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Philosophy on LJ
Consider this if you will... (I write at the risk of being clawed to death by tigers) 
4th-Aug-2008 02:05 am
I have always felt that I stood alone in ambiguity on one major topic that cannot help but come up in nearly every moral, ethical, and political debate. I find that this topic divides not just the educated and non-educated, the religious and nonreligious, but everyone in every different background. it is strange its power to divide even those who are in the same belief system or spirituality to opposite sides of spectrum. I refer to the debate over abortion and the dubbed "right to choose" or "right to life" discussion.

no matter who I ask or where I go to ask it the answer always comes out with the same intensity. Its as if I asked them if they agreed with the general message of Mein Kampf, a question which would actually carry the audacity to outrage the listener and warrant an extreme reaction. apparently abortionists are worse than himmler according to some and the pro-life crowd is the equivalent of hitler to others. personally, i never understand the divide on the issue. at least when sensible human being discuss general morality they sit down like civilized individuals and typically end up agreeing or agreeing to disagree. but no such understanding exists between the pro-choice and pro-life crowd. "you are either with us or against." if i personally were to play devil's advocate against one side the other side would consider me lucifer himself.

like thompson once said (while referring to himself), "no sympathy for the devil." (quote taken blatantly out of context)

so here is what i would like anyone reading to consider: it has become apparent to me that this entire abortion debate is merely over definitions. the pro-life crowd defines a fetus as life, the same as mine or yours, while the pro-choice crowd does not equate the fetus as equal to the lives of you and i (or at least overlooks the quality of life as less then the necessity of choice). the pro-life crowd does not consider the "right to choose" a human right while the pro-choice crowd feels the right to choice when you have a child is essential in modern society. but further more that the debate based on definition cannot have a entirely morally justifiable answer. simply said, who is to say whether there is morality behind keeping a baby or terminating a pregnancy after 4 weeks? or is it simply the same debate that everyone has accepted: the kind of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong bullshit that most want to accept?

a couple of posts ago a member of this community attempted to prove or at least openly embrace the correctness of utilitarianism. it is my opinion that not every choice in life is so public and that utilitarianism may be thoroughly justifiable but horribly unrealistic. (i guess i am saying it is a little distopian in its ends then i would like to accept). but i bring up utilitarianism to suggest whether abortion can be simplified to such terms. is it possible that the abortion question can be answered by a silent or private morality? or do we have to accept that when we decide to abort a pregnancy or not we are making an impact on the world around us at a greatly level? is it okay to terminate a pregnancy because of the discomfort, displeasure, and often sorrow of many even though it might violate the right to live of one? can we always fall back on the most amount of happiness for the most amount of people or most we be more creative than utilitarianism?

there are a lot of questions that as i am writing this i would doubt many consider consistently. as i said before i think most people violently spit out "PRO-CHOICE!" or "PRO-LIFE!" without thinking about the question of definitions, of utilitarianism, or even of logic itself. if you are curious of my personal opinion i will only admit that i am an amoralist and don't care about definitions or the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people. i only consider the goal and logical outcomes at hand and i simply move on. i would never criticize a decision to keep or give up a child on that principle alone. either way i am bringing this argument out of the hopes that some one has logical bias and pause for their own philosophy or possibly insight considering the philosophy of another. i would be very thankful for such a comment.
Comments 
4th-Aug-2008 10:48 am (UTC)
I think a massive problem is that there appear to be two loggerhead factions, both with extremely emotive labels. The words "life" and "choice" are loaded with issues and also bring in the idea of rights - rights to life and rights to choice.

My personal stance - and bear in mind I am an athiest - is that I consider abortion alright in some circumstances, so if a woman is raped, the baby would cause her physical harm or extreme emotional harm, but I am against it when people consider abortion as a general "lifestyle choice" and a general action to be considered upon getting pregnant - I consider it a last resort option. I have no desire whatsoever to have children (as a teenager I was "mother" to my two considerably younger siblings and have had enough of it) and a strong career - to have children would inevitably jepordise that career, yet when I had a pregnancy scare earlier this year I still wouldn't have had an abortion, and part of this is because I believe that people should be responsible for thier actions and think that all life is sacred. If my mother had considered that being pregnant with me would harm her career and general situation (which it did, my dad had to give up his job to look after me whilst she continued her training, and we were very poor for a long time) I wouldn't exist...and I've known too many people that have had an abortion because "the time isn't right", and I don't like that throwaway attitude to life.

