Intelligence, Well-Being and Procreative Beneficence

J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


If Savulescu’s (2001; 2009) controversial principle of Procreative Beneficence (PB) is correct, then an important implication is that couples should employ genetic tests for non-disease traits in selecting which child to bring into existence. Both defenders as well as some critics of this normative entailment of PB have typically accepted the comparatively less controversial claim about non-disease traits: that there are non-disease traits such that testing and selecting for them would in fact contribute to bringing about the child who is expected to have the best life. We challenge this less controversial claim, not by arguing deductively for its falsity, but by showing that Savulescu’s central argument for this presumably less controversial claim fails. Savulescu offers intelligence as the paradigm example of a testable nondisease
trait such that testing and selecting for it would increase the likelihood that
the child selected would be the one who is expected to have the best life (or at least as
good a life as the others). We provide a series of arguments aimed at demonstrating
that Savulescu’s argument from intelligence fails. If our arguments are successful, the
upshot is not that PB is false, but more modestly, that the burden of proof remains
squarely with Savulescu.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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