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Myrtok

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  1. Myrtok

    Abortion

    Surely you aren't saying that an infant is somehow granted its right to not be killed by the fact that a parent or other volunteer agrees to sponsor it. Remember, I am not disputing a mother's lack of obligation to a fetus. I am simply trying to get an answer for why a fetus doesn't have a right to not be killed while an infant does. Please consider the following which may help to clarify my questions: #1 You have a right to kill an animal, assuming that animal isn't the property of another person, because that animal has no right to not be killed. #2 You don't have a right to kill my infant. If you killed my infant, you wouldn't be violating MY rights since I don't "own" the infant. You would be violating the infant's right to not be killed. #3 You do not have the right to kill your own infant, for the same reasons stated in #2 above. #4 You may let my infant starve to death, since you owe it no obligation, but you may not let your own infant starve to death, since you have consented to raise it. #5 You may have the right to kill a person who possesses an inherent right to not be killed if they are attempting to take your means of survival away from you. I am NOT questioning a mother's lack of obligation to keep a fetus alive. I am NOT questioning a mother's right to kill a fetus (or even a competent adult stranger) if it is taking her life, or any portion thereof, from her against her will. What I AM questioning is the assertion that a fetus has no inherent right to not be killed. Again, an infant would appear to be a "potential" just as much as a fetus would appear to be a "potential." The only arguments to the contrary seem to be based on the alleged fact that a fetus is not an independent living entity, which I have addressed, and disproven I believe, in several prior posts. In fact, Miss Rand disproved it when she used an amoeba as an example of a goal-oriented, living entity. I have read most of the 50+ pages in this thread. The support for abortion rests on two legs. One leg is that a fetus has no inherent rights, no right to not be killed. The other leg is that even if a fetus had such a right, it would not obligate the mother to provide the means of keeping that fetus alive to her own detriment. Every single time the discussion gets going about one leg, someone confuses the issue by saying, essentially, "leg #1 doesn't matter because of leg #2," or vice versa. This is why I am asking questions ONLY about leg #1.
  2. I don't understand why Miss Rand places such a high moral value on sex. Sex with a prostitute may indicate a lack of self respect in the john. Then again, it may have nothing to do with his spiritual or psychological values. He may like it just because it feels good in the purely physical sense. If you pay someone to give you a back rub, because the back rub feels good, you are not necessarily seeking to gain self esteem from the act of receiving a backrub from the massuese, nor is your choice of massuese anymore indicitive of your self esteem than your choice of any other service provider. Am I correct in assuming that Miss Rand would not see a moral issue with paying a massuese to give you a backrub for the sole reason that it feels physically good? If so, where is the issue with asking the massuese to rub a little lower for the reason that that feels good as well?
  3. Myrtok

    Abortion

    Yet those rights, or at least the right to not be killed, apply to infants, who have, by their nature, no freedom of action in a social context. This is the conflict that is keeping me from understanding the Objectivist position on abortion. Infants are assumed to have a right to life because their nature is the same as a man, even though they haven't quite developed their faculty for reason. If an infant has a right to not be killed (though not necessarily any claim on humanity to keep them alive) then it makes no sense that a fetus wouldn't have the same right (though not necessarily any claim on humanity to keep them alive).
  4. Myrtok

    Abortion

    Yes, and that is the problem. I get stuck before I get to the conclusion that a fetus has no right to life. I am well aware of that. However, as I have stated in several of my previous posts, I am not attempting to bite off the entire issue at once. I am taking it one step at a time. To determine whether any entity has a right to life, one must first determine whether it is, in fact, a living entity. Obviously, a dog is a living entity, but it does not have a right to life. There are other tests that must be applied, and a dog fails them. On the other hand, a rock doesn't even have life, so there is no need to apply those other tests to a rock. At this point, as a preliminary step, I am simply attempting to establish whether a fetus possesses life, in the same manner that an amoeba or a tapeworm possesses life. So far, the answer seems to be yes. Dr. Peikoff's assertion that a tumor growing within a woman does not possess rights is correct, but it does not apply. A fetus is something different than a tumor or a piece of her liver. It is a separate organism. A parasite even. It is as much an "independent, goal-oriented, living entity" as a tapeworm. Neither can live outside its host. Both possess life and persue it independently according to their own nature. I hate to keep repeating myself, but I will say again, I know this does not translate to a right to life. It is only the necessary first step to determining whether anything, including a man, has a right to life. Does it possess life? A man does. An amoeba does. A tapeworm does. A Fetus does. The rest of Dr. Peikoff's arguments deal with whether the fetus has a right to exist in the womb. That is several steps removed from the point where I am now. Until I can be sure that a fetus possesses life, I don't need to worry about whether it has a right to life. If it has no right to life, there is no need to worry about the mother's right to the real estate in her uterus. So far, nobody (including Dr. Piekoff) has shown me where I have erred in reaching the conclusion that a fetus has independent life, according to its nature, in the same manner as a parasitic amoeba. Miss Rand HAS confirmed that an amoeba possesses all of the requirements to be considered a "living, goal-oriented entity," without any regard for whether it was inside a host.
  5. Myrtok

