Published June 30, 2015
The Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce that John Beverly just had his Spring 2015 Qualifying Paper "The Ties that Undermine" accepted in the journal Bioethics. That journal is one of the elite journals in medical ethics.
Abstract: Do biological relations ground responsibilities between biological fathers and their offspring? Few think biological relations ground either necessary or sufficient conditions for responsibility. Nevertheless, many think biological relations ground responsibility at least partially. Various scenarios, such as cases concerning the responsibilities of sperm donors, have been used to argue in favor of biological relations as partially grounding responsibilities.
In this paper, I seek to undermine the temptation to explain sperm donor scenarios via biological relations by appealing to an overlooked feature of such scenarios. More specifically, I argue that sperm donor scenarios may be better explained by considering the unique abilities of agents involved. Appealing to unique ability does not eliminate the possibility of biological relations providing some explanation for perceived responsibilities on the part of biological fathers.
However, since it is unclear exactly why biological relations are supposed to ground responsibility in the first place, and rather clear why unique ability grounds responsibility in those scenarios where it is exhibited, the burden of proof seems shifted to those advocating biological relations as grounds of responsibility to provide an explanation. Since this seems unlikely, I conclude it is best to avoid appealing to biological relations as providing grounds for responsibility.