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Once again I have found myself arguing against illogical pro-choice advocates. The most recent one is making the following arguments:

1) Pro-life people don’t really care about how many abortions are prevented because every single person who is pro-life is against contraception

2) Pro-life people don’t care about preventing abortions because they’re against Planned Parenthood (the argument is Planned Parenthood prevents abortions, thus pro-life people should be for Planned Parenthood)

3) Pro-life people only care about preventing women from having sex and they want to turn women into baby-making machines (O NOES!)

The saddest part about this whole debate I’ve been having is the person cannot name one book on the issue that she has read. Not one book for the pro-choice stance or one book against it. Yet, the person claims to be an expert on this issue because she’s written a lot of blog posts on pro-life issues.

The following response does use harsh rhetoric, calling the person “ignorant” and using a “stupid argument.” Such rhetoric is quite intentional on my part. I am attempting to point out to the person exactly where she stands on this issue and that she is, in fact, in ignorance on it. By admitting that she hasn’t studied the issue, she has admitted ignorance. Likewise, I don’t believe one should go after wolves with a whiffle bat and a Nerf gun.

My response to such drivel is as follows:

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Recently, Alaska has been in the news for putting a parental notification law on the ballot. Of course, multiple people have jumped up to say that such a law somehow violates women’s rights. How the law violates women’s rights when these same “women” (under-aged girls) have to get parental consent for medical treatment, not just notification. This means Planned Parenthood argues that when it comes to killing a fetus, a 15 year old has a right to her body, but when it comes to consenting to a field trip or the like, the 15 year old no longer has a right over her body. This is a contradiction, but I digress.

I’ve been thinking more and more about people who are against abortion, but then qualify their statement to say, “But I would never make it illegal for others.” This forces the question, “Why not?” The only proper reason to be against abortions is that one believes the fetus to be a human person. If one believes the fetus to be a human person, then it should follow that one believes the fetus has rights.

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Let me say upfront that I understand this article it not a proof for Christianity. Rather, I am explaining that if one cares for the weak in society, then one must adopt the Judeo-Christian worldview. Likewise, if one is a naturalist, one must not care for the weak or, at the very least, admit that one is contradicting one’s naturalism in caring for the weak.

Within Western culture a great divide has grown between the metaphysical views of materialism and supernaturalism and such a divide has slowly impacted how Western society treats its weak.[1] The vast majority of lawmakers in Western culture, regardless of religious claims, operate under a materialistic worldview. Such a worldview lacks a proper justification for absolute morality and in many cases justifies the extermination of the weak. The Judeo-Christian worldview alternatively, provides the best justification for an absolute morality that protects the weak. The Judeo-Christian worldview best fits with what humans know a priori to be right, namely that a society should take care of its weak rather than bring them harm.

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ABC put forth possibly one of the most biased reports I’ve seen in quite some time. Starting with an emotional appeal, the article reveals its bias in a most blatant manner, “But under a new law in Oklahoma, women like Casteix, who have been sexually assaulted, will be forced to undergo a second trauma. The law requires them to undergo a sonogram, and depending on the state of pregnancy, it could be a transvaginal one, which involves insertion of a wand.” The article goes on to bury the other side of the story, placing it on the third page, a page that most readers wouldn’t get to.

Journalistic integrity (or the lack thereof) aside, it is true that the law doesn’t allow for exceptions in abortion or incest. Considering that 93% of abortions occur for social reasons (with only about 1% occurring for rape or incest), there’s little reason to include a caveat in the law concerning rape and incest. Regardless, such a caveat is, logically speaking, unnecessary.

When abortion proponents bring up rape and incest as exceptions, they are often using fallacious reasoning. They are making an emotional appeal in order to support the act of abortion. Not to sound completely callous, I do have sympathy for someone who has been raped and then been left with a pregnancy as a result of that rape. Such an event is tragic and if the family or private organizations cannot help such a woman, I believe the government has a moral obligation to help her. Whether that be through paying for her counseling, paying for her healthcare during and after the pregnancy, or providing adequate and safe housing, the government should take care of her if her family or private organizations fall short.

