The Instigator
Trent_H
Pro (for)
Losing
32 Points
The Contender
Grape
Con (against)
Winning
46 Points

If the fetus is a human person, then abortion is generally immoral

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/10/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 9,629 times Debate No: 16394
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (98)
Votes (20)

 

Trent_H

Pro

Debate Description

In this debate Pro (myself) will argue that abortion is generally immoral because it directly takes the life of a human person who possesses the same basic rights that you and I have. Con will argue that the fetus is a person with said rights, but that abortion is still morally acceptable.

I ask that Con only accept the debate in this round and wait to post their opening argument until round two. Round three will consist of rebuttals and round four will consist of closing arguments.
Grape

Con

I accept Trent_H's challenge on the morality of abortion. He seems to have quite a bit of knowledge about this topic and I think that this debate will go very well. Debate.org has been expanding a lot lately and it's good to see new members who have well developed positions on issues that many of us have settled amongst ourseles.

My argument will be based on self-ownership and the libertarian concept of the inalienability of the will. I believe that a person is the sole owner of his or her body and has total discretion in its use. I support the Rothbardian position that one cannot, for instance, contract oneself into slavery because this constitutes an attempt to transfer a nontransferable property. I will obviously elaborate on this significantly in round two and explain how it pretains to abortion, but I want to make sure that Pro and readers understand my approach. Unlike most other pro-choice arguments it is not based on whether the fetus is a person, so I will not be contesting that point (I am skeptical as to whether the fetus can be considered a member of the moral community, but I see this as nonessential).

I have nothing more to add this round. Pro has asked that I just indicate my acceptance of the challenge and not make opening arguments. I've given a brief description of what I'll be talking about later, so I'll turn it over to him.


Debate Round No. 1
Trent_H

Pro

Opening Argument:

Imagine your five-year-old child runs up to you and says “Mommy (or Daddy) can I kill this?” What is the first question you will ask? Probably, “What is it?” After all, if it’s a cockroach, then it’s time to get out a can of Raid. But if it’s his two year old sister, then it’s time for counseling. That is because the question “Can I kill this?” depends almost entirely on the identity of the thing being killed. Every honest person involved in the abortion debate admits something is killed during an abortion. If it is mere tissue, then abortion is no more immoral than clipping a toe nail. But if a human being with the right-to-life is killed, then abortion is seriously immoral.[i] In this debate I will argue from the following premises and conclusions that abortion unjustly kills an innocent human being and is therefore immoral.


Premise 1: Fetuses are human beings, or members of our species

This premise is held without significant controversy in scientific, philosophical, and legal arenas. For example, embryology textbooks used in medical schools affirm that fertilization (a.k.a conception) is the first landmark in the development of a human being. The standard text Human Embryology and Teratology states, Although human life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.”[ii]

Sophisticated pro-choice philosophers also agree that human fetuses are human beings. David Boonin, author of A Defense of Abortion, writes, “Perhaps the most straight forward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus after all is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.”[iii]

Likewise, pro-choice philosopher Peter Singer writes, “ . . . there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being; and the same is true of the most profoundly and irreparably intellectually disabled human being, even of an infant who is born anencephalic –literally, without a brain.”[iv]

From the legal arena, this fact has been upheld in the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case of Planned Parenthood vs. Rounds (2008) concerned the constitutionality of a South Dakota law requiring, in one part, that abortion providers inform women that abortion ends the life of a “living, separate, whole human being.” Planned Parenthood claimed that the state was forcing doctors to promote religious or ideological beliefs, but the court ruled that the law only required doctors to utter simple biological facts. The court ruled, By common understanding and scientific terminology, a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb . . . Planned Parenthood submitted no evidence to oppose that conclusion.”[v]

Finally, even at the earliest stages, a human embryo is a whole human organism on a path of self-directed development. The only things the unborn need to continue this path of development and become a mature member of our species are adequate nutrition, a proper environment, and an absence of fatal threats to their continued existence. Incidentally, these are the only things you and I need in order to develop into fully mature members of our species. To quote one embryology text, "every time a sperm cell and ovum unite, a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition."[vi]


Premise 2: All human beings have the same basic rights, especially the right-to-life

While human beings differ in race, gender, creed, nationality, sexual orientation and even physical and mental development, most people believe in equal human rights for all human beings. But some critics of the right-to-life for the unborn play an “Animal Farm” game of verbal distortion and say, “all humans are equal . . . except some humans are more equal than others.” They claim that a human organism is not necessarily a human being with basic rights and intrinsic value, or a person. They claim that the ability to feel pain, have rational thought, or live independently outside of the womb, are necessary conditions for “personhood” that fetuses lack. But consider these problems:

1. Pain Perception: Some humans, such as those in comas or the disabled, do not feel pain but we recognize their general right-to-live. In contrast, many animals (for example, pigs) feel pain but are not given the same right-to-life that human beings have. Therefore, the ability to feel pain is irrelevant to possessing the right-to-life.


2. Rational Thought: While many humans can think in a rational way, some humans, like infants and disabled people, cannot think in this way. However, we don’t relegate these less cognitively developed humans to the status of pets or farm animals, but instead treat them like any other human being. Therefore, the ability to have rational thought is irrelevant to possessing the right-to-life.


3. Ability to Survive Outside of the Womb: This criterion, also known as viability, is just as flawed as pain perception or rational thought. For example, mice live independently outside of the womb (or are “viable”) but we do not consider them persons. Furthermore, why can’t dependency be considered a trait associated with human beings who deserve greater legal protection, and not less? After all, child abuse is considered especially heinous because children are helpless and cannot fend for or protect themselves. Therefore, if the human fetus is a very young human being (or a child) shouldn’t their helplessness count for their right to assistance and against our supposed “right to terminate” them?


