Does a woman's right to bodily autonomy justify abortion?

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Does a woman's right to bodily autonomy justify abortion?

Post #1

Post by otseng »

Debate Topic

Does a woman's right to bodily autonomy justify abortion?

Participants

EvidenceOfGod (Clinton Wilcox) and Haven

Definitions

Justify:
Morally permissible; a moral act.

Abortion:
The act of intentionally and prematurely ending a pregnancy with the result being the death of the human embryo/fetus. I do believe that abortions are justified in the case of the mother's life being in immediate jeopardy. So when I say "abortions are immoral" or "generally immoral," that should be seen as short-hand for excluding these rare types of abortions.

Bodily Autonomy:
The right to do whatever I want with anything in or to my body. A related term is "bodily integrity," which is a synonym that I take to mean "the right to decide what happens with anything in or to my body."

Format of debate

6 total posts:

1. Haven opening argument
2. EvidenceOfGod opening argument
3. Haven rebuttal
4. EvidenceOfGod rebuttal
5. Haven closing argument
6. EvidenceOfGod closing argument

Each post can be of unlimited length. Each post can take up to 3 days to be posted.

All forum rules apply to the debate.

Comment thread

http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... hp?t=28116

Bios

Clinton Wilcox (EvidenceOfGod) is a staff apologist with Life Training Institute. He has been trained by the leading young pro-life speaker in the nation. As a pro-life advocate, Clinton specializes in training pro-life people to make the pro-life case more effectively, by using good arguments and avoiding bad ones, and persuasively, by having good conversations with pro-choice people and treating them respectfully. Clinton is also a certified speaker and mentor with Justice for All.

Haven is a longtime poster at Debating Christianity & Religion, is a doctoral student in sociology & rural studies. Raised in a deeply conservative Christian family, they began to question their Christian beliefs after completing their bachelor's degree and eventually came to identify as an agnostic atheist. Since then, they have become an intersectional feminist, anti-racist, and advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) community. They strongly support reproductive rights and find the so-called "pro-life" movement to be a threat to the lives and well-being of women and families.

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Post #2

Post by Haven »

Imagine you are going about your daily life when suddenly a flesh-eating parasite latches onto you. This parasite, which you did not ask to enter your body, will live inside you and feed on you for several months, causing detrimental changes to your body and potentially leading to severe, potentially life-threatening health problems. You decide you want to go to a doctor to get rid of this parasite and allow your body to heal, but, to your horror, you find that this is illegal because a set of lawmakers, most of whom are immune to this particular parasite, have decided that hosts must retain their parasites until they naturally leave hosts' bodies. You feel violated by this law--it strips you of your bodily autonomy (the right to determine what happens to your own body and anything inside it, including what enters, exits, and affects it) and denies you the opportunity to remove an unwanted intruder from your being--and you seek alternative, potentially dangerous and health-hazardous, ways of eliminating the parasite.

This is the situation that many cisgender women and transgender men and non-binary people (people with female reproductive anatomy) who do not have access to safe, legal abortion find themselves in every day--their right to decide whether a health-hazardous and potentially dangerous user of their bodies (pregnancies/fetuses) should remain or not. Some of these individuals will die, either directly as the result of the unwanted pregnancy or as the result of an unsafe, illegal abortion attempted due to desperation. These individuals have had their bodily autonomy taken away by predominately cisgender male conservative lawmakers; people who have no chance of ever becoming pregnant.

This is the situation in which Clinton Wilcox and other so-called "pro-life" activists would gladly place millions of American women, men, and non-binary people on the mistaken belief that elective abortion (abortion undertaken for reasons other than an immediate threat to the pregnant person's life) is immoral.

For the sake of this discussion, I'll define "moral" as "generally acceptable by society and commonly accepted standards of human decency." While this isn't a philosophically robust definition, it'll do for this discussion, which deals with the practical application, not the definition, of moral principles.

So, that brings us to the debate question--does a woman's (or transgender man's or non-binary person's) right to bodily autonomy justify abortion?

Let's unpack this a bit. Abortion (which, in this debate, refers to elective abortion as previously defined), the removal and termination of a fetus from a person's body, seems to offer no immediate violations of morality. A fetus--while a potential person (as are unfertilized ova and sperm)--has been shown by science to be an unconscious entity that has no capacity to feel pain or appreciate its life. This removes it from the realm of conscious beings that have rights simply due to these abilities, including post-birth humans and many non-human animals.

Even without the consideration of bodily autonomy, this seems to remove abortion from the category of the immoral. Adding in the extra consideration of bodily autonomy--which is psychologically and legally important to human beings--and the answer to this question becomes obvious: abortion is morally permissible, and, in some cases, may be the most morally responsible choice (as in the case of a teenage pregnant person who has no capacity to care for a child).

Arguments against this position tend to focus on two factors: religious doctrines and the personhood of the fetus. Neither of these objections hold for the following reasons:

1. Religious considerations, as agreed to by myself and my opponent, are irrelevant to this discussion. Because gods cannot be shown to exist, religious texts cannot be shown to be true, and the United States is a constitutionally secular country, such considerations should not be factored into the examination of whether or not abortion is a moral option.

2. Fetal personhood fails because, as mentioned previously, fetuses (and their precursors, zygotes and embryos) are unconscious entities. As scientific research has discovered, they are incapable of feeling pain, emotion, or appreciating their own lives; and these three factors are widely recognized as being necessary for an entity to possess personhood. Because of this, it's clear that fetuses are not persons, and as a result, are not entitled to the rights afforded persons.

So, given that fetuses are not persons and people with the capacity for pregnancy are stripped of their bodily autonomy, it seems clear that abortion is, in fact, a morally justifiable choice.

This concludes my opening argument. I eagerly await my opponent's response.
♥ Haven (she/her) ♥
♥ Kindness is the greatest adventure ♥

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Opening Argument, Negative Constructive

Post #3

Post by EvidenceOfGod »

I want to begin by saying that Haven’s appeal to “cisgender women and transgender men and non-binary people� is useless and irrelevant to this debate, to say nothing of being unnecessarily cumbersome. It’s not my intention to debate the legitimacy of these terms, but the stark reality of the situation is that the only people who can get pregnant are biological females. If I am going to have sex with a woman, I do not have to ask her how she identifies to know whether or not I can get her pregnant. I just have to know that she is biologically female. So I will be referring to the pregnant woman (not pregnant people) for this reason.

I will get to my argument proper in a moment. But first I want to address Haven’s claim that unborn human beings are like parasites. For this, I will simply suggest that Haven crack open an elementary school biology textbook if he/she doesn’t know how to distinguish a human being from a parasite. However, since this is a debate, I will give a brief refutation of this idea.

There are one of two things you can mean by comparing the unborn organism to a parasite. Either it is a biological parasite, or the relationship is a parasitic one. Haven seems to mean the former. But the problem is that parasites are malevolent organisms of a different species than its host, usually cause diseases in humans, and are usually transmitted by other creatures, such as mosquitos or sand flies. [1] By contrast, human beings begin their life in the womb, are the same species as their mother and father because they come from the cells of their mother and father, and will one day become adult human beings, like the mother and father, unless prevented doing so by dying.

The other sense is in the relationship sense. But remember that children don’t stop being parasites, in this sense of the term, at birth. Infants usually breastfeed from their mothers, and their parents still must feed them, change their diapers, take them to the doctor, etc., at the expense of their own money, bodily autonomy, and personal freedom. Children don’t stop being parasites in this sense until they are old enough to get jobs of their own and move out. Besides which, the mother/unborn child relationship, itself, is not strictly parasitic. Scientists have recently discovered that it’s actually symbiotic because of a process called microchimerism, in which the mother and child actually exchange cells, and the child’s cells produce good effects in the mother, such as staving off illness (e.g. colds), and could possibly help prevent certain types of cancer or repair damage after a stroke. [2] Pro-choice people tend to present pregnancy as dangerous and oppressive, and while pregnancy certainly does carry with it some risks, the reality is that pregnancy is a good thing for women, on top of being the natural way we all enter life.

Haven also asserts that women’s “rights� are being taken away by men who will never get pregnant, but this is a sexist argument in itself, as it ignores the numerous pro-life female lawmakers and females in the pro-life movement (not to mention the potential “transgender men� whom Haven has no idea if they identify as men or women), as well as ignoring the fact that it was the majority of the Supreme Court, made up of nine men, who made the decision to legalize abortion across the board in the United States.

That out of the way, I’ll begin my positive argument, arguing in the negative, that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy does not justify abortion.

From fertilization, the unborn are full human beings, biologically speaking. This is supported by virtually all embryology textbooks since the beginning of the 20th century. When the sperm and the egg unite, they cease to exist and a new, genetically distinct human organism arises in its place, developing itself from within along the path of human development. As the unborn is a full human being from the time of fertilization, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy does not cover a right to an abortion.

To quote a popular adage, “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.� No one has an unrestricted right to bodily autonomy. We are required by law to wear our seatbelts, to abstain from drugs, and especially not to rape or murder another human being. If the unborn are human beings, then certainly their lives should be respected and it would be wrong to mistreat them, just like it would be wrong to mistreat any human being outside the womb.

Now, there is a possible distinction to be made: human in the biological sense does not necessarily mean they are human in the moral sense, i.e. persons. [3] After all, “human� and “person� are not interchangeable. There may be divine entities, like God and angels, who are not human but should be respected. There also may be intelligent extraterrestrial species that would not be included if a person just is a human being. So the two terms are not equivalent. However, it has never been conclusively shown that there are any human beings who should be excluded from the moral community. I submit that all humans are persons, even though all persons are not humans.

Haven argues that the unborn entity has been shown by science to be “unconscious,� having no capacity to feel pain or appreciate its life. He/she apparently equates “conscious entity� with “entity that has rights,� but he/she has simply not argued this point. What we have to understand is that “person� is not a scientific term -- it is a philosophical one and a legal one. Science can’t tell us what a person is, it can only tell us who counts as persons once you’ve made the philosophical determination about what a person is. So Haven’s definition of person should be rejected since he/she has offered no reason to believe that only conscious beings (and all conscious beings) can be persons. He/she has also not defined “conscious� clearly enough. At the very least, there are clear counterexamples. Haven’s definition would, for one thing, make personhood episodic. I was not enjoying my life and I could not feel pain last night while I was asleep. Yet Haven’s definition would allow anyone to morally kill me in my sleep, or while I’m depressed, as long as it’s done painlessly. Haven’s definition leads to clear counterexamples of people I would imagine he/she would take to be uncontroversial examples of persons.

