Genetic Selection and Modal Harms

The Monist 89 (4):505-525 (2006)
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Abstract

Parfit’s (1984) Non-Identity Problem provides a strong line of argument that we cannot be harmed by pre-conception choices or actions. I argue that we can no longer appeal to the Non-Identity problem in order to justify using pre-conception genetic screening and selection techniques as a harmless tool to determine the genetic constitution of future individuals. My criticism of the Non-Identity problem is based on a rejection of the metaphysical foundations of Parfit’s argument - Kripke’s (1980) essentialist arguments for the necessity of origin. I offer an alternative account of modal harms based on counterpart theory such as that offered by David Lewis (1986). On this account, individuals can make legitimate harm claims in regard to pre-conception choices made in determining their genetic constitution by appeal to their counterparts across possible worlds.

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Anthony Wrigley
Keele University

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