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A hypothetical morality question

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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26 September 2007 11:39
 
Sander - 25 September 2007 08:29 PM

Your comment about the dead I take not to be serious.

By that I assume you mean,
[quote author=“Antisocialdarwinist”]The dead aren’t negatively affected by anything.

Yes, I was serious.  At least, I can’t think of anything that would negatively affect the dead.  Rotting, maybe?  Or being eaten by vultures? 

[quote author=“Bruce Burlson”]A1 - No - I see no evidence that the woman engaged in any sort of moral analysis whatsoever, so how could her decision be “moral.”

[quote author=“Talha777”]IF youre asking whether the decision is moral, than no it is not moral. It is based on selfishness, pride, and fear.

Maybe she felt it would be immoral to bring a person into this world who would always be at a significant disadvantage with respect to the vast majority of other people.  You may not agree with that, but it doesn’t make it immoral.

 
 
 
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burt
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26 September 2007 13:33
 

I think that a better phrasing of the question might have two parts: (a) is the decision moral; (b) does she have a right to make the decision.  In the first case I would agree that the question of morality doesn’t apply—the decision is one of personal convienience.  In the second case, the decision is, in my opinion, immoral.  I realize that there is a question of where the dividing line is here, however, as well as the slippery slope lurking in the background. 

In general, I don’t think that the question of morality applies to abortion—it is a matter of free choice, although the reasons behind a choice (in either direction) may be moral or immoral.  Talha is making that point, it seems to me, although perhaps jumping to a conclusion on insufficient information for this particular case.  An acquantiance of mine actually faced a similar decision—she was informed that her child would be born without most of its brain and, after what I’m sure was a good deal of soul searching, she and her husband decided to have the child anyway.  But, they considered this a personal decision rather than one based on any standards of morality.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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26 September 2007 19:41
 
burt - 26 September 2007 05:33 PM

In the second case, the decision is, in my opinion, immoral.  I realize that there is a question of where the dividing line is here, however, as well as the slippery slope lurking in the background.

I agree with you about the slippery slope.  I can’t argue that point.  But, since it doesn’t deal directly with the situation at hand, how about if we take the slippery slope off the table?

Intuitively (maybe emotionally would be a better word) it seems wrong to answer “yes” to Q2.  But it’s hard to rationalize.

 
 
 
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waltercat
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26 September 2007 20:37
 
burt - 26 September 2007 05:33 PM

I think that a better phrasing of the question might have two parts: (a) is the decision moral; (b) does she have a right to make the decision.  In the first case I would agree that the question of morality doesn’t apply—the decision is one of personal convienience.  In the second case, the decision is, in my opinion, immoral.  I realize that there is a question of where the dividing line is here, however, as well as the slippery slope lurking in the background.

There really is no slope here, though.  The argument would NOT be:  There is very little difference between a born baby and an unborn baby.  Instead the argument would be: There is NO difference between a born baby and an unborn baby (There is one difference: the being born part; but that is morally trivial.  If the born baby has rights, then the unborn baby, having all of the same features and capacities (except that of being out of the womb) should have rights as well).

Now this argument would only apply to the radical (*very radical*) pro-choice position that says that each and every abortion is allowable (morally acceptable).  But that is the position you are endorsing, burt, is it not: 

In general, I don’t think that the question of morality applies to abortion—it is a matter of free choice,

So there is no need to worry about a slippery slope, instead there is need to worry about making moral judgments on morally irrelevant criteria (e.g., judging that abortions are acceptable on the basis of the fact that the baby is in the womb, while simultaneously asserting that it would be wrong to kill the baby once it is outside of the womb)

 
 
 
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camanintx
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27 September 2007 08:35
 
waltercat - 27 September 2007 12:37 AM

There really is no slope here, though.  The argument would NOT be:  There is very little difference between a born baby and an unborn baby.  Instead the argument would be: There is NO difference between a born baby and an unborn baby (There is one difference: the being born part; but that is morally trivial.  If the born baby has rights, then the unborn baby, having all of the same features and capacities (except that of being out of the womb) should have rights as well).

If there is no slope here then why is there so much disagreement on exactly when life begins? Can a simple zygote really be considered a person? Rights are usually reserved for individuals and the law defines that as beginning when the baby is born.

 
 
 
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waltercat
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27 September 2007 09:16
 
camanintx - 27 September 2007 12:35 PM
waltercat - 27 September 2007 12:37 AM

There really is no slope here, though.  The argument would NOT be:  There is very little difference between a born baby and an unborn baby.  Instead the argument would be: There is NO difference between a born baby and an unborn baby (There is one difference: the being born part; but that is morally trivial.  If the born baby has rights, then the unborn baby, having all of the same features and capacities (except that of being out of the womb) should have rights as well).

If there is no slope here then why is there so much disagreement on exactly when life begins? Can a simple zygote really be considered a person? Rights are usually reserved for individuals and the law defines that as beginning when the baby is born.

My point was not that the slippery slope type argument could never be applied to the abortion issue (more appropriately thought of as the issue of determining when a fetus has moral status, or personhood).

What I was saying is that you don’t need to appeal to the slippery slope in order to show that burt’s position is wrong.  burt claimed that abortion is a matter of personal convenience and that it is never a moral issue.  Well, if that is true, then every abortion is morally acceptable (i.e., no abortion is morally wrong).  And this implies that even an abortion in the ninth month of pregnancy is morally acceptable. 

The problem for burt arises because he thinks it is morally UNacceptable to kill the baby once it has been born.  But there is no difference between a baby who is born and one that is in the womb in the ninth month (at least no morally relevant difference). 