Regardless, if a fetus is a human person (even if certain capacities haven’t been fully realized) then whether the fetus’ creation was intentional, an accident, or the product of a forced sexual act becomes completely irrelevant when discussing the rights of the fetus. Whatever the paternal contributor did has no bearing on the rights of the fetus. Looking at the issue logically (which one must do when determining the morality of an issue) whether or not a pregnancy was caused by rape is completely superfluous. If the fetus is not a human person or has yet to obtain personhood, then whether the law allows the caveat of rape and incest is irrelevant; the law is arbitrary and unnecessary. If, however, the fetus is a human person, then no caveat for rape is needed because the fetus is still a human being.

Before we bring in the victimhood of the mother (which is legitimate, she is a victim in the case of rape and incest), we must also realize that the fetus is also a victim. The fetus will eventually become an infant, that infant will become a child, that child will become a teenager, and that teenager will become an adult. In all those processes, that child will most likely grow up without a father and/or knowing that he is a product of a rapist. This causes quite a bit of guilt and problems on the part of the child. Just as the mother suffers so too the child suffers.

Another aspect to consider is the moral status of being a victim as opposed to being a victimizer. One must consider if it is better morally to be put into the Gulag for refusing to spy on one’s neighbors, or if it is morally better to spy on one’s neighbors and put them in the Gulag in order to avoid the same punishment for one’s self. Most ethicists and even laypeople will agree that, morally speaking, it is better to be a victim than to be a victimizer. When we look to the issue of abortion, specifically in the case of rape, though the woman is in the morally better position by being the victim, when she seeks an abortion she actually becomes a victimizer; though a victim of rape, she shares the moral equivalency of her rapist when she seeks an abortion as she is murdering a human person.

Such harsh terminology might make some uncomfortable, but before having an emotional response, it is better to truly evaluate what was just said. If the fetus is a human person, then to terminate that life is the equivalent to murder. After all, we hardly ever say that Stalin “terminated potential votes,” but rather that he murdered millions of people. We don’t say that a rapist had “involuntary sexual intercourse,” but rather that he raped a woman. We use such terminology because (1) such terminology appropriately describes what occurred and (2) certain words have emotional connotations. Thus, when we look to abortion, we see:

1) An innocent human person (the fetus)

2) The killing of the innocent human person

Killing an innocent human person is almost always called murder. When a woman, who is a victim of rape, seeks to kill the fetus that is the result of rape, she engages in murder. Though she will always be a victim of rape, she becomes a victimizer when she seeks an abortion, which makes her just as immoral as her rapist. This might be a hard pill to swallow, but it still remains true.

In conclusion, whether or not a pregnancy is caused by rape is completely irrelevant. If the fetus is a human person, then no caveat for rape or incest should be allowed (life of the mother, however, does remain a legitimate caveat that people can voluntarily consider). A human person is still a human person, regardless of how he came into existence.

By J. Borofsky

The other day I came across this post and found it quite interesting. What was more interesting was one of the comments given by someone with the handle of “Operation Counterstrike”:

Yes, abortion is homicide. But abortion on demand is JUSTIFIABLE homicide.

If something is inside your body, then you’re entitled to have it killed. No exceptions. Even if it’s an “innocent” person. If you were inside my body, then I’d be entitled to kill you, and if I were inside your body, you’d be entitled to kill me. In fact if ALL the people in the WHOLE HUMPING WORLD, including the innocent ones, the pregnant ones, and the unborn ones, were inside your body, then you’d be entitled to holocaust them. That’s part of the meaning of the word “your” in the phrase “your body”.

This is really a sophomoric version of Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “body ownership” argument. Though he approaches the argument in a childish and immature manner, it is a real argument. I offered up the following as a response:

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Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanityOf fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a)Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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After reviewing this series, what can we conclude? If we give consent to the idea that all human beings, from the embryo to the elderly, from the able-bodied to the disabled, what of it? What are we supposed to do with this information? Though there are multiple applications, I can think of a few:

  1. On the personal level, we must start treating humans with dignity. This means we must cease giving into a materialistic culture. In a materialistic culture, attributes other than a person’s humanity determine the value or worth of a person. Things such as looks, wealth, athletic ability, and other accidents to our essence are elevated above the essence itself. When this occurs, we lose sight of the fact that all humans are intrinsically valuable. This can lead to some negative consequences, some as small as making someone feel left out to actually killing people because they are different. Thus, we must recognize in our own personal lives that all humans hold intrinsic value.
  2. We must support legislation and Constitutional amendments that support the sanctity of life at all stages of development. We must support legislation and legislators that actively seek to prevent stem cell research, abortion, and other destructive medical research. We must support legislation and legislators that protect the elderly and disabled. We must likewise support legislation that protects the sanctity of life even when it puts other issues – such as economics or political power – on the back burner.
  3. We must re-evaluate our approach to the world. Rather than flexing our military might at the first sign of trouble, we should seek every opportunity to end a crisis without bloodshed.
  4. We must get more literature into the hands of the public and make information on the intrinsic value of humanity more readily available. Much of the problem in the modern world is that most people simply don’t think about this issue. They innately know that human life is valuable, but fail to define what it means to be human. Rather than defining it, they let others define it for them, which in turn leads to arbitrary definitions of humanity. Arbitrary definitions lead to arbitrary laws, which is the current status we find ourselves in.

There is much more that can be done than the above four examples, but I hope they lay a good foundation.

This series is now complete (for the most part). Though I don’t see myself adding anything to this series, I will continually edit each relevant post as more information and critiques come available.

Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanityOf fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a)Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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We now revisit utilitarian and functional ethics concerning human beings. This was somewhat tackled earlier on in the series, but I wanted to give a fuller treatment to these two ethical standards. Lately, the utilitarian and functional view has been in abundance. However, before such views are attacked, we must first understand what those views are and why they are wrong (especially in the context of issues surrounding life).

Functionalism

Functionalism is a term that I am using to describe the idea that a person’s value is determined by a person’s specific function within society (I am not using this term in the same way the term is used in philosophy of the mind arguments).

When I use the term “functionalism” I am meaning to describe the way of thinking that determines value by function. Sadly enough, this view is very common in our society whether we realize it or not. For instance, one of the first questions asked when meeting someone is “What do you do for a living?” Intentional or not, we are asking what the person does in order to sum up how we view the person. If the person says, “I am a janitor” we will generally view him less than the person who says, “I am a brain surgeon.” The brain surgeon, in our view, holds a greater function within society and thus has more value.

In short, we must have a function within society that is positive in order to be deemed a person of value. The classic hypothetical provided to indicate how we approach functionalism is if you have the ability to save one person off a sinking boat, out of a child, a doctor with the cure for cancer, an athlete, a mentally disabled person, or an economists who has found a way to eradicate poverty worldwide, who do you save? The hypothetical is to force you to think about each person’s function within society to determine who is worthy of saving; we look to the person’s function within society to determine the value. Inevitably, in the above scenario, it comes down to the doctor and the economist.

The antecedent of the above is that a person who lacks function isn’t as valuable as others. You might be a mail man, which provides some level of function, but this makes you far more valuable than the person with severe autism. Thus, if caught in a fire and a fireman can only save you or the autistic person, you are the logical choice because you hold more value than the autistic child. Though the autistic person isn’t really human because he lacks a function within society, even if he were, he would be lesser in degree of value due to his lack of function.

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Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanityOf fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a) |  Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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With the previous post, we established a premise for what it is to be human, or better, what criteria we cannot use when determining who is and is not human. We cannot rely upon how a person looks, how big a person is, or the quality of life. These are arbitrary standards and as such we cannot use them; any standard offered must be non-arbitrary.

The standard I have provided can be found in Part 4 of this series. Simply put, a human being is a rational animal; biologically, his DNA and biological make up link him to other homo sapiens. Likewise, he holds the capacity to be rational, that is, creative, inventive, etc. There’s no specification on the degree to which he can accomplish this, just that he has the capacity. After all, how do we determine who is more rational or who is more creative or who is more inventive? We can only go so far as to say that the capacity exists; we cannot use the actualization of the capacity as a standard, because such a standard would be arbitrary.

With the above in mind, we must determine whether certain types of people are actually people; everything from fetuses to the elderly have been thrown into the debate of “person or not”?

With apologies to those with short attention spans, this may be one of the longer posts in the series. I have divided it into sections and sub-sections for those who cannot read it all in one sitting.

