Olan Harrington


Research title

The Non-Identity Problem and The Ethics of Procreation

Research summary

My focus is on the Non-Identity Problem and its bearing on the ethics of procreation. Specifically, my research responds to a number of challenges that Professor Caspar Hares faces with his ‘de dicto’ solution to the Non-Identity Problem. The Non-Identity Problem is an intriguing and important issue in moral philosophy, which has considerable implications with respect to our thinking about and policies on reproductive and population ethics. The problem is that activities now – such as polluting the environment – will arguably make things worse for people in the future. However, we are not wronging those people, since such people will still have a life worth living, and one does not wrong such a person by bringing them into existence. But this means that our actions now are not, after all, morally wrong – which clashes with a strongly-held intuition that we are failing in our moral obligations to future people by despoiling the environment. In responding to the challenges faced by Professor Hare’s ‘de dicto’ solution I hope to strengthen its position as a serious objection to the non-identity problem – which, should it be successful, promises to be game-changing in the debate. I defend the view that our obligations to others are grounded in non-maleficence (a negative duty to not harm others), rather than benevolence (a positive duty to make things better for others) depending on our roles. I argue that the commitment to benevolence in Prof. Hare’s view generates challenges that and that an account of obligation based on non-maleficence does not.


McGuire W., Harrington, O. 2019; Using a peer-centred online learning platform to support students’ academic-professional transition, in E-learning 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 in Higher Education.Libri Publishing: Faringdon. 


2019 Visting Doctoral Studentship: AHRC (£5250)

2019  AHRC Doctoral Scholarship Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities/Arts and Humanities Research Council: fees and stipend (£40,000)

2018 Teaching Excellence Award (£1000 - College Award) 

2017/2018 Alexander Ogilvie scholarship in Moral Philosophy (£2000)

2017 Research Support Award - University of Glasgow (£300)

2017 Travel Support Award - University of Glasgow (£200)

2016 The Scottish Outreach and Impact Prize (Runner-Up) - For best outreach and impact proposal related to a current Ph.D project. 

2015 SUN Tuition Scholarhip - Central European University Summer School in Philosophy (€550) 


Benevolence and Moral Decency, University of Glasgow, 11/10/2019

Modifying the Human Genome with CrisprCas9, University of Glasgow School Forum, 28/05/2019 

Genetic Identity and Personal Identity: Is one necessary for the other?  University of Glasgow Graduate Seminar, 01/03/2019

Can we really ‘harm’ with Inheritable Genetic Modification?  Marcellus Winter School, Symposium on Germline Editing of the Human Genome17/11/2018

Bioethics Discussion PanelHosted by FemEng at University of Glasgow06/11/2018 

The Ethics of Inheritable Genetic Modification, University of Glasgow Philosophy Society Guest Speaker, 17/10/2018 

Perspectivism and The Non-Identity Problem - University of Glasgow Graduate Seminar, 23/05/2018

A De Dicto Solution to the Non-Identity Problem? - University of Glasgow Graduate Seminar, 19/01/2018

Emotion, Rhetoric, and Repealing The 8th Amendment of The Irish Constitution - University College Cork, Ireland, 28/03/2017

A Philosophical Challenge to The 8th Amendment - Fatal Foetal Conditions and The Irish Constitution - UNESCO Bioethics Chair 12th World Conference 2017, Cyprus, 23/03/2017

A Pluralist Solution To The Non-Identity Problem? - University of Glasgow Graduate Seminar, 10/03/2017 


• 1K Knowledge and The World (Seminars) 

• 1M Right and Wrong (Seminars) 

• 2M Self and Society (Seminars)

• 1B How Should I Live?(Seminars)

• JH9 Moral Philosophy (Junior honours)

• Procreation Ethics (Summer School Lecturer and Tutor)

• MEd Professional Practice: Teaching Assistant and Dissertation Supervisor

• PGDE Professional Enquiry and Decision Making: Teaching Assistant

• Widening Participation Tutor

Additional information

  • (Upcoming) Visting Research Student Massachusetts Institute of Technology Spring 2020
  • (Former) Research Fellow at The Mercator Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change
  • Research Assistant at School of Social and Political Sciences (Inspiring Innovations Project/Transitions Project) 
  • Intern at School of Social and Political Sciences - (Curriculum Assessment and Pedagogy)
  • Communications Officer - British Postgraduate Philosophical Association