Abortion Essay

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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:39 am UTC

Diadem wrote:
ztmario wrote:It is also important to note that the majority of arguments both for and against the prospect of abortion rely on arguments that are neither logical nor relevant. An example of one such argument against abortion is that it may cause considerable psychological trauma to the former mother at some point farther along in her life. True or not, this is irrelevant.

This is only irrelevant if you believe that a government should never, ever, under any circumstance, pass laws designed to protect people against themselves. Which is a position only a small minority of people hold. For example most people have no problems with the government requiring safety belts. You may say that other arguments are more important, but that doesn't make this one irrelevant.

no, I consider it irrelevant because I'm only interested in arguments that would conceivably justify killing a person. a parent would not be justified in killing their adolescent children, even if they could argue that raising those children has caused them emotional trauma.

An example of irrelevancy on the side of those advocating choice is saying that many teenage mothers face a decreased quality of life with the birth of their child or children. Again, this is not in doubt, but similarly there are any number of activities which humans engage in that may cause a decreased quality of life, and quite often these activities are legal. Furthermore, if abortion is in fact murder, one could hardly find the prevention of a decreased quality of life to be justifiable grounds for homicide. While these arguments may offer some plausible understanding of the merits that stand for or against abortion, they generally do not answer the fundamental questions, which we will attempt to do herein.

You make the same logical error here as in the previous bit I quoted. Just because argument X is more important than argument Y doesn't make Y irrelevant. Besides, the premise that X is more important than Y will first have to be proven. I for one think this particular argument is a very important one.

same as above. if a fetus or zygote is a person, then those arguments are irrelevant. you must set the same standard for killing them as you would for killing any other person.

The first question in our journey towards a logical truth is whether or not a fetus is a life. This is the first question which, if answered in the negative, ends all possible argument on the matter. Luckily enough for the existence of this essay, it is also the easiest question to answer. The fetus is without a doubt very much alive. It represents life and, more so, it represents human life. There is no doubt as to whether the zygote or fetus lives, and there is no confusion as to whether or not it is human. The next part of this question, and the more difficult to answer, is whether or not the fetus is a human being, or if you prefer, a person.

Wait a second, just because something is alive and made up of human-parts doesn't make it human. A severed hand is, at least for a while, alive, and it's made of human-parts as well, but it's not human. Though you are making a distinction between human and person, so I guess we can accept this premise than as a redefinition of what 'human' means. That does mean though that you are going to have to show stronger proof that 'human = person'.

to be honest, I did ignore the whole "a piece of dandruff is made of human cells but it's not a human" argument because my research did not give me the impression that it was actually taken seriously. the argument seems to be not so much if a fetus is a human, but if it is a person, or a human being with rights.

This is an interesting piece in your essay. I could argue with many of the particulars of these paragraphs. For example just because something necessarily will develop into something else doesn't mean it is that something else already. The sun will necessarily develop into a white dwarf. There are no other possibilities (short of collisions with other stellar objects. But the odds of that are astronomically small). It doesn't even require sustenance to do this. But does that mean the sun is already a white dwarf? No it's not.

but you're misstating the argument. we're not trying to determine that the sun is a white dwarf, we're determining that the sun is a STAR. to parallel your argument would be that I'm trying to say that a fetus is a senior citizen. I'm not. there's a distinction between what the thing is (human) and the stages that it goes through (fetus, baby, teenager, adult, etc.)

Imagine that a bean-sized human baby crawls from her womb, grasps and pulls itself along her pubic hair and finally comes to rest in her “pouch,” a pocket of skin that, for the purpose of our thought experiment, all human woman now have along their midsections. Imagine that newborn “fetus” grabbing at its mother’s nipple (now transplanted to the interior of her stomach pouch) and suckling it, as any newborn is apt to do. Now, imagine that mother reaching into her pouch, withdrawing the baby, and promptly squishing it between her fingers. Would you consider her to be within her rights to do this? Would this be substantially different than squishing the head of her other child, a nine month old who just recently emerged from the same pouch?

Interesting question.
The answer for most would be no, this is not all right.

Wait, you can't just do that. Pose a problem, then skip right on to whatever answer you like best without giving any argument. That's not reasoning, that's just stating opinions.


the truth is that this is really just entirely about opinions. in the end, the decision to kill something is a matter of opinion, no matter what it is. I'm just drawing parallels.

Which is exactly the position most proponents of abortion take. A fetus is not a person by the nature of being undeveloped. It doesn't matter if it's located in the womb or in a kangaroo-pouch. If it's located in a kangaroo-pouch it's no longer a fetus, agreed, it has been born. That doesn't make it a person!

but does it make it a human being?

From this it follows that either a newborn is, like a a fetus, not a person, or that a fetus just before birth is a person. It doesn't follow that a fetus (zygote) is a person from the moment of conception. Indeed, most abortion advocates will usually not argue for allowing abortions in the last few months of pregnancy, for precisely this reason. Though I'd personally argue the former option. I have no principal objections to infanticide. Though I'm not an expert, so I could be wrong. At the very least though it's a much less grave offense than murder, a newborn baby being an underdeveloped person at best.

now you've picked up on working backwards to determine what a person is, which is an attempt I've made that seems to ruffle a few feathers. everyone wants me to begin by proving what that a fetus is a person. I instead chose to start at the nearest point where a human is undeniably a person (as a newborn) and work backwards from there to try and determine the point where they STOP being a person. if I can find that point, then I've shown how a fetus is not a person. but if I can't find that point, then I have shown a fetus is a person.

In the case of the ward being a child, the mother has the legal and perhaps even moral right to remove all such life support. This is indeed true. However, this is only in such cases where the return of viability is seen as being not likely. For instance, suppose a child is undergoing a heart transplant. At the moment that the diseased heart is removed, that child is no longer viable and is now being kept alive through mechanical means until the healthy heart can be introduced. The mother may decide that this is her chance, run into the operating room, and demand that her child be taken off life support. This will of course, not happen. Likewise, while the fetus is in fact completely dependent on the mother’s life support system, a healthy fetus not only has a “likelihood” of attaining viability, but a certainty of it. Imagine another ill child, solely dependent on a respirator for survival. Her doctor approaches the child’s mother in the waiting room and declares that the child will make a full recovery within nine months. The mother responds that she’d like the child taken off life support and be allowed to die. Now imagine the doctor’s response. He will undoubtedly do no such thing, and it is more than likely that he will place a call to social services. The same applies for the fetus.

You're arguing a strawman here, though most likely unintentionally. The likelihood of a return to viability is NOT the criterium used. A husband is allowed to remove his wife's life support if she is in a persistant vegitative state. He is not allowed to do that if she has terminal cancer, even though in both situations there is no chance of a return to viability.

