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Family Values

Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships

Harry Brighouse
Adam Swift
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Family Values
    Book Description:

    The family is hotly contested ideological terrain. Some defend the traditional two-parent heterosexual family while others welcome its demise. Opinions vary about how much control parents should have over their children's upbringing.Family Valuesprovides a major new theoretical account of the morality and politics of the family, telling us why the family is valuable, who has the right to parent, and what rights parents should-and should not-have over their children.

    Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift argue that parent-child relationships produce the "familial relationship goods" that people need to flourish. Children's healthy development depends on intimate relationships with authoritative adults, while the distinctive joys and challenges of parenting are part of a fulfilling life for adults. Yet the relationships that make these goods possible have little to do with biology, and do not require the extensive rights that parents currently enjoy. Challenging some of our most commonly held beliefs about the family, Brighouse and Swift explain why a child's interest in autonomy severely limits parents' right to shape their children's values, and why parents have no fundamental right to confer wealth or advantage on their children.

    Family Valuesreaffirms the vital importance of the family as a social institution while challenging its role in the reproduction of social inequality and carefully balancing the interests of parents and children.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5254-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XVI)
    (pp. XVII-XX)
  5. Part One Liberty, Equality, Family

    • Introduction
      (pp. 2-4)

      The family poses two challenges to any theory of social justice. The egalitarian challenge focuses on the distribution of goods and opportunities between children born into different families. We can conceive those goods in a variety of ways. Economists tend to focus on expected income over the life-course; sociologists investigate chances of social mobility; philosophers typically think in more abstract terms such as resources or opportunities for well-being. But however we frame or measure the inequality, it is clear that children born into different families face unequal prospects.¹ Similarly, there is disagreement about how much, or what aspects, of that...

    • CHAPTER 1 Liberalism and the Family
      (pp. 5-22)

      The liberal challenge to a normative theory of the family demands an account of who should have the right to decide what with regard to children’s upbringing. Children are individuals distinct from their parents, individuals whose interests it is the state’s job to protect and promote. Yet, we will argue, children have a crucial interest in a relationship in which they are subject to their parents’ authority, and many adults have an important interest in participating in the kind of relationship where they get to exercise that authority. How to think about the allocation of rights, and what rights—rights...

    • CHAPTER 2 Equality and the Family
      (pp. 23-46)

      Much moral and political philosophy is concerned to identify the proper balance between the individual’s pursuit of her own interests and that concern and respect for the interests of others required by the recognition that all are of equal moral worth. As individuals, we are constantly and inevitably making choices about the extent to which we further our own well-being or restrain its pursuit for the sake of others. When it comes to politics, in our role as citizens making the rules that govern us, we have to consider the extent to which the state may properly limit individuals’ pursuit...

  6. Part Two Justifying the Family

    • Introduction
      (pp. 48-56)

      This second part of the book seeks to justify the family—to explain why it is good that children be raised by parents. It’s obviously good that they be looked after byadults, but what would be wrong with a system in which they were under the charge of different adults at different ages—specialists in dealing with young babies being replaced by experts on toddlers, who in turn would cede authority to those with advanced qualifications on the development of four- to five-year-olds, and so on? Or if continuity of care is important, would there be a problem with...

    • CHAPTER 3 Children
      (pp. 57-85)

      The family is justified because it produces certain goods that would otherwise not be available, or, in some cases, would be much more difficult to produce. These goods—familial relationship goods—are enjoyed by children and by the adults who are their parents. This chapter will focus on the goods it produces for children, arguing that their interests are such as to support the claim that children have a right to be raised by parents—in families. First, we define what we mean by children and childhood. We then explain what interests are, and describe the interests we think children...

    • CHAPTER 4 Adults
      (pp. 86-112)

      Children have the right to be raised by a parent. But do adults have a right to parent children? The child’s right to be parented imposes duties on others, but parenting could simply be something that adults have a duty to (try to) ensure happens—whether by doing it themselves or by contributing their share to collective arrangements that get it done. Many people want to be parents, but that doesn’t mean they have a right to do it—perhaps, instead, the activity of parenting should be distributed only to those who would do it best. Would there be anything...

  7. Part Three Parentsʹ Rights

    • Introduction
      (pp. 114-122)

      Part 2 was supposed to justify the family, which for us means explaining why it’s a good thing that children be raised by parents. Here, in part 3, our back-to-philosophical-basics approach starts to yield more controversial claims. Attention shifts from the question of why it matters that children be raised in families to more familiar, and more contested, questions about what rights parents should have over, or with respect to, their children. What does our theory about why there should indeed be parents imply about the rights of parents? On the proprietarian picture, children belong to their parents, “their” parents...

    • CHAPTER 5 Conferring Advantage
      (pp. 123-148)

      Parents typically assume that they have the right to do things that benefit their children and not others. Indeed, they assume that showing favoritism toward their children—acting partially toward them—is morally required. That’s what parents aresupposedto do; it’s part of the job. Our justification of the family invokes the value of parents’ having a duty of care to their children, and that duty does indeed imply some putting of their children’s interests ahead of other people’s (including their own). Moreover, as we shall explain, wanting one’s children’s life to go well is part of what it...

    • CHAPTER 6 Shaping Values
      (pp. 149-174)

      Where parents’ right to confer advantage raises questions about distributions between families, their right to shape their children’s values mainly raises issues concerning conflicts of interest within the family. Although third parties are also affected by the way that children are parented, and in ways that limit parents’ rights to influence their children’s beliefs and attitudes, the focus here will be on the need to protect children from excessive parental influence, while respecting the interest that both parents and children have in the right kind of parent-child relationship. The thrust of our argument will be to challenge widespread views about...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-182)

    Rather than concluding with a summary rehearsal of our arguments, we end by pointing out some of their limitations. We might think of these, more positively, as an agenda for future research.

    We have shied away from concerns about what children owe their parents. Our analysis has been limited to “the family” conceived narrowly in terms of the parent-child relationship, but even within that we have concentrated on parents’ rights over, and duties to, their children. Questions of filial obligation raise different problems, and the issue of what adult children owe their elderly parents in particular is clearly very important.¹...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 183-200)
    (pp. 201-212)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 213-216)