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"Exactly" what? Is there an Objectivism-related argument which goes with that one-word proclamation?

Don did not argue the point which you quote, so why should that statement be relevant to the issue? Surely you must know that the Objectivist position is not the potential for being, but the actual being. Why acknowledge a straw man? Is the real issue that you object to abortion per se?

My point, and the one the other person was making and I agreed with, is that you cannot cannot defend the position that rights begin only at birth on the ground that the baby has a conceptual nature -- which is what Don was arguing several posts ago, or at least that's what I and at least one other participant in the thread understood him to be arguing.

More generally, I'm just trying to understand exactly what Don's argument is in support of his position that rights don't begin until birth. It seems pretty weak to me so far, but maybe I just don't understand it correctly.

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Yes. God forbid that a woman should benefit from science!

If men got pregnant, the pill would have been the second thing invented, right after pizza.

It's that ol' time religion.

Now this I fully agree with.

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The potential being becomes an actual being when it conforms to the identity of being: physically independent.

You are saying here that the fetus, a few hours or days before birth, is not yet an actual being because it is still physically attached to the mother, correct? Or did you mean human being? But if you meant human being, as opposed to some other kind of being, isn't this entire argument merely circular, i.e., "human life begins at birth. Why? Because it isn't actually a human being until it is physically separated from the mother."

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My point, and the one the other person was making and I agreed with, is that you cannot cannot defend the position that rights begin only at birth on the ground that the baby has a conceptual nature -- which is what Don was arguing several posts ago, or at least that's what I and at least one other participant in the thread understood him to be arguing. 

More generally, I'm just trying to understand exactly what Don's argument is in support of his position that rights don't begin until birth.  It seems pretty weak to me so far, but maybe I just don't understand it correctly.

You've missed my point entirely. I've said rights arise because of conceptual interaction. A man on a desert island has a conceptual faculty but he does not have rights - the issue would not arise. Rights, therefore, are not coextensive with being a conceptual being - you need something more. You need social interaction with other conceptual beings.

Rights exist to define the sphere of legitimate human action in a social context. Since we create values rather than fight for a limited amount of pre-existing value, human interaction can be beneficial to man's survival efforts. But if men choose to attempt to live as animals, to plunder rather than create and trade, they become a threat and place themselves outside the boundaries of self-interested social interaction. Rights define the boundaries between an animal and a human mode of social interaction.

This may seem obvious, and I think it is, but I want to stress how rights arise so you can see why it makes no sense to apply those rights to the fetus prior to birth. At the risk of repeating myself: a fetus is by its nature not engaged in conceptual interaction and therefore can have no rights. The only way to grant it rights would be to sacrifice the rights of the mother - the individual, conceptually interacting human being. Nothing can justify that.

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I'm focused on when a person first has rights, and why.

I'll repeat:

If an entity has no means of even knowing rights exist, it has none.

If Entity-A's entire existence is facilitated by Entity-B, Entity-A has no rights of it's own - only the rights granted to it by Entity-B.

I don't know how to make it any more clear than this.

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At the risk of repeating myself: a fetus is by its nature not engaged in conceptual interaction and therefore can have no rights.

Please give me an example of a week old baby being engaged in conceptual interaction

The only way to grant it rights would be to sacrifice the rights of the mother - the individual, conceptually interacting human being. 
I disagree.

If you choose to drive a car, and then happen to get in a crash, you cannot "uncrash" your car. This fact of reality does not violate the driver's rights. By making a choice to drive, the driver becomes responsible for what happens while he is driving. (in this case, the crash)

The same principle (that one must be responsible for their actions) applies to pregnancy (with the exception of rape). If you choose to have sex, and then happen to get pregnant (creating a new human fully dependant on you), you cannot become "unpregnant" WITHOUT violating the rights (see below for why these rights exist) of the new human you created. Remaining pregnant does not violate your rights, it is the result of a choice you made.

Rights exist to define the sphere of legitimate human action in a social context. Since we create values rather than fight for a limited amount of pre-existing value, human interaction can be beneficial to man's survival efforts.

