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Abortion Vaughn Ch. 7 History Historically, abortion has been a controversial issue. Abortion and euthanasia are forbidden in the Hippocratic oath (written 400 BCE ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Abortion

  • Vaughn Ch. 7

  • Historically, abortion has been a controversial
  • Abortion and euthanasia are forbidden in the
    Hippocratic oath (written 400 BCE) p253
  • Aristotle recommended abortion before life and
    sense have begun for families with too many
    children. p253

  • Vaughn claims the Hebrew and Christian scriptures
    do not denounce abortion, citing Exodus 21.
  • Whether those scriptures prohibit abortion is too
    difficult a question for here
  • Vaughns interpretation is too quick, and it is
    not well done.

  • Vaughn leaves out a crucial information that
    provides context. He says
  • Exodus 2122 says that if a man causes a woman
    to have a miscarriage, but she is not harmed
    in any other way, the penalty is just a fine.
  • But, the passage actually says
  • And if men struggle with each other and strike a
    woman with child so that she has a miscarriage,
    yet there is no further injury, he shall surely
    be fined -NASB
  • Does Vaughns version seem equivalent?
  • Might there be serious translation questions?

  • Aquinas believed the ensoulment of a fetus
    happened in stages. At conception life is
  • vegetative, then it develops
  • lower sensitive life,
  • more advanced sensitive life, etc.,
  • until, at 40 days for males (90 days for
    females), God directly imparts a rational soul to
    the fetus.
  • So, while Aquinas says abortion is always wrong,
    it is only murder after 40 days for males, 90
    days for females

For a scholarly discussion of Aquinas on
abortion, see link
  • In English Common Law, abortion was considered a
    crime only if performed after quickening p253
  • Quickening df historically, when the mother can
    detect movement initiated by the fetus (20 weeks
  • Anima Latin, breath anemos Greek, wind
  • Animal soul is the principle of self-motion
  • So, a fetus is quickened when it receives or
    develops the power of self-motion, an animal soul
    (9 weeks gestation, though not detectable by the

  • In England, Henry de Bracton, who lived at the
    same time as Aquinas, affirmed the killing of a
    fetus after quickening was murder.
  • But practically every major legal writer
    thereafter claimed it was not murder at common
    law. (see link below)
  • Not until the early 1800s did England have a law
    saying abortion of a quickened fetus was murder,
    punishable by death. (see link below)

Warning unsure of quality of source
Whats wrong here?
  • Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy. p255
  • Spontaneous abortion or miscarriage abortion
    due to birth defects or injury.
  • Induced abortion intentional abortion
  • Therapeutic abortion intentional abortion for
    the life or health of the mother

Roe vs. Wade
  • Roe vs. Wade is the landmark court case begun in
    Texas between Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), and
    Texas (represented by the Dallas County District
    Attorney Henry Wade)
  • Based on a disputed right to privacy found in the
    14th Amendment, the Supreme Court determined
    abortion should be
  • legal by choice in the first trimester,
  • restricted by therapeutic concerns in the second
  • restricted by therapeutic needs in the third

  • Who has the burden of proof in the battle over
    abortion rights?
  • Standing presumption?
  • Who asserted first?
  • What does conservative mean in this argument?
  • What does liberal mean here?

argument 1
  • Vaughns first conservative argument
  • Killing Innocents Argument (p258)
  • The killing of an innocent human being is wrong
  • the unborn is an innocent human being
  • therefore, it is wrong to kill the unborn
  • What does Vaughn find wrong with this argument?
  • Which fallacy does he think is committed?

argument 2
  • Vaughn presents this argument as an improvement
    of Argument 1
  • Killing Innocent Persons Argument (p258-259)
  • The killing of an innocent person is wrong
  • the unborn is an innocent person
  • therefore, it is wrong to kill the unborn
  • For Vaughn, whats wrong with the argument?
  • Which premise is disputed?

Noonan's defense of argument 2
  • Receipt of genetic code is what makes someone a
    human or man (the equivalent of a person)
  • Noonans Argument It is this genetic
    information which
  • determines his characteristics
  • is the biological carrier of the possibility of
    human wisdom
  • makes him a self-evolving being. John C. Noonan
    (see Vaughn, p259, fn 5)

non-sequitur response to noonan?
  • Vaughns Response to Noonans argument is to
    reject sorites arguments (p259).
  • We can think of a sorites argument as a fallacy,
    an Argument to the Heap (soros means heap in
  • How many grains of rice does it take to make a
  • Is two enough? No?
  • Three? No.
  • Can you ever get a heap by adding one grain? No?
  • Then you can never make a heap!?
  • Was Noonans argument an argument to the heap?
  • What did Noonan argue exactly?