Conversely, being a person is not about the functions you can presently perform but about the kind of thing that you are. This is the only fact that grounds why I am a person when I cease being able to perform personal acts. I was not conscious, self-aware, enjoying life, etc., while I was asleep, yet I am still a person while I’m asleep, or go under general anesthesia, or enter a reversible coma.

Haven has committed a logical fallacy by referring to the unborn as “unconscious,� a category error. They are not unconscious, they are pre-conscious. There is a difference in kind between a rock and a human being. A rock will never become conscious. It will only just ever lie there, unless something else moves it, because that’s in its nature. The unborn are not like that. They are members of a rational kind, who will develop the present capacities to perform personal acts because they have the inherent capacity for rationality. This is also why we remain people when we cease being able to perform personal acts, because these capacities are still inherent within us.

Saying you must be able to “act like persons� puts the cart before the horse. It confuses being a person with acting as a person. One must first be a person in order to act like one, just as someone must first be a human in order to develop human parts. Plus, there must be someone there to do the experiencing. Things like consciousness are properties of persons.

It’s true that bodily autonomy is important to human beings, and no pro-life person denies this. The problem is that pro-choice people obfuscate the issue by trying to remove any semblance of value from the unborn human being, and by acting as if a right to abortion is the *only* right that bodily autonomy brings with it. That is certainly not the case. Pro-life people believe bodily autonomy is very important, we just believe that bodily autonomy does not excuse killing a human being unjustly.

I’ll respond to his final two points:

1) I never agreed that religious considerations are irrelevant. I am a Christian and that informs a number of things that I do (including my desire to speak out for those who can’t speak up for themselves). When I discuss this with a Christian, I believe arguing from Scripture is appropriate. However, when discussing with non-Christians, and to show that there are good non-religious reasons to make abortion illegal in a pluralistic society, I argue from science and philosophy.

2) Haven’s arguments against fetal personhood fail for the reasons I mentioned in my discussion above.

To recap, bodily autonomy does not justify abortion because no one has an unrestricted right to bodily autonomy. A right to bodily autonomy cannot justify harming or otherwise taking advantage of another human being. The unborn are persons because being a person is about the kind of thing you are, not the kinds of functions you can perform.

I await Haven’s rebuttals.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/about.html
[2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nati ... s/5412383/
[3] This is a distinction made by Mary Anne Warren in her essay On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, and which many other philosophers, like Michael Tooley and Peter Singer, use to argue for abortion rights.

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Re: Opening Argument, Negative Constructive

Post #4

Post by Haven »

Clinton, thank you for your response. Now to address your points:
[color=green]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:
I want to begin by saying that Haven’s appeal to “cisgender women and transgender men and non-binary people� is useless and irrelevant to this debate, to say nothing of being unnecessarily cumbersome. It’s not my intention to debate the legitimacy of these terms, but the stark reality of the situation is that the only people who can get pregnant are biological females. If I am going to have sex with a woman, I do not have to ask her how she identifies to know whether or not I can get her pregnant. I just have to know that she is biologically female. So I will be referring to the pregnant woman (not pregnant people) for this reason.
Biological sex and gender identity are two different things, as has been established in the scientific literature. "Woman" does not mean biological female, and "biological female" does not mean woman. There are many biological females who are not women (such as transgender men [who are men] and non-binary people [who aren't women or men]) and many women who are not biological females. Therefore simply reducing the category of "person who can become pregnant" to "woman" is unnecessarily exclusionary at best and transphobic at worst.

Because of these things, I'll continue to use inclusive, trans-respecting language and gender-neutral pronouns (where appropriate) throughout my posts. For the sake of debate, however, I'll accept that your use of "woman" refers to all people who have the capacity for pregnancy, and I'll respond accordingly.
[color=olive]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:I will get to my argument proper in a moment. But first I want to address Haven’s claim that unborn human beings are like parasites.
I never made such a claim. My reference to a parasite in my opening argument was intended as an analogy to convey the emotion that a person who is experiencing an unwanted pregnancy might experience. I did not intend to suggest that human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses (ZEFs for short) were literal parasites or even that they had a parasitic relationship to pregnant people. For what it's worth, I reject the idea that ZEFs are parasites, however I do believe that they can have a parasitic-like subjective effect on people who are carrying unwanted pregnancies.

Also, using terms like "unborn human beings" and "unborn children" can be considered a fallacious appeal to emotion, because it attempts to influence the reader to think of them as persons. Whether or not abortion is moral, it's a fact that ZEFs are not children (a child is, by definition, a post-birth juvenile of the human species). There's a big difference between a ZEF and a kid, and conflating the two--while a common tactic among anti-abortion activists--is little more than an emotional rhetorical device.
[color=blue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:For this, I will simply suggest that Haven crack open an elementary school biology textbook if he/she doesn’t know how to distinguish a human being from a parasite. However, since this is a debate, I will give a brief refutation of this idea.
I'll be skipping much of your comments on parasites, in light of my previous clarification. Again, my use of "parasite" was meant to be an analogy to how a person carrying an unwanted pregnancy might feel about laws against abortion, not an assertion that a ZEF is literally a parasite.
[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Besides which, the mother/unborn child relationship, itself, is not strictly parasitic. Scientists have recently discovered that it’s actually symbiotic because of a process called microchimerism, in which the mother and child actually exchange cells, and the child’s cells produce good effects in the mother, such as staving off illness (e.g. colds), and could possibly help prevent certain types of cancer or repair damage after a stroke.
While this is certainly interesting commentary about the relationship between a pregnant person and a ZEF, it is irrelevant to our debate on bodily autonomy and the morality of abortion.
[color=darkviolet]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:[2] Pro-choice people tend to present pregnancy as dangerous and oppressive, and while pregnancy certainly does carry with it some risks, the reality is that pregnancy is a good thing for women, on top of being the natural way we all enter life.
"Oppressive" is not a word I used in my argument. It is true, however, that pregnancy--especially for very young people (under the age of 18), older people (over age 40), or people with pre-existing health conditions--does carry several serious medical risks, including:

1) Anemia
2) Mental disturbances, including depression
3) Urinary tract infections
4) Hypertension
5) A type of diabetes known as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)
6) Obesity
7) Various infections

Source: Centers for Disease Control (2015)


These common health risks are in addition to rarer conditions that can be life-threatening to the pregnant person.

Source: National Institutes of Health (2013)
[color=darkorange]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven also asserts that women’s “rights� are being taken away by men who will never get pregnant, but this is a sexist argument in itself, as it ignores the numerous pro-life female lawmakers and females in the pro-life movement (not to mention the potential “transgender men� whom Haven has no idea if they identify as men or women), as well as ignoring the fact that it was the majority of the Supreme Court, made up of nine men, who made the decision to legalize abortion across the board in the United States.
First, the placing of "rights" in quotation marks is an emotional rhetorical tactic meant to imply that these rights do not exist. This is not only fallacious but an attempt to influence the audience by style, not substance.

Moving on to the crux of your argument:

First, it is entirely possible for an individual to vote against her own interests. There were, for example, African-Americans who supported slavery, lesbians and gays who opposed marriage equality, and working-class people who favored supply-side economics. Given the propensity of people to vote against their interests, it should be no surprise that there are some women who oppose abortion rights. This says nothing about the morality of abortion, nor does it say anything about the opinions of most women on abortion rights.

For what its worth, polls consistently show that women--at least in the United States--overwhelmingly support elective abortion, and at a rate greater than men.

Source: Gallup (2014)

Also, the fact that the Supreme Court that decided Roe v. Wade was made up of men is completely irrelevant. I never said that all men oppose abortion, only that most lawmakers who introduce and pass anti-abortion legislation are men with (presumably) no capacity for pregnancy. Since these individuals have no capacity for pregnancy, it seems absurd that they get to decide what happens to the bodies of people who do have the capacity for pregnancy.
[color=darkblue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:That out of the way, I’ll begin my positive argument, arguing in the negative, that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy does not justify abortion.

From fertilization, the unborn are full human beings, biologically speaking.
This is far from uncontroversial; it's necessary to define "full human being." Yes, a ZEF does have human DNA, but so does a single stem cell, a strand of hair, a limb, and an unfertilized ovum, but no one would consider these things to be "full human beings." Is "full human being" simply a synonym for "something possessing human DNA," or is it something more?

I think most people would consider factors like independent existence, brain function, consciousness, individuality, and so on when considering whether or not some X was a "full human being."
[color=blue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:This is supported by virtually all embryology textbooks since the beginning of the 20th century. When the sperm and the egg unite, they cease to exist and a new, genetically distinct human organism arises in its place, developing itself from within along the path of human development.
Again, how does simply possessing human DNA--even unique human DNA--make something a "full human being?" Is a dead body a "full human being?" What about a person in a persistent vegetative state? What about a heart cloned from different individuals' DNA?

Divorcing "full human being" from independent life and consciousness leads to absurd consequences.
[color=indigo]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:As the unborn is a full human being from the time of fertilization, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy does not cover a right to an abortion.
I'll ask you directly: what is your definition of "full human being?" If it is based on simply possessing (unique?) human DNA, then why is a dead person or a cloned organ NOT a full human being? You need to show how your definition is not arbitrary.
[color=olive]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:To quote a popular adage, “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.�
Ironically, you've just presented a brilliant defense of my central point: no one has rights over the bodies or well-beings of another person. A ZEF, regardless of its "human status," does not have the right to force its carrier to give birth to it. The carrier, the pregnant person, still has a right to control and sovereignty over her/his/their own body. Forcing the pregnant person by law to carry the ZEF to term is to deprive them of bodily autonomy; to "swing one's fist into their nose." This seems to be what most would consider an immoral violation of bodily integrity.
[color=indigo]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:No one has an unrestricted right to bodily autonomy. We are required by law to wear our seatbelts, to abstain from drugs,
These are laws designed by local social convention and have little to do with what most would call moral principles.

For example, in Colorado, it's perfectly legal for a person (21 and older) to smoke marijuana, but in Utah it isn't. Does lighting a joint suddenly become immoral simply because one has traveled from Aspen to Park City?
[color=darkred]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:and especially not to rape or murder another human being.
Why are murder and rape wrong? They're wrong because they non-consensually rob another person of autonomy over their own body and life. They are assaults upon another's human autonomy. I'd argue that forcing a pregnant person to carry a ZEF to term is analogous to these acts: causing damage to another's body without their consent. Anti-abortionism, not abortion, therefore seems to fit under this category of immoral assault.

