“What a moral person would do, and want, depends, among other things, on what he believes the rights of the various people concerned are… And the consistency of this moral background, helps the parties to interact with each other non-coercively.”
– David Deutsch
From the archives: The original post was posted on 13th November 2002
Poster 1 wrote:
“Based on my limited understanding of the philosophy of Taking Children Seriously, the responsibility of the parent arises out of the fact that he is who decided to bring the child into the world.”
Poster 2 replied:
“I’m starting to think this argument should be removed altogether. It’s unnecessary against Abandonment Parenting and misleading otherwise. I find it much more fruitful to simply ponder what a moral person into good, fulfilling relationships would do.”
Poster 1 again:
“I tend to agree, except that I do think that the argument does carry some weight.
If you ask me why I think that it’s o.k. for outsiders (the state) to intervene to force parents to supply a certain amount of support for their children (child support), I would rely heavily on the “endangerment” argument. You made this person, you put them into a situation of relative helplessness, and you owe them at a bare minimum to get them out of it, which means arranging for or providing a certain minimal level of care until the relative helplessness passes.
But this doesn’t make for a very robust foundation for what an ideal parent/child relationship should look like.
Although a bit vague and tentative (and I think he would agree with that assessment?) I think Poster 2’s approach here looks in the right direction: “to simply ponder what a moral person in to good, fulfulling relationships would do.”
Well, yes, but the thing is, what a moral person would do, and want, depends, among other things, on what he believes the rights of the various people concerned are.
And that is why, even in relationships where it never even crosses the minds of any of the parties to enforce their rights (i.e. hurt the other parties), the issue of what the rights and obligations actually are, is still an important component of their discussions and their thinking. So for instance, someone might ask “whose book is that?”, if they have forgotten, not because they fear the owner will forcibly extract restitution from anyone who uses the book without permission, but because they will have different preferences about the various possible uses, depending on whose book it is. And the consistency of this moral background, helps the parties to interact with each other non-coercively.
Likewise, the fact that a parent acquires certain responsibilities when they create a child, is very important, not because it tells us who has the right to which property when, a decade later, the parent expels the child from the family home, but because the fact that the parent has a duty to look after the child no matter what, conditions what the parent wants, even down to details like whether a vegetarian parent should want to buy beefburgers. And it also conditions what the child wants; for instance, it makes it possible for the child to visit the vegan uncle, and never ask him for beefburgers, and be happy about it.
- What does education taking children seriously look like?
- Isn’t taking children seriously a risky experiment with children? Is there any evidence that it works? Has it been studied?
- In what ways is Taking Children Seriously different from simply taking everybody seriously?