Toward a small family ethic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The goal of this final chapter is to fill out a richer picture of the morality of procreation than one that is exhausted by the concepts of duty, obligation and permissibility. Even if it is the case that we are not obligated to have any particular number of children, it is important to realize that we are not necessarily off the moral hook. Although people sometimes talk as though establishing a moral right to act, or establishing the lack of a duty to refrain from acting, entails that the action in question has passed all relevant moral tests, this is an impoverished picture of morality. But if this is true, then we are left with the question: what is it that we can say about actions that do not violate a duty? In fact, I believe that we can say quite a lot—and indeed, that we regularly do say quite a lot. In this chapter, I will argue that including considerations of character, reasons, and praise and blame makes for a more plausible picture of the moral phenomena. In the procreative context, then, it appears that this is uncomfortably relevant, as the decision to have many children (or children at all?) looks potentially able to reveal that one has bad character, that one is insensitive to reasons, and perhaps even that one is blameworthy as a result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpringerBriefs in Public Health
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameSpringerBriefs in Public Health
ISSN (Print)2192-3698
ISSN (Electronic)2192-3701


  • Blame
  • Character
  • Dale jamieson
  • Obligation
  • Reasons
  • Small families
  • T. M. scanlon
  • Virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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