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Note: Please familiarize yourself with the Objectivist position on abortion before participating on this thread. A good starting point is the Abortion article on the Objectivism Wiki. - GC

I find the views of certain members of The ARI, such as Peikoff and Brook, on the topic of absortion to not be rational. I will brefly here present my pro-life, objectivist standpoint and invite anyone who cares to to try and find a contradiction in my arguement.

The views of Peikoff, and likely many other objectivists, is that people are only endowned withe rights of a human beings after they are born. Before conception, it takes an act of will to create a fetus. A fetus will develop into a rational human being unless another act of will is responcible for the termination of that fetus. The fact that the life exists within the body of another is irrelevant. In the near future we will be able to allow a fetus to develop entirely outside of a human body, this does not mean that person is not human because they where never actually born in the traditional sense. As a correlary it is also clear that very little is different about a fetus/human being in the moments before it is born and those immediately afterwards.

I say then that assigning a fetus the human right to life only 'after it is born' is being arbitary, and hense, not rational.

As there is no objective measure for consiousness aside from human/non-human I say that stating any cutoff between when a fetus is endowned with the rights of a human other than conception is unreasonable.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
added note

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Here is what I would do to find the answer. Look up what makes the right to life possible. Is it that fact that you are human or that you are a conscious being. If it is because you are conscious you will have to prove that unborn humans are conscious. Which I don't think they are since they have not fully developed the organs needed to perceive the world around them let alone form concepts. In that case the mother would have the right to choose because she is conscious and the unborn baby is not.

If I'm wrong or if there is a better way to find the answer someone else might be able to do it.

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As there is no objective measure for consiousness aside from human/non-human
Why not? An newborn's consciousness is on the sensory level, not the conceptual level. That seems like quite a difference in their consciousness. And notice, too, that a newborn does not have the same rights as an adult. A newborn can't sign a legal contract, for instance.

Look up what makes the right to life possible. Is it that fact that you are human or that you are a conscious being.

This is not accurate, though I think you intended to say something else. Not consciousness (other animals are conscious besides man), but rationality.

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I don't think there's any "magical" difference between the mind of a fetus about to be born, and an infant that was just born. I suspect that it takes quite some time before an infant learns to operate on a conceptual level. (Don’t they have to learn some language first?)

Regardless, there is an obvious difference between a clump of cells and a living, breathing, eating human being. The main difference is not in the fact that a fetus is not conceptual (adults are not operating on a conceptual level when they are asleep or passed out) but that it cannot live independently of the mother. In order to exist, the fetus must drain the resources of the mother – it is literally a parasite until it is born. Of course, an infant only slightly less helpless after it is born, but it is not metaphysically tied to the mother because it does not impose a burden on her by its mere existence. “Pro-lifers” love to come up with all sorts of “fuzzy” cases and sci-fi scenarios, but the fact is that the difference between a month-old embryo (when most abortions occur) and an infant are undeniable.

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I will address each of your points in turn.

Daniel: If you have such an objective measure for consiousness it would indeed be a major breakthrough in cognitive science, not to mention AI. There is no known way of taking a being, and being able to say with certainty, 'This being possess coniousness (or a 'rational faculty if you prefer)' or 'This being is not conscious' The line IS fuzzy, right now as a poitn fo fact. The smartest monkeys have in many respects greater analytical problem solving skills than many severely retarted human beings, but most people would aregue that the severaly retarted person still has a greater right o life than the monkey. Secondly, nobody said a newborn has all the rights of an adult; so I dont know where that enters into the arguement. We are only talking about the most basic of rights, the right to life.

Greedy: The point is precisely that the fetus CAN in fact live without the mother, in every sense that a newborn can. Both are completely dependent on things besides themselves for survival. Both 'drain resouces' from the mother; and though I don't see how this issue is even relevant, one could argue that a newborn is even MORE a drain on the mother's time/energy/ect... than a fetus is. The fact that 1 month is when most abortions occur is irrelevant.

You all should realise that the most important single thing about a law is that is is objective; followed closely of course with the fact that it must be applied consistently and equally to all people. For a law to qualify ad being objective, it must not be arbitrary. Right now this is what our laws are. Unless we have an objective meausre of consciousness I am simply suggesting that we be conservative with who we assign the right o life to.

Keep in mind too, that most of the counterpoints I've seen so far could be used as arguements for the legality of infanticide. If this is your position I'm still willing to listen to your arguement, but please make sure you follow your arguements to thier logical conclusion.

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Semm,

For a law to qualify ad being objective, it must not be arbitrary. Right now this is what our laws are. Unless we have an objective meausre of consciousness I am simply suggesting that we be conservative with who we assign the right o life to.

