Presentation on theme: "WHY ABORTION IS IMMORAL Don Marquis. Thesis The purpose of the essay is to show “that abortion is, except possibly in rare cases, is seriously immoral,"— Presentation transcript:
WHY ABORTION IS IMMORAL Don Marquis
Thesis The purpose of the essay is to show “that abortion is, except possibly in rare cases, is seriously immoral, that it is in the came category as killing an innocent adult human being.”
Main issue Whether or not abortion is morally permissible stands or falls on whether or not a fetus is the sort of being whose life it is seriously wrong to end. Is it wrong to kill a fetus? What is a fetus? Is the fetus a human being? Does the fetus have a right to life?
Abortion Issue Irresolvable Anti-abortion: A fetus is a human person because it has a genetic code and is the product of two human beings. It is wrong to kill an innocent human being; therefore, it is wrong to kill a fetus. Pro-choice: A fetus is NOT a human person because it lacks self-consciousness, self-awareness, rationality, autonomy, and because it is not a social being; since it is not wrong to kill a non-human, therefore, it is not wrong to kill a fetus.
The Problem The problem is that both sides seem to have a point: It is true that a fetus is the product of human beings; it is true that a fetus has a DNA and all of the potentiality for humanity; but it is also true that a fetus lacks self-consciousness, reason, self- awareness, and is not a social being yet.
Generally Accepted Moral Principles Notice that these arguments require a moral principle for them to be good arguments. Generally Accepted Moral Principles (GAMP): GAMP1: It is morally wrong to kill an innocent person unjustly. GAMP2: It is morally wrong to harm an innocent person unjustly.
Standoff Marquis claims that the the anti-abortionist moral principles are too broad and thus include too many things that are not human. He also claims that the pro-choice moral principles are too narrow (e.g., it is wrong to kill rational beings) and excludes infants and children.
More Problems for Anti-abortionist There are problems with the category of Human Being. If the category of human being is understood to stand for only a being with a given biological structure, then the anti-abortionist needs to explain further why the biological structure in question (why having 43 chromosomes) is morally relevant. Otherwise it seems arbitrary.
More Problems for Pro-Choice Pro-choice also have difficulty with the category of Human Beings. Pro-choicers will define human beings as organisms with certain psychological states. The psychological states are necessary and sufficient for a human being to have a right to life. Therefore, having rights requires consciousness and rationality.
Feinberg (Tooley) “The characteristic that confer commonsense personhood are not arbitrary bases for rights and duties, such as race, sex, or species membership; rather they are traits that make sense out of rights and duties and without which those moral attributes would have no point or function. It is because people are conscious; have a sense of their personal identities; have plans, goals, and projects; experiences emotions; are liable to pains, anxieties, and frustrations; can reason and bargain, and so on-it is because of these attributes tha people have values and interests, desires and expectations of their own, including a stake in their own futures, and a personal wellbeing of a sort we cannot ascribe to unconscious or nonrational beings. Because of their developed capacities they can assume duties and responsibilities and can have and make claims on one another. Only because of their sense of self, their life plans, their value hierarchies, and their stakes in their own futures can they be ascribed fundamental rights.”
Connections Biological and Moral (Anti-abortionist) Too broad Psychological and Moral (Pro-Choice) Too narrow (unconscious people, children)
Marquis Marquis claims that the problem has been that the debate has not stated clearly the essence of the moral principle “that killing is wrong”. He argues that if we can understand (rather than simply believe) why killing is wrong, then we can better understand whether killing a fetus is wrong or not. His suggestions is that we investigate the nature of Killing rather than the nature of a fetus.
II. Why is Killing Wrong? Is it wrong to kill us? Why? The loss of one’s life is one of the greatest losses one can suffer. Why? Because it deprives one of one’s future experiences, projects, plans, aspirations, experiences etc. This future contains things we value greatly in the present and things that we will come to value and appreciate later in the future.
Why is killing wrong? Killing is wrong, therefore, because it deprives one of his or her future. Marquis argues that this view fits well with our intuitions about killing, living and dying; that is, it explains why killing is such a terrible thing (losing all of your future experiences is a terrible thing). He also argues that this theory explains why killing is wrong through natural properties and by alluding to the consequences, (the effect of killing), namely, dying.
