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Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

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Debate: Elective abortion is immoral
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Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

This thread is for the debate 'Elective abortion is prima facie the most immoral of all available choices'. Philosopher will be affirming and ImprobableJoe will be negating.

The rules are these:
1) Cite sources for claims
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3) Respond to all arguments/claims
4) 8,000 characters [citations and quoted material do not count toward limit. While citations are permitted, footnotes are not]
5) There must be civility (No insults or profanity)

The debate will proceed a post at a time until one side concedes or stops posting for a period of 24hrs. The thread will be locked at this time.

Debate analysis thread to be found here.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:22 am
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PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is prima facie immoral

Thanks to ImprobableJoe for accepting this debate offer. May the best man win.

Character count: 7244 (Excluding citations)

~

I will be arguing for the position that elective abortion is prima facie immoral -- in fact, the most immoral out of all possible alternatives, for it involves the murder of an innocent human being. For the purposes of this debate, elective abortion is defined as the voluntary termination of a pregnancy by killing the unborn fetus/embryo. I use the term prima facie because I do grant that there are situations (Although rare) in which abortion is morally permissible, such as cases in which the life of the mother is directly threatened. My argument is as follows:

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of concept, is a full-fledged member of the human community
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fleded member of the human community
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong [1]

Before we get into issues of choice, we must first answer the more fundamental question: What is the unborn? For if the unborn is a human person with intrinsic value, then it is immoral to kill him. There are only four major distinctions which separate an unborn entity from a fully grown member of the human community. These are: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. As I will demonstrate, these are degreed properties that are not morally relevant toward the moral status of the unborn.

Size

The unborn is of course smaller than a fully grown human being, just as I am shorter than Yao Ming. But, to base moral personhood on size is absurd, for it would imply that some people have more moral value than others simply on the basis of being larger. So size cannot be a valid criteria.

Level of Development

Compared to a grown human individual such as you or I, the unborn is quite underdeveloped. But, so is a child or teenager compared to an adult. Does it follow therefore that the children or teenagers have less moral value or are more human than adults? Obviously not. Simply being more developed has no moral bearing whatsoever. Criteria such as mental function are degreed properties. If significant mental functioning is what makes the unborn valuable, then it follows that some people are more valuable than others because they have a higher capacity for cognition. But this is rightly absurd.

Environment

"Where one is is irrelevant to who one is.... The fact that a child may be in her mother's womb is a geographical fact not a moral judgement." [2] How does it follow that simply because the unborn is located within the womb of the mother that it is not a moral subject? Moreover, how does a journey of a few inches turn a non-valuable tissue blob into an intrinsically valuable human being?

Degree of Dependency

Simply because the unborn are dependent on their mothers' care does not make them any less valuable than others. Infants and toddlers, for example, are dependent upon their parents in order to survive, but simply because they're more dependent does not make them any less valuable than a teenager who is able to care for himself. "I am not less me because my body may be in a state of greater dependency than at another time." [3]

Since none of these criteria are morally relevant in determining the personhood of the unborn and because there is no real distinction apart from the aforementioned between the unborn and a fully grown human being, it makes sense to say that the unborn are full-fledged members of the human community, and that their elective termination is immoral.


The Unborn Are Human Offspring With a Human Nature

Biologically and philosophically speaking, this is undeniable. It's quite clear that the unborn are human, since they have human parents and have human DNA. This is an established medical fact. [4] If it isn't human, then what is it? Moreover, unlike any other somatic cell, the embryo is distinct from the parent and will, given time, develop into a mature human. In contrast to kidney, heart, and skin cells, the embryo is a self-contained entity.

Personhood is an essential property of the unborn child. Simply because it has many unactualized potentials does not mean that it is not a human. The very fact that it has these potentials in the first place stems from the fact that is has a human nature. The fetus's never actualizing its potential to think does not disqualify it as a human any more than a bird's inability to actualize its potential to fly disqualifies it as being a bird. There is therefore no good reason to think that personhood is something that is gained through the actualization of a potential.

Now, let me address some arguments for the pro-choice position.

Arguments for the Pro-Choice Position

OBJECTION: The unborn child is merely a clump of cells that are no different from a skin cell or blood cell.

The crucial distinction between parts and wholes are ignored by this argument. If isolated by themselves, a somatic cell will never develop into a fully fleged human being. A cell is a part which works in conjunction with other parts for the continued survival of a whole. By contrast, the embryo is a whole self-contained human being, it is not merely a cluster of cells. It is a distinct being which undergoes development.

OBJECTION: Women have a right to choose what is done with their body

Choose what? The right to choose is not absolute. One does not, for example, have a right to murder an intrinsically valuable human being. But, if the unborn are valuable human persons, then the choice to terminate their life would be murder. Hence, to justify abortion solely on the basis of the right to choose begs the question by presupposing that the unborn are not moral subjects.


OBJECTION: Abortion prevents future child abuse.

This begs the question by presupposing the nonhuman status of the unborn. If the unborn are indeed valuable human persons, then abortion itself would constitute child abuse!

Summary

Issues of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are irrelevant to the human status of a fetus. Size does not confer human status on a person, otherwise basketball players would be more human than midgets , an absurd proposition. A five year old is less developed than a twenty-five year old, but it is absurd to say that one is less human than the other simply by virtue of their level of development. Human nature is intrinsic, it is not developed. Moreover, it is hard to see how one's location is relevant to their status as a human person. How does a journey of few inches through the birth canal transform a nonhuman entity into a human being? The distinction seems to be purely ad hoc and arbitrary. Finally, dependency does not make or break one's status as a human. Are athletes more human than the elderly and infirm by virtue of being more independent? Do individuals who are paralized or are stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (A disease which degenerates neuromuscular function) lose their status as a human because they no longer have the ability to fend for themselves?

____________

[1] - Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press: 2007) xii
[2] - Ibid, 160
[3] - Stephen Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Loyola University Press: 1990) 17
[4] - T. W. Sadler, Langman's Embryology, 5th ed. (W. B. Saunders: 1993); Keith Moore and T. V. N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (Saunders/Elsevier: 2008) 15

* Portions of my opening argument have been taken from previous debates/writings of mine. If proof of ownership is required, I can submit it.
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:48 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

I'd like to apologize in advance if I'm not quite able to initially carry my end of the debate to the level that Philosopher has set thus far; I agreed to this debate as a last-minute replacement for )O( Hytegia )O( some time pretty very late last night. I'll do the best I can, and hopefully before long I'll be up to speed.

