Thursday, November 10, 2022

Is it wrong to kill a vegetator?

  I have run this thought experiment on myself. Suppose human beings were such that when they died, their central nervous system shuta down first, leaving them to continue to exist in a vegetative state for nine month before their biological life expired. These "vegetators" just lie around taking up bed space unless, before they die, they give the hospital the right to give them a lethal injection and put an end to their continued existence as vegetators. (The vegetators invariably smell pretty awful, too). If I sign off on the lethal injection (which I think I would do in an instant), I can't see that I would be committing the sin of suicide. So I fail to see how ending the life of a human entity which has never experienced anything is somehow equivalent to ending the life of someone or something that is undergoing experiences, has hopes, desires, beliefs, and dreams, etc.

100 comments:

bmiller said...

Victor,

Have you ever thought you were begging the question of what human being is? You just assume there is a difference between a "biological life" and and "some other undefined type of life". Why should anyone assume that?

bmiller said...

When oxygen and hydrogen combine to form H2O, we don't wonder if what we are drinking is really water. Maybe if I drink it too soon, it's not really water, but Zombie water.

In the same way, positing that there may be human beings alive around that are unlike you, seems like you are positing Zombies. Maybe you spent too much time at that SciFi group in college.

bmiller said...

It's really a philosophical distraction to argue about abortion or end of life issues in isolation from the rest of one's philosophical commitments.

Is it wrong to kill people? No, then no problem with those 2 issues. Yes, then why would those not be an issue?

I want an argument about when a human life comes into being. Human life can come into being without anything we think of being a human being? I want to hear why I should believe this?

I also want to hear an argument about when a human life ends. If you can't even tell me when a human life begins, why should I believe you when a human life ends?

I believe that God is the God of life. Others may disagree.

William said...

No IV, no feeding tube, no `vegetator`. Lethal injection unneeded.

Fetal life has the nutrition by default. Very different case.

Kevin said...

A better question would be, if human life was such that someone might fall into a coma for nine months at any moment and require constant intervention to survive, but there was a high likelihood of waking up, is it okay to kill that someone during that time period?

Per the OP, it would seem to be argued that the less the individual has experienced - the younger or more secluded or less influential they are - the more okay it is to kill him or her during this state. So a newborn who has experienced nothing but the womb and the act of birth is of far less value than an old rich politician or celebrity, thus more okay to kill.

I reject the argument.

bmiller said...

Good points Kevin.

I wonder why some Christians are so interested in finding out when they are allowed to kill things. Seems like an unhealthy eagerness to me.

bmiller said...

Gotta get me a Vegetator at this price. Inflation will only make it worse.

Victor Reppert said...

William: in the real world vegetators need life support. But what if they didn't? May question is whether "being human" is sufficient to justify a "no homicide of innocents" rule, or is something else needed. And if so, what is it that is needed?

bmiller said...

Victor,

May question is whether "being human" is sufficient to justify a "no homicide of innocents" rule, or is something else needed.

Your question is ambiguous then. What does "being human" mean?

bmiller said...

Is it just me?

Or do people of the left intentionally use speech to create confusion rather than clarity?

Nathan Nobis said...

I was excited to learn of this post, since I have made similar arguments or observations. Here's one:

When does “life” begin? When it comes to abortion, it depends on what you mean by "life"

And the broader project it's part of:

Thinking Critically About Abortion

Thanks!

bmiller said...

Nathan,

I read your first link and I agree with your general observations. Not being specific about what you mean by "human being" or "life" in discussions about abortion and assisted suicide is unhelpful in the extreme. Thank you for pointing that out.

I'd like for you to explain to me how you separate the biological life from the narrative life. According to my fitbit, I am not conscious for about 1/3 of my life every 24 hours. Does that make me something different at night than the day?

Where does the narrative life come from? Does an external agent insert it into a biological non-person thing?

Kevin said...

May question is whether "being human" is sufficient to justify a "no homicide of innocents" rule, or is something else needed.

Being human is not just an objective baseline, but it is the only objective baseline. Any other standard is arbitrary and requires additional qualifiers as to why the standard only applies to the unborn.

Now, this is only relevant if "no homicide of innocents" is in fact the value being pursued.

One Brow said...

Kevin,
A better question would be, if human life was such that someone might fall into a coma for nine months at any moment and require constant intervention to survive, but there was a high likelihood of waking up, is it okay to kill that someone during that time period?

Should you be forced into a continuous 9-month blood exchange with the comatose person against their will?

I think that will be my last comment on this topic in this thread. We have danced this dance too many times.

Starhopper said...

"too many times"

Way too many times. That dead horse has been beaten into hamburger!

bmiller said...

Someone at your grocery store pulled a fast one on you. Hamburgers aren't supposed to be made out of horse meat.

bmiller said...

