Health Ethics Seminar: Howard Nye on Psychological Continuity and Neonatal Medicine

The following seminar announcement may be of interest to many What Sorts readers.  You can find the abstract for the presentation below.



The Bearing of Psychological Continuity on Fetal and Neonatal Medicine

Presented by

Howard Nye, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy

Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta

Friday, 24 September 2010


Room 2-07 Heritage Medical Research Centre

(link to map:


For more information please e-mail:


Several philosophers have argued that death is less bad for fetuses and neonates than it is for older children and adults. Jeff McMahan offers what may be the most promising such argument, contending:

list of 3 items

(1) Death is bad for us to the extent that it robs us of future goods,

(2) A future good is “ours” to the extent that we are psychologically continuous with the future self to whom it accrues, and

(3) Fetuses and neonates are less strongly psychologically continuous with their future selves than older children and adults.

list end

Because he believes that fetuses and neonates are much less continuous with their future selves, McMahan draws the strong conclusion that death is much less bad for them—so much so that it might be worse for parents to have their lives disrupted by a pregnancy than it would be for a developed fetus to have her life terminated. I argue against McMahan’s strong conclusion, contending that fetuses and neonates have a great deal of the kinds of psychological continuities that matter most for the possession of future goods.

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