I will be arguing against the position that elective abortion is the most immoral of all possible choices. My argument will rest on the following ideas:
  • There is a sliding scale of morally correct behavior with regards to taking a life, human or otherwise.
  • The existence of that sliding scale shows that different deaths carry different moral weight.
  • One large part of that weighting system rests on various aspects of the concept of personhood.
  • While an embryo is technically alive, and technically human, it is not a person.
  • Because an embryo is not a person, the needs of actual persons must take priority.
  • Therefore, in cases where harm to a person can be prevented by the termination of an entity that is only potentially a person, it is less immoral to terminate the pregnancy than to allow it to continue.

Philosopher has already conceded the point that there is at least one condition in which abortion is not only not the most immoral of all possible choices, but is also in his words "morally permissible." In the case of imminent risk to the life of the mother, Philosopher and I both agree that the termination of a pregnancy is at least morally neutral if not a positive moral action. To make my case, I intend to show that there are other cases where the termination of a pregnancy is a morally superior choice when compared to the alternative.

Much of my position depends on the definition of personhood, and the difference between being biologically human and being a human person. While Philosopher defines the differences between a person and a fetus in terms of "difference of degree"(size, dependency, etc.), I define the differences to be "differences of kind." That is to say, an embryo is a fundamentally different kind of thing than a fetus, and a fetus is fundamentally different from a child, although the distinction becomes less pronounced as the fetus develops towards being viable outside of the womb.

Those differences are best laid out be philosopher Mary Anne Warren's definition of personhood, which involves five traits:

  • 1. Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;
  • 2. Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
  • 3. Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control);
  • 4. The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many possible topics;
  • 5. The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both.

That is not to say that all five traits must be present to allow someone to be called a person. The example of "locked-in syndrome" where a person is completely unable to move yet conscious shows that #4 is not required to confer personhood. However, the lack of most or all of those traits means that the entity in question is not a person in a moral sense. This is where the "difference of degree" argument falls down. An embryo doesn't just have a lesser level of consciousness, reasoning, physical autonomy, communication skills, and self-awareness. It doesn't possess those facilities at all. A fetus just a few weeks before birth generally does contain some level of these things, which is why late-term abortions are rare and heavily restricted. However, as we've seen earlier, the abortion exception to protect the life of the mother shows that even at this advanced level of development, the full moral rights associated with personhood are not extended to the fetus at the expense of the mother, whose personhood goes unquestioned.

Beyond these points about personhood, the acceptance of an exception to the moral argument against abortion reveals the fact that all lives are not equal. The life of a fetus is simply not as valuable as the life of the mother. I don't think it is a stretch to say that this means that, rhetoric and idealism aside, Philosopher does not really consider a fetus to be a full-fledged member of the human community, with all of the moral rights that come with it. This makes perfect sense, of course, because all lives are not equal and more weight should always be given to those lives which carry the most value.

This can be seen in our interactions with other living beings, not just humans. We have no emotional qualms about killing plants or bacteria. We generally have little concern for the moral rights of insects, mollusks, or other invertebrates. As we get closer to our own species, we begin to become concerned with the moral rights of beings, not coincidentally based generally on how closely they conform to the definitional traits of personhood. We don't care much about fish, we have a little more care for birds, and mammals get the best treatment from us. Even the animals that we breed to eat are seen to possess at least limited moral rights like protection from unnecessarily cruel treatment. Those animals we keep as pets are closest to us when it comes to those rights, in large part because we see them as having personalities that we bond with. Personality, and limited personhood, in ways that an embryo or fetus simply does not in any sense possess.

I'll end this section of the debate with an observation: there are over 600 pet cemeteries in the United States alone. I have never heard of a funeral service being held for a miscarried embryo.

Sources:
On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion by Mary Anne Warren, from Biomedical Ethics. 4th ed. T.A. Mappes and D. DeGrazia, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1996, pp. 434-440.

International Association Of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories website



******

One comment about the previous post, and the debate going forward: I will not be addressing the so-called "Arguments for the Pro-Choice Position," because those are not arguments that I am making in this debate. I cannot both make my case AND make the case for any and every possible pro-choice argument that can be brought up.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Mon Jun 21, 2010 1:23 am
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Character count: 6,347

ImprobableJoe's central argument is that the unborn are not persons. His definition of personhood is defined in the criteria set forth by philosopher Mary Ann Warren, which is as follows.

1. Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;
2. Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
3. Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control);
4. The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many possible topics;
5. The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both.


First, ImprobableJoe has failed to tell us why these are criteria are necessary for personhood. He simply asserts them without any justification.

Second, ImprobableJoe confuses functioning as a person with being a person [1] One can fail to function as a person and still be a person. Suppose I take a nap. During the time in which I'm asleep, I possess none of the five characteristics that Warren has put forth. Does it follow that therefore I am not a person? Absolutely not. I remain a person even though I do not function like a person. This is because personhood is not based on how one functions, but on one's inherent nature.

Now, suppose that the pro-choicer responds by saying that while I was sleeping, I possessed the potentials do to the above and that therefore I am a person. But this objection makes the problem worse, for what determines personhood is no longer one's current functioning, but the potential to function a certain way. According to Francis Beckwith:

"To claim that a person can be sentient, become nonsentient, and then return to sentience is to assume there is some underlying personal unity to this individual that enables us to say that the person who has returned to sentience is the same person who was sentient prior to becoming nonsentient. But this would mean that sentience is not a necessary condition for personhood... Consequently, it does not make sense to say that a person comes into existence when sentience arises, but it does make sense to say that a fully human entity is a person who has the natural inherent capacity to give rise to sentience." [2]

Third, this is still a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. Human embryos by their very nature possess the capacity for sentience. We thus have to distinguish between two types of capacities: immediate and natural. Whether one has the first type of capacity is purely accidental, whereas the second is "grounded in the kind of thing one already is... The immediate capacity for mental functions is only the development of an underlying capacity that was there all along in virtue of the kind of entity the unborn already is." [3] In order to have the immediate capacity for sentience, the unborn must first have the natural capacity for sentience. Thus, it is the natural capacity to function, and not the immediate capacity to function, which should constitute personhood. To predicate personhood on immediate function instead of the natural capability to function is like classifying something as a car on the basis of its immediate function, rather than an inherent capability. Writes Klusendorf, "[O]ne must be a person in order to function as one." [4]


Beyond these points about personhood, the acceptance of an exception to the moral argument against abortion reveals the fact that all lives are not equal. The life of a fetus is simply not as valuable as the life of the mother. I don't think it is a stretch to say that this means that, rhetoric and idealism aside, Philosopher does not really consider a fetus to be a full-fledged member of the human community, with all of the moral rights that come with it. This makes perfect sense, of course, because all lives are not equal and more weight should always be given to those lives which carry the most value.