Better response to noonan?
  • Warrens Response Mary Ann Warren argues that
    the conceptus, or fertilized ovum,
  • cannot be identified with the embryo because
    it is a mass of undifferentiated cells, any of
    which could give rise to an embryo. This
    pre-embryo may spontaneously divide, resulting
    in twins or triplets alternatively, it may
    combine with another pre-embryo giving rise to a
    single fetus. (see Vaughn, p259, fn 6)
  • Does this argument show pre-embryos are not
    persons in Noonans sense, or that we cant tell
    which part is a person or persons? Both? Neither?
  • Is the use of spontaneously question begging?

Devines defense of argument 2
  • Devines Defense Philip Devine provides a
    defense of valuing adults and fetuses the same
  • What makes it wrong to kill someone is the
    stealing of their future (their potential?)
  • But a fetus has a future no less than an adult
  • So, killing a fetus is wrong for the same reason
    killing an adult is wrong (supplied conclusion)
    (see Vaughn, p259, fn 7)
  • Does a fetus have a future the way an adult has a

Is Devine's argument a potentiality argument?
  • Vaughn characterizes Devines argument as a
    potentiality argument
  • A common response to this potentiality argument
    is that there is a world of difference between
    (1) possessing a particular trait that gives you
    a right and (2) having the potential to develop a
    trait that gives you that right. p259
  • Is that a fair characterization of Devines

potentiality arguments
  • If someone argues,
  • only persons have rights
  • fetuses are potential persons
  • therefore, fetuses have rights
  • they will be susceptible to Warrens and Tooleys
  • potential persons are not persons
  • having the potential to drive at 18 years old
    does not give you a right to drive when youre 12
  • But did Devine ever claim such a thing?

  • Is merely being a human being, a member of Homo
    Sapiens, sufficient for personhood?
  • Vaughn says, to think so is to be guilty of a
    prejudice called speciesism.
  • The liberal argues that since the properties that
    make us persons could be exhibited by non-humans,
    merely being a member of the human species cannot
    be sufficient for personhood.
  • And speciesism is a close cousin to racism.
  • Is this right?
  • Isnt the conservative position that being Homo
    Sapiens is sufficient, but not necessary for
  • That leaves open the possibility that other
    species are persons too, right?
  • Speciesism avoided?

  • Warren lists features she things most central
    to personhood
  • consciousness and capacity for feeling pain
  • reasoning
  • self-motivated activity
  • capacity to communicate
  • self-concepts, and self-awareness, individual,
    racial, or both
  • Warren thinks any being missing all of those is
    certainly not a person. -p260
  • What about someone in a coma?
  • Vaughn mentions the mentally impaired, who may
    lack all 5.
  • Are they not persons? Can they be killed?

  • The liberal admits their view of personhood makes
    killing the hopelessly mentally impaired or
    vegetative permissible.
  • Nonetheless, we protect them for other reasons
  • their families care about them
  • uncertainty about their mental status
  • concern to avoid a general devaluing of life
  • Wouldnt the last reason, especially, also be a
    reason to prohibit abortion?

  • 2 reasons for why the liberal position does not
    justify infanticide
  • infants are very close to being persons
  • social utility (we, by nature, love babies, and
    killing them would coarsen us, and it is wrong to
    coarsen society) p261
  • Does that sound like a sufficient account of what
    would be wrong with killing a baby?

  • Between conservative and liberal views, Vaughn
    mentions moderates. Moderates view personhood as
    appearing somewhere during fetal development
  • brainwaves
  • viability
  • gradually on a scale of increasing personhood
  • Vaughn seems to view these are arbitrary.
  • Is there anything specially relevant about
    brainwaves or viability?
  • Is the gradual development position reasonable?

  • Judith Jarvis Thompson argues that even if we
    grant fetuses person status, their rights do not
    necessarily trump the rights of others.
  • Read p262, the example of the violinist.
  • What abortion cases is this similar to?

Judith Jarvis Thompson
Michael Tooley
  • Consider Michael Tooleys argument based on an
    analysis of rights
  • to have a right you must be the kind of thing
    that can have an interest (the newspaper has no
    right not to be torn up because it has no
    interest in not being torn up isnt the kind of
    thing can can be interested in not being torn up)
  • to have an interest in something, you must desire
  • fetuses cannot have an interest in continued
    existence because they cannot desire it
  • fetuses cannot desire continue existence because
    they cannot have a concept of themselves existing
    in the future (because they cannot form the
    concept of a self at all)
  • therefore, the unborn (and some infants), have no
    right to continued existence (see Tooley, p316)
  • Can a fetus form a concept of itself existing
    through time?
  • Is such an enduring self necessary for personhood?
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