Unfinished Adults and Defective Children: On the Nature and Value of Childhood

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Abstract
Traditionally, most philosophers saw childhood as a state of deficiency and thought that its value was entirely dependent on how successfully it prepares individuals for adulthood. Yet, there are good reasons to think that childhood also has intrinsic value. Children possess certain intrinsically valuable abilities to a higher degree than adults. Moreover, going through a phase when one does not yet have a “self of one’s own,” and experimenting one’s way to a stable self, seems intrinsically valuable. I argue that children can have good lives, on several understandings of well-being – as a pleasurable state, as the satisfaction of simple desires or as the realization of certain objective goods. In reply to the likely objection that only individuals capable of morality can have intrinsic value, I explain why it is plausible that children have sufficient moral agency to be as deserving of respect as adults.
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Archival date: 2015-02-22
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2015-02-22

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