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Palin's Down syndrome child and the right to abortion

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*** Mod's note: Since we had a thread about Provenzo's original post, I've moved this post from the topic in which it was posted, into this thread. - sN ***

Here's a link to the original article. How about we discuss the merits of his actual argument, rather than his characterizations of its interpretation by a hostile interviewer?

To summarize, in Nicholas' own stark and provocative words: Palin's choice to give birth to a Down Syndrome child is a profoundly selfish choice, and nothing less than the worship of retardation.

Nicholas' choice to intentionally provoke pro-lifers, only to be "outraged" by the provoked response of one of their ranks, seems a denial of causality, and possibly, an intent to validate his argument by the abusive reaction of opponents, rather than on merits. (His article reflects this tendency as well)

Nicholas argues that Palin committed an "immoral" act by choosing to bring the child into the world, without exploring whether her choice will involuntary subject anyone else to the consequences of that choice. Given that he is asserting a distinction between a healthy fetus' right to life and an unhealthy fetus', is it out of bounds for Ingraham to infer that he would hold the same distinction for a child, or for an elderly ward of the state?

Nicholas is smearing the two separate issues of abortion and the right of less-than-marginally-productive members of society to live. By conflating them into a single issue, he is arguing for "the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down Syndrome," and, "by extension," the affirmation that all abortions are moral.

This is intellectual dishonesty, regardless of your views on these issues, and Objectivists should call it what it is.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Nicholas argues that Palin committed an "immoral" act by choosing to bring the child into the world, without exploring whether her choice will involuntary subject anyone else to the consequences of that choice.
Provenzo's point is that she is made an immoral choice, not a choice that hurts others.

... in Nicholas' own stark and provocative words: Palin's choice to give birth to a Down Syndrome child is a profoundly selfish choice, and nothing less than the worship of retardation.
I assume you mean "profoundly selfless" choice? Provenzo is saying that she made an immoral choice, because (he assumes) it was based on not giving enough importance to her own selfish happiness.

Of course one cannot say universally whether someones choice to do certain concrete things was moral. For instance, it could be either moral or immoral to lie, to eat a very fatty dish, to have an abortion, or to go through with a pregnancy knowing one's child will have Down's syndrome. Personally, I have heard a couple of explanations from people who went through with DS pregnancies, who were trying to make decisions in their own self-interest. So, it is true that people can arrive at the decision even if they ask themselves what is in their best interest; so, in that sense, Provenzo is assuming a certain motivation on Palin's part. However, he is assuming exactly the same motivation that Palin's religious fans are assuming.

After her nomination, preacher Dobson was on TV praising her, and he mentioned her choice to have the DS kid, and praised her for it, even going so far as to say that most people would understand if she went through with an abortion in such a case. The Xians hold this aspect up as a moral choice, based on certain assumptions about her motivations. All the known facts point to the Xians being right, since she has a similar ethical philosophy. Given that, and the press her choice has got, why would it not be right to point out that it would be an immoral choice. If she chose to go through with this because she thought it was the right thing to do, while thinking that the selfish thing would be to abort the child, then she acted immorally.

There's no doubt the article was provocative. Mainly, many Xians (and sadly many others who live in the U.S.) have got this notion that even when an abortion is the right choice, the mother must somehow be a bit ashamed about it. They will tolerate someone saying that an abortion should be a right, or that it is necessary, but they find it extremely provocative to say that it is moral. However, that is their problem. The clear and simple truth is that the vast majority of abortions that take place are the most moral choice within that particular woman's context, and any sense of shame about the choice itself is misplaced.

It is also true that Provenzo's comment about the baby's capability, and need to be supported could easily be misinterpreted. Every day in the U.S. people make decisions like this, with respect to abortion and euthanasia. Most such decisions are moral. They would not be moral if the state were making the decision. So, for host Laura to question him about old people and so on is valid. However, why is it valid for her not to listen to his explanation as to why that's a different situation? Was she an enraged intellectual forcing him to argue and defend his case? Far from it.

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Nicholas argues that Palin committed an "immoral" act by choosing to bring the child into the world, without exploring whether her choice will involuntary subject anyone else to the consequences of that choice. Given that he is asserting a distinction between a healthy fetus' right to life and an unhealthy fetus', is it out of bounds for Ingraham to infer that he would hold the same distinction for a child, or for an elderly ward of the state?

Bold mine. Stop right there, and go back and read the article. He is asserting no such distinction. This is the problem, and the smear you are referring to comes from the view of those who are pro-life. Placing that onus on his doorstep and accusing him of intellectual dishonesty is out of bounds. Why don't we stick to his arguments, and not his motivations.

