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Responses to the FLO [abortion]

bluesteel
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4/4/2014 1:09:02 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
The FLO [Future Like Ours] argument that abortion is wrong proceeds as follows:

P1: What makes killing adults and children prima facie wrong is that it deprives us of our future of value.
P2: Fetuses have futures like ours.
C: Therefore, abortion is prima facie wrong.

What do you guys think are the best objections to this argument?

I've compiled a few. Which of these do you think are best? Are there any others?

1) Moral skepticism. There is no objective morality because no one agrees on what is immoral. The assertion that a deprivation of a future of value is morally wrong is merely a subjective judgment, which begs the question of *why* such a deprivation is immoral.

2) Premise 1 is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for killing a human being to be wrong. If deprivation of a FLO were *sufficient* by itself, then self-defense would be morally wrong because it deprives someone of a future of value. Other considerations are therefore necessary (e.g. self-awareness, ability to feel pain, capacity to desire the continuation of consciousness).

3) The FLO argument relies on the "inference from the best explanation," i.e. that depriving someone of a FLO is the *best* explanation for why murder is wrong. But the FLO picks the *wrong* explanation for why killing is wrong. If killing is wrong because it deprives a being of a "future like ours," then what about beings who do not have a "future like ours," such as intelligent alien species whose futures would be very different from ours. If we encounter an alien species, can we murder them? If not, then the FLO fails to capture the proper criteria that make killing morally wrong.

4) The FLO argument goes too far. If depriving a potential being of a "future like ours" is morally wrong, then using contraception is unethical because it deprives a potential being of a "future like ours."

5) To get around #4, the FLO has to argue that only determinate beings (already in existence) are entitled to a FLO. However, this argument fails to account for future generations. If I place a booby-trap in a cave and seal the cave for 200 years, no currently existing person can be killed by the booby trap. But I set the cave to *unseal* after 200 years, so some unwitting yet-to-be born person will be killed. The FLO would say that setting the booby trap is not morally wrong because the person that will die is not yet in existence and is therefore not a determinate being.

6) Cell cultures. You encounter aliens with advanced cloning technology and they tell you that they can use every single cell in your body in order to make a copy of you. The FLO says that each cell can become a being, so you are morally obligated to provide each cell a FLO. However, the aliens tell you that doing so will shorten your life by 9 months. Are you obligated to shorten your life by this time period in order to provide a FLO to the cells in your body?

This argument essentially asks what would happen if we could reproduce asexually. If this were the case, every cell in our body has a potential FLO.

The fact that most people would not say you are morally obligated to give life to all the cells in your body proves that deprivation of a FLO is not the correct explanation for why killing is wrong.

7) Utilitarianism. Morally absolutist systems are bad. If we had to kill one person to save every single person on the planet (e.g. you get the chance to kill Patient Zero of an ultra-deadly disease), then the FLO would say you morally cannot kill Patient Zero. Utilitarianism is a better ethical system because it eschews moral absolutism. The cost-benefit analysis comes out in favor of allowing abortion since banning it simply forces it into the back alley (which is unsafe for women) but doesn't lead to any significant decline in the abortion rate.

8) The FLO mandates communism. It requires "to each according to his need." To the extent that poverty factors result in premature deaths, the FLO results in a moral obligation to reallocate a society's resources to those who need them [this is based loosely on the Sinnott-Armstrong objection].

9) The FLO is inconsistent with societal notions of bodily autonomy. It is considered rape if you do not have someone's *continuing* consent for intercourse. If someone says "stop" at any time, you have to stop. Giving a fetus the right to live inside a woman's body without her constant consent gives more rights to a fetus than to an adult human male. In addition, we give people rights to their bodies after they die, specifically one cannot harvest your organs after you die unless they have your consent. Saying that a woman has no right to bodily autonomy in the case of a pregnancy gives a pregnant woman a lesser right to bodily autonomy than a corpse.

10) Moral relativism. Because there is no objective morality, each society should determine its own norms by what is deemed acceptable within the community. Only 20% of Americans think that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances. Therefore, it should be legal.

11) A fetus does not have a guarantee of a "future like ours." As Sam Harris is fond of saying, nature is the most prolific abortionist. Up to 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, meaning one-quarter of fetuses are non-viable. The second premise is fundamentally flawed.

12) Sentience, or more specifically the desire to keep existing, is a prerequisite to the right to life. Fetuses lack sentience, so they have no right to life. The objection that an unconscious human (e.g. in a coma) is non-sentient is a non-starter because no one believes that the right to life blinks in and out of existence. Temporary lapses in sentience are immaterial. The question is whether sentience ever existed and can return. But a being that lacks the capacity to care whether it continues to exist cannot have moral rights.

