Ethics at the Beginning of Life: A Phenomenological Critique


Many of the most controversial moral decisions we face hinge upon competing descriptions of life, and never is this truer than at the beginning of life. This study draws upon the branch of Continental philosophy which is phenomenology to question the descriptive adequacy, the essential ‘purchase upon reality’, of many of the approaches, attitudes and arguments which make up beginning-of-life-ethics today. The most prevalent positions and practices in our late modern culture have simply failed to take into account the reality of human emergence, the particular way that new members of our species first appear in the world.

What others have said:

“A deeply sophisticated argument about the character of our relation with unborn and newborn human beings. It challenges the models that have been allowed uncritical domination in a lot of recent ethical argument; and, without emotive pleading or overheated polemic, it insists that we look afresh at assumptions… on the grounds of solid philosophical discussion… This is a seriously impressive work” – Rowan Williams

“Skilful and original, a creative description of what Mumford calls the ‘extraordinary encounter’ of the ‘newone’. This is a contribution both to moral philosophy and to phenomenology, a rare achievement. Mumford is a scholar equally at ease in the British and Continental tradition, he opens his reader’s eyes to many a ‘fact’ which his predecessors have left unnoticed. The book is also the work of a good stylist—reading it is sheer pleasure.” – Jean-Yves Lacoste

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Notre Dame Philosophical Review – Read review by Paolo Monti here

First Things – Read review by Peter Leithard here

SCE – Read review by Michael Mawson here

The New Atlantis – Read review by Gilbert Meilaender here