Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument

 

Clinton Wilcox of Life Training Institute was kind enough to read the semi-final draft of this post and provide a brief but insightful critique. This does not mean that he necessarily endorses any of the final contents. However, I wish to take this opportunity to thank him.

 

The strongest argument for abortion rights is usually considered to be the bodily-rights argument. Perhaps the most effective variation of it that I have seen appeared in a (negative) comment under Kristine Kruszelnicki’s March 11, 2014 guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog:

They [both mother and unborn child] are entitled to their own bodily rights. So exactly how does a fetus have the right to co-opt another person’s body without consent?

Let’s say for example medical science has progressed to the point of being able to transplant a fetus into another human being. In an accident a pregnant woman is injured to the point of immanent [sic] death, does that fetus have the *right* to be implanted into the next viable candidate without consent?

The commenter was arguing, in other words, “A woman who is a candidate to be made pregnant in that futuristic way would have a right to refuse to let her body be so used – everyone would agree. Therefore, why should a woman who has become pregnant in a more usual way not also have a right to refuse to continue the pregnancy?”

In the context of the abortion debate (and, significantly, in hardly any other context), the term “bodily rights” comes up often. Synonyms still more commonly used are “bodily integrity” and “bodily autonomy,” but I will say “rights” because it is rights that have practical consequences. If anything can help determine the practical outcome “Woman goes through with abortion,” it is a right, not an abstract “integrity” or “autonomy.”

The above fetus-implantation version or any version of the bodily-rights argument could be rebutted by pointing out that most pregnant women voluntarily engaged in a sex act that caused the pregnancy in the first place, and therefore have a responsibility for the child (the “responsibility argument”); but this rebuttal does not work in cases of rape, and is not convincing to some people in any situation – for reasons which I need not discuss here but will refer to in an appendix. Thus the argument remains logically strong. But is it logic alone that makes an argument strong or weak? I would like to approach this from the perspective that an argument is an instrument for changing some of another person’s brain circuitry, and the ideas that correlate with that circuitry, to resemble part of one’s own circuitry and ideas, and that some value-related circuitry and ideas are better for us as individuals and as a species than others. I will contend that though logical demonstrations (such as the above thought experiment) and their rebuttals have an important place in the debate about bodily rights, there is no clear logical resolution to the debate one way or the other; that in seemingly logical demonstrations there are psychological factors at play apart from factors which are purely logical, and that those factors sway us from our normal intuitions; and that those factors can be neutralized by understanding them and by other techniques.

I would like to see people question where their convictions come from, because I think that the more they examine where they come from, the more they will move toward better convictions.

I would like to proceed according to the following outline:

1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, derive ultimately from intuition.

2. The intuitions of many people, particularly of most pro-lifers, say that the unborn children of pregnant women should be legally protected against abortion in some (not all) situations.

3. The intuitions of most pro-choicers differ from ours in the first place and say that the unborn children of pregnant women should not be afforded any legal protection.

4. There are some people who are, in terms of moral intuitions, “on the fence,” undecided.

5. Some people’s moral intuitions are better than those of others; in this particular area of moral investigation, the intuitions of pro-lifers are better. (Keep reading!)

I think that just as “there is no clear logical resolution to the (overall) debate one way or the other,” the correctness or incorrectness of any moral intuition cannot be logically proved, but that logic can nudge us toward correct moral intuitions, that is, help us find the correct moral intuitions within us. Under this point 5 below I will include a long section analyzing logically the concept of bodily rights. It is designed to nudge us toward more correct moral intuitions about the importance of bodily rights.

6. Though the intuitions of most pro-lifers say that unborn children should in many cases be legally protected against abortion, the intuitions of many pro-lifers also agree with pro-choicers (as do the intuitions of many undecideds) that a woman who is not pregnant (as in the above thought experiment) should not be legally subject to the forcible implantation in her of a child she did not conceive, even to save the child’s life. (And our intuitions also usually say that a violinist to whom we are hooked up should not be given legal protection from unhooking; and our intuitions also agree with various other pro-choice thought experiments designed to reject, in certain situations, legislative enforcement of a broad right to life.)

7. Human logical powers are limited, and therefore a particular situation, situation A, may seem parallel to another situation, situation B, in all the important morally-relevant ways that the human mind can think of, without the two situations necessarily being morally equivalent.

8a. The situation depicted by a thought experiment always includes some imagery of greater or lesser vividness, and some emotional content. If to our logical minds (momentarily or over a longer term) some outrageous situation, A, depicted by a pro-choice thought experiment, does seem parallel to situation B – a legal prohibition on abortion in a normal pregnancy – then the imagery and emotions of situation A get temporarily transferred to situation B. Let’s call this a process of “outrage transfer.” (Below I will touch on the search for an understanding of how events such as outrage transfer might actually work neurologically.)

b. Moreover, if we are subject to an over-fascination with logic, which many people are, then our consciences/intuitions will work with wrong information (the belief that logic can completely prove or disprove the moral equivalence of two situations) and may tell us that if there seem to be strong parallels between the situation of a pro-choice thought experiment that militates against legal protection of some living being, and the situation of pregnancy, then we should discard legal protection of the unborn in pregnancy – in spite of our earlier intuition supporting such legal protection.

8a and 8b are what I had earlier called “psychological factors at play apart from factors which are purely logical.” I had said that those psychological factors “sway us from our normal intuitions” and I had gone on to say, “those factors can be neutralized by understanding them and by other techniques.”

9a. The effects of outrage transfer will fade over time. Moreover, the outrage transfer of a pro-choice thought experiment can be offset or more than offset by pro-life thought experiments such as those involving the separation of conjoined twins, or the “Cabin in the Blizzard” thought experiment of Stephen Wagner et. al. (It can be “more than offset” if only because our minds are impressionable and are always most strongly affected by the imagery and emotional triggers that stimulated them most recently.)

b. Though human logical powers are not sufficient to tell us conclusively about the moral equivalence or otherwise of two situations (as mentioned in 7 above), they are sufficient to convince us of said insufficiency, and thereby to free us from an over-fascination with logic and restore our original trust in our intuition that the unborn deserve legal protection.

 

Someone will say that I am discarding logic and that moreover I am saying that a pro-life position can only be defended by discarding logic. But that is not what I am doing. We should always apply logic to the fullest extent possible, and there are good logical rebuttals to the forcible-implantation and other pro-choice thought experiments, and I will discuss them in brief; but we should not think that logic, even on a base of intuition, can give us final answers to all moral questions, specifically the question of whether a right to life overrides bodily rights in the case of pregnancy.

The foregoing outlines in a simple way the relatively simple thesis that I propose. It is not a counter-thought experiment, such as those mentioned in step 9a above, or other counter-argument to bodily-rights arguments, but a psychological analysis of the arguments. Step 5 of the thesis, above, claiming that the intuitions of pro-lifers are better than those of pro-choicers, cannot ultimately be proven logically, so the entire thesis cannot ultimately be proven logically; whether we like that fact or not, that does not mean that the thesis is not valid. And, given the limitations of logic from both sides, it may be the only pro-life approach that is ultimately valid in face of the bodily-rights argument.

I think this approach is liberating. In a way, I am simply endorsing the common view that moral debates ultimately come down to intuition, and proceeding to say that if people with innate pro-life intuitions can understand what sometimes impedes them from trusting those intuitions, they will better trust them.

1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, derive ultimately from intuition.

I think that moral intuitions (and emotions as well) develop in us before logic, and continue to function in us pre-logically; science and logic develop in us later. And moral intuitions and emotions are both forms of caring. Science and logic operate under certain rules, one of which, for both, is a commitment to dispassion. So science and logic can tell us, in their different ways, what is, but they cannot tell us the meaning of life or convince us to care about anything. And since they cannot convince us to care, convince us that anything matters, they cannot tell us what should be. Only moral intuitions, which are a form of caring, can tell us what should be – can give us moral principles.

I think that we have in us innate pre-logical and pre-verbal moral values (such as “life”). A principle of conduct, for ourself and/or for others, that such a value implies on an intuitive, pre-verbal (and pre-logical) level I would call a moral intuition. I would call it a fundamental, correct and irreducible moral intuition (but we will say more on “fundamental, correct and irreducible” in 5 below). And the same principle on a verbal level I would call a correct moral principle (such as “Thou shalt not kill”). I use “moral absolute” to refer interchangeably to all of these.

Pre-logical moral values, and also moral intuitions, cannot, by definition, be derived through logic. Can moral principles, and secondary moral values which are not pre-logical (honesty might be an example), be derived through logic? I think they can, but that logic will have to appeal to some prior moral principle or moral intuition or moral value. If we continue retracing in this way, we will eventually find values and intuitions, at least happiness as a value, that are self-validating and cannot be derived logically; that is, they rest entirely on intuition. (No one can prove to you logically that you should value happiness.)

I believe in a moral principle, “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child.” I could almost say, “I have a moral intuition, ‘A woman (etc.),’” but as mentioned I think of intuitions as pre-verbal as well as pre-logical, and therefore will say that the moral principle rests on a moral intuition.

I consider that moral intuition and moral principle to be correct. However, I do not consider that moral intuition to be completely fundamental and irreducible. (As mentioned above, I would call either a fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuition, or a moral principle derived from it, a moral absolute. Regarding “correct,” see also under 5 below.)

“I do not consider”: For moral intuitions to be pre-logical means that they come out of our unconscious in some way we cannot understand. Therefore we can’t really know whether a moral intuition is fundamental and irreducible. That the intuition underlying “A woman whose risk of grave loss . . .” is not fundamental and irreducible is just my thinking; and that thinking of mine stems from the fact that I myself did not always have that moral intuition, and that it evolved in me concurrently with my sense of the humanity of the unborn. And my sense of the humanity of the unborn, in turn, evolved concurrently with my understanding of some basic science of the unborn. I do not think that that scientific understanding was the only factor in its evolution, but insofar as it was a factor, I think that it must have seeped into my unconscious and influenced the moral intuition that now comes out of my unconscious. Since my intuition that underlies “A woman whose risk of grave loss . . .” was not present in me prior to the scientific understanding and probably still would not be present without that understanding (and I assume the dynamics would be similar in other people), I say that that intuition is not a fundamental and irreducible one. (In 5 below I explain why I think my present intuition about the humanity of the unborn should be considered correct and my earlier intuition incorrect.)

I think that there is a pre-verbal moral intuition underlying a verbalizable moral principle “No person should be allowed to kill another person who threatens no harm, particularly if the second person is weaker than themselves,” and I think that that intuition is fundamental and irreducible (and also correct — see 5 below). And I think that there is another irreducible and correct moral intuition underlying a moral principle “No person should be allowed to cause the death of any innocent person who is solely dependent on them, by commission or omission, without making some limited sacrifice to save that person.”

Can Moral Principles Be Derived through Logic?

I said earlier that some moral principles can be derived through logic, “but that logic will have to appeal to some prior principle or moral intuition or moral value.” If we are given the above two irreducible principles, would it then be possible to derive the principle “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child” (a principle which is not fundamental and irreducible) simply by applying logic? Logic could help us to this extent: if we can ascertain factually that a sacrifice by the woman of some defined limited degree would be sufficient to save the unborn, and that the unborn is innocent and weak (which it always is), then logic would tell us that this specific case does indeed meet some of the conditions (the innocence, the weakness, and the fact that the sacrifice can save a life) of the two more general principles.

However, in order for those general principles and that logic necessarily to lead thereafter to the principle about the pregnant woman, 1) the “limited sacrifice” in one’s intuition must not be too limited; 2) since it is a weak and innocent “person” who must be spared, one may need to intuit that the unborn is a person; and 3) it may be necessary that in one’s intuition, the importance of bodily rights is not so great as to warrant killing the unborn under any circumstances. Thus in order to arrive at the principle about the pregnant woman, logic alone would not be enough – further intuitions would be required as well. Intuitions about personhood and about the importance, or lack thereof, of bodily rights will be discussed further, or referred to, under 3 and 5 below.

(People will vary a lot regarding the extent of the “limited sacrifice to save a dependent person” that they might feel should be legally required; while I along with many others might feel that the “limited sacrifice” would extend to a woman’s having to carry at least a best-case pregnancy to term, many other people might not feel that, even if the unborn is indeed a person and if bodily rights do not have great importance.)

Besides the possibility of arriving at the moral principle about the pregnant woman by combining different more general intuitions and some logic, I think it is also possible to arrive at that moral principle by directly finding in oneself a moral intuition underlying that moral principle.

We could try to derive the two irreducible moral principles in turn from the more general prior moral intuitions/principles “One person should not kill another” and “One person should not be allowed to kill another,” but we intuit that the latter two principles are not universally correct. We do not find any prior moral principles from which we can logically derive our two irreducible moral principles, but from those principles we can, partly with the help of logic, derive “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to abort.” That is, there is an irreducible moral sense about how a helpless, innocent being should be treated if it is a person, and that sense operates in conjunction with our ontological sense that the unborn is a person (a sense that has components of intuition, logic and a minimal knowledge of embryology – see under 5 below about ultrasound imaging, etc.) – if one’s intuition about the importance of bodily rights is not too strong – to arrive at “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to abort.” The prior, irreducible moral sense itself stems from neither science nor logic. (Though logic can help us find that sense, as we will discuss under 8a below.)

A tacit understanding in moral debates seems to be, let’s first find an intuition we can agree on, then try to select between those we can’t agree on using logic based on the first intuition. I think that the two irreducible moral principles rest on correct intuitions and ones that most people would share. (Though people will vary a lot regarding the extent of the “limited sacrifice to save a dependent person” that they might feel should be legally required; numerous people might not feel that the “limited sacrifice” would extend to a woman’s having to carry even a best-case pregnancy to term, even if the unborn is indeed a person and if bodily rights do not have great importance.) Among the people who share those intuitions, it might be possible to derive some secondary principle through logic alone, but I think that to derive “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to abort” requires factors besides logic. (As mentioned, see under 3 and 5 below.)

Neuroscientist Sam Harris has authored a book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, whose title speaks for itself to a great extent, but even he admits in the book that science can begin such endeavors only once we intuitively accept that the greatest possible human well-being is better than the greatest possible human misery. Thus intuition is fundamental. And the fact that there may be many wrong intuitions does not mean that there are no right ones, or that there is ultimately any other possible basis for morality, or that it is not possible to discover the right ones in oneself.

Under 5 below I will discuss one psychologist’s theory of “hardwired moral universals.”

2. The intuitions of many people, particularly of most pro-lifers, say that the unborn children of pregnant women should be legally protected against abortion in some (not all) situations.

I have mentioned above my own intuition underlying the moral principle “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child.”

3. The intuitions of most pro-choicers differ from ours in the first place and say that the unborn children of pregnant women should not be afforded any legal protection.

I think that the three main determinants of the possible moral intuition “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child” are as follows: First, the presence of the two prior, irreducible moral intuitions “No person should be allowed to kill another person who threatens no harm, particularly if the second person is weaker than themselves” and “No person should be allowed to cause the death of any innocent person who is solely dependent on them, by commission or omission, without making some limited sacrifice to save that person” (discussed under 1 above). Second, the “ontological intuition” that the unborn is a person (to be discussed under 5 below). Third, one’s individual intuition about the importance of bodily rights (to be discussed under 7 below). I think that most people share the prior moral intuitions about killing – which I have called moral absolutes – but I think that pro-choice people have different ontological intuitions about the unborn than do pro-life people, or different intuitions about the importance of bodily rights, or different intuitions about both.

4. There are some people who are, in terms of moral intuitions, “on the fence,” undecided.

Step 4 requires no further explanation.

5. Some people’s moral intuitions are better than those of others; in this particular area of moral investigation, the intuitions of pro-lifers are better.

I am not a moral relativist, and said in 1 above that I think that there are moral absolutes. What this means to me is that at the deepest level of everyone’s mind, we all intuit the same moral values.

I would use the following framework to think about the psychology of morality:

The highest good that human beings can achieve is transcendent experience – whether we speculate about that experience in the way that materialists do, as purely the functions of neurons, or in the way that spiritualists do, as a deepened apprehension of a non-material soul, or communion with a non-material higher power – and whether or not we think that such experience culminates in any final enlightenment or salvation.

A prerequisite for transcendent experience is the expansive peace of a clean conscience, which may also be called the next-highest good that human beings can achieve.

To achieve a perfectly clean conscience, our behavior must be consistent with certain moral values that are innate in all of us at a deep intuitive level, whether we interpret those values and those levels of the mind materialistically or spiritually. As mentioned in 1 above, I use “moral absolutes” to refer interchangeably to the innate values, or to the principles of conduct that they imply on an intuitive, pre-verbal, level (correct moral intuitions), or to the principles on a verbal level. Different philosophies and scientific theories may interpret in different ways how those values got there and how they may fit into any cosmic design, but anyway we are stuck with them. If we follow those moral values and adhere to the practical moral principles that they imply, we can move in the direction of transcendent experience. If our behavior departs from those values, we come in conflict those values. If we are in conflict with them, even if our conscious minds are not aware of them, our conscious minds will nevertheless be disturbed. (While if our conscious minds hold incorrect moral intuitions because we have not discovered the deeper correct ones, and we depart from those incorrect intuitions, the mind may also feel guilty and disturbed, but I think less so.)

A moral intuition, correct or incorrect, is a pre-logical and pre-verbal sense of right or wrong that comes out of our unconscious in some way we cannot understand.

Now let’s look at the practical moral principles on the verbal level that I mentioned above. When skeptics hear claims that the moral codes (a moral code = a set of moral principles) of different religions were given by God, they sometimes respond with the question, “Do you think that before such-and-such moral code existed (for instance, before Moses came down from Mt. Sinai), no one knew that (for instance) it was wrong to kill?” I do not think that such codes were given by God, but I do not think that the formulation of codes is completely pointless, either. I think that some people have probed deeper into their own minds than have others, and that those who have gone deeper are in better touch with certain moral values that are universal – our moral absolutes. Such people can sometimes teach us, better or faster than we can teach ourselves alone, the kinds of behavior that will bring us the reward of inner peace, the reward of a clean conscience.

The tricky part, of course, is to identify such people. Some might deny that anyone even has better moral intuitions than anyone else. If people with better intuitions do exist, identifying them, too, is a matter of intuition. But I think few of us would doubt that the Buddha’s intuition about the richness of life was better than that of Genghis Khan. Few would doubt that Martin Luther King’s intuition about the sister- and brotherhood of all humanity was better than that of Jeffrey Dahmer. And if there is agreement about identifying extreme contrasts, then it becomes hard to maintain that identifying nuanced differences is a completely impossible project.

I have my guesses as to the identities of some persons of the past who might qualify as moral authorities in this way, and they are all on record as valuing life, but are not on record as to a specific position on abortion. Therefore there would be no point in sharing my guesses, and we must do the best we can with our own intuitions.

I spoke above of “certain moral values that are innate in all of us at a deep intuitive level.” Psychology professor Paul Bloom, author of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, said in an interview (though I don’t claim that he would support my whole thesis) that while some moral values “are the product of culture and society” and “not in the genes,” “there also exist hardwired moral universals – moral principles that we all possess. And even those aspects of morality . . . that vary across cultures are ultimately grounded in these moral foundations.” I think that such irreducible moral universals, which Bloom, using neurological language, calls “hardwired,” are the same thing that I have described and which are one of my meanings of “moral absolutes.” I think that these values are, if not completely absolute, then at least the best wisdom available, until the day comes when science is all-knowing or nearly so, to guide us in our individual and collective decisions. Bloom goes on “. . . if we look hard enough, we can find common ground with any other neurologically normal human . . .”