If sentience is not a prerequisite to the right to life, then if we ever developed a device that had the *capability* to make cows sentient, we could no longer eat cows because killing them deprives them of a FLO. But the sentience requirement says we can continue to eat cows because they are non-sentient; they don't care if they live or die. The fact that we *could* turn them sentient is immaterial.

Which of these objections do you guys find most persuasive. Can you think of any others?
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
YYW
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4/4/2014 1:43:09 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 1:09:02 AM, bluesteel wrote:
The FLO [Future Like Ours] argument that abortion is wrong proceeds as follows:

P1: What makes killing adults and children prima facie wrong is that it deprives us of our future of value.
P2: Fetuses have futures like ours.
C: Therefore, abortion is prima facie wrong.

What do you guys think are the best objections to this argument?

I've compiled a few. Which of these do you think are best? Are there any others?

(I cut the objections to allow for character space to respond. Oh, and I'm also fiercely pro-choice, in that sort of condescendingly morally superior way that Liberals are when they talk to mouth breathing pro-lifers.)

1) Moral skepticism.

I think that will appeal to moral subjectivists, and their numbers are increasing but it's not going to make headway with people who didn't already agree to that framework.

2) Premise 1 is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for killing a human being to be wrong. If deprivation of a FLO were *sufficient* by itself, then self-defense would be morally wrong because it deprives someone of a future of value. Other considerations are therefore necessary (e.g. self-awareness, ability to feel pain, capacity to desire the continuation of consciousness).

I agree with the sufficient/necessary objection, but I'd focus my objection on rights to life, and consequential duties to respect life rather than states/aspects of life.

3) The FLO argument relies on the "inference from the best explanation," i.e. that depriving someone of a FLO is the *best* explanation for why murder is wrong. But the FLO picks the *wrong* explanation for why killing is wrong.

That it picks an insufficient reason for being wrong I can buy, but it's only insufficient... saying that it's wrong (unless your criterion for rightness is persuasive viability) is a bit bold.

4) The FLO argument goes too far. If depriving a potential being of a "future like ours" is morally wrong, then using contraception is unethical because it deprives a potential being of a "future like ours."

Now you're arguing against something because it leads to an undesired result, assuming life begins in our own private parts. (which reminds me of a Ron White joke about jacking off, that's as inappropriate to post as it is non-topical, lol, so I'll save that for another time). You're right that it would by implication, assuming live begins when penis ejaculates into vagina (and not necessarily at the point of fertilizing an egg), but I'm just not sure it's the most compelling rejoinder.

5) To get around #4, the FLO has to argue that only determinate beings (already in existence) are entitled to a FLO.

Is a newly fertalised egg a determinant being?

6) Cell cultures.

That's neat, but the possibility of aliens being able to do stuff (or genetic engineers, lol) isn't going to really persuade me one way or another.

7) Utilitarianism.

You don't have to forgo moral absolutes to say that women ought to have a right to abortion because the option's availability achieve's the greatest good for the greatest number. However, the most interesting utilitarian argument for abortion is found in Freakonomics (it involves lower crime rates, and is really racist).

8) The FLO mandates communism. It requires "to each according to his need."

No it doesn't.

9) The FLO is inconsistent with societal notions of bodily autonomy.

That's a compelling argument, but I would more immediately dispose of the idea that a fetus, being a non-person (where my standard for personhood is medical viability) has rights in any sense.

10) Moral relativism.

Again, you're only going to persuade moral relativists. I think, though, that a Rawlsian approach (look at the least advantaged person -the mother- and consider from her perspective if she ought to have the choice) is probably going to be more compelling. It's not exactly a relativistic approach, but it's not as alienating as a relativist approach, either.

11) A fetus does not have a guarantee of a "future like ours."

That works.

12) Sentience, or more specifically the desire to keep existing, is a prerequisite to the right to life.

Interesting, but I think viability is a better (and less ethically precarious) standard. Sandra Day O'Conner does too, for what that's worth.
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bluesteel
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4/4/2014 2:14:54 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 1:43:09 AM, YYW wrote:


moral subjectivists

You think an opponent can prove that objective morality exists? (1) People don't agree on moral propositions, and (2) all moral propositions are circular in that they all start with a premise that is a mere moral assertion -- that people don't necessarily agree with. Someone who disagrees that abortion is wrong would also disagree that a mere FLO entitles you to a right to life. So ultimately, you have to either say that your moral premise is true because (1) it is consistent with what most people in society believe, which is subjectivist, or (2) it is true from the mere fact that it is asserted, which means everything has to be true [e.g. "all swans are black"]. The only possible conclusion is that all moral statements are subjectivist, so moral statements have no value beyond expressing the opinion of the person offering them.

