The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Losing
8 Points
The Contender
Trent_H
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

Abortion Is Morally Permissible

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/23/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 19,587 times Debate No: 16483
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (28)
Votes (7)

 

Freeman

Pro

I want to begin by saying how pleased I am to debate Trent on this most important of moral issues. Like my opponent, I have a deep interest in bioethics. So I'm very much looking forward to discussing the philosophical aspects of abortion with such a capable and passionate contender.

In this debate I'm going to defend two basic contentions. First, there are no good reasons to think that abortion is morally wrong. And secondly, there are good reasons to think that abortion is morally permissible. Before I construct my argument for the permissibility of abortion, I'll offer a brief critique of a common pro-life argument. Let me outline some of the reasons why I don't think this argument is valid.

C1: It is not always prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being.

Despite what many deeply moral people may believe, there are very strong grounds to conclude that abortion is not morally wrong. More often than not, arguments against the moral permissibility of abortion seek to demonstrate that it's wrong to kill an innocent human being. Stated formally, this argument may be put as follows:

P1: Fetuses are human beings (i.e., members of the biological species Homo sapiens).
P2: All human beings have the same basic rights, especially the right-to-life.
P3: Human fetuses have a right to live. (from 1 and 2)
P4: Abortion directly kills an innocent human being.
C: Abortion violates the fetus' right to life and is therefore immoral. (from 3 and 4)

If anti-abortion arguments are constructed in this way, strong objections can be raised against the notion that all human beings have a right to life. Professor Michael Tooley, a distinguished philosopher at the University of Colorado, has pointed out that humans with complete upper brain death do not possess a serious right to life: they are, for all relevant legal and moral purposes, already dead at that stage.[1] In other words, killing a brain-dead human is not prima facie seriously wrong, since a brain-dead human doesn't have a right to life in the first place.

C2: Brain death is not always the death of the human being.

Opponents of abortion who defend the substance view of persons may try to respond to the brain death counterexample by stating that brain death is synonymous with the death of the human being as a whole. But recent discoveries in neurology have shown that this view is flatly contradicted by the facts. Dr. Alan Shewmon, a neurologist at the UCLA medical center, explains:

"With respect to organism-level vitality, the brain's role is more modulatory than constitutive, enhancing the quality and survival potential of a presupposedly living organism. Integrative unity of a complex organism is an inherently nonlocalizable, holistic feature involving the mutual interaction among all the parts, not a top-down coordination imposed by one part upon a passive multiplicity of other parts. Loss of somatic integrative unity is not a physiologically tenable rationale for equating BD with death of the organism as a whole."[2]

While conducting his research, Shewmon documented 175 case studies where brain-dead individuals survived for significant periods of time demonstrating that brain death is not always the end of bodily integration.[3] The conclusion he draws from these data is quite penetrating. Shewmon writes, "Although some personhood-consciousness reductionists might try to argue that these are not human persons, no one can seriously claim that they are not living human organisms, living human beings."[4] In fact, the evidence for this position is so strong that even prominent pro-life philosophers such as Don Marquis have come to accept this view.[5]

After reviewing the work of Alan Shewmon and others, Scott Henderson, a bioethicist at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, indicates that "... under the substance view, brain-dead patients do not lose their substantial identity. They neither "become members of another species" by virtue of severe brain damage, nor are they mere aggregates of persons who were once associated with bodies."[6-7] Patrick Lee, a pro-life philosopher and defender of the substance view, agrees on this point.[8] Accordingly, the substance view entails that brain-dead individuals do have a right to life.

But surely brain-dead individuals don't have a right to life. Given how completely counterintuitive (and seemingly absurd) it is to affirm that brain-dead individuals do have a right to life, it is reasonable to reject this position. Moreover, there is a good basis for this conclusion. As philosopher Dean Stretton points out, killing individuals that lack any mental life does not harm them because it does not frustrate their desires (they have none), and it does not deprive them of a valuable future.[9] Consequently, the second premise of the anti-abortion argument is false. Not all human beings possess a right to life. So then let us turn to my second contention that there are good reasons to think that abortion is morally permissible.

C3: A fetus is not a person and thus cannot have a serious right to life.

A fetus may be a human in the biological sense (i.e., belonging to the species Homo sapiens), but it is not a person. In her book On The Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, philosopher Mary Anne Warren details five psychological criteria for personhood. According to Warren, these qualities include consciousness and in particular sentience, the capacity to reason, self-motivated activity, the capacity to communicate messages, and lastly, the presence of self-concepts.[10] Since a fetus does not possess any of these qualities, it can rightfully not be considered a person with a serious right to life. My argument can thus be summed up as follows:

P1: Only a person has a right to life.
P2: An entity is a person if it has (1) consciousness, (2) the capacity to reason, (3) self-motivated activity, (4) the capacity to communicate messages, and (5) the presence of self-concepts.
P3: A human fetus does not have properties (1-5).
P4: Therefore, a human fetus is not a person. (from 2 and 3)
C: Therefore, a human fetus does not have a right to life. (from 1 and 4)

The only controversial aspect of the argument is the criteria outlined for personhood. Like Warren, I think that these criteria should be self-evident, but they also have several other advantages.[11] First, these criteria explain the intuitions most people have that brain-dead individuals and anencephalic fetuses lack a right to life. Second, these criteria offer a non-arbitrary and species free account of personhood for various beings, both real and imaginary. Finally, it is plausible that rights function to protect interests. And the only sorts of beings that are capable of holding a desire to continue living are those beings who happen to have the capacity for self-consciousness.