However, I find a meaning in this last sentence beyond the meaning that Bloom may have intended. I think that in everybody, the moral universals get buried to a greater or lesser extent by an assortment of neurotic emotional needs that vary from person to person. Therefore even for each person to find the moral universals in themselves, much less finding the common ground with others that Bloom mentions, may take a long time or a very long time, and may require “looking hard.”

And Bloom also says, “Furthermore, some psychological systems that are pretty plainly biological adaptations might emerge late in development – think about the onset of disgust at roughly the age of four, or the powerful sexual desires that emerge around the time of puberty.”

I think that the deepest and most correct moral intuitions about the unborn and how they should be treated tend to emerge after a person’s youth; and that is in part because of an ontological sense about the unborn (mentioned under 1 above, and in 3 above called one of the “main determinants” of a pro-life intuition) that may take time to develop and may in turn be shaped in part by some minimal scientific knowledge – knowledge about the outlines of embryology.

Thus the deepest and most correct intuitions are always present in us, but are sometimes covered over by neurotic emotional needs, and also screened from us due to a lack of familiarity with our own deepest nature which might simply be called “callowness.”

Ontological Intuitions about Personhood

I said above that the deepest and most correct moral intuitions about the unborn depend on an ontological sense partly shaped in turn by some minimal scientific knowledge. Besides scientific knowledge, that ontological sense itself contains a large component of intuition – we might better pin down such intuition as “ontological intuition” rather than “moral intuition.” And here we find wide differences between people that may derive from a more general kind of perceptual predisposition. In thinking of the unborn, some people tend to perceive a still picture, an organism frozen in time, while some tend to perceive a process. If you kill a small clump of cells lacking, perhaps, even a beating heart, is it correct to say that you are killing an organism whose life presently has little value, or to say that you are depriving it of the complete human life which has started as a process? In fact, both statements are correct. Obviously the perception of a process is a more complete perception. If one does perceive a process, then one will likely intuit that the unborn is a full-fledged member of human society, and will call it a person. But there is no way to prove logically that the process model is more valid morally than the frozen-in-time model as a basis for deciding the fate of the organism.

Under 1 above and in this section, I have spoken of moral intuitions that are correct. Would I also call any ontological intuition correct or incorrect? I defined correct moral intuitions as those that are conducive to a clean conscience. I would call the “process” perception of the unborn holistic, and would call the frozen-in-time perception reductive or mechanistic; but scientifically, neither is incorrect, and if someone sincerely gravitates toward the frozen-in-time perception and acts accordingly – not betraying their moral intuition that demands one “make some limited sacrifice to save a dependent person,” but sincerely feeling that the unborn is not a person – then I would think their conscience will not suffer as long as they feel that way. When a parent has an unborn child aborted and is fine with it for some years and then begins to regret, I think this is often due to a change in ontological intuition – “Oh, it was a person after all.”

Though people’s consciences will not suffer for their actions against the unborn based on the intuition that the unborn is not a person, people are nudged toward that intuition by a reductive and really limited view of the unborn, and nudged toward “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child” by a more complete view of the unborn – a view that I think will, over a period of time in human society, supplant the more limited view. I said at the outset of this paper that “the correctness or incorrectness of any moral intuition cannot be logically proved, but . . . logic can nudge us toward correct moral intuitions.” Likewise, the ontological intuition that the unborn is a person cannot be proved logically to be correct, but it is undeniable that the “process” perception of the unborn is a more complete perception. I intuit that the unborn is a person and believe that to be a correct intuition; and that more complete perception is likely the main factor that brought me to that intuition.

Even if one’s ontological and moral intuitions are developed as a function of time and experience, the operation of any one of them may be impaired by some neurotic emotional need, as mentioned above, resulting in different personality traits including, for instance, a rigid adherence to an ideology that happens to serve the need.

Above I said that people who have probed deeper into their own minds than have others, are in better touch with the universal moral values we all possess, and that they can sometimes lead us toward the discovery of those values better or faster than we can lead ourselves alone. But moral development means probing within, whatever the vehicles of that probing – whether we do it assisted or unassisted. And if any particular kind of development can be called perfectly central to the whole process, it is the development of selflessness – a reflexive sense that others matter more than oneself. And the more a person is developed in this way (as a particular consequence for one of the “main determinants” mentioned under 1 and 3 above), the less will seem the importance of bodily rights – the rights not only of the persons themselves, but of others as well. They will be more established in some principles that I consider, at a deep mental level, to be universal, and that I called (under 1 above) irreducible, “No person should be allowed to kill another person who threatens no harm, particularly if the second person is weaker than themselves” and “No person should be allowed to cause the death of any innocent person who is solely dependent on them, by commission or omission, without making some limited sacrifice to save that person” – even if that other person is crossing one’s bodily boundaries to some extent.

Setting aside for now this kind of development, in which I don’t claim any great personal progress, I would like to sound a personal note about what I have called “ontological intuition” in relation to the unborn. My own confidence in my own intuition that the unborn are my full-fledged sisters and brothers in one human society – that they are not second-class citizens – comes from having earlier on experienced the opposite point of view about them within myself. Earlier in my life I did indeed perceive them as second-class citizens at best, as insignificant objects. My thinking of them now in an inclusive way, as members of my society and family, not only carries with it a ring of truth, but is accompanied by greater joy and mental expansion for myself than I had when thinking of them as different from and less than myself. Surely my present intuition has benefited from the passage of time, and is deeper and more universal. From being able to compare both points of view within myself, I feel that I cannot be mistaken.

I have now offered two logical arguments in support of the intuition that the unborn, at any stage, is a person: the fact that the intuition of personhood would seem to be supported by the perception of the unborn as a process, while that perception is more complete than the frozen-in-time perception; and the fact that I have been able to compare both points of view within myself. Nevertheless, the correctness of no intuition can be proved logically. The main purpose of this paper is not to show by argument that certain intuitions are correct, but rather to show how we can be swayed from the pro-life intuition by what I called at the outset “psychological factors at play apart from factors which are purely logical.” I had gone on to say: “those factors can be neutralized by understanding them and by other techniques.” Those factors will be discussed in 8a and 8b below, and how to neutralize them in 9a and 9b.

As mentioned at an early point, I cannot prove the validity of my intuitions logically to the satisfaction of anyone who doubts them, and therefore my entire thesis cannot be proven logically. I think that the human race is evolving in the direction of a greater sense of inclusiveness and interconnectedness – interconnectedness with other individuals of our own species (of different races, different geographical locations and different genders), and interconnectedness with individuals of other species – and I think that a sense of our interconnectedness with the unborn of our species will consummate this evolution. Science is playing a key part in the evolution of intuition; in the case of the unborn, the science of ultrasound imaging and other imaging is having a famous impact; logic as such, I think, will play only a small part; while the major part will be played by each individual exploring within, on the principle of “Know thyself.” In this way the validity of the pro-life intuition will prevail.

In the meantime, issues of abortion, like other public issues, will be decided not by logical consensus but by the usual clash of political forces that have always decided public issues, which include, in most countries, some manifestation of the forces of democracy. The personhood and citizenship of the unborn will be established, and abortion will be outlawed, when a strong majority within each country will support such changes, and I think that that day will be hastened when those whose intuitions already support such changes decide to trust their intuitions.

Humanity evolves. At one time in human society, torture and massacre was simply the obvious thing for a winning side to do. The idea that it was wrong would have been very strange. To quote Bloom again, “Good moral ideas can spread through the world in much the same way that good scientific ideas can, and once they are established, people marvel that they could ever have thought differently.”

Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

It may never be logically or scientifically provable that some persons’ intuitions are better than those of others. But it is a scientific fact that in a democratic country, a majority can prevail. This is a war that cannot be won by logic alone. It is a political war within an evolutionary context. I think that the best way to assemble a big pro-life majority is to reassure people that they can trust their intuitions.

Moral Intuitions about Bodily Rights

Just above I mentioned how intuitions about the importance of bodily rights can change through an evolution toward selflessness. As already mentioned under 1 and 3 above, one’s intuition about the importance of bodily rights is one of the main determinants of the possible moral intuition, “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child.”

The moral importance or unimportance of bodily rights ultimately depends on our intuition about them. Their importance or unimportance cannot be logically proved. An evolution toward selflessness is one factor that can effect a decrease in the importance that one intuitively attributes to bodily rights. But also, while logical thought cannot prove the relative unimportance of bodily rights, I think that just as it can nudge us toward a more correct ontological intuition about the personhood of the unborn, it can also nudge us toward a more correct moral intuition about bodily rights.

(I have tried to make the distinction between “proving,” and “nudging” or “finding,” and to discuss the process of nudging or finding in some detail, in “Moral Intuition, Logic, and the Abortion Debate”.

Bodily Rights as a Concept: Their Definition and True Importance

Logic can be used in a number of ways to help put bodily-rights arguments in perspective. One way is to counter bodily-rights arguments that depend on analogies by exposing the disanalogies in them (see section 7 below). Another way, the way that I will attempt here, is to logically analyze the concept of bodily rights: what are they and how important are they? I hope that this analysis will nudge us toward more correct moral intuitions about the importance or unimportance of those rights.

 

[This section has been superseded by "Bodily Rights and a Better Idea."]

 

While still thinking about bodily rights as a concept, let’s take just a minute to think about how that not-very-useful concept might have come to take hold of many people’s minds (apart from minds that might have been influenced by some formal logical sequence such as the above). Below (under 8a) we will see how through a thought experiment or analogy our negative or positive intuitive feeling about one bodily-rights infringement can get transferred to another infringement that does not really deserve that same intuitive feeling (this can happen if, logically, we cannot clearly identify where the parallels between the first situation and the second fail). More broadly, I would argue that the whole concept of bodily rights has gained a cachet by association with a few sensational thought experiments involving hypothetical violations of bodily rights. (I introduced this idea above, saying that “the concept has been successfully used.”) I suspect that the evolution or invention of bodily rights, as a concept, was driven by the compulsion that the human mind sometimes has to taxonomize and categorize, and particularly to do so on behalf of some political agenda. Though I know little about the history of philosophy, I wonder if bodily rights/integrity/autonomy as a value in itself, separate from any real harm that may occur when such rights are violated in a specific situation, was not largely contrived or invented in fairly recent times specifically for its usefulness as an argument supporting abortion rights. For now, I will just suggest this possibility as a topic for further research.

In the most classic of bodily-rights arguments on behalf of abortion rights, Judith Jarvis Thomson used expressions such as “[a woman’s] right to decide what happens in and to her body”; at one point she summed up her purpose as: “I am arguing only that having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body – even if one needs it for life itself.” In that long paper she never used the shorthand “bodily rights” or “bodily integrity” or “bodily autonomy,” so I wonder whether those phrases were in currency at that time, or gained currency only thereafter.

Also for historical research: At the beginning of her paper, Thomson says: “Indeed, it comes as a surprise when one first learns how early in its life it begins to acquire human characteristics. By the tenth week, for example, it already has a face, arms and legs, fingers and toes; it has internal organs, and brain activity is detectable.” Considering her insistence that the unborn is not a person, this appears like a generous gesture of admission. But I wonder if 1971 was a point in the advance of embryology when it was just becoming clear that the it’s-not-a-person argument was a losing game, and that some new argument for abortion rights must be found.

Special-Rights Pleading

As a side note, let’s address the charge sometimes made in support of bodily-rights arguments, “In no situation other than in pregnancy would any person be allowed to use the body of another person against their wishes, so to allow the unborn to do so would be special-rights pleading.” A long answer could be given adducing the broader spirit of parental-responsibility laws, etc., accepted in society, but to keep it brief: rather than “special-rights pleading,” it would be more accurate to say that the truest defense of a pro-life position rests simply on the intuition that the developing child in the womb deserves a certain degree of protection, and that any hypothetical innocent person in the womb, causing no more harm than a developing child in a normal pregnancy, would deserve the same degree of protection. There will never actually be any other innocent person in that position, but because a developing child happens to be the only one who actually is, does not mean that the child is being given special treatment. It is simply a unique situation.

Moreover, if pro-choicers think that pro-lifers are willing to give special legal rights to the unborn, how can they plausibly account for that willingness? They must attribute it to religious belief, or to some psychological imbalance – or, if the pro-lifer holds no such religious tenet, and the psychological theory doesn’t withstand scrutiny – to an intuition that values the unborn over the born. But many, probably most, of their own number intuit a special valuelessness for the unborn. How can they think that pro-lifers’ intuitions are so different from theirs? I said above that “we find wide differences” among people’s “ontological intuitions,” but it would be strange to find such polar opposites. In fact we find many pro-lifers who intuitively give some degree of greater value to a third-trimester child than to a first-trimester child – so if special rights are backed by intuitions of specialness, then those who theorize about special rights would now have to adjust their theory such that the value assessments of some pro-lifers go, in descending order, late-term unborn → early-term unborn → born.

Looking at my own moral intuition about pregnancy (which says that the woman does not normally have the right to refuse shelter to the unborn already in her), that intuition has little if anything to do with the stage of development. It does have to do with helplessness and innocence, but really applies to the whole situation. My intuition would be the same about an equally helpless and innocent thirty-year-old – if a thirty-year-old could be in any such situation.

I would also say that if the best moral intuitions of the human race were to grant the unborn special rights, then I think they should have such rights, and that there would not be any philosophical flaw in that.

 

Above I mentioned that “where the relevant boundary lines” (of experiencing mental harm from the trespass of one’s physical boundaries) “are drawn varies significantly from one part of the world to another.” Such perceptions of boundary lines must vary from individual to individual also, and, partly influenced by this, intuitions about the importance of bodily rights (rights which we have seen to relate to possible mental harm only) must vary as well. I also said something above about how such intuitions can change with the development of selflessness.

 

By now we have explained the basics of what I consider the three main determinants (first introduced under 1 above, and mentioned again under 3 above) of the possible moral intuition “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child.” To review: First, the presence of the prior, irreducible moral intuitions “No person should be allowed to kill another person who threatens no harm, particularly if the second person is weaker than themselves” and “No person should be allowed to cause the death of any innocent person who is solely dependent on them, by commission or omission, without making some limited sacrifice to save that person.” Second, the ontological intuition that the unborn is a person (which in turn is likely to develop with the passage of time and to be facilitated by some understanding of embryology). Third, one’s individual intuition about the importance of bodily rights. I have called the irreducible moral intuitions moral absolutes, and I think that most people share them. Regarding the other intuitions there is more individual variation.

6. Though the intuitions of most pro-lifers say that unborn children should in many cases be legally protected against abortion, the intuitions of many pro-lifers also agree with pro-choicers (as do the intuitions of many undecideds) that a woman who is not pregnant (as in the above thought experiment) should not be legally subject to the forcible implantation in her of a child she did not conceive, even to save the child’s life. (And our intuitions also usually say that a violinist to whom we are hooked up should not be given legal protection from unhooking; and our intuitions also agree with various other pro-choice thought experiments designed to reject, in certain situations, legislative enforcement of a broad right to life.)

The psychology of our opinions will be elaborated on under 8a below.

7. Human logical powers are limited, and therefore situation A may seem parallel to situation B in all the important morally-relevant ways that the human mind can think of, without the two situations necessarily being morally equivalent.

I suggested in section 5 above that correct moral intuitions serve to steer us toward peace of mind and transcendent experience. It may be said that to do this effectively, they must employ a kind of logic. Our conscious logical processes can attempt to replicate that unconscious logic, but since that unconscious logic remains, by definition, hidden from our view, we will never know if we have succeeded. Moreover, human logical powers are limited, those of some humans much more than those of others. So we must continue to rely directly on our intuitions.

Suppose we feel different moral intuitions (correct or incorrect) about two situations that seem, within the limits of our logical powers, to be morally equivalent. Our conscious logic cannot completely understand either of those moral intuitions, so of course it cannot know if the situations are really morally equivalent. And if they are not, it cannot necessarily know what factors are, according to unconscious logic (if it can be called logic), responsible for the difference.

I mentioned early on that “. . . there are good logical rebuttals to the forcible-implantation and other pro-choice thought experiments, and I will discuss them in brief; but we should not expect that logic . . . can give us final answers to all moral questions . . .”

So though I do wish to deflate the exaggerated importance sometimes given to logic in moral inquiries, let us see now what use we can make of logic within its rightful domain. Here I distinguish logic as such from psychological and neurological analysis, which I will look at under 8 and 9 below. Logic as such can be applied first by looking at specific analogies and disanalogies per se, and secondly by analyzing bodily rights as an abstract concept. Though I am presenting the latter here, it is not really a part of the elaboration of “situation A may seem parallel to situation B in all the important morally-relevant ways . . .”

Disanalogies

I will be very brief as regards specific analogies and disanalogies per se, since they have been and are the topic of sufficient debate elsewhere:

Our logical minds can certainly find differences between the situations depicted by pro-choice thought experiments, on the one hand, and the prevention of abortion in normal pregnancies, on the other hand. For instance, in the forcible-implantation thought experiment, the use of force is initiated by society against the woman, whereas if society decides to prevent an abortion, it is the woman who has decided to initiate violence; and any force that society applies (which is likely not to be applied against the woman herself anyway, but against an abortion clinic) will not be initiated by society but will be a response to her original attempt to commit violence or have it committed. Pro-choice thought experiments in which someone is forced to give up a kidney reflect this same disanalogy.

In the violinist thought experiment, this particular disanalogy is avoided, because the use of force against the woman was initiated by some kidnappers who do not represent official society; official society merely comes to the rescue of their objective later – as it does if society says that a rape pregnancy must continue. But in this thought experiment, a disanalogy is that the burden inflicted on the protagonist – confinement to bed for nine months – is bigger than the burden of a normal pregnancy.

In the cases of both the forcible-implantation and violinist thought experiments, a disanalogy with normal pregnancy is the lack of biological relatedness between the woman and the child.

Pregnancy is a unique situation. It defies analogy. One consideration present in no other situation is this: Humanity is more than just the sum of its parts. It is also a collectivity, and we all depend on it as such. Everyone begins their life by using the body of one representative of that collectivity – they may even use a body that has already been used by other children three or four or n times and might have started feeling tired. So everyone should be prepared, if the necessity ever arises, to pay back to that same representative or another representative. How a pregnant woman can pay back to a certain other representative, her child, is obvious. Others should be prepared to pay back in other ways.

Our logical minds can identify some such disanalogies, but not necessarily all. And our logical minds cannot assign the correct moral weight to be given to the differences between the situations, which would be necessary if a thought experiment were to convince us logically that abortion should or should not be legal. (For instance, logic can help me identify the biological-relatedness difference between two situations, but it doesn’t help me much in assigning moral weight to that difference; it is according to my intuitions, not my logic, that biological relatedness happens to carry almost zero moral weight.)