The origins of the personhood argument:

According to John Locke it was theoretically possible for people to have their personhood sucked out of their body and soul and swapped with another person's body and soul. Freaky Friday like.

You could actually be using Socrates' soul right now. Not just that, but a person could occupy a parrot's body and soul.

Since personhood just is the exercising of consciousness and recalling memories, you are not a person while sleeping or may be a different person when you wake up. You are less of a person if you forget things.

How does personhood get into a human body/soul? God did it.

Locke came up with this monstrosity to explain the Resurrection.

Probably most people who think the personhood argument of Locke makes sense are unaware of these factoids.

Nathan Nobis said...

Hi, thanks. I recommend you read the linked articles on those topics.

bmiller said...

I didn't find the answers to my questions in the linked articles. That's why I looked up what John Locke, the originator of the consciousness argument for defining a person had to say.

Historically the philosophical definition of a person in the West had always been "an individual substance of a rational nature." So a person is just an instance of a type of substance that has particular powers inherently whether they are exercising them at any particular moment or not. This seems like a more satisfactory explanation, than thinking we are a different person if we can't recall an experience, if we acquire new experiences, or when we fall asleep.

It seems Locke sought to avoid talking about substances and latched onto consciousness as a way to explain how we remain the same throughout our life, into the afterlife and to the Resurrection. But of course, consciousness is just an attribute of some being exercising it. It seems Locke mistook an attribute for the thing exercising the attribute.

Nathan Nobis said...

It sounds like you may want to read the short article on psychological theories. They were consistent with the definition you proposed, with the caveat that it's a mental substance.

bmiller said...

I searched the 2 links and couldn't find either "theories" or "substance". Are you referring to some sublink or another article altogether?

Limited Perspective said...

"Should you be forced into a continuous 9-month blood exchange with the comatose person against their will?"

If it were one of my two sons or my daughter, I would volunteer to save their life to the point of losing my own life. There are a great many sacrifices I made for my wife and children I would not do for others. If it were a stranger I would let them die. Let them die, not intentionally kill them.

One Brow said...

Limited Perspective,
"Should you be forced into a continuous 9-month blood exchange with the comatose person against their will?"

If it were one of my two sons or my daughter, I would volunteer to save their life to the point of losing my own life. There are a great many sacrifices I made for my wife and children I would not do for others. If it were a stranger I would let them die. Let them die, not intentionally kill them.


This did not answer my question, although it should be "your will" in my question.

One Brow said...

bmiller,
Is it just me?

Or do people of the left intentionally use speech to create confusion rather than clarity?


It's people of all political stripes.

Limited Perspective said...

One Brow,

I understand your argument. You want an answer to being forced. I didn't ask a question, I made an observation. You, like Crazy Star, are not very good at responding to observations.

To answer your question directly, yes. If I were a reprobate and wasn't willing to sacrifice my income and my time for my children, there should be some force to help me mend my ways.

It's like the public schools. I took responsibility to pay for my children's education. I was also forced to pay for the public education of other people's children. I think it's a bogus deal but I went along with it.

Limited Perspective said...

One Brow,

To ask you a question. Are you willing to make sacrifices for your children?

Kevin said...

If it were a stranger I would let them die. Let them die, not intentionally kill them.

And if you were the reason they were in the coma, due to an intentional act on your part with the known consequence of putting someone in a coma, you would be responsible for their death.

Half the country doesn't have a problem with that.

One Brow said...

Limited Perspective,

If you quote a question by me when making an observation, I typically take that observation as an attempt to respond to the question. You did answer it on the second response, thank you.

I would happily give 9 months of my life over to my kids, or the rest of it for any of them. I should not be forced to do so. It should be a gift.

Limited Perspective said...

One Brow,

I usually respond to questions with a context setting or observation. It's the way I talk to people. Once I've set up a context, I try to be direct and honest.

It takes practice in marriage, friendships, business, church, boring social gatherings, to get the atmosphere and then be direct. I'm really not that good at it, but I try.

bmiller said...

Victor,

somehow equivalent to ending the life of someone or something that is undergoing experiences,

You are not undergoing experiences when you are asleep. Locke who originated this idea of a person necessarily being something that is undergoing conscious experiences was consistent in claiming that you are not Victor when you are asleep. In fact, since you are not undergoing conscious experiences you are not only not Victor, you are not a person. Yet your wife would be arrested for killing you in your sleep (because you really are a burden to her aren't you?) even though she did not kill a person. We need to legalize sleepenazia.

Sleepenazia should be safe, legal and rare.

bmiller said...

Ah. What the heck.

Sleepizers = nice snack.

bmiller said...

A fetus comes into existence. Is it the same being 9 months later when an infant is born? When a toddler is present? A teenager? An adult? An accident victim, that goes into a coma? Is it the same human animal that has been present all this time, from fetus to vegetative state?

