Children’s Rights and the Non-Identity Problem

February 8, 2019 @ 2:45 pm – 4:00 pm
385 University College, University of Manitoba
203-220 Dysart Road
Steven Brown
(204) 474-6878
Children’s Rights and the Non-Identity Problem


Can appealing to children’s rights help to solve the non-identity problem in cases of procreation?

A number of philosophers have answered affirmatively, arguing that even if a child cannot be harmed by being born into disadvantaged conditions, they may nevertheless be wronged if those conditions fail to meet a minimal standard of decency to which all children are putatively entitled. This rights-based approach is in many ways attractive as a partial solution to the non-identity problem, though it has often been dismissed on the basis of well-known counterarguments.

Critics have argued, for example, that rights cannot be ascribed to persons who do not yet exist; that children would retrospectively ‘waive’ their rights to the extent they are happy to be alive; that children would lack a legitimate complaint about the violation of their rights insofar as their only alternative was non-existence; and that a rights-based approach leads to unacceptable normative implications, e.g. that the poor or destitute should not have children.

In this lecture Dr. Erik Magnusson will argue that each of these counterarguments is less persuasive than initially appears, and that each may be convincingly rebutted in a rights-based framework.