I will ask below, under 8b, “How do I really know, with my logical mind, exactly what disanalogy [between some thought experiment and actual pregnancy] was significant enough to tip the balance in causing me” to find the intuition that I should protect the child? I do not think that it is necessarily possible to know all the logical factors that may contribute to any valid moral intuition. I suspect that in relation to pregnancy and abortion, our debt to a representative of the collectivity, and hence to the collectivity, may carry a lot of weight. For more on the workings of intuition in relation to different situations, see under 8a.

And for some further good thinking about relevant disanalogies, see Kristine Kruszelnicki’s “Unwanted Pregnancy: Forced Organ Donation?

8a. The situation depicted by a thought experiment always includes some imagery of greater or lesser vividness, and some emotional content. If to our logical minds (momentarily or over a longer term) some outrageous situation, A, depicted by a pro-choice thought experiment, does seem parallel to situation B – a legal prohibition on abortion in a normal pregnancy – then the imagery and emotions of situation A get temporarily transferred to situation B. Let’s call this a process of “outrage transfer.”

Josh Brahm of Equal Rights Institute has observed that the main thing thought experiments are ultimately all about is helping us “find our moral intuitions.” I think this is true no matter how logically intricate a thought experiment may be. Our intuitions work based on our knowledge of the world, which comes importantly from science; and trying logic every which way can also help us arrive at any correct moral intuition. But neither science itself nor logic itself has any sense of right and wrong.

Some kids are massacred at the Sandy Hook school. We say, “Just think how you’d feel if those had been your kids.” But it is not the fact that we would feel a certain way if they had been our kids that makes the massacre wrong. That is just a way of helping us find our moral intuition about the event.

Though I said that “trying logic every which way can . . . help us arrive at any correct moral intuition,” I frankly think that in relation to abortion legislation, most pro-choicers are so far away from a holistic intuition about the moral value of the unborn, that logic will have particular limits in its ability to bring intuition to the surface (which is not to say that any given pro-choicer individually may not have correct intuitions in other moral areas that any given pro-lifer may lack). In thinking of the unborn, as mentioned under 5 above, some people tend to perceive a still picture and some tend to perceive a process, and there is no way to prove logically which perception is more valid morally as a basis for deciding the fate of the organism. So on the intellectual level the public issue will long remain intractable, though on the political level one side or the other must of course prevail. Pro-choicers who use the bodily-rights argument do often grant the personhood of the unborn for the sake of the argument, but I would venture to say that anyone who really relates emotionally to the unborn as their little sisters and brothers, will manage to find that pro-bodily-rights arguments are not the only strong logic that could be explored. The fetus-implantation thought experiment works to the extent it does, by sketching out a situation which we intuitively feel would be unfair and is sensational in tenor: forcibly placing in the uterus of an unwilling woman a fetus conceived within another woman. (The unfairness is subjective and ultimately not absolute. Some women, we know, are fine with being compensated surrogates; the need for compulsory surrogacy, if such a system were enacted, would be rare; if surrogacy were compelled from time to time, it could be compensated in addition to being compulsory; and perhaps if such a system worked on a lottery basis, a majority of people, including of women, might some day vote for it. But for present purposes let’s assume that everyone would find compulsory implantation to be unfair.)

Let’s call that situation (forced implantation) situation A. Situation A seems unfair, and the thought experiment wishes to convince us that situation B (not allowing abortion in a biologically-normal pregnancy – which may even, perhaps, be a biologically-normal pregnancy resulting from rape) is equal to situation A and is also unfair. If to our logical minds (momentarily or in a longer term) situation B does seem parallel to situation A, then I think that the imagery and emotions of situation A get temporarily transferred to situation B – “outrage transfer.” We may then tend to conclude that in situation B also – a biologically-normal pregnancy (particularly one resulting from rape) – a woman always has a right to abort her child.

Joseph LeDoux has stated some findings of neuroscience in bare outline:

While conscious control over emotions is weak, emotions can flood consciousness. This is so because the wiring of the brain . . . is such that connections from the emotional systems to the cognitive systems are stronger than connections from the cognitive systems to the emotional systems.

Neuroscientists think that a neural pathway or pathways related to emotion are directly connected to frontal areas of the brain and can affect our higher decision-making circuitry. As a layman, I imagine science gradually moving towards an ability to actually map the circuitry affected by any thought experiment. Far enough in the future, neuroscience may be advanced enough to help both sides on any issue design their arguments taking into account all neurological factors of psychological impact.

In the case of the forcible-implantation thought experiment, there must be circuitry whereby “outrage transfer” can occur: an image of a forced surgery carried out by a sci-fi-nightmare regime gets conjured up – an image of a masked tactical squad under a nightmare government grabbing an unsuspecting woman off the street and delivering her to some also-faceless white-coated surgeons, for her forced fetus implantation – and that violent image, supported by temporarily-changed circuitry, lingers visually when we shift our discursive thinking to a much less sensational thought – the thought of simply creating legal oversight and control when a pregnant woman, whose child originated within her, decides for her part that she wishes to violently destroy that unborn child. Creating such legal controls may not need to involve any force, rather it aims at preventing a violent procedure if it is not a highly necessary one; in spite of that reality, this unsensational restriction on the woman, motivated by a deep-seated and selfless instinct of protectiveness for a helpless baby, carried out with full compassion for both parties, becomes painted, by the visual image lingering from the forcible-implantation thought experiment, with the brush of a dystopian nightmare. Instincts of self-defense and of selfishness in general then become activated against that benign restriction.

(The forced implantation seems justifiable to almost no one, whereas the restriction in the case of a normal pregnancy is unsensational, compassionate and benign according to the moral intuitions of many, including many women who have borne children.)

The “violinist” thought experiment is another that makes effective use of creepy imagery and a dystopian-nightmare aura. The experiment proposes to show us that “having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body,” but may really only show us that creepiness is creepy. In other thought experiments, the protagonist of the drama is sensationally dragged off to have a kidney removed.

8b. Moreover, if we are subject to an over-fascination with logic, which many people are, then our consciences/intuitions will work with wrong information (the belief that logic can completely prove or disprove the moral equivalence of two situations) and may tell us that if there seem to be strong parallels between the situation of a pro-choice thought experiment that militates against legal protection of some living being, and the situation of pregnancy, then we should discard legal protection of the unborn in pregnancy – in spite of our earlier intuition supporting such legal protection.

This differs from “outrage transfer” because it may occur even in a very cool brain. Logical powers are limited in every human being – in some much more so than in others, but limited in everybody. Yet with seemingly nowhere else to turn when religious faith wanes, many people tend to look for salvation to science and the rational mind. I have heard the claim that science has “proved” persons to be beings with a certain level of mental development, thereby excluding the unborn from personhood. Some people looking for salvation to science might accept such a claim. Some who trust logic yet have little grasp of it, hearing the argument “All beings with a high level of mental development are persons; fetuses do not have a high level of mental development; therefore fetuses are not persons;” might be convinced by a logical fallacy they cannot quite disentangle. In the same way, even the most proficient logician may be fooled if a fallacy is sophisticated enough.

But if we are led by our faith in seeming logic to reject a deep and correct moral intuition – such as I consider the intuition “We should protect our unborn little sisters and brothers” to be – there occurs a separation, or divorce, between heart and head. Infatuated with logic, we have felt compelled to follow what seemed to be logic wherever it might seem to lead, even if our logical powers are not really as great as we believe, and even if logic leads us to a conclusion that does not seem intuitively right. In other words, I may not be able to explain logically why the situation of the enforced surrogate mother-to-be, in the forcible-implantation thought experiment, is different from that of an actual mother-to-be. Under 7 above I listed some differences between the situations, and I could go on and on finding differences and poking holes, but I may still not be sure which if any of those differences and holes accounts for my intuition. Yet even without such pinpointing, my intuition, provided that my mind remains clear, won’t go away – I nevertheless feel that it is right to prevent an actual mother-to-be from killing her unborn child – don’t you? How do I really know, with my logical mind, exactly what disanalogy was significant enough to tip the balance in causing me to reach the reality within that really matters – causing me to find my moral intuition? I don’t know, but even if I cannot identify that which did, that does not mean that I should follow what seems to be logic, against my intuition.

Good people can be logically convinced to commit atrocities.

When pro-choicers base their arguments on scenarios that are certifiably unjust only according to our intuitions, they unconsciously proclaim the primacy of intuition. Without intuition there would be no grasp of morality, perhaps even no morality, so in moral debates, intuition trumps all else. The only tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct.

9a. The effects of outrage transfer will fade over time. Moreover, the outrage transfer of a pro-choice thought experiment can be offset or more than offset by pro-life thought experiments such as those involving the separation of conjoined twins, or the “Cabin in the Blizzard” thought experiment of Stephen Wagner et. al. (“More than offset” if only because our minds are impressionable and are always most strongly affected by the imagery and emotional triggers that stimulated them most recently.)

Let’s try a thought experiment on pregnancy to the opposite effect of the forcible-implantation analogy. The following thought experiment was advanced as a comment from the audience during Monica Snyder’s SPL presentation at Stanford University in February 2014: “. . . conjoined twins . . . you could bring up a hypothetical where one could survive the division and one couldn’t. So does the one who could survive have the right to request an operation? I don’t think anyone would say that that’s right. And there . . . clearly that person is not responsible for being attached [to the other], it’s just a natural [occurrence].”

Just as the fetus-transfer analogy worked to one effect, here the visual image of two conjoined twins, and the associated emotions of compassion for both, and the sense of the unfairness of one demanding the death of its sibling, get conjured up and work to the opposite effect – they come to dominate the visual and emotional parts of our mind and to linger on when our thinking shifts to the thought of a normally-pregnant woman contemplating a typical surgical “division” from her unborn baby. The compassion for both parties, and the sense of unfairness, of the first scenario (here it is the unfairness of division, not, as with the fetus-transfer thought experiment, the unfairness of forcing unification) becomes passed on to the second scenario.

With pro-choice thought experiments swaying the mind in one direction and pro-life thought experiments swaying it in another, the mind is likely to oscillate back and forth for some time. Even after one has found the correct moral intuition on the issue, whatever that may be (I have stated my intuition under 1 above), a new thought experiment or logical argument may nudge one’s mind toward an incorrect intuition. I think that over a long period of time involving learning, logical thinking and life experiences, everyone will tend to stabilize on the correct intuition. But that correct moral intuition we have found will be, like any intuition, pre-logical and pre-verbal. It cannot be said that we have simply come to a correct logical conclusion.

9b. Though human logical powers are not sufficient to tell us conclusively about the moral equivalence or otherwise of two situations (as mentioned in 7 above), they are sufficient to convince us of said insufficiency, and thereby to free us from an over-fascination with logic and restore our original trust in our intuition that the unborn deserve legal protection.

Human logical powers are limited. Who has not made a logical mistake, or encountered a logical problem that ultimately exhausted their brain? The question I have just asked is also an attempt at logic, yet it is simple logic based on a simple observation, such that we can all grasp it and accept it. Thus we can learn to abandon the expectation that we can, beyond a certain point, solve all moral problems logically.

Setting aside logic after a certain point, and clearing our minds of the imagery and emotions of one particular thought experiment by trying an assortment of thought experiments (we might include my “shoulderblade” thought experiment presented in 5 above) – or simply by letting some time pass and taking a deep breath – let us see what our intuition tells us directly about a biologically-normal pregnancy. This is the real process of moral investigation: look at a photo or sonogram of an unborn child, and many of us, I think enough of us, will know that to dismember it or remove it from its support system would be wrong, and also that to protect it would be right.

Rape

At the outset I mentioned that the responsibility argument does not work in cases of rape, because in a rape pregnancy the woman holds no responsibility for having brought the child into existence. As we have seen, I think that the bodily-rights argument fails even when it is not opposed by a responsibility argument. Therefore I think that in making abortion illegal, there should be no exception for rape simply because it was rape. However, if the fact of the rape makes the pregnancy extremely upsetting for the woman, as may commonly happen, that is different. I think that a rape victim should be [Edit: encouraged to focus on] the possible positive outcomes of continuing the pregnancy, not on the negative outcomes. But if in spite of everything, the woman appears almost certainly set to undergo long months of significant distress due to not being allowed to abort, then it would be better to let her abort. This is a distress exception, and distress exceptions should be made in some circumstances other than rape also. It is not a “rape exception.”

Appendix: Judith Jarvis Thomson on Responsibility

This appendix has been expanded into a separate blog post.

© 2014

 

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Some future posts:

Life Panels

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

41 thoughts on “Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument

  1. Hi Timothy Griffy,

    When we talked recently on another website, you agreed to an approach I proposed for resuming the conversation we had conducted on this blog under “Personhood” and “Too Young for Rights?” The approach: “getting down to [the] irreconcilable differences that we could agree to be such, and . . . both understand why they are irreconcilable. . . . I would propose starting like this: I make a list of my few points that I think are stronger now [as of this "Dismantling" post] . . .”

    Here I will first list those points on which I’ve “improved” my side of the argument, and then continue with some of our old points which, while I may not have improved my side, I simply feel could have been pursued farther.

    You may of course add points.

    And then I would propose that unlike last time, we take one item at a time, if we can isolate it, and stay with that till we’ve done all we could.

    IMPROVED

    1. demonstration that moral values ultimately rest on intuition alone (asserted before, but not demonstrated)

    2. partial theory of origin of moral absolutes

    3. “Any person whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill another person who is innocent, particularly one who is weaker than themselves” is a moral absolute

    4. thesis: any effectiveness that pro-choice analogies may have upon the minds of those who otherwise intuit “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to abort” is only due to certain human psychological foibles

    5. the section Bodily Rights as a Concept: Their Definition and True Importance is a touched-up version of a passage I wrote to you before. In what I said at that time about harm to the body, somehow I never spelled out my conclusion. Now I have spelled it out:

    “Meanwhile, the unborn, if they are persons, which bodily-rights arguments grant that they are, also have a right to freedom from bodily harm. So in terms of bodily harm, unwanted pregnancy should not be framed as the bodily rights of one person versus the right to life of the other, but as the right to freedom from bodily harm of each – so that if an abortion is proposed, we simply have to ask who is likely to suffer the greater bodily harm.”

    (I go on: “But now let’s look at harm to the mind.”)

    6. I recycle my touching-hair example, and add: “in fact we find that where the relevant boundary lines are drawn varies significantly from one part of the world to another”

    7. Thomson’s people-seeds analogy leads to a different conclusion than her burglar analogy

    8. it may be true one cannot live without sex, but for some things we cannot live without, there may be a quid pro quo.

    NOT IMPROVED, BUT SIMPLY DIDN’T PURSUE LAST TIME

    1. Is it better to say “acorn,” or “the acorn stage of an oak tree”?

    That completes the list of points that I propose we cover.

    #2 above, “partial theory of origin of absolute values,” might best be skipped until we make some headway. My whole argument depends on there being absolute values, but we both agree there are, so we can proceed without agreeing on where they come from.

    So if it’s okay with you, let’s begin with #1, then skip to #3. #1 is: “demonstration that moral values ultimately rest on intuition alone.” In the post:

    ===================================
    Some moral values and moral principles can be derived through logic, but that logic will have to appeal to some prior moral value. If we continue retracing the values in this way, we will eventually find values, at least happiness as a value, that are self-validating and cannot be derived logically; that is, they rest entirely on intuition. (No one can prove to you that you should value happiness.)

    . . .

    When pro-choicers base their arguments on scenarios that are certifiably unjust only according to our intuitions, they unconsciously proclaim the primacy of intuition. Without intuition there would be no grasp of morality, perhaps even no morality, so in moral debates, intuition trumps all else. The only tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct.
    ==============================================

    Also, I may want to say something about your “My reply would be, ‘If the two-year-old is directly attached to your body and feeding off you, go right ahead [and kill it if you wish].’ Game over.”

    Not pertinent to the arguments, but I’d like your opinion: my view that there may never be a knockdown logical argument on either side.

    • Since we want to get down to our irreconcilable differences and understanding why they irreconcilable, your list of points is a good starting point. Since your “improved” points still do not overcome most of the objections I had originally, they do indeed point to irreconcilable differences. Basically, I would say you get kudos for at least trying to address the objections, but they are either inadequate or they still don’t address the essential core of my objections.

      In addition to your points I think these points will need to be addressed:

      1. Definitions. One way in which you did not improve your argument is in the failure to define terms. The term “intuition” is at best vaguely defined. Terms like “normal pregnancy” and “grave loss” still raises questions who decides what these terms mean and on what basis. We don’t necessarily need to make definitions a topic in itself, but somewhere along the way we need to make sure ambiguous terms are clearly defined for the purpose of the discussion.

      2. Your point #3, “The intuitions of most pro-choicers differ from ours in the first place and say that the unborn children of pregnant women should not be afforded any legal protection” *does* in fact need further discussion. This discussion a logical segue into a discussion of “special rights.” See my point 5 below.

      3. Your point #5, “Some people’s moral intuitions are better than those of others; in this particular area of moral investigation, the intuitions of pro-lifers are better” will probably come up in our discussion of intuition as an adequate basis for forming moral judgments. If it doesn’t, then that should be discussed before we get on to discussing specific points like your discussion topic #3.

      4. Your points 8 and 8a raise questions about what thought experiments can and can’t do. This is related to the problem of relying ultimately on intuition and the role of logic. Insofar as points 9 and 9a are related they need to be discussed as well. To sum up my problems with this section my objections are a) thought experiments are not just about finding moral intuitions, it is about explaining them and b) though a counter-thought-experiment may reassure the faithful, explanation is still needed to illustrate why the resulting moral intuition sufficiently overcomes the issues addressed in the original thought experiment.

      5. The intuitions (as you would put it) of most people are demonstrably against granting special rights to anyone. And the examples you give do not prove the point you are attempting to make because they are not, in fact, instances of special exceptions but serve the interests of a general rule.

      6. Moving from a “rape exception” to a “distress exception” does have a certain amount of appeal. However, your proposal of forcing a rape victim to go through the type of counseling you advocate before having an abortion is in some ways even worse.

      I have no objection with beginning with point #1. I don’t think there is a significant difference between us about whether moral values are derived from intuition, however defined. The difference between us has to do when we start talking about when morality should be applied to legislation, particularly when different people have significant differences in their intuitions. The question is not whether moral values are based on intuition, but why your moral values should be forced upon me. As you said, the “tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct.” That, I submit, cannot be done without appealing to reason.

      • Okay, since I had 8 points, let’s renumber your points 1-6 as 9-14. This does not mean that we have to proceed in numerical order. As we’ll see, I think we’ve already finished point 1 and moved on to 3. After 3, we can negotiate about which of points 4-14 comes next.

        “Since we want to get down to our irreconcilable differences and understanding why they irreconcilable. . . . Since your ‘improved’ points still do not overcome most of the objections I had originally, they do indeed point to irreconcilable differences.”

        Let me add that to me, “understanding why differences are irreconcilable” would mean in part that we do not get stuck on a difference simply because of miscommunication, or evasion by either side, etc.

        “I don’t think there is a significant difference between us about whether moral values are derived from intuition, however defined. The difference between us has to do when we start talking about when morality should be applied to legislation, particularly when different people have significant differences in their intuitions. The question is not whether moral values are based on intuition, but why your moral values should be forced upon me. As you said, the ‘tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct.’ That, I submit, cannot be done without appealing to reason.”

        I think you meant this as your opening shot on point 1. Anyway, there’s no harm if I take it that way and reply.

