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"To Be or Not To Be" - Printable Version

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"To Be or Not To Be" - INPEFESS - 05-13-2010

Here is a rough draft I just finished of a philosophical article responding to the arguments, in particular, of Peter Singer and Mary Anne Warren supporting abortion.

A few notes:

- There are certainly more important reasons to oppose abortion - such as the existence of the soul - but ones that are beyond the boundaries of modern philosophy. I believe that, even if God is completely eliminated from the mind of modern man, the natural law still binds our reasoning.

- The most common objection to my claim is that, given my distinction, there is no difference between the potentiality of a developing fetus and that of a sperm approaching the egg moments before conception. What these people don't know is their objection is perfectly legitimate; I oppose contraception from the natural law for the same reason as I have opposed abortion in this article. Of course, these philosophers would expect me to support contraception from the natural law.

- My argument explaining the morally significant distinctions between humans and animals expounds upon another qualifier of "person" that Singer does not acknowledge. It was beyond the scope of this article to make this distinction. Without it, however, Singer's conditions for personhood could, potentially, place animals on an equal moral plane with humans; indeed, he does just that. I have already written a smaller article in response to it, but that was beyond the scope of this work.

- Citations are included at the end, including one endnote.

For those philosophers out there on FE: Since it is only a rough draft, your thoughts, constructive criticisms, and comments on likeable points would be greatly appreciated.

(Note: If you have never read Singer, you might not understand my complicated approach. If you have read Singer, you would find that his conclusions are usually valid from his premises. Usually people who disagree with him just attack his breed of philosophy, preference utilitarianism, but I have tried accept his view only insomuch as to use it as a common ground upon which to engage in discussion.)

P.S. If you find any spelling errors, let me know.



“To Be or Not to Be”

          Abortion, one of the most hotly-debated issues of the 20th century, refers to the “termination of a pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo, resulting in or caused by its death”  (specifically, a member of the species, Homo sapiens). The ethical issue of abortion has raised important emotional, psychological, biological, sociological, legal, and philosophical questions. As section 1 of this paper illustrates, a superficial consideration of this ethical issue appears to yield a conclusion supporting the morality of abortion. However, as section 2 will demonstrate, a more thorough analysis of this popular philosophical question exposes, what appears to be, a small oversight by many contemporary philosphers such as Peter Singer and Mary Anne Warren, yet one with serious moral significances. Consequently, as we will find in section 3, the objections raised in section 2 sufficiently refute the notion that it is morally permissible to terminate the life of the unborn.


Section I

          In the section titled The Fetus as Potential Life of Peter Singer’s book, Practical Ethics, Singer reviews a popular argument against abortion. This argument goes something like this:

     First premise: It is wrong to kill a potential human being.
     Second premise: A human fetus is a potential human being.
     Conclusion: Therefore it is wrong to kill a human fetus.


After refuting a few standard claims made by proponents of this model, Singer then examines the argument a little more seriously. He seems to accept second premise, but disagrees with the first. If the first can be defended, however, he acknowledges that the conclusion logically follows. Ergo, Singer begins by considering the soundness of the first premise: It is wrong to kill a potential human being. He then counters the assertion by arguing that, to claim a potential X has the same value as an X, or has all the rights of an X, is insufficient to conclude that, since ‘A is a potential X’, then ‘A has the rights of an X’. Bearing in mind that potentiality is not actuality, Singer argues that, unless there can be shown a moral significance in potentiality, these fetuses cannot have claims to moral rights.

          Singer then goes on to state on p. 155, “Is there any other significance in the fact that the fetus is a potential person? If there is I have no idea what it could be.” It is in this step that we find and exploit Singer’s error – an oversight present in his own admitted ignorance of the nature of potentiality.


Section II

          In order to understand the full moral implications afforded by potentiality, we must understand its complete nature. If we intend to understand its complete nature, we must first acknowledge the distinction between two different kinds of potentiality. The first kind is that potential which denotes existence in possibility – capable of development into actuality – only by means of an external force. By this I mean that the potential is static and non-moving. It can only be actualized through an application of external accelerants. For the purposes of clarity, I shall refer to this type as subjective potentiality.

          As an example, let us consider a nation which is governed by the hypothetical political system of a ‘democratic empire’. Say, for instance, that every member of the nation has the potential to be elected to the throne by means of votes from other citizens. In this system, there is no immediate expectation of imperial rights or authority by any of these citizens once the emperor is dead because each of them is as equally capable of being elected to the throne as the others, and none of them is an heir to the throne. If a certain citizen desired to increase his chances of becoming emperor, he would have to accept the influence of outside agents that would make him more likely to be chosen by the demos. In his present state, however, he has no guarantee of the position when the emperor dies because the appointment is effected by the desires of the people. In this way, he has no more right to the throne than anyone else. Indeed, no one has any intrinsic “right” to the throne at all.