This same principle can also be applied to young babies. It is absurd to suggest that a mother can gain value by giving tremendous amounts of time and effort to serving a young baby's needs. Because the baby is not creating values, but using the pre-existing values that the mother created, he should not have rights according to the above idea of rights. Therefore, the above justification for a baby's rights must be wrong. (I agree with that justification for adult's rights)

The reason that the baby has rights is:(this was on page 2 of this thread)

Rand specifically stated that children are the obligation of their parents. I'm not anywhere near the Lexicon to find a citation, but I can do it if you require. The justification is that the parents have brought the child into existence and are responsible for it until it can support itself. In no other relationship is such a situation extant and in no other relationship is such an obligation involved.

It seems logical to me that this principle would apply from the moment of conception (the moment that a new human is created).

The justification is that the parents have brought the Human into existence and are responsible for it until it can support itself. In no other relationship is such a situation extant and in no other relationship is such an obligation involved.

If you disagree, please give a logical reason why

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It seems logical to me that this principle would apply from the moment of conception (the moment that a new human is created).

A zygote is by no means a human - only a potential human. Sperm and egg cells are also potential humans; should we grant them rights as well?

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Please give me an example of a week old baby being engaged in conceptual interaction
It is not conceptual interaction which is the issue, but rather interaction between conceputal beings.

If you choose to drive a car, and then happen to get in a crash, you cannot "uncrash" your car.

No, but you can get out of your car, take it to a body shop and fix it up, good as new. Should it be illegal to do that, for concern of the "rights" of the dents in you car. No, the dents have no such rights, nor does a fetus. Neither is a human being.

The justification is that the parents have brought the Human into existence and are responsible for it until it can support itself. In no other relationship is such a situation extant and in no other relationship is such an obligation involved.
Sure the have brought a human into existance, but not a being, not until birth.

The reason that the baby has rights is...

No, the reason a baby has rights is because it is a human being. The explanation you gave is the reason a babies parents are responsible for its well being, not the reason it has rights.

It should be perfectly clear to all by now that the argument is that, in order to have rights, something must be a human being. If you disagree with this, argue your disagreement with this, not with its implications.

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This will be my final reply to Bob Jones, as he has made it clear that he is either evading the issue, or too stupid to follow an argument. Not because he hasn't accepted my claims as true, but because he has consistently misrepresented them. My reply is meant for any honest reader taken in by his nonsense.

Bob Jones writes:

Please give me an example of a week old baby being engaged in conceptual interaction

Richard Halley answered correctly when he replied: "It is not conceptual interaction which is the issue, but rather interaction between conceputal beings." This is correct, and it has been stated often enough and as many ways as to make it clear: the facts that give rise to rights do not apply to a fetus, while they do apply to adults and children, including babies.

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Well, okay.  We have rights at birth because of our nature as conceptual beings.  I'm good with that, but it begs the question of whether we also have rights in the minutes, days, weeks, or even months prior to birth, at least during the period that the fetus is viable (i.e. can live outside the womb).

I agree. But having rights, and the extent to which he can exercise these rights, are two separate issues.  I'm focused on when a person first has rights, and why. 

A person first has rights the instant he becomes a person -- i.e., when he is born.

I think we both agree that he has rights at birth.  Now, what about, say, a week prior to birth?  two weeks?  a month?  His conceptual nature doesn't change in this period, only his physical location does.  By what objective criteria do we draw the line and say that after this point in his development, and no sooner, he has rights?

Before birth the fetus is not a separate person and after birth it is.

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Well, at the risk of asking what may be a really dense question, isn't the fetus here literally interacting with its mother?

Did you read the quote from OPAR I provided, and my discussion surrounding the issue, and Don's clarification of the circumstances under which the issue of rights arises? I summed the issue up by saying:

"Clearly, a fetus is not "interacting" in any sense of the word applicable to man, whether in a broad social context or otherwise. A fetus is simply a part of a woman's body and it does not interact in any social context with man until it is born."

Perhaps it would be helpful to first review Ayn Rand's writings, and those by Peikoff, on the reasons for and the circumstances by the concept of rights arise in the first place. Then you can either present your arguments as to exactly where Ayn Rand and Peikoff are wrong in regard to the concept of rights, or demonstrate how a parasite living within a woman's body is somehow interacting in a sense appropriate to man, and therefore deservfing of rights.

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My point, and the one the other person was making and I agreed with, is that you cannot cannot defend the position that rights begin only at birth on the ground that the baby has a conceptual nature -- which is what Don was arguing several posts ago ...

No, you and the other person misunderstood. Don was not arguing that. Please go back and read his post again, along with his clarifications as well as the clarifications by me which Don acknowledged. All of that occurred before this post of yours, so I must wonder why you continue to argue against a position which is not being advocated.