The relevant distinction is not viability, but personhood. Having higher brain functions.

higher brain functions AND viability. if you lost your higher brain functions, but there was a certain return of viability, the question is then whether or not it is moral to pull the plug, as discussed.

Jane and Jill both have fully developed brains. They are both persons. It's slightly amazing how you keep managing to miss the vital point in the entire debate (Or at least one of the most vital points. The point most people argue over as well. "Fetus != person" is sufficient reason to allow abortion, but not a necessary one. There are several other important arguments in favour of abortion that you also need to address. But you first have to proof that fetus is a person, if you can't argue that starting point your entire case collapses.

I'm going to leave the rest of the essay as it. You make a few more logical errors here and there (for example you're suddenly arguing from existing law while you opened with staying you weren't going to look at that). But it doesn't really matter. I think I've sufficiently demolished your main argument. Or rather, you never even made your argument in the first place. You skipped straight to the conclusion and argued the rest of your essay from there.

what you're reading IS the main argument. as I said before, I started at the earliest point where a human is agreed to be a person, and worked backwards trying to find the determining factor that removes them from personhood. I am actually surprised that you missed the whole premise I was arguing. the bulk of the essay is geared toward answering that question. it's not something I could knock out of the way in the first paragraph. once you come to the conclusion that a fetus is a person, the argument is over. this is what I was trying to determine the entire length of the way.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:41 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:excluding death, what is the possibility that a fetus will develop into a baby? as I understand it, this is the ONLY possibility. at that point, it is a certainty.

Why are you excluding death? That strikes me as an extremely relevant possibility, especially since it's the one realized by abortion.

because death is a possibility for all humans at all times. when I state what a fetus "possibly" is, I am discussing what it is developing into. the only possible thing it can develop into is a baby. what other possible thing can it develop into? is the answer really death? the fetus does not develop into death, rather death halts the development.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby el matematico » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:45 am UTC

I'm getting a feeling that most of the discussions are ending in semantics. Maybe you should make a short list explaining the meaning of specific words like you did with fetus at the beginning. Also, you could number your paragraphs or something so it's easier to adress specific ideas.

Finally, I disagree with this
el matematico wrote:
An uterus is not enough for a fetus to develop, you need a living mother until very late in the development. If a whole living human being's actions are not an outside intervention, then you can leave the kitchen and come back to see a sandwich your roommate made that came to be without outside intervention. Just because the mother's part in the fetus development is not a voluntary conscious action (like making a sandwich) does not mean you can dismiss it.

that must be a matter of opinion because that is exactly one of the reasons I am dismissing it. the other reason is because the sandwich meats can end up as something other than a ham and cheese sandwich. this is the whole basis of the "potential person" or "potential human" argument. In this manner, you can replace potential with possible for the same end result.

If you want to make a convincing essay, then make an argument supporting that involuntary inconscious actions are to be dismissed when deciding if something is self sustaining (which I totally do not consider fetuses to be).
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:50 am UTC

ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:excluding death, what is the possibility that a fetus will develop into a baby? as I understand it, this is the ONLY possibility. at that point, it is a certainty.

Why are you excluding death? That strikes me as an extremely relevant possibility, especially since it's the one realized by abortion.

because death is a possibility for all humans at all times. when I state what a fetus "possibly" is, I am discussing what it is developing into. the only possible thing it can develop into is a baby. what other possible thing can it develop into? is the answer really death? the fetus does not develop into death, rather death halts the development.

If it dies, it develops into a corpse.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Meteoric » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:52 am UTC

ztmario wrote:it's not something I could knock out of the way in the first paragraph. once you come to the conclusion that a fetus is a person, the argument is over.

It isn't, by the way. Even if we entirely concede the point that a fetus is a person with all the rights that entails (and as you can see, we don't, but hypothetically), a strong argument can still be made that abortion is permissible, based on bodily autonomy. Even if it were in fact a fully aware adult human that's burrowed into my body, and now cannot be extricated for nine months, except by killing them, instead of a fetus which lacks almost every defining feature of a person, and even if that person had no intent to burrow in there, and my own actions allowed it to happen (which is not the same as specifically consenting for it to happen), you still have to justify why the law should require me to let this other person use my body for their benefit against my will, causing me great suffering and harm in the process, in some ways permanently, and possibly resulting in my own death. Convincing people on that point is at least as difficult as the first.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:52 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
ztmario wrote:Well I already discussed "potential person" in the exact same way you're going about it, and noted the differences. You would be a "potential MD" because you very well may not be an MD for various reasons (excluding death). Likewise, if we exclude death, a fetus has no choice but to continue to develop as a human. it can not at some point develop into a horse instead. However, you CAN decide to stop being a potential MD and instead be a chef. This is a key difference.


No, it's not a key difference. It's an irrelevant difference. It is not yet a human life, and until it becomes one, we are not obligated to treat it as such.

then this is a difference of opinion. I feel that potential matters when there is actually the potential for more than one thing, and that possibility only matters when there are multiple possibilities. the only thing that it is "not yet" is a baby. but as a stage of development, that does not exclude it from being human.

ztmario wrote:I only ask why the task is on me to maintain why a fetus is a human. I am simply working on the premise that a fetus IS a human, and debating reasons why it would NOT be considered one. the logic is simply working in the reverse of what you seem to expect. I'm not saying that you don't pose a valid question, I'm just saying why is the burden of proof on my side as opposed to the other way around? why is the base assumption that a fetus is NOT human?


Well, the burden of proof always falls on the person making the positive claim. If I show you a random entity, and ask "Is this human?", the null hypothesis will be that it is not human, and you will look for ways to show that it is one. This is pretty much true of any claim. I don't see why the fetus should be an exception to an extremely general rule. Shifting the burden of proof is a logical fallacy. If you are making the claim that the fetus is a person, you have to prove it. Otherwise, we are under no obligation to accept your claim as true.

and I actually do go about this by starting with the closest example of a human that's accepted as a person (as a newborn) and working backwards to determine when it would logically CEASE to be a person.

Well, strictly speaking, the definition that I'm using is not the legal one, it is the medical one. The legal definition was chosen to be the same as the medical one, because it is medical professionals who are most likely having to make such evaluations, and inconsistency between the law and the medical practice would cause some serious problems. The boundaries here are pretty strict though, because, as I said when I built up this syllogism, I defined it in terms of death. We know that at some point, the body ceases to function and the person is clearly no longer alive. It simply comes down to figuring out which systems most accurately reflect this state. The nervous system is a natural choice, because the brain controls all of the other systems: a body is incapable of responding in any way without a functional nervous system. As I said before, the circulatory/respiratory systems are also somewhat natural choices, or perhaps a combination of the two. Regardless of which systems you choose, almost invariably you will find some point in time which the fetus lacks the appropriate systems.

the problem is that you're using the definition of death. you shouldn't be. find what the medical definition is of life, and compare it that way. they're two separate things.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:55 am UTC

Meteoric wrote:
ztmario wrote:it's not something I could knock out of the way in the first paragraph. once you come to the conclusion that a fetus is a person, the argument is over.