         The second kind of potentiality is that which denotes existence in possibility – capable of development into actuality – by means of inevitable inheritance. By this I mean that it is a latent capacity which will become manifest in time unless inhibited by an external force. For the sake of clarity, I will refer to this application as objective potentiality. 

          It is expedient to use an example for this case as well. Let us consider this potentiality within a monarchy whereby an heir to the throne of the king awaits the inevitable consequence of time, a consequence which will yield his inheritance of the crown. By means of his heredity and genetic connection to the monarch, there is an imminent expectation, anticipation, and presupposition that the prince will be the heir to the throne of the kingdom ipso facto when his father dies and, moreover, that he will acquire the rights most proper to that office. Of course, as prince, he is not the king and only maintains the potential for this authority. But this potential is such that he will inevitably inherit the rights afforded him by his bloodline unless an outside agent intervenes.

          We see this second nature of potentiality evidenced all the way to the micro-level of science. When molecular biologists speak of genetics, they do not say that genomes don’t carry genetic instructions because their phenotypes have not yet been expressed. Instead, they say that a genome is a set of characteristics pending manifestation. If allowed to develop according to their natural design, a gene will express the genetic code it carries in the form of the observable, physiological characteristics of the host. This will occur inevitably unless frustrated by some external inhibition. However, this is only significant insomuch as the genomes are presently in existence. There is no expectation that a phenotype would exist by nature of its own propensity to manifest itself without first relying on the preliminary existence of its genotype. Applying this to our fetus, we can say that these rights are more than just a subjective potential; they are dormant rights that are inherited by the very nature of the fetus’s existence.

          Having now qualified the nature of potentiality, and having clarified it by analogy, we shall now turn our focus to a more concrete distinction – that between, what Singer calls, members of the species Homo sapiens and persons. On p. 85, Singer describes the biological membership of the species as “…determined scientifically by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms.” On p. 87, he distinguishes this membership from persons, which he describes as “rational and self-conscious being[ s ].” It is possible that there are other considerations that would further qualify personhood, but for the subject at hand, I will consider only Singer’s distinctions. If being a member of the species Homo sapiens is a necessary condition of being a person, and if to be a person is sufficient for receiving moral rights, then there must be at least one more condition in addition to the first which is necessary for the acquisition of these rights. 

          In order to determine what other condition this might be, we must first apply the afore-mentioned analogous cases of the citizens and the prince to the distinctions drawn between members of the species Homo sapiens and persons. Let us consider first the implications of the potentiality of existence as it relates to subjective potential. The citizens, in this case, are representative of a purely random and spontaneous existence whereby potential beings, through means of election, could at any moment acquire complete moral rights within an instant. This, of course, cannot be true because no fetus has been known to instantaneously transcend potential existence into a fully-developed self-conscious and rational reality. Moreover, this cannot be true because we know, as a matter of fact, that all beings come into existence via a gradual, incremental process of developmental progress.

          Instead, then, we must draw our attention to the other species of potentiality: objective potential.  The prince, in this case, is representative of the species Homo sapiens; the king is representative of persons. So, if by mere birthright the prince is entitled to the acquisition of those rights (authority), then the capacity for those rights is always there by means of privilege alone. In this way, we might say the prince lays claim to, by merit of his bloodline, the latent rights which simply await manifestation on the throne.

        The actualization of this potential can only be effected by two necessary conditions: 1) the prince is not killed; 2) the present king will inevitably experience death. The first condition requires that no external force interferes with the prince’s intrinsic propensity to the rights he is to acquire. This means that the prince will obtain the rights of the throne unless someone or something endeavors to stop him. Yes, the prince must do all those things necessary to maintain his own physical well-being, but provided that by his own actions he secures the continuity of his life, some external force must interfere in order to take this well-being from him. Suppose that even if the prince did not take of himself physically such that he might perish before acquiring the throne, every day that the prince lives brings him closer to the end for which he is biologically predisposed. Assuming that there is no reason to believe the reign of the prince as king will bring about some great moral evil upon the land, we should allow him the inheritance of the rights to which his very bloodline is genetically predisposed. The second condition requires that the role of time in the reign of the king is uninhibited such that the natural effects of change over time will inevitably bring about the end of one reign and the beginning of the next. In this condition, there exist no moral factors which would require us to take into account whether the king’s death will actually take place eventually at some point in time because, unless the king is immortal, he will inevitably experience death. These last two conditions together are sufficient to constitute the second condition necessary for the prince’s inheritance of the crown:  positive change over time.*  For conciseness, I shall refer to this change as progress. As it is concerns the human fetus, this progress must be related to its growth and development.   

