Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Philosophical Case For Life

If the scientific case is so airtight, how do pro-abortionists justify their position? They do so by a disguised appeal to a philosophical issue that they believe makes the scientific case irrelevant. They try to make a distinction between a human being and a human person. Though common sense would seem to make this a distinction without a difference (have you ever met a human being who was not a human person?), this is a distinction we must address.

So, what is it that they claim makes someone a "person"? Most everyone I have heard/read about claims that self-awareness or consciousness is the instrumental property that constitutes personhood. That is, unless you are aware that you are alive and kicking in some fashion, you cannot be a human person. Consider the consequences that follow from such a claim ...

If I am asleep, I am not a human person. If I get knocked out in a boxing match, I am not a human person. If I am under sedation for surgery, I am not a human person. You get the picture. One could think up an enormous number of situations in which our acceptance of this argument as justification for taking the life of an unborn human being can also logically lead to justification for taking your life in situations when it would clearly be wrong to do so. It sure sounds like there must be something inherently wrong with this kind of argument. What is wrong is that those who use this argument to justify abortion are misapplying the properties that make human being valuable at all.

Notice above that I emphasized consciousness as an "instrumental" property -- that is an accidental property (like skin color, sex, age, reasoning ability, height etc.) that does not define our value us as human beings based on what we are but rather defines our worth based on what we can do or how we look. This is an important distinction. The pro-life claim (which, by the way, does not depend on the Bible to support it) is that human beings are valuable in virtue of the kind of thing they are -- their ontological status in philosopher-speak. So, in the case of the unborn, their status as a member of the human family prohibits the unjustified taking of their life, not the fact that that they may, or may not, be conscious.

Very few abortion rights advocates are capable of living with the ramifications of their stated view. But one is. His name is Peter Singer. Dr. Singer, in his book Practical Ethics, argues that infants, based on the fact that they are not yet "conscious," can be killed by the attending physician (or anyone else) for any reason from the moment of birth for 30 days. One has to wonder how Mr. Singer draws the arbitrary line at 30 days? Why not 45 days? Or 90? Or 365? His view is horrific but at least he is consistent. If consciousness is the criteria for personhood there are a lot of people at risk as we speak who have probably never considered that those who would kill an unborn baby, if they were also consistent, could use the same justification for murdering them.

Next time, a simple argument that shows the power of the pro-life position as it relates to any pro-abortion argument based on the instrumental value of human beings ...

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