Beyond infanticide: how psychological accounts of persons can justify harming infants

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Daniel Rodger
  • Bruce P. Blackshaw
  • Calum Miller

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Allied Health Sciences; School of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University; London United Kingdom
  • Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK


It is commonly argued that a serious right to life is grounded only in actual, relatively advanced psychological capacities a being has acquired. The moral permissibility of abortion is frequently argued for on these grounds. Increasingly it is being argued that such accounts also entail the permissibility of infanticide, with several proponents of these theories accepting this consequence. We show, however, that these accounts imply the permissibility of even more unpalatable acts than infanticide performed on infants: organ harvesting, live experimentation, sexual interference, and discriminatory killing. The stronger intuitions against the permissibility of these ‘pre-personal acts’ allow us to re-establish a comprehensive and persuasive reductio against psychological accounts of persons.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-121
JournalNew Bioethics
Issue number2
Early online date21 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


  • infanticide, persons, personhood, pre-personal acts, sex, harm, abortion, consent