University of Tasmania
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The foundations of flourishing and our obligations to infants

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posted on 2023-05-26, 00:25 authored by Joiner, GE
In this thesis I argue that we have a moral obligation to create the kind of conditions that will assist infants to acquire the foundational brain functioning which will enable them to flourish. These conditions, according to neuroscientific evidence, include immersion in a loving, responsive environment with an enduring other. Yet, an obligation to commit to such a relationship would seem to compromise a parent's right to be a fully-developed autonomous individual themselves. Thus we are faced with a dilemma in which the rights of the child seem pitted against the rights of the parent ‚Äö- usually the mother. I suggest that a way through this impasse is to challenge some assumptions about what it takes for an adult to be a fully developed individual. In particular, the liberalist tradition has assumed that autonomy and independence are the characteristics of a fully-developed person. Feminists have largely accepted this assumption and this has often led to the conclusion that women need to adopt traditional male roles ‚Äö- as paid employment was where status and respect resided, and was the means to independence. Of course, to take on such roles women have needed to engage in work and utilize childcare. I argue that the dilemma can be resolved by rejecting the liberal model of autonomy in favour of an alternative model, according to which true maturation is found in interdependence and social affiliation. Rather than being an obstacle to one's own development, the demanding relationship involved in loving and nurturing a child will contribute to a parent's development as a fully mature individual.


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Copyright 2018 the author

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