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BETTER UNDERSTANDING the METAPHYSICS of PREGNANCY

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BUMP (BETTER UNDERSTANDING the METAPHYSICS of PREGNANCY)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2019-04-01 al 2020-12-31

Every single human is the product of a pregnancy: an approximately nine-month period during which a foetus develops within its mother’s body. Yet pregnancy has not been a traditional focus in philosophy. That is remarkable, for two reasons:
First, because pregnancy presents fascinating philosophical problems: what, during the pregnancy, is the nature of the relationship between the foetus and the maternal organism? What is the relationship between the pregnant organism and the later baby? And when does one person or organism become two?
Second, because so many topics immediately adjacent to or involved in pregnancy have taken centre stage in philosophical enquiry. Examples include questions about personhood, foetuses, personal identity and the self.

These are not mere academic questions; they are practical. At this very moment, courts attempt to rule whether women can undergo forced Caesarean Sections on behalf of their foetus’ or future offspring’s wellbeing; whether women who smoke or take other toxic substances during pregnancy can be held criminally liable; and who, in case of conflict, has final rights over the contents of a (surrogate) mother’s womb. L
One thing that unites all these struggles is the inadequacy of the conceptual language in which we try to analyse them. Our moral, legal and social languages encode certain universal assumptions: that there is a distinction between self and other; between intervening and ‘letting things happen’; and between persons, other persons and non-persons. But these distinctions break down when our object of consideration is a pregnant human. The reason for this inadequacy, I suggest, is twofold. First, even though pregnancy is how every person comes into existence, our language, laws and thinking about persons have not developed from a vantage point that was very attuned towards the possibility of being pregnant. Second, and more profoundly, pregnancy presents genuine and deep philosophical puzzles that may not be easy to solve, and that have not been adequately investigated. This project will take up that task.

The core aims of the project are:
(1) to develop a philosophically sophisticated account of human pregnancy and birth, and the entities involved in this, that is attentive to our best empirical understanding of human reproductive biology;
(2) to articulate the metaphysics of organisms, persons and selves in a way that acknowledges the details of how we come into existence; and
(3) to start the process of rewriting the legal, social and moral language we use to classify ourselves and our actions, so that it is compatible with and can accommodate the nature of pregnancy.
- BUMP Research Group presently consists of 1 PI, 4 Postdocs (2 part-time), 2 PhD Students
- BUMP Research Group meets on weekly basis to share research and read the literature
- 5 Academic Publications published or accepted in Peer-Reviewed Reputable international Journals
- Further written outputs include 2 public philosophy pieces, several Dutch language publications, and a book chapter
- Work presented and disseminated at many national and international venues.
- One major international conference and various workshops hosted.

Important progress has been made on all three core aims, and on on work in the following four (out of five) work packages:
1. Metaphysics of Pregnancy: beyond the foetal container model;
2. Reproducing Mammals: Organisms, Individuals and Other Biological Categories;
3. The Metaphysics of Nested Parts: Mereology, Identity & Persistence;
5. Philosophical Embedding & Translation.
The work has already progressed beyond the state of the art by articulating and publishing the importnat question that the project raises, and by articulating alternatives to the current literature. The project is on track to deliver what was promised in the grant agreement.