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Philosophical Papers

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Family History

I. David Vellclll'm'

, New York University.

Onlil\(' publICation dale: 01 June 2010

To cite this Article Vellemun, J_ l)avid(2IlDJ) 'Family History', Philosophical Papers. 34: 3. 3S7 - :l71l To link to this Article: DOl: I 0, 10)30!0556IlM050\lili35165

URL: htlp:i/dx .dc _or)!.i 10_ 111l-\1\/055(18(AO')I1')~·~5 I fJ3


'l'hi.<:_; dr'~l{_~l(' rn.s y be used f o r re~3edrch, tedcliing arid p r iva t e stucv pu r po s e s . Any ~ub.'~Li:lI:I .. .i a I or

SY.'il.E-:II'("l·'~.ic: roduc.t.con , rC1-di:3I:ribution, r(~-s("Cll .. i.nq , lOdn or suj)-l.ir::(-~r\:::jj.l\gr s ys r.omatic: :-:;u[JP~Y Or

dl~3t]'·ihut.i;)li dny r o rm t.o any'one i,'3 AXlJre::;::;ly tc r b.i c de.r .

1'~IE pl~blisner does riot give any warranty express Dr implied or make any represer1tation tllat the COTlterlts will be complete or accurate or up to daLe. Tlle accuracy of any instructions, [ormLtlae a:ld drug d05C5 ~;hou~rl be i.r:d(-~l-'l0I1c.ir:~ntl)_: vo t- i Eo e d w i t h prlL1kiry sources. The p ub Lis he r s ha I net be l~,dblc~ [or c-jIIY .lOSSt

a r-t; i ons , cL·j 1 r.l.'.; , J-ltoceecl,j,ng:3, demand or c:o~"t.,_; o r ddr;1d.ge~3 \,.}hat~30eve'( or h01,oJ:';oe'Jer cdu!;ed arj ::'~lrlg d i re-c r. y

OJ: j,ndirectly in connection wj.~h or arising out of the use of thj,s material.

Fain i lv II i srorv .f. ])((11 j rI Vtd /1'1 110/1

Abstract: I ;1If,;'lll' 111;11 IIlC:.lllillg III lili' is IIlljlOr\;lIlIll' Inllllcllccr\ hI' 1.lIl.dogll;,j IIC'S \1111<' ~pt>( dil.'~d~~', I Hlain!;J~H liI;H kno\\"lng UIH,'\' rl_'LI11\'l'~ ~II\1l (,spC"i~JlI\' I}J\C\ P;UC>IUS pr()\'~dcs a kind 01 "'II-knuwkdr;,, Ihal i, "I i, Icpia"',,hlc v.ihn: in !lie lilt.'-I",k ol,dcnlill' lilIlllOlllOIl Th"", .. bill" 1e;1" lilt.' 10 1.1Ic U,lIlCJ,hioll I hal il is illllllol;Jllo nl'ale t. hild, ell wili, I l u: inu-ut ion 11,,,1 I lu:v be aliclI;llcr\ lrolll I hl'1l biol(]f.:;,all'l'l;uil't's-I()I' Cx;,l1l1ple, b)· dUIlUI 1,<,1I1l[:l'lioll

Whcll I received 111Y' maternal gramlLtther's birth certificate [roru the Genel'al Register O!licc in London, I Iound that the space Ior the mother's signature had been completed in the same official hand as the rest of' the certificate, Il read, 'The mark 0(' Colda Salrman, Mother,' next to ;) tiny, tentative x. Golcb's mark, suuilarlv annotated, appears 011 the birth ccrtilicntcs of Illy grandbther's next older brother and vounger sister. who IVCI'(' also born in London, each at a different address on the E;1St End.

My great-grandparents had arrived in London, with two children, some ti me before 1891, the date on the birth certificate of' thei r first English-born child. Different versions of' family lore trace them variously to Minsk, Kobryn, and Brest-Litovsk, although the best guess may be that thev moved from one location in Ukraine to another before deciding'to leave altogether, Alter the birth of' their filth child, they lclt London Ior New York, the rather sailing in lWEi, the mother and children a year later. On the ship's manilcst, archived at Ellis bland, he IS listed as Nathan Saltrnan, 32 years old, a cabinetmaker lrom Russia,

Mv grandbther attended the City University or New York and became a physical education teacher in the New York City public

'I' F01' comments and discllSsion, 1 am gl'ate!lll to Jason Stanley, Connie Rosati, Thaddeus Mcrz, ami Ward Jones, For information about donor conception, I am grateli.ll to Diane Allen of In1eJ'liliryNerwol'k,org, Thanks also to .!oatlr13 Rose, MY[Ill\,), Walker, Caroline Lorbar h, Narelle (;rech, Bill Cordray, Eric Blyth, andjohn Trisoliotis.

schoo] s. Dne 01" his [bughters I"nlk,\\cd hilll into ih.u prolessio»: the other (bugiller. mv mother. bcr.uue :\ school librruiau. 1 :lIld mv 1\1'0 brorhers arc univcrsiiv professors.

1 assume rhaL mv grcar-gr:llldlathcl !ell Uk r.uuc to cscq)(' cOlISuiplioll il!LO llie C/ar's ;11"1)]\', or smue cqunllv unp.il.uablc LHC deVised 1"1)1 til(' .1 cws, I do 1\1)1 know whv the Iamilv Icf"l l':llgbl!d lor the Uuitc.d SUles. I udgillg frolll the CIi;\flgCS of address recorded 011 the chiklrcus l ii rrh ccndiGHcs. I inugillc that work in rhe .Ie\\'ish furniture L1Cir)J"Jcs 0)] the 1<:IS1 Jo:IHI ;dfordcd o nlv :\ precarious livil!g. No doubt, the p;ncllIs were lo()killg for SOlllclhillg better.

I ;llld mv brothers :\I'C the !Jcllclici;\l'ics 01" that search: we have the 'something better' that our great-grandparents were looking lor. II h;IS u uncd out to include the luxurv ofwritiug cssavs such as this li)r a living, three short generations alter a time when births in the Iarnilv were certified with an x,

That I am the great-grandson of Russian {cwisl: immigrants. that I enjoy the fruits e)f their strivings~this much I know with ccrtainrv. I also knoll' that I inherited notjust the lruits but the striving, too. What I don't know is how to understand that latter piece of my inheritance. Was it passed down entirely through my mother's upbringing bv her lather, and my upbringing by her? Or is the push in Iny personality a genetic endowment, from great-grandparents who twice pushed o n?

A lormal photograph of Nathan and Colda, dated 1918 and signcd 'Sincerely, Ma and Pa.' hangs on the wall of our living room, next to a photo of my wile's paternal gTandmother as a child, with her parents and siblings. My great-grandparents stand in their best clothes, looking awkwardly resolute; my wife's great-grandparents sit on a rustic lro nt porch in Tennessee, looking more than a little like hillbillies. I think 01" these pictures as representing the eclectic ancestry of my children

Mv children have inherited attitudes and life-wavs lrom these

• I

ancestors, but they would have received such a cultural inheritance from

~ .. o

~llIV(lII(' I"liu 1i,ld rC~lrcd lilf' people who rc.ucd rhcm, or tlie people who il;ul reared those people, alld so ()ll--<lIl\'UltC C()lllIC(ied It) tl u-m hI' the :111Cl'SIr:li III rhe 'parellti11g' rcl.uion. \\'ll('lller or Ilot il corresponded [f) [Ill' rcl.u.ion or I lin ]ugied :lIICCSrI'V, Docs i I maucr t.h.u the i r cult.ural ililicrii:lllcc ca mc, ill Lid, fr01\1 i.hc same sources ns t hcir gCllcs~ If' It h:«! co mc: l rom dilTcrcnl S()l.ll'CCS, would their :iIlccsl.rv have mallcrcd II) thr-rn, clivcrgcllL as it would then have been from their culuual p:lsr~

Naturallv, mv children's ancestry would still have matterecl ill that il would have influenced nUllY of their characrcristirs, 1'1'01\1 their appearance 1.1) their aptitudes, What I'm asking, though, is whether their allcestry would or should have mattered in their eyes, Would thev have had anv reason to care about their pr(}gcllitors~;tl)oUI. knowing who their progenitors were or knowing them, ;1" we philosophers sav. bv acqu;IJlltancc?