C1: Human fetuses have a right to live (P1+P2)

Premise 3: Abortion directly kills an innocent human being

C2: Abortion violates the fetus’ right to life and is therefore immoral (C1 +P3)


Con, may argue that the unborn child’s right to life is not violated because they have no right to use their mother’s body without her consent. I will let him present and develop this argument in his opening statement before I fully attempt to rebut it. But I will contend that if fetuses are human persons, then their status as children (or very young persons) entails their right to receive ordinary care from their parents. While children may not have a right to extraordinary care (like the donation of a parent’s organs), pregnancy is the universal means to provide unborn humans with the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter. As philosopher Francis Beckwith argues, “The pro-life view is that human beings are persons-in-community and have certain natural obligations as members of their community that arise from their roles as mother, father, citizen, child, and so on.”[vii] (7)

The right to live and receive care from their parents is not dependent on the born or unborn child’s level of development or degree of dependency, but on his or her identity as a member of the human species.



[i] Story and argument from Gregory Koukl, Precious Human Unborn Persons (Stand to Reason, 1997)

[ii] O'Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology and Teratology, 2nd edition (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996) 8.

[iii] David Boonin. A Defense of Abortion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003) 20.

[iv] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) 85-86.

[vi] E.L. Potter, M.D., and J.M. Craig, M.D. Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant (3rd Edition). Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975, page vii.

[vii] Francis Beckwith, Defending Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 175-176.

Grape

Con


Introduction:



I introduced my approach in the previous round. The general thesis is that regardless of the moral status of the fetus, the absolute dominion of owner of property grants a mother the right to expel an unwanted visitor from her premises. I will show through logical argument that an attempt to deny self-ownership and the inalienability of the will must lead to inconsistency and contradiction.



Moral Framework:



C1: Habermasian Discourse Ethics



To justify a claim as rational and non-arbitrary to a dissenter, we engage in argumentation. Argumentation makes certain presuppositions about the actors involved. It is assumed that each individual is free and autonomous and that their consent is necessary (sans these assumptions, argumentation becomes meaningless). It is especially noteworthy that without the assumption of initial freedom, debating norms becomes absurd. This limits the scope of argument to such propositions that don’t contradict these assumptions. For instance, we can’t argue for permitting slavery without implicit inconsistency. [1]



C2: Hoppe’s Argument



Property rights are a necessary means of allocating scarce resources. If you and I cannot use the same object, it is necessary to fairly determine who shall have priority. Even in the Garden of Eden, our bodies are scarce resources that need to be owned. In order to determine just ownership, an objective link must be established between an individual and an object. In the case of bodies, this is not so difficult: it is clear that we necessarily and inalienably exert our will over our bodies. My occupation of and will over my body provides an objective grounds for me to claim ownership of it which no one else can counter with a similar claim. That it is natural to refer to our bodies reflexively affirms our innate assumption of bodily self-ownership. Thus, each person exerts ownership of his body as any other property object. [2]



If we accept Habermas’ theory of discourse ethics, and to engage in debate without doing so would be impossible, Hoppe’s theory of private ownership becomes undeniable. Autonomous individuals engaging in discourse must respect the property of others. To interfere with an individual’s exercise of property rights would mean the cessation of discourse and the resort to force. Force is inherently non-rational and is not a means of resolving normative claims. A further and more significant problem with the denial of self-ownership through argumentation is that one exercises this same right in the act of argument. Hoppe makes this argument [3], but it is considered most significant by Roger Pilon, who argues that we cannot deny the premises that we presuppose merely by acting [4].



This argument is used to justify property in the traditional sense of material possessions as well, but for the purpose of the debate I will include only the argument for ownership of one’s body.



C3: The Nonaggression Principle



The conclusion from C1 and C2 is that we may not violate the property rights of other people if we hold discourse to be a rational means of normative inquiry. This ‘if’ has already been conceded by our agreeing to debate. We then find ourselves at the cornerstone of libertarianism: the Nonaggression Principle (NAP). The NAP prevents us from ever acting to deprive a person of their property rights to any extent. If expelling a fetus constitutes a use of property, we cannot act to prevent this action without eschewing our commitment to logical discourse.



C4: Incoherency of Positive Rights



A negative right is a limit on the actions others make take against an individual. Discourse ethics, in its establishment of normative rules, places constraints on action which are negative rights. A positive right is a claim to have an act performed by another person. The existence of such a right would automatically violate the negative right of self-ownership of someone else through binding him to act in a certain way and would therefore be unacceptable. Positive rights also lack specificity in their obligations. Suppose a starving man is owed a piece of bread; from whom is he owed it? From you, me, or some person in a faraway land? We cannot rationally justify why a certain individual should be obligated to fulfill a certain positive rights obligation. Such claims as a right to education, healthcare, or indeed life are therefore unwarranted by any individual.



C5: Inalienability of the Will



If I agree to take you on an airplane ride under the obligation that I will not “ask you to leave” at 20,000 feet, I cannot change my mind and toss you out because I have given up my ownership of the airplane to that extent. With bodies, this is not the case: it is not possible for me to give up control of my body. For instance, I cannot contract the use of my arm to you because my control over it is totally and uniquely mine. Our ability to exert or will over our bodies prevents us from ever being forced to uphold such a contract. If I agreed to work for you for a year for free and then change my mind, the most you can do is demand material property as compensation; you cannot enslave me without aggressing against my rights. [5]



Application to Abortion



C6: Bodily Invasion



We can only use a person’s body when that person consents to that use. If a person does not consent to our use of his body and we proceed to use him anyway, we are violating his rights and the NAP. We ourselves are therefore no longer operating within the bounds of rational discourse and our victim is justified in taking action against us to defend his rights. Through our rejection of the principle of nonviolence, we have lost our claim to negative rights.



