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Family, ethics and the

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L025-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2020
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

What is the family? Why is it valuable? And how does the institution of the family bear on the requirements of both social and global justice? These questions have occupied many political philosophers since the publication of a Theory of Justice by John Rawls, and there is now a substantial body of work on the philosophy of the family (Rawls 1999; see Rawls, John (1921–2002)). This entry provides an overview of the most prominent philosophical accounts of what is distinctive and valuable about the family. It draws a distinction between narrow understandings of the family, which only pick out parent–child relationships, and broad understandings of the family, which also pick out spouses and relatives. It shows that there are philosophical difficulties in moving from parent–child relationships to these other relationships when describing the family and investigating its value, but that some philosophical accounts succeed in accounting for parents and their children, as well as spouses and relatives at large. Finally, it discusses the work of scholars who believe that although the family is a valuable institution, the requirements of justice impose limits on what family members can demand from one another, and from society at large (see Justice).

Citing this article:
Ferracioli, Luara. Family, ethics and the, 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L025-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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