Bernard Gert, the Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at Dartmouth College, has explained how simply being alive does not have inherent value in itself. It is, rather, the ability to have a conscious experience of the world that is important.[12] This moral principle can be recognized in the way humans rightfully differentiate between fully conscious adults and those who have experienced a permanent loss of consciousness in brain death. Unlike conscious adults, a fetus has never had any desire to continue living. Killing a fetus, therefore, cannot be seriously wrong.

| Conclusion |

In conclusion, the human fetus is a biological member of the human species, but it does not possess the mental qualities that would qualify it as a person. In light of this, then, abortion cannot be seriously wrong because the entity being destroyed in the process cannot have sufficiently strong interests or rights that could be violated. For these reasons, abortion is morally permissible.

Sources: http://tinyurl.com...
Trent_H

Con


Opening Argument


Let me begin by saying that I am excited to be debating such a well-read and sophisticated opponent as Freeman. In this debate I will advance two arguments to show that abortion is, in general, morally impermissible.


In the abortion documentary Lake of Fire, bioethicist Peter Singer explains the central question lying behind the abortion debate. He says “Ultimately, of course, the whole decision is based on what you think makes killing wrong.”[i] Therefore, in order to argue that abortion is wrong, I must show why it is generally wrong to kill human beings, and then why it is wrong to kill a human embryo or fetus. (Who I shall refer to as “the unborn”)


The Substance View


The first argument I will present is the substance view of the human person. This argument is advanced by pro-life advocates such as Francis Beckwith and Patrick Lee and proposes that what makes humans valuable and the subjects of rights is not an acquired property, but an intrinsic property of their very being.


To begin, let us start with the fairly uncontroversial premise that normal, adult humans have a right-to-life. We must now ask why it is generally wrong to kill normal, adult humans. We might say that they want to live and that killing them frustrates their desires or future plans. But that wouldn’t explain why it is generally considered wrong to kill human infants but not wrong to kill squirrels (both of which probably have the same “plans” or “desires” to continue living). Instead, there must be something that creates continuity between our infant selves and our adult selves.


Under the substance view, human beings come into existence as intrinsically valuable beings and do not acquire personhood in the same way they acquire other accidental properties.[ii] Instead, their personhood, or right-to-life, is the same kind of property as their humanity or their ability to occupy space and time. That is, a human being’s personhood is an essential property. As members of a rational kind, or human substances, human beings have an intrinsic right throughout their life to not be killed unjustly.


According to the substance view, even if a human person cannot immediately exercise person-like attributes (such as rational thought) because they are disabled or too young to exercise them, they are still persons because they are the same kind of intrinsically valuable being throughout their entire existence.[iii] They are not like an object that acquires properties through the addition of parts. They are instead a substance that unveils intrinsic properties throughout their development.


We can put the argument this way



  1. It is prima facie wrong to kill a normal, adult human being because they are members of an intrinsically valuable kind of being.

  2. The unborn do not undergo any substantial change in their development to become members of a rational kind and therefore possess the same intrinsic value as adult members of our species.

  3. Therefore, it is prima facie wrong to kill the unborn.


But perhaps you are unconvinced that humans are a “substance” or that their “value” or “rights” persist through change. I would like to propose then a second argument, which is not mutually exclusive with the first argument, to believe that it is wrong to kill the unborn.



The Future-Like-Ours Argument


Let us return to the case of a normal, adult human being. What reason do we give for why it is wrong to kill them? I gave one example (infants who lack human-specific desires) to refute the idea that our desire to live is the reason killing humans is wrong. “The desire theory” also wouldn’t explain why it’s wrong to kill someone committing suicide (such as the case of me using a sniper rifle to pick off people who just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge). After all, if their only desire is to die, then killing them won’t frustrate that desire and can’t be wrong for that reason.


Instead, let us consider what is often said when a human, especially a young human like a child, suddenly dies or is killed. People usually say, “They had so much to live for . . .” or “He took away our daughter’s life from her.” In these contexts, it seems that the wrongness of killing is focused on how killing deprives us of certain things. According to University of Kansas philosopher Don Marquis, killing not only deprives someone of what they currently desire (like a six-year-old’s desire to see her parents), it also deprives them of everything they would have desired if they continued living (such as the six year old’s future desire to get married and have a family). Marquis writes, “Therefore, when I die, I am deprived of all the value of my future. Inflicting this loss on me is ultimately what makes killing wrong. This being the case it would seem that what makes killing any adult human being prima facie seriously wrong is the loss of his future.”[iv]


We can formulate Marquis’s argument this way:



