Friday, October 26, 2018

Does the law on noncontradiction apply straightforwardly to moral statements?

 Perhaps to help understand the question of moral objectivity better, let's try this question. If one person believes that the earth is round and the other thinks it's flat, only one of them can be right. If one person believes that adultery is always wrong, and the other believes that it is sometimes right, can both of them be right about it, or can just one of them? Does the law of non-contradiction apply straightforwardly to moral statements. (The law of noncontradiction states that a statement and its contradictory cannot both be true.)

One reason why we might not want to apply the law of noncontradiction to a statement would be if we thought the statement was incomplete as stated, or if we thought, in the last analysis, the statement was not really a statement at all. For example, if I were to say "McDonald's hamburgers are preferable to Burger King's" we probably mean that we ourselves prefer McDonald's burgers to Burger King's, or as we might put it, we really mean to say "McDonald's hamburgers are better than Burger King's for me." In which case, if someone else said "Burger King's burgers are better than McDonald's for me" they would not be contradicting you, just expressing their own preference. Of maybe these are not statements at all, but are simply cases of emoting. 

But what about our moral statements. If someone says "Abortion is wrong," are they just saying something like "I don't like abortion," or are they saying something more than that. Can our beliefs about abortion be wrong? Or is it more like the Burger King case? And if you think it's like the Burger King case, how about this one: It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement. 

321 comments:

1 – 200 of 321   Newer›   Newest»
Hugo said...

It's both.

We can assume there's some sort of objective answer; it certainly looks as if it is, so we can assume some moral statements are objectively true.

However, given we can only talk about our opinions with other humans, who also can only talk about their opinions, we can only state that McDonald's is better and try to justify why with facts.

Legion of Logic said...

I think moral statements are useful in exposing hypocrisy, if anything else. You can't prove a moral statement as objective reality, but you can expose inconsistencies.

A pro-abortion person would most likely say that all human life has value and that we should not kill beyond self-defense. If they are then asked to reconcile their support of abortion to their value of human life, they may start adding arbitrary qualifiers (the life in question must display characteristics XYZ, which the unborn conveniently do not). Or they may attempt to muddle verifiable biology in order to deny that it is a life at all, and abortion is instead equivalent to removing an ingrown toenail. Both of these are the advancement of the "right" to killing the unborn over the value of human life, but very few would be comfortable having their beliefs described in those terms, so they cloud the issue to escape a blatant violation of their own professed standard to value human life. (Such a charge can also be leveled at those who adopt a "fend for themselves" attitude for poor parents having a baby and do not support assistance, poverty being one of if not the biggest contributor to the decision to abort.)

We can also apply it to political support and opposition. Are you outraged when the other guy lies to your face? Are you equally outraged when your guy lies to your face? No? How about when the other guy runs a deficit, is he irresponsible? What about when your guy does it? Oh there are mitigating circumstances? What about hateful rhetoric from the other side, is that harmful to discourse and potentially inspiring violence? What about your side's rhetoric, do you also post on social media against that? No?

One Brow said...

First, I want to say I like and agree with the view Legion of Logic is using here, and would even expand it to say the abortion discussion often brings to view hypocrisies on both sides. As far as I know, the sun did not rise in the west. :)

Morals are the results of calculations we make from basic principles, and can be no more reliable than the initial principles and the method of calculation. Ultimately, the basic principles can't come from logic; they come from what we feel, what we are taught by authorities, and what society imposes on us socially.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

But what about our moral statements. If someone says "Abortion is wrong," are they just saying something like "I don't like abortion," or are they saying something more than that. Can our beliefs about abortion be wrong? Or is it more like the Burger King case? And if you think it's like the Burger King case, how about this one: It is wrong to inflict pain on little children for your own amusement.

Complex questions like abortion deserve more analysis. To make blanket statements like "X is wrong" could be right but still misleading in certain contexts.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

A pro-abortion person would most likely say that all human life has value and that we should not kill beyond self-defense. If they are then asked to reconcile their support of abortion to their value of human life, they may start adding arbitrary qualifiers (the life in question must display characteristics XYZ, which the unborn conveniently do not). Or they may attempt to muddle verifiable biology in order to deny that it is a life at all, and abortion is instead equivalent to removing an ingrown toenail. Both of these are the advancement of the "right" to killing the unborn over the value of human life, but very few would be comfortable having their beliefs described in those terms, so they cloud the issue to escape a blatant violation of their own professed standard to value human life. (Such a charge can also be leveled at those who adopt a "fend for themselves" attitude for poor parents having a baby and do not support assistance, poverty being one of if not the biggest contributor to the decision to abort.)


One major problem with this is that one needs to define what Human life means. If by that term one means actual human beings the abortion a clump of cells might not be inconsistent. One might think it's consistent and moral to say Human life of any kind, but then you are being a hypocrite because you cut your nails. When you say this:

"they may start adding arbitrary qualifiers (the life in question must display characteristics XYZ, which the unborn conveniently do not). Or they may attempt to muddle verifiable biology in order to deny that it is a life at all, and abortion is instead equivalent to removing an ingrown toenail."

I take that to mean unless one accept any attempt to think or analyze or reason beyond your arbitrary ideological assumption is dishonest,

Legion of Logic said...

Joe,

You agree that you are an organism, correct? By the definition of what an organism is, you certainly qualify. Let's call this organism "Joe". Note that this isn't "Joe the person", but rather "Joe the human organism".

Let's say Joe is an elder. He is a human organism. In his 40s, Joe is a middle aged man, but still a human organism. In his 20s, Joe is a young adult, but still a human organism. As a teenager, Joe is still a human organism. As a child, as a toddler, as an infant, Joe is still a human organism.

Let's keep going, though. As a "viable" fetus, Joe is still a human organism. As a pre-"viable" fetus, Joe is still a human organism. As an embryo, Joe is still a human organism. And as a zygote, Joe is the very first stage of the human organism that he will be from then on.

Note that the only difference between zygote and elder is the stage of development. Humans technically never stop developing, but research shows our brains reach full maturity in our 20s or 30s. Once that egg is fertilized, once that unique first cell is formed, the life of a new human organism has begun. That's not ideology, that's a simple biological fact.

Also note that nowhere along the spectrum in the life of a human organism - from zygote to death - does a toenail constitute a stage of development. Very different things. Note also that at no point in your life do you stop being a clump of cells. You just happen to be a bigger, more specialized clump.

That's why I say that all attempts to dehumanize the unborn fail. It's biologically a human organism from its first cell due to how development works, thus it requires the addition of arbitrary traits or ignoring basic biology.

The only ideology I add to that is saying it has value if it is human life, including the unborn.

SteveK said...

Moral statements are different than opinions because moral facts always come with a duty/obligation. Duty/obligation either exists as a fact of reality, or it doesn't. So, yes, the law of non-contradiction applies to moral statements.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

you have merely described the process of becoming, that opens up the classic issue of being vs becoming/ Is it soup already because it's to be so eventually or do we have to wait until it is soup? Remember "Is it soup yet?"

In other words if you think that any pace along the spectrum is as good as being at the end of it, So killing a zygote is the same as killing your grand father.Then if yoiu masterbait you should be shot because you have murdered your children.

If you stop the process before it has become a person you haven't killed a person, you want to create a new category calling life in process More important than actual born people.

That's another aspect it's one thing to say the process of becoming is as good as the finished product but you are not content with that, you are saying the beginning of the process is more important than the rest.

SteveK said...

Is it immoral to purposely stop the natural process of becoming a human being capable of existing outside the womb?

That moral question side-steps the being vs. becoming issue.

It's pretty clear that it's not immoral to pull a growing seedling from the ground and leave it to die. Can you say the same thing about growing human in the womb? No.

A sperm is not a human being and neither is an egg. Killing either one is not immoral because they are not human beings.

One Brow said...

A sperm is not a human being and neither is an egg. Killing either one is not immoral because they are not human beings.

Why not? What essential function of being human do they lack?

Legion of Logic said...

If you stop the process before it has become a person you haven't killed a person

I specifically said I was not talking about a "person", since that is an arbitrary legal definition.

That's another aspect it's one thing to say the process of becoming is as good as the finished product

What is the finished product, and how do we know when it occurs so we don't accidentally kill the finished product? Mind you, at least mentally the finished product occurs in one's 20s or 30s, but we never stop developing throughout our lives. So what is the objectively demonstrable finished product?



Legion of Logic said...

What essential function of being human do they lack?

Gametes are cells of the host that only contain half the chromosomes of a member of that species. Thus, not organisms like a zygote.

Hal said...

Legion of Logic,
“I specifically said I was not talking about a "person", since that is an arbitrary legal definition.”

Nice try but you can’t talk about what it is to be a human without employing the concept of personhood. Unless, of corse, you are a materialistic reductionist.

bmiller said...

@Hal,

Do you have another definition of personhood in mind that everyone here can agree upon other than court rulings?

Or maybe it's simpler just to have a discussion about when it's OK to kill individual human beings and when it's not.

Legion of Logic said...

Nice try but you can’t talk about what it is to be a human without employing the concept of personhood.

A mouse never achieves personhood, but that doesn't mean we can't know whether it is a mouse or not. Nice attempt to muddy the waters, but being a human life does not depend upon arbitrary concepts of personhood. It's biology.

It's very simple, guys. Do you agree that killing another human (innocent anyway) is wrong? If so, that means we should know what a human is, correct? And if so, the best way of doing so would be to use objective, verifiable criteria that anyone can use to know whether a human is being killed, correct?

What are these objective, verifiable criteria that we can use to avoid killing an innocent human, which we agree is wrong? Let's see them.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...


Blogger SteveK said...
Is it immoral to purposely stop the natural process of becoming a human being capable of existing outside the womb?

That moral question side-steps the being vs. becoming issue.

I think primary question in the abortion issue as it plays out in American politic is not is having an abortion is right or wrong but who get's to make the decision, that's why I'm pro choice not pro abortion.

It's pretty clear that it's not immoral to pull a growing seedling from the ground and leave it to die. Can you say the same thing about growing human in the womb? No.

Of course that depends upon what stage it is at before we can call it human being,I don't think you can side step the process,

A sperm is not a human being and neither is an egg. Killing either one is not immoral because they are not human beings.

how do you know a fertilized egg is? It doesn't fit the criteria we used to call someone a human being how do you know it is,It's going to be that's the point begin vs becoming,

why don;t you give medicine that will prevent the hooking up to the cell wall so there no kid and no abolition no deleting human,

the final major point I made why is that kid of human the early developing kind more important than any ohter?

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Legion of Logic said...
If you stop the process before it has become a person you haven't killed a person

I specifically said I was not talking about a "person", since that is an arbitrary legal definition.

That's another aspect it's one thing to say the process of becoming is as good as the finished product

What is the finished product, and how do we know when it occurs so we don't accidentally kill the finished product? Mind you, at least mentally the finished product occurs in one's 20s or 30s, but we never stop developing throughout our lives. So what is the objectively demonstrable finished product?

what is unreasonable bout thinking of the finished product as birth ?


why is the process of becoming more important than those who have become? see the 80% of white evangelicals voted to allow those 13000 people to die who will die because 's acceptable that those have to be the sac rice to save these precious unborn people, by why?

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Legion of Logic said...
Nice try but you can’t talk about what it is to be a human without employing the concept of personhood.

A mouse never achieves personhood, but that doesn't mean we can't know whether it is a mouse or not. Nice attempt to muddy the waters,

asserting that anything with which you disagree is an attempt to muddy the waters is not a good way to begin a discussion. As it so happens I do not practice water muddying in argumentation. I practice seeking to enlighten, Baht you choose not to pay attention or think is not something over which I have control,


but being a human life does not depend upon arbitrary concepts of personhood. It's biology.

who interjected an arbitrary concept?, we have clearly established that the RTL side can't accept a distinction between being and becoming,to be in the process of becoming is, for them, the the same as being. That could be a pretty arbitrary definition,but I understand the tendency to make it,

It's very simple, guys. Do you agree that killing another human (innocent anyway) is wrong?

if we say it's not not a human it;s only in process,then you will say that's muddying the waters it's arbitrary, it's sinful it;s anti christian t it;s communism whatever. What you will not do is to offer a logical reason to back your definition

If so, that means we should know what a human is, correct? And if so, the best way of doing so would be to use objective, verifiable criteria that anyone can use to know whether a human is being killed, correct?

where is the objective criteria written that says a zygote is a human being,?

What are these objective, verifiable criteria that we can use to avoid killing an innocent human, which we agree is wrong? Let's see them.

why is that more important than people who already have their lives? why do you avoid that issue?

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

while we are on the subject could someone answer me this? in a certain passage in the Bible:

Exodus 21:22 (ASV) And if men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follow; he shall be surely fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine

If the unborn are human beings and it;s more important to protect then than it is already born people why didn't God tell Israel to kill the one who damages the fetus? why is it not manslaughter?

Starhopper said...

Here is the best summary of the abortion debate I've ever heard.

Legion of Logic said...

what is unreasonable bout thinking of the finished product as birth ?

Because this allows the killing of a baby at full term ten seconds before its birth, while one born months premature and less developed would be considered "finished". "Becoming" is meaningless unless we can define the finished product as a standard that applies in all cases.

asserting that anything with which you disagree

Has nothing to do with me disagreeing, and everything to do with hiding behind arbitrary requirements that shift as the wind blows.

we have clearly established that the RTL side can't accept a distinction between being and becoming,to be in the process of becoming is, for them, the the same as being

How can we distinguish something that has not been defined in an objective manner? Two babies conceived the exact same day, at the exact same age and stage of development, but if one of them is born an hour earlier, it is "finished" and thus a human, while the other is still "becoming" and thus okay to kill. That's ridiculous.

. What you will not do is to offer a logical reason to back your definition

That is literally all I've been doing. A zygote is the beginning of the life of a new human organism. That is an objective marker that applies in 100 percent of all cases. If the goal is to truly ensure we are not killing innocent human lives, then that is an easily identifiable point.

Tell me your objective criteria that applies in 100 percent of all cases, that doesn't allow killing a fully developed baby simply because it is ten seconds away from birth. No pro-"choice" person has EVER done this that I have seen. You may not agree with or like my criteria, but it is consistent with itself and biology, applies the same standard to all cases, and prevents killing human life. What do you have to offer that is consistent with itself and biology, applies the same standard to all cases, and prevents killing human life (which birth as the standard obviously does not)?

bmiller said...

Joe,

Are you asserting that a zygote is not a biological individual living human being? If it's not, then it must be something else. What is it then. How would you classify it, animal vegetable or mineral? And since we know that things don't magically change into something else by themselves (from nothing, nothing comes), then what external agent changes them from being non-human to being human?

Most serious people on both sides of the debate acknowlege that, biologically, an individual human's life begins at conception. Just like all other animals. I'm interested in why you think differently.

I am a living biological human individual. I was the same entity when I was 5 years old (if I my memories are real) as I am now. If I believe I am the same type of thing that every other human individual is, then tracing back, I know that I am the same entity now as at each point backwards to the point of my conception.

