Matrices: What pregnancy and motherhood teach us about human agency, Mary Nickel, G6 (2272052)
It can be quite striking, on reflection, to consider the fact that nearly the first entire year of our lives are spent inside another human being. None of us is created ex nihilo: we are all forged within the crucible of another. It would behoove ethicists to spend more time thinking about this undertheorized phase in human life. In the proposed dissertation, I think through contemporary questions about human agency with pregnancy in mind. Pregnancy can be deeply theoretically generative. On the one hand, pregnancy is unique, as only a subset of humans are able to experience it; on the other hand, it is also universal, insofar as every single human is a product of a pregnancy. Moreover, even as pregnancy unites persons—childbearers, coparents, relatives, healthcare workers—it also powerfully demonstrates the fundamental separateness of persons. After all, no one else can endure the morning sickness, the insomnia, or the labor on the childbearer’s behalf. At the same time, it also complicates that separateness, given that, in pregnancy, the boundaries of the childbearer and her child’s respective personhoods can be difficult to draw. The dissertation thus explores the embodied experience of pregnancy to reflect on the social constitution of the self, and explore what the self’s social constitution means for ethics. It does so by drawing on Biblical studies, game theory, feminist philosophy, and evolutionary biology.