And you have no idea how much stick I get for being in both camps, and feel very strongly about being so! I've had a spell of being firmly one way or another, but feel that it's such a grey area that one can't be srongly pro or against as there are too many arguments that make sense both ways. And not being religious people automatically assume I'm firmly in the "pro-choice" camp and I've had 2 boyfriends that have balked in utter horror when I've said that if I got pregnant I'm not having an abortion ("but you're a childfree athiest?!") but I consider it my responsibility to myself to use 2 forms of contreception (especially after the pregnancy scare, which was during a period of only using the pill) if it's "not the right time" and that I should live with my actions if I do get pregnant.

However I am totally agaist banning or restricting abortion - because people will have them regardless of what I think, and looking at the situation in places where abortion is illigal and people have horrendous backstreet abortions, abortion clinics are the lesser of 2 evils.

I'm not sure what philsophy I'm going with here - if any. My philosophy tutor had the same view as me, which was something we bonded over (that and a shared passion for Alice in Wonderland and Douglas Adams) and he was a Wittgenstien fan - but I'm not sure where he stands with abortion! I'm a Russel and Descartes fan and again, not sure where they stand with abortion, so not sure if this was a philosophical comment, just a perspective, but I would think that abortion has no basis either way in untilertarianism as what "the greatest good" is varies so much when it comes to different populations and beliefs, and to apply it would simply bring up the same arguments and moral positions as already exist, especially when religion is involved...when you get something like the Christian idea that the baby has a soul as soon as the sperm hits the egg versus the Muslim idea that there is an "ensoulment" after (I think) 12 weeks,(therefore abortion is ok until that ensoulment as the fetus is nothing but cells, but appalling after) where does the "greater good" lie? It's all a vicious circle.
4th-Aug-2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
well i can assure you that not a great wealth of the older philosophers had a stance on abortion for obvious reasons. abortion is a new debate and it bases itself on new definition of life and choice. i think that is where my confusion and my questioning begin. i was raised in a catholic family and some members of my church as a child were very used to the idea that even a sperm is considered life which they use as justification that male masturbation is immoral. obviously most catholics don't believe this today but once again the debate of definitions is what carries much of the abortion split.

i can admit too that my girlfriend and i had a pregnancy scare when we were 16 (actually, i probably was 15, i can't remember my age at the time this occurred). it is probably what got me thinking about abortion to begin with. prior to that i had just been very blindly pro-choice and did not exactly question it. afterwards, i found myself uneasy with the fact that if my girlfriend was pregnant she would undoubtedly get an abortion. ultimately, i concluded that the decision was hers and that i would never under any circumstance buy durex condoms again.

some moral questioning most go beyond the realm of good and evil and if i can make a point about abortion it is that it is way too personal of an issue to ever think about objectively (at least most of the time). your comment is a bit of testament to that spirit of emotion when it comes to abortion. i agree with your fervor that the idiots who get multiple abortions as a lifestyle choice push the pro-choice boundaries, but they are in the minority. overall, i couldn't agree more that abortion and especially birth control should have a great level of personal accountability. obviously it is no one's fault when a condom breaks for no reason other than it is a cheap condom, but we all most make a decision to not just simply blanket things as black and white in the abortion debate. it is such a lazy way of thinking.

thank you for your comment.
4th-Aug-2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
Those two camps are full of idiots.
The opposite of pro-life isn't pro-choice, it's pro-abortion.

Pro-lifers: Force babies to be had regardless of being afflicted with conditions such as being a retard due to having a drunk for a mother.

Pro-choice: Allow the fools to make the choice to have a baby regardless of afflicting them with retardness due to being a drunk.

Pro-abortion: Force the drunk to abort.

Pro-choice is moderate. Pro-life and Pro-abortion are extremes.
If I had a shred of confidence in the ability of humans to make sensible decisions, I'd be pro-choice. I'm pro-abortion.
4th-Aug-2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
i think that is a bit too subjective an opinion to take entirely seriously. but then again i do not think seriousness was your goal.
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4th-Aug-2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
all thanks. even though i do not see this as a entirely objective and logical debate i always wondered what Kant would have thought of abortion as a concept and in the practice it had undergone today.
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4th-Aug-2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
A little background reading of the most relevant literature would help frame your worries better. In my opinion, these are essential reading:

Judith Jarvis Thomson: "A Defense of Abortion"

Don Marquis: "Why Abortion is Immoral" The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 86, No. 4 (Apr., 1989), pp. 183-202. This can be found in any philosophy anthology that deals with abortion.

Mary Anne Warren: "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion"

There is a good piece by Jane English, too, called "Abortion and the Concept of a Person"
4th-Aug-2008 09:19 pm (UTC)
i appreciate the suggested reading but the problem i have with this debate is its "morality" and the definitions that surround it. i am afraid embracing others logic only clouds the emotive matter at hand. but perhaps i am wrong.
5th-Aug-2008 01:01 am (UTC) - Consistent Christian libertarian response
Abortion is murder, it should be legal.

