, it is not at all clear why its being deprived of them would be permissible. I argue that the reason why Brill can claim that having those experiences derivatively makes this moral difference is because the sense in which the organism has experiences is not a genuine sense. But that is a problem for this theory of personal identity, not for Marquis's account of the wrong of abortion. I also argue that supposing that one cannot morally harm the human organism has various implausible implications, which cast doubt on the idea that having experiences derivatively means that the organism is not morally harmed by being deprived of them.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:93420


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