Manv adoprecs think so, Thcv ,l!;o to heroic lengths to lind their bioIog'iGll families, impelled bv what they describe as a deep ;lIH.I unrelenting need.' But maybe they arc just confused, because or living in

1 .. \ rcrcnt Iiter.uurc review cuncludes: 'Follovl.'ll1g conscrv.uivc C~l.lm;l[c~ of" 11101"(:' reten: ,Iwlle, 1lI couurncs with open rcrorrls policies, abou I :)O'i[. or all "dopled per,um will, at some point III their lilc, search fell' their birt h parents' (Miiller, U" and Pcrrv, B" ',\dopled Pcrxous' Search J())' and Contact With Their Bil'tl! Purcnt s I: \Vho Se;ll'Ciles and \\'hy;', IIdo/Jliml (2/u/'IIr:rly 1 (~()() I): ')-:H, p, t\), Thcs« lIlmd.ltrs h;IVC rcecllily been illcrc;lsillg (p, ()j, perhaps in rcsprmsc 10 grcatel' ;lw"reIlCSS ;lTld ilccept;lllcc or sucl: searches,

The oJbprinf!; of donated sperm a nr l t',(i'Ks have abo begun lO search 101 their biological 1';111111;cs, often via the l n teruct. Sec, for example, the Donor Sibling Rcgisl'l'y (hllp:l/www.dollorsibllllgregislry.com/); the Donoi Ullspring/l'<IITllls Registl)' <lIH\ Sc.nch Page (hltp:/lw\\'w,amJol,ncI/DonorUllspringl), the 'Donor Ulfsp,ing' page or the l Io n o r Conccp: ion Support C;101.1P of Australia (hlrp://www,dcsg,ol'g,:tU/); the UK Voluntary Information Exchange and Contact Register (hltp://,<'ww,ukdonoriink,org,uk): and a report of a regisll)' for donor oFfspring in Japan (Fori Wayne Ncics-Scuimcl, July 'i, ;2()0.5, hllp://wwwJonwayne,com/mld/newssentincl/living!1 :2(l[)817:1,hlm), A series by David Plotz In rhe online Ill~gazjne Slat« resulted in many inquuics hum donor olTsprmg seeking then' biological families (htlp:/ls!ale,msn,comhd/9i:lOS4/); Plotz di,CllSSCS rhese inquiries, and many other aspects of donor conception, in Flw C;,!niIIS Fac/(1)'.c Till' Luriow HislOJ)' of the NobEl Prize SI)/'r'll! Brinl: (New York: Random House, 2()():i), Sec also a website devoted to the esc documentary 'U(lspling' by Bany Stevens (hllp://,,~,'w,cbc.calprog)i\rns!siteslfealurcsloffspl'illg/), and <In op-ed enrltled 'Civc Ivle :vly


" culture rh.u is Itself confused ;1l\()UL lI\e illljlurtallCl' of lllulugictl lies. \Ltvhc ;lch'IHCt's could he hlought 10 sec Ihe iliSiglliliclllCC of ;\)1(('\11"\', i! o n lv thcv \,"(,IT sullicicrulv ratioll;tI ;lIld realistic.

\Vc had beller IH,pc so. For OUI socictv Ii;IS ('lnh:ll'ked Oil a \,;1',1 \Ilci;il ('XP(TllllClll ill prodlHillg children (ksigllcd 10 11;\\'(' IlO human relati()n> ,,·ilh ,nllW ol rl uir IJiolngiC:11 rcl.uivcs. C:ollccivcd of .u u u ivuu n.txlv (kJll:llcci sperm or eggs, Ihese childrcu ;\I"e pcrnuuicutlv severed lrorn ;111 or P;llt 01 their hi(]](]gical paSI, not hv advcrsitv ol the son that heidi III\, gr('al~ gralldp;lrcllls, hut bv the deliberate intentions of their custodial parents."

The experimellt 01 crcarillg these childrcu is supported hv ;1 Il('I\' icicologv oj' the larnilv, developed lor people who want 1.0 have children but lack tile I)inlng'ied means to 'have' them ill the usual sense. The IIC\Y idcologv has l.O do with the sense in which the resulting' children will have I"aillilies. !t says that these children will have L\lnilics in the o nlv sense th.u matters, or ;11. least in a sense that is good enough.

Clcarlv, it has turned our to be less than enough lor any adopted person who goes in search or a biological family. The new ideology 01" the Iamilv is rarely mentioned in this context. The ideology isn't mentioned, I

(h"" History' by one of Stcvcns ' h"II~,ibling-s, David C;oll;mcz (Flu! G,ll,itfilll/, J\L1y ::'11, ::'()O~, II IIP:!!I.\'Ww.guardi<ln.couk/coI1IH1cnl!slory!O" 71 Ktlbl),()O. nuul).

On the ,illlilaril.ic\ bct'wec" donor conception '.II\d adoption, sce Eric Blvlh, ;\'I;.Ilil)"ll Crawsha"" !C<ln 11;;,,\c, alld .lellnikr Speirs, 'The Iuiplicn.ions of ,\tiOptiOIl fiJi ])01101 ()fJpSl ing Followillg- Donor-Assisted Conception, Child .nul h,.lndy SOOI/./ H'OIli (i (2001): :>~F)<lO'l.

~ In discussing ganK'lc don~llion, £ ;,1111 going to gloss OVC1" the n'flll)' v.uiuriou-, 111 this prurtirc, in whirl: ~ingk: ;(dult" homoscxuu] couples, 01 infertile h(,lclos('~u~d couples CIUSC ;\ child to be conceived wllh dotl;;\cd sperm, don:iled cggs, or noth, olL("1I b.u nOI ;ilw;(ys wii h i hc help of ill 1'111'0 knili'<1l.iOtl 01 geslatlonal surrog;(cy. Locui ions rksigncd 10 lll;untain s[riell), nt'utrality alllong rhesc vunants would be unwieldy, ;mol so I avoid them ill lnvor of shorter bul ;;dnlitledly less precise locutions. For example, 1 generally speak of donor parents and cUSlodial parents in the plural, although thel'e Illay be only one of cacli. (;encral.ing Ihe relevant disjunction of variants is left as an exercise lor the reader.

Cases of gamete donation often have other potentially controversial aspccis. For example, rliere is often only one custodial parent, or no custodial parent or one sex 01 the other. Creating clnklrcn with the intention that they not have a cusrodial fmher, or alternative I)' a custodial mother, is poronnallv just as problematic as crcatlll"r children divorced limn their biological origins, Bur these problems are a topic for ano: her ]l3]lCr.


illl:lgill(" hCCHISC II iSll'[ llccclc'd to jU,Ii!v 11':ldIUClll<l1 ;ldUPlioll, III \\'hiclt people volun [CCI' 10 I'cpbcc biological parellts 11'110 :UT uuav.ii 1:11 lie. 1III\\'iHillg, 01' 1111111 10 care ['01 a child thev have .ilrcadv conceived. llu: cliild lleed, 10 he parented bv someone, .urd il CiIlllOI or should II()I he p:\)'clll.cd hv its hi()lngieal P:\I'('lIts, 1'01' rC:ISOIIS til<lt. \I'otild out\,'cigh :Ill\' value illhcrillg ill hiolog'ical lies. All lcicologv bcliulillg the value ol such lies is )lOi, needed [ojusrif\' entrusting this child [0 adoptive parellts,

The new ideology ol the Lunilv is IIceded rather lor cases ill which people w;\lIlillg' ]I) parelll :1 child cause one [I) he conceived wul: dlllLlIcd g:HllCI.CS. Th.u this child «.u inot be parented l.iv o uc or hot.h ()j' lis !linlog-Iell parcllts is not a dis;Hlv;UII:lg'C that. its custodial P:IH'IIIS voluutccr (0 Illiligalc; it W:IS a desideratum that guided them ill crc;lIing the- ch ilrl. 10 hegin with, Not being auached 10 a partner with whom r.lu:v could 1)(' lcrtilc. thcv needed a child who \I'JS corrclarivclv unattached. ;1 child .ilruadv disowned hv at least one of its IJiologiClI P:H'CI1(S. Rather than adopt ;1 child whose tics to its biological parents had been ruptured after conception, they intentionally created one lor whom those tics were ruptured antecedently. This choice would be morally problematic if biological tics were g'enuincly meaningful. lIc ncc the need Ior: an ideology that denies their meaning.

