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By Charles Foster, Jonathan Herring

This booklet is an attack at the idea that it really is empirically actual and legally and philosophically passable to work out people as atomistic entities. It contends that our welfare is inextricably entangled with that of others, and for that reason legislations and ethics, in deciding on our greatest pursuits, may still recognize the relevant value of relationality, the functionality of responsibilities, and (even it appears injurious) altruism.

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Extra info for Altruism, Welfare and the Law

Example text

The job of a 1 Our argument is, that this way of looking at the issue, separating out the interests of parents and children, cannot be done. But we use language to clarify the point we are making. 2 An Overarching Theme: Relational Best Interests 35 carer, hard enough as it is, would become impossible if every decision had to be made based solely on the other’s needs. Few if any of us would want, were we to lose capacity, to have our families, or even employed carers, making every decision based solely on our interests, with no thought for themselves.

Why should that be? Then the monkey itself picked up a raisin, and an identical impulse was recorded. Gallese had discovered mirror neurones. These are neurones that fire when we observe, hear, or even think of another person doing something. They are the reason why we feel fear when we’re with the fearful, cry when we’re with the tearful, and salivate when we see others eating. They’re the neurones of empathy: they blur the frontier between us and others. 26 2 Altruism and Community: A Biological and Philosophical History They make elusive the ‘I’ whose self-interest is the substrate of much of the law—and particularly of the ‘best interests’ test.

The focus should not be on the emotions that people have, or claim to have, but rather on the activities of caring they engage in (Tronto 1983, pp. 127–134). This is why a parent seeking to justify having a stake in a child’s well-being needs to do more than claim they have feelings towards their child, and needs to show they are actively involved in the child’s life. Quite rightly the European Court of Human Rights has held that a parent seeking an enforceable right to respect for family life in relation to a child needs more than simply a biological link.

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