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August 26, 2005

I love the smell of a Good Argument in the Morning.

Andrew at the Sharpener and Owen Barder comments on....yes, you’ve guessed it, abortion. Rather than go into the debate point by point a quick recap of my position. I’m agin it in all but the most limited circumstances. Despite a very Cathloic education no, I don’t base my views on the religious position (as I no longer have a religious position it would be odd to do so).

1) We pass through this universe just once. To find our passage curtailed, brought to a bloody end by the decision of (whim of?) another person is, to my mind, the worst thing that can happen. Yes, this applies to abortion, capital punishment and murder. There are two lets outs. Immediate self-defense and in the course of a Just War (which are just wars is a subject for someone else to deal with).

2) I may be mangling Peter Singer’s thinking a little here but here’s what I think he’s saying. That becoming human is a process, not an event. Somewhere between conception and age 21 one accumulates a series of rights (and responsibilities). To life itself (or perhaps, to be more accurate, to theright to not having it curtailed by the actions of another), to vote, drink, marry, leave school, etc etc. Singer uses this at times to argue that infanticide is no more morally reprehensible than abortion, for example (at least, that’s the impression I’ve got).

The process not an event I agree with. No, a conceptus does not have all of the same rights as a mature adult (voting and drinking, for example, would be a tad difficult...so too driving).

The next stage would seem to be that we need to have a timeline of how and when the specific rights are "awarded" during this process. We change these all the time (the age of consent, for example, the age of voting).

My assumption (and it is an assumption) is that the right to life, the right to continue in that process  of becoming fully human, trumps almost all of the others. Except, as noted, for the two get outs, immediate self-defense by another and in the course of a Just War.

Perhaps not the most philosophically mature or elegant exposition but them’s are my views. Just sayin’ and all.

August 26, 2005 in Health Care | Permalink


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You confuse becoming adult with becoming human.

I don't know of anyone who argues for foetuses to be given the right to drink and vote. Just live.

Posted by: Sam | Aug 26, 2005 3:40:37 PM

I get the impression Peter Singer chews every mouthful exactly thirty-two times. And probably counts out loud. After all, it is obvious that the grim spectacle of an ethicist chewing with his mouth open is not "morally significant".

Posted by: Professor Froward | Aug 26, 2005 4:56:27 PM

Tim: I guess you mean that the right to life is prior, or pretheoretic - any discussion of rights assumes a living person, after all.

But on the whole, I'm with Sam, that the vast number of rights of procedure and over social goods are typically associated with adulthood, and attaining sufficient maturity for citizenship (the two correlate, but not coincide...). Human rights arguments, if they have any practical meaning, must differentiate those required by justice and those achieved through politics.

Posted by: Blimpish | Aug 26, 2005 5:09:09 PM

The value of Singer as a thinker is that he provides elegant rational arguments for things that you know are not right - such as using the mentally handicapped for experimentation, since they fill the same intellectual criteria as chimpanzees. His intention seems to be to reduce to the absurd to point out flaws in current generally accepted positions.

He might not help you pinpoint where you stand, but he sure as hell helps you pinpoint where you draw the line. I take him as a Devil's advocate, and for his service I am thankful.

Posted by: auntymarianne | Aug 26, 2005 9:22:07 PM

Why the requirement for "immediate" self-defense? Given a situation we knew a birth would kill the mother, wouldn't this imply that we'd have to wait until her life was in immediate danger, rather than terminate the pregnancy early?

Posted by: nik | Sep 1, 2005 8:12:47 PM