- Why the Family?
- Law, Ethics and Philosophy
- Volume | Issue number
- 2015 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Among the most pressing philosophical questions occupying those
interested in the ethics of the family is why should parents, as opposed to
charity workers or state officials, raise children? In their recent Family
Values, Brighouse and Swift have further articulated and strengthen their
own justification of the parent-child relationship by appealing to its crucial
role in enabling the child’s proper development and in allowing parents to
play a valuable fiduciary role in the lives of children. In this paper, I argue
that the set of interests Brighouse and Swift identify as necessary for the
justification of the family fails to account for the different stages and the
different cultural settings that mark the parent-child relationship.
In particular, I ague that their justification of the family fails to satisfy
the following two desiderata: (i) that the justification for the parent-child
relationship should ideally track the good-making feature(s) of the
relationship that extend across its entire history, and (ii) such justification
should ideally explain what is valuable about the parent-child relationship
in both liberal and non-liberal family contexts. In light of my critique, I
sketch an alternative account of family values, one that appeals directly to
the special mode of caring we see in the parent-child relationship, a form
of caring that is certainly present in non-liberal societies and that typically
extends across a lifetime.
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