  1. Killing something with a future-like-ours (FLO) is prima facie wrong

  2. A fetus or embryo possesses a FLO

  3. Therefore, killing a fetus or embryo is prima facie wrong


David Boonin, a pro-choice philosopher from CU-Boulder, writes of premise two, “The future-like-ours argument appeals to an actual property that the fetus already has, the property of having a valuable personal future. This is an actual property it shares with us, not a potential it has to acquire which we already actually possess.”[v]


Under FLO, adult humans, infants, suicidal people, and the unborn, which have a right-to-life under the substance view, would also have a FLO thus making it doubly wrong to kill them. Furthermore, the FLO account of killing undercuts most objections to the substance view. Some defenders of abortion try to rebut the substance view by claiming that it grants the right-to-life to humans that don’t seem to deserve it such as the brain-dead, the irreversibly comatose, or anencephalic infants (infants whose brains are defective and will die shortly after birth). I will respond more to this objection in my rebuttal, but I would note that the FLO account of killing explains the intuitions some people have that the previous examples of humans do not possess a right-to-life. That is because in each of these cases these humans no longer have the possibility of having a “future-like-ours” and therefore FLO adherents would say killing them is not seriously wrong. However, normal embryos and fetuses do have a FLO and are closer in kind to a sleeping infant than a brain-dead adult.


It’s important to note that Marquis only argues that the FLO is a sufficient condition for the wrongness of killing, not a necessary condition. Marquis admits that some people, like the terminally ill, may not have a FLO, but that it may still be wrong to kill them for other reasons (one of which I would argue is the substance view).[vi]


Conclusion


In closing, I believe that humans are the kind of being that maintain their identity and intrinsic value through developmental change. Even though I don’t share any of the same memories, and only 10% of the same bodily material[vii], with my newborn, infant self, I can confidently say “I (not a thing that later became me) was born on such and such day/year” and “it was wrong to kill me (not the thing that became me) when I was an infant.” I argued that this continuity of value and identity is best explained in the view that human beings are a substance that persists throughout their whole existence. Therefore, it was wrong to kill my infant self because he either had the same intrinsic right-to-life that I possess now (the substance view), or because killing him would deprive him of a future-like-ours. Likewise, it is generally wrong to kill the unborn because they have an intrinsic right-to-life that is possessed throughout their whole existence (the substance view), and/or they possess a future-like-ours that abortion deprives them of (the FLO account).


Sources:


http://www.debate.org...


Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

Let me begin by thanking my opponent for his time and trenchant response to my arguments. You'll remember that I said I was going to defend two basic contentions. First, there are no good reasons to think that abortion is morally wrong. And secondly, there are good reasons to think that abortion is morally permissible. In his previous response, Con has presented two different arguments to demonstrate that abortion is morally impermissible. I suppose that there is power in numbers. We shall see in a moment if either of these two arguments succeed.

C1: It is not always prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being.

Con has outlined a slightly reformulated argument against the permissibility of abortion that is also based on the substance view of persons. Nonetheless, my prior critiques apply in excelsis to this new formulation of the argument, since both are dependent upon the truth of the substance view. And apart from giving a descriptive explanation of what the substance view entails, Con has essentially one argument for the truth of this position, which I shall refer to as the "infant objection." I maintain that infants up to a certain point don't have a serious right to life, and so Con's argument does not go through.

1. First, it is not the case that all cultures have prohibitions against infanticide. Peter Singer, an eminent moral philosopher at Princeton University, has explained how infanticide has traditionally been accepted around the world. According to Singer, "Killing unwanted infants or allowing them to die has been a normal practice in many societies throughout human history and prehistory."[1] Moreover, some countries such as the Netherlands also have laws allowing infanticide.[2] The view that infanticide is morally wrong is thus far from a universally shared moral intuition.

2. Second, people can clearly be blinded by failures of moral intuition. Paul Slovic, a research scientist at the University of Oregon, has proven this conclusively with his psychological research on human responses to genocide.[3] In general, people tend to care a great deal about the plight of individuals in trouble; however, these same people are often blithely indifferent to mass-murder. This is what Slovic calls "genocide neglect." As he argues, we simply can't rely on moral feelings alone to guide us because they can be unreliable. These feelings must also be supported by moral reasoning. So, for my opponent's objection to succeed, he must demonstrate why his moral intuitions are correct with an actual argument.

3. Third, as philosopher Michael Tooley argues, appeals to moral intuitions are only proper when basic moral principles are being established.[4] The claim that human infanticide is wrong cannot be a basic moral principle because it references physical properties - namely, species membership. My opponent could try to establish the underlying moral significance of human infants by appealing to the substance view of persons or his FLO argument. But, unfortunately for my opponent, I've already negated both arguments, thereby eliminating any possibility that his objection could be successful.

Contrary to what Con has claimed, I think it should be clear that the right to life is an accidental property. If the substance view is true and the right to life is an essential property, anencephalic fetuses, the irreversibly comatose and brain-dead individuals would all have a right to life, as Patrick Lee has pointed out.[5] That is a conclusion that I think no rational person should be willing to accept. Josh Brahm, the Education Director for Fresno Right to Life, has even gone so far as to suggest that "it is morally justified to pull the plug on a truly brain-dead adult."[6] I submit that Josh is completely right on this topic. Clearly, even people who passionately oppose abortion recognize how absurd it is to argue that brain-dead individuals have a right to life. The substance view of persons thus has no support and should be rejected.

