"To Be or Not To Be"
(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.

Okay, but if that is true, then what is the difference between "member of the species Homo sapiens" and "person"?

Do you acknowledge that both words denote different ideas? The first would refer to human genome alone because one is still classified as a member of the species as soon as the the sperm fuses with the egg. Those things which make it distinct from all other "species" do not exist at this time. What we acknowledge is that they will be present in the future (presumably), but what capacity does the zygote then possess that would grant it a higher level of moral significance ath that time? From a religious perspective, the answer is simple. But from the humanist perspective the answer is more complicated. When debating using only the natural law, we can't present the Catholic Church's teachings because the natural law is supposed to be discernable by nature alone.

If we do not differentiate between the biological attributes of "species" and the capacities of self-consciousness and rationality, then why shouldn't animals receive the same moral rights as "Homo sapiens"? Why is the genetic code of one species deserving of more moral significance than any other? Something has to exist within the species HS in order for it to be deserving of a higher level of rights (again, from the natural law). You might argue that the difference is that member of the species HS have the capacities of self-consciousness and rationality, but again, not all humans have these. We could then only assign these moral rights to those who possessed these capacities. If we don't want to to this, then we have to say that mere biological membership of the species HS is somehow superior to other species and therefore deserving of a higher level of moral rights. If you've read Singer, you would probably see why he rejects this idea. Singer's entire book is based upon, what he sees as, the condition for the acquisition of moral rights: the principle of equal consideration of interests. Interests, he posits, is the sole condition which we use to determine whether something has moral rights or not. He then qualifies interests by saying that a necessary condition of interests is the capacity for sentience. Therefore, plants don't have interests, and, moreover, don't have moral rights. Animals, however, do. And so do people. Interests, he argues, is what we is necessary for moral rights. (That was a very bad representation of his primary premise; read the first two chapters of the book to see how he argues for it [FYI: He is a preference utilitarian if that gives you a better idea of his approach].) Obviously, from this perspective, since the zygote does not have interests (it only has future interests), it doesn't have moral rights...yet. (I have exploited the area between the "rights" and "yet".) If you accept this premise, then the distinction between "member of the species" and "person" is necessary. If sentience is necessary for interests, and interests are necessary for moral rights,  then how can a fetus have moral rights considering it does not have sentience? Again, we can expect that it will eventually, but if you accept Singer's premise, it follows that it cannot claim moral rights.

For the sake of my argument, I have accepted Singer's argument only insomuch as to expose, what I believe to be, an error. This involves the consideration of potentiality.

Quote: Because all homo sapiens have a rational soul, personhood is essential to their nature.

I really like your latter statement, but I Singer would not accept the former. What is the definition of "rational soul" outside of the religious sphere? How do we know that animals don't have them? How do we know anyone has one of them? What is so significant about a rational soul that automatically enobles it with moral rights? How do we know all members of the species have such a generalized trait even when the distinctions between HS and other species often require unfalsifiable claims?

Quote: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. 

I realize that this would be troublesome for him, but that's why the definition of "capacity" is so important. A sleeping person maintains the capacities of self-consciousness and rationality; he is simply not exhibiting them at the time. The human zygote does not possess these capacities. The developing human being will not possess both of these capacities until around age 2 (self-consciousness). The point is that these capacities don't exist. It is impossible for the fetus to exhibit them. It not impossible, however, for the sleeping person to do so. It has, presumably, already exhibited these capacities and will again. It has the ability to exhibit these capacities; it simply chooses not to at the time that it is asleep. The zygote has never demonstrated these capacities and it is impossible for it to do so. It must undergo a multitude of biological changes before it can do so. Assuming the person properly develops, these biological changes are sufficient for its sentience, interests, and claim to moral rights.

Quote: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.

I don't think this example quite fits anyway because, if surgery is something that can only be practiced under certain strict conditions distinct from the ordinary human condition, then we must be able to say that personhood can only be maintained under similar strict circumstances - that could want to have our personhood but would be unable to maintain personhood unless the conditions were just right. I think we would need a different analogy.