This can be seen in our interactions with other living beings, not just humans. We have no emotional qualms about killing plants or bacteria. We generally have little concern for the moral rights of insects, mollusks, or other invertebrates. As we get closer to our own species, we begin to become concerned with the moral rights of beings, not coincidentally based generally on how closely they conform to the definitional traits of personhood. We don't care much about fish, we have a little more care for birds, and mammals get the best treatment from us. Even the animals that we breed to eat are seen to possess at least limited moral rights like protection from unnecessarily cruel treatment. Those animals we keep as pets are closest to us when it comes to those rights, in large part because we see them as having personalities that we bond with. Personality, and limited personhood, in ways that an embryo or fetus simply does not in any sense possess.


No. The reason why I say that abortion is permissible only in cases where the life of the mother is in danger is because in such instances, both entities in question are in danger. Consider an ectopic pregnancy, in which the unborn implants itself outside the uterine cavity. In an ectopic pregnancy, both the mother and child will die. Thus, all things being equal, it is better to let one die instead of letting both die. Both the lives of the mother and unborn child are still of equal worth. "[A]ll things being equal, better that one should live rather than two die... [an] abortion, to save the mother's life, in this case, is justified." [5]

To conclude, ImprobableJoe's argument's against the personhood of the unborn have been found lacking. My case still stands.

____________

[1] -- Scott Klusendorf, "Five Bad Ways to Argue About Abortion" http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar35.htm
[2] -- Francis J. Beckwith, "Attainment of Sentience: Is Sentience a Dividing Line for Life?" (Christian Research Journal) http://www.equip.org/PDF/DA020-4.pdf
[3] -- Scott Klusendorf, "The Case for Life" (Crossway: 2009) 54
[4] -- Klusendorf, "Five Bad Ways To Argue About Abortion"
[5] -- Francis J. Beckwith, "Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice" (Cambridge University Press: 2007) 165
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:28 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Let's start back-to-front, shall we?
To conclude, ImprobableJoe's argument's against the personhood of the unborn have been found lacking. My case still stands.


It seems to me to be just a tiny bit early for you to be declaring victory. Further, it is not for either of us to judge our success; of course you find your own arguments more compelling, and mine less so. Otherwise, you'd have taken my side of the debate from the start.

Plus, I'm nowhere near finished presenting my case. You should wait for the whole thing. 8-)

Now, to address your rebuttal:

First, ImprobableJoe has failed to tell us why these are criteria are necessary for personhood. He simply asserts them without any justification.
Well, actually I began to do so, and will continue to do so in this post as I address your second point.
Second, ImprobableJoe confuses functioning as a person with being a person [1] One can fail to function as a person and still be a person. Suppose I take a nap. During the time in which I'm asleep, I possess none of the five characteristics that Warren has put forth. Does it follow that therefore I am not a person? Absolutely not. I remain a person even though I do not function like a person. This is because personhood is not based on how one functions, but on one's inherent nature.

Now, suppose that the pro-choicer responds by saying that while I was sleeping, I possessed the potentials do to the above and that therefore I am a person. But this objection makes the problem worse, for what determines personhood is no longer one's current functioning, but the potential to function a certain way. According to Francis Beckwith:

"To claim that a person can be sentient, become nonsentient, and then return to sentience is to assume there is some underlying personal unity to this individual that enables us to say that the person who has returned to sentience is the same person who was sentient prior to becoming nonsentient. But this would mean that sentience is not a necessary condition for personhood... Consequently, it does not make sense to say that a person comes into existence when sentience arises, but it does make sense to say that a fully human entity is a person who has the natural inherent capacity to give rise to sentience." [2]
This shows that you do not understand the fundamental difference between being genetically human, and being a human person. You are also making a fallacious argument by analogy, in large part because you use the words "potential" and "capacity" interchangeably, but also because your description of a sleeping person is just false. The second point is easier to make, and seems so obvious a mistake that I'm surprised you made it.

A sleeping person possesses all of the traits of personhood whether they are using them at the moment or not. I am capable of walking whether or not I am walking at any given moment. A person who is paralyzed from the neck down is not capable of walking at any time. Neither is an embryo. In the same way, a sleeping person is simply not exercising certain traits while they are sleeping. An embryo does not have those traits AT ALL. Your quote of Beckwith simply has no bearing on reality. You do not lose sentience when you sleep, and regain it when you are awake, any more than you lose the use of your legs when you stop walking and sit down. I also wonder if you consider a corpse to be a person in a moral sense?

That gets us back to your first error, and it is the one that your whole argument seems to rest on: that the potential for development of a trait is the same as the possession of that trait. That is where your third point fails as well:

Third, this is still a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. Human embryos by their very nature possess the capacity for sentience. We thus have to distinguish between two types of capacities: immediate and natural. Whether one has the first type of capacity is purely accidental, whereas the second is "grounded in the kind of thing one already is... The immediate capacity for mental functions is only the development of an underlying capacity that was there all along in virtue of the kind of entity the unborn already is." [3] In order to have the immediate capacity for sentience, the unborn must first have the natural capacity for sentience. Thus, it is the natural capacity to function, and not the immediate capacity to function, which should constitute personhood. To predicate personhood on immediate function instead of the natural capability to function is like classifying something as a car on the basis of its immediate function, rather than an inherent capability. Writes Klusendorf, "[O]ne must be a person in order to function as one." [4]


When you say that "to predicate personhood on immediate function instead of the natural capability to function is like classifying something as a car on the basis of its immediate function, rather than an inherent capability" you mistake the potential to have a trait with the having itself. To build on your analogy here, a person is like a car, and a sleeping person is like a parked car. All well and good, except that you then turn around and try to assert that an embryo is a person because it has the potential to gain the traits of personhood, which would mean that a stack of raw steel, cowhide, rubber, and miscellaneous electrical components is in fact a car, because it has the potential of being turned into a car.

I'm going to run with this one, since it seems to highlight the fundamental flaw in your argument. When a car is being built, it starts with the collecting of raw materials that bear no resemblance to the final product. As the production process continues the basic shape is formed, and the components are built in separate pieces. At every step of the line, the sum of all of the parts continue to have the potential to become a car, but are not yet a car. At some point in the process, when enough of the traits that define a car have been combined together, the assortment of parts finally becomes a car for the first time. Even if for some reason one or more parts are left out for some reason, there is a tipping point where the accumulation of parts match the definition of a car.

By the same token, an embryo is a collection of cells with the potential to become a person, but is not yet a person. As it grows from embryo to fetus, it begins to gain the traits of personhood that previously were only possibilities. At some point much later than conception, the fetus takes on personhood traits to a limited degree. At some point late in the pregnancy, the fetus contains enough of the traits of personhood to begin to have moral rights. Even if for some reason the fetus has some birth defect that limits the development of all of the requisite traits of personhood, the possession of most of them allows the fetus to cross the tipping point and become a person.

