Date of Award

Summer 7-10-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

David Boonin

Second Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Third Advisor

Eric Chwang

Abstract

This work centers on the non-identity problem, but the implications of my view extend well beyond standard non-identity cases. The non-identity problem arises when moral agents are in a position to determine both the welfare and existence of the moral subject(s) in question. If we assume a very commonsense account of harm--the comparative account--then causing a subject to exist entails, under some circumstances, that low welfare is not actually a matter of moral concern. This seems intuitively incorrect. The non-identity problem challenges what seem to be very clear intuitions about wrongness and harm, and it uncovers distinct moral considerations. A solution must reconcile our intuitions of harm with a justified account of that harm. My approach allows this through appeal to specific responsibilities that arise for agents who take on certain roles. My aim here is to provide a thorough analysis of this kind of role-based approach to creation cases, and to provide a means by which we can uncover harm in non-identity cases. This solution is useful not because I propose a principle that delineates precisely when a given act of creation is wrong, but because the feature of non-identity cases that generated the problem was our supposed inability to appeal to the comparative account of harm when assessing wrongness; and my view allows for an appeal to the comparative account of harm. The real problem with non-identity cases is not simply that we cannot tell the agent that she has done something wrong. It is that we were blocked from even analyzing these cases properly in the first place. I have uncovered a means by which we can usefully analyze creation cases, but its use does not end there. If these principles are true, they not only provide us with a sound approach to the non-identity problem, they also provide us with moral features to which we can appeal whenever we assess our roles and respective responsibilities to children, future generations, society, species, and to the human race, regardless of the particulars of existence.

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Philosophy Commons

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