If so, then it seems that consciousness is neither necessary or sufficient for a human animal to persist in existence.

Psychological theories posit that personhood (consciousness) is necessary and/or sufficient for our own persistence.

We are human animals.

Psychological theories are wrong.

One Brow said...

Limited Perspective,

I'll try to be more appreciative of your style and motives. Thanks for not giving up on our exchanges.

One Brow said...

bmiller,
You are not undergoing experiences when you are asleep.

You don't dream?

William said...

Victor,

If humans were not to die but to go into stasis in a way that rendered them totally inert forever, there would be stadium sized burial areas, and people would specify and perhaps budget their final resting place in their will. Might make a nice short story, but does not relate to abortion.

Abortion is actively stopping a normal process. I never liked the "violinist scenario" either, for the same reason: intervention to preserve is not the same as intervention to terminate.



bmiller said...

Nathan,

You've made a good point that if abortion is wrong because it kills a person, then it is inconsistent to allow exceptions for rape and incest. There are self-described pro-life people who support that position and I agree with you that it doesn't make sense logically.

What about people who say life (as they care about it) starts with consciousness but still argue that abortion is morally wrong in most cases even for early abortions. Why would it be morally (if not legally) wrong to do what one thinks best for their own circumstances if no one is harmed? Isn't that equally inconsistent?

bmiller said...

Consider teleportation. Beam me up Scotty.

Certainly Kirk is disassembled and ceases to exist, but what gets transmitted? Does the Kirk that ends up in the transporter room have the same molecules?

This guy realizes what actually happens. It's the same thing as going to sleep.

One Brow said...

I don't really understand the notion that consciousness disappears when you sleep. We stop paying attention to our thoughts/memories/etc., but they still exist.

bmiller said...

If there is no consciousness there is no life. That is the assertion.

This idea came about trying to explain how people are to be judged in the afterlife and the Resurrection. During life their bodies surely changed and after death it disintegrated. How could they have the same body at the Resurrection? Even if the same identical molecules could be cobbled together after their death, what if they had been eaten by a cannibal? Whose molecules were those?

Likewise someone couldn't be judged guilty if they committed a crime if they couldn't remember the crime while while asleep, amnesiac or even drunk according to Locke. They were of a different consciousness and since consciousness just is the person, a different person committed the crime.

Locke didn't explain where these different persons came from or went to when the "other person" took possession of the body and soul of the animal that committed the acts.

He also didn't explain why we should reject the body as a candidate for the persistence of self because it changes over time, but then accept consciousness as the best candidate even though it obviously changes over time.

The instantiated form of a substance is the best candidate persistence of a being since it is defined at the nature of the particular thing that exists and the nature of a thing doesn't change even though other things do. In a animate substance, this is called the soul which ceases to exist when the substance ceases to exist, since material things cease to exist when they dissolve into the parts they were composed of. In the case of a human animal the soul is also immaterial which means it is not composed of parts and so cannot decompose into parts since it is simple. So this is a better candidate for the persistence of the person since it not only does not change, but since it cannot be decomposed, will remain in existence even when separated from the body.

Human consciousness is an attribute or an exercise of the soul/body combination in a human. It changes constantly just like the human body changes constantly. It has no persistence. The soul, that is the source of consciousness, is the better candidate for the persistence of a human person.

bmiller said...

It seems Locke disagrees with those who say that those who can't reason don't have rights.

Locke and human rights
Modern child health care is built on the foundations of medical science and children's rights. Locke's ongoing relevance is that in Two Treatises of Government (1690) he was one of the first to postulate that men had basic rights.23 (Locke wrote this treatise to counter Sir Robert Filmer's Patriacha (1680) which postulated there were no limits to a king's authority.) Locke's argument was equally specific regarding the equal rights of both parents and set limits to what is morally permissible in how parents treat their children condemning infanticide and cruelty to children. Locke then emphasised how these limits change as the child matures to adulthood and was clear that once childhood has passed, mutual obligations cease and both child and parents are equally free. Locke also recognised that there are those who will remain forever under the “government of their parents” and includes both lunatics and idiots within this group.

In Section 58 Locke emphasises the positive nature of parental duty:

“The power, then, that parents have over their children arises from that duty which is incumbent on them, to take care of their offspring during the imperfect state of childhood. To inform the mind, and govern the actions of their yet ignorant nonage, till reason shall take its place and ease them of that trouble, is what the children want, and the parents are bound to.”24

Locke's writings regarding rights of man and the obligations of society are one of his most profound and lasting influences on the thoughts of present day society. Their past and ongoing present influence cannot be understated, being the intellectual foundation on which the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century was built.3 Locke's writings predate the first Declaration of the Rights of a Child drafted by the League of Nations in 1924 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations in 1989.25

The debate regarding Locke and rights, and children's rights in particular goes far beyond this cursory introduction. Of course it is still very much ongoing, extending beyond the issues of nurturance verses self‐determination, even to debating the extension of voting to children.26"

bmiller said...