It isn't, by the way. Even if we entirely concede the point that a fetus is a person with all the rights that entails (and as you can see, we don't, but hypothetically), a strong argument can still be made that abortion is permissible, based on bodily autonomy. Even if it were in fact a fully aware adult human that's burrowed into my body, and now cannot be extricated for nine months, except by killing them, instead of a fetus which lacks almost every defining feature of a person, and even if that person had no intent to burrow in there, and my own actions allowed it to happen (which is not the same as specifically consenting for it to happen), you still have to justify why the law should require me to let this other person use my body for their benefit against my will, causing me great suffering and harm in the process, in some ways permanently, and possibly resulting in my own death. Convincing people on that point is at least as difficult as the first.

well the argument is over as far as whether or not I have anything to argue.

if you decide that a fetus is a person, you're deciding on your own if you think it's worth killing a person under certain circumstances. that's always going to be a matter of strict opinion. some people might think it's okay to kill their children if they can no longer afford them. very little you can say will make them think differently. my main issue is if you want to kill a fetus for whatever reason, then alright, but consider it as a person and here's why.....
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:56 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:excluding death, what is the possibility that a fetus will develop into a baby? as I understand it, this is the ONLY possibility. at that point, it is a certainty.

Why are you excluding death? That strikes me as an extremely relevant possibility, especially since it's the one realized by abortion.

because death is a possibility for all humans at all times. when I state what a fetus "possibly" is, I am discussing what it is developing into. the only possible thing it can develop into is a baby. what other possible thing can it develop into? is the answer really death? the fetus does not develop into death, rather death halts the development.

If it dies, it develops into a corpse.

so does absolutely every living organism on the planet. it's not an exclusive property.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:00 am UTC

el matematico wrote:I'm getting a feeling that most of the discussions are ending in semantics. Maybe you should make a short list explaining the meaning of specific words like you did with fetus at the beginning. Also, you could number your paragraphs or something so it's easier to adress specific ideas.

Finally, I disagree with this
el matematico wrote:
An uterus is not enough for a fetus to develop, you need a living mother until very late in the development. If a whole living human being's actions are not an outside intervention, then you can leave the kitchen and come back to see a sandwich your roommate made that came to be without outside intervention. Just because the mother's part in the fetus development is not a voluntary conscious action (like making a sandwich) does not mean you can dismiss it.

that must be a matter of opinion because that is exactly one of the reasons I am dismissing it. the other reason is because the sandwich meats can end up as something other than a ham and cheese sandwich. this is the whole basis of the "potential person" or "potential human" argument. In this manner, you can replace potential with possible for the same end result.

If you want to make a convincing essay, then make an argument supporting that involuntary inconscious actions are to be dismissed when deciding if something is self sustaining (which I totally do not consider fetuses to be).

I see your point and that would definitely be beneficial in clearing up some of the apparent confusion in word usage.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:02 am UTC

ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:excluding death, what is the possibility that a fetus will develop into a baby? as I understand it, this is the ONLY possibility. at that point, it is a certainty.

Why are you excluding death? That strikes me as an extremely relevant possibility, especially since it's the one realized by abortion.

because death is a possibility for all humans at all times. when I state what a fetus "possibly" is, I am discussing what it is developing into. the only possible thing it can develop into is a baby. what other possible thing can it develop into? is the answer really death? the fetus does not develop into death, rather death halts the development.

If it dies, it develops into a corpse.

so does absolutely every living organism on the planet. it's not an exclusive property.

What does that have to do with it? The point is that the fetus does not necessarily develop into an infant. The fact that other, non-fetuses may go the same route doesn't affect the counterexample.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:04 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:excluding death, what is the possibility that a fetus will develop into a baby? as I understand it, this is the ONLY possibility. at that point, it is a certainty.

Why are you excluding death? That strikes me as an extremely relevant possibility, especially since it's the one realized by abortion.

because death is a possibility for all humans at all times. when I state what a fetus "possibly" is, I am discussing what it is developing into. the only possible thing it can develop into is a baby. what other possible thing can it develop into? is the answer really death? the fetus does not develop into death, rather death halts the development.

If it dies, it develops into a corpse.

so does absolutely every living organism on the planet. it's not an exclusive property.

What does that have to do with it? The point is that the fetus does not necessarily develop into an infant. The fact that other, non-fetuses may go the same route doesn't affect the counterexample.

in the end I honestly feel that it's wordplay. I don't agree that the fetus "develops into a corpse," I feel that death ends the developmental path. maybe it's semantics, or maybe it's a matter of opinion.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby ztmario » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:06 am UTC

to the arguments that are made in regard to self defense, kidnapping, and the like, I'm going to simply repeat an earlier stated question:

if you would hold a fetus accountable for assaults and then act in self defense to terminate its life, why would you also not hold a newborn accountable for a birth which took the life of the mother, and charge it with manslaughter?
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Meteoric » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:13 am UTC

ztmario wrote:and I actually do go about this by starting with the closest example of a human that's accepted as a person (as a newborn) and working backwards to determine when it would logically CEASE to be a person.

Then why does it cease to be a person at conception? An unfertilized egg is in the same situation: it will either be fertilized and progress to become a fetus and then a person, or it will die at some point before finishing that process.

Instead, we should look at what the defining traits of a person are, and figure out whether a fetus has them. I would opine that the most important and defining trait of a person is consciousness, or at least some type of brain function, which an early fetus definitely does not possess.
ztmario wrote:to the arguments that are made in regard to self defense, kidnapping, and the like, I'm going to simply repeat an earlier stated question:

if you would hold a fetus accountable for assaults and then act in self defense to terminate its life, why would you also not hold a newborn accountable for a birth which took the life of the mother, and charge it with manslaughter?

You're misrepresenting the argument here. The fetus is not being held accountable. The fetus has no accountability at all. The point of self-defense isn't to punish the attacker, it is to defend yourself, hence the name. So, charging a newborn with manslaughter after the fact is not analogous to performing an abortion in "self-defense". Killing the newborn during childbirth to save the mother might be more analogous, if that can happen somehow, and would probably be justifiable, but again would have nothing to do with punishing the fetus, only with protecting the mother. The mother would also be entirely within her rights to ask the doctor to save the baby and let her die, but she should not be legally required to do so.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Zcorp » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:13 am UTC

ztmario wrote:
Zcorp wrote:You've completely failed to account for the impact on society, at the very least you need to address what happens to the child after birth. What happens with the life of the child born to a mother who does not want them or the life of that child born into the foster care system.