These remarks arc admittedly polemical, and they will no doubt offend some readers, Whether there is anything to them depends on whether there is significant value in being parented by one's biological parent., or, more generally, having human relations with one's biological relatives.

The idea of such a value can hardly be considered unusual, given that it is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 7, paragraph 1, states: 'The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name. the right to acquire a nationality and. as lar as possible, the right to know

.urr l l u: urnl lor In' Iii, or IWI P;lITlIIS',' ]'11(' rights C111illCI;IICd III 1111\ p1ovisioll strike me :IS Ill1jl()1i:llll, :llId Ilti, cSS:l\' 1:lkcs ;1 [('I,' Il'lIl:\li\'(' Sll'jl' 11)\\';11<1 L'XpLlilllllg \1'11\,

LIke onlv ;\ [C\\' sleps !JCC:lUSC \\';\lll to skirt 111;111\' o[ tl u:

(ollsidn;lIiolls 111;\1 C1ICl1 t.lu: eve 011 ;1 first g!:lL1CC .u i.he topic, The topic or our I)iological origins is littered with ruvt.hical or svmbolic rllOUgltts, about Ill[)oti aile! hone aud seed and such, I \\';)111 10 pick mv wnv .uound these litollgJl!S, ill search or some realistic and rauoual cOlisicicr:l1.iuI1S, \11' reaSOll 1'01' beillg so cautious is rh.u doubts about reproductive lcCltll()logv arc oCtell written off 10 lear aud superstition. I \\'alll to ;[\Ioid raisillg ;lI1V cousidcrations that Illight be dismissed 011 those gnH.lIHJ,.

:'vl)' caution 111 this rcg;ud will lead me to overlook 111:111V

considerations that

111e;] ni nghll,




O"cmlillclv n c

see as

:1 'Ihe Convcu.iou is l''''lcd al < hltP://II'W\\',llllllllil',ch/hllld/IIICIlU:l/il/k:!ut: 111111>, Sec Eli, IIlv! h '1I1d ;\b1f.!:'lil Farrnnr l, ',\l)onY"liry ill dI.HII)I'~'I"i'lcd (1l1I(cllllon 'Ind II)c [I i'\ COllVCIlII()11 01\ lite Rigltls of t l«: Child,' /1111:'1 111111" nal]» 11"//111./ u['Childnell's Nlghls I~ (:.:!1)(1'·1): ::;'.1-1 (H. llu: 1-I1I/)/"'IIII'IIIII,lioll l/alldl!lluh lor Ii", CfJll1'I'lIlwlJ 1)/1 III.I' Hlghls "/Iht Child makes <1(';11' lhal lite 1Cl'l\l 'pnrcrus' ill Ihis clause Il\cludn biolog-ical parenl, in lite fir,1 inSI'III«(:, and [hal lite Convcnlion thcrclor« Illilnates af('limr Ihe pr',H:lice or uuonvmous hanlCIC dou.nion (l"l<hcl I lodhklll ,md Pete-r Newell, 11ll/Jh"lIltllllllwlI l!(tlJdlu)(Jkji),' llu: c;,!"/II'I"/llilJll u/J 11." Highls 0/1111: Child IUNICFF, rc\,jscd cdiliUll 21102]. 1'1', I 17 -I 'J\.

For SOIlIC sou,iI-scienlific and lcf(al pcrspeClives, "'lilt further references, sec: iVlichacl Frccnlan, 'The new binh I"1l-\lil' Identily and Ihe child or [hc lCPI(Hll.luiv(' rcvolnuon,' !hp 11I/!'TIUlliO/III.l/OIIIIWJ o(Childn''//'s Highls 1 (19<)(;): ;27:1-')7; /\,), lurucr 'IIHI ,\, Lmlc, 'Wit'll doc~ il mean 10 he " douor olhpl'ing' The idenlity cx pcricnr e-, of ;,dulls COllCCil'Cd by clo nor ir.scmiu.u ion ,illd Ihe implications (in coullsellillg and therapy,' 111/'1111/1/ Hl'jrlor/lirlio/l I:) (:!OOO): :!(.!'ll-:!()0 1; Lucy Frith, 'C;i1111C1C Don.uiou <llld Anonvmity.' 111111111'11 Nt/nodl/cliol/ I (j (::001): 1:\ I S-1:\~4; {mill mul th» Child:;1 contvibutu»: 10 II/.[' r./e/;II./1' onthe lVn/llor!,' Rcpor), cd. N Bluee. A, Ivlitciwll, .uid K, I'riestk-y (Edinburgh: Family Care, 191\8); Flllih IIlId tlu: Child II! yl'ilrl 01/, ill(i))')IIlIlioll Exr/u/1/gl' in Donor /lssHI"d CO'll.a/Jlioll, ed. Eric Blyth, Mil]')lyn Crawshaw, andlelllliler Spcirs (Birmingh<lm: British Association of Social \\forkers, 199:»).

I he material citcc! here argucs that donor-conceived ofIsprillg should have access to inforrn.uicu about lheil' biological parents, In tim papcl' J algue to I' a slTonger conclus.on=-thnr donor conception is wrong, In my view, rhe reasons for concluding t.ha: children should have access 10 mforrnation about their biological parenls suppon rhe srronger conclusion that, other t.hings being equal, children should be raised by their biological parents, For many children already bam, other things arc nOI 011 all equal. and adoprion IS therefore desirable: but as I ;;I'gue below, ot lier rhings are indeed equal (e)1 children who have not yet been conceived.

, (1\

lroub!illg .rbout g;llHCIC clon.u ion is th.u it purposclv ,c\'crs ;! (OI!lICCliflll nl" i hc ,orl thnt noruiallv iltii)lTns:1 perso1l's sellse DI idcllIill', whicl: is ("()mll!)scd 01 eicmcnls I hat mus! hear emotional llW:lllillg, ;IS 0111\' svmbols <\I\d s(orics call, '1'0 dowuplav (he svmholi« :lIld mvthical sigllillc:lllcC 01 s('\'crillg ;1 childs counccuous 10 its hiologic\! ILlIClllS is l!tct'cli}rc 10 misrepresent whnt is rcallv goillg Oil, il !lol iJecause (lie s\'l11l)()]s :11111 stories arc litcrallv true thcn .u least bCCH)S(' the\, ,itT uulv p.ut oj" the human psvchc.

But to speak of the lIum;111 psvcltc ill such terms is :drcadv to verge Oil supers!il ion, III 1.11(' evC's {)I' those who ({)llsiclcr 111(,11Is('I\'('\ clilighlcllCd, Although I will luicIlv rcinuoducc some oj" t,hese [e1ll1S ;11 til(' cnt.l of mv css:l\', I will first try to address rite clllip;htcllcd ill their own rationalislic terms,

All arp;umenl against the lise 0(' donated gametes risks giving offense hCC1USC it seems to raise doubts about particular children as to whcthc: they should h:IVC been horn, But talk about whether someone should or should not have been born is confused and confusing."

'Should' and 'ought' express norms that tell us what to do, 111 addition to these norms recommending or requiring action, there arc values attaching to objects and events, warranting various modes 01' appreciation lor them, Events can be felicitous, deplorable, or regrettable, lor example; persolls, places, or things can he beautiful or ug'ly, admirahle or contemptible, lovable or hateful, and so on, If' you expect the world to deliver perfectly congruent norms and values-that is, ilvou expect that insofar as something is beautiful or admirable or lovable, its coming into existence will be a felicitous event, or its creation will be a right action-then you are bound to be disappointed, There arc beautiful things whose creation is a gTicvOllS wrong (mushroom cloucls).