C2: Brain death is not always the death of the human being.

I've previously given very strong scientific evidence to show that brain dead individuals can persist as living human organisms. The reason this evidence is significant is because it would entail that brain-dead individuals have a right to life under the substance view.

C3: The future like ours argument is not valid.

There is no denying that a fetus has a "future like ours." The problem with Marquis's argument is that a fetus does not value such a future, unlike a six-year-old who can value their future. This is why it isn't wrong to deprive a fetus of a valuable future.[7] Of course, my opponent saw this objection coming. This is why he raises the example of someone suicidal who no longer has a desire to continue living. However, there is a problem with this objection. The problem is best characterized by what philosopher David Boonin describes as the moral significance between "actual" and "ideal" desires.

Boonin uses an analogy with a hiker to help make this point.[8] Imagine that a hiker is at a fork in the road and must choose to go right or left. In this situation, the hiker ends up choosing to go left because the left path is more scenic. But little does the hiker know there is a landmine on the left trail which will kill the hiker if he takes that path. The hiker's "actual" desire was to go left, but his "ideal" desire was to go right and not hit the landmine. If this particular hiker knew about the landmine, he would certainly have gone right. Likewise, the suicidal person might have an "actual" desire to not go on living, but if this person was in a situation with better circumstances, his "ideal" desire would be to live. Thus, as Boonin argues, it is a persons "ideal" desires that more accurately establish their right to life. Accordingly, my opponent is incorrect in arguing that the desire based view of rights is incapable of showing why it's wrong to kill suicidal people.

C4: A fetus is not a person and thus cannot have a serious right to life.

You'll remember that I previously argued that a human fetus is not a person and therefore cannot have a serious right to life. I defended Marry Anne Warren's five psychological criteria for personhood. While arguing for this position, I gave three different reasons why these criteria should be accepted. First, these criteria have explanatory power in accounting for why it isn't wrong to kill brain-dead individuals or anencephalic fetuses. Second, these criteria are non-arbitrary and allow for other non-human entities (e.g., extra-terrestrials) to be considered persons. And finally, it is plausible that rights function to protect interests. This theory of rights should be self-evident because a being that has never been conscious cannot be "harmed" in any logically meaningful way.

Con has objected to this view by appealing to the infant objection and the suicide objection. Both of those objections have already been addressed and refuted. They do nothing to detract from my arguments or to affirm the arguments that Con has presented. Therefore, there are good reasons to affirm that a human fetus does not have a right to life.

| Conclusion |

In summary, I think we've seen good reasons to accept Warren's psychological criteria for personhood, which necessarily entails that fetuses don't have a right to life. By contrast, my opponent's only argument in support of the substance view is wrong for at least two reasons. In particular, brain-dead individuals do not possess a right to life. Likewise, the FLO argument is incorrect because a fetus does not actually have an interest in its future. If killing mindless fetuses is morally comparable to killing fully conscious human beings, stronger arguments are needed to demonstrate that, since my opponent's do not.

Sources: http://tinyurl.com...
Trent_H

Con

Rebuttal

I thank Pro for his excellent opening argument. However, in my rebuttal I will argue that Pro's affrmative has not refuted my position and that his argument leads to moral and logical contradictions. I will address his rebuttal in my conclusion.


Defending the Substance View

Pro appeals to our intuition that brain-dead humans, or individuals who will never again have a conscious experience, do not have a right-to-life. He claims that the defender of the substance view cannot say that a brain-dead person has undergone the substantial change of death and is no longer a human being because Alan Shewmon, a UCLA pediatric neurologist, has presented empirical evidence that brain-dead individuals can survive (with artificial assistance) for decades after their initial diagnosis. He then quotes a defender of the substance view, Patrick Lee, who Pro claims has accepted that brain-dead humans have a right-to-life. The defender of the substance view could answer this objection in at least three ways:


1. The brain-dead do possess a right-to-life: Pro appeals to our moral intuition that the brain-dead don't possess a right-to-life. But in previous debates he has quoted CU-Boulder philosopher Michael Tooley in defense of the view that our moral intuitions can be mistaken and grounded in emotion,[i] which could be the case in the intuition against the brain-dead having a right-to-life. (I will further elaborate the nature of intuition when I discuss infanticide in my critique of Pro's view below).


2. The brain-dead have undergone a substantial change and are no longer a human substance: Pro has quoted Patrick Lee as accepting Shewmon's contention that the brain-dead are human beings, but Lee has actually rebutted this in a 2010 article he co-wrote with natural law theorist Germain Grisez.[ii] Lee and Grisez use the thought-experiment of a decapitated head to show that even if the head and body were separately kept alive, this would not mean that two people now exist. The body without a brain is not a human being anymore, even if it could be kept alive in the same manner that the brain-dead are kept alive. Lee and Grisez argue that a necessary condition for being an animal at all is the capacity to be sentient, or the capacity to develop that capacity. Since the brain dead lack both of these properties, they are not properly speaking, animals, and therefore not rational animals, or human beings.