The ZEF, by the way, is not conscious in any way, and so is essentially an inanimate object. How can the rights of an inanimate object be violated? How can an inanimate object even have rights?
[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:If the unborn are human beings, then certainly their lives should be respected and it would be wrong to mistreat them, just like it would be wrong to mistreat any human being outside the womb.
Again, I'm going to have to ask you to define "human." Do deceased individuals count as human? What about individual human cells? What about a sentient non-Homo sapiens species? You're going to need to provide a robust definition before we can continue.
[color=darkorange]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Now, there is a possible distinction to be made: human in the biological sense does not necessarily mean they are human in the moral sense, i.e. persons. [3] After all, “human� and “person� are not interchangeable. There may be divine entities, like God and angels, who are not human but should be respected. There also may be intelligent extraterrestrial species that would not be included if a person just is a human being. So the two terms are not equivalent. However, it has never been conclusively shown that there are any human beings who should be excluded from the moral community. I submit that all humans are persons, even though all persons are not humans.
What is your definition of person? You mentioned mythological beings like gods and angels, along with intelligent aliens, as examples of persons, but examples are not definitions. Please define "person"; it's essential to this debate.

My definition of person is this: any being that has the capacity for consciousness, sensations of pain and pleasure, and/or the ability to appreciate its own life.

I'd agree that virtually all humans (by this I mean non-dead individuals from the species Homo sapiens) are persons, but there are some marginal cases that could be excluded (humans in permanent vegetative states, for example). I'd also agree that, under my definition, the vast majority of non-human animals (excluding brainless animals like corals and sponges) are also persons (this is the biggest reason that I'm a vegan).
[color=brown]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven argues that the unborn entity has been shown by science to be “unconscious,� having no capacity to feel pain or appreciate its life. He/she apparently equates “conscious entity� with “entity that has rights,� but he/she has simply not argued this point.
Since only conscious beings can appreciate and exercise rights (how is the right to freedom of speech, for example, relevant to a rock or other inanimate object?), it makes sense that rights are only relevant to, and hence possessed by, conscious beings.
[color=green]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:What we have to understand is that “person� is not a scientific term -- it is a philosophical one and a legal one. Science can’t tell us what a person is, it can only tell us who counts as persons once you’ve made the philosophical determination about what a person is.
I don't dispute this.
[color=blue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:So Haven’s definition of person should be rejected since he/she has offered no reason to believe that only conscious beings (and all conscious beings) can be persons. He/she has also not defined “conscious� clearly enough.
By conscious, I mean having the ability to perceive one's surroundings, develop preferences about them, and have subjective experiences involving them. Under this definition, a dog would be conscious, while a plant or computer would not.
[color=deeppink]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:At the very least, there are clear counterexamples. Haven’s definition would, for one thing, make personhood episodic. I was not enjoying my life and I could not feel pain last night while I was asleep. Yet Haven’s definition would allow anyone to morally kill me in my sleep, or while I’m depressed, as long as it’s done painlessly. Haven’s definition leads to clear counterexamples of people I would imagine he/she would take to be uncontroversial examples of persons.
By "conscious being," I mean a being with the capacity for consciousness given its current optimum physiological state. Obviously, someone temporarily unconscious (due to sleep, anesthesia, or non-persistent coma) is still a person because they still possess the capacity for consciousness (they simply need to be awoken, or in the case of the comatose, heal of their injury, to experience consciousness again).

In contrast, a human in a persistent vegetative state has no capacity for consciousness because their organ that produces consciousness, the brain, has completely atrophied, leaving no possibility for regaining consciousness. A dead human is in the same situation. These individuals, despite having unique human DNA, are not persons because they don't have the capacity for consciousness.

A ZEF--at least one in a stage before the third trimester--seems to clearly fit into the second category. It has no functioning brain, and therefore no capacity for consciousness.

Even if I were to grant Clinton's argument, however, and accept that ZEFs are persons, that still would not make abortion immoral. Remember, the pregnant person still has bodily autonomy, and she/he/they have the right to defend that autonomy (just as they would have the right to defend themselves against any other assault). Abortion is one such defense mechanism.
[color=purple]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Conversely, being a person is not about the functions you can presently perform but about the kind of thing that you are. This is the only fact that grounds why I am a person when I cease being able to perform personal acts. I was not conscious, self-aware, enjoying life, etc., while I was asleep, yet I am still a person while I’m asleep, or go under general anesthesia, or enter a reversible coma.
The term "kind" is completely meaningless in both science and much of contemporary philosophy. It hearkens back to old Aristotelian essentialism, which has long since been debunked and discarded by philosophers. Instead, the discipline of philosophy has largely turned to various flavors of nominalism, which holds that categories are linguistically and socially constructed by humans and imposed on nature (there are no "natural kinds"); that is, they aren't part of the world, they're impressed on the world by us. "Kinds" do not exist in nature; nearly everything exists along some sort of continuum (see my earlier comments on gender for a good example).
[color=darkred]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven has committed a logical fallacy by referring to the unborn as “unconscious,� a category error. They are not unconscious, they are pre-conscious. There is a difference in kind between a rock and a human being. A rock will never become conscious. It will only just ever lie there, unless something else moves it, because that’s in its nature. The unborn are not like that. They are members of a rational kind, who will develop the present capacities to perform personal acts because they have the inherent capacity for rationality.
My statement would only be a category error if Aristotelian essentialism were true, but it seems very likely that such essentialism is false (the most obvious evidence for this is that most things in nature--including species boundaries in many cases--are continuous in nature, and the more complex a thing is, the more likely it is to fall along a continuum [consider planets vs. dwarf planets vs. asteroids]). This is strong evidence for nominalism.

Again, I reject Aristotelian kindism, as I've mentioned above. You need to provide some argument (preferably backed up with scientific evidence) in favor of the existence of essential natural kinds; I won't concede their existence without argument.
[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:This is also why we remain people when we cease being able to perform personal acts, because these capacities are still inherent within us.
So you agree with my earlier comments on capacity for consciousness defining personhood?
[color=deeppink]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Saying you must be able to “act like persons� puts the cart before the horse. It confuses being a person with acting as a person. One must first be a person in order to act like one, just as someone must first be a human in order to develop human parts. Plus, there must be someone there to do the experiencing. Things like consciousness are properties of persons.
Again, you need to argue for essentialism and natural kinds; you can't just assert their existence.
[color=green]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:It’s true that bodily autonomy is important to human beings, and no pro-life person denies this. The problem is that pro-choice people obfuscate the issue by trying to remove any semblance of value from the unborn human being, and by acting as if a right to abortion is the *only* right that bodily autonomy brings with it. That is certainly not the case. Pro-life people believe bodily autonomy is very important, we just believe that bodily autonomy does not excuse killing a human being unjustly.
Again, as I've stated earlier, even if the ZEF is a person (and there's no reason to believe it is), the pregnant person's right to self-defense would still justify abortion. So really the discussion about whether or not the ZEF is a person is irrelevant to our central question: does bodily autonomy justify a pregnant person's right to abortion?

Thank you for posting such a thorough case, and I await your rebuttals.
♥ Haven (she/her) ♥
♥ Kindness is the greatest adventure ♥

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Negative First Rebuttal

Post #5

Post by EvidenceOfGod »

[Replying to post 4 by Haven]

Thanks to Haven for his/her response, and for keeping the discussion civil.

Let’s recap the debate for a moment. The proposition we are debating here is A woman’s right to bodily autonomy justifies abortion. Haven is arguing in the affirmative and I am arguing in the negative.

Haven’s arguments in support of the proposition were as follows:

--Women often feel like they are the hosts of parasites
--Women should be able to make their own decisions about a potentially dangerous pregnancy.
--Abortion offers no immediate violations of ethics because the unborn are not persons. The unborn are not persons because they are not conscious. They are not conscious because they cannot feel pain nor can they enjoy their life. Only and all conscious beings have rights.

Then he/she tried to preempt two possible arguments:

--The religious argument, which has no bearing on debate in a pluralistic society
--Personhood arguments, which fail because the unborn are not conscious.

I can dispatch with Haven’s arguments pretty quickly. The parasite argument should be dismissed because it is an emotional appeal which has no bearing on whether or not women should be able to have an abortion.

I agree to an extent that women should be able to abort in life-threatening situations. However, most pregnancies don’t qualify as life-threatening. So this does not justify abortions in all situations. Plus, this is irrelevant to the debate resolution since if the argument succeeds, a woman would be able to abort for any reason she wants, but justifying it on medical grounds would justify only a small percentage of abortions.

The third argument is false, for the reasons I outlined in my opening argument and for the reasons I will defend below. Additionally, I did not make a religious argument.

Regarding Haven’s case:

Again, a discussion of biology and gender identity is beyond the scope of this debate, so I won’t say any more about it here. My bringing it up was just to head off any potential offense that a reader might take.

1) Women often feel like they are the hosts of parasites

I am glad that Haven does not consider the unborn human being like a parasite. However, a woman who feels this way has been divorced from reality. I think that women who feel the way Haven has described in his/her opening argument are in the extreme minority, even among women who choose abortion. Even if it was how all women feel, however, this is nothing but an emotional appeal. I don’t want to negate the strong emotions a pregnancy brings with it, but for the purposes of debate, we are interested in what really is the case, not what some women perceive the case to be.

Haven asserts that my calling the unborn entity a child is a fallacious appeal to emotion. However, it should be pointed out that while many pro-life people do try to add emotion to the abortion debate by using these emotional terms, many pro-choice people illegitimately try to remove all semblance of emotion by using terms like “fetus� (usually with invective). It’s difficult to find a common balance. I am not using the terms to make an unfair emotional appeal. Haven gave a definition of “child� as “a post-birth juvenile of the human species.� However, he has given no evidence to support his point. In fact, the Oxford American Dictionary defines “child� as “a young human being below the age of full physical development...a son or daughter of any age.� [1] My using the term “child� to describe the ZEF is entirely appropriate. There are many developmental differences between myself as a zygote and myself as an adult, but none of these differences are fundamental. That was still “me� then.

Besides, the times I usually use the term “child� are when comparing the relationship between the mother and child. Other times, I use other, non-emotional terms (such as “unborn organism� in the first sentence of the third paragraph in my opening argument).

