Children’s Needs and Parental Liberty: A Liberal Contradiction and How to Escape from it

  • Susan K. Perkins
Part of the Child Nurturance book series (CHILDNUR, volume 1)


Unless we are willing to consider human beings as simultaneous nurturers and recipients of nurture, we can never reach a coherent understanding of equal liberty for parents and children. The efforts of the great classical liberals to deal with the problems raised by the needs of children fail because they cannot make this leap. Instead, such thinkers are trapped between alienating the liberty of the parents and making liberty into a hollow form which guarantees no benefits of any substance to the children. Yet in A Theory of Justice, John Rawls has escaped from this dilemma. Understanding how he does so implies abandoning the understanding of human beings as merely those who pursue their own separate ends and find the aid of others a useful means to doing so; it suggests that in recognizing ourselves as dependent on the nurture of others, we must accept our role as the givers of that nurture. We must do so however much this role may conflict with our separate goals if we are to legitimize our own claims to the benefits liberty can offer us.


Original Position Unborn Child Utilitarian Argument Liberal Thinker Parental Desire 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan K. Perkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySwarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA

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