The University of Southampton
PhilosophyPart of Humanities

Taking Pregnancy Seriously in Metaphysics: The Foetus and The Maternal Organism Event

Date:
21 July 2015
Venue:
Building 176 Boldrewood Campus Burgess Road Southampton SO16 7QF

For more information regarding this event, please email Elselijn Kingma and Fiona Woollard at E.M.Kingma@soton.ac.uk and F.Woollard@soton.ac.uk .

Event details

This workshop is one of a series of four in the project 'Taking pregnancy Seriously in Metaphysics, Ethics and Epistemology', funded by the Southampton Ethics Centre, the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, the Aristotelian Society and the University of Southampton 'Adventures in Research' Scheme.

About the Workshop

Although philosophers have explored issues related to pregnancy – most obviously abortion and the value and metaphysics of coming into existence – little philosophical attention has been paid to pregnancy itself. That is a remarkable omission because pregnancy raises important philosophical problems in metaphysics, ethics and epistemology. This workshop explores on of the main metaphysical questions posed by pregnancy: how do the entities involved in pregnancy - the embryo or foetusand the maternal organism relate to each other? Should the foetus be regarded as part of the mother, or as ‘merely inside ‘ or ‘surrounded by’ the mother? This is a novel question; near all discussions of foetuses and pregnancy in philosophy simply assume the latter model.

This workshop is one of a series of four in the project 'Taking Pregnancy Seriously in Metaphysics, Ethics and Epistemology' funded by the Southampton Ethics Centre and the University of Southampton ‘Adventures in Research’ Scheme. It will be followed by one more workshops on 'Taking Pregnancy Seriously in Metaphysics' on the 18th of September and was preceded by two workshop on 'Taking Pregnancy Seriously in Ethics and Epistemology' on the 18th of June 2014. and the 13th of April 2015.

Slideshows from this workshop can be found here.

 

Speakers and Abstracts

Eric Olson (Sheffield)

Is the Foetus a part of the Mother's Body?

I will not defend an answer to this question, but consider how we should think about it. How does it differ from the question of whether the foetus is a part of the mother herself, and whether it’s a part of the maternal organism? (And what about the foetus’s body and the foetal organism?) Is it the sort of question that has an unequivocal answer, or does the answer depend on our interests? Why do philosophers of biology and metaphysicians think about the question in such different ways? Unclarity about these matters is likely to result in unclarity about how to go about trying to answer it.

 

John Dupré (Exeter)

Pregnancy as a bifurcating process

This paper explores the relevance to the metaphysics of pregnancy of considering the human organism as a process rather than a thing, or substance. The standard 'bun in the oven' view, of course, presupposes the latter perspective. From what I take to be a more defensible process perspective, pregnancy is better seen as the gradual bifurcation of a single process. There is no unique point at which one process becomes two.

 

Rohan Lewis (Southampton)

No going back: biological perspectives on the emergence of biological identity in reproduction

In this talk I will question at what point in the reproductive process a new biological identity forms. I will outline the origins and development of the fetal-placental unit beginning with the primary differentiation of the oocyte in the grandparental womb. I will address the communication between the placenta, the womb and the maternal body in terms of both physical connectedness and of chemical signaling. I will place this in the context of different perspectives on biological identity: from the cell to the organism to the species. These perspectives will be discussed in terms of the genomic conflict hypothesis, which I will also use to address parasitism/mutualism arguments and to highlight how biological and social notions of identity may become entwined. Finally, I will outline my position, which is not only that the fetus has an identity distinct from its parents, but that gametes do too. At conception (which occurs outside the body, albeit inside a body cavity), the oocyte and sperm fuse, losing their original identities and becoming something new, that is two generations of identity removed from the parents.

 

Barry Smith (Buffalo)

Embryontology

Countering arguments presented by Dupré, I will defend an indispensable role for both object- and process-based categories in the representation of biological phenomena. I will outline on this basis the distinction between parthood and containment that is used by biologists in their treatment of the relations between (for example) body flora and their human hosts. Muscle cells are parts of the human body; gut bacteria are contained in its interior. I will then defend the fetal container account of the relation between the foster and the pregnant mother, addressing especially the arguments presented by Kingma in defense of her odd view of this relation as one of parthood.

