The Worth of a Child

Thomas H. Murray
(University of California Press, 1996)

What do children mean to their parents, and how far do parental obligations go? What, from the beginning of life to its end, is the worth of a child? In this book, Murray leaves the rarefied air of abstract moral philosophy in order to reflect on the moral perplexities of ordinary life and ordinary people. Observing that abstract moral terms such as “altruism” and “selfishness” can be buried in the everyday doings of families, he maintains that ethical theory needs a richer description than it now has of the moral life of parents and children. How far should adults go in their quest for children? What options are available to women who do not want to bear a child now? Should couples be allowed to reject a child because of genetic disability or “wrong” gender? How can we weigh the competing claims of the genetic and the rearing parents to a particular child?

The Worth of a Child couples learning with a conversational style. Only by getting down to cases, Murray insists, can we reach moral conclusions that are unsentimental, farsighted, and just. Murray discussion of these extraordinary difficult moral issues is aimed both at experienced and prospective parents, as well as ethicists, social and behavioral scientists, and legal theorists. 

“This well-written book appeals to common sense. . . . It is good reading, and many general readers will think it a great find on the library shelf.” –Library Journal

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