3. The brain dead have a right-to-life, but not a right-to-life-support: While I may have a right-to-life, I may not have a right to "extraordinary medical care" to keep me alive. For example, it's possible my insurance and local hospitals would not cover a 10 million dollar surgery that is required to save my life, but I'm sure such a surgery would be performed for the President because his instrumental (not intrinsic) value warrants such extraordinary care. Likewise, while a brain-dead person may have a right-to-life, the level of medical treatment needed to sustain them may not be warranted for someone who will not have any experiences at all and therefore be non-obligatory "extraordinary" care. Even defenders of the substance view like Francis Beckwith admit that the removal of life-support could be morally licit for the irreversibly comatose, despite them being a human substance.[iii]


Finally, the FLO account of killing bypasses this entire objection because, under that account, the brain-dead do not have a valuable future so killing them is not wrong. However, the unborn do have FLO's and therefore it is still wrong to kill them.

I believe I have shown that the substance view can accommodate the one instance of counterintuitive equality that Pro claims is fatal to the whole argument. In contrast, Pro's argument is subject to more damaging counterexamples.



A Critique of the Rationalist View

Pro admits that the most controversial premise in his argument against fetal personhood is premise two, which states, "An entity is a person if it has (1) consciousness, (2) the capacity to reason, (3) self-motivated activity, (4) the capacity to communicate messages, and (5) the presence of self-concepts."

I call Pro's defense of personhood the "rationalist" view because he contends that the right-to-life is a property only associated with beings who are immediately capable of rational thought. However, I believe his view creates counterintuitive inequalities and should be rejected. For example:


1. Infants: If animals like dogs or pigs are not rational enough to qualify as persons, then infants would certainly not be persons and thus infanticide would not be wrong. Pro may object that I am appealing to emotions in attacking infanticide, but he has done something similar when attacking the right-to-life of the brain-dead. To borrow some of his opening argument (where I've replaced "brain-dead" with "infants"), I would say "But surely infants have a right to life. Given how completely counterintuitive (and seemingly absurd) it is to affirm that infants do not have a right to life, it is reasonable to reject infanticide." Pro may object that he's building his intuition about the brain-dead from the foundational belief that only beings with rational interests have rights. I would counter that my opposition to infanticide is built off the foundational belief in the intrinsic value of human beings and the wrongness of killing beings with a future-like-ours, and that by refuting his brain-dead counterexample and bolstering the FLO account (see point three below) I have created a justification for the intuition against infanticide.


2. The Disabled: Under Pro's view, adult humans who are disabled and have very low I.Q.'s would not be persons. Furthermore, an adult who lost their memories (similar to Kayla Hutchison) and lapsed into a reversible coma would cease to have a right-to-life because they apparently do not have any "interests."[iv]


3. Genetically Engineered Brainless Humans: Robert Wennberg has written in defense of the view that depriving a person of something they do not currently desire (like an inheritance of which one is ignorant) harms them even though they do not suffer in the undesired thing's absence.[v] I contend that if only rationally functioning persons have rights, then no person would be harmed in the creation of brainless humans for organ transplants, or non-sentient female sex-dolls, or even the indoctrination of slaves who, prior to becoming conscious, had their brains altered so they had no desires of their own (even the desire to live).[vi] But, if these humans are harmed by the deprivation of futures they do not currently desire, then the human fetus suffers the same harm when he is aborted.


A Metaphysical Problem

Finally, Pro's definition of a person as being only a collection of mental states leads to a logical contradiction which I think counts against his view. For example, imagine I stepped into a machine like the one from the movie The Prestige that created an exact double of me. However, this machine causes me and the double it creates to lose consciousness briefly during the copying phase, after which we are moved by persons unknown. It seems that if a person is only a collection of mental states, and since we both have identical memories, then both humans would be "Trent" (especially since each of us would not know if we were the original or the copy). But this leads to contradictions like "Trent is in two places at once" or "Trent is hungry and not hungry at the same time."[vii] However, the substance view would simply say that the double was a new human substance that is numerically distinct (but qualitatively identical), to the original and no logical contradiction is created.

In conclusion, I have shown that Pro has not refuted my affirmative and that his "rationalist" defense of abortion contains moral and logical contradictions and should therefore be rejected.


Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

I would like to thank Trent for what has been a very enjoyable debate. In my closing remarks I will attempt to draw together some of the threads of the arguments I presented and summarize them as best I can. I will also be addressing the four different arguments that Con has put against my position.

C1: It is not always prima facie wrong to kill an innocent human being.

In his second round, Con has raised three different objections to my brain-death counterexample.

1. First, Con argues that our moral intuitions that brain-dead people don't have a right to life could be inaccurate. Well, this argument is contingent upon Warren's criteria for personhood being false. And none of Con's objections that he raised in (C4) or elsewhere are successful, so this response goes down the drain.