You have brought up "being and becoming" as an argument. Help me understand your argument.

Is it your position that because things are constantly changing, that it makes no sense to talk as if there is ever any real stable thing in the first place? Like the position attributed to Heraclitus?

Or is your argument that since things are constantly changing, there is really nothing but arbitrary and subjective judgements that can be made in classifying things?

Now some of your specific points:
where is the objective criteria written that says a zygote is a human being,?

This site lists references to multiple scientific and medical textbooks, encyclopedias, transcripts etc. Can you provide any similar references that are contradictory?

why is that more important than people who already have their lives? why do you avoid that issue?

The pro-life position is that all human lives are equally important. Are you suggesting that some human lives are more important than others?

If the unborn are human beings and it;s more important to protect then than it is already born people why didn't God tell Israel to kill the one who damages the fetus? why is it not manslaughter?

The passage you quoted refers to the accidental death of the unborn. Much like what the Unborn Victims of Violence Act covers.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
Gametes are cells of the host that only contain half the chromosomes of a member of that species. Thus, not organisms like a zygote.

Making the human/not human divide on chromosome count is fraught with difficulties. What's the minimum number of chromosomes to qualify? Maximum number?

Also, by any definition of organism, a being is not an organism until they have organs. That rules out a section of the lifespan you would like to preserve.

Legion of Logic said...

Making the human/not human divide on chromosome count is fraught with difficulties. What's the minimum number of chromosomes to qualify? Maximum number?

Point isn't about a precise number, but rather than humans are a sexually reproducing species, and a zygote contains genetic material from both parents while a gamete is from one. An egg is a woman's cell, a zygote is half hers, half the father's, and a genetically distinct organism from both.

Which segues to

Also, by any definition of organism, a being is not an organism until they have organs

Bacteria are organisms, yet they only have one cell.

Legion of Logic said...

The solution being sought is to prevent the killing of innocent human life. We all know the proposed beginning of life from the pro-life position. Whether or not you agree with it, what it features is objective criteria to use as guidelines in all cases. (By "objective", I mean that the criteria are universally applicable, measurable, and not affected by various other factors, arbitrary or otherwise.) This is certainly an effective position to hold if one abhors the idea of killing innocent human life.

So if you reject the zygote as an appropriate position, what I want to hear from you is the objective, universally applicable, and measurable criteria that we can use with any pregnancy to ensure that we are not aborting a human life. I have already shown that using birth is a very problematic method, as you could deliver a full-term twin and then kill the other twin before it was delivered. Or you could have a premature baby be considered a fully developed human, but a more developed full-term baby a day away from delivery could be killed. Birth simply doesn't work.

"We don't know" also doesn't work when we are talking about potentially killing innocent human life. Not good enough. So what is the alternative?

Hugo said...

Simpler positions are not necessarily better. The pro-life position is simplistic and dogmatic, so of course you can claim it's effective. It doesn't make it rational.

Legion of Logic said...

Again, you are disagreeing without offering something better.

Does anyone have an alternative, or does the pro-"choice" position necessarily depend upon avoiding standards?

Hugo said...

Legion, fair request, but you didn't engage with what I last wrote on the topic so you may want to refer to that, from the previous thread. Given that my position is more complex, it's hard to just summarize it in a short comment block, but I would gladly answer questions if you care about reading it again.

Note that, in any case, I'm starting a new job tomorrow so don't worry, I'll stop bothering people here with comments! Always interesting to read though... cheers.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...



Discussion about my book the trace of God and the major researcher whose work I defend. The issue: Atheists claim to also have mystical experience but without God, When they take their look behind the curtain they don;t see God Does that mean my look is invalid?

On Metacrock's Blog"Psychology,Atheism, and Mystical experience

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo, do you know which thread specifically it was?

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
Point isn't about a precise number, but rather than humans are a sexually reproducing species, and a zygote contains genetic material from both parents while a gamete is from one. An egg is a woman's cell, a zygote is half hers, half the father's, and a genetically distinct organism from both.

My sperm has about half its DNA from my father, half from my mother. My wife's ova are the same (not counting mitochondrial DNA).

Bacteria are organisms, yet they only have one cell.

If being an independent cell is all that is required, sperm and ova are organisms as well.

Legion of Logic said...

My sperm has about half its DNA from my father, half from my mother. My wife's ova are the same (not counting mitochondrial DNA).

Yes, we are combinations of our parents.

If being an independent cell is all that is required, sperm and ova are organisms as well.

I'm struggling to believe that you are really this ignorant of basic biology.

Let's put it this way. If you took a newly pregnant woman and analyzed every cell in her body, all the brain cells, heart cells, muscle cells, skin cells, blood cells, and (if one happened to be there) any unfertilized egg would show to be hers from a DNA test. Those are her body's cells.

On the other hand, gut bacteria would not show to be hers. Neither would a zygote. That's because both are genetically distinct entities from her body. A zygote is not even remotely equivalent to a gamete.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Blogger Starhopper said...
Here is the best summary of the abortion debate I've ever heard.

October 27, 2018 5:12 AM
Blogger Legion of Logic said...
what is unreasonable bout thinking of the finished product as birth ?

Because this allows the killing of a baby at full term ten seconds before its birth, while one born months premature and less developed would be considered "finished". "Becoming" is meaningless unless we can define the finished product as a standard that applies in all cases.

you just think in any other terms but all or nothing? black or white> if we can think progressively we can understand protecting it as it gets closer to the finnished product

asserting that anything with which you disagree

Has nothing to do with me disagreeing, and everything to do with hiding behind arbitrary requirements that shift as the wind blows.

we have clearly established that the RTL side can't accept a distinction between being and becoming,to be in the process of becoming is, for them, the the same as being

you just illustrated that for me

How can we distinguish something that has not been defined in an objective manner? Two babies conceived the exact same day, at the exact same age and stage of development, but if one of them is born an hour earlier, it is "finished" and thus a human, while the other is still "becoming" and thus okay to kill. That's ridiculous.

we don;t have to use your definition thereafter other objective view points, I';; jut remind the reader that just already dealt with the all or nothing idea, btw we have an objective criterion it;s called viability outsiode the womb

. What you will not do is to offer a logical reason to back your definition



That is literally all I've been doing. A zygote is the beginning of the life of a new human organism. That is an objective marker that applies in 100 percent of all cases. If the goal is to truly ensure we are not killing innocent human lives, then that is an easily identifiable point.

not logical you are asserting all or nothing

you are still saying becoming is being

Tell me your objective criteria that applies in 100 percent of all cases, that doesn't allow killing a fully developed baby simply because it is ten seconds away from birth. No pro-"choice" person has EVER done this that I have seen.


all or nothing again you literally cannot not think in any other terms,

the standard is if it is not viable to live apart from the mother then it's not a separate persona and can be aborted, if it can then it must be protected,as a seperate person



Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

bmiller said...
Joe,

Are you asserting that a zygote is not a biological individual living human being? If it's not, then it must be something else. What is it then. How would you classify it, animal vegetable or mineral? And since we know that things don't magically change into something else by themselves (from nothing, nothing comes), then what external agent changes them from being non-human to being human?


you really having trouble with concept aren't you?

Most serious people on both sides of the debate acknowlege that, biologically, an individual human's life begins at conception. Just like all other animals. I'm interested in why you think differently.

you deems to have missed the whole first half of the discussion,we said there is q difference inhuman life and a person, if we can't negate the process lf life in process of becoming then you need to have funerals for your finger nails every time you cut them because they are human life. If you destroy a seed you have not destructed a tree it;s only a potential tree, if you destroy a piece of marble you have not destroyed a masterpiece sculpture



I am a living biological human individual. I was the same entity when I was 5 years old (if I my memories are real) as I am now. If I believe I am the same type of thing that every other human individual is, then tracing back, I know that I am the same entity now as at each point backwards to the point of my conception.


but you were not the same as a zygote The fallacy of becoming = being.

You have brought up "being and becoming" as an argument. Help me understand your argument.

Is it your position that because things are constantly changing, that it makes no sense to talk as if there is ever any real stable thing in the first place? Like the position attributed to Heraclitus?

If the zygote is not viable ouitside the womb it has not achieved a level of person hood,

Or is your argument that since things are constantly changing, there is really nothing but arbitrary and subjective judgement that can be made in classifying things?

no of course not.I consider that position incompatible with

Christianity

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...


Blogger Starhopper said...
Here is the best summary of the abortion debate I've ever heard.


ahahahaahahahahaahahahahaha!!!!!!

good one swo true

One Brow said...

Blogger Legion of Logic said...
On the other hand, gut bacteria would not show to be hers. Neither would a zygote. That's because both are genetically distinct entities from her body. A zygote is not even remotely equivalent to a gamete.

I agree. I'm only out that both meet your (so far) proposed definition of organism.

Hugo said...

Legion,
you were asking about which thread I was talking about:
http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2018/09/legalizing-murder-argument-from.html

One Brow's and my latest comments summarize well where the 2 main disagreements stand: choice VS no-choice first, and complex VS simple definition of what a person is.

bmiller said...

@Joe,

you really having trouble with concept aren't you?

Yes, because you haven't explained your psoition. Specifically you haven't responded to how a non-human/non-person (you keep changing back and forth between terms) becomes a human/person. If an entity does not naturally possess a trait, it must attain it from an external agent. What external agent causes this change from non-human/non-person to human/person? You haven't even responded to what excactly you think a zygote is.

you deems to have missed the whole first half of the discussion,we said there is q difference inhuman life and a person, if we can't negate the process lf life in process of becoming then you need to have funerals for your finger nails every time you cut them because they are human life. If you destroy a seed you have not destructed a tree it;s only a potential tree, if you destroy a piece of marble you have not destroyed a masterpiece sculpture

No I didn't miss it. In fact I've responded to your fingernail claim in the past. But am I to understand that you think fingernails can potentially become persons naturally on their own? Or that pieces of marble naturally turn into statues on their own?

In neither case do these things in themselves naturally possess the ability to actually become those other things. The newly concieved individual biological human that was the beginning of you, on the other hand, did naturally possess the ability to become everything you are now and will be in the future.

I think you misunderstand the claims of your opponents. This may help, but you shouid really read the book. In order for a thing to change and still remain the essentially the same thing it must be a mixture of act and potency. Otherwise, you would not be the same entity now as when you were 5.

but you were not the same as a zygote The fallacy of becoming = being.

If I am not the same entity as that zygote, then where did it go? Did it poof into non-existence? When did the "new" biological entity that is currently me poof into existence?

If the zygote is not viable ouitside the womb it has not achieved a level of person hood,

This is an arbitrary assertion as Legion has pointed out. Humans are not viable in outer space, so astronauts stop being persons when they leave the earth?

no of course not.I consider that position incompatible with Christianity

As has been abortion throughout the history of Christianity.

SteveK said...

@bmiller
I think we're due for another year-long discussion about AT metaphysics. It sure would clear the air on this subject, wouldn't it?

Legion of Logic said...

Joe: you just think in any other terms but all or nothing? black or white

When it comes to protecting innocent human life, that is not a bad standard. We should have criteria that are knowable and measurable, and applicable in all cases.

if we can think progressively we can understand protecting it as it gets closer to the finnished product

What is the "finished product", and how do we know when it is "close enough"?

btw we have an objective criterion it;s called viability outsiode the womb

Okay. As medical technology improves, this point becomes earlier and earlier. It could also differ in one mother eating healthier, making one of the fetuses better able to pull through at an earlier age. So two fetuses conceived the exact same day, at the exact same stage of development, may differ in one being a human and one not, if one of them is located in a technologically superior country or to a mother who doesn't eat McDonald's every day. That's problematic for a standard.

Furthermore, when one is borderline, how do we know if it is "viable"? The earliest baby to survive thus far was 21 weeks, but that's extremely rare at this point. Does this mean that this baby was not human, since it is an outlier of viability, or does that mean that all fetuses at 21 weeks are human? How do we know precise age? How do we know if one is actually viable or not?

Again, just like birth, viability outside the womb is extremely not useful.

you are still saying becoming is being

I'm saying existing is being. But if you want to use "becoming" and "being" as two different things, then explain how we know when this threshold has been achieved, in a manner which is measurable and applies to all cases. This is human life we are talking about, and the potential killing thereof, not whether a pot of soup is ready for consumption.

the standard is if it is not viable to live apart from the mother then it's not a separate persona and can be aborted

I already listed the reasons this is a very poor standard. Got anything better, to where we know we aren't killing innocent human lives?

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo: choice VS no-choice first

A different topic, though certainly dependent upon this one.


complex VS simple definition of what a person is

I scanned through the last several posts, wasn't sure exactly which point you may have been referring to. I don't equate "human life" with personhood - particularly since philosophical discussions on personhood include apes, whales, robots and programs that display limited AI. In New Zealand, a freaking river was granted full rights of personhood!

Human life is whether an entity meets the biological definition of being a human organism, said definition being based upon the science of biology. Personhood is something altogether different, as it is dependent upon context, perspective, location, culture - in other words, non-objective criteria that don't even require being human.

bmiller said...

@SteveK

It sure would clear the air on this subject, wouldn't it?

It would be nice if folks had the curiosity to actually listen to and try to understand how it works. It's mostly common sense after all.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
It would be nice if folks had the curiosity to actually listen to and try to understand how it works. It's mostly common sense after all.

It doesn't work, but I agree that there is value in learning what Thomistic metaphysics was actually trying to do. Within the outdated notions of nature upon which it was based, it was an interesting, serious, respectable effort.

bmiller said...

It would be nice if folks had the curiosity to actually listen to and try to understand how it works. It's mostly common sense after all.

But instead all we tend to get is bald assertions and "Chronological Snobbery". A favorite of CS Lewis.

Starhopper said...

This is my response to the massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue.

bmiller said...

New Zealand, a freaking river was granted full rights of personhood!

Had to look that one up. Yep. Sounds like an Onion article but no, it's for real. It's a strange time we live in a time when real people consider that fingernails and rivers are or could be persons.

Hugo said...

Legion, in my opinion,
- Choice is what matter the most regarding abortions being allowed or not
- Personhood is what matters the most when it comes to assessing the morality of actions

But these 2 aren't as simple as the pro-life side makes them to be. That's the big problem.

Legion of Logic said...

Choice is what matter the most regarding abortions being allowed or not

Then choice is more important than not killing human life. Not many on the pro-"choice" side are willing to admit this.

But, as you would respond to that by invoking personhood, then I would ask how we can tell the precise moment when a human offspring creature thing gains the quality of personhood, so we don't accidentally kill one of these people.

I would also point out that the river in New Zealand is legally a person, which proves why personhood is a garbage standard as far as I'm concerned. Seems the only thing that CAN'T be a person is a human who is too young and in the wrong womb.

Hugo said...

As I said, the pro-choice position isn't simple and dogmatic like yours. Hence, there is no straightforward answers to these points and you already know that. But folks like you will just keep repeating the same thing again and again and again instead of conceding that, because it isn't simple to answer, we should let women make the call about their own bodies.

