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Meeting the Epicurean challenge: a reply to Christensen


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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