I believe that you are confusing objectivity with omniscience. Objectivity denotes a specific relationship between existence and consciousness. Being objective means that one recognizes that existence is primary and consciousness is that which perceives existence, and does so by an exact method: logic. In order for a law to be justified (objective) it does not have to be infallible but rather must be based on the best observations and integrations of reality to date.

Based on our current observations and integrations of reality, a fetus does not have the preconditions which are necessary for one to have the right to their own life. If science and logic eventually prove otherwise, then our laws should be changed accordingly.

You can not demand omniscience of our laws and then claim that any law which does not represent such omniscience is "arbitrary." Something is arbitrary when it has no relation to the facts of reality. The current laws about abortion however, are based on the most recent evidence concerning the facts of reality.

Since I do not know the extent of your knowledge of Objectivist epistemology, I can not solve your problem further. However, it certainly seems to me that epistemology is the source of your error.

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All right, if you wanted to argue about abortions taking places later in the pregnancy when the fetus is at least conscious, I could understand. But to say that it is a human being with rights from the moment of conception?! :huh::)

Sorry, but the line of when consciousness occurs is not that fuzzy. Clearly, before there is a formed, functional nervous system, there is definitely no consciousness. And there certainly can't be any rights before that!

What exactly is it that you think endows an entity with rights? Do you think it's simply the possession of a human genetic code? That has been argued--but it's absurd. Our DNA isn't that different from even lower species of mammals, such as rats (I think the figure I read on that once was that they are 93% identical, or something like that). There's nothing magical about it that confers rights upon us, and the concept of rights isn't somehow encoded in our genetic makeup. And every cell in your body possesses that same DNA, but your cells die all the time--in fact, you probably kill them yourself quite often!

So why is it that you consider the 'rights' of a pre-conscious clump of cells, that is only a potential (not an actual) human being, to outweigh the rights of the woman in whose body it is growing? (You do realize that nearly one out of five embryos--that is, after conception--self-abort anyway, don't you?) A genuine respect for human life cannot be the source of your beliefs.

Sorry, but your argument here is laughably bad.

P.S. And if you wanted our laws to be "conservative" in order to be objective, then the only line that could be drawn before birth that would have any semblance of objectivity would be at the stage when the fetus is conscious--not "viable", and certainly not merely conceived.

Edited by AshRyan

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semm

You set up your argument as one of Objectivism vs certain prominent Objectivists. However, you proceed to create your own perspective and simply call it objectivist. This is intellectually dishonest. Objectivism is the philosophy created by Ayn Rand. As such, it is what she says it it, not whatever you would like to attribute to it. If you want to create your own position on the subject, you are free to do so. However you are NOT free to claim the name or title objectivism when referencing that position.

That is simply fraud.

Furthermore, you give a half sentence pseudo-summary of the objectivist position on abortion ("... people are only endowned with rights of a human beings after they are born."). Not only does this not honestly present the objectivist position in full, it misrepresents it entirely.

If you decide you must continue this conversation, I suggest you FIRST do some research on the objectivist position, and the premises which support it. Posting that position and those premises here would be a good way to demonstrate that you DO know the objectivist position as well as the justification for that position. Until then, you are simply setting up straw windmills to tilt at. In other words, you are simply engaging in logical fallacies.

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A Few more replies:

RationalEgoist: Current laws are base don anything but science. If I may quote Buckamn in the majority opinion of RoeVWade (noticed this at reason.com).

We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.

The court fully admits to its position merely being one of compromise. I would say any such law is by definition bad because it doesnt take a firm stance one wya or the other.

If i may quote the same article from reaosn.com

In Roe the Supreme Court essentially forbade abortion at the point of viability, which the justices suggested began at 28 weeks of gestation. Medical technology now regularly rescues premature babies born after 22 or 23 weeks, and a very few fetuses even survive after only 19.

So, are we to continue pushing back the time allowed before an abortion? If we are to follow the reasoning of the original ruling than we must. What then is the difference between a fetus kept alive via modern medicine outside the womb, a so called viable fetus, and one which can survive in an artificial womb outside the mother's body? Both are just applications of medical technology leading to a fetus being viable from an earlier date are they not?

Ryan: I'll just respond to the part of your post which isn't a troll. Please rephrase the rest in a civil tone if you would like a reply.

So why is it that you consider the 'rights' of a pre-conscious clump of cells, that is only a potential (not an actual) human being, to outweigh the rights of the woman in whose body it is growing? (You do realize that nearly one out of five embryos--that is, after conception--self-abort anyway, don't you?) A genuine respect for human life cannot be the source of your beliefs.

