Friday, December 04, 2015

A woman has the right to do as she pleases with her body, but how far do we push it?

Suppose a whole village of about 1000 tiny people were living in a woman's left arm. Suppose the presence of the village in her arm makes her arm itch and is a mild nuisance. But since it's her body, does she have the right to holocaust the village? 

12 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

Yes, its her right. We shouldn't force someone to use their body to sustain others.

However, if she had only minor inconveniences from this arrangement, and decided to go ahead with the "holocaust" anyway, we are also justified in pointing out the selfishness of her action.

But obviously this is far from perfect as an analogy for abortion, as no human actually gets killed in the process, and a very late termination of pregnancy is... a C-Section, and the baby lives.

Angra Mainyu said...

I don't think whether the person is a woman or a man matters. But that aside, when it comes to parasites with self-awareness and personhood, it would depend on a number of factors.
For example, if she put them there, clearly she does not have the right to kill them.

So, there are questions like:
1. How did they get there?
2. What are they made of? (i.e., they're made of some of her cells, or something else).
3. Can they be removed in a non-lethal manner?

And so on.

Andrew W said...

I think this analogy misses the most important considerations in the abortion debate.

The two critical issues in the abortion debate are:

(1) Children don't magically become "persons" simply by virtue of being born
(2) What obligations do parents have towards their children, and why?

One extreme perspective on #2 is that children always are "owned" by their parents, to do with as they like. Feed it, love it, kill it, send it out as child labour - it belongs to you and you can use it as you wish. Historically, many cultures have held some variant of this position.

Another perspective is that a person is a human to the extent that it functions as a productive member of society. This looks nice on the surface, but it basically provides freedom to kill off or enslave foetuses, young children, the disabled, the poor, the elderly, those of the wrong race, … .

Or one can take the perspective that a human baby has some external value by virtue of being human, and certain obligations accrue because of this. However, unless there is some external party to whom we are obligated, there is nothing to keep this position distinct from the previous two positions.

The Christian position is that God says "All humans belong to Me", and this creates obligations and responsibilities on each one of us as we treat other humans. The atheist can say "That's just a dressed up version of the 'Golden Rule' (do as you would be done by)", but without a rule-giver, there's no particular reason to see the so-called Golden Rule as anything more than one possible tool for survival of the fittest. The weight of the Christian position is not just Divine ownership but Divine reckoning.

Note that this is not simple egalitarianism. God says "All things in your power I have given into your power". From birth, a child is under the power of its parents; eventually it may graduate from this. But the presence of power does not free us from obligation: God gives all of carrots, animals and humans into the power of other humans, but expects those in power to treat each very differently!

Hugo Pelland said...

"without a rule-giver, there's no particular reason to see the so-called Golden Rule as anything more than one possible tool for survival of the fittest"

What a sad way to see life, ethics, morality, human dignity, and so on... rational human beings don't need a rule-giver to understand the point, and the value, of the rules we impose on ourselves. And survival of the fittest is certainly not a good moral compass to follow, for obvious reasons.

A quick analogy... Your mommy told you to look both ways when you cross the street; didn't you ever understand the point? Is it really useful just because mommy said so?

Andrew W said...

Even a juvenile response can serve to make a point…

We see here the classic confusion of "morality" with "utility".

"rational human beings don't need a rule-giver to understand the point, and the value, of the rules we impose on ourselves" - agreed. But you're conflating functionality with purpose. If we are an accident, then that defines our moral worth. If we are an accidental manifestation of the struggles of primeval gods, then that defines our moral worth. If we are the ultimate creation of a One True God, then that also defines our moral worth.

"And survival of the fittest is certainly not a good moral compass to follow, for obvious reasons." - in this form of discussion, "obvious" usually means "we're all on board with this so I won't waste time proving it" or "I'm glossing over the very point I need to be defending". In this case, it's firmly in the latter camp.

A case in point: "Your mommy told you to look both ways when you cross the street". Mommy is assuming that that I value my personal survival, and providing a principle for ensuring it. If my personal survival is my highest value, then "Do unto others …" and "Kill him and take his stuff" are both useful principles; I will thrive by choosing the right one at the right time. We can argue about the relatively utility of these principles, but at that point we're arguing utility rather than morality.

Morality is about absolute principles. What is the metric by which all other principles are weighed? And who has the authority to enforce this?

Hugo Pelland said...

Andrew said:"..."I'm glossing over the very point I need to be defending". In this case, it's firmly in the latter camp."
Nobody uses survival of the fittest as their morality giver; that's what's obvious.

"Morality is about absolute principles. What is the metric by which all other principles are weighed? And who has the authority to enforce this?"
That's your subjective opinion; nothing else. And since you obviously think that you need an authority to enforce morality, I would suggest you quit asking questions and just follow whoever your authority is. Clearly, you removed yourself from the discussion process already.

Andrew W said...

"Nobody uses survival of the fittest as their morality giver; that's what's obvious."

But that's not the claim you made. You said "And survival of the fittest is certainly not a good moral compass to follow, for obvious reasons.". The key word there is "good". Good is a value judgement. You're not merely implying that they don't, but that they shouldn't. Again, the conflating of morality and utility.