In using a mother’s body against her will, a fetus carries out exactly this kind of aggression. It may have the rights of an adult, but surely we would not permit an adult to use another person’s body as a life support system against her will. Such action would warrant violent self-defense even if it were carried out without malign intent. The mother therefore may remove a fetus from her body if it is violating her rights in this fashion. Neither she nor anyone else is bound by the fetus’s inability to survive independent of the mother; it does not have a positive right to life. [6]



This point can be confusing because there is no direct action taken to violate the mother’s rights. However, this situation is not so unusual: if B is sitting on A’s lawn and A changes his mind about whether B is permitted to, B may or may not violating A’s rights with no change in his actions. If A were unable to communicate with B, he could still justifiably remove A from his property using the minimal necessary force. If the area outside the property is inhospitable to B or the process harms him, that is no fault or responsibility of A.



C7: The Fetus and Contract



There is no agreement between the fetus and the mother regarding the right of the fetus to use the mother’s body. The fetus, regardless of its rights, is by circumstance incapable of contract. Consider a comatose person dropped onto a boat. There is not and could not be an agreement, implicit or otherwise, that he may remain on the truck. The owner may remove him regardless of the resulting damage to his body. A contract that the fetus may remain in the mother’s body cannot exist simply due to the act of intercourse: the fetus doesn’t exist at the time and the mother may be taking every measure to ensure this remains the case. [7]



References:



[1] http://plato.stanford.edu... (from the SEP, a much more detailed analysis than I thought necessary to include)


[2], [3] http://mises.org... (primarily Chapter 2)


[4] http://www.stephankinsella.com... (Rights and Action, pages 6-8)


[5], [6], [7] http://mises.org... (Chapter 7 and Chapter 14)


Debate Round No. 2
Trent_H

Pro

Rebuttal:

I would like to thank my opponent for his well-researched and interesting argument in defense of abortion rights. I primarily defended the personhood of the unborn in my opening argument because I feel that their intrinsic value carries significant weight against the bodily-rights argument. I also did not know which variant of the bodily-rights argument my opponent would use and chose to wait until this rebuttal to offer my thoughts on it. I have attempted to reconstruct Con’s opening argument into this form:

  1. We are having an argument.
  2. An argument is meaningless unless the arguers participate freely.
  3. Arguers cannot be free unless they have control over their choices and property.
  4. Control over choices and property is guaranteed by property rights. These rights can never be violated if rational discourse is to be maintained.
  5. Our bodies are our property.
  6. We maintain full control over our bodies.
  7. Abortion involves a woman controlling her body (her property) and her right to abort can never be limited without limiting her property rights.
  8. Therefore, abortion is not immoral.

I believe Con’s argument fails to justify abortion rights because it requires us to assume the truth of premises that are even MORE controversial than the conclusion of the argument.


Point 1: Freedom and Arguments

While premise one is obviously true, it is not true that an argument itself depends on the freedom of the arguers (premise two). It is true that having an argument, where the goal is to change patterns of thinking, would be meaningless without freedom. However, “having an argument” or “rational discourse” is not the same thing as an argument itself. An argument is merely a series of premises used to support the truth of a conclusion.

When conducting an argument, the parties only assume that laws of logic, such as “a=a,” or “A statement cannot be true and false at the same time in the same sense,” are true. Arguments would indeed become meaningless without these assumptions, but freedom is not a presupposition required for an argument to be true. After all, if I presented an argument in defense of concentration camp victims’ right-to-life to an SS officer while imprisoned at Auschwitz, my argument would still be correct even though I have no real freedom to present it or have it rationally considered.


Point 2: The Limits of Property Rights

By far, the most counterintuitive portion of Con’s argument is his strong claims about property rights and positive rights. Con writes,

“ . . . we may not violate the property rights of other people if we hold discourse to be a rational means of normative inquiry.”

Bu this clearly seems to be false and I can provide several examples to show that property rights are routinely curtailed in the interest of more compelling rights. For example,

  • Animals are considered property, but we arrest people for practicing animal cruelty.
  • Owners of private property must keep their establishments safe for other people. In particular, owners of property that contain attractive nuisances, or hazards that attract children, can be held liable for injuries children receive, even when the children are trespassing.[i]
  • My property can be commandeered by police to pursue a suspect[ii], I can be compelled to sit on a jury, and I could be drafted by the government in the event of a national emergency.[iii]
  • I own my speech (intellectual property) and the body that utters it, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1914 that even a basic freedom like speech can be curtailed in the interest of public safety. The Court ruled that free speech does not give someone the right to falsely shout fire in a crowded theater because of the danger that the speech creates.[iv]
  • Most states outlaw prostitution and drug use because individual property rights are trumped by the need to protect the common good.


Point 3: The Existence of Duties and Positive Rights

Con claims that positive rights are incoherent and therefore do not exist. He writes, A positive right is a claim to have an act performed by another person. The existence of such a right would automatically violate the negative right of self-ownership of someone else through binding him to act in a certain way and would therefore be unacceptable.”

But consider this thought experiment analogous to sex and pregnancy:

  • Imagine a room with black and white tiles. 85 percent of the tiles are white and 15 percent are black. At the end of the room is a machine that creates either a delicious dessert or a baby. Stepping on a white tile causes a baby to emerge, while stepping on a black tile causes the dessert to emerge. A person who simply walks across the room to use the machine will have an 85% chance of causing a baby to be created. Some people use awkward tile-jumping techniques that drop the percentage to about 60%. Others use anti-pressure socks that usually don’t activate the tiles and only fail 15% of the time (but they feel uncomfortable to wear). Still others use hover shoes that only fail 1% of the time (but they are made of a metal that causes irritability, bloating, and decreases libido). Regardless, anyone entering the room knows they stand some chance of creating the baby.