I've parsed his argument many times (especially before I endorsed his article on my blog), and it is sound. The worst criticism I would have is that the development of the argument is open to misinterpretation by pro-lifers, but then I hardly think this is a possible claim of intellectual dishonesty since the usual audience for his blog is sympathetic and he certainly has no onus to write for any arbitrary audience that might come along.

A fetus has no rights, and he did not in any way imply that it does. The type of life that a fetus will have as a human being, is only relevant in the value judgement of the mother. He spoke only in that context. However, if you're a right to lifer, and bent on keeping that distinction blurred, of course this is what you'll go after. But in railroading him, after he already said he'd been misinterpreted, it is the right to lifer who bears responsiblity for hte smear and the intellectual dishonestly.

If you search around you'll see this is a common occurence. Track back Nick's articles to any other pro-life blogs, and you'll see not only Nick, but DarkWaters, and Paul Hsieh clarifying those arguments in the comments sections to no avail. Who's being intellectually dishonest?

Nicholas is smearing the two separate issues of abortion and the right of less-than-marginally-productive members of society to live. By conflating them into a single issue, he is arguing for "the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down Syndrome," and, "by extension," the affirmation that all abortions are moral.

Actually, his article is quite clear that when "anti-abortion zeolots... label them [Down's abortions] a form of eugenics" then "it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome".

An intrinsicist reads "the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome" as "all Down's syndrome abortions are moral" (and if you have an ax to grind, as Ingraham did, then you add "because they will be marginally productive" - which a complete misrepresentation). If he was writing to such an audience maybe he could have used "morality of the option of aborting...", but I hardly think that this is a form of intellectual dishonesty.

I can certainly understand the misunderstanding on the part of Ingraham, initially. The intellectual dishonesty comes when, after stating that his position has been misrepresented, that she continued with her line of questioning, and sought neither to clarify nor understand that misrepresentationl, but to continue to pin him down to only the brief snippets of the article that made her point. Shifting the blame to Nick is pernicious.

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When I listened to the broadcast, and read soem fo the blogs, I think the thing I struggled with most was how to answer the charge of "moral relativism" or that the decision is just based upon "preference". This is a common expectation. An M, intrinsicists is going to see an Objectivist as a subjectivist. When you consider that most people want morality in their lives, it is this sort of charge that is most defeating to the case, and also if can be won, this sort of charge that leaves open a place to capture the moral high ground.

My first tack was to speak to the absoluteness of the sanctity of the womans life as her standard. But then certainly this means that the choice to abort or not is not determined at this point.... Not sure...

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When I listened to the broadcast, and read soem fo the blogs, I think the thing I struggled with most was how to answer the charge of "moral relativism" or that the decision is just based upon "preference". This is a common expectation. An M, intrinsicists is going to see an Objectivist as a subjectivist. When you consider that most people want morality in their lives, it is this sort of charge that is most defeating to the case, and also if can be won, this sort of charge that leaves open a place to capture the moral high ground.

My first tack was to speak to the absoluteness of the sanctity of the womans life as her standard. But then certainly this means that the choice to abort or not is not determined at this point.... Not sure...

I'm not sure I follow you here Kendall. One issue is that anyone who has any remnant of Christian altruist ethics in their subconscious wants an "absolute" morality in the sense that they want ethical propositions that will give an argument for why red is more moral than blue. You can get around this by saying that moral principles and values are absolute (a woman's right to her own life), but that the application of such principles to actual decisions is contextual. I don't see how this can be charged as moral relativism; surely most people concede that killing is generally wrong, but make exceptions for a serial killer or when our troops are engaging with the Nazi's. "Moral absolutism" does not equal "The Ten Commandments". Some families have the means to raise a child with down syndrome, other families do not. The issue that Nick had a problem with is the way Americans (specifically, the press) portray Palin's decision as absolute moral righteousness.

Edited by adrock3215
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Provenzo's point is that she is made an immoral choice, not a choice that hurts others.

Okay, by what standard of values does he judge her choice to be immoral? His own, or hers?

I assume you mean "profoundly selfless" choice? Provenzo is saying that she made an immoral choice, because (he assumes) it was based on not giving enough importance to her own selfish happiness.

No, I'm using his own words: The choice to have a child is a "profoundly selfish" one. Palin has a very principled value system when it comes to abortion: she believes, in epistemological terms, that the human entity begins at conception. Given that, her choice reflects her value/belief in the sanctity of the individual life, and reflects a rational self-interest.