Some implications First, it places the act of killing in a biological neutral position. It does not privilege human beings or any species. Second, the view can result in moral conclusions that can protect animals or other species whose future is as rich and as valuable as ours. Third, this view rejects “the sanctity of life theory” and views euthanasia as morally acceptable in some cases, i.e., when the future of the person has no more value. Fourth, this view concludes that killing babies, infants and children is wrong.
Theories Advantages The theory seems to rely solely on natural properties. The theory has the advantages of the sanctity of life theory, without the disadvantages. It meshes well with our intuitions about killing.
Ethics of Abortion If killing is wrong because it deprives a thing of a valuable future, then killing a fetus is as wrong as killing a child or an adult human, because it will deprive it of a future as valuable as a child or an adult human being. This argument does no rely on the concepts of personhood or potentiality, only on the idea of a “future-like-ours”.
Anti-Abortion and Animal Rights Marquis argues that his argument has the same structure as the argument against inflicting pain on animals. It is prima facie morally wrong to inflict pain on animals because doing so makes animals suffer. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill a fetus because doing so deprives it of a future-like-ours. Both, animals suffering and depriving an organism of a future-like-ours are natural properties and bad (evil) consequences that result from a natural action, which makes the action morally wrong.
III. Future-Like-Ours Notice that a future-like-ours is only a sufficient condition and not a necessary condition. Meaning there might be other good reasons NOT to kill a being even though they lack a future like ours.
Objections There might be other accounts of what makes killing wrong that rival a future-like-ours account and yet do not have the same consequences for the abortion issue. (1) The Discontinuation Account: It is wrong to kill another being because that being appreciates its present experiences and killing it would discontinue its present state. (2) The Desire Account: It is wrong to kill another being because that being has certain desires and killing it would frustrate them and not allow then to be satisfied.
Desire Account The desire account argues that what makes killing a being wrong is that you take away a strong desire for life or for other things that require life. However, the fetus does not desires and thus it is not wrong to kill a fetus. Notice that the desire account requires that having such desires be a necessary condition.
Desire Account-Necessary Condition There are various counter examples to the desire account as a necessary condition for the wrongness of killing that serve as a rebuttal. For instance, it is wrong to kill an unconscious person, who we know will regain consciousness and will, in the future, have a desire to live. It might also be argued that it is wrong to kill people who do not have a desire to live.
Discontinuation Account The idea is that what makes killing wrong is that it will discontinue a being’s present experiences, activities, experiences, projects etc. Note also that it must be assumed that these experiences, activities, experiences and projects have positive value. This is also true for the future- like ours account. Fetuses do not have any valuable experience, activities, experiences, or projects, therefore, it is not wrong to kill fetuses.
Time and Morality Marquis notes that the difference between the discontinuation and future account is that the former focuses only on the present. However, the moral assessment of killing or of taking someone’s life should focus on the being’s future because this is, primarily, what is being taken.
Present vs. Future This would explain why it would be wrong to kill a person who is presently going through a terrible experience, but might have a bright future. This would also explain why it might be morally acceptable to kill a person that does not have such a terrible present state but whose future is horrific.
IV. Another Objection It might be objected that the fetus does not have valuable future because it cannot value it. Since it cannot value its future we do not harm it when we kill it.
Rebuttal A future can have value even if a person does not see its value or even if the person only sees negative value. This is the case of teenage suicides. A teenager might not see any value in his or her future life, but this does not mean that his or her life does not have a future value.
Objection: Paul Bassen Victimization Bassen argues that a fetus cannot be a victim because it lacks the mental and cognitive capacities for it. This is similar to Tooley’s view.
Rebuttal Marquis points our various problems with Bassen’s mentalization requirement. However, his strongest is a simple counter example. Suppose I become unconscious and I am in a coma for 1 month. According to Bassen, it would be permissible to kill me during that month because I lack all consciousness and therefore cannot be a real victim. However, this seems absurd, especially if we have good reason that I will recover.
V. Contraception Marquis argues that according to his view contraception is not morally wrong because before fertilization there are no identifiable subjects that can be harmed as in the case of a fetus.
VI. Conclusion Killing a fetus is as morally wrong as killing an adult person, not because the fetus is a person or has the potentiality of becoming a person, but because it has a future-like-ours. The exceptions for killing a fetus must be justified with reasons as strong as those for justifying killing an adult person, therefore, an abortion will have very rare morally justified exceptions.
Advantages of Future-like-ours It is not speciest (does not arbitrarily favor the human species) Permits euthanasia. Permits contraception. Does not rely on controversial concepts such as personhood. Does not need to prove when a fetus becomes a person.