Actually, I do, in the Appendix.

No you account for the impact on the child in non-ideal situations (while dismissing likeliness), not society.

Zcorp wrote:You've completely failed to assert an ethical system or account for one. You obviously have a values system, you just don't directly address what yours is. Abortion is a values issue, you can't avoid talking about values in relation to it.

You also make a variety of assertions about human nature, culture and our goals. You state that overcoming crimes of humanity is our first priority, yet offer no evidence at all to back it. In fact, throughout the entire essay you offer not a single observation of reality to back any of your assertions related to values. This comes across as a giant appeal to emotion. As far as I can tell your conclusion is: Don't kill babies because it makes you fell bad.

You're absolutely right, and there is a reason for this. Values can't be argued effectively because they are subjective. I can't see much a point to argue for one value system over another ... it's just not an argument that anyone's going to win.
Arguments for certain values are basically only ones worth debating initially, you can't side step them. Once you have a values system you can then start to argue how to best achieve the goals of that system. Otherwise you are just going to go round in circles with Laserguy and others about details, when you aren't even seeking the same goals. And in that these circles you've dismissed likeliness of pleasure vs suffering or individual and societal gain vs loss. Just like you did with the development of the discarded child in your appendix.

At the very least you should be presenting your arguments after you stated the values in which you are arguing from. Else you have no real argument, and certainly not a persuasive essay, at all, just a series of statements.

while I acknowledge that my tone is far from unbiased, my actual intent wasn't to say abortion is wrong or right, but to simply say that abortion is a lot along the lines of x, y, and z. I use comparison after comparison in an attempt to put abortion into perspective, as I feel that that's really all anyone can do.
Your comparisons are entirely disingenuous as you are not comparing equal concepts. Regardless of intent you've argued the right to life of the child is of greater value than the right to life or avoidance of suffering of not only the mother and affected by them but by also to of society as a whole. Except without staying any value systems or why one should hold those values.


Someone could agree with everyone of the points I make and still claim to be completely for abortion. All it would take for that to happen would be for that person to also believe we should euthanize certain people, remove person status from other people, and so on and so forth. And I have no doubt that people like that exist.
Eugenics is one of the most difficult areas to tackle in ethics and really one of the few without a clear answer.

Your 'points' which are largely statements of value. You also assert that all life has an equal right to life. That potential life has an equal right to life with the currently living, and various other statements rooted in a values system. You also present some facts, but very few.

Zcorp wrote:You've taken the time to painstakingly discuss weird details "She will experience morning sickness, gain weight, swell, and, after nine months of such symptoms, even go through the excruciating process of a natural childbirth. Her vaginal canal will even stretch and possibly tear, only except for delivering a baby, she will deliver an empty placenta."

Who is your intended audience? Are they unaware of the birthing process? What is your goal in writing this?

I believe that at that point I was discussing the inconvenience of pregnancy. it simply came down to not wanting to be seen as downplaying the discomfort of pregnancy and childbirth.
Why assume your audience is unfamiliar with the discomfort of pregnancy, and even if you feel compelled to remind them you do so in a with rhetoric that displays no interest in appealing to emotion. Words like "excruciating" and "will even even stretch and possibly tear" attempt to appeal to emotion, they are hardly words that attempt to create a neutral and thoughtful reaction to the birthing process.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:15 am UTC

ztmario wrote:then this is a difference of opinion. I feel that potential matters when there is actually the potential for more than one thing, and that possibility only matters when there are multiple possibilities. the only thing that it is "not yet" is a baby. but as a stage of development, that does not exclude it from being human.


It does not exclude it from being human, but it does not automatically include it either. It is excluded for entirely different reasons. That's why I said this argument is irrelevant. Both possibilities are valid, so it adds no information one way or the other.

ztmario wrote:
Well, the burden of proof always falls on the person making the positive claim. If I show you a random entity, and ask "Is this human?", the null hypothesis will be that it is not human, and you will look for ways to show that it is one. This is pretty much true of any claim. I don't see why the fetus should be an exception to an extremely general rule. Shifting the burden of proof is a logical fallacy. If you are making the claim that the fetus is a person, you have to prove it. Otherwise, we are under no obligation to accept your claim as true.


and I actually do go about this by starting with the closest example of a human that's accepted as a person (as a newborn) and working backwards to determine when it would logically CEASE to be a person.


Sure, you can argue that if you'd like. What properties do you consider a person to have? Once that has been established, then we can examine when it no longer has those properties.

the problem is that you're using the definition of death. you shouldn't be. find what the medical definition is of life, and compare it that way. they're two separate things.


Dead and life are mutually exclusive. It something is not dead, then it is alive. What other options exist?
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Lucrece » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:47 am UTC

elasto wrote:ztmario: I haven't seen you post a convincing rebuttal to the Violinist thought experiment:

Judith Jarvis Thomson provided one of the most striking and effective thought experiments in the moral realm. Her example is aimed at a popular anti-abortion argument that goes something like this: The fetus is an innocent person with a right to life. Abortion results in the death of a fetus. Therefore, abortion is morally wrong.

In her thought experiment we are asked to imagine a famous violinist falling into a coma. The society of music lovers determines from medical records that you and you alone can save the violinist's life by being hooked up to him for nine months. The music lovers break into your home while you are asleep and hook the unconscious (and unknowing, hence innocent) violinist to you. You may want to unhook him, but you are then faced with this argument put forward by the music lovers: The violinist is an innocent person with a right to life. Unhooking him will result in his death. Therefore, unhooking him is morally wrong.

However, the argument does not seem convincing in this case. You would be very generous to remain attached and in bed for nine months, but you are not morally obliged to do so. The parallel with the abortion case is evident. The thought experiment is effective in distinguishing two concepts that had previously been run together: "right to life" and "right to what is needed to sustain life." The fetus and the violinist may each have the former, but it is not evident that either has the latter. The upshot is that even if the fetus has a right to life (which Thomson does not believe but allows for the sake of the argument), it may still be morally permissible to abort.


I don't feel like I need to expand on it because it is a very powerful and succinct argument. This thread has turned towards the argument over whether a foetus is a person but the pro-choice argument is much more fundamental than that.



That thought experiment had me struggling. I don't think I would use it as a good pro-choice case against an anti-abortion opponent.

