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Although, with the recent interest in Eastern philosophies a few voices have been raised advocating this view, the undisputed historical fact is that only within the last few hundred years did the West have any significant interaction with the East.
So the question remains: How did we come to order our moral values in this particular way?
The method of "disposal" varied, but generally we know that, in antiquity, babies were taken out to the forest and left to die of exposure, dropped down wells to drown, or thrown into sewers or onto manure piles.
The horror of a parent being capable of killing his or her child is shocking enough.
Did they consider them essential to the making of an ideal world?
Or was their worldview considerably different than ours?
By infanticide, I mean the killing of newborn children as a way of population control, sex selection (generally, boys were desirable, girls undesirable), and as a way of ridding society of potentially burdensome or deformed members.
A baby that appeared weak or sickly at birth, or had even a minor birth defect such a cleft pallet, hair lip, or cleft foot, or was in some other way imperfect was killed.
Aristotle isn't saying "I like killing babies," but he is making a cold, rational calculation: over-population is dangerous, and this is the most expedient way to keep it in check.
But that this parent should have so little regard for the child, as to unmercifully dump it where it might die slowly and painfully, or be picked up by someone to be reared into slavery or prostitution (as sometimes happened), suggests a level of cruelty beyond our modern imagination.
Lloyd De Mause in his essay "The Evolution of Childhood" (pp.
This was not done by some Nazi-like baby removal squad.
This was done by an immediate member of the family, usually the mother or father, and usually within three days after birth.