Olsaretti, S. “The Family and Justice in Political Philosophy”, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics (forthcoming)


Political philosophers´ interest in the family - understood as a unit in which one or more adults discharge a socially and legally recognised role as primary carers of their children – has a long pedigree. But there is no doubt that over the last half century philosophical discussions of the family have intensified and given rise to an increasingly rich and multi-faceted body of literature. After briefly introducing the key reasons why political philosophers have been interested in the family, this chapter discusses two main sets of questions that arise concerning justice and the family. The first set of questions are about what the family owes society as a matter of justice, that is, about how the family can and should help realise, or how it may hinder the achievement of, independently formulated demands of justice. For example, does the existence of the family necessarily threaten the pursuit of equality of opportunity for children? Should prospective parents constrain their freedom to found and raise a family in light of considerations about the environmental impact that their having and rearing children will have for future generations? The second set of questions concern what society owes families, that is, what we owe our fellow citizens as a matter of justice, insofar as they are actual or potential members of families: Do adults have a right to parent, and to parent particular children? Do children have a right to being raised in families? Should society share in the costs of having and raising children, or may it let most or all of those costs fall on the shoulders of those who freely choose to become parents?


Olsaretti, S., “Egalitarian Justice, Population Size and Parents´ Responsibility for the Costs of Children”, in G. Arrhenius, K. Bykvist, T. Campbell, E. Finneron-Burns (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Population Ethics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)


Theorists of egalitarian justice generally assume that the principles they formulate apply to a group of individuals whose creation and size is taken as given. Yet many of the policies egalitarians favour distribute the costs and benefits of children in different ways, and, by so doing, affect people´s procreative choices and a society´s population size. How do considerations of egalitarian justice bear on how the costs and benefits of children should be distributed and on what the population size should be in a just society? This chapter argues for the importance of addressing these questions within an egalitarian theory of justice and critically examines one revisionary way of answering them. 


Olsaretti, S. “Equality of Opportunity and Justified Inequalities: How the Family can be on Equality´s Side”, in M. Frauchiger (ed.), Vol. 6, Lauener Library of Analytical Philosophy (De Gruyter, forthcoming)


This chapter takes Thomas Scanlon´s treatment of equality of opportunity as a starting point to examine a hitherto neglected aspect of the relationship between equal opportunity, the justification of socio-economic inequalities, and parental partiality. Its central claim is that once we acknowledge that in a just society equality of opportunity must be satisfied for inequalities to be justified, and given a certain view of the special obligations of parents to their children, appealing to the latter can ground an argument for reducing socio-economic inequalities. In a just society, parents may not support institutions that create substantial socio-economic inequalities while also both upholding equality of opportunity and heeding their parental obligations. So, a society whose institutions are regulated by equality of opportunity, and in which parents act in line with their parental obligations, is one which will, other things equal, be more egalitarian than a society whose parents are neglectful of their parental obligations.


Olsaretti, S., “The Costs of Children”, in G Calder, A Gheaus, J van Wispelaere (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children (Routledge, 2018)


“Children”, economist Nancy Folbre notes, are “an expensive crop”. How expensive children are has changed substantially across time and still varies greatly from one society to another. What has also changed and varies is how the costs of children are distributed between parents and other family members on the one hand and public institutions on the other, and across socially salient groups such as women and men. This chapter surveys several possible answers to the question of who should pay for the costs of children, and aims to show that addressing this question plays a more central role in our understanding of the demands of social justice generally than has been appreciated thus far.


Olsaretti, S. “Introduction: The Idea of Distributive Justice", in S. Olsaretti (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018)


This chapter introduces the idea of distributive justice. It identifies several different views of what characterizes distributive justice, as opposed to other types of justice and to non-justice-based moral demands. The preconditions of distributive justice, its primary subject and its object, and its normative significance are discussed. The chapter then suggests that bringing the diversity of usages of the concept of distributive justice into view helps cast light on some of the many contemporary debates about distributive justice and its limits. This chapter also introduces and outlines the different topics covered by the different sections and chapters of the book.


Olsaretti, S., The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018)


This volume collects previously unpublished work on distributive justice written by leading political philosophers. Its aim is to provide a wide-ranging overview of the central contemporary debates—some more familiar than others—concerning distributive justice. The volume opens with an introduction and its thirty-two chapters are divided into four parts. The chapters of Part I introduce readers to the main contemporary approaches to distributive justice; those of Part II discuss the relation between distributive justice and some other social virtues; and those of Part III address some central foundational issues that affect our thinking about justice. Finally, the chapters of Part IV examine the implications of distributive justice for some key aspects of social life.


