Blaming the mother? A philosophical vignette study on (non-)identity, disability and quality of life
The Non-Identity Problem, first discussed by Derek Parfit in the 1970s, continues to inspire and trouble many philosophers across various disciplines. Ongoing debates in procreative ethics show its relevance in philosophy of medicine. This chapter reports an experimental philosophy study that aims to investigate whether the central role of the problem is justified given lay people’s intuitions about related vignettes. The study focuses on two assumptions underlying the typical use of the Non-Identity Problem. Firstly, I investigate whether a diverse sample of non-philosophers shares Parfit’s No-Difference View. This view entails that there is no moral difference between choices that affect who comes into existence and choices that merely affect already existing people. I found that the non-philosophers in my sample do not hold a No-Difference View. Instead, they attach more moral import to identity-affecting, pre-conception choices than to those made by a woman who is already pregnant. Secondly, this study looks at people’s intuitions about disability and the ways in which those might have an inappropriate impact on their judgements about identity-affecting decisions. I found that aspects of the stories which Parfit seems to deem morally irrelevant are actually considered to be relevant by other people. The participants were most outspoken in their moral judgments about the woman described in the vignettes when those vignettes mentioned disability in general or deafness in particular. The reactions on a vignette in which neither deafness nor disability was mention were less outspoken. particular, I found that both vignettes about disability in general and vignettes about deafness as a particular disability are associated with lower scores than the Pure vignette, in which neither deafness nor disability was mentioned. This chapter concludes with an call for philosophers of medicine to critically investigate their own assumptions about disability and its relation to issues such as quality of life, cure and procreative beneficence.
Source (book)
Advances in experimental philosophy of medicine / Hens, Kristien [edit.]; et al. [edit.]
Source (series)
Advances in Experimental Philosophy
London : Bloomsbury Academic , 2023
p. 233-258
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Publications with a UAntwerp address
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Creation 16.11.2023
Last edited 18.11.2023
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