          We are now able to consider the dual-nature of potentiality in light of a developing person. Assuming that both biological parents are members of the species Homo sapiens, then their offspring are also biologically members of the same species. According to Singer, to be a person, and, subsequently, to claim moral rights, it is necessary that a being be a member of the species Homo sapiens and possess, at least, the capacities for self-consciousness and rationality. Because no being spontaneously comes into existence, least of all manifesting its fullest capacity as a member of the species to which it belongs, no being could have the capacity for self-consciousness and rationality without first having, as the fetus, the opportunity for uninhibited developmental progress. Hence, to posses the capacity for self-consciousness and rationality, a being must be allowed uninhibited developmental progress. Significantly, uninhibited developmental progress is necessary for the capacity for self-consciousness and rationality. For clarity’s sake, I will refer to this constituent as the “condition of developmental progress”.
 
          To be a person, it is first necessary that a being be a member of the species Homo sapiens and possess the condition for developmental progress. It seems intuitively wrong to justify an action by first removing a condition that would make that action immoral (so as to make it moral), but let us consider a hypothetical situation in which this intentional inhibition might be applied. Suppose, for instance, that a woman is involved in a serious car accident which places her in a state of comatose. This woman remains in this state for a significant period of time and there seems no possibility that she was emerge from her unconscious state. Brain scans indicate that, if she were to awake, she would have no memory of her past; she would start completely “anew” so to speak. Power of attorney has been given to her husband who does not wish to perpetuate his wife’s current state because he has another love interest, but as he is determining to end her life, the brain scans begin to reveal an increased activity of her brain. Her condition begins to steadily improve and recent test results prove that, provided her progress is uninhibited, she will inevitably regain consciousness. The husband knows that if he permits her the necessary condition of progress, she will inevitably regain the rights of her personhood. But, because he places his rights as an existing person over the rights of a ‘potential’ person, and, because he knows that killing her will prevent any opportunity of her acquiring the moral rights associated with the manifestation of this potentiality, he justifies the denial of developmental progress to his wife, thereby killing her.

          Based the above analogy, it would seem that we should not remove the necessary condition of developmental progress from any objective potential person because it requires that we first remove a condition that is essential for the acquisition of its personhood. In this way, we do something immoral in order to justify doing something moral. The wrongness of that reasoning might not always be immediately apparent, but in this context, the justification of an immoral action has significant moral consequences. So, as it relates to both the analogy presented above the case of abortion, to remove the condition of developmental progress is to remove a condition necessary for the being to inherit moral rights. Since, to perform an abortion is to remove the condition of developmental progress, killing a fetus removes the condition of developmental progress. It follows, then, that to kill a fetus is to deny it the moral rights afforded by its membership of the species Homo sapiens and its developmental progress. Therefore, to kill a fetus is immoral.


Section III

          So far, this analysis has treated of the lack of diligence on the part of those who would posit that potentiality can not suffice for the inheritance of moral rights. Some authors, namely Mary Anne Warren, have objected to this refutation by suggesting extreme, hypothetical circumstances that would, presumably, reduce this analysis to absolute meaninglessness. One such objection considers the moral implications of a space explorer captured by aliens whose scientists endeavor to use the cells of his body to spawn a great number of human clones. Warren objects that the explorer would be permitted to escape rather than submit himself to the whims of the alien culture that endeavors to bring into existence a significant number of human clones from the cells of his body. What Warren does not address, however, is the dual-nature of potentiality and its moral significance. As previously demonstrated, the fact of the matter remains that a potential person with no biological expectation of personhood can’t possibly lay claim to any rights that are merited by those who already possess this biological propensity. Furthermore, her analogy overlooks the role that the aliens play in this situation. The potentiality of the human clones’ existence can only be actualized by the application of some external force, the absence of which would yield no reasonable expectation of existence. The aliens would have to perform some preliminary action in order to initiate one of the necessary conditions of personhood: developmental progress. Understanding these distinctions, it would seem impossible to accept Warren’s application of her analogy to the abortion issue.

          Conclusively, in light of the above analysis, personhood, its necessary conditions, and the moral rights afforded to them seem to play a much larger role in the rights of objective potential beings than Singer and Warren would have us believe. Significantly, it seems apparent that we should not justify the killing of a potential person on the grounds that a removal of personhood’s necessary conditions elicits an automatic forfeiture of that potential person’s moral rights, therefore providing us with the peace of mind to kill fetuses as we please.