Olsaretti, S., “Children as Negative Externalities?”Politics, Philosophy & Economics (2017), 16, 2: 152-163


Egalitarian theories assume, without defending it, the view that the costs of children should be shared between non-parents and parents. This standard position is called into question by the Parental Provision view. Drawing on the familiar idea that people should be held responsible for the consequences of their choices, the Parental Provision view holds that under certain conditions egalitarian justice requires parents to pay for the full costs of their children, as it would be unfair for non-parents to bear the negative externalities of others’ choices to have children. This article examines closely the Parental Provision view and argues that various possible justifications for it are unsuccessful. In so doing, it brings to light respects in which the choice to have and rear children is special and may not be treated as being on a par with other choices for which we think people should be held responsible.


Olsaretti, S., “Liberal Equality and the Moral Status of Parent-Child Relationships”, in D. Sobel, P. Vallentyne, and S. Wall (eds), Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, Volume 3 (Oxford University Press, 2017)


The justification of the parent-child relationship that lies at the core of the family raises two main challenges for liberal egalitarianism: the challenge of authority and the challenge of partiality. These point, respectively, to the burdens of justifying to children their parents´ having rights over them, and to third parties parents´ favoring of their children in ways that negatively affects others. This paper examines some recent attempts at justifying the family and meeting these two challenges by appealing to the non-instrumental value of the parent-child relationship. It argues that these accounts do not capture some important convictions about the moral status of the parent-child relationship and thereby do not fully meet the two stated challenges. In particular, the relationship view, like the instrumental view, cannot capture the fact that, even prior to the existence of a relationship, parents have obligations towards their children; nor can it account for why particular adults acquire the parental obligations towards particular children. The paper also offers an alternative basis for justifying the parent-child relationship on which parents, by virtue of being morally responsible for their children´s existence, have an obligation to enter a relationship with them. Whereas the relationship view focuses on the obligations that are generated by the parent-child relationship, this view draws attention to the duty to generate that relationship. 


Olsaretti, S., "Justice, markets, and the family: an interview with Serena Olsaretti"Erasmum Journal of Economics and Philosophy 9, 2 (2016): 181-195


Olsaretti, S., “Review of K. Lippert-Rasmussen´s Born Free and Equal? A Philosophical Inquiry into the Nature of Discrimination”Analysis, 76, 1 (2016): 111 - 113

Olsaretti, S., “Review of J. Fishkin´s Bottlenecks: A New Theory of Equal Opportunity”Ethics, 126, 3 (2016): 821-825


Casal, P., “Distributive Justice and Human Nature” in S. Olsaretti (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice (Oxford University Press, 2018)


This chapter examines the relation between distributive doctrines and human nature. It reviews various responses to the conservative view that many progressive social reforms are doomed because of human nature. Some responses present a different view of human nature while others stress that human nature can be modified because it is the product of nurture or because it can be socially or biomedically altered. The chapter also offers an evolutionary approach to values like ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ and discusses whether human nature could have more than merely instrumental rel­evance to distributive justice. For example, our endorsement, and interpretation, of moral demands regarding human rights, human flourishing, and human capabilities, or even regarding the principles of sufficiency, equality and priority, may depend on assumptions about human nature.


Casal, P., "Unjust Gender Inequalities"Law, Ethics and Philosophy 3 (2016): 74-78


Casal, P., “Distributive Justice and Female Longevity" Law, Ethics and Philosophy 3 (2016): 90-106


This paper discusses Philippe Van Parijs’ claim that men’s lack of female longevity constitutes an injustice, whether this is caused by asocial factors or by gendered lifestyles. This response argues that, like others, such as John Kekes and Shlomi Segall, Van Parijs underestimates the resources of egalitarian liberalism to avoid this implication. One explanation treats individuals as liable for gendered life-shortening behavior, for example, when they value either life-shortening lifestyles or the choice between lifestyles, and one cannot say society has not “done enough” for them. A second explanation claims a trait is not a relative advantage when it is systematically part of a package of traits that do not constitute a relative advantage. A third explanation claims a trait is not an advantage when its value to the trait bearer is conditional, and the relevant conditions are unlikely to be fulfilled.


Casal, P., “L'amour, pas la guerre. Sur la chimie du bien et du mal. Projections. Revue Culturelle Pluridisciplinaire 9 (2016)


Casal, P., “On Not Taking Men as they Are. Reflections on Moral Bio-enhancement”, Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (2015): 340-342 with a reply from Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu


Casal, P., “Marx, Rawls, Cohen and Feminism”, Hypatia 


Although G. A. Cohen's work on Marx was flawed by a lack of gender‐awareness, his work on Rawls owes  much of its success to feminist inspiration. Cohen appeals effectively to feminism to rebut the basic structure objection to his egalitarian ethos, and could now appeal to feminism in response to Andrew Williams's publicity objection to this ethos. The article argues that Williams's objection is insufficient to rebut Cohen's ethos, inapplicable to variants of this ethos, and in conflict with plausible gender‐egalitarian ethoses. The article also advocates an understanding of basic structuralism and publicity consistent with feminism, and argues that Rawlsians need not reject plausible domestic egalitarian ethoses on either publicity or liberty grounds. 