I don't propose to place any one person's rights above another like they could be weighed on a scale. Forbiding the intentional desruction of what we deem a human (potential human whatever) doesnt lessen the rights of anyone. As of right now, this would mean the mother would have to carry the pregnancy to term. Perhaps inconvenient, but that does not negate a parents responcibility. We still expect mothers who gave birth to children they perhaps wish they had aborted to either take proper care of them (under penalty of law) or give them up for adoption. I dont see a contradiciton in my position. Perhaps you would elaborate?

And once again I will say this, it's unlikely that one can ever kow precidely when consiousness begins. It may in fact be some time after when most babies are born; and I haven't seen a single one of you defend the right to kill a baby based on this.

I havnt told you that I support a position based merely on the line of consciousn/not-conscious. My own personal belief is that the potential for reason that exsists in the fetus, that potential alone gives it the right to exist.

RedCap: Are you saying that by disagreeing wiht prominent experts of Objectivism i am neccesarily in contradiction with the philosophy? If not, then I am afraid you will have to elaborate a bit more on what fraud I have commited. I have presented a rational, objective arguement for my position, so I fail to see how you can all it non-Objectivist out of hand. Secondly while I so not have a written reference for when Peikoff/ect... give a fetus the rights of a human. I am taking thier views from statements made in the lectures on aynrand.org Watch the ~1 hour peikoff lecture and you will hear him say precisely what I told you about birth being the borderline. Hall make a similar statement in his 5 hour presentation. Though his statement was off the cuff so its possible his position is more detailed and he just didn't elaborate. If you could point to a specific reference detailing the positions of prominent objectivists in this matter I would be appreciative. But, you are flat out wrong in saying that I have commited any sort of fraud or misreprentation. If those gentlemen misrepresented themselves in their lectures than that is unfortune but, of course, thier responcibility.

Everyone: I am interested in hearing some of your views on this subject. You ahve all helped me to strengthen my arguements, but I would be interested in eac of your views and how they where derived from your particular philosophical systems.

had to type this out quickly so sorry if I left any misspellings or lost punctuation

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I don't propose to place any one person's rights above another like they could be weighed on a scale.  Forbiding the intentional desruction of what we deem a human (potential human whatever) doesnt lessen the rights of anyone.

That is exactly what you propose. Forbidding to anyone any action that may have any effect on their life or pursuit of happiness, that is not in violation of anyone else's rights, is in fact a violation of their rights. The italicized part is crucial here; what you have to do, then, is prove that a fetus has rights. Which you so far have not done.

And once again I will say this, it's unlikely that one can ever kow precidely when consiousness begins. 
I'm curious as to what your "rational" basis is for this skepticism?

It may in fact be some time after when most babies are born;

I will assume from context that you are speaking here of conceptual consciousness, because if you mean simply consciousness as such, that is clearly false. Of course, given some of your other claims, perhaps I shouldn't give you the benefit of the doubt of being able to make that distinction.

and I haven't seen a single one of you defend the right to kill a baby based on this.
That's not the issue here.

I havnt told you that I support a position based merely on the line of consciousn/not-conscious.  My own personal belief is that the potential for reason that exsists in the fetus, that potential alone gives it the right to exist.

Good, I'm glad you've clarified what exactly your position is so that I can call your attention to just how wrong it is. If reason is the basis for rights (as you seem to be assuming here), then the most you could logically get from a potential for reason is a potential for rights.

Notice that when you say that a fetus has a potential for reason, what you are saying is that it may (or may not) possess that capacity at some point in the future, but does not now actually possess it. Based on that premise alone, your argument is clearly invalid. It is quite a leap to conclude from that alone that a fetus actually has rights. Rather, all you can conclude is that the fetus potentially has rights, but not that it now, actually, has them.

In order for your argument to have any validity whatsoever, I suggest that you give us reasons as to why that potential need not be actualized; otherwise, you are merely taking future (i.e., currently non-existent) events for granted. Now this time, how about actually answering my points rather than dismissing me as a "troll".

Allow me now to also answer a few points addressed to RadCap:

RedCap:  Are you saying that by disagreeing wiht prominent experts of Objectivism i am neccesarily in contradiction with the philosophy?
My guess would be that he is saying that you are in contradiction with the philosophy because you are disagreeing with its creator, Ayn Rand (ever heard of her?), not just some prominent experts like Peikoff and Hull.

I have presented a rational, objective argument for my position, so I fail to see how you can all it non-Objectivist out of hand.

Objectivism, with a capital O, is a philosophy with a specific identity, which your argument directly contradicts. Just because you consider your arguments to be objective, means neither that they are, nor that they are part of the Objectivist philosophy. (You also consider your arguments to be rational--does that mean you also consider yourself a Rationalist?)

You clearly need to do some more thinking about some of these issues. I hope that you will give them some more serious thought before you respond by just repeating the same assertions. ;)

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Ryan, I'd be happy to respond to your points.