Regarding my discussion of microchimerism, it was not irrelevant because I was showing that the relationship is not a parasitic one but a symbiotic one. I was preempting a possible argument regarding the unborn human being. Haven was the one who brought up the example of “parasites,� so if this is irrelevant he/she is the one who took us down a rabbit trail.

Regarding my choice of using the word “oppressive,� notice I did not accuse Haven of using the word, I was simply speaking of pro-choice people in general. And my reason for pointing it out is because of the hypothetical parasite example Haven used.

2) Women should be able to make their own medical decisions

A discussion of the medical risks of pregnancy is not relevant to this debate, so I won’t respond to that point by Haven. If a woman’s bodily autonomy justifies abortion, it justifies it in every situation. The need to discuss abortion in the case of medical indication only arises if the argument from bodily autonomy fails.

My placing the term “rights� in quotation marks was not an emotional appeal, nor was it meant to win by style, rather than substance (though there is certainly a place for rhetoric in debate and discussion). I think any reader will be able to tell that there is much substance to my opening argument. Additionally, I do not believe abortion to be a legitimate right. However, pro-choice people tend to act as if a right to abortion is the only right enjoyed by women, so by removing the right to abortion we are, in essence, removing all of her rights. This is an illegitimate leap.

Haven asserts that there have traditionally been people who have voted against their interests, but this is a very shallow understanding of these issues. The black people who supported slavery were in no danger of becoming slaves themselves. Some gays and lesbians opposed same-sex marriage because they agree with most of the world and most people throughout human history that marriage, by definition, has a special link to children. (Haven will likely take issue with this, but again, this discussion is beyond the scope of this debate, so I won’t debate it here). Claiming that women who oppose abortion are voting against their own interests is a barbaric position to take, because you’re essentially saying that it’s in a woman’s interest to oppress and kill another human being, one that in the vast majority of cases they are responsible for creating and placing in a state of dependency.

One last thing before moving on, to claim that women “overwhelmingly� support elective abortion is a major overstatement. The poll that Haven linked to shows that 50% of women support abortion, and 41% oppose it. This is a majority but not an overwhelming majority. At any rate, it’s not worth anything in this debate because it says nothing about the morality or immorality of an act that the majority support it.

Haven is also playing fast and loose with the facts regarding his/her link that most lawmakers who pass anti-abortion legislation are men. Her/his link certainly doesn’t show that. Haven's link just showed that female GOP lawmakers had pragmatic concerns, not principled concerns, about passing the legislation as it was worded. This doesn’t show that they oppose all anti-abortion legislation, just that they had pragmatic concerns with this one bill, to say nothing of the fact that the link also shows that male lawmakers had pragmatic concerns with it.

3) The unborn are not persons because they are not conscious

I’d like to touch on something Haven said in his/her opening argument. She/he referred to the unborn entity as a “potential person�, but this is simply not the case. Haven has confused active potential with passive potential. The unborn entity certainly has potentialities to actualize, but these are active ones.

Consider a cake. Sugar and flour are ingredients in a cake. Left on their own, the sugar and flour will not become a cake. This is because while they have the potential to become a cake, they have this potential passively. It requires an outside baker to mix the ingredients together to become a cake. Passive potentiality is identity-changing. The sugar and flour lose their identities and become part of the cake.

The unborn organism is different. She has the power within herself to actualize these capacities. She doesn’t need an outside builder, she has the power on her own to actualize them. This is an active potential. Active potentialities are identity-preserving potentialities, so she remains the same thing through all of her changes. The sperm and the egg are potential persons, but the unborn human, from fertilization, is an actual person.

Now, Haven gave his/her definition of person as: “any being that has the capacity for consciousness, sensations of pain and pleasure, and/or the ability to appreciate its own life.� But his/her definition actually supports my position: the unborn have this same capacity. They just have it inherently, not presently.

Haven’s only argument for why consciousness matters is that only conscious entities can appreciate and exercise rights, but this is only partially right. Conscious animals cannot appreciate rights. If someone takes a dog to a court to argue for its rights, the dog has no idea what is going on. The dog didn’t ask to be there, didn’t ask for her rights to be respected, doesn’t even care whether or not you consider her a person. Dogs can’t appreciate rights. Neither can they respect the rights of others, which is an essential aspect of having rights. If I want my rights respected, I have to respect the rights of others. It is the rational nature which grounds our rights because the rational nature is what allows us to recognize right from wrong and act accordingly.

Haven has also shown that my definition is to be preferred. I did not appreciate my life, nor was I conscious, last night while I was sleeping. So if we need a present capacity for these things, it would be moral to take my life while I’m asleep, or under general anesthesia, etc. Haven responded to this point by saying that by conscious being, he/she means the capacity for consciousness given its current optimum physiological state. But this is clearly an ad hoc definition meant to avoid the fact that the unborn actually have the same capacity for consciousness, they just haven’t developed the mental hardware for it yet. But being biologically human is also necessary for human consciousness, so why is it the brain and not the human DNA that grounds their rights?

In fact, Haven says that in the case of a comatose person, all they need to do is experience consciousness again. But in this case, the unborn ZEF is like a conscious person. They are not conscious now, but will be, just given time. The only difference is that the comatose person once experienced consciousness, but I don’t see how once experiencing consciousness would make any difference, morally speaking, in whether or not the entity is a person.

Haven is correct that a person in a persistent vegetative state is not a person, per se, but the reason for this is that the person in a PVS has irreversibly lost that which makes him/her a person, whereas the unborn entity currently has it (the rational nature) and will be able to exercise it, given enough time to develop.

Regarding my case:

The fact that the unborn are human beings from fertilization is uncontroversial (to say nothing of the fact that I gave reasons in my opening argument for it). I’m speaking biologically here, as in from fertilization, the unborn is a biological member of our species, Homo sapiens. Here are just a couple of quotations from embryology textbooks:

"Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a 'moment') is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte." [2]

"Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.� [3]

Not to mention, Alan Guttmacher wrote in 1933:

“We of today know that man is born of sexual union; that he starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.� [4]

Trying to compare the human zygote to a skin cell, strand of hair, a limb, etc., is just confusing matters because these entities are not organisms in their own right, as the human zygote is. Left alone, a limb will only ever be a limb; a skin cell (even a sperm or ovum) will just die if left alone. If left alone, the human zygote will eventually mature into a human adult. Sure, you can clone a human being from a skin cell, but again, this skin cell has only a passive potential to become a human being, and requires an outside "builder," if you will, to clone the human from the skin cell. The skin cell is like the sugar and flour, in this respect. The human zygote, from fertilization, has an active potential to develop all of her parts and properties from within herself.

If you’re trying to speak of independent existence, brain function, etc., you’re speaking of personhood, which is a philosophical discussion, not a scientific one. These things have no bearing on whether or not the unborn entity is a human being, because a human begins life as an embryo from the sperm and egg and starts on a lifelong trajectory of development that doesn’t end at birth.

Divorcing “full human being� from independent existence and consciousness does not lead to absurd consequences, it merely recognizes that there are distinctions to be made, and makes them. Haven is trying to sneak a discussion of personhood into a discussion of biological humanity.

It is an uncontroversial fact of science that the unborn are biological members of our species.

What is more controversial is whether or not they are persons, which is the concept that Haven is trying to attack. Several times she/he asked me how I define a person, so I’ll just give the definition here. I did show what the essential characteristics are to be included in the moral community, but I’ll go ahead and spell out my definition of personhood: a person is an individual substance of a rational nature. [5] This definition was formulated by medieval philosopher Boethius, and was the understanding of personhood until the early 20th century, when John Locke wrote his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in which he argued that a person is able to make rational choices, understand right from wrong, etc. This is the position of personhood that philosophers like Michael Tooley hold, and often refer to it as neo-Lockean personhood. However, this was actually caused by a misreading of Locke’s words. Locke was not formulating a definition of person qua person. In fact, Locke was outlining why it is we hold persons accountable for their actions. This would not disqualify the unborn or infants, etc., from personhood because they simply were not mature enough yet to understand morality. It’s the parents’ job to instill that in their children.

A few definitions regarding these terms:

By individual, I do not mean “separate.� The unborn entity is an individual organism, even if attached to the mother by the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord provides nourishment to the unborn organism but does not direct the unborn entity’s development.

A substance is an entity that maintains its identity through change. All living things are substances. This is as opposed to artifacts, such as cars and clocks, which require an outside builder and find their identities in their parts. Substances exist ontologically prior to their parts.

A rational nature is simply the ability to make decisions, recognize morality and act accordingly, etc. It is the rational nature, not the current ability to make rational decisions, that grounds our personhood.

Haven has tried to coopt my argument and use it as his/her own, but this will not do. The pro-life position does not assert that the unborn child has control over the woman’s body. The woman is free to do whatever she likes, as long as it does not pose a serious threat or harm to the ZEF (e.g. smoking or drinking). All the pro-life position entails is that the woman does not have the moral right to take her unborn child’s life.

Haven next asserts that seatbelt laws and drug abuse are laws designed by social convention, not moral principles, but this idea is mistaken. There are several ethical worldviews that argue we have obligations to ourselves, so that wearing a seatbelt might be obligatory while driving. Also, since we are rational agents, doing drugs that put you into an altered state of mind would also be immoral. Haven has, however, hit on the difference between what’s legal and what’s moral. It may be legal to smoke pot in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean it’s morally permissible, anymore than slavery was morally permissible just because it was legal. It takes an independent argument to show whether or not it is moral.

Haven has also misidentified why murder and rape is wrong. Non-consensually robbing someone of their autonomy is part of it, but it’s not the whole picture. In rape, you are forcing yourself on someone sexually, and in the case of a man raping a woman, has a huge chance of impregnating her against her will. This is not a mere property crime, but an attack against a person. When you murder someone, you are not just robbing them of their right to bodily autonomy, but the right to their future, [6] the right to their very existence, and you are destroying all of the experiences and memories they have accumulated. It is simply ludicrous to compare preventing a woman from aborting to murdering or raping her, especially since if you allow her to abort, the unborn child is the one who is killed. In fact, many people find it worse when a young child dies than when an elderly person dies, because the child has more of her life ahead of her. How much worse to kill a ZEF before they even get to experience their life on the outside?