For one, it establishes a comparison between the surreptitious hooking up of the violinist to your unaware self and becoming pregnant. It's just not a convincing comparison, because pregnancy in most discussed cases is voluntary. You open your legs and he's not wearing a condom, or his condom broke and you didn't take a pill/go to the hospital. You can't exactly be surprised when you turn out pregnant. It's fairly common knowledge that fooling around without protection or careful sexual practices will lead to pregnancy. People don't originally fuck and go a few months later, "Oh, how could this possibly happen, you fiendish, sneaky fetus! Nobody asked you over when I allowed a man's sperm unobstructed access to my egg." In fact, most of the developed world and society is particularly careful about recreational sex and creates social systems and commodities to complement that knowledge and the approach to it.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Zamfir » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:14 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:That thought experiment had me struggling. I don't think I would use it as a good pro-choice case against an anti-abortion opponent.

Even if the analogy has more than enoguh flaws, it does have the virtue of bringing out how invasive pregnancy really is. For people who have never been pregnant (which includes me), it's dangerously easy to make pregnancy an abstraction. Something like having to carry a pack of sugar for a few months, while eating an extra sandwich every day.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby semicharmed » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:16 am UTC

ztmario wrote:to the arguments that are made in regard to self defense, kidnapping, and the like, I'm going to simply repeat an earlier stated question:

if you would hold a fetus accountable for assaults and then act in self defense to terminate its life, why would you also not hold a newborn accountable for a birth which took the life of the mother, and charge it with manslaughter?


Choosing to exercise my right to bodily autonomy has nothing to do with holding the zygote/fetus 'accountable' for anything. Zygotal/fetal death is a consequence of an abortion: to use your own words, it's one of the possibilities for a conceptus. For some women, it's the only possibility when they find out they're pregnant. It's not a punishment. This make your whole question invalid. A woman who both knows she is pregnant AND aware that pregnancy/delivery carries with it a non-zero risk of complications, up to and including death. Choosing to continue a pregnancy is consent to those risks and a (temporary) waiver of the pregnant women's right to bodily autonomy.

Also:
ztmario wrote:As far as the fetus being a parasite ...
...
the fetus may be parasitic by its actions, but it is not a proper parasite. It does not reside within an organism of another species. It is a natural stage of the human reproductive cycle. I always found it odd how quickly people are willing to debase and slander the mechanism of their own reproduction as a matter of convenience. A fetus is a parasite the same way that any child is a parasite, as long as it exists in a one-sided relationship with its parents. it is not a parasite in the way that a tapeworm is a parasite, which is how it is often referred as.

a proper parasite is foreign to the hosts body. a fetus originates within the hosts body. a parasite does not naturally belong in the hosts body. a fetus has no other natural habitat EXCEPT for its hosts body. if the fetus were a parasite, then the female body would not be so specifically geared toward sustaining the fetus' life. simply put, I find the "fetus as parasite" idea to be very sorely lacking in substance.


Placental growth is really interesting. The mother's body fights to keep the placenta smaller and less intrusive to keep down the strain on her organs - every increase in placental area/capillary length increases the amount of nutrient/oxygen transfer from the mother TO the fetus - while the fetus is fighting to make the placenta as large as possible. The women's body does, in many ways, treat the zygote/fetus as an invader, developing antibodies against certain proteins found in fetal blood. Also, it's suspected that in women who have had multiple spontaneous abortions, incompatibility between mother and fetus plays a role.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby elasto » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:34 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:That thought experiment had me struggling. I don't think I would use it as a good pro-choice case against an anti-abortion opponent.

For one, it establishes a comparison between the surreptitious hooking up of the violinist to your unaware self and becoming pregnant. It's just not a convincing comparison, because pregnancy in most discussed cases is voluntary.
It's a pretty close comparison to rape though, isn't it? Disagreeing with someone's right to an abortion in the case of rape is virtually an exact parallel to disallowing someone the right to unhook the violinist hooked up to them.

You open your legs and he's not wearing a condom, or his condom broke and you didn't take a pill/go to the hospital.

- By 'take a pill' you mean a morning-after pill? Which many hard-liners view as the same as abortion (even though it's actually not)
- By 'go to the hospital' what do you mean exactly? Have an abortion or take an 'abortion pill'?

You can't exactly be surprised when you turn out pregnant. It's fairly common knowledge that fooling around without protection or careful sexual practices will lead to pregnancy. People don't originally fuck and go a few months later, "Oh, how could this possibly happen..."
I don't know. I think a frightening number of people would view CI as a sound method of birth control, as well as a frightening number of myths surrounding getting pregnant - even if the first world. That's pretty irrelevant though: Either people have the right to abort a non-sentient potential-person or they don't - whether they knowingly risked creating this non-sentient potential-person or they didn't. And personally I think the violinist thought experiment demonstrates people do have the right to unplug themselves from something that is reliant on them to stay alive.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:01 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:For one, it establishes a comparison between the surreptitious hooking up of the violinist to your unaware self and becoming pregnant. It's just not a convincing comparison, because pregnancy in most discussed cases is voluntary. You open your legs and he's not wearing a condom, or his condom broke and you didn't take a pill/go to the hospital.


Well, no, pregnancy is involuntary. Sex is voluntary. Pregnancy is a risk of sexual intercourse.

For example, suppose you read in the newspaper that the society of music lovers is prowling on 5th Street at night looking for somebody to match with their comatose violinist. You decide, for whatever reason, that you're willing to take the risk and walk down 5th street, and end up getting kidnapped by the society and hooked up to the life support machine. Are you suddenly obliged to sustain the violinist's life because you voluntarily chose to walk down 5th street, knowing full well that there was a risk you could be apprehended and hooked up to the violinist? Certainly not. The fact that you engaged in an activity that carries the risk of a violation of your rights does not imply that you consent to your rights being violated.

[edit]Or, in a less abstract example, if a person drives an expensive car, they do not consent to having their car stolen, even if having an expensive car increases the risk of it being stolen compared to an inexpensive car.

[edit2]Edited out first example that was inappropriate. Sorry.
Last edited by LaserGuy on Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:37 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Роберт » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:31 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:[edit]Or, in a less abstract example,....

Could you use a real example rather than a terrible fake one?

You're kinda perpetuating a myth that contributes to rape culture here.
Last edited by Роберт on Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:23 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby induction » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:57 pm UTC

ztmario wrote:everyone wants me to begin by proving what that a fetus grain of sand is a person mountain. I instead chose to start at the nearest point where a human mountain is undeniably a person (as a newborn) mountain (as a small mountain) and work backwards from there remove material to try and determine the point where they STOP being a person mountain. if I can find that point, then I've shown how a fetus grain of sand is not a person mountain. but if I can't find that point, then I have shown a fetus grain of sand is a person mountain.