'I lhe argumenls clthis section can also be couched in the more tcclmical terms of Kant ian ethics. Sec my 'Inief Juuoduct.on 1.0 Karu ian Ethics', [0 appear in Self 10 Sci] (New YOlk:

Cambridge Universitv Pless, :ZOO';): and' Love as a MOI'al Emotion' (Elhics 109 [19991: :ns- 7'1), 1.0 be reprirucd in rile same volume.

dlSgustillg tilillgs \\Cilose U)nlllig 11110 exislcllCT is !(lL"lUII;IIC' (!cu·s). Iq.,;rcII;li,ic C\'CII1.S Ihal ;IIC I igcill II) hrnlg ;lhout (Ihe d[,:l111 (d .111 ;\ll:lckcl). .uul \1) un

\huns .uc lunhcr complicated Ill' dll' possihilirv o l (Ulillie! lH'I\\TCll v.ilucs ihat ,n!;i<h 10 tvpes ;IIHI values that aU:lI_'!J (0 individual lokells 01 thcm. Mv \\'cddillg rllig mav be precious 10 me even thOllgll il IS 01 :III inferior ("PC, neither bcautilul 1I0r 1\'cll-I\')"oughl nor or ;lIIY sigililicliit mouctarv value; irises arc gorgeous although OIlC is just ;IS good ;IS another. Il vou expect the world [0 serve lip only precious individuals or precious types, aucl vice versa, [lien you :lrc hound 10 be disap poiurcrl

OIICC ag;lIl1.

To S;IV that someone should or should not have been boru mixes nonnative Gilcgories ill a way that sml's confusion about the object of ;l~SCSSll1C!i1.. Docs this statement assess the person, the evenL of' his coming into existcllce, or the ;1Cl. of creating him? And docs it make ;111 assessment with respect to him individually or with respect to some tvpc that he instantiates"

Suppose we judge that people should nOL have more children than thev Gill ndcquatclv care Ior. I lave we implied that there arc children who should not have been born? Yes, of course, if' that statement means ,just that some children arc born after their parents should have stopped h;lving children, Yes, too, if it means that the birth of a child destined to be neglected is ;1 regrettable kind 0[" event. But we have not implied, 01" any particular child, that his existence should be regrelLed or that his birthday should not be celebrated. Loving- an individual child and r(:joicing- in his existence is perfectly consistent with thinking it wrong for parents like his to have had so many children, And if you expect the world to spare you from this sort of' evaluative complexity, then you arc in for the big'gest disappointment of all.

Much as we love disadvantaged children, we rightly believe that people should not deliberately create children who they alreadv know will be disadvantaged. In my view, people who create children by donor

L: .i_l~

COllCCPli!)11 alrcadv kllO\I'~()r ;drcad\, should klIO\I'~lh~11 their children will be rlisadv:llll:lgcd bv tlie lack oj a basic good on \1·l1lch IllOsl pcupic rclv ill their pursuit o i scH~kll()\dcdgc and idcntirv Iormruiou. III COlllillg to know ;md deli 11(' themselves, most penp Ie rclv 01 I thci r acquaillt;1 lice I\'itll people who are like I hem bv virtue 01 bci I Ig rheir hiologicil relatives.

Philosnphcrs should not have to he reminded rLll IIVillg thillgs tend II) rcscmb!c their biological relatives. Alter all, the philos()phical term 101 illdclilLlhle similarities is 'Lunilv resemblance'. Th()ugh much 11:IS 1)('('11 wriuc-n bv pllilos(]phcrs about lamilv rcscmhLulCt' ill this lechilled scme, liu lc has hccn wriucu about literal rcscmblancc within LUlIilics. which IS ;ificr .rll t!:r: p;I[';1(llglll else oltcchuical I:nnilv rCS(,llIhl:lIICC.

1'1](' p hi loso]l h ic.il cOtlcepl 01 l.nnilv resern hl.mcc is th.u I) I' :i simil.uitv th.u C:ln be immediately rccogni/ccl but not readilv .malvzcd 0)' defined. \I;IIlV of Our concepts have their extension determined hv brnilv resemblance among their instances, '1'0 have such ;1 L\lni1v~ resemblance concept is just to have the ability to know an instance when we sec 01lC', without being able to say how we know it.

Although there is only one of me, I have a self-concept of the lamilvresemblance kind. This self-concept is not the sing'ubl' concept bv which J pick our the one and only me; it's my concept lor the personal type of which I happen to be the only instance but to which a /)ojJ/Je/gringeF would belong, if I had one. I would recognize a J)o/JIH;/giingel under this concept, bv our larnily resemblance,

Much of what I know about mvself is contained in this lamilvresemblance concept and cannot be articulated. I know that I am like this, where the import of 'this' is encoded in the self-concept ofwhich anyone just like me would be an instance. Hence much of my self-knowledge is, SI) to speak, knowledge about my lamily resemblance to mvscll. This family-resemblance knowledge about myself includes information not onlv about how I look but also about my personal manner, Illy styles 01' thinking and feeling, my temperament, and so on. 'This ellipsis is difficult to fill in without resort to figurative expressions, because lamilvresemblance information is unanalyzable by definition,

, iJ

\11' (Ollel'PI of' 111\" ,cll-ITSelllhLlIIC(' rrnu.ains 1l11lcll ()l ill\

jl'i\"ClIUII 'glcd kllO\\"lcdgc a hou L mvscl]. Phi I<lso)) hers I ike 10 (I Ll r;\clcri/(' 1()lk-pw('itnlogv ;\S :J tl ico rv: in rcalirv, however, most Ill' lolk pwchol()g\' is ;\11 inruiuvc IIULler oC kll()\\'illg how to ;lllticip:1IC and deal wirh pcople 1!I\i' l!tol-kllll\\'lcc!gc t h.u is licavilv dependent nil Llmilv-rcscll\hhllCC cOllecpls of j)(TSOllalilv lVpCS ;\Ild behavioral stvlcs. So il is wIlh mv folkpSVcllOl I)gica 1 sclf-undcrst.n idi llg,

FiII;)II\', mv Iamilv-resr-rnhl.u«:c COllcept Dr mvscll C()lltaillS IlHICh of lkll SC1!~kll()\dcdgc bv which I ;1l11 guided ill mv efforts II) cultivate and shape mvscll. [ Clll articulate ;\ kw self-descriptions that indicate SOI11(, dirccli()1lS ()f self-cultivation and coutra-iudicru.c others. I'm phvsicallv coordin.ucr.l and [ have a good scns« 01' rhythm, so studying dance makes SCIIse J()l me: [ have :, lousv l11elllOl'), and weak powers of' mental computation, so studying chess is ;1 had idea, BUl In;II1V of my aspirations arc directed at f'ulfilling Iamilv-rcscmhlancc concepts: they arc aspirations to he lik« iluu, where; '111;ll' denotes a type [ell' which I have so me paradigms or illl:lgcs bur no explicit dcfinitiou. And these nspirations ;tr(' conditioned alld channeled bv hl11i!v-rcscmblancc knowledge as to how someone lik« this might or might not become hke thai,

I think that forming a us clu I tarnilv-rescmblancc concept of myself would be verv difficult were I not acquainted with people to whom J bear a literal family resemblance, Knowing what I am like would be that much harder if 1 didn't know other people like me. And ifpeople bear me a literal family resemblance, then the respccts in wh ieh they are I ike me wi II be especially important to my knowledge of what 1 am like, since they resemble me III respects that are deeply ingrained and resistant to change.

