I’ve recently wrapped a project I’ve been working on with the ABC’s Philosopher’s Zone looking at Philosophy and Parenting. It’s spread all over the ABC, so I thought I’d consolidate it here for easy access.
The main body of work was a four-episode radio series on parenting. Each episode features two interviews with different philosophers on the topic. There were also a few media appearances and articles connected to the opening episode: Should I become a parent?
Read on for the full body of work!
Short video on anti-natalism for ABC RN’s social media pages
Interview with The Project about people deciding not to have children for ethical reasons.
Episode One: Should I have a child?
When professional philosopher and ethicist Matt Beard was to be become a parent he sought advice from the people he knew best: the sages. The result was bleak. Matt was used to consulting wisdom built up over two millennia for guidance. No such luck with parenting—unless you’d like to take Plato’s advice to abolish the private family; or to follow Arthur Schopenhauer’s firm belief that it’s an act of sheer cruelty to bring children into the world. So Matt decided to make the philosophical journey himself—surely there must be something out there? In this four-part series Matt, as a first-time dad and public philosopher, goes on his own search of prudent advice.
The topics of these episodes were also covered in two articles for the ABC website. One on the ethics of procreation and another on the relationship between becoming a parent and living a satisfying life.
Episode Two: What the heck makes a family?
People can be moralistic about family and family duty: we teach siblings that they mustlove each other; we raise them to respect older generations; we consider crimes by one family member against another to be especially heinous. And people go to pretty extreme measures to have the right sort of family. There must be something special about familial issues. Ethicist and first-time dad Matt Beard continues his investigation into philosophy and parenting with questions about the blood ties and loyalty to kith and kin that make up our family.
Episode Three: What makes someone a ‘good’ parent?
Every parent knows the guilt that comes from being a ‘bad parent’—after you’ve lost your temper, given in to a tantrum and spoiled your precious little angel! It might affect how the child grows up, but how to work that out now? Perhaps the most important philosophical questions parents ask are the ethical ones about the right way to raise a child, and what it means to be a ‘good’ parent. Self-help books, websites and apps proliferate but still no clear-cut answers. Matt Beard wades further into the goods and bads of modern parenting.
Episode Four: Does parenting make us happy?
In The Count of Monte Cristo Alexander Dumas writes “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next.” He might as well have been writing about being a parent—and the nature of parental happiness. Parents often form a unique and powerful love for their children—it’s equal parts life-affirming and heartbreaking. But the heartbreak can be handled in different ways. We could choose to fear it, embrace it, or overcome it.
I’m not finished with this space yet. If you’ve worked in this field, have some thoughts or suggested readings, please get in touch and let me know!