Not being able to find a singular point when a transition occurs does not imply that no transition occurs.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:05 pm UTC

Which is quite hilarious, given a number of very defined benchmarks occur during development. Indeed! Some could even argue that an infant isn't a 'person' until significantly after it's been birthed. I don't think a 1 year old has much in the way of personhood going for it. A six month old doesn't have much in the way of personhood. A new born has in many ways less personhood than a severely mentally disabled individual, whom I think we all agree does NOT have the full rights of personhood of an average human being.

Claiming there is no transitions during development ignores... everything. Reality. It ignores the fact that conception is a transition (are gametes people too? What about spermatazoa? Are my sertoli cells people. I think they are; ztmario, my sertoli cells deserve the full rights that you do), that implantation is a transition, that gastrulation is a transition, that development of organ systems is a transition, etc, etc, etc.

Whitewashing 'anything in a womans uterus that *MAY* eventually become a human being, a human being, is incredible ignorant of the science of life.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Sockmonkey » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:17 pm UTC

ztmario wrote:I may be wrong in stating this, but I disagree that the raw materials for a human are extracted from the mother's body. I believe that what is extracted from the mother's body is sustenance. If that's the case, then this would be akin to calling pizza and hamburgers the raw materials for me. They may be fuel, but they're not the raw materials. However, as I said, I may be incorrect.

The atoms and molecules in pizza and hambugers are used to create and repair cells in your body. Very few of the original atoms you were born with are left at this point. The fetus doesn't "eat" the mother for raw materials but it does get them from the things the mother has eaten that are now broken down and passed into the fetus' blood from hers.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:23 pm UTC

More specifically; say a standard human adult female requires 2000 calories a day to exist reasonably. Her brain works, her heart pumps, her kidneys are filtering, etc. Say she's pregnant. Now in addition to 2000 calories a day, she is also hosting an additional organism with additional energy requirements. You know how pregnant women get hungry a lot? And need to take prenatal vitamins? Yeah. What exactly do you think is going on with all that extra calories? Those extra nutrients?

Here, I'll save you a google search: The fetus is growing, and consuming them. That is, the fetus is consuming the resources the mother is consuming for the purposes of her growth, AND the fetuses growth. The fetus is quite literally stealing her 'raw materials'. In fact, the fetus will often do this at the expense of the mother. A fetus requires calcium to develop, mothers store calcium in their bones. Osteoporosis is not uncommon in women who are carrying.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Sockmonkey » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:24 pm UTC

lutzj wrote:
Роберт wrote:Edit: are we sure we aren't doing someone's homework here?


I'm about 90% sure we are, which isn't inherently bad, except that those spoilers contain huge volumes of text set against the eye-straining blue echochamber background.

ztmario, if you really just want a stress-test of your logic, could you summarize your main points?

I kind of suspect we're being used as a practice dummy for someone planning to post this to an anti-abortion blog or newsletter.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:26 pm UTC

Which is fine, because anywhere it gets posted, we can make a point of bombarding links to this very thread.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:35 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:[edit]Or, in a less abstract example, a woman who dresses provocatively (voluntary) does not consent to be raped (involuntary), even if dressing provocatively increases the risk of rape.


Could you use a real example rather than a terrible fake one?

You're kinda perpetuating a myth that contributes to rape culture here.


I said that dressing provocatively does not imply consent to be raped. I'm not sure how this contributes to rape culture. Or is it the second bit that bothers you? Regardless, if the example is problematic, I retract it with my apologies.

Let's go with... If a person drives an expensive car, they do not consent to having their car stolen, even if having an expensive car increases the risk of it being stolen compared to an inexpensive car.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Роберт » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:00 pm UTC

ztmario wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
ztmario wrote:excluding death, what is the possibility that a fetus will develop into a baby? as I understand it, this is the ONLY possibility. at that point, it is a certainty.

Why are you excluding death? That strikes me as an extremely relevant possibility, especially since it's the one realized by abortion.

because death is a possibility for all humans at all times. when I state what a fetus "possibly" is, I am discussing what it is developing into. the only possible thing it can develop into is a baby. what other possible thing can it develop into? is the answer really death? the fetus does not develop into death, rather death halts the development.

I think this is an incredibly weak argument, because, excluding death, what else will a human egg develop into? That's right, a person. Using the exact same argument, human eggs are people.

Sure at some point it might not get fertilized in time and it will die, but we're arbitrarily excluding that scenario because everything dies.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Lucrece » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:16 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Lucrece wrote:For one, it establishes a comparison between the surreptitious hooking up of the violinist to your unaware self and becoming pregnant. It's just not a convincing comparison, because pregnancy in most discussed cases is voluntary. You open your legs and he's not wearing a condom, or his condom broke and you didn't take a pill/go to the hospital.


Well, no, pregnancy is involuntary. Sex is voluntary. Pregnancy is a risk of sexual intercourse.

For example, suppose you read in the newspaper that the society of music lovers is prowling on 5th Street at night looking for somebody to match with their comatose violinist. You decide, for whatever reason, that you're willing to take the risk and walk down 5th street, and end up getting kidnapped by the society and hooked up to the life support machine. Are you suddenly obliged to sustain the violinist's life because you voluntarily chose to walk down 5th street, knowing full well that there was a risk you could be apprehended and hooked up to the violinist? Certainly not. The fact that you engaged in an activity that carries the risk of a violation of your rights does not imply that you consent to your rights being violated.

[edit]Or, in a less abstract example, if a person drives an expensive car, they do not consent to having their car stolen, even if having an expensive car increases the risk of it being stolen compared to an inexpensive car.

[edit2]Edited out first example that was inappropriate. Sorry.



Pregancy isn't some haphazard risk of sex. It's not a coin flip. Unless you have people with fertility issues, the average male and female having sex will result pregnant. Everyone is cognizant of that, or we wouldn't have devices like condoms or social mores that try to demonize unmarried sex between younger people for fear of the financial and social consequences brought by a pregnancy the parties are not prepared for.

You can't pretend that pregnancy is happening against your will because you don't want the outcome of a natural system that you don't put effort to circumvent. I'd love to not have to take a piss or a shit or be hungry as an organism due to the inconveniencees those processes place upon my being, but neither hunger nor thirst nor urge for release are forcing themselves on me because I refuse to consume food or release waste. It's an expected outcome that can't be begrudged.

I even dislike that violinist example because it cedes ground in trying to create sympathy via pandering to fear. It's not necessary -- it's her uterus, it's her medical bill and work leave impact. No, pregnancies should NEVER be meted out as punishment for poor safe sex practices -- that can create resentment for the born child, and the last thing a child needs is a mother who sees him/her as an anchor.