OK.

Locke is a renowned philosopher and maybe the most influential one in the Anglo world. The United States is founded approximately on the principles he proposed. Especially on individual rights and liberty.

Most people in America base their ideas of human rights on the ideas of Locke. Accordingly some of his philosophical speculations are used as a sort of argument from authority. On it's face this is a fallacy. Especially when it comes to the argument that abortion is morally permissible. Locke explicitly opposed abortion. Period.

Quoting Locke as a source to support a philosophical reason to support abortion is a gross misrepresentation of his position at the least. What kind of person would imply that he approved of it?

One Brow said...

bmiller,
If there is no consciousness there is no life. That is the assertion.

Perhaps better said as "no life deserving of being treated as a human".

I appreciate the rest of your comments. Thank you.

David Brightly said...

I don't see the argument here. On the one hand, judging by the references to nine months, we have an embryo which is yet to undergo experience because it has no developed nervous system. On the other we have a living body that will not have any further experiences. If the latter were to be my fate I too would sign on the dotted line. But VR says, in conclusion,

So [ie, therefore] I fail to see how ending the life of a human entity which has never experienced anything is somehow equivalent to ending the life of someone or something that is undergoing experiences, has hopes, desires, beliefs, and dreams, etc.

He makes a comparison between the embryo and something that is experiencing, which the vegetator (horrible term) is not, I assume. So why introduce the concept? It seems quite decoupled from the conclusion of the argument. Have I missed something?

Victor Reppert said...

We might ask this question. In virtue of what does a fetus have a right to life, assuming it does. If you say that a fetus has a right to life in virtue of it species membership, then any intuitions we have that vegetators lack a right to life is simply misplaced. They are human, and if they have committed no offense, "Thou shalt not kill" applies to them, and we have to put up with whatever inconveniences they might put us through. Another would be the view that fetuses have a right to life in virtue of what they, through a natural process, will develop into. This would explain how fetuses might have a right to life but vegetators do not.

Starhopper said...

How about we put this another way? It is IMPOSSIBLE to kill a "vegetator" because they are already dead! You cannot kill a corpse.

bmiller said...

A human being is not a corpse if it is alive.

From Merriam Webster:

Life:

1
a
: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body
b
: a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings
c
: an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism (see METABOLISM sense 1), growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction

Starhopper said...

"Life" is not a black and white concept. There are shades of grey. If I saw a branch off of a tree, its leaves will remain green and still act as though they were "alive" for days afterwards. Cut flowers in a vase will operate as though alive. But that branch and those flowers are surely dead.

If a human body is reduced to a vegetative state, its heart may still beat and its lungs still take in air, but that person is nevertheless dead, dead dead.

bmiller said...

Just like when you're sleeping

bmiller said...

As Americans we derive our sense of legal rights and equality under the law from John Locke. But obviously, not everyone is equal in every respect and not everyone can exercise their freedom equally or maybe not even at all.

What did he have to say about one's offspring?

bmiller said...

From the Second Treatise

54. I said in Chapter 2 that all men are by nature equal,
but of course I didn’t mean equality in all respects. •Age or
virtue may put some men above others; •excellence of ability
and merit may raise others above the common level; •some
may naturally owe deference to others because of their birth,
or from gratitude because of benefits they have received, or
for other reasons. But all this is consistent with the equality
that all men have in respect of jurisdiction or dominion over
one another. That was the equality I spoke of in Chapter
2—the equality that is relevant to the business in hand,
namely the equal right that every man has to his natural
freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of
any other man.
55. I acknowledge that children are not born in this state of
full equality, though they are born to it. Their parents have
a sort of rule and jurisdiction over them when they come
into the world and for some time after that, but it’s only a
temporary one. The bonds of this subjection are like the
swaddling clothes they are wrapped up in and supported
by in the weakness of their infancy; as the child grows up,
age and reason loosen the ties, until at last they drop off
altogether and leave a man to his own devices.
56. Adam was created as a complete man, his body and
mind in full possession of their strength and reason; so he
was able, from the first instant of his coming into existence,
to provide for his own support and survival, and to govern
his actions according to the dictates of the law of reason that
God had implanted in him. The world has been populated with his descendants, who are all born infants, weak and
helpless, without knowledge or understanding. To make up
for the defects of this imperfect [here = ‘incomplete’] state until
till the improvement of growth and age has removed them,
Adam and Eve and all parents after them were obliged by the
law of nature to preserve, nourish, and bring up the children
they had begotten—not as their own workmanship, but as
the workmanship of their own maker, the almighty ·God·, to
whom they were to be accountable for them.

bmiller said...

