Friday, Jan 30, 2009, 6 PM

Dieter Thomä

Professor of Philosophy, Universität St. Gallen

Re-moralizing Fertility

There are two standard accounts of fertility: one states that procreation is just a natural phenomenon, the other says that it is up to the persons concerned whether they have children or not. Both the naturalistic and the liberal readings lead to a demoralization of fertility. There is no need for morality if nature has her say, there is no entry code for normativity if having children or not is regarded as a matter of taste or is based on a purely private decision. This second reading is paramount in our context. Remoralizing fertility means to take issue with a liberal privatization of this kind. Some of these ‘remoralizers’ use arguments that are known from debates on endangered species, they put moral pressure on childless individuals who are not willing to reproduce a collective body and blame them for jeopardizing social security, etc. Arguments of this kind are known from late 19th century France and also from early 21st century Germany. Others stay away from questionable claims on collective goods superseding individual rights and promote a remoralization of fertility in a fairly different key. They do not ‘buy’ the liberal claim that fertility is a private matter in which no normative criteria apply. They remoralize fertility by stating that it has inevitably been a moral issue all the way through. Conceptions of the good, notions of autonomy and sociability are involved in a moral discourse of this kind.

Dieter Thomä studied philosophy and literature at the Universities of Freiburg and Berlin, attended the Henri Nannen School of Journalism in Hamburg, and received his postdoctoral qualification from Rostock University. After lecturing on philosophy in Paderborn, Rostock, Essen, Berlin, and New York, and working as Senior Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, he has been Professor of Philosophy at the University of St.Gallen since 2000, and Dean of the Humanities School since 2002. His publications include Die Zeit des Selbst und die Zeit danach: Zur Kritik der Textgeschichte Martin Heideggers 1910-1976 (1990); Eltern. Kleine Philosophie einer riskanten Lebensform (1992); Erzähle dich selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem (1998); Unter Amerikanern: Eine Lebensart wird besichtigt (2000); Vom Glück in der Moderne (2003) and Väter: Eine moderne Heldengeschichte (2008).

The event will be held in English