Haven calls the ZEF an inanimate object, but this is a confusion of that term. A rock is an inanimate object. The unborn are not inanimate objects because they are capable of moving under their own power. As I have stated, they are not unconscious, they are pre-conscious, but Haven has decided to persist in making a category error. The unborn have rights by virtue of being human. Our rights are basic human rights, also called natural rights. They are rights by virtue of the natural kind that we belong to. They are not “consciousness rights.�

Besides, Haven is incorrect that the ZEF is not conscious in any way. The reason the embryo becomes a fetus is because all of his/her organs have essentially developed, they just need time to develop further and strengthen. At least by the late-term, the fetus is most definitely conscious, to at least a rudimentary degree. Late-term fetuses have been observed doing all manner of things, such as sucking their thumbs, fighting with a twin, even entering REM sleep. They may not be conscious like I am, but there is definitely something going on upstairs in the womb. And incidentally, if you hold to a more strict definition of consciousness, then you must not also support late-term abortion, but also infanticide, as philosophers like Tooley, Peter Singer, and Mary Anne Warren do.

By the way, as an aside, defining by example is a legitimate way to define something, if not very robust or accurate. If I ask you what a car is, and you say, “oh, Ferraris, Maseratis, and Geo Metros are all cars,� I will at least have some idea of what a car is. It’s not the best way to define, but it is a way. However, this is not important to the debate, as I gave a strict definition above.

Haven is correct that granting my argument would not mean that abortion is, ipso facto, immoral. I only defended the unborn’s personhood because Haven argued against it. However, this was also Haven’s main argument as to why abortion is not clearly immoral, so if this argument fails, Haven’s entire case crumbles. He/she can’t just assert that abortion is still moral because of bodily autonomy, because she/he has no other reason to suppose that bodily autonomy justifies killing the unborn entity. And since I have argued a case for why bodily autonomy doesn’t justify it, then if my case succeeds, I have clearly negated the resolution.

Haven has now seen fit to attack Aristotelian essentialism, of which I do hold to. However, Haven has only asserted that nominalism is correct, he/she has not argued for it (aside from bringing up differences in degree). Here are a few of Haven’s statements, with responses:

--The term “kind� is completely meaningless in both science and much of philosophy.

False, as I will explain below.

--Aristotelianism has long since been debunked and discarded by philosophers.

Also false. While the majority of philosophers may be atheists (who would be more likely to hold to nominalism), Haven is apparently assuming that they all are. Here are just a few modern philosophers who defend Aristotelianism/Thomism off the top of my head: Edward Feser, Elizabeth Anscombe, Frank Beckwith, J.P. Moreland, and David Oderberg. The reason many philosophers reject Aristotelianism is because it smacks of theism because it relies heavily on teleology, that all things that exist have a final end toward which they are directed. But the reality is that recognizing teleology in nature is absolutely essential to doing science. Without nature’s regularity and purpose, science couldn’t be done.

--The discipline of philosophy has largely turned to various flavors of nominalism.

That may be true of atheist philosophers, but not of religious ones. Plus, this is simply a fallacious appeal to popularity. Atheists must reject teleology because it points to someone who designed them. You can’t just assert nominalism is true, however. You have to argue for it. That being said, the nominalism/essentialism debate is, again, beyond the scope of this debate. Entire books have been written defending essentialism. [7] I couldn't hope to do it justice here, especially since it's not the topic up for debate.

--Categories are linguistically and socially constructed by humans and imposed on nature.

What evidence is there of this? Sure, it may be true that something red is only called red because we decided to call it that, but my calling something red doesn’t make it red. Things like redness are not created by us but are discovered by observation.

--The most obvious evidence for this is that most things in nature are continuous in nature.

How is this evidence against essentialism? Aristotelianism admits of things that can differ by degree. In fact, saying that things differ by degree is only trivially true. Haven is not saying anything interesting with that claim. Consider the difference between iron (26 protons) and cobalt (27 protons). There is a sense in which these differ only by degree, a one proton difference. But that one proton makes a world of difference.

As I have mentioned, the unborn certainly should be seen as persons because they have what makes us all persons -- a rational nature (this is what grounds our person, which is why I am still the same person I was when I was a kid, and when I was in the womb.

It's true that Haven and I have different metaphysical ideas. However, since Haven agrees that it's the capacity for consciousness that grounds our personhood, I don't see why questioning essentialism is relevant or really of any value.

As this is Haven's main case, I believe the resolution stands successfully negated.

[1] Pocket Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, NY, 2008, p. 131
[2] Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.
[3] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. p. 16.
[4] Alan Guttmacher, Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation, New York: Viking Press, 1933, p. 3.
[5] Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius, Liber de Persona dt Duabus Naturis, ch. 3.
[6] Atheist philosopher Don Marquis has formulated an argument against abortion based on the fact that you are robbing the unborn of a Future of Value. See his essay “Why Abortion is Immoral.�
[7] See, for example, The Last Superstition by Edward Feser and Real Essentialism by David Oderberg.

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Re: Negative First Rebuttal

Post #6

Post by Haven »

Again, thanks to Clinton for the continued civil discussion.

As this is my closing statement, I don't want to focus too much on my opponent's arguments, but I do think there are a few points from his last post that need to be addressed.
[color=darkred]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote: Haven’s arguments in support of the proposition were as follows:

--Women often feel like they are the hosts of parasites
--Women should be able to make their own decisions about a potentially dangerous pregnancy.
--Abortion offers no immediate violations of ethics because the unborn are not persons. The unborn are not persons because they are not conscious. They are not conscious because they cannot feel pain nor can they enjoy their life. Only and all conscious beings have rights.
While this is somewhat accurate, it doesn't entirely explain my position. The center of my argument is that pregnant people (of any gender) should have the right to abort because bodily autonomy is, morally speaking, an important priority, and legislation against abortion would take a pregnant person's right to bodily autonomy and self-defense (in case of a medically or psychologically dangerous pregnancy) away from them. The points about the non-personhood of the ZEF, the possible complications of pregnancy, and so on are supportive of my case, but don't really lie at the center of why I believe abortion is a moral right.
[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:
I can dispatch with Haven’s arguments pretty quickly.
With all respect, I don't think your last post accomplished this at all. Essentially (no pun intended), your entire case relies on the Aristotelian worldview (discussed in my last post), which is not only largely abandoned in current philosophy but is, I would argue, demonstrably false (the process of evolution--in which species gradually transform over time--seems to debunk it). Because your arguments against mine lie on shaky philosophical ground, they necessarily fail.
[color=orange]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:The parasite argument should be dismissed because it is an emotional appeal which has no bearing on whether or not women should be able to have an abortion.
The parasite analogy wasn't meant to be an argument in the philosophical sense, but a rhetorical device to help the audience understand how a person with an unwanted pregnancy without access to safe and legal abortion might feel. My case in favor of the morality of abortion doesn't at all rest on this.
[color=green]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:
Haven asserts that my calling the unborn entity a child is a fallacious appeal to emotion. However, it should be pointed out that while many pro-life people do try to add emotion to the abortion debate by using these emotional terms, many pro-choice people illegitimately try to remove all semblance of emotion by using terms like “fetus� (usually with invective).

It’s difficult to find a common balance. I am not using the terms to make an unfair emotional appeal. Haven gave a definition of “child� as “a post-birth juvenile of the human species.� However, he has given no evidence to support his point. In fact, the Oxford American Dictionary defines “child� as “a young human being below the age of full physical development...a son or daughter of any age.� [1] My using the term “child� to describe the ZEF is entirely appropriate. There are many developmental differences between myself as a zygote and myself as an adult, but none of these differences are fundamental. That was still “me� then.
"Fetus" is the correct term for a pre-birth human after the embryonic stage. It's not an emotional appeal. Calling a fetus a "child" is absurd and a fallacious appeal to emotion, because a fetus doesn't meet the definition of a "child" (which I discussed in my first post, and yes, the definition implies post-birth). Words matter, and certain words trigger strong emotions. Aborting a fetus may be a rational and moral option, but killing a child certainly is not. Most people would agree that there is no act more heinous than murdering a child. By casting the zygote, embryo, and/or fetus (ZEF) as a child, anti-abortionists are out to make pro-choice advocates (and people who choose abortion) look like murderous monsters. This is not only logically fallacious, but profoundly unethical and dangerous.
[color=olive]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:My placing the term “rights� in quotation marks was not an emotional appeal, nor was it meant to win by style, rather than substance (though there is certainly a place for rhetoric in debate and discussion). I think any reader will be able to tell that there is much substance to my opening argument. Additionally, I do not believe abortion to be a legitimate right. However, pro-choice people tend to act as if a right to abortion is the only right enjoyed by women, so by removing the right to abortion we are, in essence, removing all of her rights. This is an illegitimate leap.
This isn't true at all. Women (and potentially pregnant people of other genders) have several rights, including the right to life, bodily autonomy, culture, community, and so on. Abortion (which is an extension of the right to bodily autonomy) is simply one of these rights. I have never said otherwise.
[color=blue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven asserts that there have traditionally been people who have voted against their interests, but this is a very shallow understanding of these issues. The black people who supported slavery were in no danger of becoming slaves themselves. Some gays and lesbians opposed same-sex marriage because they agree with most of the world and most people throughout human history that marriage, by definition, has a special link to children. (Haven will likely take issue with this, but again, this discussion is beyond the scope of this debate, so I won’t debate it here).

You're right that I disagree with this. Many (most?) LGBT people who oppose marriage equality are part of the radical queer movement and do so because they feel marriage is an inherently heteronormative and oppressive institution. There are some LGBT people who are religious conservatives (evangelicals, Mormons, etc.) and oppose marriage equality for religious reasons. You're also right that this is beyond the scope of our debate, so I won't discuss it further.
[color=darkblue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Claiming that women who oppose abortion are voting against their own interests is a barbaric position to take, because you’re essentially saying that it’s in a woman’s interest to oppress and kill another human being, one that in the vast majority of cases they are responsible for creating and placing in a state of dependency.
That statement is ludicrous and, I would argue, constitutes a fallacious attempt at poisoning the well (by implying that I support murder). First of all, I don't believe that ZEFs are human beings (in the sense of being persons), so I don't think that abortion is "killing another human being." I, like all rational people, am deeply opposed to murder. Second of all, I believe it is in potentially pregnant individuals' interest to support the right to choose to abort (or not abort) for the reasons I've mentioned before. Pro-choice people aren't necessarily pro-abortion, we just simply think the decision should rest with the pregnant person and her/him/them alone, not a legislature of (mostly) conservative cisgender men.
[color=indigo]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:I’d like to touch on something Haven said in his/her opening argument. She/he referred to the unborn entity as a “potential person�, but this is simply not the case. Haven has confused active potential with passive potential. The unborn entity certainly has potentialities to actualize, but these are active ones.