So according to Locke, the begotten have the right to be preserved, nourished and brought up by their parents. The source of these rights is God, just like the source of the rights of everyone reading this are life and liberty.

Limited Perspective said...

I think analogies, along with claims of hypocrisy and name calling (Trump is Hitler! as Crazy Star so eloquently wrote) are the least influential, if we are strictly are about persuasion. Although those arguments do help to formulate our thoughts.

On abortion, there is a child forming in a mother's womb. It's life or death to the child depending on the mother's choice. The child can live and experience the fullness of joy and pain if left alone. Or the child could be killed and be spared from all the indignities and happiness of living. The woman can be spared the burdens or be deprived of the joy of raising a child.

David Brightly said...

I wonder if the notion of metaphysical rights inhering in something's nature is a good way of approaching moral questions. Suppose in this case it turns out that a first trimester unborn had no right to life. We would still think it wrong for a mad obstetrician or a government hell-bent on population control to procure its abortion. Something more than a 'right' inhering in the unborn is involved.

What do we do when such rights conflict? We would need an elaborate metaphysics of competing rights which would be yet harder to justify. And to explain to the young. This after all is supposed to be the basis of our moral responses.

Take the recent rescinding of Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court. Is anyone arguing that the SC has made a metaphysical error? I think not. It seems that what will follow is a political wrestle within each state that will set the rules under which its people will live. This is a practical matter. It manufactures real (not metaphysical) rights and obligations backed up by a system of justice. If we are to have a society at all I think we must have this.

But morality and legality are not the same thing though they are mutually informative. The bare statutes do not reveal the moral thinking and feeling that went into them. It's up to us as parents and educators to pass on some of this as best we can to our children. I doubt that the language of intangible metaphysical rights is a good medium for this.

bmiller said...

David,

How would you explain to a child why a law institutes rights and obligations then? Because certain people that have accumulated enough power to make and enforce the law?

David Brightly said...

That would not be an accurate account of the system under which we in the West live. The law makers and the law upholders are quite disjoint---a valuable feature of our system. And they are appointed rather than self-aggrandised. Nevertheless, I only have a right to my property and you an obligation to leave me to enjoy it in so far as there is a centre or centres of power---a state of some sort---to enforce it, human nature being what it is. We have seen recently what can happen when the centre of power abdicates its responsibility. I am Hobbesian to that extent.

bmiller said...

You use the language of rights, obligations and human nature. How are these concepts different from the way Locke used them?

David Brightly said...

Unlike Locke, I don't use those terms in any metaphysical sense. Suppose one said of a slave in ancient Athens that he had the right to freedom but it was cruelly repressed. I say that is an empirical claim and it is false. Likewise, my understanding of human nature is empirical, derived from what I see people do and historically have done. I say that the rights I have, say to property, are rooted in the disposition of my fellow men to leave me be, backed up by the disposition of other men to apprehend and chastise anyone who doesn't. How these dispositions arise or have arisen may sometimes depend on belief in metaphysical rights, of course, but that is for others to say and historians to elucidate.

bmiller said...

OK. Of course then my argument about what Locke's intentions were are irrelevant to your own conception of human rights.

My argument is directed at those who begin from a Lockean view of human rights. It seems obvious to me that he considered abortion as immoral enough that it should be illegal. I think he has a muddled view of personhood but even that has been used by many to argue for something that he himself opposed. So it's a muddle of a muddle.

bmiller said...

On abortion, there is a child forming in a mother's womb. It's life or death to the child depending on the mother's choice. The child can live and experience the fullness of joy and pain if left alone. Or the child could be killed and be spared from all the indignities and happiness of living. The woman can be spared the burdens or be deprived of the joy of raising a child.

1 Kings 3:16-28

16 One day two women[a] came to King Solomon, 17 and one of them said:

Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house. Not long ago my baby was born at home, 18 and three days later her baby was born. Nobody else was there with us.

19 One night while we were all asleep, she rolled over on her baby, and he died. 20 Then while I was still asleep, she got up and took my son out of my bed. She put him in her bed, then she put her dead baby next to me.

21 In the morning when I got up to feed my son, I saw that he was dead. But when I looked at him in the light, I knew he wasn't my son.

22 “No!” the other woman shouted. “He was your son. My baby is alive!”

“The dead baby is yours,” the first woman yelled. “Mine is alive!”

They argued back and forth in front of Solomon, 23 until finally he said, “Both of you say this live baby is yours. 24 Someone bring me a sword.”

A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered, 25 “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him.”

26 “Please don't kill my son,” the baby's mother screamed. “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don't kill him.”