Casal, P., “Distributive Justice and Evolution. Towards a Science of Equality”, Mètode, Annual Review (2015): 19-25


The paper offers reasons why distributive justice scholars should be interested in evolutionary science: it can help us understand, for example, the genetic and subsistence factors influencing our judgements about fair distributions, where our sense of property may come from, why freedom matters to certain creatures, and why we have fraternal and egalitarian sentiments and unequal societies.


Cormier, AA. and Brighouse, H. “Creating Civil Citizens?” in C. Macleod and C. Tappolet (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Moral and Civic Education: Shaping Citizens (Routledge, 2019)


We argue that there are good reasons for asking schools to try and produce future citizens disposed to use, and practiced in, civil discourse and behavior, but we also suggest that it is extremely difficult for schools to do so, and that those calling on schools to promote civility appropriately should be aware of these difficulties. We propose an account of the value (and disvalue) of civility, drawing on Cheshire Calhoun’s conception, and identify what we think that teaching civility successfully and appropriately to children would involve, what demands it would make on teachers, and how the aim of promoting civility would shape the structure of schools. We also identify some reasons for pessimism that schools can be very successful in promoting civility, although we do not think that these reasons are conclusive against schools attempting it.


Cormier, AA. “Is Children’s Wellbeing Different from Adults’ Wellbeing?”Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 49 (2019): 1146-1168


Many prominent views of wellbeing hold that wellbeing requires the possession and exercise of high-level cognitive and emotional capacities. Since young children seem to lack such capacities, or possess them to a significantly lower degree, these views appear to have remarkably little to say about young children’s wellbeing. This has led some authors to suggest that the constituents of children’s and adults’ wellbeing differ. This paper defends the thesis that children’s wellbeing is in fact the same as adults’ at least at the explanatory level, that is, when it comes to the explanation of why certain items are good for children and adults.


Cormier, AA., “Must Schools Teach Religions Neutrally? The Loyola Case and the Challenges of Liberal Neutrality in Education”Religion and Education, 45 (2019): 308-330


This paper offers a qualified defense of the idea that it is morally legitimate for the liberal state to sponsor and promote a ‘neutral approach’ to teaching about religious diversity, according to which schools educate children about different religious views while remaining neutral as to which one (if any) is true. I examine this issue through the normative analysis of a recent Canadian Supreme Court case, Loyola High School v. Quebec, which challenges the legitimacy of such a model, as recently adopted by the Quebec government.


Cormier, A-A. and C. Sypnowich (eds.)  Family Values and Social Justice. Reflections on ‘Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships’ (Routledge 2018)


In making the argument for the remedy of inequality, contemporary political philosophers often emphasize the arbitrariness of disadvantage, stressing how one’s lot in life is to a significant extent determined by the circumstances of one’s birth, that is, in which family, and in what part of the world. In the latter instance, people differ in how well they live in large part because of their context in the global order. But equally important for a person’s chances in life is the family that raises her. In Family Values: the Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships, Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift provide a systematic analysis of the morality and politics of the family, exploring why families are valuable, whether people have a right to parent, what rights and duties parents have, and in particular what rights children have that may constrain the rights of their parents. The essays in this volume take up a number of controversial issues about autonomy, human flourishing, parental rights, and indeed the nature of childhood itself. Contributors offer a range of arguments, some challenging, others complementing, Brighouse and Swift’s account of the ethics of parent-child relationships.


Cormier, A-A., “On the permissibility of shaping children’s values”Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. 21 (2017): 333-350


According to Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift (2014), parents have a limited and conditional moral right to deliberately shape their children’s values and interests in light of their own particular comprehensive convictions. Their view contrasts with Matthew Clayton’s account of legitimate childrearing, according to which it is always impermissible for parents to seek to pass on their particular convictions to their children or, more generally, to ‘enroll’ them into their conception of the good, since this violates a requirement of respect for children’s independence. This paper offers a novel defense of the view that at least some forms of comprehensive enrollment are permissible. First, I argue that the claim that there is a duty to respect the independence of very young children is problematic. Then, drawing on Brighouse and Swift’s account of familial relationship goods, I argue that seeking to pass on comprehensive values or beliefs to one’s children is actually compatible with proper respect for their independence, provided that certain conditions are satisfied. 