Now, this argument is NOT a slippery slope argument.  The argument is not that there is very little difference between points A and B, and that thus point B must have the same significance as point B; and there is very little difference between B and C, thus C must be treated the same as B (which is treated the same as A); and there is very little difference between C and D . . . This is not the form of my argument.

Rather, I am saying that there is NO relevant difference between the born baby and the baby in the womb at nine months.  I am not appealing to a slippery slope, I am claiming that the unborn baby at nine months has all of the relevant capacities and features that the born baby has and that thus they must each be granted the same moral status.

Notice that my argument is consistent with recognizing that there are significant differences between the unborn baby at nine months in the womb and the unborn fetus at 3 weeks.  Clearly there are differences here and the two should not have the same moral status.  The slippery slope sort of argument attempts to deny this obvious point since, the argument goes, there is only very little difference between any two points in development; thus the two opposite ends of development (born baby and fertilized embryo) must have the same moral status.  Again, this is not my argument.  The slippery slope argument is a fallacy:  The fact that there is a continuum of development does not imply that the properties of the being at one end of the developmental sequence must have all of the properties of the being at the opposite end of the sequence.  That is clearly not true.

Thus my argument against late-term abortions is not a slippery slope type argument.  Rather it is based on the biological reality that late-term fetuses have all of the morally relevant characteristics that born babies have (most importantly, sentience).

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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27 September 2007 09:22
 
waltercat - 27 September 2007 12:37 AM

There really is no slope here, though.  The argument would NOT be:  There is very little difference between a born baby and an unborn baby.  Instead the argument would be: There is NO difference between a born baby and an unborn baby (There is one difference: the being born part; but that is morally trivial.  If the born baby has rights, then the unborn baby, having all of the same features and capacities (except that of being out of the womb) should have rights as well).

My interpretation of the slippery slope is that if you decide it’s ok to kill an infant based on this scenario, what other scenarios will that extend to?  For example, what if the mother had never been screened for Down Syndrome in the first place?  Then her decision becomes harder to justify, in my opinion.  It’s a step down the slippery slope.

Or what if the woman had decided she only wanted a male child and that she would terminate a female fetus.  I’ve heard this happens a lot in China.  Suppose the fetus’s sex is incorrectly identified as male.  Would it then be ok for the mother to put her female infant to sleep?  Another step down the slippery slope.

Or what if it wasn’t immediately clear that the baby had Down Syndrome, but instead it took six months to discover it?  Or a year?

 
 
 
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Traces Elk
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27 September 2007 09:27
 
waltercat - 27 September 2007 01:16 PM

Thus my argument against late-term abortions is not a slippery slope type argument.  Rather it is based on the biological reality that late-term fetuses have all of the morally relevant characteristics that born babies have (most importantly, sentience).

Why, then, walter, dear boy, labor should be induced as soon as a fetus achieves sentience. I think it is unconscionable to leave a sentient being incarcerated against its will inside a uterus.

 
 
 
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waltercat
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27 September 2007 09:33
 
Salt Creek - 27 September 2007 01:27 PM
waltercat - 27 September 2007 01:16 PM

Thus my argument against late-term abortions is not a slippery slope type argument.  Rather it is based on the biological reality that late-term fetuses have all of the morally relevant characteristics that born babies have (most importantly, sentience).

Why, then, walter, dear boy, labor should be induced as soon as a fetus achieves sentience. I think it is unconscionable to leave a sentient being incarcerated against its will inside a uterus.

Very reasonable.  I quite agree (at least with the part about liberating sentient beings who are incarcerated against their will AND, one needs to add, do not deserve incarceration). 

We won’t have very many fetuses to liberate, however.  Every fetus that I have come across very much enjoys the confines of mommy’s womb. And they are all very reluctant to abandon it.  Seems that fear on confinement develops much later in life (after a few months).

[ Edited: 27 September 2007 09:36 by waltercat]
 
 
 
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Traces Elk
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27 September 2007 11:11
 
waltercat - 27 September 2007 01:33 PM

And they are all very reluctant to abandon it.

All? Say it ain’t so, Walt. The frequency of premature labor is too large to ignore. Sentience indeed! I never considered it, but some people will take that ball and run with it.

As Dawkins points out in the preface to “Unweaving the Rainbow”: We’re the lucky ones. We get to exist.

Seems that fear on confinement develops much later in life (after a few months).

Maybe we need an updated definition of sentience?

 
 
 
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waltercat
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27 September 2007 11:16
 
Salt Creek - 27 September 2007 03:11 PM
waltercat - 27 September 2007 01:33 PM

And they are all very reluctant to abandon it.

All? Say it ain’t so, Walt. The frequency of premature labor is too large to ignore.

Are you suggesting that the babies get to decide to induce premature labor???

Well, even if that were so, it would be no objection to my view

Sentience indeed! I never considered it, but some people will take that ball and run with it.

As Dawkins points out in the preface to “Unweaving the Rainbow”: We’re the lucky ones. We get to exist.

Seems that fear on confinement develops much later in life (after a few months).

Maybe we need an updated definition of sentience?

I defined it above as the capacity to have experiences (such as the ability to feel pleasure and pain; babies have that in abundance).

 
 
 
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Traces Elk
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27 September 2007 11:31
 
waltercat - 27 September 2007 03:16 PM

I defined it above as the capacity to have experiences (such as the ability to feel pleasure and pain; babies have that in abundance).

So do cows and pigs. We slaughter them and eat them. Mmmmm. Hog fat!

 
 
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