Wrongs, preferences, and the selection of children: A critique of Rebecca Bennett's argument against the principle of procreative beneficence

Abstract

Rebecca Bennett, in a recent paper dismissing Julian Savulescu's principle of procreative beneficence, advances both a negative and a positive thesis. The negative thesis holds that the principle's theoretical foundation--the notion of impersonal harm or non-person-affecting wrong--is indefensible. Therefore, there can be no obligations of the sort that the principle asserts. The positive thesis, on the other hand, attempts to plug an explanatory gap that arises once the principle has been rejected. That is, it holds that the intuitions of those who adhere to the principle are not genuine moral intuitions, but instead simply give voice to mere preferences. This paper, while agreeing that Savulescu's principle does not express a genuine moral obligation, takes issue with both of Bennett's theses. It is suggested that the argument for the negative thesis is either weak or question-begging, while there is insufficient reason to suppose the positive thesis true.

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Peter Herissone-Kelly
University of Central Lancashire

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