Prove a fetus has rights: A fetus is a human being. A Human being has rights. Therefore a fetus has rights.

There is the proof. Now if you want to argue that a fetus is not in fact a human being then it's up to you to provide the proof, or change your definition of a human being. The fetus is part of a human's normal development. The only thing which separates them is a span of time.

Unlikely we will ever know when consciousness begins: You are right. I should ahve said. There is no way to know if a being is conscious. Logic dictates that is up to the person attempting to prove the positive who need sot supply the arguement. This is a central tenent also of Objectivism. See Peikoff's lecture on aynrand.org to hear it in his words.

killing babies: Is is not the main issue, but it is relevant. If there where an objective measure for consciousness, and such a measure told us that babies are not conscious until some time after they are born, would you then be unopposed to infanticide? If not, you are not being intellectually honest, right?

Potential for Reason: There is no contradiction here. One can as 'potential for a quality' as being the disinguishing caracteristic for a certain property as the actual posesion of that quality without breakign any logical rules. If i may amke an annology: 'The rookie's potential for being a great player was what gave him the right to be on the football team' Surely you would argue there is nothing intrinsicly illogical about that situation would you?

Additionally, potential for a quality is argueably even more important than a smaller measure of the quantity 'right now.' For instance, as mentioned earlier, certain chimps and other primates posess a level of reasoning, and have been able to solve all sorts of problems. At times they can even demontrate a greater reasoning ability than a small child. However, this does not put the chimp on the same level as the child. The child posses the potential for a much greater sort of reaosn than the chimp could ever achieve, and this is what sets them apart. I would be surprised if you didn't agree with me on this point.

Disagreeing with the creator: I phrased this section's name in that way intentionally, the irony should be apparent.

If one where to assume that by taking up the mantle of an Objectivist (and I will be precise with by big and small O's here) that one had to agree in every way with Ayn Rand, to the point of not paying attention to what on'e own judgment says; then they would in fact be fundamentally in conflict with what the philosphy of objectivism teaches us: Trust your own judgement. By implying that I could not be an Objectivist because i disagree with Mrs Rand's on this issue you show that you don't know the most basic premises of the philosophy.

Perhaps an example? John Galt can be seen as the formost Objectivist of Atlas Shrugged. Throught most of the book Dagny worked against him because she did not agree that his way of 'fixing' the world was the only way. However, was Dangy acting as an objectivist thorugh every event of that book? You bet she was! So whether it is me disagreeing with Mrs Rand, or Peikoff or you, does not make me any less of an objectivist until such say as I close my ears to your arguements ans say 'I don't care what you say, I'd rather be irrational' This, ryan, will not happen.

I ask two things of your next reply. Please refrain from the disingenuous questions, it only detracts from the quality of the debate. Secondly, I've yet to hear anybody elses' views on this issue yet. Perhaps Ryan, sharing with me your stance on this issue and how you arrived at it would be the best way of convincing me that you are correct.

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Semm,

I'm sorry but you argument is utterly absurd.

A fetus is a human being. A Human being has rights. Therefore a fetus has rights.
An ameoba is a human being. A human being has rights. Therfore, an ameoba has rights.

In order to claim that a fetus has rights, you must do two things:

1. provide an objective definition of the concept human

2. demonstrate how such a definition subsumes the concept fetus

Since you have not done this, your argument is as utterly absurd as the amoeba analogy I have provided.

If one where to assume that by taking up the mantle of an Objectivist (and I will be precise with by big and small O's here) that one had to agree in every way with Ayn Rand, to the point of not paying attention to what on'e own judgment says; then they would in fact be fundamentally in conflict with what the philosphy of objectivism teaches us: Trust your own judgement. By implying that I could not be an Objectivist because i disagree with Mrs Rand's on this issue you show that you don't know the most basic premises of the philosophy.

According to the law of identity, A is A, Objectivism is Objectivism. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. An Objectivist is a person who follows the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

You however, attempt to claim that A is non-A. Objectivism is non-Objectivism. You claim that your wishes to call yourself an Objectivist can wipe out the facts of reality, the law of identity.

In order to call oneself an Objectivist and not violate the law of identity, one must be in full agreement with the entire philosophy of Ayn Rand. Does this mean that you should stop judgment and follow the philosophy dogmatically? Absolutely not. It means that you can only call yourself an Objectivist if you actually ARE an Objectivist (a follower of the philosophy of Ayn Rand).

You are free to disagree with whatever parts of the philosophy that you want to, but such disagreement means that YOU ARE NOT an Objectivist. You may agree with the vast majority of Objectivism, but any disagreement IN LOGIC means that you are not an Objectivist.

The rest of your post falls apart after these two flaws in your argument are exposed.