        “I don’t think there is a significant difference between us about whether moral values are derived from intuition, however defined.”

        Here we’ve already agreed on point 1, haven’t we? And you have now moved on to other things, but those other things include point 3 –

        “‘Any person whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill another person who is innocent, particularly one who is weaker than themselves” is a moral absolute”

        – so we’re not deviating from our structure.

        In my 3 I had actually written “absolute value,” but I had meant to say “moral absolute” because that harks back better to our previous discussion and is what I used in “Dismantling.” I have now changed it to “moral absolute” in the list I had posted also.

        In “Dismantling” I said “I use ‘moral absolutes’ to refer interchangeably to the innate values [which I had said are intuitive], or to the principles of conduct that they imply on an intuitive, pre-verbal, level, or to the principles on a verbal level.” (I confess that I just now touched up the sentence to read like that. By the time we’re finished, I will probably owe this discussion with you, and therefore you, a big debt for having prompted me to be more precise, and possibly for changing some ideas also.)

        “The difference between us has to do when we start talking about when morality should be applied to legislation”

        I don’t think you mean to say that there is no difference between us as to which intuitions are correct. But we both seem to be willing to get to that difference later. Above you seem to be saying “Moral value A may be correct, and contradictory moral value B wrong, but even if I agree with A, we should not legislate in support of A unless we can demonstrate its validity through reason” — is that right?

        Now first of all I have questions about how to “appeal to reason,” but let’s postpone that.

        Secondly, I had said, “Any person whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not BE ALLOWED TO kill another person” (not “Any person whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not kill another person”). (And in “Dismantling” I explained why I include a pregnant woman and her unborn under this principle.)

        And my “Dismantling” point 1 is:

        “1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, derive ultimately from intuition.”

        So I have already addressed legislation, not just morality, and my starting position is that for legislation a perfect demonstration of validity through reason is not necessary. Rather than start by arguing this directly, I would like to ask whether a perfect demonstration of validity through reason is even possible. Because if it’s not, I don’t think we can just dispense with all legislation that forces the moral values of some upon others — we have to find some other basis for such legislation. [Edit: In situations where no one disagrees, no legislation is necessary, and don't a lot of the disagreements in society revolve around moral issues?]

        To illustrate this, let’s come down from the abstract level and look at the present legal/legislative environment in the US, where pro-choicers have forced their moral values on pro-lifers. Pro-choicers have marshaled the power of the courts and police to keep pro-lifers from coming to the rescue of what we see as our little sisters and brothers. Don’t think that we do not feel oppressed, or feel less oppressed when we hear the logic “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one.” We are oppressed by pro-choicers. I don’t think strict pro-choicers are even in the majority in the US, but for now they have the Supreme Court.

        So first a broad question: “Is it ever possible in any society, even if step 1 of philosophical analysis has not yet been taken, to avoid one group’s forcing its moral values on another group?”

        And even if you can find some example somewhere of avoiding that, a more specific question: “Is it possible in terms of the abortion issue, in the present-day US let’s say, even if step 1 of philosophical analysis has not yet been taken, to avoid one group’s forcing its moral values on another group?”

        [Edit: You had said, "I don’t think there is a significant difference between us about whether moral values are derived from intuition, however defined," so I said, "Here we've already agreed on point 1, haven't we?" But all of what I'm terming 9, 10 & 11 (your 1, 2, 3) raise some questions about intuition. Is there in fact more to discuss before we can agree on my 1, "moral values ultimately rest on intuition alone"?]

        [Edit: My "coming to the rescue" in the context of abortion can be seen as forcing moral values, so when pro-choicers force their moral values on pro-lifers with Roe v. Wade, etc., perhaps the pro-choicers are in a position to say, "You started it." For however long I'm in doubt that I had a good point, I'm willing to move on to the next question, which is, "Is it really possible to get away from intuition whenever we force moral values? Do we ever get away from it?" You seem to recognize that forcing moral values is per se morally neutral and thus cannot be used as a specter or bogeyman. It all depends on what values we force and what it accomplishes. A little while ago in Canada a couple were convicted for honor-killing their daughter, which according to their cultural background was nothing but their moral duty. We arrest people for conducting dogfights. Some men no doubt feel quite indignant that anyone would meddle in their family life when they beat their wife. When society interferes in these matters, do we ultimately justify it by appeals to reason, any better than we could justify unborn child-protection legislation that is frankly based on intuition?]

        • I am going to start by dispatching the relatively minor points. I have no problem renumbering my points to 9-14. Keep in mind that a couple of those points may not need to be discussed as distinct topics so long as they are addressed somewhere along the line.

          My last paragraph was indeed meant to be an opening remark on point 1. You are also correct there are questions about intuition that need to be answered, specifically about the nature and usefulness of intuition alone. I suspect much of it will be handled as we go along, but there is nothing that fundamentally detracts from my statement that we have no significant difference between us about the ultimate origin of moral values. The question of how to appeal to reason will certainly come up during the course of this conversation, so I have no objection in principle in postponing your questions.

          I am going to jump ahead here before directly addressing point 3. You’ve raised a couple questions about moving on to legislation that should be answered. “Moral value A may be correct, and contradictory moral value B wrong, but even if I agree with A, we should not legislate in support of A unless we can demonstrate its validity through reason” — is that right?”

          Something like that. Particularly when we are talking about legislation that directly infringes on the rights of others, we must demonstrate a compelling justification for doing so. That can’t be done on the basis of “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” You need to show you are right, and that requires demonstrating the validity of your assertion through reason. A perfect demonstration of validity is not necessary before said legislation is passed (it is doubtful any law would be passed if a perfect demonstration of its validity is necessary). You asked, “Is it possible in terms of the abortion issue . . . even if step 1 of philosophical analysis has not yet been taken, to avoid one group’s forcing its moral values on another group?” I would say yes. You follow the normal process of legislation (during which the philosophical analysis will be undertaken).

          I will take a moment to disagree that legislation is unnecessary for situations where everyone agrees. I doubt there is any significant disagreement that murder is wrong, even among murderers. Nevertheless, despite the (nearly) universal agreement that murder is wrong, legislation is still needed as a practical matter, since people will break rules they agree with in principal. In other words, enforcement mechanisms are necessary even where everybody agrees on a principle.

          “To illustrate this, let’s come down from the abstract level and look at the present legal/legislative environment in the US, where pro-choicers have forced their moral values on pro-lifers. Pro-choicers have marshaled the power of the courts and police to keep pro-lifers from coming to the rescue of what we see as our little sisters and brothers. Don’t think that we do not feel oppressed, or feel less oppressed when we hear the logic “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one.” We are oppressed by pro-choicers. I don’t think strict pro-choicers are even in the majority in the US, but for now they have the Supreme Court.”

          I find your remarks here highly offensive. “Pro-lifers” engage in harassment, intimidation, and violence against abortion clinics, its workers, and its clients. And you want to claim oppression in being told “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one”? Please, you don’t know what oppression is. When pro-choicers start bombing anti-abortion pregnancy counseling centers and assassinating its workers, then you’ll have something to talk about when it comes to being oppressed. Yes, pro-choicers were forced to marshal the power of the courts and police to protect them in the assertion of their legally protected rights. If pro-choicers were to do the same things to “pro-life” clinics that “pro-lifers” do to abortion providers and their clients, they would be entitled to the same protections under the law. The rule is the same for both sides: Your rights end where mine begin.

          And no, your edit does not soften the offensiveness of your original comment. It doesn’t matter who started it because the same rule applies in your examples. The honor killing of one’s daughter violated HER rights, and so society was right to step in. Beating one’s wife violates HER rights, and so society is right to step in. Using harassment, intimidation, and violence in the name of “coming to the rescue” in the context of abortion violates the rights of those who seek and provide abortions, and so society is right to step in. You don’t get to claim oppression when your actions made seeking legal protection necessary in the first place.

          Now I will turn to point 3. This requires going back to the “Dismantling” article itself. First, I would disagree your statement “Any person whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill another person who is innocent, particularly one who is weaker than themselves” is irreducible. You are quite correct in saying “One person should not kill another” or “One person should not be allowed to kill another” doesn’t seem to be universally correct, namely because we can think of a number of situations a number of situations where one person should be allowed to kill another. Self-defense is the primary example, of course. But other *arguable* situations include war, capital punishment, euthanasia/assisted suicide, etc.

          But we can arrive at a statement that does seem to be universally correct on an intuitive level with the addition of one word: “One person should not be allowed to unjustly kill another.” While we may have disagreements about what constitutes an unjust killing, I think that in principle the new statement both universally held and irreducible. Going from there to prohibiting abortion then results from proving that abortion is indeed unjust killing.

          Even if the statement “Any person whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill another person who is innocent, particularly one who is weaker than themselves” were irreducible, it isn’t intuitively universal. Being divorced by one’s spouse could put the divorcee at “risk of grave loss of well-being,” particularly in some societies (and of course, a definition of this term would be helpful). Under this principle, it would seem to follow the spouse threatened by divorce should be allowed to kill the one threatening the divorce. That certainly doesn’t sound right to me, and I doubt it would sound right to you.

          • Thanks. There are a few things in your post that we will have to discuss, but hopefully one at a time. What I see as the central point to concentrate on now is my –

            “Is it really possible to get away from intuition whenever we force moral values? Do we ever get away from it?”

            In order to keep the focus at the same time on the specifics of “Dismantling” & your assertion that its improvements don’t really overcome the objections you had had earlier, let’s remember that this started with my

            - “1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, derive ultimately from intuition” (the improvement being that in “Dismantling” I argued for this idea, rather than just asserting it).

            You basically agreed, but tried to rebut where it was leading to by saying

            - “The difference between us has to do when we start talking about when morality should be applied to legislation. . . . The question is . . . why your moral values should be forced upon me. . . . cannot be done without appealing to reason.”

            Also perhaps relevant:

            - “thought experiments are not just about finding moral intuitions, it is about explaining them”

            I questioned your rebuttal, first quoting from “Dismantling,” then summarizing

            - “So I have already addressed legislation, not just morality, and my starting position is that for legislation a perfect demonstration of validity through reason is not necessary.”

            I went on

            - “Is it really possible to get away from intuition whenever we force moral values? Do we ever get away from it?”

            Now you have replied

            - “You need to show you are right, and that requires demonstrating the validity of your assertion through reason,” and

            - “You follow the normal process of legislation (during which the philosophical analysis will be undertaken)” and

            - “The honor killing of one’s daughter violated HER rights, and so society was right to step in. Beating one’s wife violates HER rights, and so society is right to step in.”

            (I believe the above are all the most relevant things that have been said on both sides directly addressing our immediate question, which could also be phrased as “Is it really possible, in considering legislation, to get away from intuition and apply reason?”)

            In “Dismantling” I said:

            “We should always apply logic to the fullest extent possible, and there are good logical rebuttals to the forcible-implantation and other pro-choice thought experiments, and I will discuss them in brief; but we should not think that logic, even on a base of intuition, can give us final answers to all moral questions . . .”

            Similarly in our present discussion, what I have meant to say is that in the process of legislation, philosophical analysis should indeed be undertaken, and that will help us find our moral intuitions. But let’s see how this will play out using one of your “HER rights” examples:

            Suppose that in the Canadian Parliament a debate is going on as to whether honor killing should be legal or not. What will be the basis of the ultimate legislation, intuition or reason or . . . ?

            MP Timothy Griffy, with Western values/intuitions: “The honor killing of one’s daughter violated HER rights.”

            MP XYZ, an immigrant like the defendants, with their same intuitions: “She forfeited her rights by dressing the way she did and talking to the wrong kind of boys.”

            The logical debate goes back and forth a few more rounds, and then I would say that everybody will vote according to their final intuition. (The process of the logical debate may have changed the intuitions of a few MP’s.)

            (You might say that the basis of MP XYZ’s thinking is probably scripture or tradition, not intuition — but then his intuition told him to follow the scripture or tradition; or the author of the scripture followed his intuitions.)

            I’ve been saying that the role of logic is to help us find our moral intuitions. And yes, “The honor killing of one’s daughter violated HER rights,” but those are her rights according to your intuitions.

            So perhaps instead of “1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, derive ultimately from intuition” –

            – I should have said –

            “1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, are dictated by our intuitions after hearing all the logical arguments and reading as far as possible all the relevant science.”

            Could we agree on stating the difference between us on this issue at this point like this –

            TG: “We have to appeal to reason because by so doing we can reach, if not a perfect demonstration of logical validity of position ABC, at least a degree of validity that mandates acceptance of that position”

            Acy: “We have to appeal to reason because on a serious issue it is our moral duty to exhaust all the possibilities of finding our intuitions”

            – ?

            I don’t think it is reason that will close the deal, I think it is intuition.

             

            Though I don’t want to broaden the focus of this step of our discussion beyond the above, I will address one more issue because emotions may be involved, and because it may be possible to resolve the issue with a simple clarification (I hope no reply from you will be needed): Perhaps my “coming to the rescue” got associated in your mind with Operation Rescue. I know very little about OR. I believe that they are actually now two organizations, and that a main focus of both has been peaceful civil disobedience. But either or both may have committed some excesses also (I don’t think any leaders of either or both were convicted of any murders). But anyway, even an extra-legal approach such as civil disobedience is not what I basically had in mind in what I said. What I mostly had in mind was just “Pro-choicers have marshaled the power of the courts and police to keep the states from enacting and enforcing unborn child-protection legislation.” My “You seem to recognize that forcing moral values is per se morally neutral. . . . A little while ago in Canada a couple were convicted for honor-killing their daughter . . .” should have helped to make it clear what I was doing (the applicable Canadian law is an example of forcing values).

            My edit wasn’t trying to soften anything, since it hadn’t occurred to me that I had said anything that could be taken in a hard way. I was just anticipating a “You started it” argument, so moving on to an argument from my side more solid than the first.

            I used the expression “come to the rescue” to paint the situation in a way that shows how pro-lifers might have an emotional involvement, even though it is not “our” child being killed, and how we might feel that our natural protective instincts are being suppressed.

            “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one” tries to invalidate the importance of our protective instincts.

            “And you want to claim oppression in being told “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one”?”

            No, what I said was that hearing that does not, as it attempts to do, make us feel LESS oppressed than we did already.

        • Secular Pro-Life has absolutely no compunctions about publishing information that puts abortion doctors at risk of harm:

          http://thetruepooka.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/secularprolife-abortionsafety-com/

          “The site also doubles as an intimidation tool to be used against doctors. It doesn’t matter what type of doctor you are, if you’re a family health doctor and abortion consists of 1% of your medical activities, they’ll label you an ABORTION DOCTOR and list your name next to numerous other doctors who secularprolife have judged to be unsafe doctors ( judgment passed using their hard earned degrees in Looking Shit Up On-Line from Internet University).”

          Here is a list of anti-abortion violence. Tell me more about how you are oppressed by pro-choicers:

          United States
          Murders

          In the U.S., violence directed towards abortion providers has killed at least eight people, including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.[8][9]

          March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn of Pensacola, Florida was fatally shot during a protest. He had been the subject of wanted-style posters distributed by Operation Rescue in the summer of 1992. Michael F. Griffin was found guilty of Gunn’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison. [10]
          July 29, 1994: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot to death outside another facility, the Ladies Center, in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings. Hill received a death sentence and was executed on September 3, 2003. The clinic in Pensacola had been bombed before in 1984 and was also bombed subsequently in 2012.
          December 30, 1994: Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in two clinic attacks in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi was arrested and confessed to the killings. He died in prison and guards found his body under his bed with a plastic garbage bag tied around his head. Salvi had also confessed to a non-lethal attack in Norfolk, Virginia days before the Brookline killings.
          January 29, 1998: Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences as a result.
          October 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death with a high-powered rifle at his home in Amherst, New York.[11] His was the last in a series of similar shootings against providers in Canada and northern New York state which were all likely committed by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Slepian’s murder after being apprehended in France in 2001.

          May 31, 2009: Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed by Scott Roeder as Tiller served as an usher at a church in Wichita, Kansas.[12]

          Attempted murder, assault, and kidnapping

          According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.[13] Attempted murders in the U.S. included:[8][14][15]

          August 19, 1993: Dr. George Tiller was shot outside of an abortion facility in Wichita, Kansas. Shelley Shannon was charged with the crime and received an 11-year prison sentence (20 years were later added for arson and acid attacks on clinics).
          July 29, 1994: June Barret was shot in the same attack which claimed the lives of James Barrett, her husband, and Dr. John Britton.
          December 30, 1994: Five individuals were wounded in the shootings which killed Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols.
          October 28, 1997: Dr. David Gandell of Rochester, New York was injured by flying glass when a shot was fired through the window of his home.[16]
          January 29, 1998: Emily Lyons, a nurse, was severely injured, and lost an eye, in the bombing which also killed Robert Sanderson.