Consider a cake. Sugar and flour are ingredients in a cake. Left on their own, the sugar and flour will not become a cake. This is because while they have the potential to become a cake, they have this potential passively. It requires an outside baker to mix the ingredients together to become a cake. Passive potentiality is identity-changing. The sugar and flour lose their identities and become part of the cake.

The unborn organism is different. She has the power within herself to actualize these capacities. She doesn’t need an outside builder, she has the power on her own to actualize them. This is an active potential. Active potentialities are identity-preserving potentialities, so she remains the same thing through all of her changes. The sperm and the egg are potential persons, but the unborn human, from fertilization, is an actual person.
First of all, I reject the concepts of "identities" and "essences," as these are artifacts of the Aristotelian worldview, which I also reject.

Secondly, a ZEF possesses passive potential, not active potential. If cut off from the pregnant person's body, it has no development potential; it requires an outside agent to realize its potential. It is no different than an unfertilized ovum or sperm in this regard.
[color=darkviolet]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Now, Haven gave his/her definition of person as: “any being that has the capacity for consciousness, sensations of pain and pleasure, and/or the ability to appreciate its own life.� But his/her definition actually supports my position: the unborn have this same capacity. They just have it inherently, not presently.
How do they inherently have the capacity for consciousness? They possess no brains!
[color=darkred]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven’s only argument for why consciousness matters is that only conscious entities can appreciate and exercise rights, but this is only partially right. Conscious animals cannot appreciate rights. If someone takes a dog to a court to argue for its rights, the dog has no idea what is going on. The dog didn’t ask to be there, didn’t ask for her rights to be respected, doesn’t even care whether or not you consider her a person. Dogs can’t appreciate rights. Neither can they respect the rights of others, which is an essential aspect of having rights.
This is false. Dogs certainly enjoy the company of their human companions, food, bones, games of fetch, and so on. How is that not appreciating life? Dogs also respect others' rights (most don't go around indiscriminately biting people or other dogs). It seems that dogs can certainly appreciate and respect rights.

You've also committed a category error: just because dogs can't argue for their legal rights doesn't mean that dogs can't appreciate more basic rights (such as a right to life). A human child or a person with a significant intellectually disability may not be able to argue for their rights, either, but does this mean they have no rights?


[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:If I want my rights respected, I have to respect the rights of others. It is the rational nature which grounds our rights because the rational nature is what allows us to recognize right from wrong and act accordingly.
That is pure superstition. There is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of any kind of "rational nature" (notice that EofG has left this term undefined, rendering it meaningless). Invoking it, especially without providing evidence for its existence, amounts to an argument from religion, which is disallowed in this debate.
[color=orange]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven has also shown that my definition is to be preferred. I did not appreciate my life, nor was I conscious, last night while I was sleeping. So if we need a present capacity for these things, it would be moral to take my life while I’m asleep, or under general anesthesia, etc. Haven responded to this point by saying that by conscious being, he/she means the capacity for consciousness given its current optimum physiological state. But this is clearly an ad hoc definition meant to avoid the fact that the unborn actually have the same capacity for consciousness, they just haven’t developed the mental hardware for it yet.
If a ZEF doesn't have the "mental hardware," then how could it be said that they have the capacity for consciousness? One could reverse your line of reasoning and say that a dead person has the capacity for consciousness, they just don't have the mental hardware anymore. This would obviously be absurd, and your argument about ZEFs eventually developing brains (if allowed to continue to use the pregnant person's body) is equally ridiculous.
[color=brown]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:But being biologically human is also necessary for human consciousness, so why is it the brain and not the human DNA that grounds their rights?
That's a tautology: of course being biologically human is necessary for human consciousness. This is irrelevant, however, to my case, which rests on consciousness in and of itself, not specifically human consciousness. A conscious dog (or cow, dolphin, and so on) has rights, while a non-conscious (meaning lacking the capacity for consciousness, such as a human in a permanent vegetative state) human does not.
[color=green]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Trying to compare the human zygote to a skin cell, strand of hair, a limb, etc., is just confusing matters because these entities are not organisms in their own right, as the human zygote is.
A zygote is not an organism in its own right, it is part of the pregnant person's body. Without the pregnant person, the zygote has no chance to continue. Because it is part of the pregnant person's body, the pregnant person has the right to choose what happens to it.
[color=olive]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Left alone, a limb will only ever be a limb; a skin cell (even a sperm or ovum) will just die if left alone. If left alone, the human zygote will eventually mature into a human adult. Sure, you can clone a human being from a skin cell, but again, this skin cell has only a passive potential to become a human being, and requires an outside "builder," if you will, to clone the human from the skin cell. The skin cell is like the sugar and flour, in this respect. The human zygote, from fertilization, has an active potential to develop all of her parts and properties from within herself.
What is fertilization if not the action of an outside builder (actually two outside builders)? How is this, philosophically speaking, any different from the process of cloning a person from a skin cell?
[color=blue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:If you’re trying to speak of independent existence, brain function, etc., you’re speaking of personhood, which is a philosophical discussion, not a scientific one. These things have no bearing on whether or not the unborn entity is a human being, because a human begins life as an embryo from the sperm and egg and starts on a lifelong trajectory of development that doesn’t end at birth.
But my argument was that--morally speaking--it doesn't matter if the ZEF is a human, it only matters if it's a person. A deceased individual is certainly human, but is no longer a person. Also, even if the ZEF were a person, I argued that the right to bodily autonomy would still justify abortion. You have yet to respond to this argument.
[color=darkblue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven is trying to sneak a discussion of personhood into a discussion of biological humanity.
I hold that biological humanity is, morally speaking, completely irrelevant.
[color=darkblue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote: I did show what the essential characteristics are to be included in the moral community, but I’ll go ahead and spell out my definition of personhood: a person is an individual substance of a rational nature.
This definition is utterly incoherent: it relies on undefined terms ("substance" and "rational nature") that seem to be based in some form of mystical Aristotelian essentialism (which is highly questionable at best, as I explained earlier). If your argument for why abortion is wrong rests on this, then I think it's safe to say that your argument has been soundly defeated.
[color=darkviolet]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:[5] This definition was formulated by medieval philosopher Boethius, and was the understanding of personhood until the early 20th century, when John Locke wrote his Essay Concerning Human Understanding,
John Locke was a 17th-century philosopher, and he was long gone by the 20th century.

Also, it's irrelevant who formulated the definition (it could have been God her/him/itself for all it matters), it's still logically incoherent. You've still yet to provide a coherent definition for "substance" or "rational nature," and you've yet to demonstrate their existence. You may as well be saying that saeginofs and mvdosfjnvz make abortion immoral.
[color=darkred]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:In fact, Locke was outlining why it is we hold persons accountable for their actions. This would not disqualify the unborn or infants, etc., from personhood because they simply were not mature enough yet to understand morality. It’s the parents’ job to instill that in their children.
I don't hold Locke's position, so you're arguing against a straw person here.

A few definitions regarding these terms:
[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:By individual, I do not mean “separate.� The unborn entity is an individual organism, even if attached to the mother by the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord provides nourishment to the unborn organism but does not direct the unborn entity’s development.
The unborn's development is dictated by many things, including its own DNA, the pregnant person's hormones, the food that the pregnant person eats, any pathogens or toxins that may be present in the womb, and so on. It is independent in a small way (in terms of DNA) but dependent in a much larger way (in terms of hormones, nourishment, etc.). Because of this, there is no way to say that the unborn is an independent organism.
[color=orange]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:A substance is an entity that maintains its identity through change. All living things are substances. This is as opposed to artifacts, such as cars and clocks, which require an outside builder and find their identities in their parts. Substances exist ontologically prior to their parts.
What does this even mean? What is an "identity?" What does it mean to keep it through change? How does it differ from an artifact in terms of change (I'd say a car changes a lot less in 10 years than a child)? How can anything exist ontologically prior to its parts (are you proposing Platonic idealism now?)?

It seems that "substance" is still undefined, because you've attempted to define it using another vague and undefined term. It's no different than saying "An apcwnr is an entity that maintains its nsoveuias through change." It's still completely meaningless.