What would we think of someone, whether they intended to or not, who stepped on a white tile and simply walked out of the room and let the baby that was created die? They might say, “The baby has a negative right not to be shot, but it doesn’t have a positive right to demand that another person, like me, feed it.” If you believe that this baby has a positive right to be cared for because they were created by a moral agent, then I cannot see how a fetus is not entitled to similar care.


Point 4: The Rights of the Fetus

Con claims that the woman does not enter into a contract with the fetus so no duty towards the fetus is required, but contracts only apply to moral agents (like human adults), not moral patients. Moral patients, like animals, fetuses, infants, the handicapped, ecosystems, or even future generations, may not be able to act morally themselves, but their nature may still require us to act morally towards them even if no contractual arrangement is arranged between either party.[v]

I would agree with Con that a woman has the right to expel anything that is not a person (such as a tumorous growth) from her body. But I provided compelling evidence that a fetus is a person and therefore this person would have property rights over his own body that an abortionist may compromise. Because the woman has caused the fetus to need the use of her body, and because pregnancy is an ordinary way we provide care to fetal persons (unlike general organ donation), then she is obligated to provide that care. The father is also obligated to provide the child with material resources because he is involved in the child’s creation. Neither mother, nor father, should be permitted to use the fetus’ body without his consent (through aborting it) as a means to have sex and not give birth to a child.

Con may object that while a baby has a right to material assistance, a fetus has no right to physically use a woman’s body. But if the fetus is a person, then it has a right to life. And a right to life for a fetus means a right to the basic elements of its survival (just as my right-to-life includes the right to not be placed against my will inside a volcano). There is only one place where a fetus can meaningfully have this basic right -- the womb. Therefore, if we affirm that the fetus is a person, then it follows that he does have a claim against the moral agent (woman) who created him and a right to live in the womb in which he can naturally survive.

Grape

Con


Introduction:



Trent's argument is well presented and he defends his points rigorously, but he is off the mark on what the resolution asks for. I do not need to contest the majority of his claims because they can be shown not to lead to his conclusion. I'll go through his premises and conclusions and give my criticisms, then offer my own points in response.



Direct Rebuttal:



P1: Fetus Are Human Beings



As we agreed, I will concede this point. Fetuses are members of the human species. Pro's well documented and well argued point carries no weight because it does not pertain to the outcome of the debate.



P2: All Human Beings Have the Same Rights, Including the Right to Life



I do not believe that all human beings have the same rights, but it was agreed that I would concede the point that all humans have the same rights. I do not contest that claim. Once again his argument is very strong but not relevant to affirming the resolution; we have already assumed this premise. However, I do not accept that the right to life is included among these rights and that was not a requirement.



The fatal flaw in this premise is that Pro does not establish that anyone has the right to life. In my affirmative I made an argument against the possibility of positive rights, which I will defend in my closing argument. However, Pro provides us with no normative argument whatsoever. I invite the audience to reread Pro's P2 in his own words: he does not argue that humans have a right to life; he only argues that humans at all stages of development have the same rights. The resolution only requires that we agree that all human beings have the same rights; we do not have to agree on what those rights are or if any rights exist. If no one has any rights than this premise doesn't establish the immorality of abortion, and Pro makes no arguments for human rights. Simply saying “humans don't have a right to life” is sufficient to counter this premise because Pro offers no arguments in support of that claim. My detailed analysis of what rights human beings have (which does not include a positive right to life) greatly outweighs Pro's unsupported assertion.



C1: Human Fetuses Have a Right to Life



This does not follow because P2 does not establish a right to life for any human. All it does establish is that whatever rights human beings have, human fetuses have also. This was already agreed to in the terms of the debate and still carries no weight. So far Pro still has no arguments.



P3: Abortion Directly Kills an Innocent Human Being



The word innocent is not defined, but I reject its use in this context. A fetus occupying a mother's body against her will is violating her rights and cannot be called innocent. I established in my affirmative argument that it is justifiable to use force to end a rights violation, a contention I will defend in my closing. Pro offers no support for this description so it is a non-argument.



In any case, this argument does not carry any weight toward establishing that abortion is immoral. Pro never argues that killing an innocent human being is wrong at any point in the debate. I can just blankly assert “killing an innocent human being is not wrong” and match level of analysis Pro offered. Ironically, I am the one who established that it is wrong to kill an innocent human being. I could just concede my own argument in the final round and there will be no normative analysis in this debate at all, which means it would go to me by default. Pro, after all, is the one trying to establish a normative claim (that abortion is immoral given our assumptions), and he has offered no normative analysis.



C2: Abortion Violates the Fetus's Right to Life and Is Therefore Immoral



Does not follow because it relies on C1, and C1 cannot follow from P2 for the reasons I have explained. P3 is only relevant at all because I, not Pro, established that killing an innocent person is wrong, and the fetus is not innocent according to the argument I used to establish that point. No positive right to life was established in the affirmative arguments of this debate, and I was the only one who defended any rights at all (negative rights). The terms of the debate did not require that I concede that humans have a right to life, nor was it implied. There are no normative arguments at any point in the chain of reasoning that leads to this conclusion. We are totally justified in just rejecting this point arbitrarily because it, and the entire moral argument leading up to it, has been asserted arbitrarily. My affirmative arguments are just icing on the cake; I didn't need to make any of my own points to defend abortion because Pro never offered any analysis to prove that that it is wrong. Trent does make some arguments for positive rights in his rebuttal, but it would be unfair either for me to address them now or for him to count them toward his affirmative.