*Negative change over time would be failure to meet one or both of the conditions necessary for progress.
 

1. Hamlet, Act III, Scene I, Shakespeare

2. Gynaecology for Lawyers, Trevor Dutt, Margaret P. Matthews


(100670467)


Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - Lagrange - 05-15-2010

It's late and I haven't read your essay in detail, but I'll comment on your preliminary considerations.

- The most common objection to my claim is that, given my distinction, there is no difference between the potentiality of a developing fetus and that of a sperm approaching the egg moments before conception. What these people don't know is their objection is perfectly legitimate; I oppose contraception from the natural law for the same reason as I have opposed abortion in this article. Of course, these philosophers would expect me to support contraception from the natural law.

Are you doing that just for the sake of argument? Because the actual reasons why contraception is immoral and why abortion is immoral are distinct. Contraception as such is not murder. Abortion is. It's true that both cases involve the illicit frustration of potentiality, but the potentiality is of two different sorts. . One involves the frustration of an existing life (through killing, thus halting further development). The other (contraception) involves frustrating the means by which a life comes into existence. You explain distinctions between potentiality in your essay, but I'm not sure if it can be applied to this issue here. Do you intend for objective potentiality be an umbrella concept covering both abortion and contraception in the same way? It appears so with your 'prince example'. Because the prince by definition is not actually a king, though he is by right ordered towards this end provided there is no external frustration of the mechanism of succession. So it applies to contraception (with respect to how he is not already an actual king, as sperm and egg separate are not a human being as such), and to abortion in the sense that the infant/embryo does not exhibit characteristics of a human (with respect to rationality) - likewise, the prince cannot perform functions proper to a king. However, the confusion that comes about is this: through the prince example, it seems as though you intend to say that the potentiality before conception (as in, just after the intercourse in which things are clearly moving to their 'goal'), is the same as that after conception. So either, human nature (rational animal) begins before conception; or, it is present neither before nor after, but only when rational activity is exhibited. If the latter is said, then a human being will emerge only at the 'age of reason'. If the former is correct, then every time one has an nocturnal emission, one has spontaneously aborted!

My advice: stress the difference in potentiality involved prior to conception, and after.

Secondly, Singer's rendition of an anti-abortion argument is a straw man. Expose it. No reasonable pro-lifer claims the foetus is a potential human being. Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

That's where singer's metaphysics comes into play and it's f*****. Just see his conclusions he draws. To answer this, basically, I can be of a certain nature without exhibiting traits of that nature. A surgeon is indeed a surgeon even when he is not operating on someone. Likewise, a human being (rational animal) is a human being even when not actively engaging in rational activity. And so, when a  nature comes into being, its substantial form being the principle by which it exists (in our case, the rational soul), so too, things essential to that nature can be predicated of that being (in our case, rationality). And so basically, from conception, the rational soul is informed, and likewise, those things essential to human nature exist in human nature from this point (even though they are latent until the age of reason). From conception, bingo, personhood.

True, modern philosophers don't wona adjust their false metaphysical underpinnings. But it is only through true metaphysical underpinnings that these problems can be addressed. Ultimately. There's only so much that can be done by arguing within a modern philosophical framework.






Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - Vetus Ordo - 05-15-2010

Refreshing read, Lagrange. Thanks for your inputs.


Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - INPEFESS - 05-16-2010

(05-15-2010, 10:01 AM)Lagrange Wrote: It's late and I haven't read your essay in detail, but I'll comment on your preliminary considerations.

- The most common objection to my claim is that, given my distinction, there is no difference between the potentiality of a developing fetus and that of a sperm approaching the egg moments before conception. What these people don't know is their objection is perfectly legitimate; I oppose contraception from the natural law for the same reason as I have opposed abortion in this article. Of course, these philosophers would expect me to support contraception from the natural law.

Are you doing that just for the sake of argument? Because the actual reasons why contraception is immoral and why abortion is immoral are distinct. Contraception as such is not murder. Abortion is. It's true that both cases involve the illicit frustration of potentiality, but the potentiality is of two different sorts. . One involves the frustration of an existing life (through killing, thus halting further development). The other (contraception) involves frustrating the means by which a life comes into existence.

Thank you for your post. You bring up some good points.

