Joining us today is Travis Rieder! Travis is a philosopher at Johns Hopkins who deals with Population Ethics and related questions. Find his academic page here. Given the uncertainty of outcomes of our potential children, and given the many problems humanity faces due to overpopulation, is it morally acceptable to have children? Travis and I discuss that question and many related ones in a fascinating philosophy edition of SIO!
Here are Travis’s main works on these questions, for further reading:
1. Adoption and Procreation
2. Population Engineering
3. Small Family Ethic (book)
Highest-impact Media Pieces:
4. NPR Profile
5. Response to Critics
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One Reply to “SIO23: Is It Morally Acceptable to Have Children? with Travis Rieder”
Very interesting conversation. As the father of a young daughter I recognize that most logical arguments( especially the utilitarian/ consequentialist ones) are against it but screw it I’m a virtue ethics kinda guy. I think you are to Thomas. You and Sam Harrris both seem to me to be backwards virtue ethics believers. When presented with a logical consequence of a utilitarian( or consequentialist, im going to just use the shorter one from now on) you retreat to an ad hoc “consequence” that you wouldn’t want to live in a world where for instance a doctor harvests your organs to save several other lives at your expense. It seems as though you can always hypothesize vague consequences to get out of any logical jam utilitarianism gets you into. Not that virtue ethics solves all problems( I find that no ethical system applies at all times and places) but I enjoy the simplicity of striving for virtue where I am free to admit my subjective and cultural biases instead of shrouding them in consequential calculation that can easily e fudged to acheive nearly any result I desire. with Sam Harris’ utilitarianism I find the only logica etical problem which he honestly addresses is that of the so called utility monster, a being which can experience things we can only imagine and who we should be sacrificed to if necessary to maximize utility in the world. I think he logicaly follows this rabbit trail and not others because deep down he knows we’ll never encounter such a being. With the other more possible problems he does the classic dodge of assuming there must exist somehow countervailing values of which we may not currently, or ever, be aware of that luckily get us right back t where he was to start.