PHIL10 Columbus State Community Abortion Philosophical Issues Paper


Columbus State Community College

Question Description

I’m studying and need help with a Philosophy question to help me learn.

I hope you find this week’s module to be an enlightening introduction to some of the philosophical issues that arise in connection with the topic of abortion. Abortion continues to be one of the more controversial ethical topics of our age, engendering powerful emotions on all sides. Fortunately, we will be discussing three of the most important philosophical articles on abortion and our focus will remain on the issues they raise, rather than on the important issues they do not address.

The philosophical issues that arise this week are important apart from their presence in the abortion discussion. You’ll read of important distinctions such as the distinction between human in the genetic sense and human in the moral sense, the two ways of understanding what it means to have a right to life, the question of what makes killing normal adult humans wrong. You’ll learn of particular arguments such as the Traditional Pro-life argument, the famous violinist case, etc.

For this week’s Question of the Week, focus your post on one particular distinction or argument. What is the most interesting distinction or argument in this week’s readings or lecture? What makes it interesting?

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Introduction In this module, we’ll consider controversial issue of abortion. All three of the articles I’ve assigned for this module are famous among philosophers and should provide a fair introduction to the main philosophical issues surrounding the abortion topic except for one that I’ll mention at the end of the lecture. Learning Objectives After completing this module, you will be able to Explain the distinction between the genetic sense of “human” and the moral sense Explain Mary Ann Warren’s position on Abortion Explain Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Famous Violinist Case, her Henry Fonda Case and the Peopleseed Case Explain Don Marquis’s Future Like Ours Argument Module 9: Abortion Mary Ann Warren: On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion Warren’s question: How are we to define the moral community, the set of beings with full and equal moral rights? On the Definition of “Human” There are two distinct senses, definitions, of the word “human”. You should be able to state both. Defining the Moral Community Warren argues that it is a mistake to define the moral community in terms of humans in the genetic sense. She argues that it is right to define the moral community in terms of humans in the moral sense, where to call something a human in the moral sense is to call it a person. Warren’s interesting thought experiment: It is useful to look beyond the set of people with whom we are acquainted, and ask how we would decide whether a totally alien being is a person or not. She says we have no right to assume that genetic humanity is necessary for Personhood. She gives a list of five traits that she takes to be central to the concept of personhood/humanity in the moral sense. She does not think something has to have them all in order to be a person. She thinks two or three of them might be all that is needed to make something a person. But she claims that a fetus has none of them, even though later she will grant that a fetus might have a rudimentary form of consciousness. If a fetus has none of the traits central to personhood, the fetus is not a person. Since the fetus is not a person, it has no right to life. Therefore abortion does not violate a fetus’s right to life, since it has none. You should be able to state Warren’s five central traits of personhood. You should also make sure you remember that she does not think that all five are necessary for something to be a person. Fetal Development and the right to Life Here, Warren grants that fetus have a rudimentary form of consciousness, but not in any way that undermines the force of the argument given in the previous section. Potential Personhood and the Right to Life Even if the fetus is a potential person with a potential right to life, the potential right to life of the fetus cannot outweigh the actual right of the mother to choose what will happen to her body. Postscript on Infanticide Warren has argued in favor of the Extreme Pro-choice view that abortion is permissible at any time for any reason the woman chooses. If the argument is successful, however, it also provides an argument that infanticide is morally permissible. You should be able to explain why. You should also be able to explain why Warren believes that infanticide is not morally permissible on her view. Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion Whereas Warren defends abortion by denying that the fetus is person. Thomson proposes to grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. There are several reasons: First, as she says, much of the opposition to abortion the time (and this was published in 1971) relied on the premise that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. So, in granting that the fetus is a person, she is granting her opponent what seems to be the most important premise in the Pro-life position. Second, she wants see what a valid argument would look like that has as a premise “The fetus is a person” and as a conclusion “Therefore abortion is wrong”. Several additional premises are needed to make a valid pro-life argument. The first few steps are obvious and Thomson provides them: 1. The fetus is a person from the moment of conception 2. All persons have a right to life 3. Therefore the fetus has a right to life from the moment of conception Thomson believes that the next premise the Pro-life defender needs is something like the following: 4. The right to life is stronger and more stringent than the mother’s right to decide what happens in and to her body and therefore outweighs it. Thomson does not explain the next steps, but it is easy to see how they would go: 5. Abortion violates the fetus’s right to life, 6. The violation of rights is wrong. 7. Therefore abortion is wrong Thomson takes the above argument to be a fair representation of what a valid pro-life argument would look like if it were fully spelled out. She uses the Famous Violinist Case to argue that the above argument is not sound. You should be able to explain the Violinist Case and the conclusion that Thomson draws from it, and you must be very careful: Thomson does not use the Violinist case as an analogy to abortion but as a counterexample to premise 4 of the above argument. If it were given as an analogy to the situation in abortion, it would be an unhelpful analogy. There is an important difference between the Violinist Case as an analogy to abortion and the Violinist Case as a counter-example to premise 4. If we take the Violinist Case as a counterexample to premise 4, the conclusion Thomson intends to draw is not that abortion is permissible, but rather that the above Pro-life argument is not sound. Because it has a false premise, premise 4, it does not establish the conclusion that abortion is wrong. The rest of the article is an attempt to make her case that abortion is sometimes permissible. There are two examples/cases on which I would like you to focus: The Henry Fonda Case (section 3) and the Peopleseed Case (section 4). In The Henry Fonda Case, Thomson considers two ways to understand the right to life. You should be able to state both. The right to life is the right to the bare minimum needed to stay alive The right to life is the right not to be killed unjustly You should be able to explain the Henry Fonda Case and explain why Thomson thinks it shows that the right to life should be understood in the second way and not the first. If she is right, then the fetus’s right to life does not require that it be provided with the bare minimum needed to stay alive. It would require only that if it is killed, it is not killed unjustly. Thomson uses the peopleseed case to argue that if a woman takes all reasonable precautions to prevent pregnancy, and nonetheless becomes pregnant, terminating the pregnancy is not the unjust killing of the fetus. The argument goes like this: 1. Something has a right to use your property if and only if you grant it that right 2. By taking all reasonable precautions to prevent pregnancy, one is refusing to grant the fetus the right to use one’s body, which is one’s own property. 3. Therefore abortion in such a case is not the unjust killing of a fetus. Even if the above argument is successful, it defends abortion only in some cases. It is a moderate Pro-choice argument in that it does not claim that abortion is permissible at any time for any reason the woman chooses. Don Marquis: Why Abortion is Immoral Marquis gives an account of why killing normal adult humans is wrong, an account that does not root the wrongness of killing in the fact that we are persons, but in the fact that we are beings with a future of value. According to Marquis, killing us is wrong because it robs us of a future of value. A human fetus, whether it is a person or not, has a future like ours, since we were all fetuses. So, abortion is wrong for the same reason that killing normal adult humans is wrong. ...
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Final Answer


Running head: ABORTION





Whether abortion is permissible or not is a lengthy topic of debate. Different scholars and
policymakers have provided compelling arguments that show why abortion is wrong or right.
When attempting to argue for or against abortion, the biggest question is whether fetuses are
living humans or not. One of the most persuasive...

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