A closer examination of this distinction shows that, if potentiality is the morally significant condition, then what's the difference between the potentiality before conception and that after conception? From the perspective of potentiality, there isn't much of a difference between the sperm just before it enters the egg and the sperm after it has combined with the egg. Why is the fusion of them morally significant from the potentiality perspective when both situations - both just before conception and just after - have the same potential? If you leave the sperm to its natural potential, unless frustrated, it will bond with the egg and yield the same potential traits as would be produced just after. They are both natural and both imminent. They will both yield the same results regardless of what stage they are in. If you argue that the actual fusioin is somehow morally significant, then you have to create some argument for the sacredness of the human chromosomes. That is easier said than done. I will address the rest of your post when I have a chance...


Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - Lagrange - 05-16-2010

(05-16-2010, 12:42 AM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-15-2010, 10:01 AM)Lagrange Wrote: It's late and I haven't read your essay in detail, but I'll comment on your preliminary considerations.

- The most common objection to my claim is that, given my distinction, there is no difference between the potentiality of a developing fetus and that of a sperm approaching the egg moments before conception. What these people don't know is their objection is perfectly legitimate; I oppose contraception from the natural law for the same reason as I have opposed abortion in this article. Of course, these philosophers would expect me to support contraception from the natural law.

Are you doing that just for the sake of argument? Because the actual reasons why contraception is immoral and why abortion is immoral are distinct. Contraception as such is not murder. Abortion is. It's true that both cases involve the illicit frustration of potentiality, but the potentiality is of two different sorts. . One involves the frustration of an existing life (through killing, thus halting further development). The other (contraception) involves frustrating the means by which a life comes into existence.

Thank you for your post. You bring up some good points.

A closer examination of this distinction shows that, if potentiality is the morally significant condition, then what's the difference between the potentiality before conception and that after conception? From the perspective of potentiality, there isn't much of a difference between the sperm just before it enters the egg and the sperm after it has combined with the egg. Why is the fusion of them morally significant from the potentiality perspective when both situations - both just before conception and just after - have the same potential? If you leave the sperm to its natural potential, unless frustrated, it will bond with the egg and yield the same potential traits as would be produced just after. They are both natural and both imminent. They will both yield the same results regardless of what stage they are in. If you argue that the actual fusioin is somehow morally significant, then you have to create some argument for the sacredness of the human chromosomes. That is easier said than done. I will address the rest of your post when I have a chance...

A sperm and egg on their own are only potentially a human. When fusion occurs, the egg and sperm are no longer simply egg and sperm, but united become a human organism (or life). If the practical exhibition of rational activity is what you refer to, then yes, 'potentiality' applies equally to both. However, rationality is intrinsic within a human organism (i.e.: from conception) in a way that it is not intrinsic in a sperm and egg considered separately. This is because, from conception, a human life begins. And for matter to be organic, it requires a soul (its substantial form). Now whatever is constitutive of the substantial form (in our case, a rational soul --- rationality) can be predicated of the thing which is animated by the substantial form, i.e.: an embryo is a rational animal by the very fact it is a human life, informed by a rational soul.

It is morally significant because because we are dealing with a human life from conception. A rational animal exists from this point --- not from the point where actual rational activity starts occurring (say around 7 years of age).



Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - INPEFESS - 05-16-2010

(05-16-2010, 03:59 AM)Lagrange Wrote:
(05-16-2010, 12:42 AM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-15-2010, 10:01 AM)Lagrange Wrote: It's late and I haven't read your essay in detail, but I'll comment on your preliminary considerations.

- The most common objection to my claim is that, given my distinction, there is no difference between the potentiality of a developing fetus and that of a sperm approaching the egg moments before conception. What these people don't know is their objection is perfectly legitimate; I oppose contraception from the natural law for the same reason as I have opposed abortion in this article. Of course, these philosophers would expect me to support contraception from the natural law.

Are you doing that just for the sake of argument? Because the actual reasons why contraception is immoral and why abortion is immoral are distinct. Contraception as such is not murder. Abortion is. It's true that both cases involve the illicit frustration of potentiality, but the potentiality is of two different sorts. . One involves the frustration of an existing life (through killing, thus halting further development). The other (contraception) involves frustrating the means by which a life comes into existence.

Thank you for your post. You bring up some good points.

A closer examination of this distinction shows that, if potentiality is the morally significant condition, then what's the difference between the potentiality before conception and that after conception? From the perspective of potentiality, there isn't much of a difference between the sperm just before it enters the egg and the sperm after it has combined with the egg. Why is the fusion of them morally significant from the potentiality perspective when both situations - both just before conception and just after - have the same potential? If you leave the sperm to its natural potential, unless frustrated, it will bond with the egg and yield the same potential traits as would be produced just after. They are both natural and both imminent. They will both yield the same results regardless of what stage they are in. If you argue that the actual fusioin is somehow morally significant, then you have to create some argument for the sacredness of the human chromosomes. That is easier said than done. I will address the rest of your post when I have a chance...