This fundamental flaw in your argument can also be shown by discussing other things that have potential to become something in the future but are not therefore that thing in the past or present. An acorn can grow into a tree; an acorn is not a tree. A caterpillar can become a butterfly; a caterpillar is not a butterfly. A lump of clay is not a sculpture until it is actually made into something. Cake mix and eggs can become a cake; they can also become muffins or pancakes, so does that mean that cake mix and eggs are cake, muffins, AND pancakes? What a thing can potentially become later is not how we define what a thing is right now.

You mention sentience and the potential for it as being the same as the capacity for it. Let's look at an example of how potential is not the same as possession of the trait. I was born with the potential to learn how to speak any language. I only speak English and a smattering of Spanish. By your argument, I actually speak every language, if potential capacity and actual capacity are the same. The problem for your argument is that they are NOT the same.

A quick look at your description of the differences between a embryo and a human being illustrates my point as well. You wrote:

Size

The unborn is of course smaller than a fully grown human being, just as I am shorter than Yao Ming. But, to base moral personhood on size is absurd, for it would imply that some people have more moral value than others simply on the basis of being larger. So size cannot be a valid criteria.

Level of Development

Compared to a grown human individual such as you or I, the unborn is quite underdeveloped. But, so is a child or teenager compared to an adult. Does it follow therefore that the children or teenagers have less moral value or are more human than adults? Obviously not. Simply being more developed has no moral bearing whatsoever. Criteria such as mental function are degreed properties. If significant mental functioning is what makes the unborn valuable, then it follows that some people are more valuable than others because they have a higher capacity for cognition. But this is rightly absurd.


It seems that, intentionally or not, you have latched onto the concept of "embryo as homunculus", that an embryo is basically a miniature human person, possessing the traits of a person but smaller. A short person is smaller than a tall one, and they are both people. A child is smaller than a small adult, but they are both people. An infant is smaller than a child, yet they are both people. A fetus in the ninth month is smaller than an infant, but it is still a person? And an embryo is smaller than a fetus, but it is still a person? Or, in symbolic terms:
A=B
B=C
C=D
D=E
E=F
Therefore, A=F. Yao Ming and an embryo are the same, and the differences are a matter of size and relative development. Really?
Image

Image

I swear, you slap a warm-up suit on the embryo and I would hardly be able to tell the difference!
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:14 am
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

(Just a quick note: my points are all interconnected -- don't respond to them isolation, otherwise you miss the big picture)

Character count: 7995 (Not counting this)

~

It seems to me to be just a tiny bit early for you to be declaring victory. Further, it is not for either of us to judge our success; of course you find your own arguments more compelling, and mine less so. Otherwise, you'd have taken my side of the debate from the start.


Sorry, I was not trying to give that impression. It's how I usually conclude my posts.

This shows that you do not understand the fundamental difference between being genetically human, and being a human person. You are also making a fallacious argument by analogy, in large part because you use the words "potential" and "capacity" interchangeably, but also because your description of a sleeping person is just false. The second point is easier to make, and seems so obvious a mistake that I'm surprised you made it.

A sleeping person possesses all of the traits of personhood whether they are using them at the moment or not. I am capable of walking whether or not I am walking at any given moment. A person who is paralyzed from the neck down is not capable of walking at any time. Neither is an embryo. In the same way, a sleeping person is simply not exercising certain traits while they are sleeping. An embryo does not have those traits AT ALL. Your quote of Beckwith simply has no bearing on reality. You do not lose sentience when you sleep, and regain it when you are awake, any more than you lose the use of your legs when you stop walking and sit down. I also wonder if you consider a corpse to be a person in a moral sense?


Let me call attention to something you said, which was "A sleeping person possesses all of the traits of personhood whether they are using them at the moment or not." By saying this, you admit that personhood is not contingent on immediate capacities, but on natural capacities. I am still a person even when I'm asleep or reversibly comatose because I possess the natural capacity to reason, even if that capacity is not fully realized at the moment (immediate capacity). The unborn also have the natural capacity to reason, they only lack the immediate capacity to exercise it. [1] It seems therefore that the only significant difference between the unborn and a sleeping individual is time it takes for them to exercise a natural capacity. Because time does not seem to make a difference between whether or not one is a person, it is reasonable to say that the unborn are human persons.

Consider a cat. Because of the very nature of a cat, it has the capacity to develop the ability to purr. Of course, the cat may die in infancy and never realize this capacity, but it still remains a cat by virtue of having a certain nature, even if it does not develop capacities which are inherently associated with it. A lizard, by contrast, is not said to be lacking something if it cannot purr, for it does not have the ability by its very nature. Thus, "a human being who lacks the ability to think rationally... is still a human person because of her nature. Consequently, a human being's lack makes sense if and only if she is an actual human person." [Emphasis mine] [2]

When you say that "to predicate personhood on immediate function instead of the natural capability to function is like classifying something as a car on the basis of its immediate function, rather than an inherent capability" you mistake the potential to have a trait with the having itself. To build on your analogy here, a person is like a car, and a sleeping person is like a parked car. All well and good, except that you then turn around and try to assert that an embryo is a person because it has the potential to gain the traits of personhood, which would mean that a stack of raw steel, cowhide, rubber, and miscellaneous electrical components is in fact a car, because it has the potential of being turned into a car.

I'm going to run with this one, since it seems to highlight the fundamental flaw in your argument. When a car is being built, it starts with the collecting of raw materials that bear no resemblance to the final product. As the production process continues the basic shape is formed, and the components are built in separate pieces. At every step of the line, the sum of all of the parts continue to have the potential to become a car, but are not yet a car. At some point in the process, when enough of the traits that define a car have been combined together, the assortment of parts finally becomes a car for the first time. Even if for some reason one or more parts are left out for some reason, there is a tipping point where the accumulation of parts match the definition of a car.


I am not arguing that an embryo is a person because it possesses the traits of personhood, that attacks a strawman. Rather, I am arguing that an embryo is a person because of its very nature and that it is still a person even though it lacks the current capacity to function as one. Moreover, the unborn ARE analogous to parked cars. A parked car possesses the natural capability to run, even though it's not exercising it at the immediate moment. Likewise, the unborn possesses the natural capability to reason, even though it will be a while before they can exercise it.