Counterpoints:



CA1: Normative Proof



In order to establish a normative claim, we must back it with normative analysis. As I have heavily stressed above, Pro has made descriptive arguments and then assumed normative conclusions from them without normative analysis. Facts are important for determining the application of a moral theory; they do not determine a theory and only appear to when we unquestioningly accept certain moral propositions. This is an issue that is brought up in the first few pages of every basic ethics book and yet frequently overlooked by those who understand the finer points inside and out [1]. Pro makes assumptions like “humans have a positive right to life” and “it is wrong to kill an innocent human being” without backing them with any sort of analysis. These points are what Pro was supposed to be proving! This is question-begging obfuscated by a descriptive analysis of what was already agreed upon.



CA2: The Is-Ought Problem



Pro goes from making factual statements about fetuses to drawing conclusions about what we ought to do with them without justifying this jump. At the most basic level, it does not make sense to conclude that something should be a certain way based on how it is. Helium atoms contain two protons; any statement arguing that they 'ought' to have some other number is rightfully recognized as ridiculous. The blade of Hume's Guillotine cuts a sharp divide between the factual and the moral. No matter how you change the scale, factual statements do not lead to moral conclusions [2]. My method skips over this problem by appealing to an 'ought-if' proposition: if we want to be logically consistent, we ought to behave in this way. These restraints on behavior can be called moral rules (if morality is to have any meaning, it is the rules which constrain our actions toward one another).



CA3: Contra Positive Obligations, Again



Pro offers no proof whatsoever for his conclusion that children are entitled to something, so I could counter that point just be saying, “No, they don't.” However, I'll stress again the serious problems of such obligations. Positive obligations transfer ownership of property (a person) from its rightful owner (that person) to a non-owner. I do not own myself insofar as someone else owns me, and that has a demonstrable effect on my perspective of myself as an investment. Hans-Hermann Hoppe argues that, a priori, as we reduce individuals' ownership of themselves they invest in themselves less: they tend toward being drunkards rather than philosophers as he puts it [3]. The effect is demonstrable: the use of women as “machines for producing children,” as Napoleon kindly put it, has reduced the level of achievement for women greatly [4]. When a person is used for a purpose deemed higher than himself, he is made into a machine in a very real sense and there are observable implications.



References:



[1] Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues, Barbara MacKinnon (5)


[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...


[3] http://mises.org...


[4] http://www.pay-equity.org...



Debate Round No. 3
Trent_H

Pro

Closing Argument

First, I would like to thank Grape for a cordial and stimulating debate. In my opening statement I showed that the unborn are human persons who possess the same basic rights that you and I have. Con does not dispute the humanity or equality of rights present in the unborn (because it was the debate resolution), but he instead goes after a much larger metaphysical target for his rebuttal. Rather than attacking the view that the unborn have the same right to assistance as born children, Con has argued for the extreme view that NO ONE has any right to assistance from anyone else. He writes, “The fatal flaw in this premise is that Pro does not establish that anyone has the right to life. In my affirmative I made an argument against the possibility of positive rights . . .”

Con is arguing for the ethical theory known as voluntarism, or the claim that I have no duty to aid anyone else unless I freely say I want to aid them.[i] Con also tries to impugn my argument as an act of question-begging. He writes:

Pro makes assumptions like “humans have a positive right to life” and “it is wrong to kill an innocent human being” without backing them with any sort of analysis. These points are what Pro was supposed to be proving!


Did I Beg the Question?

Con claims that he has won the debate because I never defended the premise that anyone has a right to life, but that point was conceded in the debate’s resolution when we agreed that fetuses were persons. The idea that persons are a kind of being that have a right to continue existing is fundamental to the idea of what a “person” is. Otherwise, what is the point of saying that some things are “persons” and others are not?

Consider the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the United Nations just a few years after the unthinkable crime of the Holocaust. The Declaration boldly states (without need of philosophical justification) “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

I contend that the right-to-life for persons is as self-evidently true as the wrongness of trivial discrimination among persons. If we can generally trust our five empirical senses, even though we only assume they give us reliable information about the world, then why not with the same confidence trust our moral sense that says persons are valuable and have intrinsic rights?

Con may object that persons don’t have a positive “right-to-life,” or a right to assistance to keep from dying. But, I can give a reason from Con’s own premises to support positive rights, at least for infants. Basically, if rational discourse is the source of our moral framework, then we must make sure that humans reach the stage of development where they can achieve rational discourse. Therefore, infants, who are incapable of rational discourse, but whose growth and development is necessary for it, must be kept safe until they can fend for and protect themselves. To put it simply, “If babies don’t receive assistance, then none would ever grow up into beings capable of rational discourse. In order to protect the stability of rational discourse as a foundation for ethics, babies must be aided to grow into rationally functioning beings.”


The Argument I Actually Made

I essentially made the following argument in my affirmative speech that doesn’t beg the question on positive rights, but justifiably assumes their existence from moral experience (lest I be charged with only arguing for positive rights in this conclusion):

“If born children have a right to assistance (or a positive right to life) from their parents, and unborn children have the same rights that born children have, it follows that unborn children have a right to assistance from their parents.”

I don’t feel any obligation to defend the first premise, “Born children have a right to assistance from their parents,” because it seems obviously true to anyone with moral reasoning abilities.

Consider the following true story:

(March 5, 2010) A South Korean couple arrested for allowing their baby to starve to death had been raising an online child, state media reported citing police sources.

The couple, residents of a Seoul suburb, allegedly neglected their prematurely born three-month-old daughter, feeding her just once a day in between 12-hour stretches at a neighborhood internet cafe, the official Yonhap news agency reported.

Police said the couple had become obsessed with raising a virtual girl character called "Anima" in "Prius Online", a popular role-playing game in South Korea.[ii]

If you are like me, you intuitively know that when moral agents, like adult men and women, create helpless children, they owe those children assistance which, at its minimum, should protect those children from death or serious injury.