Cormier, A-A. & Sypnowich, C., “Introduction", Special issue on Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift’s Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child RelationshipsCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (2017)


Gheaus, A., "Sufficientarian Parenting Must be Child-Centred!", Law Ethics and Philosophy, forthcoming


Liam Shields’ sufficientarian commitments mean that he should subscribe to a child-centred account of the right to parent. This point most likely generalises: sufficientarians who acknowledge children’s full moral status must embrace a child-centred account of the right to parent.


Gheaus, A. (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children, with G Calder and J van Wispelaere, forthcoming


Children and childhood have, until recently, been largely neglected as philosophical topics. This is puzzling: we all start life as children and childhood spreads over a very significant proportion of the typical human life. It is during childhood that we change most, and acquire the physical and mental characteristics that individuate us. Moreover, many people tend to think that having a good childhood is very important for leading a successful life. The traditional representation of children as unfinished, imperfect adults has been rapidly changing, first in law and, more recently, in philosophy. The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children reflects this change and encourages future research in this young philosophical area. It is the first handbook of its kind, and brings to readers the state of art on matters concerning children’s knowing, their relationship with art and philosophy, their moral status, rights and autonomy as well as issues concerning parenting, duties towards children and the particular institutions through which these duties can be discharged. Individual chapters discuss gender in childrearing, children and race and children and disability as well as the so-far under-explored topics of child labour, children’s sexuality, children and punishment and children and war.


Gheaus, A., “The Right to Parent”, in A Gheaus, G Calder and J van Wispelaere (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children, forthcoming


The right to parent is a right to exercise authority in relation to a child’s life as a whole. I distinguish between several questions: First, can anyone have the right to parent – that is, should there be parents at all? Second, on what grounds do some individuals have the right to parent in general? And third, on what grounds do some individuals have the right to parent a particular child? I critically discuss these questions by looking at theories that appeal to the interests of the children in being parented, or to the interests of adults in being parents, or to both kinds of interests. 

Gheaus, A., “Gender-egalitarian policies in the workplace and the family”, in A. Lever and A. Poama, The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy, forthcoming


This chapter discusses the question of how to design public policies that are informed by gender justice. It looks at the main policies that have been proposed by feminists and whose aim is to achieve a more just distribution of the burdens of social cooperation between women and men. Some of these - such as the introduction of a universal basic income, or split pay-checks - have been defended as a way of giving due recognition to care work and freeing women from economic dependency on their spouses. Others - such as egalitarian parental leaves, flexible working hours for parents and the creation of high quality, state-subsidised, day-care and after-school institutions - have been defended as a way of resisting the traditional division of labour between women and men and getting closer to a gender-egalitarian society.

Gheaus A., "What abolishing the family would not do"Crit Rev Int Soc Polit Philos (2018), 21(3): 284-300


Because families disrupt fair patterns of distribution and, in particular, equality of opportunity, egalitarians believe that the institution of the family needs to be defended at the bar of justice. In their recent book, Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift have argued that the moral gains of preserving the family outweigh its moral costs. Yet, I claim that the egalitarian case for abolishing the family has been over-stated due to a failure to consider how alternatives to the family would also disturb fair distributions and, in particular, equality of opportunity. Absent the family, children would continue to be exposed to care-givers of different levels of ability, investment in child-rearing and beneficial partiality. In addition, social mechanisms other than the family would lead to the accumulation of economic inequalities. Any kind of upbringing will fail to realise equality for reasons that go deeper than the family: our partiality and unequal abilities to nurture.


Gheaus A., "Children's vulnerability and legitimate authority over children"J Appl Philos. (2018), 35(S1): 60-75


Children's vulnerability gives rise to duties of justice towards children and determines when authority over them is legitimately exercised. I argue for two claims. First, children's general vulnerability to objectionable dependency on their caregivers entails that they have a right not to be subject to monopolies of care, and therefore determines the structure of legitimate authority over them. Second, children's vulnerability to the loss of some special goods of childhood determines the content of legitimate authority over them. My interest is in the so-far little-discussed goods of engaging in world discovery, artistic creation, philosophical pursuits and experimentation with one's self. I call these ‘special goods of childhood’ because individuals, in general, only have full access to them during childhood and they make a distinctive and weighty contribution to wellbeing. Therefore, they are part of the metric of justice towards children. The overall conclusion is that we ought to make good institutional care part of every child's upbringing.

Gheaus A., “Hikers in FlipFlops: luck egalitarianism, democratic equality and the distribuenda of justice”, Journal of Applied Philosophy. (2018), Feb;35(1):54-69.

