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My friend's hypothetical question on Parenthood and Duty

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Jonny Glat
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My friend Jimmy is a philosophy major and loves to attack Rand, mostly becuase I am an Objectivist and an outspoken individual, but sometimes he does offer some thoughtful scrutiny in applying Rand's ethics to reality.

As of yesterday, Jimmy proposed me with a situation that I'll now try to illustrate again:

Suppose that Amanda lives in a Laissez Faire Free market, Objectivist government-run society (army, cops, courts), with complete separation of Church and State and also of Economics and State. That means that there are privately run Abortion clinics (not funded by taxes). Suppose Amanda gets pregnant and decides she wants to be a mother. She has a healthy baby boy and begins raising it by herself. Amanda then decides that it's too much hard work and she wants to be free again. Jimmy contends that if she were to abandon the child, she would be completely moral to do so, if she valued her freedom over her responsibilities to her child. So therefore if the child starved to death, it wouldn't be her fault.

I explained to Jimmy that he doesn't understand the concept of Duty. I told him that if Amanda chose to keep the baby for 9 months and then chose to have it delivered and not aborted, she is choosing to honor a contract with the child to support it. It's her responsibility which she chose to keep, by her own free will, therefore to break the contract and desert the baby before it is mature enough to fend for itself, is forcing the child to experience a slow drawn out suicide of starvation and dehydration. Important to note I said though was that Amanda's choice to take on the responsibilities of parenting holds her accountable for the child's life. Furthermore, I said that it would be suffiecient for Amanda to ask her neighbors to adopt the child if that's what they wanted to do in their self interest. Basically, that choosing to have a child means not just choosing to birth the child but to sustain its life to the best of your ability until the child is able to be independent.

Was my defense objective? Was I omitting anything? Thanks in advance...

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Jimmy contends that if she were to abandon the child, she would be completely moral to do so, if she valued her freedom over her responsibilities to her child. So therefore if the child starved to death, it wouldn't be her fault.

i should clarify here that this is what he thinks Rand would say. He argues that this is immoral and therefore that Duty is an essential part of morality.

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Well, I don't think it would be sufficient to say that there is a contract with the child, because the child isn't at the age of consent. But the question is basically about child abandonment.

I think the case should be made that child abandonment isn't compatible with Objectivist ethics because the child was placed into the position of vulnerability by the parents, so the parent does have an (voluntarily-undertaken) obligation to take positive action on behalf of the child. Thus refusing to feed, clothe, shelter, etc. a child would be a violation of the child's rights. People can voluntarily choose to place one another in positions where positive action is required such as the failure to take would result in the death of one of them without resort to any kind of deontological duty.

A good paper on this would be Long "Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism," especially section VI. The Right Not To Be Abandoned: A Derivative Positive Right.

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Perhaps you may find this excerpt helpful, from Ayn Rand's "Philosophy:Who Needs it" in regards to "Responsibility/Obligation":

"Causality Versus Duty"

I think in this hypothetical the mother had chosen a long range goal of having a child, and that goal subsumes necessary action of taking care of her value, her child.

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