The difficulry of knowing what I am like is the topic or some suggestivc remarks by Bernard Berenson in his Sketch for a Selj~Pmlm,il:-'

This sell', what is it? For about seventy years I have been asking thal question. Can one frame all idea of one's own personality, lllap it out, make a picture of

:1 BClT\~1 d Berensou, S/wlrhfoF a StlfPOIlmil (Lon don: Robin Clark, 11)1) I J,

Faillih 11h', III'

it lilal I, ill .u iv measulC' I'onvincil1f,!; 10 ;111 Inquiring and 1;li, II, hOlleS! mind: I" 111\' case il hils 1101 been possihl«. [ h,O\, \\'bal people Ihink olrur: l;'I'OIlI;,bl\ :lnd \1111;,\,01.11 all II', .md I haw' a s('nse olwh.u (!lllll)(lsil C iIH<tge oj !lIt 1.'1'1' b hI' I;]hing shape In i h« Illinils 01 ;'H'luailllallcC's, In 111\' 1)1\'11 mind ;,nd he;1l1 Ihel'l' I, liuh: (()llcspondclll'l' wiih Ihis 11ll;'gC, allhouf,!;h I h,IV(, Icallled 10 ;HtCP' il ;IS i.h.u in 1111" 01 !lie, 10 \"hieh olllc')s ;')lploacll ;1\ to a t),(';ltv~pnll in old (,1,111:1 III ,lapa1l, !o uivsrll I .ui: ;\11 ellclgv or" fiivclI lime 01 ladi:tlioi\, and oj ;, CCll<till pOII'LT 01 l('sist;lllC(,; alld 1,('('111 10 1)(' the ,,"\1Ilt' ill t hcsc respeCls ih.u I ICllH'llIhCl' heing when I cOlllplclCd mv sixlil vc.n [p,2:\1

, I \I'isl, I could havc SOIIiC illlage, i', ('ohcn,:lIt illuge oli nv pC'lSOIl<llill' wu h ,I definite Sil;ljl(' alld ['Ieill' ourlinc-. It IS han! cHougl1 10 kWH,' hoI\' olle Inob, illll)l)s,il)Jv 10 kllllh' wil;u one is, \Vc "IT lell 10 Inkl 11 Ii Olll h'hat pcopic S;I\' "hollt us ,111(1 lI'il;1I \,T ilU:Cpl. n:j CCl. , I'Cpel <lnd rouuovcrt ill wh.u I,'e IIC;II ailtHll Olllscll'cs, \Vc GlllllOl, ('1'('11 gel a nOlioll romorrlv pal,tllel 1.0 whnt 11'(' ,lequire hI' Sl ,'lIlIg llllll a mirrr» I 'luu is little cllough, rnr we g,ve lixcd!«. \,'C pmc, \\'C s(',II'ch ilild ;Isk 'is that ))Ie?' or 'is il I.il:ll or llt;'I?'; ,mil when it h.ippcns Ollce ill <I bl\le 1110011 th.u wc look illiO i'l mirror uncxpcu.cdlv we seldolll rceogllil.e lite ill"lgC there appearing as " rcllco ion or ourselves, Vel how dclinir« is Ihis corpore;]1 shape c())lIpared wul: anv sense 01' one's entire personal.tv, so uncharted. ol xurh wavering outlines, olsuch unccrt.un heights and depths! [p. 271

I have <II rimes wonrlcrcd what mv instinctive alld inSL.llll<lncol.ls rcaction would he if [ could meet mvsclf lor the lirsl t ime. This has all but happened More than once it occurred that somewhat abscuunindcdly [ "'<IS llllHllll.ing a hroacl sr.iircasc which at the I'llldillg h;1(1 a pier-glass rising lrom floor to ceilillg, r seemed to sec coming toward lilt a !~gllrl' not p.micularlv to mv '<lSIC, not ill all correspollding to the type [ instinctively liked; alld this ligl.ll'c h.«] all ,lhstr'<IUcd cll;lccd expression thaL [ shou.d rather sidle ;\\\'<IV Crolll th.u: be drawn to, All this before recognizing tluu il was myself.lpp, b7~ti81

lind Berenson's remarks sug;gcstivc on several points. First, Berenson conceives or his personality as having a 'shape' or 'outline', like that of' his physiognomy or physique, I-Ie thus suggests that his personality is an object nor of analysis or description but rather of perceptual recognition, as if' bv lamily resemblance. Second, his psychological profile IS inaccessible to introspection and therefore visible only Irorn a detached perspective, as seen through other people's eyes, Finallv, the usual technique lor viewing himself externally, by looking in the mirror, proves inadequate because his reflection usually shows him in the act 01 sell-presentation, striking J. pose that is unlike his spontaneous self.

1)J'('sllnl~\hll', the ,:1111(, dilficulrics .uisc fill' ('~,ell1;d SCif-lli\pcuioll 01' his pcrSOli:i1llv, lor \\Iiicli mirrors :11"(' harder to come hv aurl poses harder to sec through,

If' I \\';llil 10 see mvsell as another, however, I dOli't have til illl~igilil' IlI\'scll' as seen through other people's eves: ljusr have to look ;It 111\' LitIH'I', mv mother, and my brothers, who show me hv \\';1\' 01 lamilv rcscmbl.uicc 1\,11:11 I am like, For inlorm.uiou about mv appcar;IIlCc, tlu:v nuiv 11m he :IS good a source us all ordinary mirror; hut l'or inlorm.uion about wh.u I :11)1 like ;IS;i person. thcv arc the closest rhillg 10;) mirror that J can lilHI.

II! w.uu 10 kIIO\\ \l'hal a person lie this call make of himself. I Gill look first at what mv pareills and grandparellts made of' themselves, or at the sell-cultivation uuderwav Oil the pan of mv brothers and COUSillS, 'rile point is not [hall ncccss.irilv can or should strive to be whatever mv biological relatives have become, but rather that my own cxpcrimcrus-inlivitlg (as Mill c;dlcd them) arc most inlormativelv supplcmcnrx-d hv cxpcrimc nts Oil the part 01 people who arc relevantly like I11C, Our extended larnilv is, as it were, a Iahorntorv lor urrying out c~pcrilllclllsin-living relevant 10 the lives of people lil«: us,

When adnptccs go in search 01' their biological parents and siblings, there is a literal sense in which they ;lIT searching fix themselves, They arc searching lor the closest thing to a mirror in which to catch an external and candid view of what they arc like in more than mere appearance, Not knowing any biological relatives must be like wandering in a world without reflective surfaces, permanently self-blind.

Children denied a knowledge of only one biological parent arc not entirely cut off from this view of themselves, but they are cut off from one half of it. Their estrangement even from one parent, or from halfbrothers and -sisters, must still be a deprivation, because it estranges them from people who would be familiar without any prior acquaintance, people with whom they would enjoy that natural familiarity which would be so revealing about themselves,

F:l111111 111\lu1Y

Il ov. odd n, must be [I) go Ihnlugh Ide IIC\'CI' kilo\\'illg Idl('IIi('I';\ S('IIS(, oJ !!:lI'illg mCI ;\ man before is due 10 his Iwillg' 011(,"..; I.nlll'r, I I ()II' L1IILtiil.illg 10 kuo« rh.u !lICIT is SuI1H'()IIC 1\·Il() could ill\I:11III" S!!()\, O!lC ;1 IIVillg rcndiliol\ of deeplv ingrained aspects or OIlCSc!l. I l o« InlslLllillg 10 k uu.v 111:\1 o uc will ut-vc-r 111('('1 him!

\VllCn people dcnv the importance oj hillingiul lies, I \1'Ul)(icl h011 thcv ell I lead world literature witl: anv co mprchcusiou. l I ow do t.lu-v 1ll:lkc .u rv s(,llse ol Tciemachus, \1'1\0 go(,s ill se:lIch 01 :t 1:,11,('1" 11C' C;lllll()1 r('111(_,1ll1)('r~ \Vh:l! do thc-v think is Ihe dramatic engillc 01' ItIC Oedipus sl orv ~ \Vhen the adoptive grail dsoll () I' Pharoa 11 S:IVS 'I !J,IVC 1 J('CIl :1 stranger III a strallge land: do thcv 1.;lkc him to he speaking mcrclv ;IS ;\11 Egvpti:ln in the l.uul of I'v[idiall?1i llow elll they even understand dw colloquy between Darth Vader and Luke Skvwalkc-r? Surely, the revelation 'I am vour father' should strike them as a bit ul' dramatic stupidity-a remark to be answered 'So what?'

or course, these stories embody the mythical and symbolic values that

have promised not to invoke; but they also, and indcpenrk-ntlv, illustrate a bit or common sense about the sell-knowledge drawn from acquaintance With biological relatives. Tclcmachus, Oedipus, Moses, and even Luke Skywalker illustrate the ccnt.ralitv 01' this knowledge 10 tile task of idcntitv formation, and the centrality or that task to a meaningful hu mall life. Th rough the ages, people u nacquai nted with their orlgi us have ])('CI1 regarded as ill-equipped lor a lundnmental life-task and hence as drarnaticallv, even tragically disadvantaged.

