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Harm To Future Persons: Non-Identity Problems and Counterpart Solutions




Non-Identity arguments have a pervasive but sometimes counter-intuitive grip on certain key areas in ethics. As a result, there has been limited success in supporting the alternative view that our choices concerning future generations can be considered harmful on any sort of person-affecting principle. However, as the Non-Identity Problem relies overtly on certain metaphysical assumptions, plausible alternatives to these foundations can substantially undermine the Non-Identity argument itself. In this paper, I show how the pervasive force and nature of Non-Identity arguments rely upon a specific adoption of a theory of modality and identity and how adopting an alternative account of modality can be used to reject many conclusions formed through Non-Identity type arguments. By using Lewis’s counterpart-theoretic account to understand ways we might have been, I outline the basis of a modal account of harm that incorporates a person-affecting aspect. This, in turn, has significant implications for ethical decision-making in areas such as reproductive choice and the welfare of future generations.

Acceptance Date Apr 14, 2011
Publication Date Apr 1, 2012
Journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
Print ISSN 1386-2820
Publisher Springer Verlag
Pages 175 -190
Keywords Harm, Non-identity problem, Counterparts, Genetic selection
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