Calling what's in them a 'human person too young and in the wrong womb' if they choose to have an abortion places your opinion on top of theirs; the exact thing that women have been fighting against. They want to decide. That's the only part that's simple.

SteveK said...

Legion is arguing that there is no straightforward answer to the question of personhood, so he agrees with you on that point.

You are arguing that at some point it becomes straightforward -- that at some point women should not be allowed to decide because the personhood question has be answered. It seems like you are talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Legion of Logic said...

As I said, the pro-choice position isn't simple and dogmatic like yours.

The truth is often simple. What isn't simple is when people dislike the implications of that truth when it conflicts with an agenda or another value - in this case, the unimpeded ability for a woman to kill the unborn - and so they frame it as "unknowable".

But folks like you will just keep repeating the same thing again and again and again instead of conceding that, because it isn't simple to answer

I can't concede to something when I have no reason to believe it is true.

we should let women make the call about their own bodies

The issue isn't the woman's body, but rather how much value does the body in her womb deserve.

Calling what's in them a 'human person too young and in the wrong womb' if they choose to have an abortion places your opinion on top of theirs

And people who say it is about the "woman's body", and not the one actually dying, try to elevate theirs above mine and make me out to be wanting to control the sex lives of women, or some similar nonsense. That's how such things work. Myself, I don't let others dictate the correct terminology.

the exact thing that women have been fighting against. They want to decide.

Women can be wrong. Causes can be unjust or immoral.

Women don't have the power to decide whether something is a human life, since two women at the exact same stage of pregnancy could have differing opinions. One is factually correct, the other is factually wrong. Those who support abortion "rights" do not care if it is an unborn human dying.

That the unborn are distinct from the mother is incontrovertible. I have seen no arguments or facts to dispute it. The difference between you and I is that you think those lives have no value, or at least not compared to a woman's right to kill them if she desires, and I do not share that sentiment. Human life has value to me even when inconvenient.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

And people who say it is about the "woman's body", and not the one actually dying, try to elevate theirs above mine and make me out to be wanting to control the sex lives of women, or some similar nonsense. That's how such things work. Myself, I don't let others dictate the correct terminology.

being in a privileged position really makes it impossible to see things from the other point of view,then you surroundings yourself with agreement, we all do. So you are wronging at demonizing the other point of view,which is apparent from what you say below,

the exact thing that women have been fighting against. They want to decide.

Women can be wrong. Causes can be unjust or immoral.

Is it really unjust to have the say over one's own body?Is it really unjust to seek equality?? Do you really think it;just to impose a position of servitude on others?that is exotically what it is to say you can't decide about your own body. I know better I can tell you what to do.

why do you not trusts women to make the right decision do you think women love god less than you do?


Women don't have the power to decide whether something is a human life, since two women at the exact same stage of pregnancy could have differing opinions. One is factually correct, the other is factually wrong. Those who support abortion "rights" do not care if it is an unborn human dying.

We offer a standard of rationality. At some point the fetus will be close enough to the end of the developmental process that it will become a separate human life at the point when it is viable outside the womb. That means if you took it out of the womb it would live by itself without being hooked up to the mother. So that is the point to mind,

That the unborn are distinct from the mother is incontrovertible.


my fingernails are distinct from me, they are not human beings,


I have seen no arguments or facts to dispute it.

yes you have just pay attention n next time,

The difference between you and I is that you think those lives have no value,

Stop demonizing your opponent. you do not know how I feel. You don't know what I think You know nothing about my relationship with God (yes I do have one).Stop assuming only yiour point of view is valid.


or at least not compared to a woman's right to kill them if she desires,


Deodorizing women who get abortions only warps your perspective. that is not a Godly thing, Jesus never tells us to demonize people.The commend "judge not"would preclude demonizing the other


and I do not share that sentiment. Human life has value to me even when inconvenient.

So you don't cut your fingernails? We've discussed the need to distinguish between: human life:and the life of a person/ goes in one ear and out the other

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

The argument from religious experience is deemed too subjective to be of any real interest to rationally minded skeptics. Yet over the last 50 years, a huge body of empirical scientific work has emerged in peer reviewed journals that strengthens the case for religious experience as a God argument. Unfortunately, this body of work is largely confined to psychology of religion and is virtually unknown to theology or even religious studies. In this paper I examine the research methods used in this body of work, particular attention to the mysticism scale developed by Ralph Hood Jr. (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga).


Empirical Study of mystical Experience

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

I cannot live with this auto correct, it changed dehumanizing to deorderizing

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

If I don't value life why did I protest every war since Vietnam? It seems to me RTLM doesn't value life, except and unless it is tally unformed and inexperienced. Actual born people are worthless to them. Now I know that is a knee jerk reaction to being told that I don't value life. We should stop second guessing each other and stop demonizing each other,

and stop deoderizing each other

bmiller said...

Yeah, that stinks! :-)

Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

Legion of Logic said...

I fully support deodorizing one another, though I have yet to develop a strategy for doing so that wouldn't end with a fist in my face.

SteveK said...

I had no idea that deodorizing was so controversial. I support it completely. If you've ever been deodorized, you would support it too.

SteveK said...

Maybe SCOTUS will be reviewing abortion sooner than we think.

"As the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the state’s fetal homicide law in a ruling this month, one of the justices said the decision should force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

Justice Tom Parker said it is a “logical fallacy” for the government to consider a fetus a life for the purposes of a murder conviction but not when it comes to a woman deciding to end her pregnancy."


Do you think SCOTUS will rule that fetal homicide laws are unconstitutional? I don't think so.

Starhopper said...

"logical fallacy"

Since when have laws been based on logic? I recall (yes, I am that old) during the Vietnam War how the courts decreed that the draft did not violate the Constitution's prohibition against involuntary servitude. And one need look no further than Citizens United for illogical insanity ("corporations are people") in law.

Well, if New Zealand can grant personhood to a river, why can't the US grant personhood to General Motors?

One Brow said...

General Motors has personhood, to a limited degree. Only legal persons can be signatories to contracts.

Starhopper said...

"General Motors has personhood"

Unfortunately, such a stance utterly destroys all the arguments against abortion that rely on the personhood of the pre-born. Otherwise, it would be murder to close down General Motors.

bmiller said...

Another stinking argument here. Deodorizer needed on aisle 3!

Legion of Logic said...

Unfortunately, such a stance utterly destroys all the arguments against abortion that rely on the personhood of the pre-born

Which is why personhood is such a poor standard for when human life has worth, along with birth and viability.

Hugo said...

"Legion of Logic said...
"Unfortunately, such a stance utterly destroys all the arguments against abortion that rely on the personhood of the pre-born"

Which is why personhood is such a poor standard for when human life has worth, along with birth and viability."


What? It's the exact opposite! It's silly to elevate corporations to the level of 'person', but it still makes a lot more sense than elevating an embryo to the level of person. So yes, it does make perfect sense to say that it destroys all the arguments against abortion that rely on the personhood of the pre-born. A unique DNA is a low bar for a human life worth saving! We know how it happens, we know it's just some natural chemical process that cause a new biological entity to exist. We know that half the time it fails. We know that every single egg in every woman alive today could be a person, but most (99%?) of them won't. We know there is nothing magical happening when one of these eggs meet a spermatozoid; nothing. It's just chemistry. And most importantly of all, we know that we can control it almost perfectly. We know that we can decide when we want this "magical" thing to happen, or not. We have the control of when we want to increase the odds of it happening, or not. Therefore, because it depends on the body of a woman to happen, why not let each and every one of them decide when they want it to happen?

The only thing, the 1 single thing, that the pro-life side has it's the emotional appeal to how it might just be a baby, a person, a human life. But a "life" can also be a lot less than that baby, or that new person; a new human life is nothing but a new strand of DNA. It's meaningless but the pro-life side wants to impose their view that it does in fact matter. And as Chad demonstrated after so many comments, it's really just a way to make sure that the act that cause it to happen becomes "dangerous" as it may cause a new "life" to be created. It's hypocrisy all the way down.

But you don't even need to agree with me on most of that. Because I know women who would tell a very different story, a story of how they would never purposely kill that new life inside of them, but they are still strongly pro-choice. So just let the women decide what they want to do with their bodies. Is it really that hard?

So, to answer the point:
Women don't have the power to decide whether something is a human life
Yes actually, they do. It is entirely up to them to decide when they want a new human life to grow inside of them. They already have all the mechanics to make it happen; they already have the means to make it happen, or not. Unfortunately, even though we are collectively 'almost' perfect at controlling reproduction, as I just said, this is not always the case. Just let women decide what they think is happening with their body with the participation of whoever they want to get involve and leave it at that. It's really that simple. Some of them will get abortions, ya, and that sucks, but there is not good reason to put restrictions on their choice just because you feel uncomfortable.

Legion of Logic said...

What? It's the exact opposite!

No, it literally shows that personhood is meaningless as to whether a human life is worth saving. If rivers and companies can be persons legally, then "person" is not even remotely equivalent to "human life worth saving".

Therefore, because it depends on the body of a woman to happen, why not let each and every one of them decide when they want it to happen?

That has nothing to do with what it is that dies in an abortion, or when a human life has worth.

Yes actually, they do.

No, they do not. Whether something is a human life has nothing to do with whether the mother wants to kill it or not.

It is entirely up to them to decide when they want a new human life to grow inside of them.

At least you agree that, at some point, it is a human life prior to birth. What is that point, and how do we use it to avoid killing innocent human life?

At what point does a human life have value?

SteveK said...

Since when have laws been based on logic?

The basis is equal protection. Under equal protection laws, you must apply the law equally. It doesn't always happen but it's supposed to.

If you can charge Person A with killing a fetus (because a fetus is a human being with the legal right to life) then you must also be able to charge Person B even though they used different means. Fetal homicide laws are in conflict with Roe on the basis of equal protection.

Hugo said...

"No, it literally shows that personhood is meaningless as to whether a human life is worth saving. If rivers and companies can be persons legally, then "person" is not even remotely equivalent to "human life worth saving"."

Again here, I think it's the other way around. We have certain things in front of us: a river, a corporation, an embryo. We're trying to figure out what rights they have, if any, and who decides. But you're the one who claims, in one of these examples, that there's something worth saving based on whether it's a "human life" while simultaneously lowering the bar for "human life" to "anything with unique DNA". Why not let a woman decide what she think the worth of what's growing in her body is?
Unlike a river accessible to all and corporations made of and impacting people, the woman's body is entirely hers.

To which you would answer what you just said I suppose:
"That has nothing to do with what it is that dies in an abortion, or when a human life has worth.
[...] Whether something is a human life has nothing to do with whether the mother wants to kill it or not."

It does have everything to do with what dies and where that thing is: entirely inside a woman's body and under her control.

Basically, you ignored the main points I made about what we do know about biology, how it isn't mysterious, and how women can and want to control their body. You just express how you feel uncomfortable with abortions, again. On its own it's fine, but it becomes a problem when you're imposing that opinion on others and wish for them to not have the choice to decide.

It's a catch-22 in a way. You claim that it's not about what the woman wants, because you're concerned about what's being killed, but the point is that it shouldnt be your concern. I understand why you disagree, you're seeing a valuable human life where I dont, but you cannot justify labeling something in someone else's body a certain way, just because you think differently from them. Again, it's your opinion being extended to someone else's body.

"At least you agree that, at some point, it is a human life prior to birth. What is that point, and how do we use it to avoid killing innocent human life? At what point does a human life have value?"

Not my call. That's the point. The fact that you keep asking about that is bizarre frankly. There are 2 things here: arguments against the notion that an embryo/fetus has value AND how these arguments are personal opinions and how it is thus up to women to decide how to act.

The only reason why I do think it's useful, but not essential, to mention arguments against the embry/fetus value is only to show that there is a solid case to be made in favor of controlling when pregnancies occur and how, because we know so much about what's happening, we can each de decide what we want to be involved with and when.

Yet another way to put it: 2 women want to have kids in their life. Woman 1 is strongly against abortion, gets pregant by accident, keeps the baby. Woman 2 has no issue with abortion, gets pregnant by accident, gets an abortion, wait a few years, stops birth control, gets pregnant, keeps the baby. At this point, both women had a baby, both spawned a new life according to their values and choice. Why would you consider woman 2 a murderer? What about the egg inside woman 1 that could have been her child later on in life? The end result is the same for both; a nee fully grown baby was born in each case. Why care so much about woman 2's decision?

Legion of Logic said...

Why not let a woman decide what she think the worth of what's growing in her body is?

If the value of a human life is not dependent upon the actual life in question, but rather how much worth someone else ascribes to it based on whether they are having a good day, then there is no objective reason for that logic to suddenly end at birth given how physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially taxing parenthood can be. Either a life has worth, or it does not. I certainly can't prove any human life has worth, but I can sure point out inconsistencies in the application of that notion.

Basically, you ignored the main points I made about what we do know about biology, how it isn't mysterious

It's actually the pro life side that takes the mystery out of it. No viability guesswork, no musings about personhood, nothing but simple reproductive biology plus the principle of human life having value.

but the point is that it shouldnt be your concern

Why should I care if my neighbors are exhausted and broke and decide to kill their infant to relieve the burden? Doesn't affect me, does it? A particularly poignant question if the baby was born prematurely and thus younger and less developed than full term babies you think women should be allowed to kill prior to birth.

The fact that you keep asking about that is bizarre frankly

It's completely reasonable to ask this, because the pro-"choice" crowd runs from it as fast as possible.

When does a human life have worth, and how do we know when that point is achieved?

Why care so much about woman 2's decision?

Let me put it this way.

Let's say there are two other women. One is eight months pregnant, healthy and happily married, but finds out there is a possibility her baby might have Down's Syndrome, or might be missing a pinky finger. The other woman has given birth to a premature baby who requires constant intervention due to being underdeveloped for birth. She is broke, single, exhausted, stressed, and has no support.

You are telling me that I should not care if the pregnant woman kills that full term baby so long as it hasn't been born yet, even though it isn't negatively affecting her and it might not even have anything wrong with it. Yet you would expect me to be outraged if the other woman who is absolutely beaten down were to kill the younger, less developed baby simply because it was born - yet by being born, was FAR more taxing on the woman's health than the other's.

The inconsistencies in your logic are untenable because it adds arbitrary conditions all over the place in order to keep the goal viable - nothing matters so long as women can kill their unborn on a whim. Why even argue about anything else? Just say "Biology and notions of human worth are meaningless frivolities, I want women to have unfettered access to abortion and that's that."

If I was pro-"choice", that's what I would do. Skip trying to justify it with endless arbitrary conditions for each possible circumstance that might impact abortion "rights", and just say I support killing the unborn under any circumstances deemed appropriate by the mother.

Hugo said...

Legion,

You said many things that I would like to address, but there is 1 point that is just so shockingly stupid and ignorant that I think this might be a conversation stopper. You said:

"Let's say there are two other women. One is eight months pregnant, healthy and happily married, but finds out there is a possibility her baby might have Down's Syndrome, or might be missing a pinky finger. The other woman has given birth to a premature baby who requires constant intervention due to being underdeveloped for birth. She is broke, single, exhausted, stressed, and has no support.