As for something existing ontologically prior to its parts, that is completely impossible. Take me for example: I am who I am because of my brain and the biological inputs, environmental influences, and social experiences that shaped it. Take away my brain and the factors that shaped it and you don't have me, you have nothing (just a lifeless body). Therefore, I'm simply the sum of my parts. It's the same thing for a car: take away the vehicle's engine, computers, and wheels and you don't have a car, you just have a useless hunk of metal and rubber. Without appealing to faith-based religious beliefs, how am I any different than a car in this regard?
[color=brown]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:A rational nature is simply the ability to make decisions, recognize morality and act accordingly, etc. It is the rational nature, not the current ability to make rational decisions, that grounds our personhood.
As you've defined it, your definition is self-refuting ("a rational nature is simply the ability to make rational decisions . . . the rational nature [is not] the current ability to make rational decisions."). I can only assume that you meant to refer to some kind of mystical "essence" of "rationality" (again, Platonism?) and not, as you said, the capacity to make rational decisions. If this is what you meant, then what is this "rational essence" and what is the evidence for its existence? If this isn't what you meant, then what did you actually mean (in a non-contradictory way)?
[color=green]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Haven has tried to coopt my argument and use it as his/her own, but this will not do. The pro-life position does not assert that the unborn child has control over the woman’s body. The woman is free to do whatever she likes, as long as it does not pose a serious threat or harm to the ZEF (e.g. smoking or drinking). All the pro-life position entails is that the woman does not have the moral right to take her unborn child’s life.
This is simply an assertion of your position. I agree that this is your position, but I think it's unfounded (as I've already explained).
[color=olive]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:
Haven has also misidentified why murder and rape is wrong. Non-consensually robbing someone of their autonomy is part of it, but it’s not the whole picture. In rape, you are forcing yourself on someone sexually, and in the case of a man raping a woman, has a huge chance of impregnating her against her will. This is not a mere property crime, but an attack against a person. When you murder someone, you are not just robbing them of their right to bodily autonomy, but the right to their future, [6] the right to their very existence, and you are destroying all of the experiences and memories they have accumulated. It is simply ludicrous to compare preventing a woman from aborting to murdering or raping her, especially since if you allow her to abort, the unborn child is the one who is killed. In fact, many people find it worse when a young child dies than when an elderly person dies, because the child has more of her life ahead of her. How much worse to kill a ZEF before they even get to experience their life on the outside?
Again, there is no such thing as an "unborn child." Also, my only comparison of abortion to rape/murder was to state that it, like those heinous acts, robs a person of their bodily autonomy. I never said that rape and murder were only wrong because they take bodily autonomy. This is again a straw person argument from EofG.
[color=blue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:The unborn have rights by virtue of being human. Our rights are basic human rights, also called natural rights. They are rights by virtue of the natural kind that we belong to. They are not “consciousness rights.�
Again, Aristotelianism is unevidence and likely demonstrably false, as I've explained above. The concept of "natural rights" is based in that fallacious worldview, so it can be dismissed. If Clinton disagrees, then he must provide some argument for why we should accept his metaphysical views.
[color=darkblue]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Besides, Haven is incorrect that the ZEF is not conscious in any way. The reason the embryo becomes a fetus is because all of his/her organs have essentially developed, they just need time to develop further and strengthen. At least by the late-term, the fetus is most definitely conscious, to at least a rudimentary degree. Late-term fetuses have been observed doing all manner of things, such as sucking their thumbs, fighting with a twin, even entering REM sleep. They may not be conscious like I am, but there is definitely something going on upstairs in the womb. And incidentally, if you hold to a more strict definition of consciousness, then you must not also support late-term abortion, but also infanticide, as philosophers like Tooley, Peter Singer, and Mary Anne Warren do.
The case of late-term abortion is morally interesting, and I think a reasonable case can be made for it being wrong. My arguments primarily concern early-term abortion, which accounts for the vast majority of elective abortions in the United States.
[color=darkviolet]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:Here are just a few modern philosophers who defend Aristotelianism/Thomism off the top of my head: Edward Feser, Elizabeth Anscombe, Frank Beckwith, J.P. Moreland, and David Oderberg.
These individuals are Christian apologists, and they hold the views they do for dogmatic reasons. Philosophers who aren't burdened with an absolutist commitment to fundamentalist religious edicts overwhelmingly reject essentialism. Regardless, this is irrelevant to this debate, as truth doesn't depend on how many people believe in it.
[color=darkred]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:The reason many philosophers reject Aristotelianism is because it smacks of theism because it relies heavily on teleology, that all things that exist have a final end toward which they are directed. But the reality is that recognizing teleology in nature is absolutely essential to doing science. Without nature’s regularity and purpose, science couldn’t be done.
The reason most philosophers reject Aristotelianism is because it's apparently demonstrably false (natural processes such as biological evolution, geological change, star formation and dissolution, and so on) show that things change over time and eventually reach the point where they "become something else" (according to common human categorization). Furthermore, the inability to fit many things in nature into discrete categories also speaks against essentialism, which relies on a discrete picture of reality.
[color=red]EvidenceOfGod[/color] wrote:That may be true of atheist philosophers, but not of religious ones. Plus, this is simply a fallacious appeal to popularity. Atheists must reject teleology because it points to someone who designed them.
I don't see why an atheist must reject teleology. It's entirely possible for an unconscious entity to select "favored outcomes" based on some eternal algorithm, for instance. You're right that this is beyond the scope of this debate, however.
____________________________

Again, I'd like to thank Clinton for participating in this debate. While I certainly admire his passion for doing what he believes to be the right thing, I think I've shown that his arguments fail. This is the case for several reasons:

1. His arguments are based on a debunk metaphysical framework (Aristotelian essentialism/kindism)

2. His case for fetal personhood is strictly irrelevant (as the right to self-defense, based in bodily autonomy, justifies taking action against another person in limited circumstances; this right extends to abortion [as I explained in my second post])

3. His case for fetal personhood is based on meaningless terms (like "substance" and "rational nature")

4. His case against abortion is ultimately, I would figure, based in religious concerns.

As we have no reason for believing abortion is immoral, and we do have strong reason to believe that pregnant people should have a right to bodily autonomy, it follows that this right does justify abortion.

I conclude my argument. Be well.
♥ Haven (she/her) ♥
♥ Kindness is the greatest adventure ♥

EvidenceOfGod
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Re: Negative First Rebuttal

Post #7

Post by EvidenceOfGod »

[Replying to Haven]

Once again, thanks to Haven for the civil debate. As Haven won’t have another chance to respond, I won’t make any new arguments this round. I will just respond to his/her points from last round.

Once again, to recap. The resolution we are debating is Women’s bodily autonomy justifies abortion. Haven is arguing in the affirmative and I am arguing in the negative.

Haven’s arguments from the first round were as follows:

1) Women often feel like they are the hosts of parasites.

2) Women should be able to make their own decisions about a potentially dangerous pregnancy.

3) Abortion offers no immediate violations of ethics because the unborn are not persons. The unborn are not persons because they are not conscious. The unborn are not conscious because they cannot feel pain nor can they enjoy their life. Only and all conscious beings have rights.

Haven has not even come close to supporting his/her arguments. Haven rejects my arguments because they rely on Aristotelian essentialism, but has made very little effort to attempt to refute it. He/she has, essentially, said that I have to prove essentialism correct. However, this is not the case, especially since Haven has made no attempt to prove nominalism correct. Burden of proof goes both ways. If he/she expects to claim that my argument fails due to its reliance on Aristotelianism, he/she has to show how. He/she claims that evolution seems to debunk it, but that’s not the case at all. Aside from not explaining how evolution debunks it, it’s quite easy to see that evolution does not disprove the fact that there are essences and natures. In fact, when the earliest human being evolved, it had a human nature, and whatever its predecessor was had a different nature (or at least a similar nature), the nature of whatever kind of thing it was.

Even if my arguments do lie on philosophically shaky ground (which Haven has not proven), it does not follow that it necessarily fails because of this (as it could be correct, even if Haven disagrees with it).

Argument 1 -- Women often feel like they are the hosts of parasites.

Haven admits that this was merely a rhetorical device, which strikes me as disingenuous on Haven’s part, since he/she condemned several of my statements on the grounds that they were merely rhetorical devices. Since Haven admits his/her argument does not rest on this, it should be rejected.

Argument 2 -- Women should be able to make their own decisions about a potentially dangerous pregnancy.

I argued last round that a discussion of potential medical risks of pregnancy is irrelevant to this debate. As Haven has not responded to my argument, it succeeds.

Argument 3 -- The unborn are not persons.

Haven asserts that “fetus� is the correct term for a pre-birth human after the embryonic stage. This is only half correct. It’s the scientifically accurate term for a human being at the stage of development following the embryo stage, but it does not follow that it’s the only correct term. A fetus absolutely does meet the definition of “child.� I proved as much in my last argument. Conversely, Haven did not prove his/her definition of “child.� In fact, it is clearly an ad hoc definition to deny childhood status to the human fetus. This not only defies clear evidence from the dictionary (and the Oxford dictionary is one of the most reliable), it also denies clear evidence from common parlance. How many women tell you “I’m having a fetus!�, or how many women have ever had a “fetus shower�? “Child� is most certainly the correct term. The only time it is avoided is when the discussion turns to abortion, but whether or not the fetus is a child surely doesn’t depend on the wantedness or unwantedness of the child.

Haven asserts it is unethical to refer to the fetus as a child, but this is clearly not true. It’s true that this can paint pro-choice people in a monstrous light, by supporting the murder of a child. But if pro-life people are correct, that’s exactly what pro-choice people are doing. However, the alternative is also true, that by denying the fetus is a child, pro-choice people can make pro-life people out to be monsters by trying to prevent women from obtaining “necessary health care.� One way or the other, someone’s going to look like a monster. But I doubt this argument would have been any better if this was 150 years ago, and we were talking about whether or not blacks were persons. The only difference is that now the people in question are unborn human beings, and it is now blacks who are uncontroversially full persons.

Haven goes on to say that he/she rejects the concepts of identities and essences, but rejecting them without argument is not a disproof.

Secondly, Haven, despite rejecting Aristotelian concepts, goes on to try to use them in his response. But his response is simply biologically confused. The zygote has active potential, not passive. The embryo develops all of her parts from within herself. The woman’s body does not guide the unborn child’s develop, she gives nutrients to the child so that it doesn’t die before it can develop to the point where it can survive outside the woman’s body. All of the development is done by the embryo herself. To claim that it is no different than an unfertilized ovum or sperm is not just biologically confused, but also flies in the face of clear scientific knowledge that has existed since the former half of the 20th century.

Haven asks how the unborn have the inherent capacity for consciousness because they have no brain. The answer is simply because they belong to the kind of species that is conscious. If the unborn did not have this capacity inherently, they would never develop the present capacity to exercise it. They have this capacity inherently even before their brain develops because they belong to a conscious species, and if left alone without being killed will develop, from within themselves, the necessary hardware for their consciousness. Belonging to the human species is an even more fundamental necessity for human consciousness because while they can’t exercise human consciousness without a human brain, they would never develop a human brain without belonging to the human species.

As a brief example, take the capacity for higher rational thought. It is a tragedy if a human being does not develop the present ability for higher rational thought. It is recognized as a deprivation and a harm because that human being should be able to engage in higher rational thought. However, it is not a tragedy if a hedgehog fails to develop the present ability for higher rational thought, because they are not the kind of entity that engages in higher rational thought. By being deprived of the present ability for rationality, the hedgehog is not harmed; he/she is simply flourishing in accordance with their hedgehog nature; by not being able to engage in higher rational thought, a severely damaged human being is being prevented from flourishing according to their human nature.

Haven has apparently misinterpreted what I said. I did not say that dogs can’t enjoy life. I said they can’t appreciate rights. They have no idea what rights are, nor do they sit around, as humans do, and think about what rights are, which entities possess them, etc. That is a uniquely human thing to do. If a dog doesn’t go around indiscriminately biting people, the dog is not respecting their rights. The dog has merely been trained well. A dog who has been mistreated will certainly indiscriminately bite people. To say nothing of the fact that dogs are territorial, so they still might bite someone you have legitimately allowed into the house. And who is held responsible? Not the dog, but the owner, because the dog is not a rational entity. It is the owner's responsibility to keep their dog at bay.

