Presentation on theme: "Reasoning about Abortion Kareem Khalifa Department of Philosophy Middlebury College."— Presentation transcript:
Reasoning about Abortion Kareem Khalifa Department of Philosophy Middlebury College
Overview Framing the Issue Pro-Life Argument 2 Pro-Choice Arguments
Moral Issues About Abortion Is abortion morally wrong? Should abortion be illegal? Is abortion bad? Different combinations of “Yes” and “No” are possible with these questions. – Ex. Personally, Al might think that abortion is morally wrong, but he might recognize that this is merely a personal opinion, so it should not be made a law. – Ex. Beth might think that abortion is not morally wrong, but still not think that abortion is good.
Overview for 1 st Pro-Life Argument: “The Innocence Argument” A First Pass A Revision What we learn from the revision
Innocence Argument: 1 st Pass 1*)It is always morally wrong to kill an innocent human being. 2) Abortion involves killing a human fetus. 3) A human fetus is a human being. 4*)A human fetus is innocent. 5) Abortion is always morally wrong.
What’s wrong with Premise (1*)? Some mentally ill people threaten the lives of others. In such cases, mentally ill people are innocent. It is not morally wrong to kill such people in self-defense. So (1*) is false: It is not always morally wrong to kill an innocent human being.
Innocence Argument, Revised (1**) It is always morally wrong to kill an innocent human being, except in self- defense. 2) Abortion involves killing a human fetus. 3) A human fetus is a human being. 4*)A human fetus is innocent. 5) Abortion is always morally wrong. 5*) Abortion is always morally wrong, except in the case of self-defense. 5*) Abortion is always morally wrong, except in the case of self-defense.
Important Lessons about the revision process Formulate an initial, valid argument. Look for weaknesses in your premises, ex. (1*) Revise your premises to make them more plausible – Ex. (1**) Introduce the revised premises into your initial argument. If the new premises render the argument invalid, alter your conclusion (and other premises) accordingly – Ex. (5*) Thus, thinking logically can make you revise your opinions.
Where to challenge the Innocence Argument (1**) It is always morally wrong to kill an innocent human being, except in self- defense. 2) Abortion involves killing a human fetus. 3) A human fetus is a human being. 4*)A human fetus is innocent. 5) Abortion is always morally wrong. 5*) Abortion is always morally wrong, except in the case of self-defense. 5*) Abortion is always morally wrong, except in the case of self-defense.
3 Pro-Choice Strategies to counter the Innocence Argument 1.Further modify (1**) so as to admit more exceptions 2.Deny that the fetus is a human being (3). 3.Offer an argument for abortion based on a different moral principle
2 nd Strategy: Are fetuses persons? Potential criteria for personhood: – Genetic code – Ensoulment – Brain activity – Sentience (capacity to feel pain & pleasure) – Viability (when fetus can survive outside the womb) – Rationality What’s wrong with these notions of personhood?
3 rd Strategy: Pro-Abortion Arguments (1*)An action that best increases human welfare is not morally wrong, provided that it is not unfair. (2)Abortion is sometimes an action that best increases human welfare. (3) Abortion is sometimes not morally wrong, provided that it is not unfair.
Pro-Life Challenge to the 3 rd Strategy: Is abortion fair to the fetus? Pro-Choice Replies: 1.If fetus is not a person, then fetus doesn’t have rights, so no issue of fairness. 2.Fetus doesn’t have right to use mother’s body, so abortion is not unfair. 3.Often, fairness is forfeited when urgent matters of welfare are at stake (e.g. wartime). – Similarly, many abortions arise when mother, children, and/or family welfare is threatened (owing to psychological, financial, or personal losses if child were to be born).
Warning about the 3 rd Strategy Even if this third strategy goes through, at best, we have arguments for and against abortion, but no way of rationally choosing which position to adopt. So, if this issue needs to be settled, then we need some other way of showing that one of these arguments is unsound.
2 Pro-Choice Argument: The Violin and Window Analogies The Violin Analogy The Argument Underlying the Violin Analogy The Window Analogy
Thomson’s Violinist Example Against your and his will, your circulatory system is tethered to a world-class violinist’s, who suffers from a rare kidney disease. If he is disconnected from you before a nine-month period, he will die; otherwise, he will live. Are you morally obligated to stay plugged into him for nine months?
1 st Pro-Choice Argument: The Violin Analogy 1.If two actions are similar in all morally relevant respects, and if one of the acts is not morally wrong, then the other is also not morally wrong. 2.It is not morally wrong for you to unplug the violinist in Thomson’s example. 3.To unplug the violinist and to abort a pregnancy due to rape are similar in all morally relevant respects. 4. It is not morally wrong to abort a pregnancy due to rape.
Critique of the Violin Analogy Relevant similarities: a.Tethering someone’s organs to another against his/her will is immoral and illegal, like rape. b.The hospital stay is nine months, like pregnancy. c.The violinist is innocent, like the fetus. d.Unplugging the violinist will kill him, like abortion kills the fetus. Critics of this argument frequently challenge (d), arguing that there is an important difference along this dimension: – (d*) Abortion involves killing, but unplugging the violinist is merely not saving. Not saving is morally permissible (by taking logic, you’re not saving people, but that doesn’t make taking a logic class wrong.)
Thomson’s Window Analogy Suppose you leave your window open. It’s well known that people sometimes break in through open windows. Yet you’re not responsible for housing home invaders. Compare: People know that contraception is not foolproof. So a woman who becomes pregnant through failed contraception is not responsible for carrying a fetus to term. General Principle: Just because I can foresee that someone could use my property (in this case, my body), it doesn’t follow that they have a right to my property (body).
Recap 1 Pro-Life Argument: – Innocence 2 Pro-Choice Arguments: – Violin Analogy – Window Analogy Plenty of critiques on both sides. Critically evaluate them!