Naturalizing parenthood: Lessons from (some forms of) non‐traditional family‐making

Journal of Social Philosophy 53 (3):356-370 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Cases of non-traditional family-making offer a rich seam for thinking about normative parenthood. Gamete donors are genetically related to the resulting offspring but are not thought to be normative parents. Gestational surrogates are also typically not thought to be normative parents, despite having gestated a child. Adoptive parents are typically thought to be normative parents even though they are neither genetically nor gestationally related to their child. Philosophers have paid attention to these kinds of cases. But they have not paid attention to what the people who have engaged in these forms of family-making have to say about what they’re doing and, more specifically, how they answer the questions: “Who is the normative parent? And why?” Paying attention to their answers reveals two things. First, accounts of parenthood from people involved in two forms of non-traditional family-making – reproduction with gestational surrogacy and reproduction with donated eggs – are mutually inconsistent. This is not surprising. What is surprising is that the contradictory aspects of the views evince a common commitment to, as I shall put it, naturalizing parenthood. The central goal of this paper is to explain what that means, but rough idea is that in naturalizing parenthood, prospective parents aim to put the features that make someone a normative parent beyond the reach of human agency. I conclude by briefly suggesting that we should think of the grounds of normative parenthood – and the very task of theorizing about the grounds of normative parenthood – in a way that avoids the need to naturalize altogether.

Author's Profile

Daniel Groll
Carleton College


Added to PP

468 (#30,982)

6 months
114 (#26,634)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?