          Arson, bombing, and property crime

          According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid (“stink bombs”).[13] The New York Times also cites over one hundred clinic bombings and incidents of arson, over three hundred invasions, and over four hundred incidents of vandalism between 1978 and 1993.[17] The first clinic arson occurred in Oregon in March 1976 and the first bombing occurred in February 1978 in Ohio.[18] Incidents have included:

          May 26, 1983: Joseph Grace set the Hillcrest clinic in Norfolk, Virginia ablaze. He was arrested while sleeping in his van a few blocks from the clinic when an alert patrol officer noticed the smell of kerosene. [19]
          May 12, 1984: Two men entered a Birmingham, Alabama clinic shortly after a lone woman opened the doors at 7:45 am. Forcing their way into the clinic, one of the men threatened the woman if she tried to prevent the attack while the other, wielding a sledgehammer, did between $7,500 and $8,000 of damage to suction equipment. The man who damaged the equipment was later identified as Father Edward Markley. Father Markley is a Benedictine Monk who was the Birmingham diocesan “Coordinator for Pro-Life Activities”. Markley was convicted of first-degree criminal mischief and second-degree burglary. His accomplice has never been identified. Following the Birmingham incident, Markley entered the Women’s Community Health Center in Huntsville Alabama, assaulting at least three clinic workers. One of the workers, Kathryn Wood received back injuries and a broken neck vertebrae. Markley was convicted of first-degree criminal mischief and three counts of third-degree assault and harassment in the Huntsville attack.[20]
          December 25, 1984: An abortion clinic and two physicians’ offices in Pensacola, Florida, were bombed in the early morning of Christmas Day by a quartet of young people (Matt Goldsby, Jimmy Simmons, Kathy Simmons, Kaye Wiggins) who later called the bombings “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”[21][22][23] The clinic, the Ladies Center, would later be the site of the murder of Dr. John Britton and James Barrett in 1994 and a firebombing in 2012.
          March 29, 1993: Blue Mountain Clinic in Missoula, Montana; at around 1 a.m., an arsonist snuck onto the premises and firebombed the clinic. The perpetrator, a Washington man, was ultimately caught, convicted and imprisoned. The facility was a near-total loss, but all of the patients’ records, though damaged, survived the fire in metal file cabinets.[24][25][26]
          May 21, 1998: Three people were injured when acid was poured at the entrances of five abortion clinics in Miami, Florida.[27]
          October 1999: Martin Uphoff set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, causing US$100 worth of damage. He was later sentenced to 60 months in prison.[28]
          May 28, 2000: An arson at a clinic in Concord, New Hampshire, resulted in several thousand dollars’ worth of damage. The case remains unsolved.[29][30][31] This was the second arson at the clinic.[32]
          September 30, 2000: John Earl, a Catholic priest, drove his car into the Northern Illinois Health Clinic after learning that the FDA had approved the drug RU-486. He pulled out an ax before being forced to the ground by the owner of the building, who fired two warning shots from a shotgun.[33]
          June 11, 2001: An unsolved bombing at a clinic in Tacoma, Washington, destroyed a wall, resulting in $6,000 in damages.[28][34]
          July 4, 2005: A clinic Palm Beach, Florida, was the target of an arson. The case remains open.[28]
          December 12, 2005: Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe threw a Molotov cocktail at a clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana. The device missed the building and no damage was caused. In August 2006, Hughes was sentenced to six years in prison, and Dunahoe to one year. Hughes claimed the bomb was a “memorial lamp” for an abortion she had had there.[35]
          September 11, 2006 David McMenemy of Rochester Hills, Michigan, crashed his car into the Edgerton Women’s Care Center in Davenport, Iowa. He then doused the lobby in gasoline and started a fire. McMenemy committed these acts in the belief that the center was performing abortions; however, Edgerton is not an abortion clinic.[36] Time magazine listed the incident in a “Top 10 Inept Terrorist Plots” list.[37]
          April 25, 2007: A package left at a women’s health clinic in Austin, Texas, contained an explosive device capable of inflicting serious injury or death. A bomb squad detonated the device after evacuating the building. Paul Ross Evans (who had a criminal record for armed robbery and theft) was found guilty of the crime.[38]
          May 9, 2007: An unidentified person deliberately set fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[39]
          December 6, 2007: Chad Altman and Sergio Baca were arrested for the arson of Dr. Curtis Boyd’s clinic in Albuquerque. Baca’s girlfriend had scheduled an appointment for an abortion at the clinic.[40][41]
          January 22, 2009 Matthew L. Derosia, 32, who was reported to have had a history of mental illness[42] rammed an SUV into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota.[43]
          January 1, 2012 Bobby Joe Rogers, 41, firebombed the American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola, Florida, with a Molotov cocktail; the fire gutted the building. Rogers told investigators that he was motivated to commit the crime by his opposition to abortion, and that what more directly prompted the act was seeing a patient enter the clinic during one of the frequent anti-abortion protests there. The clinic had previously been bombed at Christmas in 1984 and was the site of the murder of Dr. John Britton and James Barrett in 1994.[44]
          April 1, 2012 A bomb exploded on the windowsill of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, resulting in a fire that damaged one of the clinic’s examination rooms. No injuries were reported.
          April 11, 2013 A Planned Parenthood clinic in Bloomington, Indiana, was vandalized with an axe.[45]

          Anthrax threats

          The first hoax letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting; since then, there have been 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers. None of the “anthrax” in these cases was real.[14][46]

          November 2001: After the genuine 2001 anthrax attacks, Clayton Waagner mailed hoax letters containing a white powder to 554 clinics. On December 3, 2003, Waagner was convicted of 51 charges relating to the anthrax scare.

          Australia

          July 16, 2001: Steven Rogers, a security guard at a clinic in Melbourne, Australia was shot in the chest and killed by Peter James Knight. Knight was charged and was sentenced to life in prison on November 19, 2002.[47]
          January 6, 2009: A firebombing using Molotov cocktails was attempted at a medical clinic in Mosman Park, Western Australia. Faulty construction of the bombs limited damage to a single external burnt area, though if successful damage would have been severe. It is believed that the individuals who made the attack were responsible for graffiti “baby killers” on the site, indicating an anti-abortion reason for the attack. The site turned out to in fact not be an abortion clinic, though the attackers most likely were not aware of this.[48]

          Canada
          Attempted murder

          Violence has also occurred in Canada, where three doctors have been attacked to date. There is speculation that the timing of the shootings is related to the Canadian observance of Remembrance Day. The physicians were part of a pattern of attacks, which targeted providers in Canada and upstate New York, including Dr. Barnett Slepian. All victims were shot, or shot at, in their homes with a rifle, at dusk or in the morning, in late October or early November.

          A joint Canadian-F.B.I. task force investigating the shootings was not formed until December 1997—three years after the first attack. A task force coordinator, Inspector David Bowen of the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police, complained that the Canadian Government was not adequately financing the investigation. Inspector Bowen said the task force, largely financed by the communities where the shootings occurred, has “operated on a shoestring” with a budget of $100,000. He said he requested more funds in July that would raise its budget to $250,000. Federal officials rejected the request on Oct 15, a week before Dr. Slepian was killed. Inspector Bowen said that there hadn’t been funding to follow up potential leads.[11]

          James Kopp, an American citizen and resident was charged with the murder of Dr. Slepian and the attempted murder of Dr. Short; he is suspected of having committed the other shootings as well.[14][15]

          November 8, 1994: In 1994, a sniper fired two bullets into the home of Dr. Garson Romalis, 57, of Vancouver, British Columbia who was eating breakfast. One hit his thigh, destroyed some of his muscles, broke his femur and damaged his femoral artery. Dr. Romalis saved his own life by using his bathrobe belt as a tourniquet. Dr. Romalis still performs abortions and has become more outspoken about abortion rights since he was shot, citing the harm done to women by illegal abortion and the thousands of cases of septic abortion that came to his hospital in residency.[11][49]
          November 10, 1995: Dr. Hugh Short, 62, of Ancaster, Ontario was shot. A sniper’s bullet fired into his home shattered his elbow and ended his surgical career. Dr. Short was not a high-profile target: it was not widely known that he did abortions.[11]
          November 11, 1997: Dr. Jack Fainman, 66, of Winnipeg, Manitoba was shot. A gunman fired through the back window of Fainman’s riverbank home in Winnipeg about 9 pm and struck him in the right shoulder, inches from his heart. The police would not comment on whether Dr. Fainman, who has declined interview requests since the attack, is still performing abortions.[11]
          July 11, 2000: Dr. Romalis was stabbed by an unidentified assailant in the lobby of his clinic.[49]

          Bombing and property damage

          February 25, 1990: Two men broke into a clinic in Vancouver and destroyed $C30,000 worth of medical equipment with crowbars.[50]
          May 18, 1992: A Toronto clinic operated by Henry Morgentaler was firebombed, causing the entire front wall of the building to collapse.[51] The Morgentaler Clinic on Harbord Street in Toronto was firebombed during the night by two people (caught on security camera) using gasoline and a firework to set off the explosion.[52] The next day, clinic management announced that the firebombing failed to prevent any abortions, since all scheduled abortions were carried out in alternative locations. A portion of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, next door, was damaged. No one was hurt but the building had to be demolished. On the day after the firebombing, Morgentaler came to inspect the damage and a crowd of abortion-rights supporters appeared at the clinic with signs that read, “Just Say No to Bombs.” As a result of the arson, the Ontario government decided to spend $420,000 on improved security for abortion clinics. At the time, all four free-standing clinics in Ontario were in Toronto. The government wanted to gather information about activities by anti-abortion sympathizers; at the time, law enforcement agencies in Canada did not collect statistics about harassment and violence against abortion providers, their clinics, or their clients.[52]

          New Zealand

          In the late 1990s, Graeme White was found guilty and sent to prison for tunneling into an abortion clinic[53][54] with what the police described as “incendiary devices”.[55][unreliable source?]
          Violence by Army of God
          Main article: Army of God

          The Army of God, an underground terrorist organization active in the United States, has been responsible for a substantial amount of anti-abortion violence. In addition to numerous property crimes, the group has committed acts of kidnapping, attempted murder, and murder. In August 1982, three men identifying as the Army of God kidnapped Hector Zevallos (a doctor and clinic owner) and his wife, Rosalee Jean, holding them for eight days.[56] In 1993, Shelly Shannon, a very active member of the Army of God, was found guilty of the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller.[57] That same year, law enforcement officials found the Army of God Manual, a tactical guide to arson, chemical attacks, invasions, and bombings buried in Shelly Shannon’s backyard.[56] Paul Jennings Hill was found guilty of the murder of both Dr. John Britton and clinic escort James Barrett. The Army of God supported Hill, saying that “whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child… if in fact Paul Hill did kill or wound abortionist John Britton, and accomplices James Barrett and Mrs. Barrett, his actions are morally justified if they were necessary for the purpose of defending innocent human life”.[14] The AOG claimed responsibility for Eric Robert Rudolph’s 1997 shrapnel bombing of abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham.[58]
          Physician “wanted” posters

          In the late 1990s, an organization called American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) was accused of implicitly advocating violence by its publication on its “Nuremberg Files” website of wanted-style posters, which featured a photograph of a physician who performed abortions along with a monetary reward for any information that would lead to his “arrest, conviction, and revocation of license to practice medicine”.[59] The ACLA’s website described these physicians as war criminals[60] and accused them of committing “crimes against humanity”. The web site also published names, home addresses, telephone numbers, and other personal information regarding abortion providers—highlighting the names of those who had been wounded and striking out those of who had been killed. Dr. George Tiller’s name was included on this list along with many others. The site was accused of being a thinly-veiled hit list intended to incite violence; others claimed that it was protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.[61] A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision finally shut the site down in 2002 after a prolonged debate.[62]

          • Thanks for your comment.

            “Here is a list of anti-abortion violence. Tell me more about how you are oppressed by pro-choicers:”

            It’s possible that you may have misunderstood what I said about “oppressed,” and possible that you misunderstood it in the same way that Timothy Griffy seemed to. Please see the clarification I made in my latest reply to him:

            http://www.noterminationwithoutrepresentation.org/dismantling-the-bodily-rights-argument-without-using-the-responsibility-argument/#comment-441

            (The clarification is contained in the last 6 paragraphs only.)

            Then please let me know if your “tell me more,” or the list of violence, still seems relevant.

            Regarding what you say about SPL, I haven’t checked your link yet and will do so later. But from what you said, I don’t think checking it will help me understand why you consider this topic relevant here on this page. Please clarify.

            Have you read “Dismantling”?

        • Aw yes, the poor oppressed pro-lifers. You mean like this:

          http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/07/23/3462842/abortion-opponents-new-orleans-church/

          “”Hundreds of anti-choice activists are currently congregating in New Orleans to stage protests against abortion around the city, an event that’s expected to last all week long. So far, tensions have come to a head in an unexpected place: the sanctuary of a church, where abortion opponents interrupted a service to tell congregants that they don’t have a “true faith” because their denomination supports reproductive rights.”"

          Or how about this, anti-abortionists stalking patients:

          “”“This way, you can track whether or not a client comes back,” said Karen Garnett, the director of an anti-choice Catholic group in North Texas, in an audio recording”"

          “”Karen Garnett can be heard on the recording telling her trainees that her group has a “very, kind of, sophisticated little spreadsheet” they used to track the identities of abortion-providing doctors.

          Having the sidewalk “lined with protestors,” said Garnett in the audio recording, turns potential clients away from abortion clinics: “they don’t want to drive in because they see our presence there.”

          The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth’s Michael Demma told trainees that his group, Respect Life, is “searching” for one of two abortion-providing OB-GYNs at the Whole Woman’s Health facility in Fort Worth.

          “We have been able to identify one in there and we’re still searching for the other,” he said in the recording.

          Professional anti-choice activist Abby Johnson, who famously left her job at a southeast Texas Planned Parenthood facility in 2009, told the trainees that “abortionists are feeling the pressure” from anti-choice groups, and that she had identified the potential new location of an abortion-providing ambulatory surgical center in Austin.

          “I think they feel like they’re on the run,” Johnson told the trainees, “and that’s how we want to keep it.””"

          ———–

          Oh look, MORE oppression of innocent pro-lifers:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEFWDYB0rWo

          Picketing pro-lifers accuse man and woman of being heartless murderers when wife goes in for abortion when much wanted pregnancy goes bad. He explains to them how they are hurting his wife with their cruel words, and they threaten to call the cops on HIM! On public property! Oh yeah, those poor oppressed pro-lifers, having to listen to criticism from a person they are HARASSING.

          —-

          Oh look, abortion protestors made a sign that threatens abortion ob/gyns with a gunshot to the head:

          http://scathinglywrongrightwingnutz.blogspot.ca/2014/07/riiight-whos-more-likely-to-shoot-doctor.html#comment-form

          From Secular Pro Life, another abortion service that stalks doctors and puts their names up on a list and, more often than not, gets the names wrong. All in the name of intimidation:

          http://thetruepooka.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/secularprolife-abortionsafety-com/

          —-
          http://www.salon.com/2014/06/26/do_what_we_tell_you_to_do_or_we_will_kill_you/

          I can’t use the front door of my office and I can’t drive out the front driveway with the protesters there. Because all of the doctors who have been assassinated have been assassinated by so-called protesters. All the other people have been killed in Boston and Alabama and so on have been killed by so-called peaceful protesters who “went over the edge.” This is the ultimate expression of what they’re saying. If they can’t use the coercive power of the state to get people to do what they want them to do, they will kill them! And the message from the antiabortion movement, which is the face of fascism in America, is, “Do what we tell you to do, or we will kill you.”

          And I have been targeted for this work. These protesters take images of the people entering and exiting clinics. It is aggressive. They film patients. They film escorts. They are there to be intimidating. The woman who wrote the blog post sharing my photo and name said, “This is a war.” They are using violent rhetoric. They knew anti-choice outlets would pick it up and circulate this violent rhetoric. The idea behind these threats is about “the greater good.” By sharing my name and face and the names and faces of others in this movement online, the message is, “If something happened to those people, it would be OK.”

          ————-
          http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/06/30/supreme-court-see-see-abortion-clinic-escort/

          I have seen countless women reduced to tears and shaking, just for trying to access the health care to which they are constitutionally entitled. Prior to the implementation of our buffer zone, there would be two men positioned on either side of the door, filming the faces of every single patient and companion who walked inside. I’ve had patients ask me, with terror in their eyes, “Why are they doing this to me?” I have witnessed a man whose wife was terminating a wanted pregnancy due to a fetal anomaly be lectured by an anti-choice “sidewalk counselor” on why God has a plan for that “baby” and he should “be a man, Dad.” I have watched as patients and companions cover their face to avoid being filmed by the anti-choice protesters who put their images online. I have watched one of my fellow clinic escorts be violently shoved by an anti-choice protester. I have personally been sexually harassed by an anti-choice protester.

          ———-

          http://www.northjersey.com/news/tension-levels-rising-at-abortion-protests-outside-englewood-clinic-1.665866

          Officers have shut down amplified recordings of babies crying, and, O’Keefe said, a protester has handed out chocolate to women entering the clinic. Anyone eating the chocolate would have to cancel their appointment because patients are required to fast before undergoing a surgical procedure under anesthesia.

          “Some of the things that they say are certainly more inflammatory and accusatory than what the normal protesters engage in,” he said. “This [Saturday] group is looking, apparently, to incite people, to create a problem.”
          Doctors who work at the clinic say that over the past several weekends, a new group of protesters from outside Englewood has used a megaphone to shout offensive messages, and then rushes up to anyone entering and leaving the clinic.

          Dr. Nicholas Kotopoulos told council members last month about one couple who fled in tears when they were surrounded by protesters as they approached the clinic’s front door. The couple, he said, had to enter the clinic through a service entrance behind the building.

          Bruce Tish, another doctor at the clinic, told the council he has grown concerned about the safety of patients and staff because of the “escalation” in the emotion of the protests

          ————–

          Video of people being harassed by anti abortion protestors outside a clinic:

          http://laurenarankin.tumblr.com/post/75281087878/this-is-what-its-like-to-walk-into-an-abortion

  2. We are probably getting to the point where we need a definition of intuition to work with. Or perhaps I should clarify the problem that I have in throwing the term around as if it were an adequate basis for legislation. “Intuition” to me signifies something that is arational. Intuition may have a rational basis or it may not. This is why I can agree in principle that moral principles are ultimately derived from intuition, while denying intuition can ever serve as an adequate basis for legislation.

    So, when you rephrase the question to “Is it really possible to get away from intuition whenever we force moral values? Do we ever get away from it?” my answer is yes. It is not only possible but it is necessary. You will remember that I once said that intuition is about applying life experience X and worldview Y to situation Z. Hopefully I don’t need to point out that this an awfully subjective process. As an example, many of us have the experience of learning somebody did something and we say (to ourselves if no one else), “That ought to be illegal!” There would be no end of tyranny if this is how laws are made. The only answer is to get away from our subjective biases and address the issue objectively.

    Your modified statement that “Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, are dictated by our intuitions after hearing all the logical arguments and reading as far as possible all the relevant science” is in that sense self-evident. Hearing the logical arguments and reading up on the science becomes part of life experience X and (possibly) changes worldview Y, meaning we will look at situation Z differently. At least in an ideal world. The real world works differently. If your starting intuition makes you ignore logic and science, for example, this process just doesn’t work. There is also the need to avoid confirmation bias and avoiding cognitive dissonance, points I will return to when we get into the discussion of how thought experiments work.

    In sum, I do think that there is a difference between us when it comes to why we should appeal to reason. I think we need to appeal to reason to prove whether our intuitions are correct. You seem to be saying that we need to appeal to reason in order to discover what our intuitions are. I don’t think there is any way to reconcile this difference; at least, none come to mind as I write.

    So, for example, your conclusion is “I don’t think it is reason that will close the deal, I think that it is intuition.” My conclusion is that it must be reason that closes the deal because otherwise the result is pure tyranny.

    I am glad you don’t want to be associated with Operation Rescue-like tactics. Perhaps you should have anticipated that your response would be taken in a hard way. That is neither here nor there, though. I think I’ve amply demonstrated that a who-started-it argument is irrelevant.

    In any case, you err if you think telling you “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one” is supposed to make you feel less oppressed. It is actually another way of saying, “Mind your own business.”

    • Thanks.

      “We are probably getting to the point where we need a definition of intuition to work with.”

      Earlier you had said –

      “there are questions about intuition that need to be answered, specifically about the nature and usefulness of intuition alone. I suspect much of it will be handled as we go along”

      – and now you think the time is near at hand. And I agree we will have to get back to the topic of the basics of intuition (including your X, Y & Z point), back from the specific point we’re on — which is the roles of intuition and reason in enacting legislation — but I think I can proceed first to ask another question about that specific point. In answering the question you may want to say something about your def. of intuition, but probably you can answer the question without input from me about any of the basics.

      You have said (on top of similar things you had said earlier): “[I am] denying intuition can ever serve as an adequate basis for legislation. . . . get[ting] away from intuition whenever we force moral values. . . . is not only possible but it is necessary. . . . I think we need to appeal to reason to prove whether our intuitions are correct.”

      You also said, “I don’t think there is any way to reconcile this difference.” But I am willing to agree that “we need to appeal to reason to prove whether our intuitions are correct” if you can provide a good answer to my question, so please try to answer this before we declare an irreconcilable difference:

      Suppose that both houses of the US Congress are considering proposing a constitutional amendment that would have the effect of replacing these lines of the 14th Amendment –

      “nor shall any state . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. . . . The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”

      – with these lines –

      “nor shall any state . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Personhood is defined as starting at the single-cell stage. ‘Equal protection’ in the case of unborn persons will mean they cannot be harmed unless the mother is at a high risk of grievous loss of well-being that could be avoided by doing harm. . . . The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”

      “high risk of grievous loss of well-being that could be avoided by doing harm” has been defined to the satisfaction of at least 2/3 of the members of each house and will be written into the amendment if necessary.

