Consider these two scenarios:

  1. Parent(s) have a child. Mother and father realize they cannot feed the child, so they kill it.

  2. Parent(s) think about having a child, but realize that they will not be able to feed it. They don't in the end.

Obviously one of these is pretty messed up, and the other is fairly normal. I'm wondering, how you can explain this from a moral/ethics standpoint though.

If you think about it from the perspective of an emotionless alien; the only real difference is that in scenario one the child got to live for a while. What am I missing?

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    Welcome to Philosophy.SE! What moral framework are you working with? – user2953 Mar 30 '16 at 7:10
  • What do you mean by "the child got to live?" I ask that seemingly silly question because the definition of "living" and the "value of life" are quite nuanced parts of ethics. An emotionless alien may have trouble coming up with good definitions such that the result of those definitions does a good job of predicting human behavior. As an example, the Catholic faith believes in ensorclement, the point in time where a body receives a soul. After that point, it must be treated as a child with a soul rather than a lump of flesh, because the soul is what matters. – Cort Ammon Mar 30 '16 at 15:44
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    An amusing instance of this idea is that vegetarianism is bad for cows. If everyone stopped eating beef, most cattle would not be bred for food, hence millions of cattle would not have the chance to live! So which is worse, breeding a cow then eating it? Or not breeding it at all? – user4894 Mar 30 '16 at 20:16
  • Why would the emotionless (unaffected) alien even bother to consider the problem? – André Souza Lemos Jun 8 '17 at 17:32

When a child has been fathered and is on its way to become a self-conscious being, it can feel pain (in particular when being killed) and can have hope for happieness. Therefore it is evil to kill it in a society where murder is considered evil.

When a child is not created, there is no child, no pain no hope. In addition, the billions of possibe configurations of children that could develop by chance after one sexual act but obviously cannot all be realized, makes it irrelevant whether one more remains unrealized.

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Consider what makes one wrong and the other NOT wrong: murder, or the taking of someone's life. Since the child in example 2 is not yet created the murder cannot be committed.

Additionally, killing a child they can't feed is not the parents' only option - adoption is also USUALLY an option - murder is a selfish act.

Moreover, you can't take this perspective to an 'emotionless alien' since they most likely will not have a moralistic worldview, making that irrelevant.

Finally, the people in example 2 cannot be called parents, since they didn't actually conceive and bear a child. :)

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