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RE: Now I'm really confused. I will come bakc to your first part tomorrow most likely since about to go to sleep now but I just wanted to get the seocnd part out of the way.

I know you dont agree with what you are saying, not even a little bit. By your reasoning no two 'true' Objectivists could at any point disagree on anything. If they did that would mean that one of them was not a 'true Objectivist.' Firstly, I am unsure that even this is taken to be true in Objectivism. But, for the moment though, I'll accept your premise.

This would imply a few things actually: First, it would mean that one of either I or Ayn Rand could not both be Objectivists at the same time since we would apparently disagree on this issue. Ok, then where is your proof that it is not her who is in the wrong, and I that is the true Objectivist?

'But Objectivism is the philosphy of Ayn Rand, she couldn't possibly be in contradiction wiht her own philosophy' (couldn't she?). Ok, lets assume then that I am not the Objectivist and she is, and that one could never be an Objectivist if one disagreed with her on any topic since she would neccesarily be correct.

"Homosexuality is immoral and disgusting"

-Ayn Rand, at her Ford Hall appearance 1971

(www.politicalcompass.org)

Well looks like I'm not an Objectivist any more, rats. Are you still one, RationalEgoist, after hearing that? (Please keep in mind how seriosuly Ayn took the word 'immoral')

I shall endeavor to disprove your point on yet a third ground. Philosophy is a science. In science no person's word is law, only facts matter; and what is true is a matter of what can be proven. Therefore, in order to show me that I am in violation of the law of identiy you would have to show me proof for Ayn Rand's position on abortion. One who's premises could not be challenged. If you have such a proof please post it so we can evaluate it's merits.

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Semm,

Your entire post was rambling nonsense.

I shall endeavor to disprove your point on yet a third ground. Philosophy is a science. In science no person's word is law, only facts matter; and what is true is a matter of what can be proven. Therefore, in order to show me that I am in violation of the law of identiy you would have to show me proof for Ayn Rand's position on abortion. One who's premises could not be challenged. If you have such a proof please post it so we can evaluate it's merits.
YOU posted in this forum. YOU made the claim that abortion is illegal/immoral. And therefore it is YOU that must demonstrate YOUR position on this issue.

Here is an analogy of the argument you have made. God exists. I have no proof for this claim, but you must disprove the claim. Since you cannot, God must exist.

This is a logical fallacy, the appeal to ignorance I believe.

When one claims a POSITIVE the burden of proof for such a claim is on the person who made it, NOT on other people to disprove your arbitrary claim.

I know you dont agree with what you are saying, not even a little bit. By your reasoning no two 'true' Objectivists could at any point disagree on anything. If they did that would mean that one of them was not a 'true Objectivist.' Firstly, I am unsure that even this is taken to be true in Objectivism. But, for the moment though, I'll accept your premise.

This would imply a few things actually: First, it would mean that one of either I or Ayn Rand could not both be Objectivists at the same time since we would apparently disagree on this issue. Ok, then where is your proof that it is not her who is in the wrong, and I that is the true Objectivist?

A is A, Objectivism is Objectivism. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. If you disagree with Ayn Rand on any philosophical point, you are not an Objectivist. You may still have a lot of agreement with Objectivism, but if you disagree with the philosophy you cease to be identified properly as an Objectivist. This says nothing about the philosophical accuracy of her philosophy. This merely says that Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Either one agrees with the philosophy of Ayn Rand or one does not. It is really that simple.

According to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, every woman has the right to an abortion. You claim that no woman has the right to an abortion. Therefore, you are not an Objectivist. This has nothing to do with whether or not a woman ACTUALLY has the right to an abortion. This simply means that Objectivism says they do, you say they don't, therefore, you are in contradiction with Objectivism. It is really that simple.

The rest of your post is utter nonsense, which I see no need to respond to again.

Semm, please check your ridiculous premises, gain a knowledge of what Objectivism actually is, learn what logic is, and then you will have a chance at rational discussion.

I would suggest that you do not post on this topic any longer, or on any topic on this board, until you can demonstrate that you have ANY idea of what logic or Objectivism is, thank you.

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Semm, Objectivism is the PHILOSOPHY of Ayn Rand. Philosophy doesn't mean every idea one holds. It does not include one's opinions on inertia or the efficiency of Microsoft Windows or one's opinion of homosexuality. It includes one's views of the fundamental nature of the universe and of man's place in it.

Since one's view of abortion follows from one's views of what it means to be human and to have rights, it is certainly part of Rand's philosophy.

In science no person's word is law, only facts matter; and what is true is a matter of what can be proven.  Therefore, in order to show me that I am in violation of the law of identiy you would have to show me proof for Ayn Rand's position on abortion.

