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I generally believe to give birth to a child or not is completely a woman's own decision. Personally I never want to have a child. However someone recently said to me that to insist on that belief would be a little selfish when a woman is in a country threatened by rapid aging and declining population, which could in turn lead to far worse consequences like economic collapse. What do philosophers think?

A fascinating question. Let’s first examine the question of whether one might have an obligation to reproduce. Under normal circumstances, we honor the autonomy of individuals in such matters, largely as an extension of the principle that one should have ultimate control over one’s body to the extent it does not harm others. Of course, that raises the questions of whether refusing to reproduce might harm or injure others, and what harm or injury is relevant. This is part of a larger question of whether not doing something can be understood to be a kind of harm. Are we obligated to save others in peril, for existence? It’s a big question, but I’m inclined to think that we do bear a limited obligation. If that’s true, I can imagine a scenario where someone with a terminal illness is the only person in the world with a certain genetic trait and that trait is required to produce a cure for a disease that will otherwise kill everyone else. The trait cannot for some reason be preserved in tissue samples. In...

Not sure whether this question would fall under philosophy or psychology (both perhaps) but I was always curious why it is that children love video games but hate homework. Cognitively they are pretty much the same. They challenge the child to think critically to solve a problem, and provide a sense of reward when completed, so why is one cherished while the other despised?

Plato recounts a conversation in his magisterial dialogue "Republic" (at lines 475e-476b) where a young man names "Glaucon" and Socrates discuss education and philosophy (the love of wisdom). A distinction is generated between "lovers of sights and sounds" and "lovers of truth." I suspect something of that explains the difference you've discerned. Some people find satisfaction in sensuous experiences (the "lovers of sights and sounds"). They like images and fictions, make-believe, movies, shows, representations. They enjoy vivid and delightful shapes, colors, movement, music, powerful sub-woofer explosions, etc. Others enjoy ideas, theories, concepts, arguments, principles, and the discovery of fundamental truths about what's real, actual, and factual. They're less interested in exciting moments than in enduring wisdom. There's also a discussion perhaps relevant in work by the quasi-Platonic philosopher, Augustine, about how people get caught up in the desires of their eyes and senses generally, rather...

Is it ethical to have biological children when there are children who could benefit from fostering or adoption? Isn't creating further needs wrong, when existing needs could be fulfilled? I'm unsure about the moral status of having children reproductively when fostering is possible. There are some reasons for this concern, which are as follows: In the developed world, each person tends to cause globally disproportionate amounts of pollution and environmental harm. The world bank's statistics on per-capita GHG output by country support this. Creating a new person means that there is a new set of needs which must be fulfilled, often at the expense of the globally worst-off, who will be hurt by the effects of procuring the necessary resources to meet those needs. Secondly, it seems as if we have moral reason to meet existing needs before it is permissible to create more needs through reproduction. There are plenty of children without homes, and adopting or fostering them both reduces environmental...

I think you're onto a profoundly important question, and I share your concern that the issue is not commonly one encounters in public discourses. I think the issue of having children is, as you say, bound up with concerns about prioritizing existing needs and also about the environmental consequences of additional pollution, consumption, habitat loss, etc. I think the issue, however, concerns both the more developed and the less developed world. The impacts from reproduction in each are different, but those impacts in both are substantial. Currently the levels of consumption in the less developed world are low, but we can't demand that populations remain impoverished. Moreover, populations in the less developed world are despite low individual levels of consumption nevertheless collectively exerting enormous pressures on non-human populations through their effects on water, habitat, and pollution. It is clearly, then, not morally unproblematic to reproduce under current circumstances for any of us. There,...

People who want to adopt children typically must demonstrate that they would be good parents (they must be financially stable, reasonably healthy, law-abiding, and so on). This is often a very difficult process, as prospective parents are placed under intense scrutiny; and many couples who would likely make fine parents are denied. What reason is there to regulate adoption in this way that would not apply to parenthood in general? I think most of us agree that it is a good thing that not just anyone can adopt. But why should having one's own biological children by any different? I am normally repulsed by the claim that only certain people should be allowed to breed. However, I don't see what would justify applying such demanding standards to adoptive parents but not biological ones.

