Our parents often have a significant impact on the content of our beliefs, the values we hold, and the goals we pursue and becoming a parent can also have a similar impact on our lives. In Conceptions of Parenthood Michael Austin provides a rigorous and accessible philosophical analysis of the numerous and distinct conceptions of parenthood. Issues considered are the nature and justification of parental rights, the sources of parental obligations, the value of autonomy, and the moral obligations and tensions present within interpersonal relationships. Austin rejects the 'proprietarian', 'best interests of the child', and 'biological' conceptions of parenthood as failing to generate parental rights and obligations but considers more sympathetically the 'custodial relationship', 'consent', and 'causal' conceptions of parenthood and ultimately defends a 'stewardship' conception. Finally Austin explores the 'stewardship' view for practical and moral questions related to family life and social policy regarding the family, such as the education of children, the religious upbringing of children and state licensing of parents.
'Mike Austin's impressive and important new book, Conceptions of Parenthood, helps bring to center stage a fundamental set of concerns that contemporary moral philosophers have too often treated as merely peripheral, if they have treated them at all: those issues concerning the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Written with a rare combination of philosophical acumen and common sense wisdom, Austin's book provides an admirably clear layout of the theoretical landscape and argues rigorously and powerfully for a variety of potentially challenging conclusions. The book immediately becomes required reading for anyone working in the area and deserves to be read by anyone who wants to see what good work in applied ethics looks like and what it can accomplish.' David Boonin, University of Colorado, USA 'Austin's thorough and lively examination of the ethical and conceptual issues surrounding parenthood starts with a refreshingly clear and unprejudiced look at the complications posed by new reproductive technologies. Austin proposes an account of parenthood that depends on moral relationships rather than biological ones, and goes on to discuss the rights and responsibilities of parents. His view is commonsensical but not conservative, and is meticulously presented and defended.' Elinor Mason, University of Edinburgh, UK 'I know of no other book that addresses the foundations of the family in such a comprehensive and engaging way. Conceptions of Parenthood is remarkable for its crystaline clarity, philosophical subtlety, and plain good sense.' Claudia Mills, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA ’While it is a work of rigorous moral philosophy, the book remains remarkably readable.’ First Things