Your first counteranalogy (Referring to the stack of raw steel, cowhide, rubber, etc...) breaks down because in each of those instances, an outside force is required to intervene in order to actualize a potential. The "capacity" for a lump of rubber to become a tire, for example, is purely an accidental capacity as opposed to a natural capacity. Left to itself, the lump of rubber will remain a lump of rubber -- it requires an outside force acting on it to become a tire. By contrast, an embryo left to itself will develop into a fully grown human being because of its very nature -- by virtue of what it is. It directs its own development. "As a substance develops, it does not become more of its kind but matures according to its kind. It remains what it is from the moment it begins to exist. Consequently, a substance functions in light of what it is and maintains its identity even if its ultimate capacities are never realized due to disability or injury." [3]

Your second analogy, which compares personhood to the process used to construct a car, also fails because it confuses artifacts (property-things) with substances. Artifacts, such as cars, watches, and planes, come into existence part by part. By contrast, living things "come into existence all at once and then gradually unfold to themselves and to the world what they already, but only incipiently, are." [4] Thus, "only can only develop certain functions by nature... because of the sort of being one is, a human being, at every stage of her devleopment, is never a potential person; she is always a person with potential even if that potential is never actualized." [5] In a car, the parts are prior to the whole, whereas in living organisms, the parts acquire their function because of their roles in the being as a whole.


This fundamental flaw in your argument can also be shown by discussing other things that have potential to become something in the future but are not therefore that thing in the past or present. An acorn can grow into a tree; an acorn is not a tree. A caterpillar can become a butterfly; a caterpillar is not a butterfly. A lump of clay is not a sculpture until it is actually made into something. Cake mix and eggs can become a cake; they can also become muffins or pancakes, so does that mean that cake mix and eggs are cake, muffins, AND pancakes? What a thing can potentially become later is not how we define what a thing is right now.

You mention sentience and the potential for it as being the same as the capacity for it. Let's look at an example of how potential is not the same as possession of the trait. I was born with the potential to learn how to speak any language. I only speak English and a smattering of Spanish. By your argument, I actually speak every language, if potential capacity and actual capacity are the same. The problem for your argument is that they are NOT the same.


The analogies of the lump of clay and cake mix and eggs have been dealt with in my previous statement (See second paragraph in the above segment). The acorn/butterfly analogy fails because of the following considerations (Since both make the same point, I will address the acorn analogy due to space considerations):

1. Just as an infant human being is identical to its adult self, the acorn IS identical to an oak tree in the sense that the oak tree is its adult self.

2. It isn't clear why the analogy is valid at all, since humans are mammals and an oak tree is a plant. A better analogy, by contrast, would be to compare the unborn human to another mammal (A dog, for example). "But because the unborn progeny of these mammals are developing, growing, and living members of the same species as their parents, just as unborn humans of their parents, this hurts rather than helps the abortion-choice position." [6]

3. The analogy is at first glance convincing because we value oak trees more than we do acorns. After all, this is because oak trees are more useful to us compared to its acorn counterpart. "Oak trees and acorns are not equally valuable, because the basis for their value is NOT what they are but precisely those accidental characteristics by which oak trees differ from acorns... We value the ugly, decaying oak tree less than the magnificent, still flourishing one and we value the mature, magnificent oak more than the small still growing one. But we would never sa the same about human beings." [7]

It seems that, intentionally or not, you have latched onto the concept of "embryo as homunculus", that an embryo is basically a miniature human person, possessing the traits of a person but smaller. A short person is smaller than a tall one, and they are both people. A child is smaller than a small adult, but they are both people. An infant is smaller than a child, yet they are both people. A fetus in the ninth month is smaller than an infant, but it is still a person? And an embryo is smaller than a fetus, but it is still a person? Or, in symbolic terms:
A=B
B=C
C=D
D=E
E=F
Therefore, A=F. Yao Ming and an embryo are the same, and the differences are a matter of size and relative development. Really?


I see nothing inconsistent with this. Just as I was once a toddler, I was once an embryo. Take that picture of Yao you posted. Replace the embryo with a picture of Yao as an infant. Do the two pictures depict the same person? Yes, they're both of Yao Ming at different stages of his life. Replace it with an embryo and you would have Yao at the earliest stage of his development. After all, the organism in Yao's mother is Yao. Simply because they look different doesn't mean that they are different.

A little thought experiment might help. [8]

Let's say that we had a photo album which chronicled your development from infant to adult. It's sensible to say that throughout those developmental stages, it was you who developed , the very idea was implicitly assumed when I said the photo album was of your development. Each photo, therefore, is of you at various stages in life. Say we turn to the front page, and we see a sonogram image of a fetus. Are you the fetus present in that sonogram image? Evidently so, as there seems to be no essential difference between the fully grown you and the unborn fetus. After all, every other image in the album is of you, so why wouldn't you be the individual depicted by the sonogram image? Just as you were once a teenager, a preteen, a toddler, and an infant, you were once a fetus... you were once an embryo.

If the point isn't obvious enough, look at your mother. Is she not your mother who gave birth to you? Weren't you the individual that she was pregnant with X years ago? She didn't give birth to your body, she gave birth to you. The same point is true of your father. He is your father, not merely just the father of your body. They're both your parents, not the parents of your body.

If you deny this, you deny that you have parents. Since they wouldn't be your parents, but the parents of the body which later became you. Interestingly, this can be turned into an anti-abortion argument. It is obviously wrong to kill you now because you're a human person. Now, were you once a fetus? Was your mother pregnant with you? Obviously so. But, if you were once a fetus and if you are a person, then it would have been wrong to have killed you then.

So it appears that this ends up backfiring on you.

_________________________

[1], Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life (Crossway: 2009) 54
[2], Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press: 2007) 133
[3], Klusendorf, The Case for Life, 50
[4], Robert E. Joyce, "Personhood and the Conception Event," The New Scholasticism as cited by Beckwith, Defending Life, 134
[5], Ibid
[6], Beckwith, Defending Life, 164
[7], Robert P. George and Patrick Lee, "Acorns and Embryos"
[8], From an essay I wrote
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:32 pm
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

I'm a bit pressed for time, so this is going to be quick.

The argument is not a "backfire" at all. It shows the fundamental flaw in your thinking. The arrow of time goes in one direction only, from the past through the present and into the future. Done bun can't be undone, so to speak. You're trying to make time work in both directions, and it is illogical to do so. I might have once been an embryo, but that does not mean that the embryo was EVER a 35 year old man. And your comment about my parents is just silly, and makes no sense. The entire argument you've made thus far is that the potential to be something is the same as actually being that thing. That position makes you say obviously false things like "an acorn is equivalent to a tree" and "a caterpillar is equivalent to a butterfly" in order to justify clinging to the equally false claim that "a clump of a few dozen cells IS fully developed human being".