    Abortion

    I have asked myself this, and I have concluded that it is irrelevant. The tapeworm I mentined before, or any number of other parasites cannot exist outside of their host, yet they are living entities by Miss Rand's definition. They are not required to live and thrive outside their host to achieve that status. I can find no reasoning that would require a human fetus to exist outside the body of its host to gain the status of "living entity".
  6. Thank you Mark K. Those threads are very instructive. I will take my questions to those venues.
  7. Myrtok

    Abortion

    I don't believe that it can. A tumor cell is simply a malfunctioning human cell. To put a finer point on it, a tumor is not a living entity in the sense that an amoeba or a tapeworm is a living entity by Miss Rand's definition above. A tumor cell would be more analagous to the liver or skin cells of a person, which also are not living entities. I have read that article before, and I re-read it on your recommendation. I don't understand your assertion that a fetus is not an individual. It very well could be that you are using a specialized definition of "individual" which means something other than a single, living, goal-directed entity (in the physical sense). You state that it is of great importance for me to understand that the entity is only an individual after birth. This is exactly the conclusion that I am attempting to understand by asking these questions. Peikoff's article leaves some of these questions unanswered as well: "We must not confuse potentiality with actuality. An embryo is a potential human being. It can, granted the woman's choice, develop into an infant. But what it actually is during the first trimester is a mass of relatively undifferentiated cells that exist as a part of a woman's body. If we consider what it is rather than what it might become, we must acknowledge that the embryo under three months is something far more primitive than a frog or a fish. To compare it to an infant is ludicrous." (Piekoff) An embryo (fetus) IS more primitive than a (fully developed) frog or fish. In fact, at its earliest stages, it is more on par with an amoeba, and even an amoeba is a living entity according to Miss Rand. I believe (conclude) that his description of a fetus, even at the very earliest stages of development as "part of a woman's body" is inaccurate, as demonstrated in my first post. A fetus, immediately after ferilization, or at the very least after its first cell division, is obviously a living entity according to Miss Rand's description. "If we are to accept the equation of the potential with the actual and call the embryo an "unborn child," we could, with equal logic, call any adult an "undead corpse" and bury him alive or vivisect him for the instruction of medical students." (Piekoff) This argument is ineffective unless you somehow conclude that an embryo does not possess life. The very first requirement for possessing a right to live is the possession of life in the first place. A corpse obviously does not possess life. A man does. As I believe I've demonstrated, a fetus does possess life. Again, this alone is not enough to conclude that it has rights. Possessing life is not the *only* requirement for possessing a right to live, but it is the first step. At this point, my understanding of the Oist position on abortion may hinge on my understanding of the Oist definitin of "individual" What is the Oist definition of an individual? (more specifically, can a dog or an amoeba be considered an individual, or is it a trait distinct to human beings?) If an amoeba is, by definition, and individual being, then why isn't a fetus? Thank you to all who have donated their time to further my understanding.
  8. Myrtok