As the offspring of donated gametes reach adulthood, they arc rediscovering and reiterating' the age-old wisdom about the importance of biological ties. In (c)()tnotel, above, I have cited several online registries through which thou sands of donor-conceived adu Its arc seeking to contact their biological relatives. Britain has recently outlawed

Ii (':xodus ;!":::!. The speaker is Moses, who nor only is a stranger among the Midi.miles. where he has (led li'OI11 Pharaoh's coun, but lias been a stranger all o lIux lilc, ever sill(e hi, mother SCi him afloat on the Nile"

~\Il()!lVlllflll' g~\ll\l'IC dUILHioll, Oil tlu: groullds 01' ~\ clilld\ right III k now Iii, 01 lic:: paL'clirage, Donor olhprillg arc t)(.'gillllillg to pmL('st Ihell SI;llu\ ;IS SlLlllgcrs ill ;1 str,llLgc laud.

ACqU:liIlLlL1CC \\'itiL ;1 chikls biologicd I.unilv CUI be a source ol kLLO\\'lcdgc lor people other [hall r!l(' child itself The usc 01' ano nvmouslv dOLlalcd g:lIl1C[CS call leave norjust the child bur ;ds(l ils custodial parents ill rill' clark. ;111<1 III I\,;\VS th.u advcrsclv allcct thcir p;lJ'(~ILl.iLlg,

l ulormarion relevant to scll'-culriv;di()ll is also relevant 10 the rcarillg or childron. And ih.u inlormatiou is even more C() LlSCqtH.'1 itial Ii)} child- 1'c,lrillg, because the growth 01' children is so dramatic ill comp.nison with whai is sLill possible once the age 01' scll-cultivauou has hcc:n auaincd, So much of what perplexes parents has to clo with the nature whose unl'olding thcv arc trying 10 lostcr. llow far can the child hope to I (';;ch, and in which dircct.ionsr What is the child unnb!c to help heing, .uul wh.u can it he helped to become? What will smooth its ['(High edges, .uir,l wh.u will just rub ag;linsl rile graill~

1 would not want to have raised rnv younger son without ILlving known my maternal grandl'athcr, with whom he has so much in common, I would never have understood mv older son if J hadn't known his uncles, on both sides, And raising my children without knowing their mother-that would have been like raising them with one eye closed, It's not just my sympathetic knowledge of her that has helped me to understand them but abo my understanding of her and me in relation to one another, since each child is a blend of qualities that were first blended in our relationship,

SClIne truths arc so homely as to embarrass the philosopher who ventures to speak them, First comes love, then comes marriage, and then the proverbial baby carriage, Well, it's not such a ridiculous way of doing things, is it? The baby in that carriage has an inborn nature that joins together the natures of two adults. If those two adults arc joined bv love into a stable relationship-call it marriage-then they will be naturally

~-~ 7 1

prc-p.ucd II) CIlT lor II witl: SVllll);,rlwlic undcrsul\dlll~. .md to ,hOI\' i, ho\, t(l rccoglli!.c ;\1)(1 lCU)IICiie SDlllC' o lthc qu:dilic\ wuhiu 1[\('11'. A cl u ld u.uurallv «lilieS to Iccl .u home wit.l: il,('II' :i1111 :11 IHJlllC ill the \,'(lIld l iv gll)\\'illg lljl ill irs ()1\,11 Llmil",

1 I UIll:1I I Lunilics :II'C disrupted ill various \,;1\'" 1)1' 11(,;111101' div()I'CC 1)1 l)()v('!'11' or soci:d up hc.rvuls. III Ihes(' circumstances a child i, l'lltillcd 10 1)(' raised 1)\, p.ucntal li~llrcs who love it and love ouc auothcr. ('1'(,11 i l thcv :11'(' 110!. its biological parcnls. The child is also entitled III I'eel that it is thc social equal of other children a nrl that its parcllIs arc the equals 01' 01 her p:lrClll.s. Here a~;lill, however, diflercnr evaluations arc c:lsilv cOldLilcd or confused. '1'0 ackllO\I'lcdgc 11i:11. ;lci()pled children Ilave missed something of human importance is not to disp:lI'agc tile children. their p:\I'CIlI.s, or the love and mutual care among them. Simil.ulv. we should not have 10 disparage :lI1\'OIlC in order to ;lCkllO\\'lcdgc that tile nlLpring 01 donated g'llllcte~ will miss something important as well. And the n the contrast between these cnscs-e-bctwccn compcnsati Ilg c h ildrcn for something thcv have already lost ;1I1d creating children with the intention that they never have it-should lead us to question the morality or anonymous genetic donation,

The reason lor resorting to donated gametes in manv Clses, or course. is the desi re of an adult to have a biologically related child, despite lacki ng a partner' with WhOITl he or she can conceive, And my arguments imply tint having a biologically related child is 01' genuine value, as a potential source ol'scll~kn()wlcdg{' lor the parent. Vet whereas the p:lrcnt will bejust as lullv related to the child as any mother or lather, the child will know only hall' of its biological parcntag'c, Surely, we don't believe thai parellts are entitled to make themselves slightly better off in some fundamental dimension by impoverishing their children in the same dimension, Why, then, should they be entitled to enlarge their own circle 01' consanguinity by creating children whose circle will be broken in half?

The answer to this question cannot be that the children will be compensated by receiving the gift of life. The so-called gift of life cannot

("(J1llPCll\;IIC' ;\ child lor c()llgclliul dis;I<!\,;lll1:tgCS, hecHls£' il do('sll'! m.ikr ill(' child bette-r olf than it wonld have IJcl'lI \\'ilhI1l11 thcm.:

Look at it this 1\':lV, We CIlllllll.JUSliI'· severing I he child's lies II) O\H' 01' its p.ur-nts ill' poilliing OUI that, ill order 10 avoid doillg so, I\'C' \,'ould h;\Vc had 10 omit crc:lting the child ;\llogclhcr. Thi« juslilicliioll \\"Oule! p()rrrav SCp:ILlLioll lrom a I)iological parent as the lesser of' 1\I'Il evils li)1 the child, prclcrable 10 Ihe grealLT evil 01' never Il;willg existed, Bu! never havillg existed would not have been all evil for the child, I >CelliSt' :1 non-existent persoll suffers no evils,

To 1)(' sure, the child or a genetic donor is usuallv glad 1.0 11;1\,(' hC(,ll born. Bur t]u: ['act that a child would he gi:ld to have been h01l1 CUIII()t .illSl ilv liS ill mllcciv illg i I.. K COllgClllt:illv h:lildica ppcd pcop k: I ivr: ric II and lillJilling lives into which thev ;11,(: g'l;l(j 10 have been horn, hUI a woman who is raking a teratogenic medication has an obligatioll !lOI to conceive a child until she has stopped Ciking ir. Waiting' to conceive until she has stopped taking the medication will 01' course entail that the handicapped child she might have conceived will in Lin never exist. Had she conceived that child, it might even have been thankful that she clime not [0 wait bcl<)l'c conceiving, But the \vrungness 01' delibcratclv conceiving ;1 handicapped child cannot be Initigatcd hv thai child's future thankful ness, 'To ollie')" such a justi licar.ion would be to co n III se two distinct questions,

One question asks, about a particular individual, whether the disadvantages of his life are so great as to outweigh the value lor him of living, This is the question that someone answers bv beillg glad to have been born or, alternatively, wishing- that he hadn't been; but it is not the question that we lace at the point of deciding whether to conceive a child, At that point there is no particular individual with respect to

7 I call i1 ;\ 'so-callec! gift' because it has no inlcndcd rccipicut. II is ;\ 'gill' 111:-11 is bUliched into rhc void, where some as-yet nonexistent penol\ may ~n;\g it. Such 1.11\1;\I).',elcd bOJClil\ do nor lir our usual concepl of glft-giving