Is a newly fertalised egg a determinant being?

Yes, at least a FLO-advocate would say it is.

You don't have to forgo moral absolutes to say that women ought to have a right to abortion because the option's availability achieve's the greatest good for the greatest number.

I just meant that util is a non-morally absolute system because it allows you to engage in unsavory means if it achieves the proper ends. A morally absolute system that says killing a human being is always wrong would not allow abortion, killing patient Zero, or killing baby Hitler -- regardless of how many lives it saves.

The FLO does not mandate communism.

You may be right, but can you explain further? If I have $5, and someone else needs $5 of food to survive, am I not obligated to give them $5 if failing to do so deprives them of a FLO? Or are you resting on the distinction between affirmative and negative duties?

That's a compelling argument, but I would more immediately dispose of the idea that a fetus, being a non-person (where my standard for personhood is medical viability) has rights in any sense.

For the medical viability argument, what is the moral basis for recognizing a distinction? Is it the contingency of the life, i.e. it's inability to survive outside the womb? There seems to be a problem with contingency because even newborn infants are contingent -- they cannot survive without a caregiver. I can see why it's easy to draw a *legal* distinction at viability, but I fail to see where the *moral* distinction comes from. Not that you're wrong, just I'd like to see your reasoning so that I could advance this argument myself.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
Noumena
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4/4/2014 2:21:52 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
P1 is rubbish. I'm the only one around here allowed to employ the term 'prima facie' to make up for shoddy argumentation.
: At 5/13/2014 7:05:20 PM, Crescendo wrote:
: The difference is that the gay movement is currently pushing their will on Churches, as shown in the link to gay marriage in Denmark. Meanwhile, the Inquisition ended several centuries ago.
YYW
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4/4/2014 2:25:12 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:14:54 AM, bluesteel wrote:
At 4/4/2014 1:43:09 AM, YYW wrote:


moral subjectivists

You think an opponent can prove that objective morality exists?

I think the idea of proving a normative concept is absurd, but that doesn't mean that morality is necessarily objective or subjective. I think that moral principles can be objective, and that can be proven, but their preferential order when in competition with one another is necessarily subjective and so is their application to specific cases. So, in a round about way, I just don't really care about the objective/subjective debate. But, my point is that you're not going to persuade someone who doesn't already buy into moral subjectivism.

Is a newly fertalised egg a determinant being?

Yes, at least a FLO-advocate would say it is.

And that's stupid... and kind of funny at the same time.

You don't have to forgo moral absolutes to say that women ought to have a right to abortion because the option's availability achieve's the greatest good for the greatest number.

I just meant that util is a non-morally absolute system because it allows you to engage in unsavory means if it achieves the proper ends. A morally absolute system that says killing a human being is always wrong would not allow abortion, killing patient Zero, or killing baby Hitler -- regardless of how many lives it saves.

So, I think there's some semantic divergence in how we were using the word "absolute" but that's fair.

The FLO does not mandate communism.

You may be right, but can you explain further? If I have $5, and someone else needs $5 of food to survive, am I not obligated to give them $5 if failing to do so deprives them of a FLO? Or are you resting on the distinction between affirmative and negative duties?

Communism doesn't follow from FLO because FLO doesn't necessarily mandate the positive action to make life be at a certain level of existence, it only stipulates non-interference. I mean, it could, depending on the standard for what constitutes "life," but the way you summarized it above, it doesn't.

That's a compelling argument, but I would more immediately dispose of the idea that a fetus, being a non-person (where my standard for personhood is medical viability) has rights in any sense.

For the medical viability argument, what is the moral basis for recognizing a distinction?

Loosely, only people have rights. Fetuses are not people, because they have not been born. But, Sandra Day O'Conner, again (PP of PA v. Casey, '92) did a better job of making the case than I did here lol...

Is it the contingency of the life, i.e. it's inability to survive outside the womb? There seems to be a problem with contingency because even newborn infants are contingent -- they cannot survive without a caregiver.

So, having the capacity to provide from oneself isn't what's meant by "sustain life" -here, all "sustain life" means is "not cease to have a pulse/breath when ripped from the womb."

I can see why it's easy to draw a *legal* distinction at viability, but I fail to see where the *moral* distinction comes from. Not that you're wrong, just I'd like to see your reasoning so that I could advance this argument myself.
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thett3
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4/4/2014 8:45:03 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
So I don't really buy the argument, mostly because premise one is bogus and I'm not particularly opposed or in favor of abortion as I don't really find either side compelling but I'll try to refute some of your rebuttals since you asked for my thoughts.