The article has two aims. First, to show that a version of luck egalitarianism that includes relational goods amongst its distribuenda can, as a matter of internal logic, account for one of the core beliefs of relational egalitarianism. Therefore, there will be important extensional overlap, at the level of domestic justice, between luck egalitarianism and relational egalitarianism. This is an important consideration in assessing the merits of and relationship between the two rival views. Second, to provide some support for including relational goods, including those advocated by relational egalitarianism, on the distribuenda of justice and therefore to put in a good word for the overall plausibility of this conception of justice. I show why relational egalitarians, too, have reason to sympathise with this proposal


Gheaus, A. ,"Biological Parenthood: Gestational, not Genetic", Australasian Journal of Philosophy 47 (2017): 739-759


Common sense morality and legislations around the world ascribe normative relevance to biological connections between procreators and children. Procreators who meet a modest standard of parental competence are believed to have a moral and legal right to parent the children they brought into the world. I explore various attempts to justify this belief and find most of these attempts lacking. I distinguish between two kinds of biological connections between procreators and children: the genetic connection and the gestational connection. I argue that the second can better help justify a right to parent a particular child.


Gheaus, A., "Love and Justice: A Paradox?"Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 2017


Three claims about love and justice cannot be simultaneously true and therefore entail a paradox: (1) Love is a matter of justice. (2) There cannot be a duty to love. (3) All matters of justice are matters of duty. The first claim is more controversial. To defend it, I show why the extent to which we enjoy the good of love is relevant to distributive justice. To defend (2) I explain the empirical, conceptual and axiological arguments in its favour. Although (3) is the most generally endorsed claim of the three, I conclude we should reject it in order to avoid the paradox.



Gheaus A., "Parental genetic shaping and parental environmental shaping"Phil Q. (2016), 67(267): 263-81


Analytic philosophers tend to agree that intentional parental genetic shaping and intentional parental environmental shaping for the same feature are, normatively, on a par. I challenge this view by advancing a novel argument, grounded in the value of fair relationships between parents and children: Parental genetic shaping is morally objectionable because it unjustifiably exacerbates the asymmetry between parent and child with respect to the voluntariness of their entrance into the parent–child relationship. Parental genetic shaping is, for this reason, different from and more objectionable than parental environmental shaping. I introduce a distinction between procreative decisions one makes qua mere procreator—that is, without the intention to rear the resulting child—and procreative decisions one makes qua procreator-and-future childrearer. Genetic shaping is objectionable when undertaken in the latter capacity: Both selection and enhancement are objectionable because they introduce an unnecessary and avoidable inequality in the parent–child relationship; in the case of enhancement, this also results in harm to the future child.


Gheaus, A., "Parental enhancement and symmetry of power in the parent-child relationship", Journal of Medical Ethics, 42 (2016), 397-400


Many instances of parental enhancement are objectionable on egalitarian grounds because they unnecessarily amplify one kind of asymmetry of power between parents and children. Because children have full moral status, we ought to seek egalitarian relationships with them. Such relationships are compatible with asymmetries of power only to the extent to which the asymmetry is necessary for (i) advancing the child's level of advantage up to what justice requires or (ii) instilling in the child morally required features. This is a ground to oppose parental enhancements whose purpose is either to merely satisfy parents' preferences or to confer on the child advantages above and beyond what the child is owed by justice.


Gheaus A., “The right to parent and duties concerning future generations”, The Journal of Political Philosophy. (2016): 24(4):487-508.


Gheaus A., “The normative importance of pregnancy challenges surrogacy contracts”, Analize. Journal of gender and feminist studies. (2016):(6): 20-31.


Magnusson, E. “Can Gestation Ground Parental Rights?” Social Theory and Practice, 2020


In law and commonsense morality, it is widely assumed that adults who meet a minimum threshold of parental competency have a presumptive right to parent their biological children. But what is the basis of this right? According to one prominent account, the right to parent one’s biological child is best understood as being grounded in an intimate relationship that develops between babies and their birth parents during the process of gestation. This paper identifies three major problems facing this view—the explanatory, adjudicatory, and theoretical problems—and proposes an alternative autonomy-based account that is capable of avoiding them. 


Magnusson, E. “How to Reject Benatar´s Asymmetry Argument, Bioethics 2019


In this paper, I reconsider David Benatar’s primary argument for anti-natalism—the asymmetry argument—and outline a three-step process for rejecting it. I begin in Part I by reconstructing the asymmetry argument into three main premises. I then turn in Parts II-IV to explain how each of these premises is in fact false. Finally, I conclude in Part V by considering the relationship between the asymmetry argument and the quality of life argument in Benatar’s overall case for anti-natalism and argue that it is the latter argument that is actually doing the work. In this sense, the asymmetry argument is not only unsuccessful in generating Benatar’s anti-natalist conclusion; it is also unnecessary as well.