But, if you thought that the baby’s right to be fed is “incoherent” because it denied her parent’s so-called right to “self-ownership,” and therefore it was moral for them to care for a virtual baby instead of their own child, then I can confidently say that your moral sense is simply broken. You are a broken human being. You are like a blind man who denies the existence of colors that everyone else plainly perceives.

But if you concede that born children really do have a right to assistance, then I believe my argument for giving unborn children assistance by not aborting them is valid. Con’s entire case rested on denying the positive right to life that born children have. Even if I never defended this right in my opening statement, Con bears the burden of proof in denying the existence of a right and corresponding moral duty that seems patently obvious to nearly everyone.

Con objects that a positive right to life leads to incoherencies when he asks, “Who has the duty to feed a starving adult?” But just because we are unsure in one situation how to apply a right, how does it follow that there are NO situations where we are sure that a person has a certain duty towards another person? (Such as the duties parents have towards their own infants).


Is the Fetus Innocent?

Con also tries to impugn the fetus as not being innocent or as being unworthy of assistance. He writes, “A fetus occupying a mother's body against her will is violating her rights and cannot be called innocent.

I would agree that if fetuses floated around us and deviously implanted themselves inside women, then forceful repulsion would be justified. But of course, fetuses (Latin for little ones) are created by the free actions of their parents. If parents own their bodies, then they must take responsibility for what happens “on their property,” including the creation of helpless humans who, through no fault of their own, naturally need them to live.


Conclusion

In conclusion, Con is wrong when he argues that moral duties imply that one person “owns” another person. Duties are the natural consequence of rights like “self-ownership.” Rights are merely claims we have that others leave us be (negative rights) or that other people give us what we deserve (positive rights). The poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” As humans who live in community, we must accept the duty to care for one another. While we may disagree how to care for adults (such as whether to distribute public welfare money) surely moral people can agree that we should help defenseless infants and toddlers and not retreat into some cold, voluntaristic ethic of minimal obligation. And if we should help these persons (infants and toddlers), then we should help the most defenseless of persons, the unborn. Thus the resolution stands, “if the fetus is a person, then abortion (directly killing a fetus) is generally immoral.”

Grape

Con


Introduction:



For the last round, I'm going to address Pro's rebuttal point by point and then address the offensive points in his conclusion. I will not make any criticisms of his original case that he won't be able to address or build on any of my offensive arguments. I accept Pro's formulation of my argument as reasonably fair, though he seems to have misunderstood it at points, as I will discuss. Jumping right it...



Defense of My Case:



Point 1: Freedom and Arguments



Pro draws the distinction between argument and argumentation and points out that free-floating propositions are different than the act of arguing. I am only talking about the social interaction of arguing, not about logical principles. Freedom is not a presupposition for logic being valid, but it is a presupposition for the act of arguing being meaningful. The fact that some people refuse to engage in argumentation does not invalidate discourse ethics either. An SS officer concedes that his position is morally invalid by refusing to debate it. Nothing Pro says here is at all problematic for a proponent of discourse ethics.



Point 2: The Limits of Property Rights



All Pro does here is list examples of property rights being violated. Just because rights are routinely violated in our society does not make it just to do so. Pro does not actually provide a moral justification for such violations beyond vacuous references to the common good. This is an appeal to common practice [1]. Slavery was once considered a valid limitation of rights but it clearly is not.



Point 3: The Existence of Duties and Positive Rights



I won't address Pro's thought experiment directly because it's beside the point. Pro concludes his analogy by saying, “If you believe that this baby has a positive right to be cared for...” Once again, this is what we are debating. I don't believe that, and the audience votes on the content of the debate, not their prior beliefs. This positive right is not justified, it's just quietly assumed.



Point 4: The Rights of the Fetus



In my affirmative I established that force may be used to end a rights violation. Thus, if minimal violence is used against the fetus in an abortion, the procedure doesn't violate its rights. That was not rebutted and just carries. The moral agent vs. patient dichotomy doesn't matter because I am contending that we are not acting immorally toward the fetus, not that we don't have to behave morally toward it.



Construing abortion as the use of a fetus as a means to have sex without giving birth is a rather twisted interpretation of my ethical approach. The fetus is clearly not used as a means to have sex in any sense. This is just broadening the meaning of the word 'use' beyond its relevance to the topic. In my original context, the word 'use' referred only to using a body as a physical instrument (a life support system, specifically). 'Using' people in a looser sense does not violated the NAP.



In his continued unsupported assertion of the positive right to life, Pro points out that he has a right not to be placed in a volcano because he cannot survive there. However, the reason he cannot be placed there according to negative rights is because dragging him there without his consent violates the NAP, not because the heat will kill him. If he has invaded my inner-volcano fortress, I may toss him out into a fiery doom without violating the NAP. This was clearly established with my analogy of a comatose person dropped onto a moving vehicle.



Response to Round Four Offensive:



CA1: The Meaning of Personhood



Pro claims that I conceded the existence of a positive right to life when I accepted that fetuses were people. That is not the case: no definition of 'person' was provided and there is nothing in the conventional use of the word 'person' that necessitates any specific moral characteristics. What the United Nations chooses to proclaim (without justification, as Pro admits) has no bearing on our definitions for the debate. A 'person' was understood to mean a member of the moral community. If Pro believes all members of the moral community have a right to life, he has to prove it, not just assume it.



CA2: Discourse and Potentiality



Nothing about discourse ethics places an obligation on us to help other beings engage in discourse, it just places rules on how we interact with beings who do engage in discourse. Pro's argument would lead to the conclusion that we have an obligation to build sentient robots that can engage in discourse and thus have a moral duty toward metals that can be mined from the Earth. Clearly there is nothing in my affirmative argument to suggest a strange conclusion like that. This is simply a mischaracterization.



