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CPP Colloquium with Tim Meijers 'Creating Children in an Unjust World'

Thursday 16 February 2017
CPP Colloquia 2015-2016 & 2016-2017
Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden
Tim Meijers

The Center for Political Philosophy in Leiden is pleased to announce a talk by

Tim Meijers (Leiden)

'Creating Children in an Unjust World'


Does one have the right to procreate if one is very poor, and one knows that the created child will grow up hugely disadvantaged? This question will come across as outrageous to many; of course people have a right to procreate. Yet, several political philosophers and ethicists have argued that creating children below a specified threshold (say, a flourishing life or, more minimally, basic needs level) is morally impermissible. This claim regularly arises in technical debates about the non-identity problem (so called wrongful life cases), but several prominent thinkers press a similar claim in real world cases: that is impermissible for those who do not have reasons to believe their children will have good enough lives to procreate, for example because the prospective procreators live in destitute poverty. Let us call this the standard view. If this view is correct, this would mean that many of the globally least well off act wrongly when procreating.

The idea that it is impermissible to create a child one will reasonable expect to live life under some (to be specified) threshold is plausible. Yet the aforementioned implication of the standard view is hard to stomach, because it looks suspiciously like blaming the victim. Most people living in poverty are poor as a result of being treated unjustly. Claiming that a procreator in  - say –Sudan commits a wrong by having a child because she cannot provide for the child adds insult to injury. The standard view has strongly counter-intuitive implications.

Because of these opposed strong intuitions, a closer look at the permissibility of procreation in an unjust world is needed. This paper offers such a consideration. First, it looks at – and defends – the plausibility of introducing a threshold below which procreation would be wrong. Second, it presents several views on what a threshold would imply in the real world, and (third) argues that those who think it establishes that procreation in conditions of poverty is impermissible are overlooking several crucial elements. By an appeal to the importance of procreation and the determinants of fertility (closely linked with poverty), it argues that blaming the poor for creating disadvantaged children is an example of blaming the victim.  The primary responsibility for not bringing the life of the child up to threshold level is not primarily (but perhaps secondarily) the fault of their parents, but rather of those agents who are responsible for the procreator’s precarious position.

I argue that the standard view has to be amended with stricter conditions before procreation in the non-ideal to be wrongful. This paper hopes to make a contribution both by working out this important question, as well as pointing to theoretical difficulty for moral theory: that of appropriately assigning moral blame in an unjust world.

About Tim Meijers

Dr. Meijers has been teaching at the Institute for Philosophy at Leiden University for a number of years now. In December 2016 he defended his doctoral thesis University of Louvain, entitled Justice in Procreation. In Louvain-la-Neuve he was based at the Hoover Chair for economic and social ethics. His PhD-project focused on the question what egalitarian theories of justice imply for reproductive rights and demographic policies. His project was funded by the Fonds Pour la Recherche en Sciences Humaines (FSR-FNRS). Over the last few years dr. Meijers has been on research stays at Oxford University (UK), Aarhus University (DK) and Utrecht University (NL).

Dr. Meijers’ publications include articles in Canadian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming), Ethics and International Affairs, Human Rights Quarterly, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, and International Journal of Transitional Justice. He is also editing a special issue (with David Axelsen and Juliana Bidadanure) on Luck Egalitarianism for CRISPP.

About the Center for Political Philosophy (CPP) Colloquia Series

The CPP is a collaboration between the Institute for Philosophy and the Institute for Political Science at Leiden University. Attendance of the Colloquia is free and there is no need to register. See http://www.centreforpoliticalphilosophy.nl/ for more information. For further questions please contact dr. Dorota Mokrosinska at d.m.mokrosinska@phil.leidenuniv.nl

All are welcome!




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