Magnusson, E., “Introduction” to a Symposium on David Boonin´s The Non-Identity Problem, Law, Ethics & Philosophy, Volume 7 (2019): 9-14


Magnusson, E. "Parental Justice and the Kids Pay View", Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2018


In a just society, who should be liable for the significant costs associated with creating and raising children? Patrick Tomlin has recently argued that children themselves should be liable on the grounds that they benefit from being raised into independent adults. This view, which Tomlin calls 'Kids Pay', depends on the more general principle that a beneficiary can incur an obligation to share in the cost of an essential benefit that the benefactor is responsible for her requiring. I argue in this paper that this principle is both generally false and particularly suspect in the kinds of cases that Tomlin needs it to be true, namely, cases in which a benefactor has created the need to be benefitted to satisfy a self-regarding interest in providing the benefit. In a nutshell, I argue that because parents (a) electively put their children into a needy circumstance for the purpose of (b) satisfying a self-regarding interest in meeting their children’s needs, they lack a legitimate claim against their children to share in its associated costs.


Magnusson, E., "Children's Rights and the Non-Identity Problem," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 2018


Can appealing to children’s rights help to solve the non-identity problem in cases of procreation? A number of philosophers have answered affirmatively, arguing that even if a child cannot be harmed by being born into  disadvantaged conditions, they may nevertheless be wronged if those conditions fail to meet a minimal standard of decency to which all children are putatively entitled. This paper defends the tenability of this view by outlining and responding to five prominent objections that have been raised against it in the contemporary literature: (1) the identifiability objection, (2) the non-existence objection, (3) the waiving of rights objection, (4) the lack of legitimate  b complaint objection, and (5) the unfairness objection. 


Trifan, I., What Makes Free Riding Wrongful? The Shared Preference View of Fair Play. Journal of Political Philosophy 28 (2020): 158-180


Free riding is clearly sometimes wrong, but other times it is not. Various versions of the Hart-Rawls Fair Play principle, the principle that is meant to distinguish between these cases, have yielded unsatisfactory results. They have rendered Fair Play either over-inclusive or under-inclusive. Arguably, this is due to the debate's having proceeded through piecemeal discussion of the intuitive merits of the conditions that make free riding unfair. This paper, by contrast, offers a systematic approach to Fair Play. It provides an account of the conditions that make free riding unfair that are derived from, and justified by reference to, a general understanding of why free riding is unfair when it is unfair. My account draws on Garrett Cullity's (1995, 2008) view of unfair free riding as unjustifiably making an exception of oneself. My aim is to offer a principled criterion for discerning when and why this is the case. I argue that free riding counts as unjustifiably making an exception of oneself when certain similarities obtain between free rider and benefits producer. And the two parties are similarly situated when we can ascribe to each the same qualified preference to free ride. Moreover, I show how this account of Fair Play, which I call the Shared Preference View, accommodates the Nozickian voluntarist objection, whilst grounding a wide range of Fair Play obligations, including political obligation.


Williams, A., 2015 "Family Values: An Introduction"Law, Ethics and Philosophy, Volume 3 (2015): 178-9






Olsaretti, S., "The Roles of Fair Play and Parental Justice"


The principle of fair play is widely invoked but under-theorised. At its most general, the principle holds that under certain conditions, those who benefit thanks to others´ having deliberately engaged in certain benefits-producing activities, have obligations, to the benefits-producers, to share in the creation of the benefits and/or help bear some of the costs of their production. While it is widely deployed, the principle and at least some of its uses have been placed under pressure (Nozick 1974; Simmons 1979; Casal and Williams 1995), and defenders of the principle have offered different versions of it mostly in response to counterexamples in specific cases. Like with other political principles (e.g. desert, freedom, or equality), the resulting picture is one involving a plurality of different understandings of the principle of fair play; unlike with other political principles, little has been done thus far to take stock of the state of play with regard to how we do and should understand the demands of fair play. This paper has two main aims. The first is to take a step in that direction, by ask what role the principle is supposed to play in our political and moral theories; the second is to revisit the debate on parental justice with the observations that emerge from the general discussion of fair play in mind.


Olsaretti, S., “Fair Play, Exploitation and Parental Justice”


Suppose it is true that, under some conditions, parents create benefits for society at large by having and raising children. How, if at all, can this fact help ground a case for a pro-sharing view of parental justice? On one view, the so-called principle of fair play grounds non-parents´ obligations to share the costs of children with parents: a society in which non-parents enjoy the public goods which parents produce, but only parents bear the costs of children, is one in which non-parents unfairly free-ride on parents´ production of a public good. On another view, a principle of non-exploitation requires that those who perform socially necessary roles not be penalised as a result of having other-regarding ambitions: a society in which the benefits of children are socialised, but in which parents are required to bear all the costs of children, is one whose terms of cooperation are unfair to parents, because they are unjustifiably biased in favour of those with narrowly self-interested ambitions. This paper formulates and defends the latter view after critically examining the former. In so doing, it aims to shed light both on the question of parental justice and its centrality to theories of justice, and on our understanding of considerations of fairness and their place in a broadly responsibility-sensitive liberal egalitarian theory of justice. 