You are telling me that I should not care if the pregnant woman kills that full term baby so long as it hasn't been born yet, even though it isn't negatively affecting her and it might not even have anything wrong with it. Yet you would expect me to be outraged if the other woman who is absolutely beaten down were to kill the younger, less developed baby simply because it was born - yet by being born, was FAR more taxing on the woman's health than the other's.

The inconsistencies in your logic are untenable because it adds arbitrary conditions all over the place in order to keep the goal viable - nothing matters so long as women can kill their unborn on a whim. Why even argue about anything else? Just say "Biology and notions of human worth are meaningless frivolities, I want women to have unfettered access to abortion and that's that."

If I was pro-"choice", that's what I would do. Skip trying to justify it with endless arbitrary conditions for each possible circumstance that might impact abortion "rights", and just say I support killing the unborn under any circumstances deemed appropriate by the mother."


How can one be so wrong? Abortion is the termination of the pregnancy. That's literally what the word means. That's why One Brow had this super long discussion with Chad to try to make him see the point that it's all about the woman's body being used to sustain something else, and her choice to terminate that dependance. It is not about the killing of the unborn first; that's a consequence of the abortion, of the termination of the pregnancy. If a woman gets an abortion after 8 months of pregnancy, that's called a c-section, and the baby lives. The pro-choice position is not at all about killing the unborn under any circumstances.

I didn't think you could be that wrong Legion. How can you misunderstand the situation so badly, or misrepresent on purpose so badly? I really don't know which it is... did you just do that on purpose? It's weird to me that you would write such stupid stuff seriously. Do you not understand anything at all about the wide variety of pro-choice positions and what they have in common, or not?

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

What about the egg inside woman 1 that could have been her child later on in life?

I wonder why you keep equating eggs to zygotes. This seems somehow central to your argument since you bring it up so often. You do know that eggs do not spontaneously grow into babies, right?

No one...absolutely no one from the pro-life side takes the position that eggs are human lives. Nor are fingernails. Nor are cancer cells....etc, etc.

It's as if pro-life opponents come from a planet where thing like this actually happen. Spooky!

Hugo said...

bmiller,
It's a rebuttal to the argument that "an embryo has the potential to be a person, therefore we should save it". Eggs also have that same potential; they just need a spermatozoon, which is not hard to find... and you're (probably) purposely misrepresenting the position on purpose, or completely misunderstand. I really can't tell with you or Legion or SteveK. At least Chad was coherent...

bmiller said...

Hugo,

Your claim is vacuous. You might as well claim that a carbon atom has "the same potential". It just needs a bunch of other things to happen.

Eggs do not naturally turn into humans any more than an atom naturally turn into humans.

If you think I'm misrepresenting or misunderstanding your position, then you need to explain it better.

But to be clear, who do you think presented the argument:
"an embryo has the potential to be a person, therefore we should save it". ?

bmiller said...

And just so I'm clear.

I'm claiming that the argument you presented is a straw-man argument that misrepresents any mainstream pro-life position.

If person is defined as a human having the same rights as you and me, then a person exists at the first moment of conception. Not before.

Hugo said...

bmiller,
If you don't think an embryo needs saving, we agree. Others don't. It's not a strawman... and you just mention conception, so what are you claiming?

Hugo said...

Oh and yes, we know how it happens, that is the point! WE can control it. But You don't want us to.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

Please answer the question:
who do you think presented the argument:
"an embryo has the potential to be a person, therefore we should save it". ?


If you don't think an embryo needs saving, we agree.
I think you have the same value as an embryo. So if you are worth saving so is an embryo.

Others don't.
Sorry about that.

It's not a strawman
Then tell me who actually made the argument.

and you just mention conception, so what are you claiming?
That an individual human life (aka person) begins at conception. On this planet at least.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

Oh and yes, we know how it happens, that is the point! WE can control it. But You don't want us to.

This does not count as explaining your position better. In fact it looks like a crazy rant.

Here's a hint:
If you know how babies are made and don't want to make a baby you should refrain from the act that would create a baby. I actually do want you to refrain from creating a baby if you cannot be responsible.

Hugo said...

"If you know how babies are made and don't want to make a baby you should refrain from the act that would create a baby."

And there you have it, the honest critique. It's really just about controlling sex.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

It's honestly about not killing people. Nothing else.

Hugo said...

Nah, that's hypocritical, you know an embryo isn't a person, you know it gets more and more complicated as it grows, but it's so much simpler to just blame women for having sex and punishing them for the consequences, regardless of the means we have to control the actual desired reproductive process.

bmiller said...

Just so you know. Mind reading is not a thing so "you know an embryo isn't a person" is a pretty stupid thing to actually post.

Also, I'm not blaming women. I'm blaming you for not being able to defend your pitiful position. I'm opposed to abortion and I could give a much better defense than you have here.

It seems to me that you are in favor of only women to be able to decide if it's OK if they want to kill or not.

Hugo said...

Correct, let women decide! Because it's their body. I don't think we should care about your feelings; your emotional attachment is irrelevant, sorry. And your comment revealed your main point, regardless of how you try to hide it under a veil of self-righteousness trying to prevent murder. It's all about controlling sex and how it's such an important act. It's not; time to modernize yourself and stop caring about what people do in their bedrooms. And btw, I've explained my position in so many ways by now; it is absurd to claim I cannot defend it. You can disagree, sure, but you're just whining really.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

Don't forget to answer this question:


who do you think presented the argument:
"an embryo has the potential to be a person, therefore we should save it". ?


My answer would be "no one". If you disagree, then tell us who?
If not, then stop the "meaningless cells", "fingernails", "cancer cells" and so on that people thought had some effect against pro-life.

Can we be done with at least that? Hugo, Joe, One-Brow?

SteveK said...

So a human embryo with no value develops into a human person with value. How’s that work exactly, and how do you know it didn’t have value from the moment of conception?

bmiller said...

Hugo,

It seems to me that you are in favor of only women to be able to decide if it's OK if they want to kill or not.

Correct, let women decide!


Great, we have your firm opinion. Women and only women have the right to decide if people live or die.

I'm interested in who supports your opinion on this blog.

Hugo said...

Chad Handley said...
"It's just a couple of cells... QED."

It's a couple of cells that contains a unique genetic code, the complete blueprint for a human being, which no other human ever has or will share. And unlike other cells, it has the potential to grow into a complete physical body.

Is that enough to make it a person? I don't know. But I do know that just repeating the phrase "it's just a couple of cells" is not a decisive argument that it's not a person.

Hugo said...

SteveK,
Stupid comment; we all agree the egg has no value on its own, same with spermatazeons, so it's just about their combination and development. We know all of that. What we disagree on is how/when to control it.

Hugo said...

bmiller said:
"Women and only women have the right to decide if people live or die."
It's not about that. Are you stupid or trolling?

You guys really have NOTHING to offer. Ut emotional appeal and ignorance. Amazing.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

Please reread the comments when you are sober. They will make more sense then.

Hugo said...

bmiller,

Wrong this time... and being drunk would be temporary. Your stupidity cannot be cured I'm afraid. Sorry...

Legion of Logic said...

Abortion is the termination of the pregnancy. That's literally what the word means.

And termination of the pregnancy is literally killing the unborn. That's what an abortion is. If it doesn't die, it's called a birth.

That's why One Brow had this super long discussion with Chad to try to make him see the point that it's all about the woman's body being used to sustain something else, and her choice to terminate that dependance. It is not about the killing of the unborn first; that's a consequence of the abortion, of the termination of the pregnancy.

What you seem to not realize is that you have a value hierarchy - a woman's right to kill her unborn offspring is more important than the right of that unborn offspring to continue living - that not everyone shares. You claim it is first, but not everyone agrees. To some, the right to not be intentionally killed is more important than the right of a mother to kill.

If a woman gets an abortion after 8 months of pregnancy, that's called a c-section, and the baby lives.

Your own words were that a woman should be allowed to determine the worth of the life inside her. If it hasn't been born yet, even at 8 months, your logic still applies. According to your words, if at 8 months she changed her mind about parenting, she should be able to deem it of no worth and kill it.

Are you backtracking now? Did I misunderstand you when you said a woman should be free to determine the worth of what is growing in her womb?

The pro-choice position is not at all about killing the unborn under any circumstances.

Either a woman should be allowed to determine the worth of the life inside her, as you said, or there are conditions in which your assertion no longer applies. If the latter is the case, what are those conditions?

I didn't think you could be that wrong Legion. How can you misunderstand the situation so badly, or misrepresent on purpose so badly?

I'm going by what you said. You said a woman should be free to determine the worth of what is growing inside her. Now you seem to be claiming that it is not so. Which is it?

It's weird to me that you would write such stupid stuff seriously.

The logical contortions I am pointing out do indeed lead to stupidity, don't they?

So, to condense the questions that have yet to be answered:

When does a human life have worth?

How do we know when this point has been achieved?

Is the second woman in my scenario worthy of more condemnation than the first, and if so, why?

Should a woman be free to determine the worth of her unborn?

SteveK said...

it's all about the woman's body being used to sustain something else, and her choice to terminate that dependance.

Explain why your logic doesn't apply after birth? As far as I can tell the only thing that has changed in that situation is the child's level of dependence and its location outside the womb.

After birth would it be okay for a woman to stop caring/sustaining a dependent person on the basis of "it's my body and I didn't want to do it anymore"?

I realize this isn't the pro-choice position, but logically it seems to be consistent with it.

bmiller said...

Chad Handley said...

"I believe the fetus/embryo is a person from the moment of conception..."

Not

"an embryo has the potential to be a person, therefore we should save it". ?

Please. No more strawmen.

Hugo said...

bmiller, Chad said:
"And unlike other cells, it has the potential to grow into a complete physical body."
Why did you quote something else?

Hugo said...

SteveK,
The difference is that a baby that can self-sustain itself, biologically speaking, isn't dependant on the mother's body. Whether she should be forced to take care of the offspring, legally or ethically, is a different question. That's the difference.

Hugo said...

Legion,

No, termination of the pregnancy is not always killing the unborn. If it doesn't die, it's called a birth AND if it was manually induced it's the result of terminating, aborting, the pregnancy.

If a woman doesn't want to take care of her child, because she doesn't value him/her anymore (regardless of how horrible that sounds), it doesn't give her the right to kill him/her. Same thing with unborn lifeforms. The problem is that we currently cannot save embryos or fetuses. But we can save grown unborn babies, especially after 8 months, so if the woman wants an abortion at that point (again, sounds horrible imho) the medical procedure will save the child. It would become negligence from the medical staff not to.

But that's so far from the 95+% of abortion that happen in the first trimester, completely ignores the fact that anywhere between 25 and 50% of embryos get discarded naturally already, and most importantly, that yes, there's a hierarchy of values!

Placing embryos status as living things above a conscious woman's right to choose is indefensible for others who disagree. (That's why we see so many irrelevant/stupid comments here!) So do whatever you want, just let women choose when they want to actually bring a new life into the world.

In other words, if you or any woman value embryos so much, try to find a way to save as many as possible! Don't get an abortion yourself! But imposing your morality on others in this specific case is completely unjustified.

Hugo said...

bmiller, back to you, you quoted this:

"I believe the fetus/embryo is a person from the moment of conception..."
The only way this makes sense is if an embryo is a person because it has the potential to be what we call a person in our everyday lives. In order words, the other way around, it is absurd to label an embryo a person; it's just some cells growing according to chemistry laws. Nobody can explain why these cells matter; only that they have unique DNA and the potential to be an actual person one day.

That's why it's not a strawman to attack that idea of "potential". Didn't you link to an Ed Feser article about potentials too now that I think about it?

So that's why I keep repeating that it's just some biological process that doesn't mean much and may or may not lead to a person with rights. But many pro-life positions include that notion that conception means 'new person'. It draws some arbitrary line for no good reason. (But we know what the bad reasons are...)

SteveK said...

"The difference is that a baby that can self-sustain itself, biologically speaking, isn't dependant on the mother's body. Whether she should be forced to take care of the offspring, legally or ethically, is a different question. That's the difference."

All you did was summarize the differences that I alluded to. I will readily agree to these facts, with one correction: a baby cannot self-sustain because it requires a caregiver to feed it. It is, therefore, dependent.

I'm following your logic of "it's my body" and asking where it might lead. The question I asked was would it be okay for a woman to stop caring for a baby outside the womb on the basis of "it's my body and I didn't want to do it anymore"?

What would be your moral argument against a woman who said this?

Hugo said...

Well I'm not so sure we agree on the facts because your "correction" is accurate but irrelevant; the baby doesn't need its mother specifically, which is the difference between something attached to the woman's body, and dependant on her, and a viable baby.

Your question is also irrelevant because of that; nothing to do with abortion as I had also mentioned above already.

SteveK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveK said...

It's relevant because I'm questioning the fundamental basis of your argument. I think it's flawed. I'm using the basis of your argument and applying it after birth. I want you to explain where the problem is.

You said:
"it's all about the woman's body being used to sustain something else, and her choice to terminate that dependence. It is not about the killing of the unborn first; that's a consequence of the abortion, of the termination of the pregnancy."

(a) In both situations we have a woman's body being used to sustain something - a human life. After birth the woman's body is used to go shopping, fix food and feed it to the baby. She is physically sustaining it's life.

(b) In both situations we have a woman choosing to terminate that dependence. After birth the woman is choosing to stop using her body to go shopping, fix food, and feed the baby. Her body, her choice.

(c) In both situations the consequence is the termination of a human life.

Why is it moral prior to birth, but immoral after birth?

Legion of Logic said...

I can't get direct answers so I'm done here. Have fun guys!

bmiller said...

Hugo,

Neither Chad nor anyone else here has argued:
"an embryo has the potential to be a person, therefore we should save it".
As far as I can tell, all of the pro-life proponents here hold that personhood starts at the moment of conception if personhood means that you shouldn't kill the individual.

Again, no one has argued that an embryo is a potential person.

Now you may not like that people hold this point of view, but it is dishonest to keep insisting that this is their position when it is not.

Nobody can explain why these cells matter; only that they have unique DNA and the potential to be an actual person one day.

No. Please stop it. Once again, no one has argued that an embryo is a potential person.

That's why it's not a strawman to attack that idea of "potential". Didn't you link to an Ed Feser article about potentials too now that I think about it?

Yes I did link to the article. It's obvious that if you bothered to read it that you didn't understand it. Here is the relevant quote from the article:

The relevance to abortion should be obvious. A fetus too isn’t a potentially rational animal or a potential person. A fetus is an actual rational animal and thus an actual person who hasn’t yet realized all his potentials. Etc.

Is not a potential person. Is an actual person. Do you see that?

But many pro-life positions include that notion that conception means 'new person'.
Yes. So stop repeating that anyone here has argued anything different. OK?

Hugo said...

bmiller, fair points, if you insist, but they are worse and simplistic points... that's what you don't get. Calling an egg a person is silly, a spermatazeo a person is silly, and we all agree apparently, but when they combine (via sex OMG) now it's a person? It's ridiculous. I'm trying to be generous and acknowledge that it might, one day, become a person, and that's exactly what Chad said and that's exactly the implication of Feser's point. Labeling something a person doesn't make it so (like rivers and corporations...) so the only thing that might justify the claim is if the argument is that it might be a person, it has the potential to become one.