Of course one cannot say universally whether someones choice to do certain concrete things was moral. For instance, it could be either moral or immoral to lie, to eat a very fatty dish, to have an abortion, or to go through with a pregnancy knowing one's child will have Down's syndrome. Personally, I have heard a couple of explanations from people who went through with DS pregnancies, who were trying to make decisions in their own self-interest. So, it is true that people can arrive at the decision even if they ask themselves what is in their best interest; so, in that sense, Provenzo is assuming a certain motivation on Palin's part. However, he is assuming exactly the same motivation that Palin's religious fans are assuming.

Bingo. One can only make an argument such as Nicholas' by assuming a motivation on the part of Palin. The argument that Nicholas' assumption is validated by others who he deems irrational represents an inherent flaw in the logic. Ascribing an arbitrary motivation to action, and then judging that motivation based on one's own value system and extending that judgment to the action itself is logically indefensible.

After her nomination, preacher Dobson was on TV praising her, and he mentioned her choice to have the DS kid, and praised her for it, even going so far as to say that most people would understand if she went through with an abortion in such a case. The Xians hold this aspect up as a moral choice, based on certain assumptions about her motivations. All the known facts point to the Xians being right, since she has a similar ethical philosophy. Given that, and the press her choice has got, why would it not be right to point out that it would be an immoral choice. If she chose to go through with this because she thought it was the right thing to do, while thinking that the selfish thing would be to abort the child, then she acted immorally.

Your use of the term "selfish" is getting a little loose here. Would it be selfish to kill my neighbor and take his property, if a perfect opportunity arose, and I knew I would get away with it? Would it be selfish to euthanize my grandparents, if they were a drain on my life and I could do it without raising any eyebrows? There is a difference between rational self-interest and sociopathic behavior.

This is the problem with applying "rational self-interest" to the abortion issue. It premises that an embryo/fetus is not a human, and does not have the rights of a human. I don't believe that premise is iron-clad, and even Rand concedes that after the first trimester the premise becomes shaky, although she doesn't elucidate on why, except to say that prior to that point an embryo is simply a lump of protoplasm (and apparently not a self-organizing cellular entity, definitively human, alive, and gradually and continuously gaining each of the attributes of man). The Objectivist argument against pro-lifers boils down to the essential issue of when man's life begins.

Every day in the U.S. people make decisions like this, with respect to abortion and euthanasia. Most such decisions are moral. They would not be moral if the state were making the decision. So, for host Laura to question him about old people and so on is valid. However, why is it valid for her not to listen to his explanation as to why that's a different situation? Was she an enraged intellectual forcing him to argue and defend his case? Far from it.

No, she was enraged pro-lifer, predictably dismissing an argument that, in her terms, murder of a non-productive humans is moral.

The premise that must be addressed is: when does man's life and rights begin? Any other arguments that extend past that point without first addressing it, are utterly pointless.

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Bold mine. Stop right there, and go back and read the article. He is asserting no such distinction.

I have to go back and read ITOE again, but I believe when he affirms the (presumably universal?) morality of aborting a DS fetus, he is differentiating that concept from the concept fetus and making a distinction. Then he is asserting that the argument wrt a DS fetus "extends" to every fetus.

Let's be clear on this: Nicholas is arguing that aborting a DS fetus is moral. Not potentially moral, not arguably moral, but moral. Does this not raise the red flag of intrinsicism to you all? "Oh well, he meant..." Sorry, but he said...

Actually, his article is quite clear that when "anti-abortion zeolots... label them [Down's abortions] a form of eugenics" then "it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome".

No, in that particular case it is crucial to reaffirm the facts of reality. DS humans are almost always infertile, and there have been, I believe, four documented cases of DS men procreating, and always to DS children. If anti-abortion zealots label these abortions as eugenics, they are simply factually wrong. The "eugenics" occurs as a natural result of them being infertile, so the choice does not carry with it that "benefit."

Sorry, but Nicholas is wrong to assert a universal "morality" to abortion.

(on edit:)

Before I go and have political motivations ascribed to my posts here: I believe that a woman should be allowed to decide the fate of her unborn child, without coercion from the government or from advocacy groups on either side of the argument (and it is an argument, not a debate). I don't believe we should be providing federal funding for abortions, in large part because so many people feel so strongly about the issue that there is little doubt that charitable contributions would be adequate to provide abortions to low-income women.