More generally, I'm just trying to understand exactly what Don's argument is in support of his position that rights don't begin until birth.  It seems pretty weak to me so far, but maybe I just don't understand it correctly.

Don, and every other Objectivist here, has argued along the exact same line of reasoning as voiced by Ayn Rand, namely that to be a human being you must first be a being, a physically independent entity. Hasn't that been made amply clear by several posters here? Haven't I provided a direct quote from Miss Rand which said just that?

Why then such the struggle to understand the argument? How much clearer could it be?

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This is out of sequence because I missed this post the first time around.

I understand the part about embryos having no rights, and I understand Peikoff's argument that a potential is not an actual. The devil, however, is in the details of determining when the potential becomes an actual, either generally or more specifically for purposes of ascertaining when an actual first has rights. As for drawing this line at birth, well, Ayn Rand did say it so I guess that's that, right?

The implication in that last comment is insulting to the many honest and intellectually independent people who have been arguing with you in regard to abortion. The fact that Ayn Rand said something is not any justification for it being right, and you would be damned hard-pressed to show that such blind acceptance of an idea was evidenced by any Objectivist here in this recent discussion on abortion. You might consider an apology for the unwarranted implication which you made.

As to the "devil, however, is in the details," I must confess I am at a loss to know just what you mean. A fetus spends nine months as part of a woman's body, and then at birth it becomes a physically independent human being. What "details" are mssing here that would appeal to an intellectual devil?

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You've missed my point entirely. I've said rights arise because of conceptual interaction. A man on a desert island has a conceptual faculty but he does not have rights - the issue would not arise. Rights, therefore, are not coextensive with being a conceptual being - you need something more. You need social interaction with other conceptual beings.

The phrase "conceptual interaction" is totally confusing to me, except that I certainly agree that rights arise in part because we are rational beings and we interact with other human beings. But it's much more than that. For example, to say that someone has rights means that others cannot initiate force against him without also violating his rights. The following quote from Ayn Rand sums up nicely what I have in mind here: "The concept of 'rights' pertains only to action -- specifically, freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men."

Anyway, the problem I'm struggling with here is that a newborn infant doesn't "conceptually interact" with anyone, either. His brain isn't yet integrating sensations into percepts, much less percepts into concepts. So how do you differentiate the newborn infant from what that infant was a few hours before he was born? The only difference I'm seeing here is his physical location, not what he essentially is.

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I'll repeat:

If an entity has no means of even knowing rights exist, it has none.

If Entity-A's entire existence is facilitated by Entity-B, Entity-A has no rights of it's own - only the rights granted to it by Entity-B.

I don't know how to make it any more clear than this.

Well, a newborn infant who cannot even yet integrate sensations into percepts has no means of knowing that rights exist, yet both Rand and Peikoff have said that a human being has rights at birth. For that matter, the newborn is as dependent on others as a fetus is on its mother, but, again, the Objectivist view is that the newborn infant has rights. Thus, as a matter of simple logic, rights cannot be a matter of knowing that they exist or not being totally dependent on others.

So your argument isn't nearly as clear to me as it seems to be to you.

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So how do you differentiate the newborn infant from what that infant was a few hours before he was born?  The only difference I'm seeing here is his physical location, not what he essentially is.

The "physical location" of a fetus is within a woman's body, physically a part of her. That is what the fetus "essentially is," a part of a woman. At birth the "physical location" of the newborn is outside of the woman's body, a physically independent being. That is what the newborn "essentially is," a human being.

Are you ever going to directly address this fundamental issue, or do you intend to skirt around and continue to focus instead on inessentials?

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It is not conceptual interaction which is the issue, but rather interaction between conceputal beings.

I agree with this point. However, I don't see why birth is essential to being a conceptual being. Certainly everyone here understands that at a certain point in a pregnancy, a fetus becomes "viable," i.e. surviving as a human being outside the womb. By this time, it is certainly a "conceptual being."

As for the "interaction" factor, birth changes the form of a baby's interaction with others, but not the fact of its existence. A fetus certainly "interacts" with its mother. In fact, the interaction begins long before the fetus develops a brain and becomes a concpetual being.

In sum, I don't see why the form of the interaction alone should make any essential difference. Maybe some other factor does, but not this one. If "interaction between conceptual beings" is the test for rights, then it seems that rights begin when the fetus becomes viable. However, if rights actually don't begin until birth, then something else is required. What is it?