So either you agree with something ridiculous and simplistic (conception = new person) or something more sophisticated but that you can't defend properly (conception = new lifeform with DNA that we shouldn't kill because it might be a person one day, as we all went through this, etc...)

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
My answer would be "no one". If you disagree, then tell us who?
If not, then stop the "meaningless cells", "fingernails", "cancer cells" and so on that people thought had some effect against pro-life.


No rational argument has an effect on pro-life beliefs.

I will stop bringing up cancer cells when you can offer proof (beyond the inductive argument or the claim they lack some undetectable property of some undetectable form) that cancer cells can never develop intelligence nor will. Just as not every embryo has the capacity to develop into a baby, you can't demonstrate that no cancer does.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
To some, the right to not be intentionally killed is more important than the right of a mother to kill.

I want to thank you for acknowledging that you would grant rights to the unborn that no born person has. It's refreshingly honest.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

I'm trying to be generous and acknowledge that it might, one day, become a person, and that's exactly what Chad said and that's exactly the implication of Feser's point.

No. That is exactly wrong. Neither of them believe that embryos "become" persons, instead they both believe that embryos "are" persons from the moment of conception.

Chad's quote:
"I believe the fetus/embryo is a person from the moment of conception"
Dr Feser's quote:
"A fetus too isn’t a potentially rational animal or a potential person. A fetus is an actual rational animal and thus an actual person"

I think you can read sentences written in the English language but apparently there is something going on in your head that prevents you from grasping not just these simple sentences, but everything else both of these people wrote in defense of their positions. Very curious.

So either you agree with something ridiculous and simplistic (conception = new person)
If "new person" means "has the same right to life as you" then that is my position.
I'm unimpressed with the ignorant adjectives you've attached to the position since that's been the extent of your argumentation. You've failed to explain *why* you think it is "ridiculous and simplistic". While Legion, as well as Chad and Dr Feser, actually gave arguments for their position you have not. A position without reasons is unreasonable.

or something more sophisticated but that you can't defend properly (conception = new lifeform with DNA that we shouldn't kill because it might be a person one day, as we all went through this, etc...)
And once again No. No one is making this argument. So please stop it. OK?

Hugo said...

bmiller,

You're being ridiculous when saying I don't defend my position... I have spent so much time explaining my position and what I agree with, or not, with others and how they make good points or bad points. There are tons of point that were not addressed by anyone. And I don't care, it's more about thinking about ideas. But claiming that I did not explain anything is just your cheap way of trolling again...

And regarding the argument you're referencing, what you don't acknowledge is the 'why' behind the claim that an embryo is a person. Try to explain what happens when a spermatazeo fertilizes an egg to make it a person, without talking about its future. Why does it matter at that very instant?

bmiller said...

Hugo,

I have spent so much time explaining my position and what I agree with, or not,

You have spent a lot of time repeating that you think a zygote is meaningless and that you are not. But you have given no reasons for those assertions.

But claiming that I did not explain anything is just your cheap way of trolling again...

Then you should be able to point out where you tried to explain why a zygote is meaningless an you are not.

And regarding the argument you're referencing, what you don't acknowledge is the 'why' behind the claim that an embryo is a person. Try to explain what happens when a spermatazeo fertilizes an egg to make it a person, without talking about its future. Why does it matter at that very instant?

Have you taken a chemistry course? Sodium and Chlorine are very different things with very different properties. You wouldn't want to locked in a room with either of them for any amount of time. However when they combine, they become salt. Salt is a different thing altogether that has altogether different properties.

In a similar manner, a new individual human life comes into being when the sperm and egg unite. This is an accepted scientific fact. Did they not teach that in Canadian schools?

Do you actually think that you are still a sperm and an egg cell?

Hugo said...

bmiller, some interesting stuff this time!

First, I'm not adding labels to what a zigote is; the pro-life arguments are. I don't believe your opinion that it's more than just a zygote. When I say that it's meaningless, you forget that it's in response to someone, some claim, adding meaning to what a zygote is.

But that might not answer your question clearly enough. "Then you should be able to point out where you tried to explain why a zygote is meaningless an you are not." What I have explained before is my opinion that cells can be discarded without thinking twice about it, while conscious human beings are the exact opposite, being the most meaningful living things to care about. Everything in between is a gray area that requires more context.

Then, if we do analyze the series of events around conception, regarding scientific facts, you said that "a new individual human life comes into being when the sperm and egg unite." ok, sure, you want to call the fusion of the egg and spermatazeo like that. So what? Continue your analogy, NaCl is very different in demonstrable ways from Na or Cl alone. What's the big difference between the egg and the ferilized egg?

Btw, I discussed all of that before, even linked to graphs and pointed out steps. That's actually my main point that you just made for me! You just explicitly stated that you see something more than just chemical reactions. What is it? You call it a new individual human life but it doesn't make it more different; which properties are that different suddenly?

I can think of 2 that are relevant:
- Unique DNA
- Higher probability of growing into a conscious being

What else? The rest is still the same egg, with just the tiny contribution from the spermatazeo.

Hugo said...

This sums it up neatly; bmiller said:
"Do you actually think that you are still a sperm and an egg cell?" In a way yes, we all are. But mostly an egg, that was just like any other egg, but happened to be fertilized and happened to survive the full gestation period. There was no magic moment when I turned into 'me', it's a continuous process. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

And when it does work, it's incredibly meaningful as it will most likely yield a new autonomous conscious person. There was a long process of 0% autonomy to 100%, from entirely dependent fertilized eggs, to responsible adults. Therefore, lots of gray zones...

bmiller said...

Hugo,

What I have explained before is my opinion that cells can be discarded without thinking twice about it, while conscious human beings are the exact opposite, being the most meaningful living things to care about.

Merely repeating your opinion is not explaining your position. You are a bunch of cells. Why should I consider your clump of cells meaningful and a brand new human individual meaningless?

Then, if we do analyze the series of events around conception, regarding scientific facts, you said that "a new individual human life comes into being when the sperm and egg unite." ok, sure, you want to call the fusion of the egg and spermatazeo like that. So what? Continue your analogy, NaCl is very different in demonstrable ways from Na or Cl alone. What's the big difference between the egg and the ferilized egg?

Are you really this ignorant of biology. I chose this particular quote since the book was published in Canada.
"Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).
"Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being."
[Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]


If you really believe you are an egg, there's no reason for me to engage with you. I might as well be talking to someone who insists he's a potted plant.

I can think of 2 that are relevant:
- Unique DNA
- Higher probability of growing into a conscious being


The individual human being that is you came into existence the moment your father's sperm and mother's egg combined into forming a completely new thing. At that moment you possessed a human nature with all the capabilities, expressed or not, that humans possess throughout their lifetimes. Egg cells and sperm cells do not. If you think you are an egg, and eggs are disposable, then so are you.

SteveK said...

"What's the big difference between the egg and the ferilized egg?"

What's the difference between a fertilized egg and Hugo? Is Hugo an egg that has developed the ability to think, or is Hugo something different?

SteveK said...

"At that moment you possessed a human nature with all the capabilities, expressed or not, that humans possess throughout their lifetimes. Egg cells and sperm cells do not."

This is a key point, Hugo. Don't miss it. It is a cornerstone of the pro-life argument. You have to challenge this point if you are to make any progress.

Hal said...

At that moment you possessed a human nature with all the capabilities, expressed or not, that humans possess throughout their lifetimes. Egg cells and sperm cells do not.

That is a crucial point. I don’t believe it to be true. A zygote has none of the capacities that are peculiar to personhood.

bmiller said...

Hal,

If a human zygote does not possess a human nature, then what nature does it possess? A bovine nature?

Hal said...

It is a human zygote. That does not entail it has the capacities that are peculiar to personhood. In other words, human zygotes are not persons. Killing a human zygote is not murder.

Hal said...

After all, human nature cannot be reduced to a particular genetic code. Unless you are a materialistic reductionist.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I don't think you answered my question. Does a human zygote have a human nature or not?

Plus you have failed to provide a definition of personhood, much less one that is uncontroversial.

Hal said...

A human zygote is not a person. Am assuming that is what you meant by 'having a human nature'. If not, you will need to elaborate on what you do mean.

A person is a being capable of reasoning and acting for reasons. A person can explain her reasons and request others to explain theirs. She is capable of discerning good from evil and being held morally and legally responsible for her actions. A person can be innocent or guilty.

Most cultures will extend that concept to include the very elderly and the very young or to those that have become mentally impaired through disease or injury. But such an extension is somewhat arbitrary and dependent on the values that are embraced by that culture.

Hugo said...

"such an extension is somewhat arbitrary"
Completely arbitrary you mean! Anyway, well, said, just passing by for now...

bmiller said...

Hal,

If not, you will need to elaborate on what you do mean.

If I remember correctly you are not a materialistic reductionist. Maybe I'm wrong.

Naturally occurring things have a range of attributes that allows us to distinguish among them. That range of attributes is what is known as the thing's nature. Cattle have one type of nature and humans have a different type of nature.

So if human zygotes do not have a human nature, then they must have a different nature and they are different kinds of things than humans. I wonder what type of thing you think they are.

As an aside, your definition of person would exclude infants from being classifed as such.

Hugo said...

bmiller said...
"Naturally occurring things have a range of attributes that allows us to distinguish among them. That range of attributes is what is known as the thing's nature."

Ah well that's definitely where the problem is then. Things are what they are; that's the most basic logical thing we can discuss. Adding a notion of "nature" as some sort of extra label is your way sorting things in these black & white buckets to suit your own agenda. It's a reasoning error. You put it like that:
- An unfertilized egg is nothing special;
- A fertilized egg is something very special, a new human being with some special human nature and ALL the things we see in human people (or the potential to? But you insist it's not about that...)
But biologically speaking, this is completely false. The 'nature' of the egg hasn't changed much. You don't seem to realize how little impact the spermatozoon has on the egg... the fact that you show a page full of quotes instead of the depiction of the actual process is very telling! Just look at these few steps for instance, this is just the fusing of the sperm with the egg, not the whole thing at all, but there is, according to you, some sort of point where that is now a full on human person.
Where/when/why??
Basically, that simple world you describe is not the actual world we live in; things are much more complicated than that. So, for instance, going back up the tread:

"The individual human being that is you came into existence the moment your father's sperm and mother's egg combined into forming a completely new thing. At that moment you possessed a human nature with all the capabilities, expressed or not, that humans possess throughout their lifetimes. Egg cells and sperm cells do not. If you think you are an egg, and eggs are disposable, then so are you."

First of all, no, I do not consider that I 'came into existence' the moment one of my mother's egg was fertilized. I would say it’s closer to the time I was born, or maybe even later as I became self-aware. There was no "me" to speak of when "I" was just a cell. Again, it's a lot more complicated than just my DNA being created.

Second, all of this is just you, bmiller or whoever agrees with you like SteveK, adding a subjective label to something we can observe and describe objectively. There is nothing that 'come into existence' the moment the sperm touches the egg. AGAIN, it's a continuous process; it's biological things changing and morphing into something else. Yes, we do change the labels we use to describe the objects involved as they grow, as a matter of convention, because we use language as a tool to know what we are talking about. But the added labels of 'human nature' is just enforcing your opinion that this thing is already a human person, it's just a way to put forward your OPINION that a fertilized egg is a lot more than just an egg with a tiny bit of DNA added to it. And btw, unlike you, I respect that divergence of opinion and would never force someone to kill an embryo or a fetus, but YOU want to force women to carry on with pregnancies they don't want. Let's not forget that this is the main point of contention here.

Hugo said...

Now, I know you'll just say again that it's repeating my opinion that I don't see value in an embryo, but I truly cannot explain more than that because this is the default position. I am just looking at the biological process that's happening (well, its model) and simply don't see a step that warrant calling for a change of label in its 'nature' in the sense that you used above. We are all looking at the same diagrams, the same models for the same process, but you claim that at some point (not even a truly specific point) the whole nature of the things involved change to make it a human person. And all you have to point to are quotes, words, never some scientifically demonstrable step where we can actually pinpoint some significant change.

Hugo said...

Hal, you said...
"Most cultures will extend that concept to include the very elderly and the very young or to those that have become mentally impaired through disease or injury. But such an extension is somewhat arbitrary and dependent on the values that are embraced by that culture."

bmiller said...
"As an aside, your definition of person would exclude infants from being classifed as such."

So bmiller isn't even reading what he is replying to it seems. You had already explicitly stated that yes, it excludes infants by default, but that we can collectively agree to include them. That makes perfect sense. And to be fair, it is possible to extend the inclusion all the way back to the fertilized egg. The problem is that I don't see good reasons to do so. So far, the only thing we have are:
- Unique DNA (from Hugo)
- Higher probability of growing into a conscious being (from Hugo)
- Completely new thing (from bmiller)
- Something with a human nature with all the capabilities, expressed or not, that humans possess throughout their lifetimes (from bmiller)
That 4th one is absurd when talking about just an embryo, or even a grown fetus, but that's a reason to want to label these objects as human person. So it's a logically valid reason, but not a sound one.

bmiller said...

Hugo,

But biologically speaking, this is completely false. The 'nature' of the egg hasn't changed much. You don't seem to realize how little impact the spermatozoon has on the egg... the fact that you show a page full of quotes instead of the depiction of the actual process is very telling!

Biologically speaking a new individual human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. You may wish to live in a make-believe world, but most of us don't.

Second, all of this is just you, bmiller or whoever agrees with you like SteveK, adding a subjective label to something we can observe and describe objectively. There is nothing that 'come into existence' the moment the sperm touches the egg. AGAIN, it's a continuous process;

I don't believe scientific facts are subjective at all. How odd.

but YOU want to force women to carry on with pregnancies they don't want. Let's not forget that this is the main point of contention here.

I'm against killing people. It's ludicrous to assert preventing murder is forcing someone to do anything.

Now, I know you'll just say again that it's repeating my opinion that I don't see value in an embryo, but I truly cannot explain more than that because this is the default position.

Yes. You continue to fail to provide reasons.

That 4th one is absurd when talking about just an embryo, or even a grown fetus, but that's a reason to want to label these objects as human person. So it's a logically valid reason, but not a sound one.

When a man and woman conceive, what is the nature of the zygote, embryo etc. Is it the same as the nature of the zygote when cows mate? If they are different, how are they different.

For instance, does the bovine zygote have an inherent natural capability for language as it matures?

If you can't see what I'm getting at, it's that a normal human zygote has, by it's very nature, all of the capacities that all humans will ever have. Bovine zygotes have a different nature and therefore different capacities that all cows will ever have. They are not simply undifferentiated blobs of matter.

Hal said...

bmiller,

That range of attributes is what is known as the thing's nature. Cattle have one type of nature and humans have a different type of nature.

Yes, I would agree that humans have attributes that differentiate them from other animals such as cattle or birds. But a fully grown animal has attributes that differentiate them from a newly born animal or an unborn animal.