>>. If deprivation of a FLO were *sufficient* by itself, then self-defense would be morally wrong because it deprives someone of a future of value.

I don't think this is a good refutation. After all, failing to defend yourself deprives you of future value. On it's face even if we don't take into account the morality of defense, killing a man attempting to kill you deprives the same net amount of future value as failing to defend yourself.

>>If killing is wrong because it deprives a being of a "future like ours," then what about beings who do not have a "future like ours," such as intelligent alien species whose futures would be very different from ours.

I'm not sure that's what is meant by "future like ours" at least not as I understood it. I figured it meant a future defined by moral decision making or if you want to get into Moral skep, rationality. I don't think it would be a stretch at all to say that aliens fall into the "like us" category.

>> However, this argument fails to account for future generations. If I place a booby-trap in a cave and seal the cave for 200 years, no currently existing person can be killed by the booby trap. But I set the cave to *unseal* after 200 years, so some unwitting yet-to-be born person will be killed. The FLO would say that setting the booby trap is not morally wrong because the person that will die is not yet in existence and is therefore not a determinate being.

I'm confused here though, you're arguing in your future point that we shouldn't consider future beings, then argue that it would be immoral to set a booby trap to go off in 200 years. Which is it?

>>You encounter aliens with advanced cloning technology and they tell you that they can use every single cell in your body in order to make a copy of you. The FLO says that each cell can become a being, so you are morally obligated to provide each cell a FLO.

I think this is a bit of a strawman though, similar to saying that if abortion is murder masturbation is mass murder but the key difference is that *without outside intervention* the baby would almost certainly be born. That's quite different from masturbation or cell cloning babies because those *require* intervention to bring a being to life. For this reason even from a hardcore pro life perspective, using a condom is not murder because the egg hasn't already been fertilized.

>>Utilitarianism

I think this goes back to the discussion we were having in PM that I never responded to (exams /:). I don't understand why, under a moral relativist framework, I should value a cost/benefit analysis. It's kind of an infinite regress. If I just agree with your relativistic framework, I can just take out your advocacy by questioning why we should value things. Banning abortion harms women? So what? Why should we care if there are no morals? Surely to make a cost/benefit analysis we need some kind of mechanism to determine what is a "cost" and what's a "benefit", don't we? By arguing util AND moral skep, are you not just presuming that whatever value set you choose to value by maximizing is objective?

>>The FLO mandates communism.

I'm not sure this is true. I think you're putting the cart before the horse if you will. The FLO isn't saying "Do x" It's saying "Do NOT do x". You can make this objection to any argument that values life if you're looking at it this way, but you aren't looking at it the right way. There's a *huge* difference between an argument that tells you what *not* to do and one that mandates action.

>>The FLO is inconsistent with societal notions of bodily autonomy.

Maybe it is, but this is not really an argument against it, is it? It would probably be compelling in front of a lay judge because they would be like "Oh wow, women need rights!" but I could've made this same argument against interracial marriage 50 years ago--it's wrong because it violates societal notions about racial admixture. The truth value of the premises are not related to whether they are societally accepted or not.

>>Because there is no objective morality, each society should determine its own norms by what is deemed acceptable within the community.

Why?

>>A fetus does not have a guarantee of a "future like ours."

Yeah, but you can apply this argument to grown humans as well. I could die while writing this sentence, but that doesn't mean murdering me would be justified just because I don't have an assured future.

>> Sentience, or more specifically the desire to keep existing, is a prerequisite to the right to life.

You have to be careful with this argument...this is one of the things that makes me think speciesism isn't a bad thing after all. It's a nice argument on paper, but could you really stomach the thought of a society where born babies are not considered valuable due to their lack of sentience? Why can't humans be valuable to human society just by merely being humans instead of some vague standard of rationality? Moreover this argument doesn't sit well with me...if rationality is the only determination of moral worth, surely more intelligent people are more morally valuable aren't they? And that's a conclusion that just doesn't sit well with me.
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: At 11/12/2016 11:49:40 PM, Raisor wrote:
: thett was right
thett3
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4/5/2014 2:01:02 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I'm just letting it be known that in a PM bluesteel basically trashed my rebuttals while he was drunk >.>
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"Don't quote me, ever." -Max

"My name is max. I'm not a big fan of slacks"- Max rapping

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: At 11/12/2016 11:49:40 PM, Raisor wrote:
: thett was right