Nobody is denying that we have to give an argument in favor of Ayn Rand's position on abortion. We are saying that if you claim that Ayn Rand was wrong about abortion, you are not an Objectivist.

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I don't think anyone here would say that Ayn Rand is immune from rational criticism. She said so herself that one should never take uncritically the words of another as truth:

"...the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence."

Even Ayn Rand's words must be examined critically with reason.

Her opinions about homosexuality did arise from her philosophy. She said that it is "immoral," which implies that she believed that homosexual behavior contradicts with Objectivist moral principles. Which moral principles they might be I do not yet know.

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Ryan, I'd be happy to respond to your points.

This should be fun. First of all, you can call me Ash.

Prove a fetus has rights:  A fetus is a human being. A Human being has rights.  Therefore a fetus has rights.

There is the proof.  Now if you want to argue that a fetus is not in fact a human being then it's up to you to provide the proof, or change your definition of a human being.  The fetus is part of a human's normal development.  The only thing which separates them is a span of time.

You're ignoring here what it is about human beings that gives rise to the concept of "rights": their capacity for reason. Now, by your own previous admission, a fetus has only the potential for reason. This means, as I stated before (and which point you have still not really answered), that they do not yet actually have that capacity--and therefore do not yet actually have rights. If it is the capacity for reason which gives people rights, then on what grounds to you claim they have rights absent that capacity? You may call this question "disingenuous" if you like, but it is a serious (and I think fairly straightforward) objection which you must answer.

In short, your "proof" is lacking a few critical steps, and your conclusion is therefore a non sequitur.

Unlikely we will ever know when consciousness begins:  You are right.  I should ahve said.  There is no way to know if a being is conscious.  Logic dictates that is up to the person attempting to prove the positive who need sot supply the arguement.  This is a central tenent also of Objectivism.  See Peikoff's lecture on aynrand.org to hear it in his words.

What the hell is this Wittgensteinian nonsense? First of all, we certainly can know that a being is conscious. It is an inductive generalization that begins with our own direct, introspective awareness of our own consciousness, and subsumes other, similar creatures (such as other human beings). If you think that we have no way to know that a being is conscious, then on what basis do you say that any other people are rational, and therefore that they have rights? You have undercut your whole anti-abortion argument, because based on this reasoning, you could presumably reach the conclusion that murder is not wrong at all, not only as applied to fetuses, but to anyone.

Also, it's just funny that you are invoking the burden of proof principle, seeing as how you ignore it in your anti-abortion argument. You claim a positive--that a fetus is a human being with rights--and then tell us that we have to disprove it. You are a bloody hypocrite.

killing babies:  Is is not the main issue, but it is relevant.  If there where an objective measure for consciousness, and such a measure told us that babies are not conscious until some time after they are born, would you then be unopposed to infanticide?  If not, you are not being intellectually honest, right?

If we knew that infants were not conscious until sometime after birth, I would have no problem with infanticide. How's that for intellectually honest?

However, as indicated above, there is plenty of objective evidence that they are in fact conscious. (Whether that consciousness is yet conceptual or not and whether or not that makes a difference is another question, but one that I suppose does not need to be addressed here, since it is apparently not within your range.)

Anyway, this question still isn't relevant.

Potential for Reason:  There is no contradiction here.  One can as 'potential for a quality' as being the disinguishing caracteristic for a certain property as the actual posesion of that quality without breakign any logical rules.  If i may amke an annology:  'The rookie's potential for being a great player was what gave him the right to be on the football team'  Surely you would argue there is nothing intrinsicly illogical about that situation would you? 

Oh, please. You have a seriously deficient understanding of the relationship of the potential and the actual. Your analogy is, well, disanalogous. Here's a more appropriate analogy, see if you still think it logically follows: "The fetus's potential for being a great player was what gave it the 'right' to be, as a fetus, on the football team."

Don't be absurd.

Additionally, potential for a quality is argueably even more important than a smaller measure of the quantity 'right now.'  For instance, as mentioned earlier, certain chimps and other primates posess a level of reasoning, and have been able to solve all sorts of problems.  At times they can even demontrate a greater reasoning ability than a small child.  However, this does not put the chimp on the same level as the child.  The child posses the potential for a much greater sort of reaosn than the chimp could ever achieve, and this is what sets them apart.  I would be surprised if you didn't agree with me on this point.

And a crow has the ability to count to three--but in a non-conceptual way, of course. I'm not so sure that a chimp's ability to solve simple problems means that it in fact has the capacity for reason, in the full conceptual sense of the term. I think that the difference between chimp and man (as between crow and man) may still be qualitative, not just quantitative.

But this is again beside the point.

Disagreeing with the creator:  I phrased this section's name in that way intentionally, the irony should be apparent.