A human zygote does not have the attributes of a human being. A human being is a person. A human zygote is not. A human zygote is incapable of exhibiting any of the behavioral criteria we use to identify human persons.

Regarding your point that infants would be excluded from being classified as persons. That is true but in our culture we choose to extend the concept of personhood to infants and the very elderly who are incapable of exhibiting the above mentioned behavioral criteria. Classifications are arbitrary; we can modify them for a variety of reasons.

Of course, you are free to extend the concept to include human zygotes. But there are many others who don't see a good reason for doing so.

Also, your appear to claim that your choice to extend personhood to some zygotes is a scientific fact. I don't believe it is. How can it be? The concept of personhood is a moral/legal one, not a scientific one.

Hal said...

bmiller,
If you can't see what I'm getting at, it's that a normal human zygote has, by it's very nature, all of the capacities that all humans will ever have.

Don't see how one could believe that unless they were a materialistic reductionist who thought that a human being could be reduced to his genetic code.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Yes, I would agree that humans have attributes that differentiate them from other animals such as cattle or birds. But a fully grown animal has attributes that differentiate them from a newly born animal or an unborn animal.

People exhibit different attributes at different ages and in fact, everyone is changing at every moment. But that doesn't mean that the biological entity that is you is a different kind of thing altogether at each moment of time. Cattle never had nor will ever have the capacity to speak English. All normal humans do have that inherent capacity in some form at the moment of conception. Either that or some external agent injected that capacity after conception into them. I don't believe anyone has provided evidence for that.

Classifications are arbitrary; we can modify them for a variety of reasons.

So your definition of personhood is arbitrary. That's a good reason not to use it when deciding the most fundamental of moral acts.

Also, your appear to claim that your choice to extend personhood to some zygotes is a scientific fact.

I've merely quoted and linked to scientific literature that states the the beginning of a new individual human life begins at conception. This is not an arbitrary claim. If you kill it, you have killed an individual human being.

Don't see how one could believe that unless they were a materialistic reductionist who thought that a human being could be reduced to his genetic code.

I honestly don't see how you could construe my talk of a thing's nature as falling into the materialistic reductionist category. Maybe you can explain that one to me.

SteveK said...

"There is nothing that 'come into existence' the moment the sperm touches the egg."

Nothing begins to exist when a pregnancy occurs and the 9-month process starts? Try picking up a biology book. The woman is pregnant with some thing that wasn't there before.

SteveK said...

"A human zygote does not have the attributes of a human being."

False. It has the unique potential to become conscious, to eat, to dream, to breathe. Those are all human attributes that you have as an adult. The fact is that something NEW has come into existence that wasn't there before. That new thing is a human being.

Hugo said...

SteveK,
How is it not about potential again? Or is that something you disagree with bmiller on?

bmiller,
See what he just wrote... and it fits with what you keep repeating as well. You attribute a certain label to a fertilized embryo that relates to the potential of the embryo to, one day, be a consious human being.

That's true, but with only 25-50% chance and it increases over time. So the problem is again that you use a specific label to jump to giving personhood rights to that object right away, just becauee you feel like it's the right thing to do.

SteveK said...

"A human zygote is incapable of exhibiting any of the behavioral criteria we use to identify human persons."

Behavior is only one of the criteria. If behavior were the ONLY criteria then a human would change into a monkey when the human started behaving like a monkey. Likewise, a human would stop being human when they stopped certain behaviors, and would return to being human when those behaviors returned.

Human nature goes beyond behavior and ability. It goes beyond DNA too.

SteveK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveK said...

"How is it not about potential again? Or is that something you disagree with bmiller on?"

I agree with bmiller. I'm not saying a zygote is potentially a human being. That was the claim being put into our mouth, and bmiller knocked that strawman down. I'm saying a zygote is a human being (right now) and one of the ways we know this is because it has some of the same unique human potentials that human adults have.

What do you call a thing that (right now) has human DNA and (right now) the potential to express a wide range human behavior and human biological systems: A: a human being

Hugo said...

Yep, that's exactly what I'm addressing. You created this very low bar to entry to what is a person with rights by equating anything with a new strand of DNA to a human being that has rights, because of all the potentials. You acknowledge that it's not a full on consious human being yet, but lump everything together to give embryos/fetus rights. That's the problem as this is your OPINION, not a fact.

And again, to be clear, I'm not saying your opinion is stupid, but it is stupid to impose it on others, especially in women who want to choose when to have babies. There are pro-choice people who say the same about the uneasy feelings they get regarding an embryo being discarded, and others like me couldn't care less. But only on the pro-life side do you see the jump to "I think it's something worth saving" to "You must save it".

Hugo said...

Btw, 1 more detail. I have also addressed this idea that all that matter is unique DNA, that is what I was referring to as DNA fetishism because this is what this is honestly.

The fertilization doesn't change the egg much besides making some new random DNA and triggering cell division. Up to half the time it won't even go anywhere, but you care about that DNA for some reason. And after maybe 100 more comments, you'll probably admit that it's because sex was involved that it really matters... or maybe not, some people are also against in-vitro fertilization because it killa viable embryos. Again, lots of different opinions here.

SteveK said...

"You created this very low bar to entry to what is a person with rights by equating anything with a new strand of DNA to a human being that has rights, because of all the potentials."

That bar applies equally to adults, as you will soon see.

"You acknowledge that it's not a full on consious human being yet, but lump everything together to give embryos/fetus rights"

When YOU are unconscious, do you possess those rights? Yes, you do. I'm not imposing anything on a zygote that you are not imposing on yourself. If consciousness isn't required then YOU need to rethink your argument.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Yes, a human zygote has the potential to grow into a human being with the capacity to reason and make moral changes. That doesn't change the fact that the zygote itself does not have those capacities. In other words a human zygote is not a person but given the right environment it can acquire those capacities we attribute to a normal human person. Also, we attribute those capacities (such as language using, reasoning, self-consciousness, etc.) based on our behavior. A simple example: a math teacher will use a test to determine whether or not her students have the capacity to perform addition.

A human zygote is incapable of providing such behavioral criteria of identity. So it appears to me that you are attributing those capacities only on the basis of its genetic code. That is why I consider your position to be that of a materialistic reductionist. I suppose you could avoid that position by positing that when a human zygote is formed a human soul is also formed. That is a religious belief and only those who hold it would be obliged to accept your view that a human zygote is a person.

Hal said...

SteveK,
Behavior is only one of the criteria. If behavior were the ONLY criteria then a human would change into a monkey when the human started behaving like a monkey. Likewise, a human would stop being human when they stopped certain behaviors, and would return to being human when those behaviors returned.

The behavior is a criteria for determining what capacities or abilities a human person has. We all agree, I assume that the zygote in question is a human zygote.

A human zygote does not have the capacities that a human person has. You may insist it does but then you are simply begging the question here.

As far as I can see the only thing we might agree on is that given the proper environment a zygote can grow into a being that has those capacities.

Hugo said...

SteveK,

I believe Hal's making the same points as I am now so it's really all about the labels we use to describe things and give them rights. I am glad I lasted long enough on this thread to figure that out because it's slightly different than what I had understood before.

Hal,

Did you read the last thread here that went above 200 comments on that topic? I brought up the soul too as I think, even if I disagree, that this would be consistent with the idea that embryos/zygote/fetus are worth saving.

With that, I think that was enough for this thread... cheers!

SteveK said...

Hal,
"Yes, a human zygote has the potential to grow into a human being with the capacity to reason and make moral changes. That doesn't change the fact that the zygote itself does not have those capacities. In other words a human zygote is not a person but given the right environment it can acquire those capacities we attribute to a normal human person."

Again, your argument means that a thing isn't a human being if certain abilities aren't being expressed (actualized). What that means is a human being briefly becomes a non-person when they lose the capacity to think, talk and be conscious. If you lose these capacities for 5 seconds would you stop being a human person during those 5 seconds? No. Your argument fails.

Hal said...

No SteveK, you are misunderstanding my position.
I am saying that we use behavioral criteria of identity to attribute capacities to a human being. I am not saying that a person only has those capacities while they are exhibiting or using them.

If a question arises as to whether not a person has a capacity, then we can use those behavioral criteria to answer that question.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Yes, a human zygote has the potential to grow into a human being with the capacity to reason and make moral changes. That doesn't change the fact that the zygote itself does not have those capacities.

My claim is that the human zygote is a human being that has those capacities as part of it's human nature. If it's not a human being with a human nature, then it must be some other thing with a different nature.

If it's another type of thing completely then I'd ask you to tell me what type of non-human thing it is and what type of nature it has. What external agent then destroys the non-human thing and makes it into a human thing? Or in other words, do you believe that the biological organism that is you now is not only a different biological organism than before birth, but was an actual different type of non-human entity?

If you do consider it to be a human being with a normal human nature then it already has all the inherent capacities that it ever will. Otherwise, some external agent would have to had to inject them into the human being. What is that external agent?

A human zygote is incapable of providing such behavioral criteria of identity. So it appears to me that you are attributing those capacities only on the basis of its genetic code. That is why I consider your position to be that of a materialistic reductionist. I suppose you could avoid that position by positing that when a human zygote is formed a human soul is also formed. That is a religious belief and only those who hold it would be obliged to accept your view that a human zygote is a person.

I didn't bring up genetic code at all. I did bring up a thing's nature, which would be inconsistent with what a MR would bring up. Are you not a MR? If not, then what do you think makes things up other than just the material? I think bovine zygotes have natures as do all sorts of existing material objects also so why bring up religious beliefs?

Hal said...

bmiller,
My claim is that the human zygote is a human being that has those capacities as part of it's human nature. If it's not a human being with a human nature, then it must be some other thing with a different nature.


What capacities does a human zygote have? Can it reason? Can it use a language to describe what it is thinking of? Can it make a moral judgement?

I would agree that it has the capacity to develop or grow (given the right environment) into a being that can speak and reason and make moral judgements. And that is why we consider it a human zygote and not a bovine one. But it doesn't have those capacities when it is a zygote.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Of course I'm not claiming that a zygote can exercise those capacities at the moment any more than an unconscious adult can. But it must have those capacities inherently at conception or they must be infused later by an external agent.

Is your position that they lack those capacities inherently? Then please identify the external agent that infuses them.

Am I mistaken, or do I recall that you believe something along the lines of a formal cause?

SteveK said...

Hal,
"No SteveK, you are misunderstanding my position."

I read what you said and still cannot figure out what I'm getting wrong. Your latest comment to bmiller just makes me more perplexed. You need to clarify.

You said:
"I would agree that it has the capacity to develop or grow (given the right environment) into a being that can speak and reason and make moral judgements. And that is why we consider it a human zygote and not a bovine one. But it doesn't have those capacities when it is a zygote."

In summary:
(a) if a being has the capacity to speak, reason and make moral judgments it is a human being.
(b) If a being doesn't have those capacities, but can develop/grow them given the right environment it is a human zygote

Okay, back to my prior comment. An unconscious being (you) doesn't fit statement (a) but it does fit statement (b). Explain the misunderstanding.


Hal said...

bmiller,
Of course I'm not claiming that a zygote can exercise those capacities at the moment any more than an unconscious adult can. But it must have those capacities inherently at conception or they must be infused later by an external agent.

I don't understand why it would have to have those capacities at the moment of conception. It has to grow and take on a different form from being a zygote in order to have those capacities. What it does have is the capacity to acquire those capacities through physical growth and change.

Also, the environment it grows in has an effect on what capacities it does develop.

Sorry, but at this point, unless you can show some behavioral change in the zygote that would identify capacities such as reasoning or making moral judgements, I can see no reason for attributing them to it. I think many people who support choice agree with that view and that is why they consider abortion to be morally permissible.

As I mentioned to SteveK above, we can attribute a capacity to a being even if it is not actively engaged in using it. But if there is a question as to whether or not it does have that capacity, then we need behavioral criteria to identify it (the capacity).

Hal said...

SteveK,

We use behavioral criteria of identity to confirm that a being has a specific capacity. One does not have a capacity only when they are exhibiting it.

Take the math student who gets a grade of A in a test of her capacity to perform addition. We can still say she has that capacity even when she is sleeping. We've already identified the capacity by her performance in the test.

Does that make sense to you?

SteveK said...

Hal,
"Take the math student who gets a grade of A in a test of her capacity to perform addition. We can still say she has that capacity even when she is sleeping."

We correctly say she has the *potential* to perform addition. A zygote has that same potential in a different form.

I think you may be arguing that she has expressed the capacity to perform addition, and it's on that basis that we know she is a human person. Is this correct?

Hal said...

SteveK,

I would agree that a human zygote has the potential to develop the capacities that a normal adult has. One can of course lose a capacity due to injury or illness or aging. But otherwise we assume a person has a capacity once they have demonstrated it. For example, if Billy learns to ride a bicycle we don't typically say he now has the potential to ride a bicycle - we simply say he is a bicycle rider.
In the same way, if one's child is a straight A math student we proudly boast about her skill at math - not about her potential to perform math.

I know you and bmiller believe that in some way a human zygote has all the capacities that we would normally attribute to a human person. I have a great deal of difficulty in thinking that is true. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I think what distinguishes a human zygote from a bovine zygot is that the human one has the capacity to develop or attain those capacities human persons have while a bovine zygot does not. But it may not go on to obtain those new capacities due to defects in its development or some unforeseen negative effects from environmental changes (e.g. the mother becoming a drug addict after becoming pregnant.)

bmiller said...

Hal,

I would agree that a human zygote has the potential to develop the capacities that a normal adult has. One can of course lose a capacity due to injury or illness or aging. But otherwise we assume a person has a capacity once they have demonstrated it.

I think most people would assume that a normal infant has an inherent capacity for speech. Not because the infant has demonstrated it, but because that is natural for humans to possess that capacity. It would be a surprise if they never demonstrated it.

I think what distinguishes a human zygote from a bovine zygot is that the human one has the capacity to develop or attain those capacities human persons have while a bovine zygot does not.

If an entity has an inherent capacity x to inherently develop a capacity y, isn't that just an a different way of saying the entity has an inherent capacity for y? Occam's razor and all that.

But if an entity does not possess the inherent capacity for y, then it must acquire that capacity from something else if it is to possess that capacity. Therefore there must be an external agent that imparts that capacity. I don't believe there is such an external agent. Do you?

I agree with you that the unborn may experience events or defects that would damage those capabilities.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Not sure I understand or agree with your use of the term "inherent capacity". Indicates we may be talking past each other because I have only been using the term "capacity".

If I were to characterize the capacities that a human person has as "inherent" it would be in reference to the concept HUMAN PERSON. So it seems to me that you are unintentionally begging the question of a zygote's personhood by using that terminology in reference to it.

I believe a being either has a capacity or doesn't. One capacity that zygotes have is to become an embryo. It doesn't have the capacity to use a language. And it makes little sense to me to speak of a capacity it doesn't have as inhering in it.