    Abortion

    Hello. I am new to objectivism. I can’t call myself an expert in any aspect of Oism, but I do have a good “newby” understanding of the underlying principles. I find myself able to easily internalize and understand nearly everything I’ve read from Miss Rand. That said, I am confused by her position on abortion. From my reading of Rand, and the couple of hours I have spent reading this thread, I can see that the main arguments in support of abortion rights are the following: #1 A fetus has no rights. (If this is true, then #2 is not necessary) #2 Even if a fetus has a right to life, it has no claim on the rights of its mother since it is in her body against her will. Since #2 doesn’t even need to be discussed if #1 is true, I’m just going to ask about #1 for now. Please don’t hammer me for disregarding the mother’s rights. I’m well aware of that argument, but as I said, it doesn’t even need to come into play if #1 is true. Oh, and just for clarification, I’m going to use the word fetus for the unborn, even though it is not technically correct at all stages of development. Feel free to insert zygote, mass of cells, embryo, or protoplasmic goo at any point if you so desire. First, I have to flatly dispute the argument that a fetus is merely a part of a woman’s body and that saying it has rights is akin to saying her liver has rights. This simply isn’t accurate. You can say that an unfertilized egg is a part of a woman’s body, but after it is fertilized, it becomes something different than just an egg. It becomes an organism. Its cells begin to divide, and it begins to grow. It is still inside the mother. It is attached to the mother. It gains energy and nutrients from the mother, but it is a separate organism. Consider a tapeworm. It lives in a person, is attached to a person, and gains sustenance from a person, but it is not part of the person. It is a separate organism within the person. A liver or a skin cell is not an organism. A tapeworm and a fetus, despite their reliance on a host, are organisms. Of course, a tapeworm has no rights, and I haven’t suggested that a fetus has any. I’m simply establishing that a fetus is not a part of its mother. “Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.” (Ayn Rand Lexicon) “When applied to physical phenomena, such as the automatic functions of an organism, the term “goal-directed” is not to be taken to mean “purposive” (a concept applicable only to the actions of a consciousness) and is not to imply the existence of any teleological principle operating in insentient nature. I use the term “goal-directed,” in this context, to designate the fact that the automatic functions of living organisms are actions whose nature is such that they result in the preservation of an organism’s life”(Ayn Rand Lexicon) A fetus at any stage after fertilization meets Miss Rand’s definition of a living entity. What’s more, it is without a doubt a human living entity (a homo sapiens living entity). I’ve read the arguments about seeds and chicken eggs. The comparison to the chicken egg is actually somewhat accurate if you consider the living chicken embryo and not the visible shell of the egg itself. The chicken embryo is a living entity. The plant seed is not an appropriate comparison. A fertilized plant seed is dormant and not alive. This is true according to both science and Miss Rand’s definition above. A plant seed is a potential plant, and only realizes that potential upon germination. Ok. I believe I have established that a fetus, at any point after fertilization, is a living entity of the homo sapiens variety. Unless I am mistaken, the only other requirement for a right to not be killed is that it possess a faculty for reason. It is at this point that I become confused. I am not attempting to prove that abortion should be illegal. I’m attempting to understand the conclusion, according to Objectivism, that it shouldn’t be illegal. At this point, I am unable to do that for the following reasons: After several hours of reading this forum, I have found a lot of information stating that, contrary to popular leftist belief, Ayn Rand and Objectivists in general are in fact, human. I have found multiple posts on this site, made by folks who seem to be fairly senior members and respected Oists, which state that even if a newborn baby does not possess a faculty for reason yet (and I believe it does not), it is still a human being and its nature is to live by reason, so it has a right to not be killed. This is apparently accepted, despite the fact that it appears to be equivocating a potentiality with a reality (to me). I have also read that an adult human being who has lost or never possessed a faculty for reason by means of accident or defect has a right to not be killed as a benefit of his membership in the homo sapiens club. Now, obviously a fetus that was just fertilized a few days ago can’t possess any rational faculty, but it seems to meet the same criteria as a damaged adult with no faculty for reason. I just need an answer to the question: Why does a living human entity which lacks an active faculty for reason outside the womb have a right to not be killed when a living human entity with the same lack of faculty inside the womb has no such right? Oh, and please remember, I’m not looking for arguments about the mother’s rights at this point (though I am well aware they exist). I fully understand that the right to not be killed does not imply the right to be kept alive. Right now I am only asking about the right to not be killed.
  9. Yes, prisons are obviously part of the cost of running the government. I also understand (and agree with) Rand's argument that prisoners have rights, despite the fact that we take away or limit some of those rights when we put them in prison. Unless a prisoner has received a death sentence, the most basic right, the right to live, would still be held by the prisoner. It follows that some person or group of persons must then owe the prisoner either food, or the means to attain his own food. Who owes him that? "The government" is not a specific enough answer in an objectivist forum, since the government, from an objectivist viewpoint, would not necessarily own any means of providing him with food or the ability to attain food.