There are a number of reasons for the asymmetry for the difference in the way biological and adoptive parents are treated. The first is privacy. The second is liberty. The decision to reproduce and the process of reproduction are among the most personal, intimate, and emotionally profound in human life, and they involve one's own body. For the state or institutions to intrude into that process would entail compromising the most private dimensions of our lives and bodies and interferring with people's liberty in substantial ways, and people find that intolerable, especially given the epistemic problems in determining who is and is not fit to parent. The question of whether people are fit to parent can be handled once children are born. Scrutinizing prospective parents through adoption requires no iintrusion into the private matter of biological reproduction or positive comprimising of the liberty of people. Of course, the state and the community do have an interest in new members of the community being...

Why is the notion of a child having sex with an adult considered so profoundly offensive? It is widely believed that sex with a child is psychologically harmful to the child. However, why should that be? Is it the act itself that is psychologically harmful to the child or the belief that they (the child) have participated in something psychologically harmful which psychologically harmful to the child? Some people have claimed that when a child participates in a sexual act that they lose their "innocence." Yet I do not perceive any direct connection between innocence and sexuality. It is possible to express ones sexuality in ways that are disrespectful and even sadistic, for instance a person might feel deeply insulted if they allowed a person to have access to intimate parts of their body only to discover that that person had no respect for them as a person. The complexities and dangers of sexuality are one reason that it seems to be no less prudent to restrict the sexual activity of children than it...

Not only is it possible that pedophilia is in general not judged philosophically; as it is with virtually everything it is a near certainty. That, however, doesn't make the judgment incorrect. I can't speak to the reasons that pedophilia is thought to be harmful psychologically, but philosophically the issue is one of consent . That children should be initiated into and involved in a set of practices (i.e. sex) with such profound emotional, social, political, and moral implications without their consent is what offends philosophically. What determines when someone is able to give consent to sexual interaction, what criteria ought to be employed to determine when consent is properly given, etc., are interesting and difficult philosophical issues. I don't however think the aesthetic line of thought you pursue will prove terribly useful in this regard or in underwriting moral judgments about pedophilia, as what is thought to be disgusting pedophilia today was not so in the past--for example, in ancient...

Was I morally correct in asking my (now) ex-wife to delay the divorce which she had initiated, in order to retain her much needed health insurance under my employer, until she had obtained such on her own? Or was she correct in her assertion that it would have been morally incorrect for her remain married to me, regardless of her health needs, due to the example shown to our children when she was meeting and dating others?

I agree with Jyl Gentzler that marriage might for some people take the form of an open relationship, where extra-marital relationships were permissible; and if you find this form of relationship satisfactory, then keeping your then-wife covered by your insurance even while she engaged in extra-marital relationships would be permissible. But I hold a slightly different view of the issue of decption in this case, a view that leads to a different judgment about keeping your then-wife insured even if the relationship was for all intents and purposes over. I think the analogy with "Green Card" marriages in this case a weak one. Green Card marriages are different from cases like the one you describe because Green Card marriages are frauds from the very beginning. They never achieved the status of real marriage in the sense they don't involve relationships of love, commitment, sexual congress, or reproduction. Your relationship, I take it, was at the start a real relationship. Given that your...

Bracketing the various legal issues surrounding restricting certain forms of entertainment and entertainment content to 'children', what are the moral issues? How do we, for example, determine what is 'appropriate' for someone of a certain age to view/hear/experience? What is it about - again for example - swearing that makes it so unattractive and thus renders it undesirable for children's entertainment?

These are very good questions. For myself, I often think people overreact when children are exposed to human sexuality in entertainment, especially when they have so few compunctions about violent entertainment. Much of the question, however, depends upon psychological issues--when can children grasp the emotional, social, and personal consequences of sexua and violentl conduct. Practicallly speaking, I think the principle concern of parents is that children will imitate what they see or seek it out before they 're ready or when it's socially undesireable. The ideas that children have little appreciation of the consequences of various forms of conduct and that they imitate what they see are well grounded, I think. So, I think in order to determine what is appropriate for young people to see we ought to consider four factors: (1) how well children appreciate the meaning and consequences of what they see; (2) how likely they are to imitate it; (3) how much control they have over their impulses and...