If that's your entire argument, I think the debate is finished.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:26 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Excuse me... I meant "this PART of the debate " ... posting from my phone sucks.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:02 am
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

The argument is not a "backfire" at all. It shows the fundamental flaw in your thinking. The arrow of time goes in one direction only, from the past through the present and into the future. Done bun can't be undone, so to speak. You're trying to make time work in both directions, and it is illogical to do so. I might have once been an embryo, but that does not mean that the embryo was EVER a 35 year old man. And your comment about my parents is just silly, and makes no sense. The entire argument you've made thus far is that the potential to be something is the same as actually being that thing. That position makes you say obviously false things like "an acorn is equivalent to a tree" and "a caterpillar is equivalent to a butterfly" in order to justify clinging to the equally false claim that "a clump of a few dozen cells IS fully developed human being".


This is a blatant strawman, nowhere did I say that the "embryo was EVER a 35 year old man" or anything to that equivalent. Moreover, I did not make the claim that "a clump of a few dozen cells is a full developed human being." Rather, my position is that the unborn are human persons by their very nature, even through they are undeveloped. This implies that I was once an embryo, not that I am an embryo or that an embryo is a fully-grown human.

Now, by identical, I mean the same organism. I think there was some confusion over my last point, so let me repeat it:

Let's say we had a photo album which chronicled my life development. Say we flip to the page where I'm in my freshman year of high school. The person depicted in those photos is the same person that I am now. In other words, I was once a high schooler -- I am the same organism as the one depicted in the photos. Of course, some things have changed over time (I'm taller, for example), but I am still fundamentally the same entity in those photos -- just at different stages of development.

Now, say we turn the pages back to my Kindergarten year. Is that me in those photos? Yes, it's me at a different stage of development. Now, suppose we turn all the way back to the first page. There, we see a sonogram image. Is that image of me? Yes. Like the other photos, it's simply me at a different stage of development.

After all, it's obvious. My mother gave birth to me, not a body that later became me. She is my mother, not the mother of the body that would later become me. Similarly, my father is the father of me, not the father of the body that would later become me. So here's the salient point:

If we assume a functionalist definition of personhood, then I came to be after my body came to be, since my body was not yet a person. But this is absurd. My mother was pregnant with ME, not the body that would later become me.

I am a person, and if I was once a fetus/embryo, then it follows that the fetus/embryo that I once was was a person and that therefore it is immoral to kill it. In premise form, my (second) argument is as follows:

1. Human persons have a right to life (Obvious truth)
2. The grown counterpart of a fetus is a human person (Obvious truth)
3. Fetuses are identical to their grown counterparts (You were once a fetus, just like you were once a toddler or infant)
4. Therefore, fetuses are human persons (from 2, 3)
5. Therefore, fetuses have a right to life (from 1-4

Unless he plans to respond in another post, Joe did not respond to my previous arguments, especially those regarding his acorn/car/etc... analogies. So let me repeat them.

1. Just as an infant human being is identical to its adult self, the acorn IS identical to an oak tree in the sense that the oak tree is its adult self.

2. It isn't clear why the analogy is valid at all, since humans are mammals and an oak tree is a plant. A better analogy, by contrast, would be to compare the unborn human to another mammal (A dog, for example). "But because the unborn progeny of these mammals are developing, growing, and living members of the same species as their parents, just as unborn humans of their parents, this hurts rather than helps the abortion-choice position." [1]

3. The analogy is at first glance convincing because we value oak trees more than we do acorns. After all, this is because oak trees are more useful to us compared to its acorn counterpart. "Oak trees and acorns are not equally valuable, because the basis for their value is NOT what they are but precisely those accidental characteristics by which oak trees differ from acorns... We value the ugly, decaying oak tree less than the magnificent, still flourishing one and we value the mature, magnificent oak more than the small still growing one. But we would never sa the same about human beings." [2]

Finally,

The entire argument you've made thus far is that the potential to be something is the same as actually being that thing.


Again, this attacks a strawman. My argument is NOT that the unborn are persons because they have the potential to become persons, but that they are persons IN SPITE of not expressing certain capacities. As I previously said: "I am arguing that an embryo is a person because of its very nature and that it is still a person even though it lacks the current capacity to function as one. Moreover, the unborn ARE analogous to parked cars. A parked car possesses the natural capability to run, even though it's not exercising it at the immediate moment. Likewise, the unborn possesses the natural capability to reason, even though it will be a while before they can exercise it."

________________

[1], Beckwith, Defending Life, 164
[2], Robert P. George and Patrick Lee, "Acorns and Embryos"
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:09 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Let's move on, shall we? I think we've both made our viewpoints on previous issues abundantly clear, and rather than continue to rehash the same argument over and over, I think we should move on and finish whatever other arguments we have.

Here's where I started:

  • There is a sliding scale of morally correct behavior with regards to taking a life, human or otherwise.
  • The existence of that sliding scale shows that different deaths carry different moral weight.
  • One large part of that weighting system rests on various aspects of the concept of personhood.
  • While an embryo is technically alive, and technically human, it is not a person.
  • Because an embryo is not a person, the needs of actual persons must take priority.
  • Therefore, in cases where harm to a person can be prevented by the termination of an entity that is only potentially a person, it is less immoral to terminate the pregnancy than to allow it to continue.

I've explained my reasoning for the first five points. All life is not treated in an equal manner, from the simplest single-celled life all the way through up to human beings. The sliding scale of the way we treat different types of life shows that there is a difference in moral rights depending on what sort of life we're dealing with. A major factor in making that determination comes from our practical definition of personhood. We don't mourn the death of things that have no feelings, no awareness, no reasoning ability, etc., and those things define personhood. An embryo, while it has the potential to someday have the traits of personhood, it does NOT actually possess those traits in the womb. Because it does not meet the requirements of personhood that I have laid out, the sliding scale puts an embryo somewhat lower than the mother as far as rights are concerned. As the embryo develops into a fetus, and the fetus nears completion of its full pre-birth development, it begins to gain both the characteristics of a person and the moral rights that go along with it. This is why we don't treat a first-trimester miscarriage of an embryo as being equal to the death of a fetus in the last weeks of pregnancy where it might under better circumstances be viable outside of the womb.

Now, having laid all that out, we can discuss situations where an abortion is not only not the most immoral of all choices, but also could be seen as being morality-neutral or even a net positive from a moral perspective. These situations include:
  • When the life of the mother is at risk.
  • When the mental or physical health of the mother is at risk.
  • Where the birth of a child puts an undue strain on the life and future prospects of the mother.
  • Where that birth would put an undue strain on the family as a whole, including other siblings.

Protecting the life of the mother is something we both agree on, but for different reasons. You claim that if the choices consist of two deaths or one death, it is better for there to be one death. I agree, but I also hold that the lives are not equal. The mother of a potential child has formed bonds with family and friends, is a contributing member of society, and has memories, thoughts and emotions, which are all of value. The embryo or fetus has the potential to someday have all of those things, but potential doesn't trump actuality.