  10. Did Mrs. Rand ever write anything about the responsibility of caring for a prisoner? I've done some searches on the net and can't seem to find anything. It seems obvious to me that if we, through our government, take a man by force and put him in a prison, we then take on the responsibility for feeding him since we have forcibly put him in a situation where he can not feed himself. However, this would also seem to be a debt that every individual under that government owes to the prisoner, by virtue of the prisoner's wrongdoing. Such a collective responsibility to an individual is such a departure from the normal ethics of Objectivism, that I can't imagine Mrs. Rand wouldn't have been asked to explain it at some point. The only alternative is to ask for volunteers to feed the prisoner, but if no volunteers step up, then we are left with the options of letting the prisoner go free or letting him starve to death, effectively turning his punishment into a death sentence.
  11. I originally read something of that nature on this forum. Unfortunately, I can't find it now. Doing a normal web search I found this: http://sanseverything.wordpress.com/2007/10/24/from-ayn-rand-to-animal-rights-an-interview-with-henry-mark-holzer-2/ This is an interview with her lawyer. Be forewarned that he is also a prominent animal rights lawyer. So, take it for what it's worth but he said :
  12. Since being awakened to Oism, I'm finding myself watching for lessons in every aspect of my life. I enjoy an online game called Starsonata. I enjoy it a lot. I pay a subscription to pay the game, but I value the game more than the actual subscription price. Still, I don't consider sending extra money to the owner of the game. We have an agreement on the price of playing, after all. However, if I were to learn that the game was in financial trouble and in danger of shutting down, I would consider sending a donation to help keep it alive since I actually place more value on the game than what I am paying anyway. If I actuallly believed that a donation would keep the game alive, rather than simply extend its death, I would donate that money. In most ways, this story seems consistant with what I've learned about Objectivism, except that I have this nagging feeling that since I wouldn't send extra money in normal circumstances, but that I would send extra money if the owner NEEDED it to continue operation, I am placing a value on the game's need, rather than on the game itself. BTW, Starsonata is an awesome game if you are into a space MMO, and it is not in any financial trouble at all.
  13. Reasonable rules at the demand of its people. . .That is the key phrase. First, keep in mind that no law has any effect unless the government is willing and able to use force to, well, enforce it. Now, consider what you mean by "reasonable" when you devise a law to be enforced. If that law violates the rights of one man, then it is no longer reasonable, despite the fact that any number of men demanded it. Neither you, nor any number of your friends acting in concert have the right to use force on me, unless I've first used force on you or violated your rights in some way. Consider, do I have a right to enter your home without your permission? Do I have a right to force you to give me that permission? Obviously, that is contradictory. If I forced you, you wouldn't actually be giving me permission. I would be violating your right to choose who enters your home. What if all of the people in the country demand that you give me permission to enter your home, and state that they will use force if you deny me that permission? Again, since you are being forced, you are not actually giving your permission. It is being taken from you by force, and your rights are being infringed. The possibility that your decision to bar me from your property is based on my skin color does not somehow grant me a new right to enter your property without permission. The only laws that a government can legitimately pass are laws which do not violate any person's rights. For example, I don't have a right to kill you, therefore the government can pass a law against murder. I do have a right to determine who enters my property, therfore the government can't pass a law forcing me to allow you on my property.
  14. Yes. Since I am here to learn, I have no problem with adjusting my stance when I am taught something My example of 7 years old was based on a misunderstanding of Rand's definition when she describes her epistomology in Atlas Shrugged. (Start with the difference between a rock and a living thing, progress to the difference between all other living things and a man- the man must choose to live). I can see a two year old applying some rationality, but not choosing whether or not to live. To put it another way, I can see a two year old making certain rational connections, but not having the ability to "choose life" in the moral fashion described by Rand. As for an infant waving its arms around or "choosing" to look at bright colors and movement, that is not a demonstration of any rationality at all. A cat flicks its tail back and forth and focuses intently on movement as well. A kitten can even distinguish between a plexiglass bridge and a hole into which it might drop. The human baby may learn faster, but I would argue that is a function of intelligence rather than rationality. After all, a dog might also learn faster than the cat, and they both may learn faster than a mouse. Some animals would probably even learn to trust the plexiglass faster than a human toddler. However, just to keep things simple and avoid the need for such arguments, let's just consider a newborn baby - from birth to a few days old. There is nothing it can do to distinguish it from an irrational animal. Whether it's brain has the proper form to give it the ability to reason is unclear. We don't know. It obviously has the potential to become a rational man, but equivalence of actuality and potentiality is frowned upon by Oism. I am having trouble reconciling the fact that a newborn baby has any more rights than an unborn baby. If the test to determine whether it has any rights is whether it has ANY rational faculty, then wouldn't it become imperative to determine exactly when that ratinal faculty comes into existence? Of course, this only applies to whether it's permissible to torture a baby. As for a mother's obligation to care for the baby and keep it alive after birth, I don't think that has been answered sufficiently. Bluecherry's response assumes that the mother has volunteered to care for the baby and then changed her mind. Let us instead suppose that the mother has NOT volunteered to care for the baby, but instead has only refrained from exercising her rights up until that point. If I allow you to push me two times, that does not negate my right to forcibly stop you the third time. If I give you two meals, that does not obligate me to give you a third meal. If a mother lets a baby impose on her body for nine months, and drain her productivity for two or three days after it is born, that does not give it a claim to a fourth day.
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