      After an exhausting logical debate during which a few intuitions have changed, they are ready to vote. Most of the legislators are known to have said publicly or privately that they intend to vote on the basis of their present intuitions.

      One senator & one congressman object and say that it must first be proved what intuition is correct. The others acknowledge the appeal of this approach and request their two colleagues to propose a mechanism for proving what intuition is correct.

      What is that mechanism?

       

      “In any case, you err if you think telling you ‘If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one’ is supposed to make you feel less oppressed. It is actually another way of saying, ‘Mind your own business.’”

      That is its intent, but rather than just say “Mind your own business,” it attempts to gain extra effect through sarcasm, doesn’t it? And how does that sarcasm work, to whatever extent it works? I think it works by starting with the clause “If you don’t like abortion . . .” That is, it starts out by saying “I’m going to offer you a solution to your problem. I’m here to help you.” It doesn’t intend to make me feel less oppressed, but it starts with a false promise of doing so.

      • “What is the mechanism?”

        That can be a tricky question. The first, obvious instance is to apply science. This is much easier to do for questions that can be resolved by such applications (i.e., creationism vs. evolution, the role of human activity in global climate change, whether certain forms of birth control have an abortifacient effect, etc.). Some questions aren’t so easily solved. We’ve both acknowledged that science can only go so far in determining whether conception is the beginning of personhood. We can both call upon scientific facts (e.g., DNA, twinning). But unless we have agreement on what, exactly, a person *is,* science can’t even begin to assess what creatures might qualify. In our proposal to modify the Fourteenth Amendment, this won’t get us very far.

        Then there is history. What kind of support does history offer taking such a course? History does offer some support here. The overall arc of human history has been one of expanding the definition of personhood, along with a concurrent expansion of a person’s rights. However, such expansions rarely, if ever, involve a direct violation of the rights of existing persons (and when they do, they tend to be quickly corrected). For example, giving blacks and women the right to vote does not infringe on a white man’s right to vote. As written, the proposal both expands legal personhood and rights, but also singles out a class of already existing persons and deprives them of their rights.

        Then there are practical matters to consider. Historically, we have not granted full legal status to the unborn. There may have been practical reasons for that. Conferring full legal personhood and rights upon the unborn will have ramifications beyond merely prohibiting elective abortion. Many of those ramifications are foreseeable (and in fact, have played out in states with fetal personhood/homicide laws). The ramifications range from the serious (charging mothers who suffered a miscarriage with murder) to the absurd (mandatory pregnancy tests for women whenever they engage in an activity that has the slightest increase of risk for miscarriage).

        In sum, there are a number of mechanisms that could be used (and probably arguments like these were already used in the previous debate). The central question in resolving a question of whose intuition is correct is which party has the most verifiable, objective facts on their side.

        You are correct that “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one” has an element of sarcasm to it. You may well be correct that the sarcasm consists of starting with a false premise. I don’t know if the extra effect comes from that false premise, though. The extra effect would also be achieved by adding the f word to “Mind your own business.” Both formulations are similarly aggressive responses, and both are arguably justifiable responses to someone who inserts themselves into the private affairs of others. “If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one,” while somewhat aggressive, also comes with the suggestion that the reason you need to mind our own business is because you have the same exact right to decide whether to have an abortion, and that your decision is none of my business, either.

        • Suppose science proves that climate change is man-made, and that as a result of that change, the end of life on earth as we know it is at hand. How do you prove whether life on earth as we know it has any value?

          To that question you might have a half-satisfactory reply, “overwhelming consensus.” But let’s get back to the motion before Congress in my actual question:

          Suppose history proves that rights have a pattern of expanding. Does it also prove that the average human being has become happier as a result? Does the happiness gained by women through abortion rights, if any, outweigh the happiness of which aborted children have been deprived? If it does, how do you prove that the average between extremes of happiness is the highest value, as opposed to a minimum level for everybody? How do you prove that happiness has any value? Or is happiness not the unspoken value Congress is referencing through your mechanism, but something else?

          “As written, the proposal both expands legal personhood and rights, but also singles out a class of already existing persons and deprives them of their rights.”

          You know what pro-lifers would say about the value of those latter rights. Even Marxists belittle the value of capitalist “bourgeois liberties,” the trade-off for which, they say, is that many people are economically miserable. There are differences in consciously-felt values.

          • “Suppose history proves that rights have a pattern of expanding. Does it also prove that the average human being has become happier as a result? Does the happiness gained by women through abortion rights, if any, outweigh the happiness of which aborted children have been deprived? If it does, how do you prove that the average between extremes of happiness is the highest value, as opposed to a minimum level for everybody? How do you prove that happiness has any value? Or is happiness not the unspoken value Congress is referencing through your mechanism, but something else?”

            Happiness may or may not be the unspoken value. When I first started reading this paragraph, I became confused. I was saying to myself, “I thought we were talking about rights. What the hell is he going on about happiness for?” It was only when I got to your last question that things made sense.

            To more fully answer your question, unless Congress was adopting a purely utilitarian approach, happiness is probably not the unspoken value being referenced. In fact, if our recourse is to facts and logical reasoning, the unspoken values (i.e., the intuitions) of the individual Congresspersons may not matter at all. I’m not fully prepared to work out an argument here, but for the basic idea see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casuistry.

            “You know what pro-lifers would say about the value of those latter rights.”

            Yes, I am fully aware of how little regard “pro-lifers” have for women and their rights. If I hadn’t been convinced before, these last six or seven months I’ve spent debating abortion would be all the evidence I needed.

            I am also not unaware of Marxist critiques of “bourgeois liberties.” In fact, I consider may of them to be spot on. But that kind of discussion would probably only further sidetrack us from the issue at hand.

            Let’s get back to the point of your question. Your question was intended to determine whether our difference on the issue of intuition alone as a suitable basis for legislation is indeed irreconciliable. Have my answers helped you to determine this, or do you need further information?

          • A motion is before Congress, and among the legislators there are two or more intuitions about it, and you were explaining how to prove which intuition is correct. You offered 1) the expansion of rights, without addressing what underlying value might be served by the expansion of rights, and 2) the avoidance of practical “ramifications,” without addressing why we should be disturbed by those ramifications.

            I asked you what underlying value might be served by the expansion of rights, and you said it might be happiness; but “might be” would not be part of a proof, and anyway you did not answer my questions such as “Suppose history proves that rights have a pattern of expanding. Does it also prove that the average human being has become happier as a result?” And ultimately you lean against happiness.

            You go on: “In fact, if our recourse is to facts and logical reasoning, the unspoken values (i.e., the intuitions) of the individual Congresspersons may not matter at all.”

            I have said that the ultimate recourse of legislators is not and cannot be to facts and logical reasoning, but is to their intuitions. You at one point replied, “I can agree in principle that moral principles are ultimately derived from intuition . . .” (You went on, “we need to appeal to reason to prove whether our intuitions are correct.” So as of that point, you were saying that our recourse is to facts and logical reasoning only to that extent — to prove the correctness of that which is “ultimate” — intuition.)

            Do you now mean that that intuition you agree about is something other than the intuitions of the individual Congresspersons (if so, what is it?), or do you withdraw “I can agree in principle that moral principles are ultimately derived from intuition . . .”?

            “Let’s get back to the point of your question. Your question was intended to determine whether our difference on the issue of intuition alone as a suitable basis for legislation is indeed irreconciliable. Have my answers helped you to determine this, or do you need further information?”

            We certainly do seem to have been hovering around SOMETHING irreconcilable, and I for one am looking forward to hearing your responses on some of the other points on our list. But I think that before we move on, it should be possible for us to understand WHY that something is irreconcilable, and moreover, now the definition of the something seems to be broadening. What was promising to be irreconcilable was your belief that it’s somehow possible to logically prove the correctness of an intuition, versus my belief that it is not possible. What now promises to be irreconciliable is your belief that a body of law may not be underlain by intuition at all, versus my belief that it is. I think we have no option now but to stop for a minute and decide which of those two issues we are debating.

  3. First, I need to correct a couple errors here.

    “I asked you what underlying value might be served by the expansion of rights, and you said it might be happiness…. And ultimately you lean against happiness.”

    Actually I neither said nor did any such thing. What I said was, “Happiness may or may not be the unspoken value…. [U]nless Congress was adopting a purely utilitarian approach, happiness is probably not the unspoken value being referenced.” I was taking a strictly neutral stance about whether happiness was the underlying value served by the expansion of rights, and noted the only way happiness would be the unspoken value would be if Congress was adopting a purely utilitarian approach. The original question had no stipulated unspoken value or approach when you asked about a mechanism for proving which intuition was correct. This is why I was initially confused when *you* threw happiness into the equation.

    “A motion is before Congress, and among the legislators there are two or more intuitions about it, and you were explaining how to prove which intuition is correct. You offered 1) the expansion of rights, without addressing what underlying value might be served by the expansion of rights, and 2) the avoidance of practical “ramifications,” without addressing why we should be disturbed by those ramifications.”

    I was offering examples of how Congress might go about testing which intuition was correct. I also concluded, “In sum, there are a number of mechanisms that could be used (and probably arguments like these were already used in the previous debate). The central question in resolving a question of whose intuition is correct is which party has the most verifiable, objective facts on their side.” You missed the forest for the trees. It is the recourse to objective facts that provide the basis for testing the correctness of intuitions.

    Moving on now.

    “What was promising to be irreconcilable was your belief that it’s somehow possible to logically prove the correctness of an intuition, versus my belief that it is not possible.”

    I think that is the crux of the matter, and does certainly seem to be irreconcilable.

    “What now promises to be irreconcilable is your belief that a body of law may not be underlain by intuition at all, versus my belief that it is.”

    To be more precise, my belief is that a *just* body of law may not be underlain by intuition *alone.* Our difference here may not be so irreconcilable. The difference, as I see it, is one person saying “We need this law for reasons X, Y, Z” vs. another saying, “We need this law because I said so.” Since I don’t think you are advocating the latter (except in effect), our differences here are probably not that irreconcilable.

    I think, then it is the first statement we are debating. And here, you are at a disadvantage–after all, you are trying to prove a negative. Possibly even a double disadvantage because you have to use facts and logic to prove that it is not possible to logically prove the correctness of an intuition. And that comes pretty close to violating the law of noncontradiction, because if logic can be used to show proving the correctness of an intuition is not possible, it certainly can be used to prove that it is.

    As to WHY the difference is irreconcilable, I must first note the caveats. When I say it is possible to logically prove the correctness of an intuition, I’m speaking in general terms, i.e., all other things being equal. Obviously, some intuitions are incapable of being tested at all, and in those cases, by definition they can’t be proven by reason.

    I also don’t want to try to second-guess you. I have my thoughts on the matter, of course. It’s finding a way of expressing those thoughts without implicitly or explicitly insulting you that is failing me. After all, the point here is not to let this discussion degenerate into a name-calling match.

    That suggests to me that the reason our difference is irreconcilable is that we have just come to an unbreakable impasse. I can’t possibly break through to you that it is possible to prove an intuition correct without doing the very thing you deny is possible–using reason to do it. And I am unwilling–no, unable–to let things boil down to “Because I said so.” In order for this debate to move forward, we need a gamechanger.

    • Sorry for my slowness. My health has been quite bad, and within whatever time I could devote to the theoretical side of the struggle for our little brothers and sisters, I kept getting waylaid or provoked by things on the SPL pages. For the last few weeks, Disqus has been sending to my email address, unsolicited, comments which, though on pages where I have commented, are not direct replies to me, and sometimes I get drawn in by them.

      Your single statement that you would most tend to identify as the forest and not the trees is “It is the recourse to objective facts that provide the basis for testing the correctness of intuitions. . . . The central question in resolving a question of whose intuition is correct is which party has the most verifiable, objective facts on their side.” Right? In other words, this is your argument that I should most focus on?

      My reply would be: If the criterion is verifiable, objective facts, then verifiable, objective facts showing that the proposed law in my example (or its rejection) will serve what unspoken value? If the facts don’t show that the law (or its rejection) serves something that someone values, how will those facts motivate anyone to vote one way or the other?

      “I also don’t want to try to second-guess you. I have my thoughts on the matter, of course. It’s finding a way of expressing those thoughts without implicitly or explicitly insulting you that is failing me. After all, the point here is not to let this discussion degenerate into a name-calling match.”

      It’s good to address communications problems, but in addressing some problem this time, another communication problem arises: I don’t understand your above para. If the insult you have in mind for me is “stupid,” then maybe I understand it — maybe you are saying that I have failed to understand something. If I have, your above para gives me no clue where to look for what I may have failed to understand. An insult would not help me to understand either, of course. You would just have to try until your patience ran out.

      One reason I am not sure that I have failed to understand something is that it seems to me that you have been unable to understand something, or I have been unable to make something clear to you, and it seems to me that the problem may lie there, not with my understanding. Let me try again. It seems to me that I have not been able to convey why I think that it is impossible to prove (logically or scientifically or historically) that an intuition is correct. I think it is impossible because a logical proof cannot work without appealing to some spoken or (as in your attempts at proofs) unspoken value, i.e., appealing to an intuition, either the same intuition whose correctness you are trying to prove, or some other pre-logical intuition. As I said in “Dismantling”:

      ===================================
      Some moral values and moral principles can be derived through logic, but that logic will have to appeal to some prior moral value. If we continue retracing the values in this way, we will eventually find values, at least happiness as a value, that are self-validating and cannot be derived logically; that is, they rest entirely on intuition. (No one can prove to you that you should value happiness.)

      . . .

      When pro-choicers base their arguments on scenarios that are certifiably unjust only according to our intuitions, they unconsciously proclaim the primacy of intuition. Without intuition there would be no grasp of morality, perhaps even no morality, so in moral debates, intuition trumps all else. The only tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct. [NOT through logic.]
      ==============================================

      Even if I’m wrong about all this, it should be possible to make you understand why I think it.

      (Let me mention that though I don’t know who may have expressed all the above before I did, I’m sure I cannot be the first, so I’m surprised that the idea seems so novel to you.)

      Let me try to make it clear by recapping your attempts to show how the correctness of an intuition can be proved:

      1. “That can be a tricky question. The first, obvious instance is to apply science. . . . global climate change . . .”

      To that I replied: “Suppose science proves that climate change is man-made, and that as a result of that change, the end of life on earth as we know it is at hand. How do you prove whether life on earth as we know it has any value?”

      In other words, to prove the correctness of the intuition “We should regulate regarding climate change,” it’s not enough just to prove that the end of life on earth as we know it is at hand. If you stop there, you are appealing to some unspoken value, and then if you try to prove the correctness of that value, eventually you will reach some value that is purely subjective and cannot be proven correct or incorrect.

      2. “The overall arc of human history has been one of expanding the definition of personhood, along with a concurrent expansion of a person’s rights.”

      To that I replied: “Suppose history proves that rights have a pattern of expanding.” At this point I should have just observed that you were appealing to some unspoken value to the effect that rights are good. But instead I unwisely (trying to give you an idea what I might mean by a unspoken value) suggested happiness as that value, which proved to be a distraction. Anyway, just as above, your “proof” appeals to some unspoken value, and then if you try to prove the correctness of that value, eventually you will reach some value that is purely subjective and cannot be proven correct or incorrect.

      3. “In fact, if our recourse is to facts and logical reasoning, the unspoken values (i.e., the intuitions) of the individual Congresspersons may not matter at all. I’m not fully prepared to work out an argument here, but for the basic idea see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casuistry.

      That page says: “One of the strengths of casuistry is that it does not begin with, nor does it overemphasize, theoretical issues. It does not require practitioners to agree about ethical theories or evaluations before making policy. Instead, they can agree that certain paradigms should be treated in certain ways, and then agree on the similarities, the so-called warrants between a paradigm and the case at hand.

      “Since most people, and most cultures, substantially agree about most pure ethical situations, casuistry often creates ethical arguments that can persuade people of different ethnic, religious and philosophical beliefs to treat particular cases in the same ways.”

      But even if most people agree about most pure ethical situations (or the intuitive values underlying their agreement), that is not a logical proof of the correctness of the intuition. Logic and empiricism have taken us to the point of proving “most people agree about most pure ethical situations (or the intuitive values underlying their agreement),” but can go no further. The majority could be wrong.

      4. “It is the recourse to objective facts that provide the basis for testing the correctness of intuitions. . . . The central question in resolving a question of whose intuition is correct is which party has the most verifiable, objective facts on their side.”

      Again, verifiable, objective facts in a vacuum will not resolve anything. They can resolve something only if they appeal to some unspoken value. And then . . .

      Though we are hovering around something irreconcilable, it seems to me that before we close this topic,

      1. you should be able to understand my above point, and confirm that you have understood it

      2. You should admit that you have so far been unable to show convincingly how the correctness of any intuition might be proven logically, even if you continue to feel that it must somehow be possible.

      “You should be able to understand my above point, and confirm that you have understood it.”

      Can you see how your efforts appear through my eyes? Through my eyes, you envision the construction of any country’s body of law as just like the construction of a building starting with the second floor, never quite touching the ground. “Science. . . . expansion of a person’s rights. . . . certain paradigms. . . . the most verifiable, objective facts . . .” These things never quite touch the ground of the fact that we CARE if science predicts the end of life as we know it, etc. We can never, ultimately, be logically convinced to care.

      Would you agree with this? — In order for a logical or scientific or historical proof of the correcness of any intuition to be successful, it (the proof) must not appeal to that same intuition, and if it appeals to any other intuition, it must be prepared to prove the correctness of THAT intuition (or if proving that intuition involves appeal to yet another, eventually there must be a logical or scientific or historical proof that does not appeal to any intuition. A proof that appeals to intuition, which is pre-logical, is not a logical proof.

      “To be more precise, my belief is that a *just* body of law may not be underlain by intuition *alone.* Our difference here may not be so irreconcilable. The difference, as I see it, is one person saying ‘We need this law for reasons X, Y, Z’ vs. another saying, ‘We need this law because I said so.’ Since I don’t think you are advocating the latter (except in effect), our differences here are probably not that irreconcilable.”

      Perhaps this will clarify things: I am not “advocating,” nor would I say “because I said so,” but I am DESCRIBING the real world as constructing bodies of law on the basis of “because I feel so.” One group imposes its pre-logical values on another group. It’s might makes right (in a democracy, “might” means numbers). Tyranny is the reality. Logic helps the participants find their intuitions, but their intuitions come out of their unconscious — their intuitions don’t originally derive from logic, and hence aren’t necessarily susceptible to validation by logic.

      “I think, then it is the first statement we are debating. And here, you are at a disadvantage–after all, you are trying to prove a negative.”

      I am asserting that it’s impossible to prove the correctness of an intuition, but I’m not exactly trying to prove it. I will be satisfied if every time you time you try to prove the positive “Yes, we can prove the correctness of an intuition,” it does not stand up to cross-examination. And I think that is what we have seen.