A sperm meeting an egg is a potential for a human being in every circumstance, and yet we're not treating the use of contraceptives for guilt of a potential person lost whenever you deny the process for beginning a life. And why should a sperm reaching for an egg not be considered life if a zygote/fetus is? It moves and has purpose toward developing into a human life even at that level. The line between dead sperm and a dead/removed zygote seems entirely arbitrary for defining life. Why should I buy the idea that life starts when an egg is fertilized and that anything prior to that was supposedly empty of life even though it moves with purpose and awareness of its environment?
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Azrael » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:47 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:Pregancy isn't some haphazard risk of sex. It's not a coin flip. Unless you have people with fertility issues, the average male and female having sex will result pregnant.


You're demonstrating a dramatically flawed understanding of fertility here. So flawed that it doesn't even pass the common sense test. Not every act of unprotected sex results in a pregnancy.

The rhythm method is flawed because it is not as foolproof as modern birth control methods, not because it doesn't work at all. Ovulation cycles aren't a fairy tale.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Роберт » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:58 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
Lucrece wrote:Pregancy isn't some haphazard risk of sex. It's not a coin flip. Unless you have people with fertility issues, the average male and female having sex will result pregnant.


You're demonstrating a dramatically flawed understanding of fertility here. So flawed that it doesn't even pass the common sense test. Not every act of unprotected sex results in a pregnancy.

The rhythm method is flawed because it is not as foolproof as modern birth control methods, not because it doesn't work at all.

I don't think Lucrece was talking about a single instance of sex, but rather regularly occurring, unprotected heterosexual sex between a healthy male and female. In young couples trying to get pregnant through normal means:
wikipedia wrote:At age 30 (for the woman)
75% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year
91% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years.


Anyway, my point is, in the exact same way that it's foolish to think that personhood is there 100% at the moment after birth and there 0% at the moment before, it's foolish to think personhood is there 100% at the moment after and 0% before ANY event, be it fertilization of the egg, implantation, etc. It might make sense to assign some % at certain milestones. Heartbeat, nervous system development, birth, etc, ability to communicate, etc.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:59 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:You can't pretend that pregnancy is happening against your will because you don't want the outcome of a natural system that you don't put effort to circumvent.


Except for the people that do? All birth control has the possibility of failure even under perfect use conditions. In another thread I did a back of the envelope calculation that showed that 10% of sexually active women who use contraceptives perfectly for their entire lives will still have an unwanted pregnancy. Many people put great effort into circumventing this natural system, but still wind up pregnant anyway.

Pregnancy is risk associated with sex, be that "safe" or "unsafe", if you are not interested in having a child. It is not inevitable--the probability of getting pregnant on any given encounter is fairly low, and is extremely low with contraceptives being used. Yes, if you go through enough iterations, the probability of having an accident increases, but the same is true of any behaviour that carries some low probability risk. If you drive 100000 miles, the odds of getting into a car accident is fairly high. That doesn't mean that getting into a car accident is either inevitable or voluntary, nor does it imply that you in any way consent to someday having a car accident--if somebody does someday hit you with their car, you are still entitled to claim damages, for example, even though you were cognizant of the risk involved with your activity and were voluntarily choosing to drive on the roads in spite of that risk. And this is true regardless of whether you practice safe driving or unsafe driving.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Soralin » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:08 pm UTC

ztmario wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
ztmario wrote:The question seems to be "how can we define a "person" that would exclude a zygote or fetus, but not also exclude certain other members of society that we consider to be people?" I try to do that and fail.


I gave you one just above: until 27 weeks of age, the fetus is legally dead. By definition, people are not dead.

And as I stated in the opening, I am shying away from legal definitions of life and death, or of personhood, because legal opinions are fickle and ever-changing.

It's not just a legal definition, it goes to the very core of what a person is. Something being human, or alive, isn't enough for it to be a person. Skin cells are human, and alive, and if you put them into the right set of environments, they can even develop into full human beings (i.e. cloning). But no one seems to consider skin cells to be people, or has any objections to me killing thousands of them by scratching an itch.

So, what is the key factor that makes something a person? A Mind. A human body without a brain isn't a person, even if it's entire body can be kept alive indefinitely. Likewise, if it were possible to upload a human mind and run it on a computer, or such, I would still consider it a person, even though they're no longer human or alive. A mind, especially a sentient, sapient mind, is the key defining factor of what it means for something to be a person. If it does not have a mind, then it is not a person. Not having a mind means that it has no thoughts, no feelings, no senses, no awareness, no consciousness, nothing.

The above isn't just a legal definition, it's scientific knowledge, that we have certainty that a fetus before this point does not have a mind, and therefore, is not a person. Things get fuzzier after this point, because it's much harder to pin down things like sentience and sapience in a mind, but before this point, it's a clear we know that a mind does not exist, and therefore that a person does not exist.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Lucrece » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:35 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
Lucrece wrote:Pregancy isn't some haphazard risk of sex. It's not a coin flip. Unless you have people with fertility issues, the average male and female having sex will result pregnant.


You're demonstrating a dramatically flawed understanding of fertility here. So flawed that it doesn't even pass the common sense test. Not every act of unprotected sex results in a pregnancy.

The rhythm method is flawed because it is not as foolproof as modern birth control methods, not because it doesn't work at all. Ovulation cycles aren't a fairy tale.



Fine, I opened myself up to that criticism by phrasing. I'm aware of periods where fertility varies, but would you honestly recommend someone take the risk on those cycles and then have a right to feel betrayed when they still turn out pregnant?

Because we're not talking about having unprotected sex strategically at certain cycles during the year. When you meet someone in a bar, I doubt you ask them "Are you at a certain cycle where we can afford to bareback?" let alone take someone's word for it. Because the expectation is that if you have unprotected sex, more often than not you will have a pregnancy you might not be prepared for/desire, or at least you should prepare for/follow up on that instance. Especially if the risk is taken repeatedly by, say, a fuckbuddy relationship that is fairly commonplace at college ages.

EDIT: I also want to place this in the context that the violinist example did. Having someone hook up a critically fragile organism to yours at your expense unbeknownst to you is not common or expected, so it is a surprise. My complaint against the example is that a fetus popping up inside you after a period of unprotected/failed safe sex is not an equivalent surprise or unexpected ambush on your being. Since you're growing up, society bombards you with this reality; there's a fair expectation by the average person that if you don't use condoms and pills -- and don't go to a hospital to be put in treatment to counter fertilization-- you'll have a nagging fear of something developing. It's a possible and likely existence you're at least cognizant of, unlike being suddenly attached to an organism you had no idea would have you sought out for its sustenance.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:45 pm UTC

ztmario wrote:in the end I honestly feel that it's wordplay.