 

Program

9:30 am - Registration and Coffee - Boldrewood Campus

9:50 am - Introductory remarks

10:00 - 11:20 - Rohan Lewis (Southampton)

                       No going back: biological perspectives on the emergence of biological idenitity in reproduction.

11:20 - 11:30 - Short Break - Boldrewood Campus

11:30 - 12:50 - Eric Olson (Sheffield)

                       Is the foetus part of the mother's body?

12:50 - 2:00   - Lunch - Boldrewood Campus

                       (only if pre-paid; lunch can also be bought from the cafe)

2:00 - 3:20     - John Dupré (Exeter)

                      Pregnancy as a bifurcating process

3:20 - 3:50     - Tea Break - Boldrewood Campus

3:50 - 5:10     - Barry Smith (Buffalo)

                       Embryontology

5:10 - 5:30     - Round-up

5:30               - Drinks and Dinner: 'The Goat', 47 Highfield Lane, Southampton SO17 1QD

 

Organisers

Elselijn Kingma - E.M.Kingma@soton.ac.uk

Fiona Woollard - F.Woollard@soton.ac.uk

 

Further Information

Registration

Registration is free for delegates and will include tea/coffee/refreshments, but delegates must provide/ pay for their own meals and accommodation.

Lunch: We will arrange for a cold buffet lunch at the workshop venue. If you would like to sign up for this lunch (cost: GBP 8.50), then click the relevant option when registering and pay in advance. We will already be catering for vegetarians but please e-mail the organisers if there are any other dietary requirements. Alternatively there is the option to buy lunch at the small cafeteria on campus, or you can bring your own lunch.

Dinner: we will go out to dinner at a local restaurant after the workshop. We will contact you nearer to the time with the details, and give you the chance to sign up for this.

Please register no later than the 13th of July via the online store.

 

 Childcare

If you would like to attend but childcare duties render your attendance difficult, please contact the organisers (as far in advance as possible).

 

Accessibility

The room for this workshop is still subject to confirmation; accessibility information will be updated as soon as we have it. If you have any questions or requests, please contact C.A.Yalcin@soton.ac.uk as soon as possible and we will make the necessary accommodations.


Accommodation

Participants at the conference booking through Southampton University are eligible for the following discounted rates at local hotels:

£66.50 at Elizabeth House Hotel (http://www.elizabethhousehotel.com/);

£65 at Highfield House (http://www.highfieldhotelsouthampton.co.uk)

(prices for single room, bed and breakfast). To take advantage of these rates, email Chloe Yalcin (C.A.Yalcin@soton.ac.uk), mentioning this workshop, giving your name, required dates of stay, and dietary requirements. She will book a room for you at the discounted rate.

For alternative accommodation see http://www.discoversouthampton.co.uk/visit/accommodation

 

Directions

The Workshop will be held at our Boldrewood Campus. For directions to the Boldrewood Campus and travel advice see https://www.southampton.ac.uk/about/visit/getting-to-southampton.page

For international travel advice see https://www.southampton.ac.uk/visitus/int_arrivals/

If you come by car and would like a parking permit, please contact the organisers

 

About the Project

Although philosophers have explored issues related to pregnancy – most obviously abortion and the value and metaphysics of coming into existence – little philosophical attention has been paid to pregnancy itself. That is a remarkable omission because pregnancy raises important philosophical problems in metaphysics, ethics and epistemology: should the foetus be regarded as part of or ‘merely surrounded by’ the mother? If persons can be parts of other persons, what does this imply for bodily ownership and personal and numerical identity? What special rights and duties does the unique status of pregnancy bestow? Does the radically transformative character of pregnancy mean that those who have never been pregnant are excluded from certain kinds of knowledge about pregnancy and its consequences?

This Research Project, funded by a University of Southampton “Adventures in Research” Grant, and with additional support from the Southampton Ethics Centre, the British Society for the Philosophy of Science and the Aristotelian Society, is organising four workshops that explore some of these questions.

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