The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Winning
23 Points
The Contender
mongoose
Con (against)
Losing
1 Points

Abortion is morally permissible

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/5/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,306 times Debate No: 16900
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (4)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

This debate is for Freeman's tournament.

This first round serves as an introduction, definitions, and parameters. My opponent can decide to start his arguments in his first round, or wait for subsequent rounds.

Abortion will refer to the intentional termination of a human pregnancy. Furthermore, I will focus on first trimester abortions exclusively as the vast majority of abortions are of such. The issue of later abortions get more complicated due to the development of certain biological features - I want to focus the debate on a few primary ethical considerations.

I will hope that my opponent shares the same presupposition of moral realism as I do, but he need not to. I just want to focus on having a discussion about abortion in the foray of normative ethics, not having to change this conversation into a meta-ethical or even epistemological discussion. But of course, it is ultimately up to my opponent's decision.

Let's have a good debate.
mongoose

Con

Thank you for starting this debate. I will wait for subsequent rounds to make my case. I hope that this debate will focus on abortions other than those in the cases of rape and incest, as those are considered different cases. Good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

My argument for abortion is simple: fetus' are not persons in the sense of being morally relevant entities. The reasoning for this is that they have not psychologically developed to be entitled with rights to life and so forth. I'm incapable of giving a precise set of conditions that qualify as personhood characteristics, but I'd argue that personhood is most likely founded on a psychological account (i.e. appealing to consciousness, ability to reason, etc.). Given that abortions deal with subjects that clearly fail most if not all of these conditions, abortion is morally permissible.

The job, then, is to show that my account of personhood is suitable. I'd argue a psychological account is the most likely case as it best explains issues of personal identity/personhood, and thus a psychological approach to be most plausible. It is able to answer most issues relating to identity such as the classic connundrum of what happens if your brain were to be swapped into another organism. Or the memory criterion attributed to Locke; it serves as a significant test for a criteria to be a person.

The psychological approach pays special heed to mental properties fetuses' wouldn't have, providing ample ground for my position.
mongoose

Con

I will be arguing that fetuses are persons in that they are human. To do so, I will disprove the theory that psychology is the main criterion for deserving the moral right to life.

Abortion is not morally permissible because it involves the needless killing of a human. I hope we can accept that the needless killing of a person in the traditional sense is clearly immoral. There is no crucial distinction between the two.

Going with my opponent's theory, what rights are given to a person in a coma who will never come out of it? Is one allowed to kill them? What about a person in a coma who has complete amnesia and remembers nothing (poor guy)? Does he have no right to life? While this may seem like an unplausible scenario, my opponent is talking about swapping brains with other organisms.

That is all for now.
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

My opponent provides proposed counterexamples to my adherence to a psychological theory of personhood - he uses the cases of people in comas, amnesia, etc. Furthermore, he seems to hold the case that being a 'human' is sufficient to be a 'person'. I'll start with the latter contention.

"I will be arguing that fetuses are persons in that they are human...Abortion is not morally permissible because it involves the needless killing of a human. I hope we can accept that the needless killing of a person in the traditional sense is clearly immoral. There is no crucial distinction between the two."

Put into a syllogism, my opponent's argument is outlined as followed:

P1. Humans are persons.
P2. Abortion is the termination of a human.
P3. Given P1 and P2, abortion, barring cases of rape and incest, is the needless termination of a person.
P4. Needless terminations of persons is morally impermissible.
C1. Therefore, abortion, barring cases of rape and incest, is morally impermissible.

If my opponent were to defend his theory of personhood, he would need to explain the crucial premise that necessarily all humans are persons. What feature of being a human would grant personhood? If he can't defend this foundational point, then his entire theory collapses. Onto his objections to a psychological approach:

"... what rights are given to a person in a coma who will never come out of it? Is one allowed to kill them? What about a person in a coma who has complete amnesia and remembers nothing (poor guy)? Does he have no right to life?"

Both examples my opponent provides feature human beings who are psychologically impaired in some way. Both imply serious problems for a memory criterion (ability to recall memories of oneself) or just the psychological features I mentioned (e.g. ability to reason). My response is simple: a psychological continuity theory that is upheld now is often seen as a refined version of Lockean theory - that is, the memory criterion is important but is not the only way of grounding an identity relation. We can incorporate other psychological features, such as belief/desires, similar character traits, etc. that can serve as a part of a conglomerate relation of 'psychological uniqueness'. So arguably, some sort of relation can be upheld even for a complete amnesiac -- if they have sufficient similarities in character traits, goals, actions, etc. they would be the same person. Using the same example, if the same amnesiac also had erraticly different behavior, wouldn't this lead us to intuitively believe he would be a different person? If someone were to lapse into a coma indefinitley and were devoid of appropriate psychological features then they would cease to be a person in the same way fetus' are not persons.
mongoose

Con

It would seem that the entire debate is now revolving around the definition of a person. For starters, I will quote Wikipedia:
"A person is a human being" [1]

Despite Wikipedia's infallibility, I recognize that I will have to do more than that for such a complex and philisophical issue.