      “Possibly even a double disadvantage because you have to use facts and logic to prove that it is not possible to logically prove the correctness of an intuition. And that comes pretty close to violating the law of noncontradiction, because if logic can be used to show proving the correctness of an intuition is not possible, it certainly can be used to prove that it is.”

      “if logic can be used to show [that] proving the correctness of an intuition is not possible, it certainly can be used to prove that it is.”

      I would say, “if logic can be used to show that proving the correctness of an intuition is not possible, it certainly canNOT be used to prove that it is” — unless one of the two logics is flawed. Two correct logical processes cannot come to contradictory conclusions — unless that it possible in the arcane world of mathematical logic.

      “As to WHY the difference is irreconcilable, I must first note the caveats. When I say it is possible to logically prove the correctness of an intuition, I’m speaking in general terms, i.e., all other things being equal. Obviously, some intuitions are incapable of being tested at all, and in those cases, by definition they can’t be proven by reason.”

      Well, definitely we have some common ground here — we agree on “some” (and I’d be interested in an example of those some in your eyes). I continue to think that NO intuition can ultimately be proven by reason. For purposes of discussing “Dismantling,” however, the most important thing is not the generalization, but whether “A woman whose risk of grave loss of well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child” can be proven or disproven by reason. I think it can’t.

      Unless you are changing your position, you seem to be saying that the intuitions behind a yes or no vote in the example at hand (constitutional amendment) are the kind that can be tested. But haven’t you been unable to show how they can be?

      “I can’t possibly break through to you that it is possible to prove an intuition correct without doing the very thing you deny is possible–using reason to do it.”

      I’m not sure if you mean 1) “using reason to” construct an abstract proof that intuitions in general can be proved correct, or 2) “using reason to” prove some specific intuition correct, but once you do either, I’ll stop denying the possibility. Saying that it’s not possible is simply my argument; saying that it’s not possible is not a refusal to listen to reason.

      Let’s look at history for a minute. Historically, Congress has had little to do with abortion legislation in the US. The Supreme Court has had a lot to do with it. In Roe v. Wade & Doe v. Bolton, there were dissenting opinions. Were laws decided by proofs of intuitions, there would have been no two opinions, nor even a need for a vote. After the justices had discussed at length, their court-appointed logician would simply have declared this position or that position to have been proved, and that would have been the end of the matter. Laws have never been framed in that way. [Edit: If they were, the only lingering dissent after any enactment of legislation, or any Supreme Court decision, would be among those who could not understand logic. In fact there would be no need for a Supreme Court.]

      • I’m sorry you’ve been ill. I know what you mean by getting drawn in by the discussions on Disqus. Unless you tell it otherwise, Disqus automatically subscribes you to a thread you comment on. I’m not sure there is a way to get notifications only for replies to your comments.

        For the record, “stupid” is not the insult I had in mind. But never mind that. I think I have identified the reason our difference here is irreconcilable.

        “My reply would be: If the criterion is verifiable, objective facts, then verifiable, objective facts showing that the proposed law in my example (or its rejection) will serve what unspoken value? If the facts don’t show that the law (or its rejection) serves something that someone values, how will those facts motivate anyone to vote one way or the other?”

        The unspoken value is objectivity itself.

        Okay, that sounds circular. So let’s back up a bit. The question is why we should seek to be objective in discussing moral questions. Because we both say we believe in the existence of moral absolutes. [Note: While it is true that moral relativists and moral nihilists don't share that value, I am not speaking to them.] And if there are moral absolutes, they are objective. And that means a moral absolutist is committed the notion that in principle a given moral intuition can be tested objectively.

        So you see, I not only understand what you are saying, I understand what you are doing–advocating moral relativism. And that, I think is the real difference that makes our positions irreconcilable. I am actually committed to the notion there are moral absolutes. You are not. Or, at least, you have a very different notion of what what moral absolutes mean than what most people take it to mean.

        “Can you see how your efforts appear through my eyes? Through my eyes, you envision the construction of any country’s body of law as just like the construction of a building starting with the second floor, never quite touching the ground. “Science. . . . expansion of a person’s rights. . . . certain paradigms. . . . the most verifiable, objective facts . . .” These things never quite touch the ground of the fact that we CARE if science predicts the end of life as we know it, etc. We can never, ultimately, be logically convinced to care.”

        Here’s the thing, though. I thought we already had the ground floor covered. Moral absolutes are about what our obligations are. If I have an obligation to prevent the end of life as we know it, then I had better damn well care if science is predicting the end of life as we know it. Indeed, it seems to me that you are confounding two distinct meanings of the term “care” here. In one definition, “care” means to *feel* an interest or concern about something, while in the other “care” means to *do* something, i.e., looking after someone or something’s needs. The second may be an obligation, but the first is not.

        Let’s take this statement:

        “When pro-choicers base their arguments on scenarios that are certifiably unjust only according to our intuitions, they unconsciously proclaim the primacy of intuition. Without intuition there would be no grasp of morality, perhaps even no morality, so in moral debates, intuition trumps all else. The only tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct. [NOT through logic.]”

        First, I’d categorically deny pro-choicers are basing their arguments on scenarios that are certifiably unjust *only* according to our intuitions, thus proclaiming the primacy of intuition. I’ve already voiced an objection on this point and we’ve already marked it off as a topic for discussion. For now, I will forebear until we are ready for that discussion.

        We are (supposedly) agreed in the existence of moral absolutes. So, we already have the ground floor. We are agreed that the tricky thing is to identify which intuitions are correct. And at least implicitly, we are agreed that one or the other intuition is correct. Either abortion is generally permissible or it is not. And we are both using logic to come to that conclusion, because we are agreed that abortion cannot both be generally permissible and generally impermissible at the same time.

        We don’t have a clash of fundamental assertions about which there is no common ground and which cannot be resolved by logic. What we have here is a logical problem. And a logical problem can, by definition, be resolved with logic (even if my attempts so far have proven unconvincing in your eyes). But this is what you are asserting cannot be done.

        But let’s say you are correct about this. If we can’t identify which intuitions are correct through logic, then what else is there? To say something is a moral absolute is to say it has universal application. That means we need a universal means of determining what is morally absolute. What do you propose could possibly meet that standard, if not logic?

        Now I’m going to move on to your discussion of casuistry, which I think you have fundamentally misunderstood. It didn’t help that I was not and am still not fully prepared to work out an argument here, so I can’t exactly blame your for misunderstanding my thrust. Here is what you said about it:

        “But even if most people agree about most pure ethical situations (or the intuitive values underlying their agreement), that is not a logical proof of the correctness of the intuition. Logic and empiricism have taken us to the point of proving “most people agree about most pure ethical situations (or the intuitive values underlying their agreement),” but can go no further. The majority could be wrong.”

        The beauty of casuistry means that it doesn’t matter what the underlying values are. It can be presumed that although most people agree about most pure ethical situations, it doesn’t mean that the underlying intuitions regarding them are the same. You’ll remember that in our discussion of Adam Lamza, I pointed out a number of ethical systems that would judge Lamza’s actions wrong. In your terms, as near as I can understand it, they all have different intuitions about why Lamza was wrong. They are in agreement despite having different underlying intuitions. That is enough to get going on with, without having to prove which underlying intuition is correct.

        Now I can turn around and go back to some of the issues you previously raised. On global warming, you asked “How do you prove whether life on earth as we know it has any value?” I’ll admit that I haven’t made any response to this question out of sheer exasperation. Who the hell is saying life as we know it doesn’t have any value? No one. And if no one is saying life as we know it doesn’t have any value, why should I have to prove that it does?

        Casuistry starts with what is already agreed, however, rather than trying to prove or disprove the underlying values. “We should regulate regarding climate change because the end of life on earth as we know it is at had” already takes into account the already existing unspoken value of those in the discussion. Even opponents of such regulations believe life on earth as we know it has value and that the end of life as we know it would be a bad thing.

        The same holds true in our hypothetical discussion of amending the Fourteenth Amendment. Congress already agrees that rights are good. I mean, after all, they are discussing a proposal to extend rights to a new class. So in making an argument, either for or against this particular proposition, I don’t need to go back and reinvent the wheel. I only need worry about whether this particular proposal is consistent with what has already been established.

        • First of all, let’s keep this question in mind as we proceed: if the moral issues in human society could be resolved as you suggest, wouldn’t there be fewer outstanding moral issues now than we presently see? (Let’s not make this question a new topic for discussion. It is just something for each of us to keep in mind, for any possible usefulness it might have, as we proceed.)

          On the principle of one thing at a time, let’s confine ourselves to this para of yours before we think about the rest of your post:

          “So you see, I not only understand what you are saying, I understand what you are doing–advocating moral relativism. And that, I think is the real difference that makes our positions irreconcilable. I am actually committed to the notion there are moral absolutes. You are not. Or, at least, you have a very different notion of what what moral absolutes mean than what most people take it to mean.”

          It’s possible I may have departed from the terminology of academic philosophy or of whatever philosophical background you may have. In “Dismantling” I explained how I use “moral absolute”: to me it means a moral intuition that is fundamental, irreducible and correct. As we proceed now, to avoid miscommunication with you and your background, I will drop the term “moral absolute” and just say “fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuition” (FICMI).

          Proceeding now:

          I do not advocate FICMI relativism.

          I am committed to the notion there are FICMI’s (which I’m refraining from calling moral absolutes). “FICMI” includes “C” for “correct.” Hence, as mentioned, I am not a relativist.

          I think that only those who personally intuit FICMI’s know they are correct. Others cannot know that those FICMI’s are correct, but that does not mean that those FICMI’s are not correct — they are. (Hence, again, I am not a relativist.)

          I said “Others cannot know that those FICMI’s are correct.” Better to say that the only way they can know they are correct is by adopting them for themselves because they feel the alogical appeal of those intuitions, without knowing why they are adopting them. [Edit: This process could be called a process of developing moral sensitivity.]

          I am committed to the notion that in principle there is NO WAY a given moral intuition can be tested (for correctness) objectively.

          I would never say that the above view paints a “neat” picture for human society in its efforts to resolve moral questions. It paints a problematic picture. But I think it is a realistic picture.

           

          Now let’s stay focused — one thing at a time. Do you think that the above is an intelligible and logically-coherent position that someone could possibly hold? For the moment let’s not even ask whether, IF it is a possible coherent position, you can reconcile it with everything I have said about my position — much less get into your disagreements with the position. Is it a coherent position that someone could possibly hold?

          If you do see it as a possible coherent position, is there anything in the rest of your post that you would now change before we proceed?

          • “First of all, let’s keep this question in mind as we proceed: if the moral issues in human society could be resolved as you suggest, wouldn’t there be fewer outstanding moral issues now than we presently see? (Let’s not make this question a new topic for discussion. It is just something for each of us to keep in mind, for any possible usefulness it might have, as we proceed.)”

            I don’t want to turn into a new topic, either. However, I am hoping to build on some of the concepts I will be introducing in discussing this question, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I seem to be spending so much time on a question that neither one of us are interested in pursuing per se.

            First, your question is far too vague. Just exactly how many outstanding moral issues are we presently dealing with? You’ll remember that casuistry works because most people agree about most pure ethical situations. If we take a “moral issue” as equivalent to “pure ethical situation,” then most of the work has already been done. There aren’t very many outstanding moral issues left. Mostly we’re just working out the implications where the ethical situation is not so pure, i.e., the cases.

            Or we can take “outstanding moral issues” to be the cases themselves. Well, then we can say there are thousands, if not millions, of outstanding moral issues. But then we should note that many, if not most, of the outstanding moral issues arise from the newness of knowledge or technology. We really couldn’t talk about bioethics a hundred years ago or so, because the issues that get raised by biotechnology simply didn’t exist then. But given this understanding, we will never have
            fewer outstanding moral issues than we now presently have–indeed, they will probably multiply into infinity.

            Note that even in the cases, we’re not facing something completely new and alien. Most of the moral issues we face today have either always defied resolution (i.e., they are among the few cases where most people don’t agree about a pure ethical situation), or we are simply trying to figure out which general principle applies to the new case and how that works out. That isn’t as easy as it looks when we have situations were a number of different principles conceivably apply to a given situation. This is why we don’t simply have court-appointed logicians declaring the united decisions of the Supreme Court. I never said the process of “proving” an intuition, insofar as that can be done, was a simple or easy one. I only said that in principle, it could be done.

            “It’s possible I may have departed from the terminology of academic philosophy or of whatever philosophical background you may have. In “Dismantling” I explained how I use “moral absolute”: to me it means a moral intuition that is fundamental, irreducible and correct. As we proceed now, to avoid miscommunication with you and your background, I will drop the term “moral absolute” and just say “fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuition” (FICMI).”

            You’re not really far from academic philosophy in your definition, though in academic philosophy the term “principle” is more likely to be used than “intuition.” I was actually taking you at your word there. We don’t have any fundamental disagreement about what a moral absolute is, so you can continue to use the term. What made me raise the possibility you had a different notion of “moral absolute” than everyone else is that you’re saying this but arguing that. You’re saying you believe in moral absolutism, but making an argument that normally results in moral relativism. Wishing to maintain a notion of moral absolutism, you instead say only an illuminated few can know what moral absolutes are. Reterming to FICMI does not help, because you’re still not grasping the implications of what you are saying.

            “Now let’s stay focused — one thing at a time. Do you think that the above is an intelligible and logically-coherent position that someone could possibly hold? For the moment let’s not even ask whether, IF it is a possible coherent position, you can reconcile it with everything I have said about my position — much less get into your disagreements with the position. Is it a coherent position that someone could possibly hold?”

            No, I do not. At least, not once you start pressing your particular “FICMIs” on others. Once you start doing that, you’re engaging in circular reasoning.

            Consider the means you do offer for knowing how a moral absolute is indeed correct, going through “a process of developing moral sensitivity.” How do you know a person has done this? Why they know your FICMI is true! If they achieve a different result, they obviously did something wrong.

            Is it any wonder then that I would say you’re making a “because I said so” argument? Or that you are stacking the deck?

          • I think we have made some progress in my communicating my position, but that there is still a hitch.

            (Since you have given your consent, I’m going back to the term “moral absolutes.”)

            I have argued (let’s call it argument A) “There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.”

            You have said that argument A is not coherent “at least . . . once you start pressing your particular [moral absolutes] on others.”

            But argument A does not do that. I also have an argument, B, which I stated most succinctly (on another website) as “I think your intuition is incorrect. I think mine is correct.” I could be wrong about that, and I don’t think it is capable of a final logical resolution; but anyway, at this point, I’m not asking you whether that argument B is coherent or anything. Regarding argument A, I have now answered your objection about “pressing on others” (or even an objection about saying I’m right, which would be milder than pressing on others). Is my argument A, whether or not you agree with it, a coherent position that someone could possibly hold? –

            “There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.”

            (Note again that this does not say who is correct. It is just an analysis of, or an argument for a particular understanding of, the human condition as regards moral disagreements in general.)

            By “coherent” I mean “internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible.”

    • P.S.: I had meant to add — Some say that the written word is more prone to communications problems than face-to-face speech or maybe even than speaking on the phone. I think for our purposes overall, the written word is better, plus the fact that written posts are available to others to read. But to sort out some particular snarl, we could always give Skype a try.

  4. “But argument A does not do that. I also have an argument, B, which I stated most succinctly (on another website) as “I think your intuition is incorrect. I think mine is correct.” I could be wrong about that, and I don’t think it is capable of a final logical resolution; but anyway, at this point, I’m not asking you whether that argument B is coherent or anything. Regarding argument A, I have now answered your objection about “pressing on others” (or even an objection about saying I’m right, which would be milder than pressing on others). Is my argument A, whether or not you agree with it, a coherent position that someone could possibly hold? –”

    Ah, but you are pressing argument A on others. Argument B, remember, is dependent on argument A. Argument A is your evidence for the correctness of argument B. That is, if argument B isn’t just an expression of your opinion.

    “By “coherent” I mean “internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible.”

    Using this definition, the answer is still no. Argument A is really just a string of premises without a conclusion. To get to the conclusion, you have to add at least one more premise, but then the argument becomes circular. And while argument A many not be demonstrably impossible per se, that is only because it can’t be tested at all.

    • “Argument B, remember, is dependent on argument A. Argument A is your evidence for the correctness of argument B. That is, if argument B isn’t just an expression of your opinion.”

      It is just an expression of my opinion.

      My argument A is just an attempt to describe the world in which B operates. B does not depend on A. If for instance instead of saying “There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively,” I had said “A given moral intuition CAN be tested for correctness objectively,” I might still have been able to say “I think your intuition is incorrect. I think mine is correct.”

      Neither A nor B is dependent on the other. You are the one who (by saying “. . . once you start pressing your particular [moral absolutes] on others. Once you start doing that, you’re engaging in circular reasoning”) suggested the idea of linking A and B together as an argument.

      So let’s focus, without encumbrances, on A. Of your two arguments against the coherence of A, one was your “Ah, but,” which I have now answered. The other is “Using this definition ['internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible'], the answer is still no. Argument A is really just a string of premises without a conclusion.”

      Being a string of premises without a conclusion doesn’t make it incoherent. At most “being a string” might mean that I shouldn’t have called it an argument under some definition of “argument.” You apparently didn’t find anything incoherent in the string of premises itself, or you would have pointed it out.

      So “There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively” is internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible, right?

      “And while argument A [may] not be demonstrably impossible per se, that is only because it can’t be tested at all.”

      Why “only”? If it’s not demonstrably impossible — for whatever reason it’s not — then it may be possible, which means it may be correct. If it’s correct, then it’s correct (and possible) for reasons — whatever they may be — beyond the fact that it can’t be tested.

      • “So let’s focus, without encumbrances, on A. Of your two arguments against the coherence of A, one was your “Ah, but,” which I have now answered. The other is “Using this definition ['internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible'], the answer is still no. Argument A is really just a string of premises without a conclusion.”

        Yes, let’s.

        “Being a string of premises without a conclusion doesn’t make it incoherent. At most “being a string” might mean that I shouldn’t have called it an argument under some definition of “argument.” You apparently didn’t find anything incoherent in the string of premises itself, or you would have pointed it out.”

        A string of premises without a conclusion doesn’t show us how the premises cohere. Here are two premises: Ducks swim and the sky is blue. But unless I do something to connect the two premises all I’ve done was state a couple of random facts. To judge whether something is internally logically consistent, one must have something that tries to link the premises together. A string of premises by itself is meaningless.

        “Why “only”? If it’s not demonstrably impossible — for whatever reason it’s not — then it may be possible, which means it may be correct. If it’s correct, then it’s correct (and possible) for reasons — whatever they may be — beyond the fact that it can’t be tested.”

        If it is not testable, then it can neither be possible nor impossible. If you can’t test something, then there is no way to determine whether it is correct.

        • “A string of premises without a conclusion doesn’t show us how the premises cohere. Here are two premises: Ducks swim and the sky is blue. But unless I do something to connect the two premises all I’ve done was state a couple of random facts. To judge whether something is internally logically consistent, one must have something that tries to link the premises together. A string of premises by itself is meaningless.”

          “There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.”

          I wasn’t asking you whether the juxtaposition of these sentences is more meaningful than in your example. I think you understand the spirit of my question, and that you can answer it if you wish.

          • What more is there to say? You’re asking if your “argument” A is coherent. They are not. They are merely a series of unsupported assertions that are connected at most verbally. Do you want me to break it down?