Also, I have not committed a category error. A category error is when you attribute a thing to a different category than it belongs to, or if you attribute a category to something that could not possible have it. So, for example, saying that “The number seven smells like pine cones� is a category error because numbers, being abstract objects, do not smell like anything. Conversely, Haven has committed a category mistake by arguing that severely disabled humans are like dogs, the category mistake being that dogs are non-conscious (in the relevant sense), whereas severely disabled human beings are conscious entities, but their capacity for consciousness is being blocked by an external factor (in this case, their severe handicap). These severely handicapped people still receive rights as human beings because they are human beings, even if they can’t appreciate the rights that they have, or to argue for their rights.

Haven is now simply being silly when he/she argues that a rational nature amounts to superstition. Aside from the fact that I did actually give a definition of “rational nature� (despite Haven asserting that I didn’t), it is simply obvious that we have a rational nature. If we didn’t, then there would be nothing intrinsically wrong with someone not developing rationality. We wouldn’t try to help anyone who has gotten sick because there would be no way that humans are supposed to be. The reason that we can recognize impairments and act to repair them is because we do recognize that there is an embodiment of how humans are supposed to be, even if some (like the severely disabled) don’t embody it perfectly. If Haven expects us to reject the concept of rational nature, he/she has to give us reasons to reject it.

Haven asserts that my argument that ZEFs will eventually develop brains is ridiculous. First, this is simply a fallacious appeal to incredulity. Second, I don’t understand how Haven can reject this argument, since it is self-evident that any human being in the womb will develop a brain unless prevented from doing so by being prematurely killed or dying of some natural cause. If Haven doesn’t understand this, I frankly don’t know what else to say.

Haven responds by saying that my line of reasoning would say that dead people also have the capacity for consciousness, they just don’t have the mental hardware anymore. However, this is a misstatement of my argument. First, there may be cases in which someone is brain dead which cannot be reversed now, but a discovery in the future may be able to restore someone’s lost consciousness. By way of analogy, someone may lose the present capacity for sight now (essentially being blind), but through a cornea transplant can have their sight returned to them. They didn’t lose the capacity for sight, this capacity was merely blocked by a damaged cornea. However, 100 years ago, this procedure was unknown, so this kind of blindness was irreversible, even though it is reversible now. So it is not so absurd to claim that a braindead person still has the inherent capacity for consciousness now. There may be some forms of braindeath, or at least persistent vegetative states, that may be able to be reversed in the future. However, saying that a braindead person has lost their mental hardware certainly isn’t true. The brain is still there, it has just ceased being able to keep the body alive. The braindead person has irreversibly lost their present capacity for consciousness and rationality, and for that reason it would not be wrong to take them off of life support. It would be wrong if that condition was easily treatable.

My statement that being biologically human is necessary for human consciousness is not a tautology, anymore than needing a human brain is necessary to presently exhibit human consciousness is a tautology. I have already explained how Haven’s case for the present consciousness grounding one’s personhood fails, so I don’t need to re-hash it here.

A tautology, by the way, is a statement that is true by logical structure. An example would be “It is raining outside or it is not raining outside.� It is true by definition, but it doesn’t tell us anything about whether or not it is actually raining outside. My statement is not a tautology because it is not true by logical structure (even though it is true), and it does give relevant information.

Haven claims that a zygote is not an organism in its own right, but this is simply false. In fact, the zygote exists for a week before implanting in the woman’s uterus. This means that for one week, the zygote was growing and developing on its own, without needing the woman’s body to sustain her. The zygote is not a part of her body, like her appendages. The law of transitivity states “if A is a part of B, and B is a part of C, then A is a part of C.� So, for example, “If my finger is a part of my hand, and my hand is a part of my body, then my finger is a part of my body.� If the embryo was literally a part of the woman’s body, then that would mean that all pregnant women have four arms, four legs, two heads, two noses, four eyes, and roughly half the time, functioning male genitalia. This is clearly absurd. The embryo is not a part of her body, she is merely receiving nutrients to stay alive through the umbilical cord. At no point does the woman’s body direct the development of the embryo/fetus.

Haven is correct that fertilization is the act of an “outside builder� (so to speak). It takes two non-human entities (in the sense that they are not human organisms) with passive potential to become a human person, the sperm and the ovum, and fuses them together, in which the sperm and ovum cease to exist (lose their identities) and a new, genetically distinct human organism emerges with the active potential to develop all of her parts from within herself. Cloning works essentially the same way. The doctor (the “outside builder�) fuses an ovum with a human skin cell, both entites with passive potential to become human beings, and a new human organism (though genetically similar to the donor) emerges.

Haven claims that I never responded to the argument that bodily autonomy would still justify abortion, even if the unborn human being is a person. In fact, I did in my opening argument. Haven has not responded to my case yet. My case is that if the unborn organism is a full human person (as I have argued that it is), then bodily autonomy would not justify killing her because bodily autonomy does not justify killing another human being (in any other context). Haven has only asserted that it would. He/she has not argued for it.

Haven claims that my definition of personhood, that a person is an individual substance of a rational nature, is completely incoherent. But again, an assertion is not an argument, nor is it evidence. I did, in fact, define all of the terms in the argument. There is nothing mystical about Aristotelian essentialism. In fact, I would urge you to go read some Aristotle. It’s good for you.

Also, thanks for the correction on John Locke’s time frame. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the 20th century that our Supreme Court and certain philosophers started to re-define the concept of personhood, those philosophers resorting to a false interpretation of Locke’s words to ground their own concept of personhood (“neo-Lockean personhood�). Also, Haven is, indeed, arguing for neo-Lockean personhood because he/she is arguing the functionalist view, that one is not a person until one can engage in a certain function (i.e. consciousness).

Again, Haven resorts to more arguments from incredulity. I did define those terms, but I can define them more specifically, if it would help.

A substance is an entity that maintains its identity through change. This should be pretty self-explanatory. All living things are substances. I was the same individual as a child that I am now, despite the fact that I’ve grown taller, gotten heavier, went through puberty, gained in intelligence, gained memories, etc. All of these changes happened but I still remained “me� through it all. All living things remain themselves if they go through changes that are within their own hardware to undergo. As long as they don’t go through a substantial change (e.g. killing a cow to turn it into hamburger), they will retain their identity through all of the changes. The same is true for me as an embryo. I can’t remember my time as an embryo (just like I can’t remember my time as a toddler), but that was still “me� at that point. If you had killed me then, I would not be here now to debate Haven.

The unborn organism is an individual organism. It is separate from the mother, although attached (in the same way that an astronaut on a spacewalk is attached to the spaceship or station, but not literally a part of it). The unborn’s development is dictated by its nature and DNA. The hormones, food the pregnant woman ingests, etc., merely facilitate the unborn child’s development. During pregnancy, hormones have very little, if any, effect on the child’s development and instead are more about helping the woman’s body prepare for the pregnancy and eventual delivery. [1]

It is certainly not impossible to exist ontologically prior to one’s parts, as is evidenced by the existence of the human embryo. A human person does not just pop into existence fully formed. They begin life as a human zygote and develop all of their parts gradually. Taking away a person’s brain does not change who they are, it merely kills them. You retain your identity through all the changes you undergo, but if you remove an essential part that keeps you alive, then obviously you die.

The difference between a person and a car (substance and an artifact) is that you have the power within yourself to develop, whereas a car doesn’t. There is no internal unity of “I�ness that holds the car together, as there is a person. Haven’s rejection of these views and replacing them with jumbles of letters (instead of making an honest attempt to understand) is bordering on self-parody.

Now, admittedly, I may not have given the most careful definition of “rational nature�. However, my definition is not self-refuting, properly understood. A rational nature is what grounds our capacities as rational agents. Because I was a rational agent when I was a zygote, I was on the path to develop the present capacity for rationality. It just took time for me to develop it. So the rational nature is what grounds our inherent capacities, which will eventually become present capacities, given time to develop.

Haven asserts that a reasonable case can be made for late-term abortion being wrong. I agree, but this option is not open to Haven, for if bodily rights justifies abortion, it justifies it at all points during pregnancy (since the woman would still be forced to remain as life support, even to a late-term fetus). If Haven’s argument succeeds (and I have argued it doesn’t), then there is nothing morally wrong or even indecent about a woman aborting a pregnancy five minutes before birth. That’s the logical implication of Haven’s views.

Haven also says that the Aristotelian philosophers who hold to essentialism are Christian apologists, but this is completely irrelevant. Whether or not they are Christian apologists says nothing about the correctness or incorrectness of their views. Besides, his argument would equally justify dismissing nominalism out of hand because atheist philosophers hold to it for dogmatic reasons.

Haven is also correct that truth doesn’t depend on how many people believe in it. However, this refutes his main argument against essentialism, that it has largely been rejected by the philosophical community (which is largely populated by atheists). So Haven is left with no sound reason to reject it.

Haven’s assertion that Aristotelianism is apparently demonstrably false falls flat on its face. He/she just lists random scientific terms and claims that they refute Aristotelianism, but he/she doesn’t even attempt to show how they refute it. In fact, science is impossible without an Aristotelian framework because Aristotelianism accounts for the regularity of nature, and it is this regularity of nature that allows science to be done.

Conclusion

It should now be quite obvious that Haven has not supported his/her case. By Haven’s own admission, his/her argument from the parasite was a rhetorical device, nothing more. Haven didn’t respond to my response regarding medical abortions (that it is irrelevant to a discussion of bodily rights), so Haven's second argument should likewise be rejected. It is an important discussion, but not relevant to the discussion of bodily rights. Plus, he/she has not supported his/her case that the unborn are not persons. All he/she has demonstrated is an ignorance of what essentialists actually believe and an unwillingness to learn so that he/she can better respond to it. On top of that, Haven has presented no reason to reject essentialism, just assertions that it has been rejected and throwing out scientific ideas with no argument as to why they refute essentialism. As such, and since he/she has not bothered to argue for his/her own nominalism, my case is secure.

Haven mentioned that even if his/her argument against fetal personhood fails, his/her main argument is that bodily rights still justifies abortion. However, this is the resolution at issue. Simply restating the resolution doesn’t support the resolution, especially since I clearly argued that simply having bodily autonomy does not justify killing another person. Since Haven has given us no reason to believe that bodily rights justifies abortion, I have therefore negated the resolution and won the debate.

Thank you again to Haven for an interesting exchange.

[1] http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-lif ... -hormones/

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