Olsaretti, S., “Self-Interest and Gender Justice: Friends or Foes?”


Feminists have often attacked liberal egalitarian theories of justice for formulating their theories on the assumption that individuals are self-interested; this idea, they charge, is a dangerous idealisation that underlies liberal egalitarianism ́s failure to capture some eminent forms of injustice towards women, such as the injustice they suffer as a result of bearing the lion ́s share of the costs of having and raising children. Liberal egalitarians, and some feminists among them, can and sometimes do counter that the assumption of self-interest serves an important role in theorising about justice, as it helps identify and protect individuals ́ interests as separate persons. This paper assesses the reasons for and against constructing theories of justice around the assumption that individuals are self- interested, and argues that while contemporary liberal egalitarian theories do display a problematic bias in favour of self-interest, they can be revised so as to correct for it and accommodate the obligations of justice that societies have towards those who discharge socially valuable parental roles.


Olsaretti, S., “Parental Partiality and Equality: A Reconciliation”


Parental partiality troubles both moral and political philosophers. For parents to favour their own children constitutes a departure from the demands of impartiality. Parental partiality is also inequality-creating, and constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the realisation of a fully just society in which equality of of opportunity can be respected. Taking these concerns as a starting point, this paper examines how parental partiality and equality can, in fact, be better aligned in a just society than is generally supposed. An egalitarian society need not require of citizens that they repudiate their partial attachments, nor does it have to accommodate large inequalities supposedly justified by parental partiality. Instead, the dispositions of parents who are both just citizens and good parents can be harnessed in favour of equality.


Olsaretti, S., “The Diversity of Objections to Child Poverty"


Two main convictions which animate much of the vast social scientific and public policy literature on child poverty call for reflection. The first is the conviction that tackling child poverty should be a matter of political priority. The second is the consensus that we should conceptualise the problem of child poverty in terms of children´s rights; the focus is on what is owed to children in as a matter of justice. These convictions seem largely justified, but reflecting upon them closely is fruitful. Drawing on Thomas Scanlon´s analysis of the diversity of objections to inequality, the paper identifies and distinguishes between several different reasons why child poverty (sometimes relative, sometimes absolute) is morally objectionable. The paper also asks what kind of injustice poor parents suffer, and analyses the parent-focused case for intervening to eliminate child-poverty. 


Casal, P., and Williams, A., "Asymmetric Procreative Justice: A Defense"


Producing offspring and providing them with the start in life to which they are entitled involves individuals bearing various economic costs. These standardly include production costs and may also include net social costs, which arise when the rate of reproduction exceeds a certain level, making some individuals worse off. Institution designers can shape the distribution of both kinds of costs. The paper examines some reasons of fairness relevant to their decisions. It concludes that, under certain conditions, procreative justice is asymmetric. If reproduction generates net social costs, then there are reasons to ensure those costs are internalized. In contrast, when reproduction generates positive externalities, it is not unfair to the producers to allow third parties to consume those benefits without sharing in their production costs. Socializing the production costs of well-reared offspring can instead be justified by appeal to the need to avoid gender-based injustice, harms to offspring, and inefficiency rather than by appeal to any producer entitlements. The paper´s defense of the asymmetry provides a response to the critics of Casal and Williams´ previous "Equality of Resources and Procreative Justice".


Casal, P., "Conservative and Conservationist Sufficiency" 


Cormier, A-A. "Political liberalism and the limits of parental rights"


I argue that considerations of justice towards children support a broader egalitarian agenda of state interventions in children’s education and greater limitations on parental rights than political liberals typically deem acceptable. Such interventions are compatible, I argue, with adequate political respect for reasonable disagreement about how children should be educated.


Cormier, A-A., "What moral issues should be taught as controversial?"


This paper challenges the ‘epistemic criterion’ for determining what moral issues should be taught to children ‘as controversial’ in schools and, more generally, the way in which the debate on the ethics of teaching controversial issues has been framed in recent years, both from a substantive and a methodological point of view. I defend an alternative way of approaching the issue, which is sensitive to the plurality of educational aims and to a larger set of moral considerations.