Oh yes, how ironic. Aren't you clever.

No, even if you agree with one of the central tenets--such as the virtue of independence, and the fact that one must think for oneself--if you disagree with other parts of the philosophy then it is intellectually dishonest to label yourself as an adherent of that philosophy. It is an express contradiction (and therefore, another violation of that philosophy): I am an Objectivist (i.e., one who agrees with the philosophy of Objectivism), and I disagree with (some parts of) Objectivism. To call ideas that Ayn Rand disagreed with, such as your "pro-life" stance, Objectivist, is to misrepresent Ayn Rand's ideas.

If you want to truly think for yourself and be intellectually independent, then simply do not call yourself what you are not. Give credit to the parts of the philosophy with which you agree, and then be honest and say that you do not fully agree with it. Not just that you disagree with Ayn Rand, but that you are in disagreement with the philosophy. Since you don't agree with it, why are you so desperate to label your ideas as Objectivist? That's intellectual parasitism, not independence.

I ask two things of your next reply.  Please refrain from the disingenuous questions, it only detracts from the quality of the debate.  Secondly, I've yet to hear anybody elses' views on this issue yet.  Perhaps Ryan, sharing with me your stance on this issue and how you arrived at it would be the best way of convincing me that you are correct.

I ask two things of your next reply. Please refrain from mislabeling my arguments (unless you'd like to point out exactly which of my questions were "disingenuous", and why), it's an ad hominem fallacy and detracts from the quality of the debate. Secondly, give my objections the respect of an honest answer, rather than simply repeating what you've already said (e.g., your "proof" that a fetus has rights contained nothing new and was simply a repetition of the fallacious logical chain to which I was objecting in the first place).

Tangentially, how I arrived at my stance on the issue is completely irrelevant, and could only serve the purpose of providing you with material for psychologizing and more ad hominem attacks. Try addressing my actual arguments.

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Hey Daniel, you bring up an interesting point that several other people have mentioned; let me see if I can find a new way of arguing against your position.

Ayn Rand herself said that her philosphy was a 'coherent whole' and also that if you rejected one part, then you have rejected it in it's entirety. I dont at the moment have a refernce available but if you have some doubt as to whether or not she said this perhaps I can dig it up. So this would mean that if I was in disagreement with Rand's philosophical) view on abortion, or homorsexuality or anything else, then I could no longer relay on any of the other concusions I had drawn from her philosphy, or for that matter conclusions other objectivists drawn from the philosophy. Also please note that her statement about homosexuality was a philosophical one. She stated that it was 'immoral' which is a statement of ethics; and that it was 'disgusting,' presumably a statement of aesthetics. Please let me know which part of this arguement you find be incorrect if any.

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Semm, philosophy IS a coherent whole, and that does nothing to support your position. Rand's statement on homosexuality--and I neither know that your quote is accurate nor believe that Rand would have stood by that quote in later years--is an APPLICATION of ethics to one particular lifestyle (the disgusting part I think is also applying ethics, not aesthetics), just as Rand's opinion of the show Charlie's Angels is an application of aesthetics and certainly not part of her philosophy.

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Hey Ash,

Just to get the unfortunate bit out of the way first. The one and only part of your post that I was referring to as being disingenuous was your question asking whether I ever heard of Ayn Rand. I was not using the refernce to that question to attack the substance of any of your actual points in any way. It upset me a little bit that you said it, but we'll just forget about it now and concider it water under the bridge.

I would be interested in hearing more about your disiinction between consciousness and conceptual consciousness, could you provide me with a reference if you dont want to explain it here? Is it anything like Searle's 'Chinese Room' Arguement against strong AI? It sounds sort of similar from the way you are describing it.

I also don't see what the purpose of saying something is 'not within my range.' I have not once here attacked a person rather than thier arguement and yet I keep seeing people posting things like 'well, if you dont agree with me clearly you dont know what you are saying' or, 'the arguement is simply above you.'

The killing babies thing I admit was a bit of a sidetrack, I just wanted to make sure that I was debating a person who would stick by thier arguements, even if they led him to a conclusion which gave one a uncomfortable initial reaction. It certainly appears as though I am.

I am still unclear as to what exactly is absurd in my 'potential' arguement. Are you saying that 'potential for a quality' can never be used as a means for the classification of objects? If not then I dont see how I am being hypocritical.

Also please read my responce to danial for my reply to the next to last section of your post.

Perhaps after I have a clearer understanding of your idea of conceptual consciousness I will be in a better position it see your distinction. Thanks for taking the time to respond to all my points.

