Friday, January 15, 2016

Procreation and love

Start with this consequence of the essentiality of origins:

  1. The identity of an individual depends on the exact time of her coming-into-existence.
(It's very plausible that it depends on coarse-grained time of coming-into-existence: I couldn't have come into existence a hundred years earlier. But there is also a well-known argument from that for the claim that it depends on the exact time.) Now, it seems that no action people can take prior to the origination of an individual determines the exact time of her coming-into-existence. There isn't any true counterfactual of the form of the form: "If we were to do A, then an individual would come into existence exactly at t." In fact, for any action we can take, quantum indeterminism will ensure a cluster of infinitely (if time is continuous) many or at least very many close-together possible resulting conception times. Moreover, each exact time will have a very tiny, perhaps infinitesimal or zero, probability of being the actual time of origination. Hence it seems:
  1. There is no true probabilistic counterfactual of the form: "If we were to do A, then an individual would be not unlikely to come into existence exactly at t."
(Molinists will, of course, disagree. But Molinism is false, I take it.) Thus:
  1. People cannot procreate out of love for the particular individual who would likely come into existence from the procreation.
For there is no particular individual such that she would likely come into existence from the procreation.

Now, notice that God in creating an individual--either ex nihilo or in cooperating with the joining of an egg and sperm--is under no such constraints. Thus it is possible for God to act in such a way that were he to act so, an individual would come into existence at a precise time. And the same is true for other features of the origination of the individual besides the time of its occurrence. So God could create out of love for the particular individual who would come into existence from the creation.

This fact suggests a weakness in premise (2) of my above argument. It could be that God has already decided what individual would result if a couple chose to procreate, and has resolved in particular that sperm and egg would meet at a particular time, as long as the couple chooses the procreate. God, thus, is resolved to control all the quantum phenomena to ensure a particular circumstance of origination. Thus it's up to the couple whether someone comes into existence, but there is a particular someone who would exist if the couple procreated. It would not be surprising if this were to happen in special cases, and it would be possible for it to happen in all cases. I don't know if it does, though.

The upshot of the above argument, thus, is that unless special theological assumptions hold, it is not possible for a couple to decide whether to procreate out of love for the particular child that would result.

6 comments:

Jakub Moravčík said...

there is a particular someone who would exist if the couple procreated

Does it mean that you believe that there are ontologically possible people who never come into actual existence? And that it´s not the case that all ontologically non-actual people are purely fictional people?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think there are ways of formulating my claim that don't imply that.

The simplest is:
1. There is a haecceity H such that if the couple procreated, their child would be an instance of H.

(I accept the converse to the essentiality of origins, so the initial state and causal history of an individual fixes the person. Thus, this haecceity could just be the initial state and causal history.)

A particularly complex version is:
2. Were the couple to procreate, there would be a child x such that (were they not to have procreated, it would have been the case that (were they to have procreated, they would have x as a child)).

Jakub Moravčík said...

I accept the converse to the essentiality of origins
And for what reason?

Alexander R Pruss said...

It allows for an elegant account of transworld identity: sameness of origins iff sameness of individual.

Richard Davis said...

Could a couple procreate out of love for 'our future child' or 'whatever child will be conceived by this act of procreation'? If so, would it turn out that whichever child ended up being conceived, that was the particular child out of love for whom the couple had procreated?

By comparison, a single man might pray for 'my future wife' to be blessed, without knowing which woman was his future wife. But it seems that his prayer would end up be applied to some particular woman.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Maybe, but there is a possible difficulty then. Plausibly, when they are deciding whether to procreate, they don't have a settled opinion on whether there will be a future child or not. If anybody will ever prove the Riemann Conjecture, there will be a first person who will prove it. But I have no settled opinion on whether anyone will prove the Riemann Conjecture. Can I have a love for the first person to prove the Riemann Conjecture, under that description, when I have no settled opinion on whether that person
I think the possible difficulty is not so fatal, though, to your suggestion. First, it is possible that a couple is deciding whether to procreate but already has a settled opinion that they will procreate. That sounds weird, but they can say: "We know that couples like us do eventually decide to procreate, and we are probably fertile, so probably we will procreate." We do in fact deliberate in cases where we know ahead of time how the decision will go, and a theory of decision-making that doesn't allow for this possibility is empirically refuted.
Second, it may be possible to love one's child without having a settled opinion on whether the child exists. Take the case of a woman who thinks she may well be pregnant but doesn't have enough evidence for a settled opinion.