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The University of Southampton

Major European funded study to investigate nature of pregnancy

Published: 22 April 2016
Philosophy pregnancy project

A researcher from the University of Southampton is set to investigate fundamental questions about the nature of pregnancy.

Associate Professor in Philosophy Elselijn Kingma has been awarded €1.2 million to examine the metaphysics of pregnancy, identity and personhood. The project is backed by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

Dr Kingma’s study will investigate important, but previously unexplored, philosophical questions about childbearing, such as whether foetus and mother are one single organism or two separate organisms. She explains: “Every single human is the product of a pregnancy, yet it has not been a traditional focus in philosophy.

“This is remarkable, because pregnancy presents fascinating philosophical problems, such as the nature of the relationship between the foetus and the maternal organism; the relationship between the pregnant organism and the later baby; and when one person or organism becomes two?

“The philosophical oversight of pregnancy is particularly important to address because so many topics closely related to pregnancy have taken centre stage in philosophical enquiry; questions about personhood, foetuses, personal identity and the self are all being considered, but without considering the unique nature of pregnancy.”

This project launches the metaphysics of pregnancy as an important and fundamental area of philosophical research.

In collaboration with Dr Fiona Woollard, Associate Professor in Philosophy at Southampton, Dr Kingma will conduct the study with the help of two PhD students and two postdoctoral researchers.

The team will begin by looking at the discussions and theories around metaphysics and philosophy of biology in literature, and draw upon scientific knowledge to understand the physical role and function of the placenta.

Philosophy at Southampton

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