This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.
The having and begetting of children is central to human life. For many, it is a natural and unqualified good. The belief that your life is somehow incomplete or inferior if you do not have children persists in many cultures. Most people never question whether it is ethical to have children. But when you think about it this is pretty odd. A child is a sentient being who is highly dependent on the care of other human beings (typically its biological parents). So if you do have children, you are voluntarily taking on a significant moral responsibility and entrusting into your care a being capable of suffering great moral harms. This is not something to be taken lightly.
Consequently, it seems legitimate to ask the question: is it (morally) right to have children? In other words, is the having and begetting of children morally permissible, impermissible, obligatory or supererogatory?… Read the rest