CA3: Born Children and the Right to Life



Pro claims that he does not have the obligation to defend the premise that born children have a right to life. Why should this be so? Again, this is the definition of question-begging. In a debate about ethics, we have to justify ethical statements, not just assume that the ones that support our conclusion are correct. Because Pro has no justification for this point, he resorts to appeal to emotion [2] and appeal to popularity [3]. Just because we feel a certain way doesn't make something morally right or wrong. Just because something is commonly believed doesn't make it true. This is rudimentary logic; Pro's attempt to shift the burden of proof is clearly based on a fallacious line of reasoning. He is the one proposing a moral statement and I am responsible only for negating his claims, not for disproving claims that were never agreed to or argued for. Even if this wasn't the case, I have attacked positive rights in every round of this debate and I proposed my own coherent moral theory which allows for abortion. This would easily sustain that burden.



Another substantial issue with this point is that even if the born do have the right to life, and this has hardly been proven, it would not necessarily mean fetuses do too. Children qua children are not violating anyone's rights simply by existing while this may very well be the case for a fetus. If a child assaulted someone, this would certainly be grounds for that person to stop taking care of it. The fetus does exactly this by living of its mother against her will.



CA4: Final Comment on Fetal 'Innocence'



I am not going to make new comments on this because it is not part of Pro's offensive, but I will remind readers that I specifically addressed Pro's point about active and passive rights violations in my affirmative case under C6.



CA5: Ad Hominem Attacks



While crying “ad hom!” is a commonly abused tactic in a debate, I think many of Pro's comments warrant this description. Not only is it in bad taste to characterize your opponent, either specifically or in the general sense of people who disagree with you, it is not a valid means of argument [4]. Pro has no proof that I and those who agree with me are “broken human being[s]” and even if we were, it would not negate what I am contending. My argument could be presented by a robot with no emotion at all because objective moral truths are determined by logic, not our feelings. If our moral and legal system was based just on how people felt, it would obviously be dysfunctional. We should dismiss Pro's ad hominem; it is uncordial and unconvincing.



Conclusion:



The Pro affirmative case is mostly based on defending propositions that were already agreed to, and it does not sufficiently defend its moral claims. Pro tries to resurrect his case through the debate by defending positive rights, but he makes few arguments and relies on assumption. The Pro case relies on appeals to common practice, emotion, and popularity rather than normative analysis, which it seriously lacks. My negative case has a strong framework which Pro's criticisms have fallen short of addressing as all of his objections were soundly refuted. Vote for my sound normative theory over Pro's exhortations.



References:



[1][2][3][4] http://www.nizkor.org...



Debate Round No. 4
98 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 11 through 20 records.
Posted by Grape 3 years ago
Grape
I did not appeal to intuitions as a means of argument. If assumptions like "being consistent is good" or "rational discourse is good" had been challenged, I would have defended them indirectly by arguing that they are too problematic for Pro. You can't argue that an objective moral framework is correct without making those assumptions. Pro's argument would just fall apart without those assumptions and we'd have no moral framework, making the proposition "x is immoral" impossible to affirm. I discussed this exact issue with Sieben and had that defense in mind from the beginning, but Pro did not take that approach.

Also:

"Pro made the assertion, Grape denied right to life as fundamental and challenged Pro to provide warrant, but he is voted down because he could not prove Pro's assertion to be faulty."

What's even stranger is that I did make arguments that Pro's assertion was faulty (C4, CA3, CA3) throughout the debate. Twice I presented original arguments and the third time I said that Pro has no warrant and was not justifying his claim. In every single round and at every opportunity I challenged that point and provided arguments that its affirmation is too problematic to be concluded, let alone assumed. Is C4 just not being properly understood? I specifically said, "Such claims as a right to education, healthcare, or indeed life are therefore unwarranted by any individual." The purpose of that contention cannot have been unclear.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
They are very passionate, they just passionately feel that morality is a non-functional concept.
Posted by Trent_H 3 years ago
Trent_H
@Cliff.Stamp

I agree that name calling is not charitable and is bad for dialogue. However, I'm restless about just coldly analyzing moral issues. After watching the documentary "eyes on the prize" (civil rights movement doc) I see the need to sometimes call out evil and passionately oppose it. I'm sure nihilists can be nice (if they feel like it), but their lack of passion in opposing objective evil scares me.
Posted by Raisor 3 years ago
Raisor
@Trent_H
"One thing that frustrates me about this debate is the overall negative attitude people have about the reliability of moral intuition...Even Grape's position ends with intuitions that "rational discourse is good" or "being consistent is good" or "moral duties imply ownership of another person"..."

You are completely misunderstanding Grape's Habermas argument. Grape doesnt argue from moral intuition; he bases is normative claims in discourse ethics, which do not rely on the claim "rational discourse is good" or "being consistent is good." Habermas locates normative standards in the presuppositions necessary for rational discourse. An analogy would be Kant's locating normative standards in the necessity born from rational and autonomous individuals (another example of ethics independent of moral intuition).

Grape's framework was much more detailed than your rebuttals indicated, which is why I think Grape won this debate with flying colors. That being said, you did a respectable job in this debate, you were simply outmatched.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Trent, you are not likely to have much of a conversation with them starting off like that. Cody for example is intelligent, honest and generally a nice guy. He is a moral nihilist, but that would not stop me leaving him alone with my wife for fear of her being raped or any other act of violence being committed towards her. He would not do these things, but he does not restrict himself because they are immoral, wrong or that he ought/should not do them as he does not believe any of those directives are meaningful. However he does have reasons as to why he would not do them, they are just not grounded in any morality. He likely would not appreciate being called a broken human being or a monster, but as you noted he would not find it immoral for you to say it. Just because he is a nihilist does not mean he does not have feelings, if you prick him then he will bleed.
Posted by Freeman 3 years ago
Freeman
@Trent

"I don't think being fooled by an optical illusion is on par with being mistaken about the wrongness of starving three-year-olds."