            1. There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions.

            One expects that you are going to support this assertion with some sort of evidence. Instead, you give us

            2. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct.

            Note that 2 does not support 1, it introduces an entirely new concept. And it is a concept that isn’t entirely consistent with 1. If something is correct, then that implies that it is something that everyone can know. But you have in fact restricted this knowledge to an elite few who have somehow been enlightened. Then you add

            3. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity.

            So now you have at least come up with a way to get the knowledge. But you’ve introduced another new concept. Now in theory we may have a way of testing whether a given moral absolute is correct–develop the moral sensitivity and you will know. But in fact this is circular reasoning. One knows a moral absolute is correct by developing the necessary moral sensitivity, and one’s moral sensitivity is measured by knowing the moral absolute is correct. The circular reasoning alone makes 2 and 3 logically incoherent. But whatever might have been gained in statement 3 is undone when you finally add

            4. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.

            Then whence developing the necessary moral sensitivity? If developing the requisite moral sensitivity is what is needed to know moral absolutes are correct, then that should be an objective means of testing the correctness of a moral absolute. But 4 renders 3 moot and turns 2 into nonsense because no one can actually know whether a moral absolute is correct. If there is no means of testing something, then there is no way to determine whether it is correct, which means 1 must fall as well.

          • “There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.”

            I had written “Do you think that the above is an intelligible and logically-coherent position that someone could possibly hold?” and we have been discussing this. I think we can wrap this up this sub-discussion now.

            I had continued: “By ‘coherent’ I mean ‘internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible.’”

            Now you number my 4 sentences and reply to them:

            =========================================================
            1. There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions.

            One expects that you are going to support this assertion with some sort of evidence. Instead, you give us
            ===============================================================

            You don’t say that 1 is unintelligible, or internally logically inconsistent, or demonstrably impossible (U/ILI/DI).

            =========================================================
            2. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct.

            Note that 2 does not support 1, it introduces an entirely new concept. And it is a concept that isn’t entirely consistent with 1. If something is correct, then that implies that it is something that everyone can know. But you have in fact restricted this knowledge to an elite few who have somehow been enlightened. Then you add
            ==================================================================

            Let’s say that the general theory of relativity is correct. But no one at all knew about it for most of human history, and still not “everyone” understands it. (I don’t.) “Correct” doesn’t imply that everyone can know.

            So you haven’t shown that 2, or 1 and 2 together, are U/ILI/DI.

            ==========================================================
            3. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity.

            So now you have at least come up with a way to get the knowledge. But you’ve introduced another new concept. Now in theory we may have a way of testing whether a given moral absolute is correct–develop the moral sensitivity and you will know. But in fact this is circular reasoning. One knows a moral absolute is correct by developing the necessary moral sensitivity, and one’s moral sensitivity is measured by knowing the moral absolute is correct. The circular reasoning alone makes 2 and 3 logically incoherent. But whatever might have been gained in statement 3 is undone when you finally add
            =====================================================================

            Within my 4 sentences, I never said that one’s moral sensitivity can be measured by knowing about moral absolutes or in any other way. So you haven’t shown any circular reasoning, and therefore you haven’t shown that 3, or 1, 2 and 3 together, are U/ILI/DI. Please make a note about any circularity you may perceive in my broader thesis, and bring it up later.

            =================================================================
            4. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.

            Then whence developing the necessary moral sensitivity? If developing the requisite moral sensitivity is what is needed to know moral absolutes are correct, then that should be an objective means of testing the correctness of a moral absolute. But 4 renders 3 moot and turns 2 into nonsense because no one can actually know whether a moral absolute is correct. If there is no means of testing something, then there is no way to determine whether it is correct, which means 1 must fall as well.
            ===================================================================

            Moral sensitivity is subjective, not objective. So you haven’t shown that 4, or 1, 2, 3 and 4 together, are U/ILI/DI.

            “1 must fall as well.”

            See under 2. “Correct” may exist with or without “knowing something is correct.”

            It’s clear that you disagree in a number of ways with “There are moral absolutes — fundamental, irreducible and correct moral intuitions. Only those who personally intuit moral absolutes know they are correct. Others cannot know until they develop the necessary moral sensitivity. There is no way a given moral intuition can be tested for correctness objectively.” We can discuss all the disagreements. But disagreeing with something isn’t showing it to be unintelligible, or internally logically inconsistent, or demonstrably impossible.

            I don’t expect you at this point to say, “Yes, everything is intelligible and internally logically consistent, and not demonstrably impossible.” But at least I’m confident enough now that you won’t turn up a way to shake my own perception of I/ILC/NDI, that I’m ready to keep discussing on the basis my 4 sentences. And if there is anything U/ILI/DI, you may be able to point it out better in later contexts as we proceed.

            So let’s back way up. I originally introduced my 4 sentences (I consider the ideas to have been already present in “Dismantling,”, but I introduced the sentences or at least ideas in that particular sequence) to rebut your “I not only understand what you are saying, I understand what you are doing–advocating moral relativism.”

            I don’t think you find my 4 sentences to be consistent with moral relativism — at least that is not one of the numerous criticisms you have so far made of them — and I have been insisting that I do in fact consider those sentences to represent my position. Whether or not you consider them to be I/ILC/NDI, do you at this point find any discrepancy between them and anything in “Dismantling” that would now still lead you to say that “Dismantling” advocates moral relativism? If so, what discrepancies?

  5. Timothy Griffy, in replying to some points you made in your most recent post here –

    http://blog.secularprolife.org/2014/10/dismantling-argument-that-pro-life-laws.html

    – let me start with what I find of most significance in that post, which is these two statements taken together:

    “You’ll remember I said that our intuition is basically a combination of life experience and worldview. This means we can understand where our intuitions come from, and that they are far more flexible than you seem to allow. They are only pre-logical and pre-verbal in the sense that most people simply do not think about how their life experiences and worldviews affect their reasoning. It is the failure to think about them that makes our intuitions seem to come out of places we don’t understand.”

    “I would call the wrongness of using another’s body without consent a moral absolute.”

    First, it’s good to have an example, in your view, of a moral absolute.

    Secondly, since anything flexible is not absolute, it’s now clear that a moral absolute, to you, is not an intuition. (As you know, I define a moral absolute simply as a correct moral intuition.)

    On earlier occasions you have agreed that intuition has a necessary role in relation to correct moral principles. I would call a moral absolute the pre-logical source of a kind of correct moral principle; you might not agree with this, but I think you would agree that if intuition has a necessary role in relation to correct moral principles, it must have in relation to moral absolutes also. You once wrote: “This is why I can agree in principle that moral principles are ultimately derived from intuition . . .”

    But now you’ve come closer to explaining your view of intuitions. You have made clear that a moral absolute cannot be an intuition. And yet moral absolutes are apparently derived from intuitions. How can something flexible be the source of a moral absolute? Please define intuition further in terms of where the worldview comes from, and explain the role of intuition in relation to moral absolutes.

    And if you can do the above, please account also for “You develop the general principles before you have to deal with specific situation” and “It’s fine and well to follow your intuition–for yourself. It is only when you try to enforce your intuition on others that you had better be able to come up with a damned good reason . . .” So normally I have to develop the general principles first; but to follow my intuition for myself, I do not need a general principle first?

    Remember that “worldview” could be understood as including moral intuitions as I think of them — coming out of the unconscious in ways we can’t understand, and inflexible if they are correct — so “worldview” may do little to explain the origin of intuitions, or to clarify how we can “understand where they come from.”

    And please answer also this initial objection of mine:

    Suppose you knew a woman whose health suffered seriously because of a pregnancy. This is part of your experience that led you to “I would call the wrongness of using another’s body without consent a moral absolute.” But –

    “You’ll remember I said that our intuition is basically a combination of life experience and worldview. This means we can understand where our intuitions come from . . .”

    – if we can understand where our worldview came from, this means our worldview has no component of the inborn or the unconscious, whose provenance we can’t understand. Now, when you saw a woman whose health was suffering because of a pregnancy, what, in the first place, caused you to conceive of that suffering as a negative rather than a neutral or a positive? Was it only your experience, and the part of your worldview whose provenance you had also experienced, that caused you to sense her suffering that way?

     

    “conduct experiments”

    What would be an example of an experiment? You said of my attempt at the approach “You seem to have the general idea down,” but I don’t think I made any experiments.

    The approach does sound as though it deserves my further study. However –

    “Is it your intent that I assess the specific theory you have presented, or are you just writing off the cuff here to present an example?”

    – I was writing off the cuff to present an example (no, I am not asking you to spend time on it), and the example is intended to show, as best I can understand the approach so far, that it can lead to a “basic principle” that supports using people’s bodies against their will in some situations just as easily as it can lead to a basic principle that proscribes using people’s bodies, all depending on one’s intuitions about values — so if persons A and B have differing intuitions, your approach doesn’t seem to have the power to convince either A or B to yield. Or if either does yield because they are awed by what seems to be logical elegance, that person will carry around an inner conflict:

    “How do I really know, with my logical mind, exactly what disanalogy was significant enough to tip the balance in causing me to reach the reality within that really matters – causing me to find my moral intuition? I don’t know, but even if I cannot identify that which did, that does not mean that I should follow what seems to be logic, against my intuition.

    “Good people can be logically convinced to commit atrocities [and sooner or later suffer guilt because of it].”

    (Your reply when I quoted this before led me to refer to “PL,” so let’s get to your reply about PL, below, in a minute.)

    I wrote: “So if I see someone starting to attempt a rape, I should not try to stop it until I have figured out what basic principle would have to be true?”

    You replied: “No. You develop the general principles before you have to deal with specific situation, then you act in the specific situation accordingly if/when it occurs.”

    Well, I’m appalled.

    “The rule of thumb I use”

    Will try to reply to this later.

    “Then [PL] needs to work on improving their logical skills, particularly if s/he wants to push their intuition on everybody else.”

    One cannot be a moral person without being a proficient logician?

    “I’ve been debating abortion almost exclusively for over a year now. Surely if my position lacks solidity, someone would have been able to point it out somewhere along the line.”

    Hey, me too. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 1-1/2 years debating abortion, and no one has been able to point out any serious weakness in my position.

    “By way of contrast, at practically every turn you admit your intuition supports bodily rights–except when it comes to pregnant women. All I have to do to get to my position is be consistent in my principles. You get to yours despite the fact that it is inconsistent with your other intuitions.”

    How do you reconcile this — that is, reconcile such a stong statement as “practically every turn” — with your earlier recognition of my relative consistency?

    “If my intuition tells me that something is obligatory, then I’m going to support my contention with reason.”

    Will try to reply to this later.

    “I doubt it is only a secondary consideration. . . . we never fully set aside our life experiences and worldviews. . . . your initial judgment of a specific situation is going to be informed by whatever it is that forms your background. They never occur in a complete vacuum.”

    But the fact that my judgment is informed by certain things doesn’t mean that those things are not a secondary consideration.

    “On what appears to be your account of intuition, yes. That is, if the only thing that ever counts in making moral judgments is pure, stark, arational intuition.”

    Will try to reply to this later.

    “Even though leaving you homeless does harm you and that may very well be my intent, I’m not doing you any wrong because your claim to my property expired with the lease.”

    You mean not doing me any wrong according to some law? What about moral wrong? If the courts could divine your intent and if doing me harm was your only intent, shouldn’t the law supporting that be changed?

    “Let’s face it, you’re not challenging my position on the grounds of inadequacy, internal incoherence, external inconsistency, or unfruitfulness.”

    Maybe you’re using certain technical definitions of some of those words? I do find your position inadequate to protect unborn babies and unfruitful in protecting unborn babies. As regards coherence and consistency, don’t mind, but your position as you have explained it in this post and the last has the feel of something put together to satisfy the human desire for theoretical neatness, rather than to connect with deeper realities of human nature. And then –

    “How, exactly, does that make you any different from a Flat Earther?”

    – when someone doesn’t share your passion for neatness, you insult them (since the above isn’t a serious analogy, it’s an insult).

    “Even though leaving you homeless does harm you and that may very well be my intent, I’m not doing you any wrong because your claim to my property expired with the lease.”

    You mean not doing me any wrong according to some law? What about moral wrong? If the courts could divine your intent and if doing me harm was your only intent, shouldn’t the law supporting that be changed?

    “You’re not even trying to assert the primacy of intuition in itself. You’re trying to assert the primacy of your intuition”

    If my intuition has primacy, doesn’t intuition itself first have to have primacy?

    “What Thomson wrote was ‘I imagine you would regard this as outrageous.’ The very phrasing is an implicit admission she may well have been wrong about whether you’d regard the situation as outrageous.”

    Formally, at least, that’s true, but that is beside the point that I’m making. Nor am I making the point that the situation is not outrageous (though I do happen to find that word too strong). My point is that the putative outrageousness of the situation is not subject to an objectively-testable scientific theory. That outrage, if any, comes out of our unconscious in ways we cannot understand, and its existence is known to us only subjectively, if it exists at all. You had said that Thomson’s argument was “as solid as a scientific theory can get.”

  6. Regarding the responsability objection,i don t see how the child was made worse off by being conceveid ,so then the child can t be compensated.

    • Did I say that the child was made worse off by being conceived? Can you indicate what line in my post you are referring to?

  7. Pingback: Bodily Rights – the Concept | No Termination without Representation

  8. Pingback: Planned Parenthood: An Unmentioned Ethical Issue | No Termination without Representation

  9. drew has been posting this argument around SPL blog as well.

    He’s referencing Kamm’s “no worse off” argument.

    1. Kamm’s argument presupposes the mother has no duty to aid her child.

    2. Even if we grant that the argument goes through there are absurdities that follow. In Kamm’s view, it would be OK to abort an embryo that was conceived consensual but immoral to abort an embryo that was forcefully implanted in a woman (i.e. IVF rape). Since in the consensual case the embryo is no worse off but in the IVF rape case the embryo is worse off because it could have been implanted in a woman that wouldn’t abort it.

    Therefore Kamm’s no worse off argument fails because it presupposes no special parental duties and because even if we grant there’s no special parental duties it results in absurdities.

    • Sorry for my approving your comment for publication only belatedly. At the time you submitted the comment, I did not receive notification in my email as I should have.

      Thanks to your explanation (and thanks to my having had more exposure to the “worse off” argument than I had had when drew posted), I can now understand that drew didn’t necessarily think he/she was rebutting any argument that I had made as to why the pregnant person would have responsibility; he/she was pre-emptively saying that only by making worse off could one possibly incur responsibility.

      I once saw a reply of yours to a commenter on an SPL page in which you basically pointed out the arbitrariness of the principle that “making worse off” is the only way to incur a responsibility for some other person. You said that creating someone in a position of dependence (which I guess could be called tacitly accepting a parental role through consensual sex) seemed to you, or could be, another way.

      My moral intuitions say that, unrelated to one’s past actions in any way, one has a degree of moral responsibility for anyone for whom one is the only hope for survival. (Basically the De Facto Guardian or Minimally Decent Samaritan idea.)

      And that responsibility increases if one has helped create that dependent person through consensual sex.

      And my moral intuitions say that society should legally enforce a degree of responsibility, though a lesser degree than that of the moral responsibility.

      Have you read “Dismantling”?

      • I’m not sure if I’ve read “Dismantling.” Is that a book or an essay of some sort? It’s possible I have. Got a link with more info?

        • First let me mention that since you gave an email address in your first post and that first post was approved (by me as moderator), if you would give that same email address with each subsequent post, your posts would appear immediately without the need for approval. (Whether the email address is a real one or not, the WordPress software will recognize it as okay for publication.)

          Also, if you give a real email address and if you request, I could notify you by email whenever I (or anyone) replies to you. Sorry I don’t yet have Disqus which would do that automatically, I just haven’t found time to install it.

          “Dismantling”: My shorthand for “Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument,” the blog post of mine under which your comments here appear. In other words, if you just scroll up to the top of this page, you will see it.

          Acyutananda

  10. Just found this through a link you posted in comment at secular prolife. Found this all very fascinating, especially the discussion of intuition vs logic. And I wanted to thank you for the time and effort you have clearly devoted to this.

    Only one thing to add. In your discussion re special rights pleading, rather than framing it as a right we would extend to another class of person in a similar situation, which is a bit hard for me to grasp – though I think I understand what you’re getting at – I tend to think of it as a right which every person would be entitled to for a limited amount of time. Just as we grant all persons (time bound to as children) the right to a free public education and the right (usually) to not be tried as an adult, we could grant all humans (timebound as fetuses) the right to gestate. All of those involve infringement on someone else’s rights (to bodily autonomy, personal property, etc) but it seems mitigated by the fact that every one who’s rights are infringed upon was also given the opportunity to infringe at a prior point in life.

    The flaw I am trying to find my way around (because intuitively I sense it doesn’t matter), is that abortion has been legal for 40 years. So while in 1960 it would have been easy for me to argue that we owe the unborn the same priveleges we enjoyed, and 40 years after abortion becomes illegal again, the same argument will hold… the fact is that currently, the 2 generations of people discussing these issues most passionately (on both sides) were not afforded that right. (USA) Members of generation X and millennials are 1/3 fewer than would have been under prevous laws, and those of us in existance bear the privelege/burden of being chosen/planned/consented-to.

    • Thanks for your approval . . . hope you will share it!

      I’m under a lot of work pressure right now, but want to think carefully about your “limited time” idea and get back to you. Please check again in a couple of days.

      Meanwhile, please take another look at what I wrote under 7, Disanalogies about “Everyone begins their life by using . . .” I want to define clearly in my mind what the difference is between that and the “limited time” approach, and figure out what would be ideal . . . and whether to add some cross-referencing between that and Special-Rights Pleading.

      Acyutananda

    • A couple of days ago I wrote “I want to define clearly in my mind what the difference is . . .” I still haven’t done that, but meanwhile I was happy to see that you had expressed your right-to-gestate proposal under the SPL “What Creates Babies . . .” blog post.

      One person had written: If anything, anti-abortion arguments give greater rights to a fetus than to any born person.

      You replied: “Name one born person who was not given that right.”

      Now let me give you my take, if you don’t mind. “that right” is the same right that you proposed in your above comment here, isn’t it? But here you said, “we could grant all humans (timebound as fetuses) the right to gestate.” Here you made it clear that it was a proposal, not yet an existing right.

      Or I would put it this way — it’s already a moral right, so we should now propose it as a legal right.

      On SPL you continued:

      “Do you think kids having a right to free basic education, gives them rights that adults don’t have and hen try to take that right away? Nope, because every adult has already gotten theirs. Is not unfair, it’s just time bound. You already got yours.”

      “a right to free basic education” — perfect example! I love that.

      But what I think is, because you hadn’t spelled out, as you did here, that the legal right is still in the proposal stage (though I would say already a moral right), that person was enabled to rebut you with My late mother . . . actively consented to my being in her uterus . . .

      So I would suggest always making it clear that what you’re talking about is an existing moral right that should be a legal right. That person’s mother had a right to abort her, but should not have had.

      When I follow up on “I want to define clearly . . .” and reply to you about that, if you would like I could notify you at your email address, so that you don’t have the trouble of checking here.

  11. Pingback: The Psychological Morass of the Abortion Issue | No Termination without Representation

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