PHIL 226, Week 10: Animal Rights; Having Children

Animal Rights


Should animals be used in medical experimentation?

Other uses of animals: food, pets.

Hypothetical argument

  1. Non-human animals are similar to humans: molecular, neural, psychological, social.
  2. So animals have selves.
  3. So animals have rights, e.g. autonomy, equality, non-malfeasance.
  4. So it's wrong to use animals for human purposes such as experimentation and food.

Live Issues about Children

Is China's one-child policy wrong?

Do people have a right to have children?

Is it moral for a parent to have sterilized an adult child with moderate mental retardation?

Is it immoral for a person with a severe genetic disease to have children?

A Right to Have Children

Yes: Having children is central to being human.

No: Having children is not a vital human need, and people can function as human beings without reproducing.

CMA: People have a right to take advantage of the opportunity to function in parental capacity, normally biologically, but this right is not absolute.


Case: Eve, 24, moderately retarded, incapable of caring for a child. Her mother requested that the court grant permission to have her sterilized. The court refused, but an appeal supported sterilization. The appeal was appealed, and the higher court ruled that sterilization violated Eve's basic rights.

Rights-based argument against sterilization.

Right to life, liberty, and security of the person would be violated.

Everyone has a right to have children.

Rights-based argument for sterilization.

Proxy decision maker has the right to act in the best interests of the incompetent person.

Even if there is a right to have children, it does not apply to anyone incapable of looking after them.

Consequences-based argument for sterilization.

Eve could not care for a child, so her mother and society would suffer.

Pregnancy would be bad for Eve.

Consequences-based argument against sterilization.

An operation would be bad for Eve.

Birth control options would be better.

Can it be Immoral to Have Children?

The right to have children goes with a duty to look after them, so anyone (e.g. drug addicts) who cannot do so is wrong to have them.

If you have Huntington's disease, there is a 50% chance your children will. Should you have them?

Rights for: You have a right to have children.

Rights against: You have a duty not to make your children suffer.

Consequences against: Your child and others may suffer.

Consequences for: Your child may have a good life first. A cure may be found.

Review Questions for Week 10

1. Why does the Chinese government think it is right to restrict births?

2. According to the CMA, what is the nature of the right to have children?

4. Short essay question: Is sterilization of the severely mentally handicapped immoral? Critically discuss, considering both consequences and rights. For each option, discuss: consequences pro, con, and overall; rights pro, con, and overall; your overall conclusion concerning the options based on consequences and rights.

5. Why does Kluge think that sterilization of the severely mentally handicapped is sometimes moral?

6. Why does Purdy think that it is wrong for people with Huntington's disease to reproduce?



Phil 226

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Nov, 12, 2012