Regarding your point of needing an external agent to acquire a capacity: the environment in which an embryo grows does play a large role. Certainly that is an external agent. So I see no problem with external agents having a role in helping to develop the capacities we have as human persons.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I use the phrase "inherent capacity" to highlight a capacity that is part of the nature of an entity. For instance, H2O has the inherent capacity to be classified as ice even though it is now liquid. It's nature has not changed in either state, it's still the same thing with the same inherent capacities.

Human beings have a nature also and the nature doesn't change throughout it's development. The capacities you list as belonging to a "person" are also part of normal human nature. Cows have a different nature and they do not have those capacities.

I simply don't think it's true to say that a capacity does not exist if it an entity does not or cannot perform an action or pass a test at my demand. Most people would agree that it's not OK to kill a temporarily incapcitated individual even though he couldn't respond at a particular time when we know that he can later. We certainly we know that those normal presently unborn human beings will speak and think rationally when they are no longer incapcitated.

But the whole "must pass a test" criteria sounds rather sinister don't you think? Many physically and mentally impaired individuals would fall below the bar and become non-persons. Is it OK to kill them then?

So I see no problem with external agents having a role in helping to develop the capacities we have as human persons.

I think you missed my point. Either an entity has a capacity (inherently) or not. If the entity does not have that capacity, there is nothing to develop, external agent or not. So an embryo either has the capacity for speech inherently or it doesn't and if it doesn't then there is simply nothing to develop. If it is to develop a capacity it does not yet have, it must first acquire the capacity and since it does not have it inherently it must be acquire from an external agent. Does that make sense?

Hal said...

bmiller,

I simply don't think it's true to say that a capacity does not exist if it an entity does not or cannot perform an action or pass a test at my demand.

I never made such a claim. In fact I pointed out earlier to SteveK that one can be said to have a capacity even without using it. I also have pointed out that we can extend the concept of personhood to those without the capacities we normally attibute to personhood.

What I have been trying to point out is that if one wishes to claim that an entity has certain capacities the only way to convince a doubter of that claim is through behavioral criteria of identity. So because I doubt that a human zygote has these capacities I am not willing to accept your claim that it does without those criteria.

Am having trouble accepting your claim that an entity can have have an 'inherent capacity' even when we know it is impossible for it to exhibit such a capacity. It is not that a human zygote is unwilling to demonstrate that it can reason or make moral judgments, rather it is physically impossible for it to have the capacity to reason or moralize.

Am getting the impression that you accept the notion of 'natural kinds'. Correct me if I am wrong.


Either an entity has a capacity (inherently) or not. If the entity does not have that capacity, there is nothing to develop, external agent or not.

I see now that my use of "develop" was misleading. Should have said "acquire" instead. When a human zygote is formed it does not have the capacity to speak or reason and it is impossible for it to acquire the capacity to speak or reason. However, it does have the capacity to become an embryo. And a human embryo does have the capacity to form organs and a bodily structure which will enable the human baby to grow into an adult human with the acquisition of capacities we associate with personhood.

And, as I mentioned above, in order for the acquisition of these new capacities a supporting environment is required.

bmiller said...

Hal,

It is not that a human zygote is unwilling to demonstrate that it can reason or make moral judgments, rather it is physically impossible for it to have the capacity to reason or moralize.

Well yes, it is physically possible at the moment but we know it will be physically possible in a relatively short period of time.

Am getting the impression that you accept the notion of 'natural kinds'. Correct me if I am wrong.

I am attempting to argue from the standpoint of natural law. You'll have to explain to me what you mean by 'natural kinds'.
And BTW, you didn't give me an answer regarding your opposition to materialistic reductionism. What are your philosophical commitments? I think that will help me not talk past you.

When a human zygote is formed it does not have the capacity to speak or reason and it is impossible for it to acquire the capacity to speak or reason. However, it does have the capacity to become an embryo. And a human embryo does have the capacity to form organs and a bodily structure which will enable the human baby to grow into an adult human with the acquisition of capacities we associate with personhood.

How does one kind of thing with a set of capabilities, a zygote become a different kind of thing with a different set of capabilities, an embryo, without some agent external to the first thing causing it cease to exist and bringing into existence a new kind of thing. You are saying they are different kinds of things right? Not the same thing developing naturally?

bmiller said...

Correction

Well yes, it is physically not possible at the moment

bmiller said...

Hal,

What I have been trying to point out is that if one wishes to claim that an entity has certain capacities the only way to convince a doubter of that claim is through behavioral criteria of identity. So because I doubt that a human zygote has these capacities I am not willing to accept your claim that it does without those criteria.

Sorry. I missed responding to this in my first reply.

Is 'behavioral criteria of identity' a technical description that I'm not familiar with? I don't want to respond until I know what that the phrase means.

Hal said...

bmiller,
Well yes, it is physically possible at the moment but we know it will be physically possible in a relatively short period of time.

When it is no longer a human zygote.

I am attempting to argue from the standpoint of natural law.

My influence is mainly drawn from Wittgenstein and the analytic school of philosophy dealing with language.

That does help to explain why we approach this issue so differently.

I have the impression that you think human nature is a thing that comes into existence the moment a human zygote does and continues on even after the physical death of the adult human. Not sure why don't just call it a human soul.

How does one kind of thing with a set of capabilities, a zygote become a different kind of thing with a different set of capabilities, an embryo, without some agent external to the first thing causing it cease to exist and bringing into existence a new kind of thing. You are saying they are different kinds of things right? Not the same thing developing naturally?

Living things are capable of change. A zygote can change just as a newborn infant changes when it grows into adulthood and acquires new capacities and loses some of those capacities as it ages. And, as I've said, there are external agents that help to bring about these changes and acquisitions of new skills and capacities. Not sure why you want to exclude external agents from playing a role in the acquisition of new capacities.

Hal said...

bmiller,
Is 'behavioral criteria of identity' a technical description that I'm not familiar with? I don't want to respond until I know what that the phrase means.

The criteria one uses to identify something are "criteria of identity". Our capacities are manifested in our behavior. That is why I call them "behavioral criteria of identity" when talking about trying to distinguish and identify different capacities.

For example, our capacity to feel pain is often manifested by cries of agony or screams or yelling 'ouch!'.

bmiller said...

Hal,

My influence is mainly drawn from Wittgenstein and the analytic school of philosophy dealing with language.

Thanks. That helps.

I have the impression that you think human nature is a thing that comes into existence the moment a human zygote does and continues on even after the physical death of the adult human. Not sure why don't just call it a human soul.

Because the physical body is part of human nature. Hylemorphism.

Living things are capable of change.

I agree that living things can change and still remain the same entity. But if a thing changes in such a way that it is no longer the same type of thing, then I would argue that it is a different entity. For instance if I could somehow wave my magic wand and turn a dog into a cat, I would argue that is a different kind of change than a pup turning into a mature dog or just dying the dog's fur a different color.

I'm unclear on what type of change you consider the change of an zygote into a embryo. I would label one type of change substantial and the other unsubstantial (or accidental).

Hal said...

bmiller,

So am I correct in assuming that you consider the disposal of unused embryos from IVF to be murder?

Hugo said...

bmiller, what does that mean?
"I am attempting to argue from the standpoint of natural law."
Thx!

Hal said...

bmiller,

But if a thing changes in such a way that it is no longer the same type of thing, then I would argue that it is a different entity.

Yes, that is a concern we have with any system of classification. And systems of classifications are normally arbitrary to one degree or another and based on our needs in devising them.
Since we both consider the zygotes and embryos we are talking about to be human I think we would agree that we are talking about the same kind of being. But I think we differ on the concept KIND, what it means to be a kind of being.

One Brow said...

Hugo,

Natural law is the result of the Thomisitic analysis regarding the four causes of every change (material, formal, efficient, final), and in particular, using the determination of the final cause to establish the notion of what is good, in that doing things in a way that enable or fulfill final causes is good, and doing things in a way that subvert final causes is bad.

With regard to abortion, this notion operates to say that the embryo's final cause is to grow into an adult human, and the womb's final cause is to provide the environment for such, therefore abortion is the interruption of the final cause of each.

This also plays into the RCC's teaching on birth control, as the final cause of every gamete is to become an embryo.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Here is a link to an article dealing with kinds of things that is a mix of analytic philosophy and Aristotle:
Article


It is rather long but I think you might find the first page or two interesting.

Hal said...

Hugo,
Just to follow up on One Brow's comment, you could find some rather useful information about natural law at Feser's blogsite:

Feser

bmiller said...

Hal,

Since we both consider the zygotes and embryos we are talking about to be human I think we would agree that we are talking about the same kind of being. But I think we differ on the concept KIND, what it means to be a kind of being.

I consider the terms zygote and embryo merely descriptions of different stages of the develop of a single human being over time. It seems to me that you consider them to be actual distinct entities. For instance, the zygote and it's properties cease to exist altogether and another completely different entity with different properties, the embryo comes into existence.

If I were to examine an egg, I would say it has a certain set of properties related to it, but when an external agent, the sperm, interacts with it, the egg ceases to exist and an entirely new entity with a different set of properties comes into existence. This is normally how biologists describe the situation.

That is why I'm asking about an external agent that interacts with a zygote such that a zygote ceases to exist and a new entity, an embryo, with different properties comes into being.

Thanks for the link to the Hacker paper. I'll give it a read.

Hal said...

bmilller,
It seems to me that you consider them to be actual distinct entities. For instance, the zygote and it's properties cease to exist altogether and another completely different entity with different properties, the embryo comes into existence.

No, I don't think it is a different entity. I thought that was clear by not simply calling it a zygote or embryo but a human zygote or a human embryo. Sorry for the confusion. And I agree with you that it is going through different stages of development or growth. I think we distinguish these different stages because of the different properties and capacities manifested by this entity as it grows.

Much of this is determined by the genetic code in the embryo but there is an interaction going on with the environment that can have a big effect on the embryo. I consider the environment to be an agent. Look at the effect the medication thalidomide had on embryos in the late 1950's. In this case thalidomide was an agent that prevented fetus from acquiring some of the capacities that we would expect it to have.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Thanks for clarifying that the entity in question remains the same entity throughout development.

I read the Hacker paper and I don't see much if anything to disagree with. How about you?

The author spends some amount of time discussing how pre-modern an modern philosophers got things wrong by departing from earlier Aristotelian notions wrt substance and I agree. For Aristotle, the question of how things can change over time and still be the same thing was by describing things as mixture of act and potency. A certain thing has a certain set of capabilities according to that thing's nature. Some of those capabilities are being or are able to be actualized at the present time while other capabilities are not able to be actualized at the present time. The ones that the thing possesses by nature but are unable to actualize presently are said to be in potency. But that doesn't mean that they are non-existent.

A human zygote possesses a human nature with capabilities some in act and some in potency. A bovine zygote has different capabilities in act and potency. For instance the capability for speech is non-existent in a bovine zygote while it exists in potency for the human zygote.

Since you clarified that zygote-embryo-etc are the same entity, then of course an external agent is not required to change them into something else. Wrt what I wrote above, I would say that thalidomide caused a defect that prevented the unborn from developing naturally (or prevented the unborn from actualizing the potencies that normally would have been actualized).

SteveK said...

"A human zygote possesses a human nature with capabilities some in act and some in potency. A bovine zygote has different capabilities in act and potency. For instance the capability for speech is non-existent in a bovine zygote while it exists in potency for the human zygote."


Yes! If a zygote has no unique nature, then both zygotes would have a chance to naturally develop into either a grown human or a grown bovine. That isn't the case. A human zygote has NO chance to become a bovine. There is no natural potential within it to become a bovine. The human zygote has a human nature, meaning it has a unique potential within it that is REAL.

SteveK said...

"I consider the environment to be an agent."

If you put a human zygote into different natural environments what do you get? You get everything from a dead zygote to a human with various birth defects to a perfectly healthy human - and everything in between. What you don't EVER get is a bovine in any form.

By analogy, the zygote is like an automated factory that builds cars. The external (natural) environment can alter how the well the factory functions, which in turn can alter what the cars look like coming off the back end. It can either actualize certain potentials in the factory so that perfect cars come out the back end, or it can prevent certain potentials from being actualized. What the natural environment cannot do is alter the factory and make it start producing refrigerators. By its nature, the factory had no potential to produce refrigerators to begin with.

One Brow said...

SteveK said...
What you don't EVER get is a bovine in any form.

That's a matter of ancestry. There are populations of beings we call "bovines", and all of their descendants will be bovines. We could breed bovines to lose size, walk on two legs, and even talk, given sufficient time and resources, then they would be smaller, two-legged, talking bovines.

There is nothing in the current bovine genome/development cycle that would stop this from happening.

Hal said...

bmiller,

I mainly linked to the Hacker article because I thought you might be interested in it.

A certain thing has a certain set of capabilities according to that thing's nature. Some of those capabilities are being or are able to be actualized at the present time while other capabilities are not able to be actualized at the present time. The ones that the thing possesses by nature but are unable to actualize presently are said to be in potency. But that doesn't mean that they are non-existent.

I think one needs to distinguish between the concept HUMAN BEING and a human being.

A human being may or may not have the capacities we attribute to human beings (based on our conception of what a human being is). Until an individual human acquires a capacity it only "exists" in the concept HUMAN BEING.

A simple example: by their nature humans have the capacity to see. A human born without eyes will not have that capacity. To say it 'resides in potency' is saying little more than that it is part of our conception of what it is to be a human. It has no existence in a human until it is acquired through that human's growth and interactions with its environment.

Since you clarified that zygote-embryo-etc are the same entity, then of course an external agent is not required to change them into something else.

I was never claiming that external agents could change humans into non-humans. Rather, I was trying to point out that external agents are required for acquisition of the capacities we attribute to humans.

Hal said...

One Brow,

I agree. The concept of natural evolution has impacted our conceptions of species and kinds. Over time one kind of animal or species can evolve into a different species or kind of animal. We all share one common ancestor.:-)

bmiller said...

Hal,

I was never claiming that external agents could change humans into non-humans.

Yes, that became clear to me when you explained that you considered zygotes, embryos etc the same entity, as opposed to an egg and sperm becoming a zygote. I was acknowledging that I now understood your position. Sorry if it didn't come off that way.

A human being may or may not have the capacities we attribute to human beings (based on our conception of what a human being is). Until an individual human acquires a capacity it only "exists" in the concept HUMAN BEING.

We have the concept of the normal capacities of a human being from the observations of real existing human beings. So yes, concepts are different things than the things themselves.

But real human zygotes are different than real bovine zygotes in a real existential way, not just in concept. Neither is capable of speech, but one entity will normally be able to speak and the other entity will normally never be able to speak. Something really exists in the normal human entity that really does not exist in the normal bovine entity. Aristotle named that something a capacity in potency as opposed to act.

If the capacity for speech does not exist at all in a human zygote then it must be infused from the outside. If it is the developmental environment that infuses this capacity then we can conduct an experiment as mad scientists.

We can switch bovine and human embryos with their respective mothers and bring them both to term (since we are mad scientists we know how to do this). Then we would expect the calf to begin speaking at some point and the human infant to want to graze and moo at a certain point. I don't think this would happen.

