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Why Abortion is Immoral

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Tim den Hollander

on 12 February 2014

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Transcript of Why Abortion is Immoral

Why Abortion is Immoral
to develop an argument for the claim that the majority of abortions are seriously immoral
the moral permissibility of abortion depends on whether or not a fetus is the sort of being whose life it is seriously wrong to end
casuistry of certain hard cases (example, abortion in cases of rape)

pro-choice, anti-abortion

Rebutting Counter-Arguments
Section 3
Argument not Extended to Contraception
"Contraception prevents actualization of a possible future of value"
Does not take away future itself
No obligation to maximize futures of value

Nothing denied a future by contraception
Single sperm or ovum
Which one to choose?
Sperm AND ovum separately
Cannot be two futures involved
Combination of sperm and ovum
There is no combination yet
Don't know what combination will be

No identifiable subject that loses a future
What Makes Killing Wrong?
Desire Account
People strongly desire to live because they have a number of other desires in life. What makes killing wrong is that it interferes with the basic desire for life, and all the other desires that come with it.
Abortion is not wrong because the fetus lacks a desire to live.
To be valuable, something must be valued
Fetuses cannot value their future

May not presently realize value
May be valued by others
e.g. suicidals THINK future has no value, may turn out valuable
By Don Marquis

Presentation by:
Cale Wright
Tim denHollander
Emily Carpenter
Bright Appiah

Argument (by Tooley):
Rights granted on basis of desire
Fetuses do not desire life

Irrelevant: rights have been secured on other grounds
Temporarily unconscious, drugged: still have rights
If one doesn't care about X, then X is not a benefit/interest
No rights that are not in interests

May have right to medical procedure by insurance, but unaware of nature of procedure
cannot care about it until informed
Argument (Bassen):
Sentience/mentation required to be a victim
e.g. plants, permanently unconscious are alive, cannot be victims
embryo lacks sentience, so incapable of being victimized

lack of prospects/futures of value - reason why permanently unconscious and plants cannot be victimized
Bassen acknowledges prospects
esp. for children
"Potentiality comes into play only where victimizability has been secured on other grounds"
Bassen is unclear about what else can define victimizability
Generally victims are objects of empathy
Requires mentation

Example 1
Post-humous obliteration of author's work
Bassen: only victimizes author if he wished his work to endure
Marquis: low self-esteem, work is actually valuable--still victimizes author by destroying it
Empathy is not involved, which seems to be underlying intuition for Bassen

Example 2
Completely unconscious person recovers
Killing while unconscious would have victimized
Despite lack of mentation
FLO Account
Desire Account
Discontinuation Account
1. We do consider it wrong to kill persons who have little or no desire to live.
Ex. the unconscious, the sleeping, and the suicidal
2. We desire life because we value the goods of this life. The desire for the goodness of life is more important than our desire for life.
The desire to live at some point in the future is sufficient to make killing wrong. Since fetuses will have the desire to live in the future, then it is wrong to kill fetuses.
Discontinuation Account
People value the experience of living and wish for that valuable experience to continue. What makes killing wrong is the discontinuation of that experience for the victim.
It is not wrong to kill fetuses because fetuses do not have experiences, activities, or projects to be continued or discontinued.
What about someone who is dying, in intolerable pain and begging for death?
Whether this person had a meaningful past or an intolerable past is irrelevant.
It is the value of the patients
which should decide the morality of killing the patient.
Whether someone has past experiences or not does not work in the explanation of what makes killing wrong.
Therefore discontinuation account can be discarded.
Structural Similarities Argument
Wanton Infliction of Pain on Animal Argument
Similar Characteristics between Anti-Abortion Argument and Wanton Infliction of Pain on Animal Argument Structure
Emmanuel Kant's Account and it's disagreement with Wanton Infliction of Pain on Animals Argument
Author's Argument Against Immanuel Kant's Account
Author's Concluding Remarks
It is wrong to kill us
Natural Property of Argument
Evaluation of the Natural Property
Making a case for the Anti-Abortion based on developed Theory on "Why it is wrong to kill us"
Section I
1. To show the symmetries between pro-choice and anti-abortion positions
2. To show the difficulties in standard arguments (from both sides) thus far as to why abortion is either morally permissible or morally impermissible
Stand Off 1
Both sides think:

1. The truth of their claim is obvious
2. Establishing their claim is sufficient to establish that abortion is akin to murder, or abortion is not a wrongful killing, respectively
- Life is present from the moment of conception
- Fetuses look like babies (difficult to establish earlier in the pregnancy)
- Fetuses possess a characteristic (ex genetic code) that is both necessary and sufficient for being human
To be a good argument, the argument must contain...
1) Some claim characterizing fetuses
2) Some general moral principle that ties a characteristic of fetuses to having or not having some right to life or other characteristic that will generate the obligation or lack of obligation to not end the life of a fetus
- Fetuses are not persons
- Fetuses are not rational agents
-Fetuses are not social beings
Problems with Anti-Abortion Side
To patch up their argument....
"It is always seriously prima facie wrong to end the life of a
human being

What does it mean to be a human being? Is it a biological category (why does that make a moral difference?)? A moral category (can't be a premise, it's precisely what needs to be established)?
Argument (v.2.0)

- It is always prima facie seriously wrong to take a human life
- It is always prima facie seriously wrong to end the life of a baby
- Defends a moral principle concerning wrongness of killing so that even fetuses in early pregnancy fall under it (too broad in scope)
* What about cancer cells?
To patch up their argument...
Finds reasons why killing infants, etc. is wrong, but not fetuses.
“Appeals to social utility will seem satisfactory only to those who resolve not to think of the enormous difficulties with a utilitarian account of the wrongness of killing and the significant costs of preserving the lives of the unproductive A pro-choice strategy that extends the definition of “person” to infants/ young children seems just as arbitrary as an anti-abortion strategy that extends the definition of “human being” to fetuses.”
Argument (v.2.0)
Problems with pro-choice side
- Being a person is what gives an individual intrinsic moral worth
-It is only seriously prima facie wrong to take the life of a member of the human community
-Defends a moral principle concerning wrongness of killing to exclude fetuses (too narrow in scope)
* What about infants/ young children/ severely mentally ill?
Why psychological description?
We may treat it as being morally significant (hence doesn’t need explanation), but we ALSO treat being alive and human as having moral significance. If anti-abortion needs to explain why that’s enough for moral significance, pro-choice needs to explain why psychological is enough for moral significance.
Feinberg tried to do so...
“.... Only because of their sense of self, their life plans, their value hierarchies, and their stakes in their own futures can they be ascribed fundamental rights.”

In reply: Yes, to have duty one must have a certain psychology. One cannot have a duty unless one is capable of behaving morally, and a being’s capability of behaving morally will require having a certain psychology. However, having rights doesn't entail consciousness or rationality. note: temporarily unconscious, severely mentally ill
The moral generalizations on both sides are not quite correct. (They are accidental, not essential)

“If we merely believe, but do not understand, why killing adult human beings such as ourselves is wrong, how could we conceivably show that abortion is either immoral or permissible?”
If you make place in psychological theory for unconscious and mentally disabled, you make place for fetuses also (It might not make sense to attribute rights to a being that would never have certain psychological -- connection between psychological personhood and moral personhood)
Purpose: to set out an argument for the serious presumptive wrongness of abortion.
This essay...:
Shows that the property that adults possess which makes it wrong to kill them is also possessed by fetuses.
Avoids the use of "human being", "human life", "person" speciesism, Papal dogma, and religious claims
Is compatible with euthanasia and contraception and deals with our intuitions regarding young children
It is wrong to kill adult human beings.
It is not wrong to end the life of some arbitrarily chosen human cell.
The problem is that fetuses seem to fall somewhere between those two categories.
This essay has determined a fetal property that settles this moral controversy.