Quote:These objections are dealt with above; again, comes down to that actual personhood does not depend on actual rational actiibity.

Activity: no; capacity: yes. A zygote lacks the capacity. It is simply impossible for it to demonstrate these characteristics. If it impossible to demonstrate these characteristics, then it is unable to do so. If it is unable to do so, then it doesn't have the capacity to do so. A female fetus may have the capacity to bear a child one day, but it certainly does not have this capacity as a fetus.

(Note: I absolutely abhor the word "fetus" from a religious perspective. I only employ it for the sake of these discussions.)

Quote: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.

It is not that it doesn't do so immediately; it is that the zygote cannot unless it undergoes dramatic and lengthy biological modification that could take years to complete. By the time it is finished, the genome of the zygote is very much different from its phenome. The chromosomes themselves exist, but the capacities do not. So if there is no capacity for those morally significant distinctive traits, how does it have the moral rights sufficient for those capacities?

Quote:And what makes humanity special is that it is different in kind to other animals (by having a rational soul that is immortal etc).

Can you provide evidence of this from the natural law? Singer does not believe in such things, and I am debating with Singer, so I cannot base my arguments upon unfalsifiable claims. I have to use what is tangible from the natural law only. This is why I haven't resorted to defining "rational soul".

Quote: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.

Again, that statement itself rests upon the existence of a "someone". What is a someone? Who is that someone? Is a cluster of cells sufficient for the existence of a "someone"? If so, what about this cluster of cells is sufficient for this "someone"?

Quote:Feeling of pain makes things worse; but it is not the only factor which can make an act immoral.

That statement alone is probably the reason we are still having this discussion. Classical utilitarians argue that the capacities for pleasure and pain are necessary for moral rights. Singer is a preference utilitarian and so he factors in preferences of individual persons. But a fetus can't maintain goals, preferences, or desires, so, to the utilitarian, it doesn't have moral rights. As I have mentioned. Accepting the principle of equal consideration of interests, what else would make an action moral or immoral? Would this other consideration extend moral rights to plants? (It must be demonstrable, falsifiable, and rational for it to be considered sound by Singer - who is, after all, the philospher to whom we have taken the fight.)

Quote: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).

If you read Singer, you will find that he presents a considerable amount of evidence that would suppose some primates (chimpanzees) maintain the capacity of rationality. Why don't these chimps have the same moral rights as humans?

(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.

Not if "person" is qualified by specific capacities not demonstrable by the fetus.

Quote: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 requires capability. A sleeping person is still capable of this activity; he simply chooses not to exhibit it at the time of his sleep; he is nevertheless biologically capable of this activity. A fetus is not capable of these capacities in its present biological state. It must undergo massive changes in order to acquire this capability that the sleeper possesses even while asleep.

Messages In This Thread
"To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-13-2010, 09:10 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Lagrange - 05-15-2010, 10:01 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Vetus Ordo - 05-15-2010, 01:11 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-16-2010, 12:42 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Lagrange - 05-16-2010, 03:59 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-16-2010, 10:06 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-16-2010, 10:20 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-16-2010, 10:47 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Lagrange - 05-17-2010, 01:38 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-17-2010, 09:01 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-17-2010, 05:09 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Lagrange - 05-18-2010, 08:34 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-20-2010, 10:46 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Lagrange - 05-23-2010, 03:45 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-23-2010, 01:36 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-23-2010, 01:37 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Lagrange - 05-23-2010, 10:19 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-24-2010, 08:31 AM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-24-2010, 08:03 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-27-2010, 04:08 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by Historian - 05-27-2010, 05:21 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-27-2010, 05:41 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-27-2010, 05:46 PM
Re: "To Be or Not To Be" - by INPEFESS - 05-27-2010, 05:51 PM

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