2. Second, Con argues that brain-death does represent a substantial change in an organism. Apparently, Patrick Lee has changed his mind on this subject. However, Lee's argument is simply irrelevant because it is based on "total brain death."[1] I specifically mentioned "upper brain death" in my first round. Therefore, Con's objection does not apply.

3. Third, Con states that brain-dead individuals have a right to life, but not to life-support. But his argument here is simply irrelevant, since my same objection would apply even if he's correct. Suppose, for example, that a certain brain-dead individual can survive for, say, twelve hours without life-support. According to Con, it would still be prima facie seriously wrong to kill them in this twelve hour time span. This can't be true.

None of Con's three objections have survived. Further, despite what Con has claimed, I've actually raised two other objections in my second round. If the substance view is true and the right to life is an essential property, anencephalic fetuses and the irreversibly comatose have a right to life. Patrick Lee has explicitly pointed this out on numerous occasions.[2-3] Clearly, this cannot be correct. And the rest of my argument supports this view.

As Beckwith explains, the substance view is vindicated by its alleged explanatory power.[4] Con has presented one argument for this position (i.e., the infant objection), which I will respond to again later on. So, even if my counterexample objections against his argument fail, which they do not, his argument still has no support and should be rejected.

C2: Brain death is not always the death of the human being.

I've already responded to Con's three objections to my brain death counterexample objection.

C3: The future like ours argument is not valid.

I've also already negated Marqui's FLO argument. The argument is based entirely on a false analogy.[5] As David Boonin points out, a fetus, unlike you, I or a six-year-old, does not (and cannot) value their future and is not conscious. Depriving them of their future, therefore, is not seriously wrong. Likewise, Con's suicide objection is fallacious because it fails to take into account the important moral differences between "actual" and "ideal" desires.

C4: A fetus is not a person and thus cannot have a serious right to life.

I've argued throughout this debate that a fetus does not have a right to life because it is not a person. In defense of this view, I've argued that Warren's criteria for personhood should be accepted because (1) they have explanatory scope; (2) they are non-arbitrary; and (3) it is very plausible that rights function to protect interests. I shall refer to my position as the "mentalist view," since it more clearly describes my position. While attempting to falsify my argument, Con has raised four different objections against the criteria for personhood that I outlined.

1. First, Con seems to suggest that it is self-evident that infants have a right to life, and therefore a right to life cannot be grounded in the capacity for consciousness. I will respond by repeating what Peter Singer has indicated. This view has not been self-evident to many cultures in human history. And as I predicted, Con has tried to vindicate his moral intuitions against infanticide by trying to prove that his other arguments are correct. I maintain that my opponent's other arguments aren't successful. Moreover, the view that infants don't have a right to life does not necessarily mean that it's ok to kill infants for no reason. Even Peter Singer has admitted that there may be overriding reasons for keeping in place laws that prohibit infanticide.[6]

2. Second, Con has argued that Warren's criteria for personhood implies that people with low I.Q.'s don't have a right to life. I submit that his objection is plainly nonsense. This argument is prima facie implausible since virtually everyone denies this implication of my argument, including philosophers who adopt mental criteria for personhood such as Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and Marry Anne Warren. Even people with low I.Q.'s are self-conscious and can reason. This objection is thinly veiled propaganda and has no bearing against my position.

Con goes on to suggest that someone who is in a coma and who is, in essence, a blank slate has a right to life. As the philosopher Nathan Nobis points out, this entire objection simply begs the question.[7] Any being that has lost all of his or her memories, personality traits, desires and is in a reversible coma is morally similar to a fetus. Con is attempting to resolve one controversy by appealing to another controversy. I maintain that such a human would not have a right to life, though there may be good reasons to keep them alive.

3. Third, Con goes on to assert that my position has unacceptable moral implications. Well, I don't think that creating brainless humans for organ transplants is seriously wrong. Once the gruesome imagery of such a task is overcome, many people would conclude that creating brainless humans for organ transplants would be a good thing since it could save people. Beckwith seems to suggest that his objections about creating brainless humans is built on moral intuitions.[8] And I've already shown that moral intuitions are unreliable by citing the work of Paul Slovic. The same critique applies to creating biological and non-sentient sex dolls. If these dolls truly are empty vessels mentally, then what's the problem? Con has nothing more to appeal to other than his unfounded intuitions.

Also, it is wrong to kill indoctrinated slaves or steal money from someone's inheritance because doing so would violate these individuals ideal desires. (See my round 2 (C3) for my longer description of this point.) Even if the slave had its brain altered to remove desires before he became conscious, the slave would still be self-conscious and thus would qualify as a person.

4. And finally, Con has introduced what is generally referred to as the "fission problem" against the psychological approach of personal identity. There is a solution to this problem. Harold Noonan, a professor of mind and cognition at the University of Nottingham, has pointed out that psychological continuity by itself is not necessarily sufficient for one to persist.[9] Rather, a person can be identical with a past or future being only insofar as that person is then psychologically continuous with that person and no other being is. This solution avoids the fission problem, and thus Con's objection does not succeed.

| Conclusion |

Neither of the two arguments that Con has presented are able to demonstrate that abortion is morally impermissible. The substance view has no support and is subject to three clear counterexamples. Likewise, a fetus isn't conscious and is also incapable of valuing its future. Moreover, all of the four objections that Con has raised against Warren's psychological criteria for personhood have been refuted. Therefore, it is still the case that abortion is morally permissible.