For that reason, the general well-being of the mother also trumps the life of the unborn. If the woman has any preexisting condition that could be negatively affected by pregnancy, even if there is no guarantee of death, then the woman's rights trump the life of a potential person. For instance, if a woman takes medication for a chronic physical or mental illness, and pregnancy would require her to not take that medicine, it is a completely moral position to abort the pregnancy at the first sign. If the pregnancy is due to rape, and carrying the pregnancy to term would exacerbate the trauma to a degree unacceptable to the woman, then her needs trump those of the embryo.

Taking that even further, if having a child would cause serious harm to the life and future of the potential parents, abortion is also justified. If a poor child gets pregnant, the cumulative negative effects of having a child herself far outweigh the harm done in removing an unfeeling, unthinking, unknowing non-person from her womb. The potential harm to the potential child doesn't even have to be considered in either case, since the girl's rights have supremacy. In other cases, a woman may be in a position where she would lose her financial position or future job prospects if she has a child at that point in her life. A single woman working her way through school and who has no insurance or family to help her should not simply drop out of school, maybe be forced to quit her job, and put herself into financial ruin for the sake of a non-person that has the potential to maybe someday become a child.

Women in other similar circumstances have the same considerations, as do the people who depend on them. If a woman is in a position where she will be financially harmed by a pregnancy, those who depend on her also face harm. Dependent ACTUAL children have more moral rights than POTENTIAL children. Other people should not have to suffer real harm for the sake of an entity that does not have the capacity to understand harm, or the level of development where its rights automatically win out.

TGEOAF
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:53 pm
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

It is had to move on, Joe, when you haven't responded to my arguments. The fundamental assumption behind your argument is a functionalist definition of personhood. That, insofar as I have seen, was not defended in your most recent post against my criticisms. And seeing that your entire previous post relies on that assumption, you need to defend it -- otherwise it's just a vacuous claim.

This will be short, since you have not responded to my criticisms.

We don't mourn the death of things that have no feelings, no awareness, no reasoning ability, etc., and those things define personhood. An embryo, while it has the potential to someday have the traits of personhood, it does NOT actually possess those traits in the womb. Because it does not meet the requirements of personhood that I have laid out, the sliding scale puts an embryo somewhat lower than the mother as far as rights are concerned. As the embryo develops into a fetus, and the fetus nears completion of its full pre-birth development, it begins to gain both the characteristics of a person and the moral rights that go along with it. This is why we don't treat a first-trimester miscarriage of an embryo as being equal to the death of a fetus in the last weeks of pregnancy where it might under better circumstances be viable outside of the womb.


To base moral status on whether we mourn the death of something (ie: feelings) is dubious at best. I feel a greater sense of loss if my mother was to die than opposed to those who die daily in third world countries. May we conclude therefore that those in third world countries are less valuable than my mother? No. Feeling is a notoriously bad guide to moral value. This argument also had an odd implication: if we predicate moral status on our sentiment, then parents who grieve the death of their unborn child can make their child into a person. Moreover, what about those parents who don't grieve their child's death? [1] Is the child of no value? No, that's absurd.

Of course the unborn don't meet the requirements of personhood that you have laid out. The problem with that, however, is that I have demonstrated your (Specifically, Warren's) definitions of personhood to be inadequate. You completely failed to respond to my previous arguments and instead engaged in hand-waving by saying that we move on. We cannot move on until we first establish whose definition of personhood is correct. Currently, my view stands as the most plausible one. You can't just simply assert your views to be right over mine without providing an argument.

For that reason, the general well-being of the mother also trumps the life of the unborn. If the woman has any preexisting condition that could be negatively affected by pregnancy, even if there is no guarantee of death, then the woman's rights trump the life of a potential person. For instance, if a woman takes medication for a chronic physical or mental illness, and pregnancy would require her to not take that medicine, it is a completely moral position to abort the pregnancy at the first sign. If the pregnancy is due to rape, and carrying the pregnancy to term would exacerbate the trauma to a degree unacceptable to the woman, then her needs trump those of the embryo.

Taking that even further, if having a child would cause serious harm to the life and future of the potential parents, abortion is also justified. If a poor child gets pregnant, the cumulative negative effects of having a child herself far outweigh the harm done in removing an unfeeling, unthinking, unknowing non-person from her womb. The potential harm to the potential child doesn't even have to be considered in either case, since the girl's rights have supremacy. In other cases, a woman may be in a position where she would lose her financial position or future job prospects if she has a child at that point in her life. A single woman working her way through school and who has no insurance or family to help her should not simply drop out of school, maybe be forced to quit her job, and put herself into financial ruin for the sake of a non-person that has the potential to maybe someday become a child.

Women in other similar circumstances have the same considerations, as do the people who depend on them. If a woman is in a position where she will be financially harmed by a pregnancy, those who depend on her also face harm. Dependent ACTUAL children have more moral rights than POTENTIAL children. Other people should not have to suffer real harm for the sake of an entity that does not have the capacity to understand harm, or the level of development where its rights automatically win out.


First (And most importantly): This just begs the question again! You assume a functionalist definition of personhood (Your use of "potential child") to be correct when I have already shown such criteria to be inadequate in my previous posts. You have not responded to my criticisms yet, you simply reasserted your definition without any evidence. What can be asserted without evidence can be denied without evidence.

If the unborn are persons, then it's just as wrong to kill an unborn entity as it is to kill a fully grown human. The life of a person carries more weight than financial and job considerations. In fact, I would say that it would be even more wrong to kill the unborn because they are defenseless, helpless, and are being deprived of a meaningful future.

Moreover, your argument is one giant red herring -- it has nothing to do with the topic. We are debating whether or not elective abortion is prima facie (ie: generally) immoral, -- I have already stated that abortion is permissible if it is medically necessary. If a situation arises in that an abortion is medically necessary otherwise both parties will die, then I agree (As I already stated in my opening post) that abortion would be permissible. But, here's the caveat: It would only be permissible in instances where BOTH parties are threatened. It does not allow for a woman to freely terminate her child unless her life is threatened.

So how exactly does this justify elective abortion? Simply because abortion is permissible in the hard cases does not mean that abortion is in general permissible. This is like trying to argue for the abolition of traffic laws on the basis that one may have to violate them in emergency situations. Simply because abortion is permissible in medical emergencies does not mean that medically unnecessary abortions (Which constitute the majority of abortions) are permissible.

Appealing to the hard cases does not establish that abortion itself is generally permissible.

_________

[1] -- Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press: 2007) 153
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:39 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

We cannot move on until we first establish whose definition of personhood is correct.

We sort of have to. I've addressed your points, you've responded by calling every one of my points strawmen, off-topic, illogical, and all the while never actually demonstrating them to be so, or demonstrating to me why your viewpoint is more valid than mine, other than to tell me in various ways that an acorn is a tree, and an embryo is a person. Failing to agree with you is not the same as failing to address your points.