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A person first has rights the instant he becomes a person -- i.e., when he is born.

Before birth the fetus is not a separate person and after birth it is.

The problems I see here is that the first point is circular, and the second point begs the question of why physical separation is the essential fact that gives rise to rights, i.e. why the newborn has rights at the moment of birth, but not in the minutes or hours prior to birth. Come to think of it, the second argument is circular as well (birth is physical separation from the mother).

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[stephen_speicher,May 7 2004, 05:03 PM]

"Well, at the risk of asking what may be a really dense question, isn't the fetus here literally interacting with its mother?"

Did you read the quote from OPAR I provided, and my discussion surrounding the issue, and Don's clarification of the circumstances under which the issue of rights arises? I summed the issue up by saying:

"Clearly, a fetus is not "interacting" in any sense of the word applicable to man, whether in a broad social context or otherwise. A fetus is simply a part of a woman's body and it does not interact in any social context with man until it is born."

Perhaps it would be helpful to first review Ayn Rand's writings, and those by Peikoff, on the reasons for and the circumstances by the concept of rights arise in the first place. Then you can either present your arguments as to exactly where Ayn Rand and Peikoff are wrong in regard to the concept of rights, or demonstrate how a parasite living within a woman's body is somehow interacting in a sense appropriate to man, and therefore deservfing of rights.

I fully understand Rand's and Peikoff's arguments regarding the facts that give rise to the concept of "rights." I have also read -- many times -- everything they have to say about the abortion issue.

I'm trying, but I am not understanding how these arguments either apply to or justify the conclusion that rights do not arise at some point prior to birth. To put my question in OPAR terms, what exactly is the reduction or proof of the conclusion that rights do not begin at any time prior to birth? For example, how do I explain to a non-Objectivist who opposes abortion for non-religious reasons that the fetus has no rights, say, a week or two before birth? I don't see the reduction. Maybe I'm blind, but then again maybe there is nothing to see.

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Don, and every other Objectivist here, has argued along the exact same line of reasoning as voiced by Ayn Rand, namely that to be a human being you must first be a being, a physically independent entity. Hasn't that been made amply clear by several posters here? Haven't I provided a direct quote from Miss Rand which said just that?

Why then such the struggle to understand the argument? How much clearer could it be?

As framed, the argument is crytal clear. The problem is that it is also circular, and begs the question of why physical independence is more fundamental or essential to having rights than, say, viability. So, what facts of reality actually lead to the result that physical independence is more essential or fundamental than viability? Can someone actually list these facts here in numerical or bullet point so that we are all talking about the same thing?

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Stephen Speicher wrote: This is out of sequence because I missed this post the first time around.

"I understand the part about embryos having no rights, and I understand Peikoff's argument that a potential is not an actual.  The devil, however, is in the details of determining when the potential becomes an actual, either generally or more specifically for purposes of ascertaining when an actual first has rights. As for drawing this line at birth, well, Ayn Rand did say it so I guess that's that, right?"

The implication in that last comment is insulting to the many honest and intellectually independent people who have been arguing with you in regard to abortion. The fact that Ayn Rand said something is not any justification for it being right, and you would be damned hard-pressed to show that such blind acceptance of an idea was evidenced by any Objectivist here in this recent discussion on abortion. You might consider an apology for the unwarranted implication which you made.

As to the "devil, however, is in the details," I must confess I am at a loss to know just what you mean. A fetus spends nine months as part of a woman's body, and then at birth it becomes a physically independent human being. What "details" are mssing here that would appeal to an intellectual devil?

At the outset, I'm not trying to insult anyone, and I apologize if I did. I'm just trying to understand what the argument actually is.

To answer your question, the details I had in mind are that the fetus doesn't go from zygote to infant in one step. It goes through a continuous development and reaches several biological milestones along the way. For purposes of this discussion, one of the most important such milestones is viability, i.e. the point at which the fetus is sufficiently far enough along in its development to survive outside the womb. At this stage, it seems to me that, at a bare minimum, a strong argument can be made that what was a potential human being has become an actual human being. This argument gets only stronger as the now viable fetus continues its development and gets closer to the day of its birth. Also, even though it is physically connected to its mother, biologically it is a separate living entity. Thus, it isn't so obvious to me that the "potential is not an actual" argument supports the conclusion that rights begin at birth, and not at an earlier point (but no earlier than viability).