Sources: http://tinyurl.com...
Trent_H

Con

Closing Argument

I would first like to thank Freeman for his arguments and approach to this debate. I have never seen a defender of abortion as widely read in pro-life philosophy as him and consider it a privilege for us to be able to debate.

My opponent has dubbed his view the “mentalist view.” If by “mentalist” he means that only beings with self-conscious mental activity have a right-to-life, then I am inclined to accept his label and discard the "rationalist" label. (At least I did not refer to him as an “anti-equality advocate!”) (1)

Now, let’s examine the two arguments I used to defend the moral impermissibility of abortion along with my opponent’s “mentalist view.”

The Substance View
I argued that even though I do not share any of the same memories, and only 10% of the same bodily material, with my infant self, it is natural to say that I (not something else that became me) was born or conceived on a certain day or that I (and not it) am in an irreversible coma. In other words, there is something that unifies my past, present, and future identities that itself is not purely psychological.

To demonstrate this, I argued that the mentalist view suffers from the “fission problem” of personal identity through a cloning thought-experiment. Under the mentalist view, If I was cloned by a machine and a duplicate was created that had identical mental states with mine, it would seem that the same person exists in two places holding contradictory beliefs about himself. In other words, the mentalist view causes one person to literally become two persons (or maybe more!). My opponent tried to escape the fission problem by employing the theory that, “a person can be identical with a past or future being only insofar as that person is then psychologically continuous with that person and no other being is.”

But now instead of claiming that two people exist after the cloning procedure, the mentalist is reduced to saying that no person has survived the cloning the procedure, because there are still two beings that are psychologically continuous with pre-cloned Trent. But it seems strange to say that I “died” or no longer exist when a clone somewhere else was created who happens to share my mental states. In contrast, the substance view provides a sound metaphysical view of the human person as a rational animal whose identity and value persists through change, a view whose metaphysical coherence Pro did not challenge.

Regarding the substance view’s argument that the right-to-life is an essential property of a person, Pro used the counterexample of a brain-dead or irreversibly comatose human being having a right-to-life as his main defeater of the substance view. Pro contends that our intuitions about the brain-dead not having a right-to-life defeats the idea that all humans have this property. I offered three counter-arguments in response to this claim, of which, two I will elaborate. First, I showed that Pro has not taken into account Patrick Lee’s new argument that the brain-dead are no longer human substances and therefore they do not have a right to life. Pro did not challenge this, but argued that it is counterintuitive to claim that the irreversibly comatose, or other humans who cannot have future experiences, have a right-to-life. I suspect that what is driving most people’s intuitions that brain-dead humans (and similar people) do not have a right-to-life would be the counterintuitive claim that it would be murder to take them off life-support. But I argued that these persons could have a right-to-life, but not a positive right-to-life support, and therefore it would not necessarily be murder to take them off a machine that is keeping them alive.(2)

Pro also did not challenge this but countered that it should be obvious that a comatose person not on life support does not have even have a negative right-to-life (or a right to not be killed directly). However, I don’t think most people will have the same intuitions about the prospect of directly killing a brain-dead person that they would have with the prospect of just letting them die. In the same issue of the medical journal that published Shewmon’s paper on brain death, Amir Halevy reaffirms the intuition most of us probably have against burying or cremating a breathing human body.(3)

In conclusion, I have shown that the substance view explains why humans maintain their identity and right-to-life through change and Pro did not adequately rebut my case.


The Future-Like-Ours Argument

The future-like-ours argument simply claims that what makes killing a human wrong is that it is wrong to deprive someone of a future that they will later value (or a future-like-ours) regardless if they currently value it. Pro’s main argument is that only humans who have the ability to rationally desire their futures have a serious right-to-life, which excludes fetuses and infants.
In order to salvage his mentalist view, Pro claims that all rational humans have an “ideal desire” to live and that it is wrong to violate their ideal desire even if they don’t actually want to live (recall the suicidal person’s right-to-life). Do you see a similarity in these two ideas that have been debated thus far?

• An Ideal Desire: A desire that a being may not currently have, but would have, under better circumstances.

• A Future-Like-Ours: Future experiences that a being does not currently have, but will have, if they continue existing.

I contend that Pro’s reasoning has treaded into an argument that I have been defending throughout this debate. Namely, that depriving someone of something valuable they aren’t consciously aware of, but would have obtained without external interference, is morally wrong. Pro may contend that at least beings who have never had conscious experiences (or can’t remember their experiences), do not have a right-to-life because they have no morally relevant desires (actual or ideal) to frustrate. Now, if no other moral theory seemed promising, we may have to accept Pro’s conclusions. But the only argument Pro offered against FLO was that it is ONLY wrong to kill beings who have a future-they-desire (FTD), and not a FLO. But this is exactly the issue that is being debated, and not an intrinsic defeater of the FLO argument.