Besides, "survival of the fittest" has been the de facto rule in many cultures in history. Sure, they often dressed it up in different language, but "Might makes right" is one of the oldest moral systems known to mankind.

Heck, you're even trying it. "If I hurl enough abuse at this guy, perhaps he'll shut up, go away, and stop pointing out that this emperor has no clothes.". :)

Hugo Pelland said...

Sure, you have some good points, but it's not my thing to 'hurl enough abuse at this guy, perhaps he'll shut up, go away...' and I don't see any kind of abuse here. Sorry if I hurt your feeling buddy, but it's just that your 1 view expressed above was so ridiculous... and I know nothing else about you so don't take it personally.

However, even if get your point, yes, I purposely conflate 'good' and 'useful' because there is very little difference between the 2, for people who actually base their morality on reality. For instance, something that triggers happiness over sadness is generally seen as 'good', and that's it's purpose: making someone happy. But other things might be more complex, such as a painful surgery, in which case the utility is way more important than the instantaneous gut feeling of 'it hurts; hence it's bad'.

Of course, when someone thinks that we need a supernatural rule-giver to help us determine what's "good" or "not good", then the infantilized supporter of such view has nothing to offer in terms of utility, and can only justify what's good with a 'because the rule-giver said so'. But please, do share how your rule-giver is not, by pure coincidence, the exact same thing as your own conscience and ability to reason.

Regarding 'survival of the fittest', let's stick to today's society, in which we both currently live: now we don't see it anymore... Does that make more sense?

Andrew W said...

"I don't see any kind of abuse here" … "so ridiculous" … "infantilized supporter of such view".

Moving on...

"Regarding 'survival of the fittest', let's stick to today's society, in which we both currently live: now we don't see it anymore"

Really? I'll grant you one thing: if you compare Western society to much of Africa, the Middle East or to Communist countries, we're an egalitarian paradise. However, we're also on the tail end of almost 2 millennia of Christian thought dominating the social space, and even that didn't prevent multiple wars and abuses (though still mostly preferable to the rest of the world). And there's been a bunch of media noise recently about mass-movements to shout down dissenting conservative voices - not out argue them, but simply shout them down. Is that not also "might makes right"?

Is it at all conceivable that the concept of an Ultimate Might who cares about what people do and promises an Ultimate Reckoning, but also has a sophisticated system of mercy, might have something to do with checking the power of human Might Makes Right?

I understand that you probably think this also is ridiculous. But given that you've already demonstrated impaired perception, perhaps it's worth trying a new perspective?

Hugo Pelland said...

Andrew W said...
""I don't see any kind of abuse here" … "so ridiculous" … "infantilized supporter of such view".
Moving on..."
If you think that's abuse; the bar is extremely low...

"given that you've already demonstrated impaired perception"
Stop abusing me! :-)

"And there's been a bunch of media noise recently about mass-movements to shout down dissenting conservative voices - not out argue them, but simply shout them down."
Free speech infringement is certainly something I oppose, regardless of who is the target. This is not a liberal-conservative dichotomy at all. As someone who self-identify as Liberal by most definitions, I am apaled by the pro-PC, political correctness, or SJW, that seem to be offended by any kind of speech. Not unlike you Andrew actually... labeling things they don't like as "abuse" is precisely what their tactic is all about.

"I understand that you probably think this also is ridiculous."
Absolutely, yes. The few opinions you presented here are ridiculous, and you doubled down on them with the comment that about 'the concept of an Ultimate Might'. It's still just all in your head...

Andrew W said...

"If you think that's abuse; the bar is extremely low…"

Wrong question. It originally came up in the context of "Do unto others …". Now, either you are claiming that you would appreciate me describing your arguments in those terms, or you're claiming that you're happy to ignore the so-called Golden Rule when convenient, which then proves my original point.

Or, maybe I should just claim that your entire line of argument is infantile and ridiculous, and leave it at that?

(PS: part of me hopes that you're actually trolling me, because I've found this entire exchange quite amusing, and because I find it hard to believe someone seriously thinks that transcendence can be dismissed as a philosophical position on the basis of a couple of trivial insults.)

Hugo Pelland said...

No I am definitely not trolling, as this would imply a purposeful attempt to write silly things to make you waste your time, which is not my intention. I was merely sharing my opinion; so you can certainly say that it is infantile and ridiculous. I don't mind. That's what I think of your opinions so far, so it's only fair.

And yes, I seriously think that transcendence can be dismissed easily; not with insults of course, but by the simple observation that claiming it exists does not justify that it does, and so we can dismiss it when asserted on its own, which is the only thing I see here. If you have something interesting to show, to justify your belief in such transcendence, then that should not be dismissed right away; arguments using reason and logic deserve some attention I believe. But again, I don't see that here so yes, I remain dismissive of claims regarding the existence of a rule-giver that transcends reality. And even more dismissive of claims that morality requires such rule-giver. That is what's particularly ridiculous and childish.