The other woman shouted, “Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.”

27 Solomon said, “Don't kill the baby.” Then he pointed to the first woman, “She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.”

28 Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.


Some women have evil intentions. Just as much as some men.

David Brightly said...

I'm responding to Victor's question at 12:22 AM: In virtue of what does a fetus have a right to life? I think this is the Euthyphro question in different clothes. Does the fetus just have this thing (because God says so) or is there a deeper explanation or grounding that we (and God) can grasp? It's precisely because we get stuck at this point that I'm inclined to abandon the concept of a metaphysical right. I hinted at some further difficulties: Suppose it turns out that the fetus has no such right. Is it then open season on fetuses? What would the parents think of that? I think that our moral judgements around the killing of a fetus are not adequately accounted for in terms of some all-or-nothing property of the fetus itself, if that is how we picture a right. I guess my position is that talk of metaphysical rights is an alternative way of expressing pre-existing moral attitudes in a seemingly objectified but actually rather approximate manner. New and simplified language for an age-old and complex phenomenon.

bmiller said...

You've pointed out that there are 2 sources of disagreement. What is a right and what is a fetus?

If a right is something that a majority (or authority) can enforce against the wishes of a minority, then is that right good because the majority/authority says so, or does the majority/authority say so because it is good. This seems to be where the Euthyphro question applies.

Pro-abortion people already think that a fetus does not have a right to life because it is not the same thing that they are. It's morally equivalent to a fingernail. They say they have the right to bodily autonomy and they, not the government or anyone else, can tell them what to do with it. On the other hand I would guess most of those people would vote for mandating the vax against people's wishes.

So it seems the Euthyphro question has been answered. The good is whatever they want when they want it. Bodily autonomy is the most important right (and so good) and is also not the most important right (and so not good).

bmiller said...

BTW.

Locke wrote a treatise on religious toleration. Atheists and Catholics need not apply.

One Brow said...

bmiller,

You should know lumping groups into homogenous opinions is bad thinking.

Pro-abortion people already think that a fetus does not have a right to life because it is not the same thing that they are.

Well, you and I are different things. I assume you meant "type of thing".

It's morally equivalent to a fingernail.

I'm sure there are some extremists that take that position, but most liberals support the existence of some abortion restrictions.

They say they have the right to bodily autonomy and they, not the government or anyone else, can tell them what to do with it.

Do you not share that view?

On the other hand I would guess most of those people would vote for mandating the vax against people's wishes.

I don't know anyone who takes that position. Again, that would be a handful of extremists, at best.

One Brow said...

bmiller,
Locke wrote a treatise on religious toleration. Atheists and Catholics need not apply.

Sounds pretty typical of Enlightenment prejudices.

David Brightly said...

I don't see how Euthyphro applies to an empirical, non-metaphysical right, the kind I can accept. Yes, typically such a right can be enforced against the wishes of a minority. That's true of all politically decided rights. It may be advantageous for some, disadvantageous for others, just like changes to the income tax rules. It's moral goodness or otherwise is something else completely.

My interest is in the meta-ethics. It seems to me that the abortion issue is intractable in the US, almost uniquely, because Americans are in the grip of a false meta-ethical theory, the theory of God-given rights, descending from Locke. Of course, these days many people substitute 'natural' or 'human' for 'God-given'. Understandably, Americans are intellectually and emotionally invested in it because it forms the foundation of their polity and their national story. But rights are all-or-nothing. When rights clash there is no way of reaching a resolution. One right or the other must give way. Regardless of the legal justification the Supreme Court was wise to hand the matter back to the states. That will allow some flexibility and enable the stressed national polity to relax a little, I hope. A small step towards recovering its sanity in these troubling times.

bmiller said...

I doubt a return to sanity will happen tomorrow.

Regarding Euthyphro. You do believe it is good for people being prevented from taking your property don't you? At least good for you. Likewise it would be good for the laws to provide you protection beyond your own means. Is that moral good?

David Brightly said...

Maybe not tomorrow...

Aren't those what we call 'public goods'? I don't think they count as moral goods. I can't turn them into 'Thou Shalts'. On the other hand, under an ethic that supremely prized self-reliance a police force might be seen as bad thing. Why are terms like 'good', 'right', etc, so overloaded with meanings in English, do you think? Maybe our ancestors were confused...

bmiller said...

Not just our ancestors ;-)

Right can mean correct like in the right answer and the right thing to do. If the right thing to do is to not steal from you, then somewhere along the line people told you that you had a right to private property.

If the right answer is pi, do you have a right to pi?

bmiller said...

Starhopper need not weigh in. I think he has a preference for pie.

bmiller said...

On the other hand, under an ethic that supremely prized self-reliance a police force might be seen as bad thing.

Do the police enforce what you must do? Or what you must not do? That is the question.