H Here I an: introducIl\g Ihe 'nOIl-idenlity problem' lirst discussed by Derek Padil in NeoSOllS mill P"-'W/J_' (Uxlotd: Uxfon! University Press, 191::4),


Idwlll I\T r.u: .isk \\heiller he 1\'cHdd wclcornc OJ regret the kiud olli lc: 11'(' 11:\\'(' r() ()IET So I\T 11;11'(' l.O C()Jl)]l:lI'C' llien' heing' :) person ,\'II() Ilvcs 1 h.u kllHI 01' lilc. 011 111(' UIIC hand, wi i l: there hClllg' so xucl: r)('l'SOIL 011 lilt' ()IIHT-;d)SII;\nl\, (jll;)lILifiul ;111('1'11;11]\,(''0 ClHI((,[,llillg IHI ILlnicul:lI i1ldividual. Such :1 jJ('!'S{)II, ilhc exisled, \\'ould (()!l\P:Il'(' IIJ\ lil'illg such :) Ide 1"iLiI his II ever Ii;[Villg iivcci-:lill'I'II<iLiI'('s C()IlCCJ'llillg' 111111 III particular. I [01\' lie would choose hCIWCCII :1 disac!\,;]III:lgcd lifc: .u id 11011- exisTcllce, ;IS alternatives ('OII«(TII i Ilg hi III in part icu Jar, call1101 (I ici.a I (' Ilo\\' II'e should C1100s(' lll'iWCCII IILCrc being a person who laces such altcrn:\I,ivcs ami there heing nOII(', Prcrcll'illp; a disadv;lIlt:lg'cd lilc :IS tile oulv alicruarivc to non-existence mav he a rational choice hlr liiln 10 make, .uid vet those alternatives may be such as 110 persoll should II;)v(' to bee, Indeed, the reason why there should be no person who has to LIC(' these alternatives is precisely th.u. once brought into cxiSlCI1CC lacing them, he will lind that his own individual non-existence is tile only alternative to his disadvantages,

Frankly, to criticize proponents 01' gamete donation lor overselling tile 'gilt or life' is to credit. them with greater moral scnsitivirv than they generally show, The wcbsircs of sperm and egg banks tend to betray no hint that the lives thev arc helping- to create will be the lives or future children whose interests arc entitled to consideration." Camctc donation is prescnted as ;l!kCling primarily the parents, by enabling then) to 'create [undies'.

BUI the party 01' the first part in these transactions is surely the child, For the parent, the birth marks the beginning of a particular lil'e-st;lgC; lor the child it marks the beginning of life itself ..... -the beginning 01' a lite: that will extend far beyond the parents' control or ken, The question 'Is this a good way to get a child?' cannot dominate the question 'Is this a

9 See, for example, Pacific Reproductive Services (,MaklJlg the Most Important Dcci,ioll 01 Your Life': hup:!I",,,,w,pIlcrepm,com!why_prshJ:m): Xyrcx Corpora-ion ('Crearinl,;' Famihcs Througl, Innovation': hrrp://1\~\w,xytex,com/pal.icnJ:/bq,hl.rnl); Calilornin Cryohank (,Reproductive Tissue Services': htlp:llw""'.cryobank,coml). A perusal of these and similar sites suggesrs that the new ideology or rhe bmily is actively spread by an inclusrrv in SUPPO)'I ofirs commercial interests.

'co a;-o



:\ 7-1

g()f)d \\';1\ lor ;1 child III 1\;\\,(' been W)[I(:,ll~' And the LHIC:r qllcsll(llI CIIIIl()1 Ill' liucsscd 011 rhc grounds tklt ;\ particular cliild cuuld !lIlL Iiave llCCIi gOUCll anv oilier \\,;11', since llie allcl'!l;Hivc lor ih.u cliild \,'(1111<1 have heell a hCllign noncx istcucc.

\! 01 CIII [he lormcr question be given precede lice UII the gnll.llids [kit g:II11ClC donation is the nlll" wav lor t.lu: prospective parents III get ;1 child, The :lil('l'o;)lil'(, or adopting :111 :lirC;Hlv existing child is O['U' I 1 av.ulablc. ;11][1 I have argued thru it is morallv prc!<'rahlc, Ill'C:lllS(, il provides ;1 c'us[odial lamilv kll ;1 child alrcadv :1I1d illdcpclldcllllv d['stilled II) he ;liiClla1.cd lrorn ir-, hiologicd 1';1I11ilv, As I h.ivc !l\['lltiollnL ('I'(';tlillg ;1 IWI\' rhild dcsigll(~d t(l sulfer th.u ;\lICltat io n is ol'tcn prci'clTcd to :lrjoplioll p rccisclv liccausc of the parents' interest ill biol(]gical tics~;\ illUT(,SI thai thcv choose to further slightlv ill their own else Ill' (TC;llillg ;1 person lor whom 11)(' same interest will l«: profoundly lru stratcd. I )'cg;l['Cj this choice as morally incoherent.

What's more, there is the question 0[' what moral weight anachcs to ;1 person's desire to procreate. Trnditionallv, that dcxir« has been thought to gTOlll1c1 ;) moral right to procreate 0111y lor those who arc in a position to provide the resulting child with a Iamilv. According to the new ideology 0(' the family, 01' course, virtu.illv any adult is in a position to salish" this requirement, since a family is whatever we choose to call by that name, But this new ideology is precisely what I am questioning, '1'0 defend the ideology on the grounds of a person's right to procreate would be CJucstion-beg·ging·, The right to procreate is conditional on the ability to provide the resulting child with a family; what counts as providing the child with a family in the relevant sense is a question that must be settled prior to any claim of procreative rig'hts, 11\

10 Fr,II11111g [I\e ronsider.uion« in [his Wily makes ciC,1I i hcrr application 10 the G1Se ol "ingle "'OII\Cn who use arulir ial inseuuna.ion [0 C1C~le chil(it'ell whom lhey intend 1:0 raise on lhei, OWII Children can or course be successfully re.ncd by ,ingle mothers, il II('CC~q"" Bill children em bc successfullv reared. il' necessary, in orphanages as wcll-~I 1;1(1 i har (8111101 .Ius1il)' deliberately creating children with ihc intention of ~bandoJliT\g them to an orphanage. (Imagine a WOI\lZUI who would like [0 have the experience or conception and childbirlh without mcurring Ihe responsibility 101' mising a child.) IllS! 3S [he service3bilily 01

I 01111 illClillCd to think rhur ;1 kllO\I'lcdg<' Ill" Olll''s oligiliS IS cspcll:dh import.uu 10 idc-nrirv lorm.uiou IICCltlSC 11 is illlporLllll til ll u: Idlillg ()I Oll(,'~ lik-SIOI'V, \1'11I('h Ilccess;llil\, C'llcodcs ()IIC\ applcci:lti()11 III IllC:lllillg ill tlie ('\Tliis of 011(,', Ide," I opelled \I'illl lite storv 01 mv Rllssi:lIl ;111(('slOl'" whose sC:ln:lI lor some r11111g ilel tel' i lll:lgIIIC( I In II :l\,(' culminated ill mv \ITiring this CSS;I\" M\' l.uuil» InckgTuulHI includes m.mv such srories, II'itose denouement I CIIl sec mvsollns 1I1Hlcrgoilig 01' cu.icti IIg. Bu L do such lami lv sagas it:1VC 10 be sagas 01 1l1ologicli l.unilies? Let me approach this question bv s:lvillg first II'hal I think that stories do, l~

Organizing evcutx into the Iorm of a sLorv provides au 1I1ldcrst:lllditlg 01' rhcm distinct Irorn what would be provided hy causal cx pl.u uuim r-. A well constructed storv recounts events in such a \Yay as 10 lead us Ihrough a natural sequcnce 0[' emotions, which is uh.imatc!v ('esolved in an emotional cadence that leaves us knowing how we lccl ;llHHII I he (,V(,llls, \Vc know how we reel because we have been through ;1 sequence (lj' kc1ings that is Iamiliur to our emotional scnsihilitics; 11CCltlSC we h.ivc .nrivcd ata co nclu so rv kcling,;1 state olcmotional rest; and ])CGHISC our couclusorv lccl i ng takes all of' the prcccdi ng even ts into its view,

To understand events in this emotional sense is to grasp their Illcaning~rhal is, what they mean to us, in emotional terms, Mv finishing an essay on lamily histories is a meaningless event, in a string 01' meaningless events, unless and until I call embed it ill a storv that makes it an occasion for 1~:c1ing ambitious achieved, I(:ar<; allavcd, sufferings redeemed-or pretensions punctured, lor that matter. 01' course, my own life provides narrative context for Iluny 01' the events within it; but my family history provides an even broader context. in wh ieh large stretches of my lile can take on meaning, as the trajectory 0 I'

orphana!{e~ cannot justify procreation in reliance on their services, so the serviceability or single par'enting cannot justif)' rhe creation of children with the intention that lhey glOW up without a falher' of any kind

1 1 The importance or narrative self-knowledge is stressed by David Gollanr.z in the essay cited in note I, above,

I:! Sec my 'Nrurar ive Lxplan.uicn,' 'J'/w Philnso/)/J:iml Rcvicu. 11 ~ (:200:1): 1-:2:J.