I separate opinion / conviction from my thoughts on what the role of government should be. Government can't stop all murders and government shouldn't ban something simply because, and even IF, majority opinion agrees on something. The rights of the individual woman to kill her baby before that baby becomes a citizen (then under the protection of the laws of the state) should be upheld.

Viability seems like a logical point at which to grant rights because the state can preserve life.

Further, it should be legal to sell my kidney if I want ... what belongs to me more than my body and if I can't sell something that belongs to me then obviously I must belong to the government.

If government were to be able to outlaw anything just deemed "murder" than all vegans have to do is convince 51% of the electorate and suddenly we're on an all-tofu diet ... which also violates the rights and sovereignty of the individual.

From a religious standpoint, be it real or allegory God put the possibility of sin in Eden thus affirming that even HE doesn't limit the choice to commit evil acts and Christ never implied we should stop others from sinning rather that we should attend to our own behavior.

btw, I agree with JS Mill's commentary in "On Liberty" in this regard: ... liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow: without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish perverse or wrong. ... The only freedom that deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily or mental and spiritual.

And IF one believes in a God then really shouldn't most moral judgments be left to that deity anyway?

If you haven't read "On Liberty" I can direct you to a free mp3 download.
5th-Aug-2008 04:23 am (UTC) - Re: Consistent Christian libertarian response
oh john stuart mill. i must admit that i find him quite enlightening and hope to get around to reading some of his work in the near future. but i got a lot of fiction on the list right now and authors like cortazar cannot be pushed aside so easily. i agree with many of your points but the matter of definition stands and these definitions do not come from a logical place of philosophy be it political or ethical.

natural subjectivity, i suppose.
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5th-Aug-2008 05:21 am (UTC)
"but further more that the debate based on definition cannot have a entirely morally justifiable answer. simply said, who is to say whether there is morality behind keeping a baby or terminating a pregnancy after 4 weeks? or is it simply the same debate that everyone has accepted: the kind of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong bullshit that most want to accept?"

You need to give a lot more articulation of what you're getting at with these rhetorical questions. Some warrants for the implicit claims you're making would be good too. Let me ask a couple non-rhetorical questions:

Why can't a debate that hinges on a question of definition have "a morally justifiable answer"?

When you ask, "who is to say whether there is morality behind keeping a baby or terminating a pregnancy" do you mean 'it's impossible to tell whether moral concerns were controlling in the decision of the mother' or 'it's impossible to tell whether or not the mother's decision was morally justifiable or not'? If the former, what's your point? If the latter, then it seems like you're making a pretty weak argument, something like 'It's hard to tell what the right thing to do in this case is, so there must not be a fact of the matter as to what the right thing to do in this case is." At least that's how it reads.

What positive claims are you actually asserting in your post?
5th-Aug-2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
honesty, none. i wasn't trying to prove much, or anything at all. that might frustrate people but i would rather be the one to say "we're arguing semantics" then the one who argues a claim that is merely him or her talking about personal feeling. i would be far stretched to find something in abortion that i thought was irrefutable. i guess if i am making a point, it is that. but i hate making points like that or points on any topical modern debate such as this.

this of it this way. i merely hope to get the ball rolling instead of constantly rolling the ball uphill. if i were writing a philosophy paper or even a cultural paper i would be much more inclined to be direct and assert a positive claim and try to prove it. i find try to do this in an LJ community is a bit egotistic.

oh, and to answer your question, about definition debates having a morally justifiable answer, i don't see that there isn't one. the only probably is they are based on circumstance more often then not. also, as i said previously, natural subjectivity comes into play. it is a concept that i am very attached to, i suppose.
5th-Aug-2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Killing of the Elderly
Killing of Adults
Killing of Children
Infanticide
Abortion
Birth Control

All of these things are necessary for a well functioning society.
6th-Aug-2008 07:56 am (UTC)
don't forget war (maybe that was included in the killing of etc.)
6th-Aug-2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
A person's body is thier own business. It's not my moral perogitave to seek out in helping one get an abortion if I feel so inclined, nor is it my right to block them from doing so. All I can do is allow them to exist and make thier own poor decisions as they allow me to do mine.

Morality is a rudimentary set of rules for basic existence. Kind of like "hooked on phonics" but for philosophy. Morality is what seperates us from our animal nature, but in the same sense denies us true freedom for action because we are never free to choose pro life or pro-abortion. We are only lumped into simple quantifiable moral categories and assumptions are made on our behalf. Once ethics transcends to the other (or the they, as in "they say...") we are not left to make our own true moral judgement. Ethics is philosophy for the weak. Choice is all there is, and must be made in a subjective sense on time and through purpose of action for the here and now, not the future or past.

7th-Aug-2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
Your existence is a fantastic argument for making abortion mandatory in at least some cases. Well done.
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