It is the concept of negative liberty versus the concept of positive liberty. Something Berlin had an opinion on. Something totalitarianism.

Socialism vs Lockean type liberalism has been considered as the Enlightenment proceed. I think we got the better part of the deal in America so far. But. Probably not too long now.

Starhopper said...

"I think he has a preference for pie."

True dat. I'll take pie (especially blueberry) over cake any day.

David Brightly said...

Do the police enforce what you must do? Or what you must not do? Both, surely. While driving you must wear a seatbelt and you must not use a mobile phone. Even better: you must drive no faster than the speed limit and you must not drive faster than the speed limit.

Not sure how this relates to Berlin's positive and negative freedoms. A positive freedom is a life-enhancing good, a freedom to enjoy. A negative freedom is the absence of a life-diminishing bad, a freedom from evil.

Several commentators have observed that the Anglosphere is currently undergoing something akin to a Maoist Cultural Revolution. I am hopeful that this will eventually blow itself out when its absurdities become apparent. It's largely an intellectual---no, scrub that, emotional---movement at present. When the kids get to see the practical consequences of getting their way they will grow up quickly. But then I am a despised Boomer, so bound to think that!

bmiller said...

Negative and positive freedoms are in respect to what the government can force you to do or prevent you from doing.

The idea of a negative freedom is something that you are not allowed to do because it takes away from someone else. So the state should protect your private property from someone else taking it.

A positive freedom is the idea that you should not only have the opportunity to pursue a goal, but you are entitled to that goal. If you don't have enough private property, then the state will give it to you. This of course means that the state takes the private property of some and gives it to others. You can see that in one case, the state protects your property and in the other takes it.

According to those favoring negative freedom, people should have the right to organize charitable organizations and voluntarily provide for the needs of the poor.

David Brightly said...

And not just the government. The woke demand more constraints on freedom of speech, ie, a loss of negative freedom for everyone, in order that those oppressed by others' speech feel safer and more free to live as they wish, ie, a gain in positive freedom for them. And they take it upon themselves to enforce this rebalancing.

bmiller said...

Is there much wokeness going on in the UK?

Starhopper said...

Woke? Heck, they're 5 hours ahead of us on the East Coast over there across the pond, so while we're still lying slug-a-bed, they've been up and running for hours. :)

bmiller said...

We won't be woke after overindulging in turkey today.

David Brightly said...

Well, the left-of-centre party hasn't gone wholly woke yet, at least. Chunks of the media like The Guardian and Independent have gone over. The BBC of course. The public education system is lost. Even the Police are scared of offending the woke mob and prefer to persecute so-called 'hate criminals' while being soft on Just Stop Oil activists who close motorways by climbing on gantries. The leading woke issue is 'Trans' but on that there has been significant push-back of late. The uncancellable JK Rowling speaks out against men declaring themselves women and demanding access to female spaces. The Tavistock, a clinic in London supportive of physical interventions for gender-dysphoric kids, is to be closed in 2023. Arif Ahmed, a brave philosophy prof at Cambridge (the University that rescinded a Fellowship invitation to Jordan Peterson on account of a photo of JBP next to a man wearing a sweatshirt bearing an anti-Islamic slogan taken at a book-signing) organised successful opposition to the woke VC's proposals for changes to the University's free speech policy and he has now slunk back to Canada before the end of his term of office. Elsewhere universities continue to 'de-colonise the curriculum', even in mathematics. We are just beginning to see how high in institutional hierarchies the rot has gone. The master of Ahmed's own college voiced disapproval when he organised a debate on the Trans issue. Compared to the States we see rather less 'woke capitalism', I think. Unilever had a spot of bother with the ultra-woke Ben and Jerry's a while back. As usual we are behind the curve but I think in both our countries 2022 has seen something of a fight-back against this pernicious nonsense, so I go into 2023 a bit more hopeful. Enjoy your turkey!

bmiller said...

Enjoy your turkey!

Thanks David.

I assume you mean our dinner and not our president ;-)

Martin said...

What does "woke" mean

Starhopper said...

I don't whether there is an official definition, but to me "woke" means recognizing within yourself your personal prejudices and unexamined priors, and striving to overcome them.

David Brightly said...

Hello Martin. I'm tempted to ask, Where have you been for the past several years? However, if you are looking for a definition, then I would say something like this. Radical thought emerging in the US over the last decade notably in the areas of race, gender, and sexual identity, emphasising group membership over individuality, the so-called systemic oppression of minority groups by the majority, the moral superiority of the victim, excessive sensitivity to perceived hurts, the elevation of feeling over thought, the use of language as a weapon rather than to seek and express truth, the dismissal of science as a tool of the oppressor, the blank slate theory of mind, and the relativity of truth. I hope that is enough to be going on with!