Incidentally, I recall Ayn Rand saying somewhere that the later stages of pregnancy are at least "arguable." Well, I guess I'm arguing. :yarr:

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The "physical location" of a fetus is within a woman's body, physically a part of her. That is what the fetus "essentially is," a part of a woman. At birth the "physical location" of the newborn is outside of the woman's body, a physically independent being. That is what the newborn "essentially is," a human being.

Are you ever going to directly address this fundamental issue, or do you intend to skirt around and continue to focus instead on inessentials?

I agree that the fetus is within a woman's body and even physically connected to her body, but it doesn't follow that therefore the fetus is part of the woman (in the same sense that, say, her heart or toenails are part of the woman) as opposed to being a separate biological entity with its own DNA, heart, brain, etc., although physically connected to the woman.

You are essentially trying to prove that human beings have rights only at birth by defining a human being as a newborn infant. Surely you see how circular this argument is, no?

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To put my question in OPAR terms, what exactly is the reduction or proof of the conclusion that rights do not begin at any time prior to birth?

It as already been stated -- and I am waiting for an answer -- birth is an obvious and clear point of demarcation as far as the facts giving rise to the concept of rights is concerned.

When it is born -- but not before -- a child becomes a biologically separate entity not dependent on any one particular individual.

You write "the only difference I'm seeing here is his physical location" but please address what the different locations are. Before birth the baby wasn't in a tree. It was inside a human being possessing rights.

For example, how do I explain to a non-Objectivist who opposes abortion for non-religious reasons that the fetus has no rights, say, a week or two before birth?  I don't see the reduction.  Maybe I'm blind, but then again maybe there is nothing to see.

After I give it my best shot, I would ask him to explain what his "non-religious reasons" are. In my experience, the person either gives up the conversation, changes the subject, or raises a silly, off-the-wall "objection."

If a person won't deal with such obvious distinctions as one biological entity vs. two separate biological entities, and inside a human being vs. not inside a human being, there really isn't much I can say. You can't reason someone out of a belief they didn't reason themselves into.

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It as already been stated -- and I am waiting for an answer -- birth is an obvious and clear point of demarcation as far as the facts giving rise to the concept of rights is concerned.

I agree that birth is an obvious and clear point at which to draw a line. But so is viability. So is conception. So is the age at which the infant says its first word. We need objective criteria for where to draw the line -- not to do the equivalent of playing pin the tail on the donkey.

I believe that Leonard Peikoff correctly drew the line at the point at which a potential human being becomes an actual human being. But the question then becomes exactly when this happens. He answered "birth," but I'm not so sure he is correct. More specifically, what is the logical validation of the argument that it occurs at birth, and not, say, at viability. Merely stating that the answer is birth because at this point the infant is no longer physically attached to the mother is to argue in circles -- birth is the process of becoming physically independent of the mother.

You write "the only difference I'm seeing here is his physical location" but please address what the different locations are. Before birth the baby wasn't in a tree. It was inside a human being possessing rights.
Right. If a viable fetus is an actual human being, we are talking about two human beings with rights, not just one. The question then becomes not whether the fetus has rights, but the different question of what are its rights as against the rights of the mother.

After I give it my best shot, I would ask him to explain what his "non-religious reasons" are. In my experience, the person either gives up the conversation, changes the subject, or raises a silly, off-the-wall "objection."

Some do, but not everyone. For example, a very bright non-religious Objectivist, Diana Hseih, recently wrote the following in her blog "Noodlefood" on March 11, 2004 : "For various reasons related to the autonomy of rights-bearers, I regard natural viability as the proper standard for abortion rights in ordinary circumstances. So on my view, should a woman have the right to allow her fully viable fetus die when it could be so easily saved? I don't know, but I suspect not. Legal parental obligations perhaps begin when that viability point is passed -- or whenever the woman commits to carry the fetus to term." Her position is certainly a minority position among Objectivists, but in my opinion it is a defensible one -- and, as far as I can tell so far, more easily defensible than many of the contrary arguments I've seen here.

If a person won't deal with such obvious distinctions as one biological entity vs. two separate biological entities, and inside a human being vs. not inside a human being, there really isn't much I can say. You can't reason someone out of a belief they didn't reason themselves into.

I think this is correct -- but it works both ways. The distinctions themselves are obvious. Their relevance to when we first have rights is not.

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