"The problem of the ethics of abortions, so understood, is solvable."
Killing someone is wrong, primarily because the killing inflicts (one of) the greatest possible losses on the victim

When I am killed, I am deprived both of what I now value which would have been part of my future personal life, but also what I would come to value. Therefore, when I die, I am deprived of all of the value of my future

The loss of one's life deprives one of all the experiences, activities, projects, and enjoyments that would otherwise have constituted one's future
A natural property will ultimately explain the wrongness of the killing, only if
The explanation fits with our intuitions about the matter
There is no other natural property that provides the basis for a better explanation of the wrongness of killing
The natural property of this argument is therefore....
The loss of the victim's future

It is possible that there exists a different species from another planet whose members have a future like ours

Since having a future like that is what makes killing someone wrong, this theory entails that it would be wrong to kill members of such a species
It is incompatible with the view that it is wrong to kill only beings who are biologically human
It is indeterminate with respect to some very difficult issues regarding animal rights
The futures of some actual non-human mammals on our own planet are sufficiently like ours that it is seriously wrong to kill them also

The animal right account will need some additional accounts to prove whether some animals have the same right to life as human beings

Hence it should not reflect badly on this sketch of an elementary theory of the wrongness of killing
It does not share the same consequence with sanctity-of-human-life theories
Sanctity-of-human-life theories claim that active euthanasia is seriously wrong even in an individual case where there seems to be good reason for it independently of public policy considerations

The "Loss of future to victim" claim strictly speaks about the value of a human's future which makes killing wrong in this theory

Persons who are severely and incurably ill, who face a future of pain and despair, and who wish to die will not have suffered a loss if they are killed
Personhood theories of the wrongness of killing, cannot straightforwardly account for the wrongness of killing infants and young children
It must add special ad hoc accounts of the wrongness of killing the young. The plausibility of such ad hoc theories seems to be a function of how desperately one wants such theories to work

"Loss of future to victim" claim straightforwardly entails that it is prima facie seriously wrong to kill children and infants, for we do presume that they have futures of value
The future of a standard fetus includes a set of experiences, projects, activities, and such which are identical with the futures of adult human beings and are identical with the futures of young children

Since the reason that is sufficient to explain why it is wrong to kill human beings after the time of birth is a reason that also applies to fetuses, it follows that abortion is prima facie seriously morally wrong
It is prima facie wrong to inflict pain on me
The infliction of pain causes suffering and that suffering is a misfortune
Suffering (natural property of argument) makes the wanton infliction of pain on me wrong
The wanton infliction of pain on animals causes suffering
Since causing suffering is what makes the wanton infliction of pain wrong and since the wanton infliction of pain on animals causes suffering, it follows that the wanton infliction of pain on animals is wrong
Both arguments start with an obvious assumption concerning what it is wrong to do to me

Both then look for the characteristic or the consequence of the wrong action which makes the action wrong

Both recognize that the wrong-making feature of these immoral actions is a property of actions sometimes directed at individuals other than postnatal human beings

If the structure of the argument for the wrongness of the wanton infliction of pain on animals is sound, then the structure of the argument for the prima facie serious wrongness of abortion is also sound, for the structure of the two arguments is the same

The structure common to both is the key to the explanation of how the wrongness of abortion can be
demonstrated without recourse to the category of person
Kant believed that we do not have direct duties to animals at all, because they are not persons
Kant had to explain and justify the wrongness of inflicting pain on animals on the grounds that,"he who is hard in his dealings with animals becomes hard also in his dealing with men"

If Kant's view is accepted, there is no intelligible reason why one who is hard in his dealings with animals (or crabgrass or stones) should also be hard in his dealings with men. After all, men are persons: animals are no more persons than crabgrass or stones

If Kant's account is rejected, then it is easy to understand why someone who is indifferent to inflicting pain on animals is also indifferent to inflicting pain on humans, for one is indifferent to what makes inflicting pain wrong in both cases

Hence, Kant's argument for the wrongness of inflicting pain on animals rests on a claim that is demonstrably false
This value of future-like-ours argument, if sound, shows only that abortion is pima facie wrong, not that it is wrong in any and all circumstances

Abortion could be justified in some circumstances, only if the loss consequent on failing to abort would be at least as great as the loss incurred by aborting

Morally permissible abortions will be rare indeed unless, perhaps, they occur so early in pregnancy that a fetus is not yet definitely an individual

Hence, this argument should be taken as showing that abortion is presumptively seriously wrong, where the presumption is very strong as the presumption that killing another adult human being is wrong
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