Infanticide and madness

Published Date: May 1, 2013 | Topics: Philosophy, Reviews and Commentaries

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I am, of course, aware that infanticide was accepted and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, and is still practiced (usually secretly, with winks and nods from public authorities, and with guilty denials by those who perform the killings and those officials who tolerate and sometimes even encourage them) in places like India and China today; just as I am aware that slavery was accepted and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome (and in the American south until 1865), and is still practiced in some places (eg, Mauritania) today. But if philosophers, no matter how sophisticated, were to step forward today to argue that slavery is morally acceptable (eg, because some people would have better lives as slaves than the lives they will lead in circumstances of freedom—you can easily imagine how a clever argument might be constructed), I would call that madness.

Of course, the ‘madness’ I am referring to in condemning the advocacy of infanticide and slavery or their moral permissibility is moral madness. I am not making a clinical diagnosis of a psychiatric condition. I take it that this was obvious, but that Charles Camosy is nevertheless troubled that I would say such a thing. But I do say it. And at the risk of giving offense, I will say it again: advocating the moral permissibility of killing healthy newborn infants is moral madness; and it is scandalous, especially in a journal (the Journal of Medical Ethics) expressly directed not merely to philosophers (who—and I confess to being one—enjoy playing with every manner of shocking idea) but to physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals—people whose attitudes shape decisions they make about the lives of real people, including real infants.

Continue reading in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

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