A sperm and egg on their own are only potentially a human. When fusion occurs, the egg and sperm are no longer simply egg and sperm, but united become a human organism (or life). If the practical exhibition of rational activity is what you refer to, then yes, 'potentiality' applies equally to both. However, rationality is intrinsic within a human organism (i.e.: from conception) in a way that it is not intrinsic in a sperm and egg considered separately.

Yes, it is not intrinsic capacity to which we refer; it is, as you said, the exhibition thereof (a manifest capacity). A sleeping person would still have this capacity for he would regain it as soon as he was awakened. If we don't consider this, it becomes very subjective: "the potential for the capacity for self-consciousness and rationality is what is morally significant." It becomes so impossibly distant from any sense of moral significance. What about the capacity for the potential for the capacity for personhood? How far can we take it? At what point is it no longer morally significant?

If the sperm and the egg are left to their own - and Singer hates this word (for its ambiguity) - natural end, they will fuse and a human life will be born. But what is so special about the human chromosomes that grant it ipso facto claim to a higher level of moral - and Singer hates this word, too - rights? We'd have to start arguing that the genetic structure of man is somehow superior. But so what if we do? If we start doing this, then we must start discriminating between different intellectual capacities. For instance, there are some primates with higher intellectual capacities than some humans. Should we therefore grant these primates a higher level of moral rights because of a superior genetic structure? It hardly seems logical that we could do that. Biological differences don't seem to be, of themselves, meritorious of different levels of moral rights. There are other capacities not specifically biological that could do this, but the zygote doesn't have those capacities yet. It has the potential for that capacity, but for something to have a capacity, it must be capable of demonstrating that capacity. A zygote could hardly demonstrate this capacity as a small bundle of cells, but we can expect that it will one day. In this sense, it is not but a potential for a capacity.

Separately, the sperm and egg have the same potential as together because, unless inhibited, they will fuse, but, since in order to prevent personhood from manifesting within the human it would require either the frustration of the fusion between the sperm and egg or the termination of their product - the zygote - it seems hard to say that one is more valuable than the other when the capacity for personhood is not yet there. It will be (probably) if left alone, yes, but not yet.




EDIT: I didn't get a chance to respond to your first post yet, so I hope this helps answer some your objections. For example, you said that the surgeon is still a surgeon even if not presently operating as one. But that is a false distinction because the surgeon has the capacity to act as surgeon at any time (given the circumstances). The zygote can't do that. The zygote can't simply act as a person by mere employment of its will. It doesn't yet have the capacity. The surgeon has the capacity and selectively employs it at will. But this analogy claims that the surgeon would still have the same rights as a surgeon even while going through medical school. He's not there yet and can't simply will himself to act as surgeon before he is capable of doing so.


Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - INPEFESS - 05-16-2010



Quote:  Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

Why is wrong to kill an innocent human being who is in a "PVS" but not an animal with a superior intellectual capacity? What is it about membership of humanity that makes it so morally significant that it can't be killed. Some sort of superior intellectual capacity? What about members who don't have that capacity yet, such as the zygote? What about those in comatose without expectation of future consciousness? Who is the victim? Since the fetus hasn't manifested any capacity, how can it be a victim? Instead, you'd have to take on the Marquis approach and start claiming that denying it a "future-like-ours" makes it - somehow - a victim. There is some potential in some of these arguments, but those are many of the questions posed by Singer, Warren, and Thomson (I think she argues some of these) in response to them.

EDIT


Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - INPEFESS - 05-16-2010

(05-15-2010, 10:01 AM)Lagrange Wrote: Secondly, Singer's rendition of an anti-abortion argument is a straw man. Expose it. No reasonable pro-lifer claims the foetus is a potential human being. Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

The error here, which Singer has already exploited, is that you are assuming "human being" is synonymous with "biological membership of the species Homo sapiens" and "person" at the same time. The argument Singer was addressing was much deeper than a simple application of the word, "human being"; it was to address a generalization and a logic fallacy. The problem is that many pro-lifers (of which I am one) use the word "human being" to denote two different ideas in each premise. The first usage denotes biological membership while the second usage in the second premise - in assigning it moral rights - denotes personhood. Singer distinguishes between them and says that, if we say that the faculties of 'x' and 'y' are what grant a person a higher level of moral rights than animals, then those beings that don't have these faculties can't have the same rights. The pro-lifes start presenting the argument above, but their first premise rests upon biological attributes alone (because the fetus obviously does not possess these faculties yet - the potential, yes), and their second premise rests upon higher capacities not present in the fetus. So the argument of these pro-lifes is not even valid (let alone sound) because they are using the same word to mean two completely different concepts in each premise. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. This is where my distinction of potentiality becomes very important. I hope this makes sense. I am typing very quickly before my laptop battery dies and don't have time to proof-read what I'm writing.




Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - Lagrange - 05-17-2010

Human nature = rational animal
Personhood follows by the mere fact of being a member of the species homo sapiens. Because all homo sapiens have a rational soul, personhood is essential to their nature. And actual personhood does not depend on being able to practically exhibit such characteristics at any given time. You give the sleeping example, but here Singer just attempts to side step the issue - because it is truly absurd to suppose a sleeper is not a person. But Singer's theory can only tackle this objection by an ad hoc 'justification'  (i.e.: he will be a person shortly when he wakes). But this side steps the issue; namely, the sleeper simply is not a person. Some other justification for his rights is brought into it. Or if you do consider the sleeper a person, then obviously, it is not simply the actual capacity in a concrete instant to exhibit rational behavior that is the necessary condition. 

The surgeon example can be looked at this way: it is still correct to call him a surgeon even if in the concrete situation he cannot perform surgery. He would cease to be a surgeon only when his license is revoked or expired (analagous to 'death'). I admit this analogy is not iron clad but it still serves the purpose.

(05-16-2010, 10:20 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
Quote:  Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

Why is wrong to kill an innocent human being who is in a "PVS" but not an animal with a superior intellectual capacity? What is it about membership of humanity that makes it so morally significant that it can't be killed. Some sort of superior intellectual capacity? What about members who don't have that capacity yet, such as the zygote? What about those in comatose without expectation of future consciousness? Who is the victim? Since the fetus hasn't manifested any capacity, how can it be a victim? Instead, you'd have to take on the Marquis approach and start claiming that denying it a "future-like-ours" makes it - somehow - a victim. There is some potential in some of these arguments, but those are many of the questions posed by Singer, Warren, and Thomson (I think she argues some of these) in response to them.

EDIT

These objections are dealt with above; again, comes down to that actual personhood does not depend on actual rational actiibity. And it's true that a chimpanzee may be more 'intelligent' in terms of activity than a human zygote. But the point is that the human from conception is actually a rational entity even if it does not exhibit the traits immediately. And what makes humanity special is that it is different in kind to other animals (by having a rational soul that is immortal etc).

And the foetus is a victim even if it doesn't experience pain in its murder. The very fact than an injustice is comitted against someone itself means that someone is violated. Feeling of pain makes things worse; but it is not the only factor which can make an act immoral.

Marquis' approach need not be taken by carefully distinguishing between actuality of activity, and actuality of nature (i.e.: man = rational animal; therefore, man is a person by being of that nature - he is not potentially a person, but actually, from conception).

(05-16-2010, 10:47 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-15-2010, 10:01 AM)Lagrange Wrote: Secondly, Singer's rendition of an anti-abortion argument is a straw man. Expose it. No reasonable pro-lifer claims the foetus is a potential human being. Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

The error here, which Singer has already exploited, is that you are assuming "human being" is synonymous with "biological membership of the species Homo sapiens" and "person" at the same time. The argument Singer was addressing was much deeper than a simple application of the word, "human being"; it was to address a generalization and a logic fallacy. The problem is that many pro-lifers (of which I am one) use the word "human being" to denote two different ideas in each premise. The first usage denotes biological membership while the second usage in the second premise - in assigning it moral rights - denotes personhood. Singer distinguishes between them and says that, if we say that the faculties of 'x' and 'y' are what grant a person a higher level of moral rights than animals, then those beings that don't have these faculties can't have the same rights. The pro-lifes start presenting the argument above, but their first premise rests upon biological attributes alone (because the fetus obviously does not possess these faculties yet - the potential, yes), and their second premise rests upon higher capacities not present in the fetus. So the argument of these pro-lifes is not even valid (let alone sound) because they are using the same word to mean two completely different concepts in each premise. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. This is where my distinction of potentiality becomes very important. I hope this makes sense. I am typing very quickly before my laptop battery dies and don't have time to proof-read what I'm writing.

Precisely : being a human life is sufficient condition for being a person. Of course, no pro-lifer will take Singer's definition of a person - which requires actual activity or actual capacity in a given situation.

It is true a different aspect of human nature may be focused on in each premise; but these two aspects (membership of the species, and being a person) are two sides to the one coin. Being a human life implies moral right simply because it is a being of a rational nature.








Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - INPEFESS - 05-17-2010

(05-17-2010, 01:38 AM)Lagrange Wrote: Human nature = rational animal
Personhood follows by the mere fact of being a member of the species homo sapiens. Because all homo sapiens have a rational soul, personhood is essential to their nature. And actual personhood does not depend on being able to practically exhibit such characteristics at any given time. You give the sleeping example, but here Singer just attempts to side step the issue - because it is truly absurd to suppose a sleeper is not a person. But Singer's theory can only tackle this objection by an ad hoc 'justification'  (i.e.: he will be a person shortly when he wakes). But this side steps the issue; namely, the sleeper simply is not a person. Some other justification for his rights is brought into it. Or if you do consider the sleeper a person, then obviously, it is not simply the actual capacity in a concrete instant to exhibit rational behavior that is the necessary condition. 

The surgeon example can be looked at this way: it is still correct to call him a surgeon even if in the concrete situation he cannot perform surgery. He would cease to be a surgeon only when his license is revoked or expired (analagous to 'death'). I admit this analogy is not iron clad but it still serves the purpose.

(05-16-2010, 10:20 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
Quote:  Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

Why is wrong to kill an innocent human being who is in a "PVS" but not an animal with a superior intellectual capacity? What is it about membership of humanity that makes it so morally significant that it can't be killed. Some sort of superior intellectual capacity? What about members who don't have that capacity yet, such as the zygote? What about those in comatose without expectation of future consciousness? Who is the victim? Since the fetus hasn't manifested any capacity, how can it be a victim? Instead, you'd have to take on the Marquis approach and start claiming that denying it a "future-like-ours" makes it - somehow - a victim. There is some potential in some of these arguments, but those are many of the questions posed by Singer, Warren, and Thomson (I think she argues some of these) in response to them.

EDIT

These objections are dealt with above; again, comes down to that actual personhood does not depend on actual rational actiibity. And it's true that a chimpanzee may be more 'intelligent' in terms of activity than a human zygote. But the point is that the human from conception is actually a rational entity even if it does not exhibit the traits immediately. And what makes humanity special is that it is different in kind to other animals (by having a rational soul that is immortal etc).

And the foetus is a victim even if it doesn't experience pain in its murder. The very fact than an injustice is comitted against someone itself means that someone is violated. Feeling of pain makes things worse; but it is not the only factor which can make an act immoral.

Marquis' approach need not be taken by carefully distinguishing between actuality of activity, and actuality of nature (i.e.: man = rational animal; therefore, man is a person by being of that nature - he is not potentially a person, but actually, from conception).

(05-16-2010, 10:47 PM)INPEFESS Wrote:
(05-15-2010, 10:01 AM)Lagrange Wrote: Secondly, Singer's rendition of an anti-abortion argument is a straw man. Expose it. No reasonable pro-lifer claims the foetus is a potential human being. Rather, it is an actual human being. And just as it is wrong to murder an innocent human being, so it is wrong to murder a foetus.

The error here, which Singer has already exploited, is that you are assuming "human being" is synonymous with "biological membership of the species Homo sapiens" and "person" at the same time. The argument Singer was addressing was much deeper than a simple application of the word, "human being"; it was to address a generalization and a logic fallacy. The problem is that many pro-lifers (of which I am one) use the word "human being" to denote two different ideas in each premise. The first usage denotes biological membership while the second usage in the second premise - in assigning it moral rights - denotes personhood. Singer distinguishes between them and says that, if we say that the faculties of 'x' and 'y' are what grant a person a higher level of moral rights than animals, then those beings that don't have these faculties can't have the same rights. The pro-lifes start presenting the argument above, but their first premise rests upon biological attributes alone (because the fetus obviously does not possess these faculties yet - the potential, yes), and their second premise rests upon higher capacities not present in the fetus. So the argument of these pro-lifes is not even valid (let alone sound) because they are using the same word to mean two completely different concepts in each premise. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. This is where my distinction of potentiality becomes very important. I hope this makes sense. I am typing very quickly before my laptop battery dies and don't have time to proof-read what I'm writing.

Precisely : being a human life is sufficient condition for being a person. Of course, no pro-lifer will take Singer's definition of a person - which requires actual activity or actual capacity in a given situation.

It is true a different aspect of human nature may be focused on in each premise; but these two aspects (membership of the species, and being a person) are two sides to the one coin. Being a human life implies moral right simply because it is a being of a rational nature.

Thank you, Lagrange, for a rational discussion devoid of emotionality. I will respond as soon as I am able.