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Meeting the Epicurean challenge: a reply to Christensen
  1. Bruce P. Blackshaw1,
  2. Daniel Rodger2
  1. 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Allied Health Sciences, London South Bank University School of Health and Social Care, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Mr Bruce P. Blackshaw, Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; bblackshaw{at}


In ‘Abortion and deprivation: a reply to Marquis’, Anna Christensen contends that Don Marquis’ influential ‘future like ours’ argument for the immorality of abortion faces a significant challenge from the Epicurean claim that human beings cannot be harmed by their death. If deprivation requires a subject, then abortion cannot deprive a fetus of a future of value, as no individual exists to be deprived once death has occurred. However, the Epicurean account also implies that the wrongness of murder is also not grounded in the badness of death, which is strongly counterintuitive. There is an alternative: we can save our intuitions by adopting a more moderate Epicurean account such as that proposed by David Hershenov, who grounds the wrongness of killing in the prevention of the benefit of further good life rather than in the badness of death. Hershenov’s account, however, is equally applicable to Marquis’ argument: abortion similarly prevents a fetus from enjoying the benefit of a future like ours. Consequently, we conclude that Christensen’s criticism of Marquis’ argument fails to undermine his reasoning.

  • abortion
  • death
  • embryos and fetuses
  • killing
  • ethics

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  • Contributors BPB wrote the majority of this response. DR suggested writing it, and contributed significantly by discussing the response at length, adding some important points and making some key editorial changes.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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