Starhopper said...

I like my definition better. Less political baggage and more objectivity.

bmiller said...

David is spot on.

To discuss it said...

It’s not that Christians are interested in the date in which they are allowed to kill things. They believe that all fetuses are humans after conception. To know the date in which a fetus is a human is to know when abortion is murder. They prove a fetus to be a human to convince others that abortion is wrong, not to “know when they are allowed to kill things”. It is still debated in by everyone as to when a fetus is a human. I believe that any point after conception, a fetus is a human being.

bmiller said...

To discuss it,

I agree with you. Some people who call themselves Christians do not.

David Brightly said...

You are quite right, Starhopper. The self-examination you describe is indeed demanded of the unwoke by the woke. They themselves have no need of it, being already 'on the right side of history', as they would say.

Limited Perspective said...

The woke do not need to do a self-examination. They discovered the scientific key into the greatest mystery of life: understanding the internal motivations and interworkings of another person's mind. They instantly know if someone is motivated by racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia. The science of mind reading. They also can spot Hitler in ordinary human beings.

The rest of us normal people barely understand our own motivations, much less those of others. We also think Hitler was a one-off.

Starhopper said...

"We also think Hitler was a one-off."

Hardly! There were dozens just as bad as Hitler (or even worse) in the Third Reich. Stalin was possibly worse than Hitler, and Pol Pot definitely was. Sadaam Hussein's sons were definitely in the running, as was Ratko Mladic. And if you go back to previous centuries, there have been Hitlers galore. I can think of 3 or 4 American Hitlers, but to avoid the charge of being too political, I will decline to name them. (Hint: they were not all government figures.)

Limited Perspective said...

Starhopper,

Stalin deserves his own category of evil, as do the rest.

Go ahead Star and name your Hitlers in America. We all can't wait to read the list.

I guess I could name a few Hitler's myself, starting with Rutherford B. Hayes, Buddy Hackett, the ShamWow guy, Pee-wee Herman, and that super hot lady on Fox News, what's her name?

Limited Perspective said...

I know you're kind of struggling here Star, so I want to help you:

German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners of war – at least 3.3 million Soviet POWs died in German custody (just like Trump and Buddy Hackett)

Le Paradis massacre, May 1940, British soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, were captured by the SS and subsequently murdered (just like Trump and Bull Conner)

The Shoah, the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews across German-occupied Europe (just like Trump and Walt Disney)

Aktion T4 a campaign of mass murder by involuntary euthanasia in Nazi Germany, around 250,000 victims (just like Trump and Brett Kavanaugh)

Unrestricted submarine warfare (just like Trump and Nancy Pelosi)

Malmedy massacre, December 1944, United States POWs captured by Kampfgruppe Peiper were murdered outside of Malmedy, Belgium (just like Trump and Biden)

I can help you some more Star if you like to make the Hitler comparisons.

Starhopper said...

Three American Hitlers:

Andrew Jackson (Indian Removal Act of 1830, Trail of Tears)
Colonel John Chivington (Sand Cree Massacre, 1864)
Nathan Bedford Forrest (Fort Pillow Massacre, 1864, and the Ku Klux Klan (which to his credit he ultimately renounced))

Starhopper said...

That's Sand Creek - the "k" on my keyboard is defective.

bmiller said...

The ShamWow guy. I had no idea.

Martin said...

I ask because the term seems to be like "communism" and "CRT": a word used by the right to just refer to whatever they don't like. When I ask to define "woke" I never really can pin down an answer, and that seems to be no different here. So "woke" means...a whole laundry list of things the right hates...?

Limited Perspective said...

Okay Starhopper under the Jackson, Forrest definition, there have been thousands of Hitlers in every culture and society.

As I wrote, for normal people Hitler is a one-off, except for maybe the ShamWow guy.

Limited Perspective said...

Maybe the closest Hitler in American society was General Curtis LeMay. Who I would reluctantly defend as a general but not as a politician.

Starhopper said...

"there have been thousands of Hitlers in every culture and society"

Exactly so. In fact, there's a potential Hitler in each and every one of us. Which is why my definition of "woke" ("recognizing within yourself your personal prejudices and unexamined priors, and striving to overcome them.") is so valuable. It's something we should all be doing all the time.

Limited Perspective said...

How many neighboring nations did Hitler invade? From memory, I'm going with Poland, The Soviet Union (numerous satellite States), France, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, some stuff in North Africa. Was he in Greece and Yugoslavia and the German army also in Italy? Bombed the hell out of England and killed an awful lot of Americans. Yep, just like Jackson, Forest, and Trump.

Limited Perspective said...

I despise the Hitler metaphor. I think you are absurd to use it.

It is good when you examine your own motives, comments, and relationships with other people. Let me know what you find.