I don't think that it is either. The entire concept is extremely morally repugnant to me. However, I'm not just relying on intuitions to conclude that. Three-year-olds are very much like you and I, unlike a fetus (or even a newborn infant).

In a very ironic way, Beckwith contradicts himself on the value of moral intuitions.

He writes, "Some abortion-choice proponents argue that since many parents do no grieve at the death of an embryo or fetus as they would at the death of an infant or a small child, the unborn is not a subject of moral rights (i.e., not a person).

But this is an inadequate basis for moral judgement. As Judge John T. Noonan has observed, "Feeling is notoriously an unsure guide to the humanity of others." ... He continues, "One usually feels a greater sense of loss at the sudden death of a healthy parent than one feels for the hundreds who die daily of starvation in underdeveloped countries. Does this mean that the latter are less human than one's parent? Certainly not." p. 153 Defending Life
Posted by Trent_H 3 years ago
Trent_H
@Cliff.Stamp

That's fine. Then I think those people are monsters. Fortunately, my action of name-calling is either amoral, or it is not absolutely wrong to engage in name-calling because morality is relative to each individual and they have no right to judge me for actions toward them.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 3 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Trent, there are a number of people on DDO, not an insignificant amount, who do not find objective morality to have satisfactory warrant. They will argue for either all actions to be amoral, or that morality is purely relative and can not be asserted as an absolute.
Posted by Trent_H 3 years ago
Trent_H
@Freeman

I don't think being fooled by an optical illusion is on par with being mistaken about the wrongness of starving three-year-olds.

One thing that frustrates me about this debate is the overall negative attitude people have about the reliability of moral intuition. In the end, that is what we always fall back on. Sure it can be mistaken, but sometimes it isn't. Even Grape's position ends with intuitions that "rational discourse is good" or "being consistent is good" or "moral duties imply ownership of another person" that are in the same position as my assertions that "negligently starving your child is wrong" or "causing unnecessary suffering to animals is wrong."

I see no problem with the belief that some assertions are simply self-evidently true, and anyone who challenges them bears the burden of proof. I could be mistaken, sure, but a better example (unlike the tables) would be someone trying to argue that the external world I perceive is not real when I have a good assertion that it really does exist. If someone's moral theory leads to the conclusion that starving two-year-olds and crushing kittens for fun is not immoral, then I demand overwhelming evidence that their theory is correct.

To quote what atheists often say to me, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." However, I appreciate your willingness to examine beliefs without being dogmatic. But we shouldn't be dogmatic skeptics either.
Posted by Freeman 3 years ago
Freeman
@Trent

I think it's interesting that you used an analogy with a blind person. I'm not saying that I endorse Grape's ethics, but wouldn't you be willing to concede that you may be wrong. Isn't it possible that most people can be morally blinded on some issues? Consider, for example, the following illustration: http://www.michaelbach.de...

Are you and I both "broken" because we see those tables as being different sizes? I think not. Is the rest of humanity "broken" for being so led astray by our collective failure to see things clearly?
20 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by Chuz-Life 1 year ago
Chuz-Life
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Reasons for voting decision: I generally try to avoid the moral aspects of the debate on abortion. That said, I was interested in how the debate would unfold. Cudos to both for sticking to their arguments to the end. Con makes some convincing arguments. However, some of them require a complete disregard for the facts (i.e. seeing prenatal children as attacking or invading the mother's body.)
Vote Placed by Kinesis 3 years ago
Kinesis
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's arguments for a positive right to life were either fallacious or somewhat weak - I don't have a problem with appealing to intuition, but when that's all you have and your opponent disputes your intution, you should provide something further or your argument is inadequately substantiated. Con did a fine and virtually unchallenged job of establishing discourse ethics and thus the NAP as the criteria to judge, and he clearly wins the debate given those assumptions.
Vote Placed by kkjnay 3 years ago
kkjnay
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro never really had any valid arguments. He never proved why a fetus should be considered a person. Con won the debate.
Vote Placed by Raisor 3 years ago
Raisor
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Reasons for voting decision: "My detailed analysis of what rights human beings have (which does not include a positive right to life) greatly outweighs Pro's unsupported assertion." This statement by Con pretty well sums up my reason for decision. The Rez. does NOT establish right to life and so it is up to Pro to establish. Pro doesnt begin to do so until final round, much too late in debate. Pro relies heavily on moral intuition when he does defend R2L, which Con adequately rebuts. Vote Con.
Vote Placed by Cody_Franklin 3 years ago
Cody_Franklin
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Reasons for voting decision: Though there were certainly faults on Pro's part with ad hominems and a mischaracterization of discourse ethics, the strongest argument for me was the fundamental claim by Con--which was admitted and illegitimately dismissed by Pro--that a positive right to life was never established. Pro attempted to rectify this near the end, but his attempts were little more than implicit personal attacks against anyone who disagreed with his assumption (losing him the conduct point).
Vote Placed by Sieben 3 years ago
Sieben
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Reasons for voting decision: Commentz
Vote Placed by CiRrK 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Wow, vote-abuse city over here. Ok so decision was easy. Discourse Ethics set the framework, coupled with Property Rights. Pro didnt understand the substance of that argument, which kills his case. This framework precludes the Pro case. As such, since the fetus is an aggressor on the woman's body it accesses the framework.
Vote Placed by Deathbeforedishonour 3 years ago
Deathbeforedishonour
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro showed that the fetus is a human, and therefore had the right to live.
Vote Placed by detachment345 3 years ago
detachment345
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Reasons for voting decision: pro showed that if a fetus is a human, and humans deserve the right to live, then killing a human is immoral
Vote Placed by socialpinko 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con showed that even if fetus' had the same rights as other humans, they did not have a positive right to life. Close debate.