We MUST move on, because a debate is not simply you yelling at me until I agree with you. I guess that's why you thought you could declare yourself the winner after one post from me: I guess you think that you won before we even started because you hold the "correct" position, and the purpose of a debate is to make your one point over and over until I give up.

Actually, at every step of the way that is what you have done. You have simply declared yourself correct instead of making an argument. If that's the way you plan on continuing, I won't waste another moment on you. No matter what happens, you're just going to declare yourself the winner no matter what I say.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:14 am
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

. I've addressed your points, you've responded by calling every one of my points strawmen, off-topic, illogical, and all the while never actually demonstrating them to be so, or demonstrating to me why your viewpoint is more valid than mine, other than to tell me in various ways that an acorn is a tree, and an embryo is a person. Failing to agree with you is not the same as failing to address your points.


Where did you address them? Could you quote them for me? Your last post, insofar as I can see, completely side-stepped the issue of "What is a person?" and instead assumed a functionalist criteria of personhood to be correct. One of the rules for this debate is to respond to the arguments -- I have not seen you respond to my criticisms that I raised in my 3rd and 4th posts.

This debate hinges on what a person is. We can't move on until we establish that.
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:27 am
Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Okay the issue as I see it is a dispute over objecthood. As this is a rather old philosophical debate between substance and bundle theories of objects I don't think anyone is helped by simply asserting that their view is the more supported one.

My reading of the rules is not that your opponent must respond to every single point you make but rather make an attempt to address the larger arguments that are being presented.

It's up to you two whether you want to proceed or not. The thread will be permanently locked if no one responds for a period of 24hrs.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:30 am
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PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Aught, in my 3rd and 4th posts I defended a substance theory of persons against Joe's criticisms. His next posts, from what I have seen, do not tackle my counter-arguments. I'm not just asserting -- I'm defending, and I'm inviting Joe to do the same.

In all seriousness (I'm not trying to be rude here), take an honest look at the posts -- everyone.

I am willing to continue provided that Joe defend his functionalist view of persons against the criticisms I raised in my 3rd and 4th posts.
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:17 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

1. Just as an infant human being is identical to its adult self, the acorn IS identical to an oak tree in the sense that the oak tree is its adult self.


Ultimately, have you made ANY other point than this one? Because I've answered it several times, seeing as how the only point you have made is that "an embryo is a person", as near as I can tell. I disagree, went into very specific detail as to why. I don't understand why you expect a line-by-line refutation of every way that you've restated this one point.

Again, if you want to move on to point number two, feel free. Otherwise, if you've got nothing to add but new ways to say that an embryo is identical to a adult person, then I've said everything I have to say on that subject. I'm not going to rehash those points ever again.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:05 am
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Ultimately, have you made ANY other point than this one? Because I've answered it several times, seeing as how the only point you have made is that "an embryo is a person", as near as I can tell. I disagree, went into very specific detail as to why. I don't understand why you expect a line-by-line refutation of every way that you've restated this one point.

Again, if you want to move on to point number two, feel free. Otherwise, if you've got nothing to add but new ways to say that an embryo is identical to a adult person, then I've said everything I have to say on that subject. I'm not going to rehash those points ever again.


That's just one part of a much larger point. I provided three reasons why your acorn-oak tree analogy failed, and I also dealt with your analogies which compared human personhood to the construction of a car and capacities to that of cake mix. I also responded to your criticism of my sleeping person analogy. I have not seen responses to my criticisms on any of these points -- which I think is a pretty important point considering that your functionalist theory of personhood relies on these analogies. This was all in my third post. Moreover, I provided an identity-based argument against abortion towards the end of my third post and in my fourth post.

The points I made were these:

1. Functionalism is inadequate (See my criticisms of your analogies [see linked post])
2. Human personhood is grounded in the nature of the unborn, not their function (See my response to your sleeping person criticism [see linked post])
3. I once was a fetus, that is why abortion is wrong (I offered this as an a fortiori argument towards the end of my third post and in my fourth [see linked post])
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:15 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Philosopher wrote:
1. Functionalism is inadequate (See my criticisms of your analogies [see linked post])
2. Human personhood is grounded in the nature of the unborn, not their function (See my response to your sleeping person criticism [see linked post])
3. I once was a fetus, that is why abortion is wrong (I offered this as an a fortiori argument towards the end of my third post and in my fourth [see linked post])

I disagree with all of these, and I told you why. If you find my reasons inadequate, as you've repeatedly said, then we can move on to any other points you might have. Well, maybe not so much on the third one, but I can answer that really easily: if you had been aborted, you wouldn't be here to make the objection. I'm sure that's an emotionally sufficient reason to claim that YOUR abortion would have been wrong, but I don't see how it extends to abortions in general. I wouldn't want to be killed, but that doesn't mean that it is wrong in every instance to kill someone else.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:19 am
PhilosopherUser avatarPosts: 97Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm Gender: Male

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

I disagree with all of these, and I told you why. If you find my reasons inadequate, as you've repeatedly said, then we can move on to any other points you might have.


Well yes, of course I've found your reasons inadequate. But you need to defend them instead of moving them on without addressing the points I raised in my 3rd post.

Well, maybe not so much on the third one, but I can answer that really easily: if you had been aborted, you wouldn't be here to make the objection. I'm sure that's an emotionally sufficient reason to claim that YOUR abortion would have been wrong, but I don't see how it extends to abortions in general. I wouldn't want to be killed, but that doesn't mean that it is wrong in every instance to kill someone else.


That completely misunderstands the argument I gave. Recall in my fourth post, I explained it by saying "I am a person, and if I was once a fetus/embryo, then it follows that the fetus/embryo that I once was was a person and that therefore it is immoral to kill it." Did you even read my fourth post?
We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. - Dallas Willard
Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:22 am
ImprobableJoeLime TordUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Debate: Elective abortion is immoral

Philosopher wrote:
That completely misunderstands the argument I gave. Recall in my fourth post, I explained it by saying "I am a person, and if I was once a fetus/embryo, then it follows that the fetus/embryo that I once was was a person and that therefore it is immoral to kill it." Did you even read my fourth post?

Except I disagreed with you, and explained why.

Unless you're going to accept that I HAVE addressed your points, instead of claiming that I misunderstand them, then we're finished.

Besides the fact that you don't understand the difference between an acorn and a tree, you don't understand the difference between misunderstanding and disagreement. You also seem to miss the difference between not answering you and disagreeing with you. When you work out those issues, we can continue the debate.

Otherwise, thanks for making your position known, and I hope everyone reading this got something out of it.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:29 am
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