It would appear that my opponent believes that the killing of an indefinately comatose patient is morally permissible. If that is not the case, I would like my opponent to clarify.

The psychological argument relies on there being a set point during the fetus' development at which it reaches personhood. This essentially makes it completely arbitrary as to whether or not an action is moral. This would be utter nonsense, as it would mean that the cells, already established to be an individual human, rearranging themselves in some slight manner or growing would give it this personhood. The only set point at which such a radical change in rights can occur is at conception, when a wholly unique cell is formed.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 3
TheSkeptic

Pro

My opponent's response is ultimately weak, and doesn't do much to illuminate the difficulties it's supposed to point out in my position. For starters, let it note that in the Wikipedia article the sentences immediately afterward state "...or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes associated with personhood, for example in a particular moral or legal context. Such capacities or attributes can include agency, self-awareness, a notion of the past and future, and the possession of rights and duties, among others." I doubt my opponent is using Wikipedia as a definitive source, but I can't see what's the point in quoting it at all if it does nothing to further the debate's progression.

"It would appear that my opponent believes that the killing of an indefinately comatose patient is morally permissible."

Yes, I do believe such is morally permissible granted some restrictions (you can't needlessly kill comatose patients if there are emotionally attached family members who haven't given their consent). However, a suitable response I would expect should be something more than an response of intuitive shock.

"The psychological argument relies on there being a set point during the fetus' development at which it reaches personhood ... This would be utter nonsense, as it would mean that the cells, already established to be an individual human, rearranging themselves in some slight manner or growing would give it this personhood."

How would that be "utter nonsense"? I clearly described and argued that the acquirement of certain necessary psychological features will bring about personhood in the same way a person can mature enough to be eligible for 'adult' activities (going to the army, drinking, voting etc.). Figuring out when an entity achieves personhood, appriopriate adult intellectual maturity, etc. may be difficult and shaded in grayness but this doesn't mean there is a philosophical slippery slope - a cut off line can be argued for.

"The only set point at which such a radical change in rights can occur is at conception, when a wholly unique cell is formed."

Why is this so, simply being in virtue of a single cell organism? There is no reason to value this over the psychological approach, especially given how the latter answers questions of personal identity deeply interconnected to personhood. As you can defer counterexamples to my theory, I could do the same with perhaps prima facie intuitively more awkward situations - would a wholly unique human cell kept in a biological 'limbo' state (due to advances in science) be reasonably called a person with fundamentally equal moral value as rational, human adults? I would highly doubt so.
mongoose

Con

I'm sorry, but I've been having a hard time to debate this topic, as it is so undefinable. I concede. Vote Pro. Good luck in your next debate.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Grae 4 years ago
Grae
The most compelling argument I can think of in favor of abortion is that a fetus does not have interests. It may or may not be a human being but it certainly has no interest in life.
Posted by TheSkeptic 5 years ago
TheSkeptic
"Why did somebody give me a point?"

According to Dmetal, you have better spelling/grammar. Wouldn't bother or surprise me if you did, I spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes on any debate round (unless there's an annoying amount of citing to be done, e.g. evolution debates) so you're bound to see a lot of silly mistakes.
Posted by Kinesis 5 years ago
Kinesis
Boo debate

Also, yeah, people can't vote on their own debates anymore.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"mongoose
Why did somebody give me a point?"

I would interpret

3:0 on argument as one side essentially did nothing

3:1 on argument as lop sided, clear win but at least some valid point/argument attempted

3:2 on argument close enough that I would need to read it more than once to decide

It is rare I vote 3:0 unless it is straight forfeits or a troll which is bland.
Posted by TheSkeptic 5 years ago
TheSkeptic
Same here, new feature? Either way I've grown a habit not to, so I guess it's a plus.
Posted by mongoose 5 years ago
mongoose
Why did somebody give me a point?
Posted by mongoose 5 years ago
mongoose
It would appear I can't vote on my own debate. Interesting.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by CiRrK 5 years ago
CiRrK
TheSkepticmongooseTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by Dmetal 5 years ago
Dmetal
TheSkepticmongooseTied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro actually argued a criteria and con didn't.
Vote Placed by Freeman 5 years ago
Freeman
TheSkepticmongooseTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Concession. I'll give my analysis of the debate later.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
TheSkepticmongooseTied
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Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: Not much say here, the goose was never really in the debate.