Regarding blindness I'd rather discuss the normal course of events before abnormal cases. I think we both agree that blindness is a defect that is not a normal case.

Hal said...

bmiller,
I was acknowledging that I now understood your position. Sorry if it didn't come off that way.

No problem. Appreciate the civil and interesting conversation we are having. Hope to get back to you on the rest of your post today. Want to read it carefully first. Thanks!

bmiller said...

Hal,

Appreciate the civil and interesting conversation we are having.

Likewise.

Hal said...

bmiller,

Something really exists in the normal human entity that really does not exist in the normal bovine entity. Aristotle named that something a capacity in potency as opposed to act.

Agreed, But we now know that it is the genetic code in the human being and the environment it inhabits that enables a potential capacity to become an actual capacity. The capacity itself (seeing, for example) does not exist in the zygote or the early stage of the fetus. A 'normal' environment is as essential as a 'normal' genetic code for a fetus to grow into a normal human being with the normal capacities we expect it to have.


If the capacity for speech does not exist at all in a human zygote then it must be infused from the outside. If it is the developmental environment that infuses this capacity then we can conduct an experiment as mad scientists.

A capacity does not exhist in a being if it is physically impossible for that being to exercise it.


If the capacity for speech does not exist at all in a human zygote then it must be infused from the outside.

Until a capacity is acquired it neither exists inside the human being nor outside of it.

The capacity to acquire speech is depenndent on both the human genetic code and the environment that human inhabits.

bmiller said...

Hal,

But we now know that it is the genetic code in the human being and the environment it inhabits that enables a potential capacity to become an actual capacity. The capacity itself (seeing, for example) does not exist in the zygote or the early stage of the fetus.

I wonder if you could unwrap this for me a little more. In the first statement you seem to acknowledge that a potential capacity (for seeing) does indeed exist in a newly existing normal human being although not an actual capacity. I can agree with that.

For the rest of your comments when you mention capacity you leave off the qualifiers 'potential' and 'actual'. Without that distinction I can't really respond.

Hal said...

bmiller,

As I understand it a "potential capacity" means a potential to acquire a capacity. This is also what I meant when I said in some earlier posts that an embryo has the capacity to acquire other capacities.

For example, the fetus has the potential to acquire the capacity to see. But until the capacity to see is actually acquired I don't believe that capacity exists in the human being. In our concept of HUMAN BEING we would consider seeing a non-essential capacity that most human beings can acquire and exercise.

Don't know if this helps, but when I say a human "has a capacity" I meaan that he/she is capable of exercising that capacity. The word "has" is being used differently than in the statement "Tom has a coin."

Hal said...

Also, if I leave of the word "potential" I am referring to an actual capacity. Sorry I didn't make that clear. It can be confusing.

bmiller said...

Hal,

As I understand it a "potential capacity" means a potential to acquire a capacity.

Also, if I leave of the word "potential" I am referring to an actual capacity. Sorry I didn't make that clear. It can be confusing.

So would it be satisfactory for me to restate this as: a zygote has, inherent to itself, 'actual capacities' as well as 'potential capacities' to acquire other 'actual capacities'?

It seems to me that your term 'potential capacity' is very similar if not the same as Aristotle's term 'potency', and your mere term '(actual) capacity' is close to Aristotle's term 'act'. Do you think so too?

Hal said...

bmiller,

I'm not sure I understand the need to characterize these capacities as 'inherent'? I would agree that a zygote, as with any living thing, has certain capacities. But perhaps a zygote is malformed in some way and doesn't have the normal capacities we would expect of it. Would you deny that it is a human zygote if it is malformed and doesn't have those 'inherent capacities' you expect it to have?

As to Aristotle: I have to admit to not being knowledgeable enough about the concepts he employs to be able to answer your questions. If I am fortunate enough to hang in there for a few more years I hope to have a chance to learn more about him. Have just started an intensive study of early Greek philosophy. Looks like it may take me a while to work up to Plato and Aristotle!!!

bmiller said...

Hal,

Starting from the beginning with Greek philosophy sounds like a tough slough.

Mortimer Adler's book Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy is a pretty good starting point for Aristotle. You may not agree with the advertisement of "Difficult Thought Made Easy" though:-) Still it's better than most and fairly short.

I'm not sure I understand the need to characterize these capacities as 'inherent'?

For a normal human zygote they must be inherent since they are not infused externally.

If a zygote has all the actual capabilities of a zygote but the potential to be an embryo with an embryo's capabilities, then when the potential for the zygote to become an embryo becomes actualized, the entity has the actual capabilities of an embryo. Since it is the same entity throughout, the entity must have had the capabilities of an embryo potentially when it was a zygote only to be actualized later. The same can be said for each change the entity undergoes since the capabilities that become actual throughout development cannot come from and external agent.

And so a normal human being has all the capabilities it will ever normally have at the moment of conception even though it may not be able to exercise all of those capabilities at a particular time.

Does this sound reasonable for the normal case?

Hal said...

bmiller,

For a normal human zygote they must be inherent since they are not infused externally.

I think we have a different conception of what it is to have a capacity. Capacities are not objects or things. As I mentioned earlier, a human being can be said to have a capacity if he can exercise that capacity. Ii is not like having a coin which someone else can give to you and you can keep in your pocket. So talk about capacities being infused externally makes no sense to me.

We do appear to agree that from the moment of conception to adulthood the human being does exercise different capacities: A zygote having different capacities from an embryo and an embryo from a child for example. In that whole process of maturation the human being gains some capacities and loses others. For example, a child does not have the capacity a zygote has to become an embryo. Nor does the zygote have the child's capacity to see.

I am having great difficulty understanding how a being can be said to have a capacity that we know it is physically impossible for it to have.

From my perspective, it is only in the concept HUMAN BEING that all of its capacities can be said to inhere.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I actually did read that book about 40 years ago. Also some Aquinas Unfortunately have forgotten most of what I read.:-(

As a personal aside, I think those books did have some influence in my decision to convert to Catholicism in my early 30's. Though Graham Greene's Catholic novels (Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair) had a much bigger influence.

Based on your comments regarding Hacker's article, it seems both of our philosophical perspectives are influenced to some degree by Aristotle. For me that influence is colored by Wittgenstein. Correct me if I am wrong, but I assume yours is colored by Aquinas.

bmiller said...

Hal,

So talk about capacities being infused externally makes no sense to me.

I agree that it makes no sense for an essential capacity to be infused by an outside agent. Then the thing would have different essential properties and be a different thing altogether.

I agree that a zygote has different capacities it can exercise from an embryo which has different capacities it can exercise from a fetus and so on up to a mature adult. But the zygote is the same numerical identity as as the embryo as the fetus as the adult. It is the exact same entity that has the capability to exercise all of those capacities over the course of time. So across the course of the existence of the entity it has a mixture of capacities it cannot exercise at one time but can at another.

You have given very reasonable objections, like this one:

I am having great difficulty understanding how a being can be said to have a capacity that we know it is physically impossible for it to have.

But I think what you mean is that it is physically impossible for a being to have a certain capacity *at this particular time*. But this brings up the question of how the same being *does* have that actual capacity at a different time and still remains the same being. The position I've presented is an attempt to answer that question. I haven't heard a better explanation.

I haven't read Greene. I'll take a look at the books you listed.

Yes, Aquinas is a major influence in my perspective.

Hal said...

bmiller,
But this brings up the question of how the same being *does* have that actual capacity at a different time and still remains the same being.

The human zygote doesn't have eyes. The human baby does have eyes. It is still the same being. I see no difficulty with that being not having the capacity to see and then acquiring that capacity in a different stage of its growth.

It is the nature of living things to change.

SteveK said...

"I am having great difficulty understanding how a being can be said to have a capacity that we know it is physically impossible for it to have."

It's not too difficult to think of several examples of impossibility. For example: a human zygote does not have the capacity to be a flower, a rat, a worm, a table, etc. Those are physical impossibilities under natural law.

If we look at something like salt, we say it has the physical property of solubility. Solubility is a word that describes an inherent potential that is real, not imagined. Science recognizes the inherent potential of things just like Aquinas does. We know that salt does not have the inherent capacity to become a fig. It's impossible under natural law. If that were to happen it would indeed be a miracle.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I see no difficulty with that being not having the capacity to see and then acquiring that capacity in a different stage of its growth.

But if the human being did not have the capacity to see...full stop...then it could never acquire that capacity in a different stage of it's natural growth any more than it can acquire a pair of wings and acquire the capacity to fly at a different stage of it's growth (similar to point SteveK was making).

The same individual later in life may sustain some physical damage that prevents him from seeing temporarily, but that doesn't mean he has lost the capability to see. If the physical damage is repaired he can actually see again where he once couldn't. In a similar manner, we know that it is a only a temporarily condition that prevents a brand new human being from seeing.

Hal said...

SteveK,
It's not too difficult to think of several examples of impossibility. For example: a human zygote does not have the capacity to be a flower, a rat, a worm, a table, etc. Those are physical impossibilities under natural law.

So? I don't see that negating my point. In fact it is consistent with it. We should not attribute to a being a capacity which it is physically impossible to exercise.

No zgote, including human zygotes, has eyes so it would be physically impossible for it to exercise the capacity to see. Only after a human being has matured to the point where he has eyes will it be physically possible to exercise the capacity to see.

Hal said...

bmiller,

"But if the human being did not have the capacity to see...full stop...then it could never acquire that capacity in a different stage of it's natural growth any more than it can acquire a pair of wings and acquire the capacity to fly at a different stage of it's growth."

The bolded part only makes sense if you are referring to the concept HUMAN BEING. An individual human being does not have a capacity before it acquires it. Having a capacity to see does not give one the capacity to acquire the capacity to see. Why would we need to acquire a capacity we already have?

Our conceptions of beings enable us to identify and differentiate the beings that exist in our world.

We agreed earlier that a particular human being should be confused with the concept HUMAN BEING. But that is what it looks like you are doing here.

Based on what you wrote earlier you seem to link this with the question of determining the of identity of the being itself. You claimed that if the zygote different have the same capacities as the adult human it might not be the same being. But it is not having identical capacities that determines whether or not we are dealing with the same being. Rather it is the fact that a particular being is a spatio-temporal continuant. We are able to historically trace an adult human being back to his mother.

At this Google preview you can read a fairly detailed analysis by Hacker of human nature:
HUMAN NATURE


I haven't read Greene. I'll take a look at the books you listed.

If you do get a chance to read any of them, I would recommend The Power and the Glory. It is set in the 1930's when the Mexican government was trying to wipe out the Catholic Church. A very moving story.

Hal said...

Bmller,
This: You claimed that if the zygote different have the same capacities as the adult human it might not be the same being.

Should be: You claimed that if the zygote does not have the same capacities as the adult human it might not be the same being.

Also, internet outage in my area. Am using my phone now but it may take longer to reply to any comments you make.

Hal said...

Bniller,
Another typo:
We agreed earlier that a particular human being should be confused with the concept HUMAN BEING.

Should be:
We agreed earlier that a particular human being should not be confused with the concept HUMAN BEING.

bmiller said...

Hal,

The bolded part only makes sense if you are referring to the concept HUMAN BEING. An individual human being does not have a capacity before it acquires it. Having a capacity to see does not give one the capacity to acquire the capacity to see. Why would we need to acquire a capacity we already have?

My intention was to refer to an actual existing human being, not the concept of a HUMAN BEING. I probably should have use "a" instead of "the" to be more clear. I agree that an entity does not have an actual capacity before it actually has it. But I need to ask you what you mean when by the term "acquire". One can acquire something like a gift from a friend, or one can acquire something by development of what one already has.

You claimed that if the zygote does not have the same capacities as the adult human it might not be the same being.

If it looked like I was trying to make that point, then I didn't word it carefully enough. Sorry. A human being can suffer damage during his lifetime that would prevent a potential capacity if has from becoming an actual capacity.

Rather it is the fact that a particular being is a spatio-temporal continuant. We are able to historically trace an adult human being back to his mother.

I agree.

I started to look at the Hacker book preview, but there were a lot of sections. From what I read, I couldn't find anything I disagreed with. Is there a particular section you think I should focus on?

This section is a link to Dr Feser's blog. The section of interest to our discussion starts with the quote:

"I quote myself (somebody has to do it):"

It's much better than I could put it and in fewer words.

If you do get a chance to read any of them, I would recommend The Power and the Glory.

That's funny. I only had time to Google one title and that was it. I read the Wikipedia description and even Wikipedia made it sound like a rich and layered story. I don't think most people realize that even today the state still owns the confiscated Catholic churches and priests cannot legally wear religious attire in public.

Sorry to hear about your outage. Don't worry about responding quickly. I can't use my phone to type more than a sentence without the demon autocorrect noticing it.

Hal said...

bmiller,

My intention was to refer to an actual existing human being, not the concept of a HUMAN BEING. I probably should have use "a" instead of "the" to be more clear. I agree that an entity does not have an actual capacity before it actually has it.

No, you were quite clear. I understood that you meant to refer to a human being. I was trying to point out that from my perspective it would only make sense to refer to the concept HUMAN BEING when enumerating all of the capacities humans can have.

But I need to ask you what you mean when by the term "acquire". One can acquire something like a gift from a friend, or one can acquire something by development of what one already has.

I meant by it that a human being could have a capacity that it didn't have before. It makes no sense to say a human could acquire a capacity that he already has. That would be like saying that one needs the capacity to see in order to acquire the capacity to see.

Earlier you wrote:
The ones that the thing possesses by nature but are unable to actualize presently are said to be in potency. But that doesn't mean that they are non-existent.

That is fine if you are referring to the concept HUMAN NATURE. But if referring to an actual human it is misleading because if it is physically impossible for that human to actualize a capacity then he simply doesn't have that capacity. And unless there is a physical change he will never have that capacity. Nor do I believe it accurate to say the capacity is in potency.

We know that a for a human zygote it is physically impossible for it to actualize the capacity to see because it has no eyes. The capacity of seeing simply does not exist for the zygote. It doesn't even make sense to say it has a potential capacity. It is only after the fetus grows eyes that it can be sensibly said that the human being has the potency to acquire the capacity to see.

Just as a human being can acquire a capacity, he can also lose it.

Thanks for the link to Feser's blog. I agree with much of what he has written there. His conception of human nature is very similar to what I was linking to in Hacker's writings. Human beings are rational creatures. But I disagree with his view that a person with severe brain damage still has the capacity to reason. To put it in his terms, if a person's brain is in a vegetative state even the first potentiality is no longer there.

Hal said...

bmiller,

So am I correct in assuming that you consider the disposal of unused embryos from IVF to be murder?

I asked this question earlier, but I never saw a reply. Am assuming you missed it in trying to respond to my other posts.

SteveK said...

"We agreed earlier that a particular human being should be confused with the concept HUMAN BEING. But that is what it looks like you are doing here."

You keep making this objection and I don't understand why this is significant. Universal concepts are abstractions that refer to particular things of the same KIND. The mental abstraction is not the same thing as the particular thing (one is mental, one is not), however the abstraction always refers to it by way of inclusion in the group.

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