Spotorno, R., "Allocating Risks in Licensing Parents Schemes: a Conflict between Children’s and would-be Parents’ Interests"


The aim of this paper is to analyse a conflict of interests that necessarily arises in parental licensing schemes, namely the conflict between children’s interest in not having incompetent parents and would-be competent parents’ interest in not being barred from parenting a child. This conflict is determined by the fact that every improvement of the capacity of the tests employed in parental licensing schemes in detecting incompetent parents is inversely related to their capacity in detecting competent ones and vice-versa: the more a test is reliable in detecting incompetent parents, the less is reliable in detecting competent ones. In the first section, I present the argument for licensing parents proposed by Hugh LaFollette. In the second section, I provide some remarks about the nature of predicting tests, by noticing the inverse relation between the capacity of a test in avoiding false positives and its capacity in avoiding false negatives and I analyse the conflict of interests involved in designing a parental licensing test, i.e. would-be competent parents’ interest in avoiding the risk of not getting a license and children’s interest in avoiding the risk of having incompetent parents. In the third section, I stress that advocates of parental licensing need to provide a distributive principle to allocate such risks and I present a solution to the conflict of interests between children and would-be parents based on a formal analysis of the interests at stake. In the last two sections, I try to show how a Dworkinian hypothetical insurance scheme and a prudential life-span allocation of risks support the conclusion I presented.


Spotorno, R., "Parental Competence and the Duty to Love"


Samantha Brennan and Colin Macleod (2017) have recently argued that homophobes are incompetent parents and, therefore, lack a moral right to parent because there is a “non-trivial statistical possibility that their children will be gay” and, consequently, it is possible that they will not love their children. Brennan and Macleod’s claim is supported by four premises: 1) children have a moral right to be loved, 2) individuals are competent parents only if they can respect their children’s rights, 3) homophobes are unable to love gay children, 4) homosexuality cannot be detected before the establishment of a parent-child relation.

Given these premises, Brennan and Macleod make the general claim that homophobes are incompetent parents tout court. Since there is always the possibility that the children of homophobic parents will be homosexual and, therefore, that they will be not loved by such parents, homophobes are to be considered, before having any child, incompetent parents of that child and should not parent, i.e. establish a parental relation with, any child.  In this paper I examine Brennan’s and Macleod’s argument. One implausible implication of their argument is that, while homophobes are incompetent parents, racist parents are not. This is because in the case of prospective racist parents who are unable to love black children, the relevant versions of premise 4 does not obtain, i.e. those parents can easily avoid parenting those children whom they are unable to love. So Brennan’s and Macleod’s argument seems to support saying that, while racists are incompetent parents of black children and should not parent black children, they may parent white ones. This asymmetry in terms of parental competence and the right to parent between homophobes and racists seems implausible. In the paper, I will analyse a possible rejection of this conclusion that modifies Brennan and Macleod’s argument. Both homophobes and racists are incompetent parents of any child, because they fail to respect a child’s right to be loved unconditionally, i.e. independently of her particular features. It is not the factual possibility that homophobes’ children will be homosexual that makes homophobes incompetent parents of any child, but their incapacity to love children independently of their sexual orientation; analogously, racists are incompetent parents because they are unable to love children independently of their race, even if they can choose their children’s race before establishing a parental relation with them.


Trifan, I., “Parental Justice and Fair Play”


This paper explores a class of positive arguments offered in response to what Paul Bou-Habib and Serena Olsaretti have termed the question of parental justice, namely whether justice requires that nonparents share the costs of children with parents. These arguments offer the benefits that parents create for society by having and raising children as grounds for parental entitlements. Nonparents are said to unfairly free ride on parents’ benefits-producing efforts if they defect from supporting them. This paper seeks to contribute to the literature on the principle of fairness that was proposed by H.L.A. Hart and endorsed by John Rawls, which is used to provide the normative force for parents’ justice claims against nonparents. While there has been considerable debate on the scope and conditions of application of the principle, surprisingly little attention has been paid to uncovering its normative underpinnings. Building on the work done in this area by Garrett Cullity, the questions I address include: what the distinctive wrongness involved in unfair free riding is; which contexts may exhibit this sort of wrongness, and in virtue of which features; whether these wrong-making features are present in the case of nonparents’ receiving benefits resulting from parents having and raising children.


Trifan, I., “Do Procreative Motives Matter?”


This paper defends a specific account of the permissibility of procreation and shows how it influences parents’ claims to distributive shares. Some philosophers argue that, given that by bringing people into existence we expose them to harm, having children is only permissible when parents’ driving motive is respectful, namely when it does not treat someone’s very coming into existence merely as means to their ends. Following Thomas Scanlon, I believe that whether motives matter for moral permissibility depends on the action in question and the underlying principle that defines its conditions for permissibility. It is worth considering whether, even on such a view, bringing people into existence is a sort of action for the permissibility of which motives matter intrinsically. In answering this question special attention must be paid to the difficulties posed by paradoxes such as the non-identity problem. I argue that procreative motives matter only derivatively insofar as they can reliably predict negative outcomes for the future child. I develop an account of the predictive relevance of procreative reasons and explore its implications for distributive justice.