Philosophy Seminar: Methodology for the Metaphysics of Pregnancy

Suki Finn (Southampton)

One of the central questions in the metaphysics of pregnancy is this: Is the foetus a part of the mother?

In this talk I seek not to answer this question, but rather to raise methodological concerns regarding how to approach answering it. Given the parthood relationship in question, should we be looking to mereology? Or given the biological entities in question, should we be looking to the philosophy of science, or even to biology itself? Should ethical considerations guide our answer, or should our answer guide bioethics? I will outline how various candidate domains of enquiry attempt to answer whether the foetus is a part of the mother so as to demonstrate the methodological problems that each approach faces. My positive suggestion will be that we embrace a form of pluralism, and from within each domain adopt a method of reflective equilibrium. The aim of this is to ensure that pregnancy be included in the tribunal of experience to which our theories are held up against, such that our theories will accommodate what we say about pregnancy, whilst also ensuring that what we say about pregnancy will be theoretically informed.