Location: Bowdoin / Sarah O'Brien Conly


Sarah O. Conly

Associate Professor of Philosphy

On leave of absence for the 2013-14 academic year.

Contact Information

204 Edward Pols House

Spring 2013

  • Love (PHIL 018)
  • Moral Problems (PHIL 120)



  • Ph.D. (Cornell)
  • M.A. (Cornell)
  • B.A. (Princeton)

Current Projects

In 2013-2014 I am visiting at the University of Chicago Law School as the Fellow in Law and Philosophy.  I am finishing my current book, One Child: Do We Have a Right to More?, under contract with Oxford University Press.  We tend to think of regulating the number of children people may have as morally reprehensible.  For one thing, the right to have a family is one we often think of as sacrosanct, articulated, among other places, in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.  And, we think that women have the right to control their bodies, and while this right is mentioned often in the context of the right to abortion, it may also be held to include the right to have as many children as one wants.   Lastly, we think of such policies as having sanctions that are unacceptable, including forced abortions of those who become pregnant with a second child.    In One, I argue that opposition to population regulation is based on a number of mistakes:  that the right to have a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want; that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of punishment that is horrific.  If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth to.  I am also working on some articles for upcoming collections:  one for Routledge (on well-being), one for Oxford University Press (on food ethics) and one for a second Routledge anthology (on libertarianism.)

Recent Publications

Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, Cambridge University Press, 2013
"Three Cheers for the Nanny State," Op-ed, New York Times, March 25, 2013
"Coercive Paternalism in Health Care:  Against Freedom of Choice," Public Health Ethics, vol. 6 #3 (published on line Sept. 2013)
"Against Autonomy: Author Meets Critics: Precis," Journal of Medical Ethics,  on line edition, Dec. 12, 2013
"Against Autonomy: Author Meets Critics: Response," Journal of Medical Ethics, on line edition,  Feb. 14, 2014