Is It Okay to Let My Child Be Stung by a Wasp?

The Philosophers' Magazine 86:51-57 (2019)
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I recently told my uncle that I thought I had come up with a way of showing that a mother who saw her child about to be stung by a wasp should try to intervene. I’d been working on this for several months. My uncle did not look very impressed. To be fair, it doesn’t sound like a very impressive result. Surely it is just utterly obviously that mothers should protect their children from wasps? So why had this taken me months of work? I am trying to come up with a moderate account of maternal duties. Maternal duties pick out what a mother is morally required to do for her children. In doing so, I’ve discovered that it is harder than it might at first appear to come up with a moderate account of maternal duties that recognises ‘obvious’ duties like the duty not to let your child be stung by a wasp. I’ve also found that in the context of maternal duties, even more than in other contexts, we need be cautious before we accept our judgments about what seems obvious. Yet, it is absolutely vital to come up with a good moderate account of maternal duties – because doing so is necessary to protect vulnerable women and children.

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Fiona Woollard
University of Southampton


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