However, consider the examples I provided throughout the debate of humans who never had desires of any kind. Imagine an infant in the crib about to be euthanized, an unconscious clone of a young woman used as a sex doll, and mindless zombie clones, kept at a non-human level of animal cognitive function, used for target practice. If no action were taken to genetically modify them in-utero, these humans would lead lives like the rest of us and robbing them of that seems, in many people’s opinions, to do them great harm. Since my opponent never showed that the FLO argument leads to a counterintuitive conclusion (as he attempted to do with the substance view and his brain-death objection), I see no reason a person should reject a theory like FLO that is coherent and better explains widely held moral intuitions people generally have about the impermissibility of killing or mistreating many kinds of human beings.


Conclusion

In conclusion, I have shown that the substance view and the future like-ours arguments adequately account for the intuitions we have about human identity and the wrongness of killing human beings in various cases. Furthermore, I showed that these views are neither incoherent nor do they lead to counterintuitive moral conclusions. Furthermore, I have shown that the mentalist view leads to a personal identity contradiction and cannot account for valid moral intuitions many people have about not harming pre-conscious humans who are not fetuses. Therefore, my position stands that abortion is, in general, morally impermissible.

Sources:
http://www.debate.org...
Debate Round No. 3
28 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Freeman,

Wow! Good work, ha ha. I must have annoyed you with my vote!
Posted by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
"Sure, I don't mind! I read the debate in a rush. Conversely, I will sit down in a moment and look over both arguments and vote accordingly. Thanks for pointing out my error.

All the best."

I put in over 40 hours of research in bioethics journals and philosophy books in preparation for this debate. I would kindly ask that you put in the same time when sitting down to judge it. :)
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
A lot of class being shown here by the debaters and voters alike, this exemplifies how DDO should handle debate and evaluation.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Freeman,

`In what sense, I wonder, do you attribute rights to this entity.`

Amusing, I used that exact same example in a discussion awhile ago in the comment section of Josh`s debate to argue against right-inclusion for the born.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Sure, I don't mind! I read the debate in a rush. Conversely, I will sit down in a moment and look over both arguments and vote accordingly. Thanks for pointing out my error.

All the best.
Posted by Trent_H 5 years ago
Trent_H
I will second Freeman's request for retraction of the vote he just challenged.
Posted by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
@Dimmitri.C

"Both debaters participated fantastically to this debate. Freeman's understanding of what I person is rests upon how well a person can consciously define the 'self.' If this is the case then as we sleep we are not considered persons anymore, and therefore justifiably subject to termination."

You're adding in your own arguments and judging me by them. I debated Trent, not you. That argument is fallacious, and it wasn't even brought up to begin with. I would kindly ask you to retract your vote.
Posted by Trent_H 5 years ago
Trent_H
@Dimmitri.C

I don't think you quite understand Freeman's argument. Under his view a sleeping adult has a right to live because before they went to sleep they desired to wake up and do certain things. He would probably say killing them is wrong because it frustrates their interests, but that it would not be murder to kill someone who had always been asleep.

My view would include this but also talk about FLO and their intrinsic value.
Posted by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
There should be debates like this on here.

http://www.philostv.com...

Tooley vs. Marquis

@Cliff.Stamp

In what sense, I wonder, do you attribute rights to this entity. http://www.bitc.unh.edu...
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
@Freeman, I would argue that the latter does not imply the former.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by RedDebater 3 years ago
RedDebater
FreemanTrent_HTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Warren's 5 points stand up to any argument against abortion. Life isn't sentient until the 1st trimester is over and Pro took advantage of that with ease.
Vote Placed by Chuz-Life 4 years ago
Chuz-Life
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Reasons for voting decision: Congrats to both pro and con on a great effort. I was completely prepared to give the advantage to pro as he has a very professional style with a good flow of ideas. Unfortunately, the ideas are not always supported by the facts. (tying morality to sapience for example.) My vote goes to Con.
Vote Placed by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
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Reasons for voting decision: Both debaters participated fantastically to this debate. Freeman's understanding of what I person is rests upon how well a person can consciously define the 'self.' If this is the case then as we sleep we are not considered persons anymore, and therefore justifiably subject to termination.
Vote Placed by KeytarHero 5 years ago
KeytarHero
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Reasons for voting decision: Both debaters did a great job on this topic. However, at the end Pro had not sufficiently argued that depriving a fetus of a future they may not desire at the time but will in the future is acceptable.
Vote Placed by JoshBrahm 5 years ago
JoshBrahm
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's entire case depends on the notion that it is not morally wrong to: 1) Create brainless humans for organ transplants; 2) Legalize infanticide; 3) Actively kill people in irreversible comas, as opposed to just unplugging the machine and letting them die naturally.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
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Reasons for voting decision: Freeman outlined an argument again against the fundamental premise, similar to Grape but not as foundational and again the counter was simply it is rationally wrong, that is not convincing and to refute Freeman then an argument has to be developed which fully grounds an objective claim to right to life. 3:1 Freeman on arguments, everything else was well balanced.
Vote Placed by baggins 5 years ago
baggins
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Reasons for voting decision: Analysis in comments...