It's wordplay because you're making it about the wordplay. The point is that there are other things that can happen to the fetus besides its developing into a human. Whether or not those things also count as development is beside the point, because your argument doesn't go "Since the fetus can't develop into anything but a human, it isn't a potential human"; it's "Since the fetus must develop into a human, it isn't a potential human." Even if we grant that definition of "potential," you still have a flawed premise: the fetus will not develop into a human with necessity.

Let me expand on this a bit. Here is what you say on this subject in your initial essay:

Before we continue, take a look at the definition for potential:

1: existing in possibility: capable of development into actuality <potential benefits>
2: expressing possibility; specifically : of, relating to, or constituting a verb phrase expressing possibility, liberty, or power by the use of an auxiliary with the infinitive of the verb (as in “it may rain”)

Note “existing in possibility.” A human fetus is not “possibly” a human being. To say such would imply that it will “possibly” become a human, but it may “possibly” also become a vampire bat or a Louisville Slugger. The only “possibility” for a fetus is to move on to the next stage in human development, which is a newborn, or a baby. When there is but one possibility, that is no longer a possibility, it is a definite and it becomes the definition of the object in question.

The sentence that I've bolded is the crux of the problem, in two ways. The first is your claim that "possibly" does not encompass necessity. This is contrary both to how these words are used in philosophy and to how they are being used in this definition. In philosophy, possibility means roughly that there is some way that a thing could be true. Necessity means that every possible configuration will make it true. Now if every possibility brings out the thing that is said to be necessary, then by definition there are some particular possibilities that bring it about. So, necessary developments are also possible developments. As for this definition, look at the part of the sentence after the colon: something "exists in possibility" if it is "capable of development into actuality." Thus, if it is not possible, then it is incapable of actuality. But something that will necessarily come to be certainly has the capability of coming to be, so it also has the possibility and the potential.

The second problem is that, even if it were true that "possibly" excludes necessity, "A fetus will possibly develop into something other than an infant" does not follow from "A fetus will possibly not develop into an infant." This is precisely my point about death: it's not just hypothetical, but factual, that fetuses can fail to become infants. The example of death shows that this doesn't have to involve becoming anything else in particular.

The upshot of this, to be clear, is that your argument for the claim "A fetus is not a potential human" fails. But suppose anyway that it succeeds; what difference does it make? The next step in your argument is to say that, since a fetus must become an human, then it's a human. But you haven't shown that a fetus must become a human. You've just shown (again, supposing that your argument is sound) that a fetus must not become anything other than a human. If the fetus dies, then (you say) it doesn't become anything. But the point is still that it hasn't become a human.

But let's even suppose that you've shown a fetus must develop into a human. The last thing you claim in this passage is "When there is but one possibility, that is no longer a possibility, it is a definite and it becomes the definition of the object in question." This is clearly false, as Diadem has shown by counterexample. Some things are going to develop in a certain way, with certainty. But they still don't fall under the definition of the things that they will become. Here is your response to the counterexample:

ztmario wrote:but you're misstating the argument. we're not trying to determine that the sun is a white dwarf, we're determining that the sun is a STAR.

But what if I did try to determine whether the sun is a white dwarf? By following your standard, I would incorrectly determine that it is.

What you're in effect saying is that this line of reasoning works, but only if you already know that the conclusion is true. In that case, the reasoning doesn't work, because part of what it means for reasoning to work is for it to be able to work out what is true and what is false when it isn't already clear.

Now it's obvious that the sun is not a white dwarf, so it's safe to suppose that nobody will try to reason in this way. But it isn't obvious that a fetus is a human. If it were, then we wouldn't be having this argument. So since we don't already know that the conclusion is true, we have no reason otherwise to think that your argument will get to the right conclusion.
Last edited by TheGrammarBolshevik on Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:03 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:49 pm UTC

Lucrece, I don't think you realize how haphazard this process is. The likelihood of pregnancy, being carried to term, is a fairly low probabilistic event. Apparently upwards of 30% of successfully conceived zygots that manage to implant STILL end up terminating before the third trimester due to non-disjunction events.

The point isn't that most 30 year old's will eventually be pregnant, but that the result of a single copulation is NOT 'full formed person pops from your vagina in 9 months'. Given how statistically likely miscarriage is before the third trimester, this whole argument that;
Lucrece wrote:the average male and female having sex will result pregnant.

or ztmario's ludicrious notion that a zygot is going to be a person, is simply flagrantly anti-reality.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Lucrece » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:57 pm UTC

Conceded, although I still have a struggle with the notion that a fetus developing inside your uterus after an instance of barebacking is a bewildering development for the average person. Then again, I'm not a woman so my bias/ignorance is probably showing in terms of what I would classify an ambush.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:08 pm UTC

A crass analogy could be playing Russian roulette. Pulling the trigger doesn't MEAN you're going to die, in fact, statistically, you've got pretty good odds (your odds of dying in this case are actually significantly higher then your pregnancy odds using zero protection), but it does mean you shouldn't be *surprised* when a bullet actually gets chambered.

Human beings are NOT good at reproduction. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be smart about it, but this whole notion that people should simply accept pregnancy as a consequence of sex is statistically unfounded, and further arguments then about the sanctity of a zygot/fetus soundly ignore the reality of how frequently 'having a zygot/fetus in one's uterus' does NOT actually result in 'infant being delivered'. This notion that abortion is some how unnatural is simply WRONG; the body has a number of ways of aborting a fetus if things veer even slightly into a particular set of conditions.

It's important that people understand how physiologically conception doesn't mean human, gastrulation doesn't mean human, fetal heart and brain activity doesn't mean human. Stuff goes wrong. Present life is more important than potential life, and even under optimal conditions, the choice is ultimately not, nor should it ever be, decided upon anyone but the woman carrying the child. Worst of all are attempts to binarize this decision; rendering this matter a series of complicated conditions ('if the woman was raped, or if it's an example of incest, or if the fetus exhibits x y or z characteristics, or if my pastor decided it was ok, etc, etc, etc') do nothing to facilitate anything, save take away a CURRENT ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS ability to exercise their free will. It's disgusting.
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Re: Abortion Essay

Postby Lucrece » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:33 pm UTC

Yeah, I apologize if the criticisms I posted on the example gave the impression that the points made could be used for curtailing the bodily autonomy of women or cast doubt at women's motives for not wanting any sort of development after sex. I was just nitpicking the surprise element of the example. Shoddy nitpicking following your shedding light on the elements of my criticism that were unfounded.
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