,'J ~

niv ('III ire edllC\llon ;111(1 ClIC('1 Likes (ll\ I1\C;lIlil\g ill )('LHio!) 10 llie \lOll' 01" IllV ;\1\(('\1"01,.

/\doplccs CUI ccn;,ulllv lind mC;lnillgful lilies I"IlI diCi\lsclves ill slol'ies ;ti)OUI their adoptive families, El'e11 so, t hev S(,(,111 [0 h;wc tl u: sClISe 01" IIO( k 110\\' i II)!, i III jlorCllil S rorics about Iiwlllseh'cs, atld ol ihc rcf()rc Illissi Ilg SolllC llIC';l!lillg imp lici: ill their lives, unless alld iuuil rlu-v kilol\' t!teir iliologicil I H'igi lIS,

] ]('](" the IC1l1PLlIioll 01" svmbolic ;llld mvthical Ihillkillg grows, ;1I111 I srill \\;1111 to .ivoid succllmhitlg 10 it. IIlS()Ll!" as there is;1 rcJilSlic il;ISis lor I';ililillg hiological-Limilv hi storv, I suspect Ilul ir is tlu: s.unc ;IS LiJ(' 1);lsi, I l!;IVC nlrcadv identified lor sclf~kIIOW!cdgc-li;lI11clv, tlu: ITSClilhL11IU'S Ihal hold within biol()g'ical lamilies. What rests on this b;lSis is dil lcrcru , however. in the case or historical narrative,

Wbcrcas direct acquaintance with hiological relatives helps me to know what I am like, knowledge or family history helps me to understand what it means to be like this, The quality that sometimes makes IIlC a malcontent seems to have impelled Nathan and Cold.i into the role 01" cllllgrants, 'rile quality that makes Inc a homebody seems to have drawn their every migration toward a better urban homestead lor their growing l.unilv. These dillerenr descriptions of our shared qualities endow those qualities with different meanings, by assigning them to the protagonists of different scenarios-the emigrants versus the malcontent, the homesteaders versus the homebody, The scenarios typical of these protagonists work their way towards different emotional rcsolu tions, wi th corresponding di flercnccs in meani ng.

I know that I have it in me to be a malcontent homebody, a grumbling stick-in-the-mud, Do I also have it in me to spurn one home J(»)' the prospect or a better one? Nathan and Golda did, according to their story, and it's because they did that am I here to ask the question, bearing their genetic legacy, Maybe, then, I should borrow a page from their book, The point, in any case, is that I could never have considered borrowing a page Irorn that book if it had been permanently closed to me at birth.

.v r {

H()II' rlu I know th.u 1 have illherilcd these qll;diLicS Irom \!:lIklll :IIH! (;olda~ I ch)Il'1: ii's ali imagill:Hi\'c spccul.u.iou, But such spC(uiarilllls :lIe hOll' lIe definc and rcdcfillc ourselves, I,'cigliillg dillen'lIl possiblc 111(':\llllIgS [or our cilaracters l.v pbving them out ill ddfcrclll ill1;lgilicll su nics. III thcst: spcclIhriollS, lamilv liistorv gives LIS illcxh;luslihlc food for thougllL Wh\' would we create childrcu whose p rovisiou of possil)k scll'-Lilldcrsl:lIHlillgs II'as poorer [il:iIl our ()\1'll:

I know that m.uiv people have 1\0 interest ill their nnccstrv, 1I0 sense 01 kinship wu h [heir kin, These people define themselves ill L('nIlS o[ilcr thall those which arc descriptive of their relatives, an d they pursue lilc stories disjoilLt Irorn their ramilv's history, But even these people helldil bv knowing where thcv come Iroru.

I think th.u sornco nc who denies having anything in couunon with his ll1o!ogic:\l relatives is either speaking liguralivcly or in denial. Almost :tll 01' us look and sound and feel and move like the people frolll whom we came: a gelluine SpOI't 01' nature is vcrv rare, What is more likely IS th.u :\ pCI son's similarities to his relatives lie ill aspects or himself rh.ir clonr matter to him, or that he dislikes and rejects, Not valuing commonalities is indeed ;1 lVay or not having anything in CO III Ll1011, ligTlratlvclv speaking; it just isn't a way 0[' literally having nothing in common,

Someone who doesn't value what he has in common with his relatives !!lay til ink that he need never have known them in order to i dcnti lv and cultivate those aspects 0[' himself which he docs value, But I doubt it. This person is likely to have defined himself as different Iro m his relatives precisely because they served as ill omens of his possible futures, or at least as foils against which his contrasting qualities could attract his eye, Learning not to be like his relatives has still involved learning from them: if he had never known them, he might well have ended up more like them.

'The point is that biological origins needn't be worth embracing in order to be worth knowing, Someone who doesn't know his relatives cannot even turn up his nose at them, The question for him is nor 'Shall

I I'ull()\\ IlI\ (Orl'llclrsr' biu '/1111 I lollu\\'illg thl'IlI~', <Inc! III tliis LIII(,1 qu('suoll he Gill never hUI\\' i lre ~lllS\\'Cr, He C;lIl 11:\\'(' Ill'it he!' tllC s;lli,,f;lctl()!\ ojul!lrilluillg in i.hcir footsteps nr ir t h.u 01 striklllg OUI 011 Ilis (l\\II, hCCII)Sl' their l'n()[SICpS ILI\,(' been clL\u'IL '1'1) 1('11 him t h.u 1111}S(' ()hll[c)';\Lcd loobler)S \\'CIT!!'[ il11pOn;1lI1 lor him IS 1.0 tell \\11;,1 111(' ('XIH'l'iclIc(' oj ;111 I illl(,s .iud CUIU!ITS Ci)lldcl\1l1s ;IS :l lie,l\

1:1 \Vhik lhis (''';1), was in press, I lenner! or the lollowing additional lTSOlllTCS Oil dono]' conception, Since AuglLlr ;!1.I0:J, New Zealand has required all dcnor-ronccivcd birll" 10 be recorded in ;1 Hurnnn i\,sislcd Reproductive !'echnology (HART) Regisler (hllp:((\,,\\w,dia,govl_ndpublolll\s,n,IJURL/HAKI1))'(JC)1l1Je.p'If/$Iile/HARI hrochurc.pd I) Ihe HAR'I Act requires Ihal inlormation about donors be made available to their ofLprillg 31 3ge I S, In ZJddiriOIl ro the publicaticus listed ill note 3, see: Jacqueline A, L~ing and David S, Uderberg, 'Au ifk ial Reproduction, the "\Vel are Principle", 31l{\ r hc Common Coot!: kllthcoming in MedlcaJ Lai» Rnli"w (2005); Alex inn McWhinllie, '(;;nnete donation and anonym.tv: Should ofispring Irorn donated g~m('l-es routinue ro be denied knm"kdge or rheit, origins and antecedents?", Huvian Rl'j!mdllclioll Hi (2001): 007-17, Thanks ro Rupert Rushbrooke for these references,

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