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Semm, philosophy IS a coherent whole, and that does nothing to support your position. Rand's statement on homosexuality--and I neither know that your quote is accurate nor believe that Rand would have stood by that quote in later years--is an APPLICATION of ethics to one particular lifestyle (the disgusting part I think is also applying ethics, not aesthetics), just as Rand's opinion of the show Charlie's Angels is an application of aesthetics and certainly not part of her philosophy.

Danisal, so you are saying that her view on the morality homosexuality is an application of ethics, but that her view on the morality of abortion is not? Could you please make clear for the the distinction?

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Just to get the unfortunate bit out of the way first.  The one and only part of your post that I was referring to as being disingenuous was your question asking whether I ever heard of Ayn Rand.  I was not using the refernce to that question to attack the substance of any of your actual points in any way.  It upset me a little bit that you said it, but we'll just forget about it now and concider it water under the bridge.

Okay, this seems to be getting more civil, I appreciate that. Thank you for clarifying this, my remark probably was uncalled for. I apologize.

I would be interested in hearing more about your disiinction between consciousness and conceptual consciousness, could you provide me with a reference if you dont want to explain it here?  Is it anything like Searle's 'Chinese Room' Arguement against strong AI?  It sounds sort of similar from the way you are describing it.
I get all these philosophers who write about AI and their arguments mixed up, but if it's the one I'm thinking of, then the answer would be yes and no. In a certain sense (the one you're probably trying to get at) yes, there is a certain similarity. But in a more fundamental sense, no. I will address this more later, but due to a lack of time, I can't post a full response at this point.

I also don't see what the purpose of saying something is 'not within my range.'  I have not once here attacked a person rather than thier arguement and yet I keep seeing people posting things like 'well, if you dont agree with me clearly you dont know what you are saying' or, 'the arguement is simply above you.'

That has probably mostly been me, and again, I apologize. I (apparently mistakenly) took your comment about my "disingenuous questions" to be referring to some of my objections. And we occasionally get trolls around here and I get sick of dealing with them. But you seem to be genuinely interested in a rational discussion and have perhaps simply made a few honest errors.

I am still unclear as to what exactly is absurd in my 'potential' arguement.  Are you saying that 'potential for a quality' can never be used as a means for the classification of objects? If not then I dont see how I am being hypocritical.
Classification, perhaps--in some contexts. But I don't know that this would always be legitimate, and certainly not in saying that if something has a potential to become something else, then it may be classified as actually being that thing (which is what you seem to be doing here by classifying an embryo as a human being). If the potential could be classified as and lumped in together with the actual which it would potentially become, then what would be the point of distinguishing between the two at all?

Perhaps after I have a clearer understanding of your idea of conceptual consciousness I will be in a better position it see your distinction.  Thanks for taking the time to respond to all my points.

Hopefully I will have more time to post on this later, although I think it is tangential to our main point of disagreement here.

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her view on the morality homosexuality is an application of ethics, but that her view on the morality of abortion is not?  Could you please make clear for the the distinction?

In your argument against abortion, you deny parts of Ayn Rand's philosophy. You have a different notion of rights than Ayn Rand has, and you have a different notion of what qualifies as a human being. So in arguing against abortion you do reject the philosophy, just as if one were to argue against a new film based on the fact that it is a selective recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments, one cannot be said to be applying Ayn Rand's aesthetics, since one is rejecting it.

One's evaluation of homosexuality, on the other hand, does not follow only from one's philosophy. It is very much a scientific issue and does not hinge on Objectivism. There is nothing in Objectivism to evaluate homosexuality. Such an evaluation requires knowledge of the biological basis of homosexuality, for instance.

Some science is relevant to abortion, but the fact remains that philosophy is even more relevant to it and you reject Objectivism in your argument for it.

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Hi, folks. New member here; great site!

Abortion:

I found a pretty good article at http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=273 The author's argument begins with:

"Individual rights begin at birth, with the creation of a new, separate human being. Rights are a concept applicable only to individual, actual human beings, not a merely potential one. The fetus may become a human being, but until it is born and the umbilical cord is severed, it is part of an actual human being: the mother. By analogy, observe that an acorn is a potential oak tree, not an actual one; you may build a house out of an oak, but not from an acorn. The actual entity has attributes that the merely potential does not."

I see a few problems with this:

First, is a fetus really part of the mother's body in the same way that the heart is? It seems to me more like a tapeworm; that is, a parasitic organism that has its own identity but happens to live inside the body of another organism.

Second, saying that the fetus is only a human being after the umbilical cord is cut implies that one could wait until the fetus was outside the body and breathing, and then still kill it. At this point the fetus is no longer dependent on the mother for oxygen, but still physically attached. So where is the exact dividing line?

Another related issue: On what grounds do parents have an obligation to care for their children? One way to interpret objectivist ethics is to say that they don’t; nobody has any obligation to support anybody else.

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