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The ethics of selecting for existence

University of Chicago Press Journals

Highlights from the current issue of Ethics, a symposium on disability by some of the leading theorists working on the subject. Highly applicable to current debates surrounding prenatal screening, social welfare, and "invisible disabilities" such as depression, the articles also serve as ruminations on the nature of personhood.

Of special note is an important piece by Jeff McMahan (Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University) addressing the controversial practice of "selecting for existence" - that is, the decision by a parent to not bring into existence a person of a certain type. McMahon questions the difference between seemingly benign forms of selection and objectionable choices, pointing out that those who maintain it is no detriment to be disabled must also accept the implausible view that there is no basis for objection to deliberate inflictions of prenatal injury rendering a person disabled.


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Lawrence C. Becker "Reciprocity, Justice, and Disability"

Anita Silvers and Leslie Pickering Francis "Justice Through Trust: Disability and the "Outlier Problem" in Social Contract Theory"

Jeff McMahan "Causing Disabled People to Exist and Causing People to be Disabled"

Eva Feder Kittay "At the Margins of Moral Personhood"

David Wasserman "The Nonidentity Problem, Disability, and the Role Morality of Prospective Parents"

N. Ann Davis "Invisible Disabilities"

Founded in 1890, Ethics is the leading international journal of moral, political, and legal philosophy. It publishes work from disciplines that have a normative dimension, including philosophy, law, economics, and social and political theory.

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