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Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanity | Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a) |  Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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One of the more charged terms in the abortion debate is the word “murder.” Those who are pro-life use this term quite a bit, calling abortion murder, whereas those who are pro-choice think equating abortion to murder is egregious rhetoric. Of course, the issue is quite simple; if the fetus is a human being, then the intentional killing of the fetus in murder (with few exceptions). If the fetus is not a human being, then killing the fetus is no more an act of murder than killing a wild animal that threatens livestock, or killing off numerous skin cells by taking a shower.

That is what the abortion debate – and multiple other life debates, such as what to do with the disabled, the mentally retarded, the terminally ill, and the like – hinges upon; is “it” human?

As seen in Part 5 from the Intrinsic Value series, being a human being means that you have certain rights, the most foundational of those rights being the right to life. All other rights are based upon this one right. Without a right to life, ultimately we have a right to nothing. This right is not given to animals, nor is it given to inanimate objects; this right is placed solely on humans.

Human, All Too Human

To provide a brief overview of the last parts, we determined that a human is both material an immaterial (though it is not necessary to believe this in order to believe that humans have intrinsic value); the material aspect of humanity is shared among humans in our DNA. Humans are individual human beings and though at times reliant upon other humans for our existence, we are ontologically separate from other human beings. We are self-aware, we have the ability to forgo our instincts, and we are creative.

We are individuals at every stage of development; no matter how much our bodies change, who we are doesn’t change. Thus, once a human, always a human. When our essence changes, this means that we have ceased to be, that is, we have died.

So the question comes up – what about those who do not show the attributes of being a human? What of those that show no capacity for reason, are tinier than other humans, are inching closer to death, are in vegetative states, or so on and so forth? This seems to be the question of the day. Often times abortion rights advocates will declare, “It’s a woman’s uterus; what she is killing inside her uterus is not human” and seek to provide a justification. When we kill the severely deformed, the advocacy is, “they are not really humans.” Or, as the Nazi father from the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas says about the Jews, “Those people aren’t really people.”

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Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanity | Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a)Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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We now know that to be human is to be a rational animal (thus defined as a human animal). To be a human animal is to have a soul. Is the idea that we have intrinsic value based upon having a soul? I do not believe so. I believe that ensoulment can provide one of the better arguments for intrinsic human value, especially under the Christian worldview. After all, under the Christian worldview, a human being is made in the image of God, thus by the very nature of being human, a person has value because that person is made in God’s image. This is the strongest case so long as a person believes in the Christian God and that He created humans in His image. If one has those two beliefs as a premise, then it logically follows that humans – no matter their stage of development or ability to actualize all capacities – have intrinsic value.

Unfortunately, not everyone accepts such premises and it is doubtful that most people will change their mind on such premises. We are then left to ask ourselves if there is any natural reason for believing in intrinsic human value. Do we have a reason to believe in it by appealing to reason alone? I would advocate that there is certainly a non-spiritual, non-religious, purely natural way of determining that humans have intrinsic value.

Intrinsic Value

What does it mean for a thing to have “intrinsic value”? As the name indicates, to have intrinsic value means that a thing has value by the mere act of existing. One cannot add to one’s value or take away from one’s value; all things that of a group that are intrinsically valuable are all equally valuable. If we could add to intrinsic value, then the value is ultimately extrinsic. It is the same if we could take the value away. Thus, if value is intrinsic, it is the same for everyone.

This stands in stark opposition to the view of extrinsic value. A car is extrinsically valuable. Its value goes only so far as people will let it go. If no value is placed upon the car, then so be it. The American dollar is extrinsically valuable; it only has the power it does because people have decided to put an emphasis on it as a way for paying for services rendered and goods. If we did not value the dollar, then it would be of no value.

So if humans are extrinsically valuable, then there are no human rights; humans would have to earn their value (if there is, in fact, any value to be earned at all). Humans, as a whole or as individuals, would only be as valuable as we make them to be. If we decide that certain humans aren’t valuable, then those humans simply have no value.

This is why the debate over extrinsic and intrinsic value is so important. It lays at the basis over deciding human rights. Those who accept intrinsic value (such as myself) would argue that all humans, regardless of physical or mental condition or stage of development are valuable human beings, deserving of basic human goods (human rights). That is the position that I am going to defend on this post. Though I have already dealt somewhat with utilitarianism and the idea of extrinsic value in the second post of this series, I will deal with it more later in a following post. For now, however, I wish to defend the natural law view of intrinsic human value.

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