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Okay, by what standard of values does he judge her choice to be immoral? His own, or hers?
I take him to be judging her values rather the specific action she took. I grant that he is making an assumption about what those underlying values were. Once he makes this assumption, even if we assume that she does not know better, we can still say that her underlying moral values are wrong... i.e. immoral.

Bingo. One can only make an argument such as Nicholas' by assuming a motivation on the part of Palin.
Yes, perhaps there were good reasons why carrying that baby to term were selfish; and, perhaps she has not revealed these reasons. In fact, to comment upon some unknown woman's choice in the matter would be inappropriate and rude. However, Palin's choice has been upheld as an icon in a political context. This is not about what meaning people are reading into it; it is about the meaning she is happy to allow. I take the "perhaps" with a pinch of salt. One has to start with the moral reasons why one would want to have a baby. Then, one has to ask if a severely retarded child can fit those moral reasons. Bringing life into the world is not a moral reason.

Mother Teresa was not selfish because living in Calcutta's slums is what she wanted to do. It's the same with Palin. if you want to be held up as an altruist ideal -- even in a small sense like this -- you open yourself up to attack in that realm.

You're right that the essential political argument is about when rights begin. However, in that post Provenzo was mostly assuming the Objectivist answer to that, and then critiquing the moral-neutrality argument (one that one often hears from Libertarians). Though his post was provocative, I doubt the original one was targeted to Xians. I assume that a mostly Objectivist/sympathetic audience reads his blog, and they were the main audience.

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I have to go back and read ITOE again, but I believe when he affirms the (presumably universal?) morality of aborting a DS fetus, he is differentiating that concept from the concept fetus and making a distinction. Then he is asserting that the argument wrt a DS fetus "extends" to every fetus.

Let's be clear on this: Nicholas is arguing that aborting a DS fetus is moral. Not potentially moral, not arguably moral, but moral. Does this not raise the red flag of intrinsicism to you all? "Oh well, he meant..." Sorry, but he said...

That is not what Nick is arguing. An intrincist reading his post may take that position, but that is simply not what the words say or mean. And when taken in the full context of hte post it is clear.

He is arguing against the intrinsicist position that all abortion (whether DS or not) is immoral. One can do that by showing under which contexts or by which principle or standard such a case is moral. Such a refutation is on an objective basis, and must inherently admit that the morality of such a thing is contextual. However, having done that, one has "affirmed the morality of abortion" even if not every abortion committed is moral. One does not do that by asserting the equally intrincisist position that all DS abortion is moral, but an intrincisist would take that to be the only possible option, since the only other option to them is subjectivism.

The fact is that from an objective viewpoint, all morality is contextual. Every statement of morality can be absolute only in the principle it espouses, not in it every instance. "The morality of killing civilians in wartime" says such killing can be moral, but not that every such instance is a moral instance. "The morality of being rational" says that such an act can be moral, but not that every such instance is moral.

The intrincisists suggest that all abortion regardless of the circumstances is immoral. To refute that objectively, one shows that abortion has the capacity to be a moral act. In the face of such opposition such a stance "affirms the morality of abortion." The rest of his context of the post is absolutely clear about what the principles are upon which such morality is based. One has to ignore it and quote just he parts one needs, and then interpret those through an intrincisist lens, to assert otherwise.

No, in that particular case it is crucial to reaffirm the facts of reality. DS humans are almost always infertile, and there have been, I believe, four documented cases of DS men procreating, and always to DS children. If anti-abortion zealots label these abortions as eugenics, they are simply factually wrong. The "eugenics" occurs as a natural result of them being infertile, so the choice does not carry with it that "benefit."

Sorry, but Nicholas is wrong to assert a universal "morality" to abortion.

a. I've just showed he did not assert such a thing.

b. had you followed that line of argument in that format, you would have blunderd off into the weeds, and not been able to come around and assert your message. It's simply a parry of her thrust and all this line would do is parry without a counter of your actual position.

In additoin, even if DS people can procreate, it's still not eugenics! This argument is on non-essentials. What is the essential package deal inherent in calling DS abortion a form of eugenics? The package deal that if you accept you contradict objectivism implicitly and weaken your argument? That is what you have to counter.

It's this, calling it eugenics is a sly way of equating a fetus with a human being. There are lots of things that deal with the control of reproduction, with the intent of eliminating DS (or other disabled) babies from the gene pool, that would be eugenics, but all of those necessarily involve rights violations! fetuses don't have rights, and a mother freely exercising her own individual right to life stands to ruin any sort of planned program through exercise of her free choice. It is a manner of asserting the right of the fetus to life, which is does not have. The best response (and I think he might have done it) is to reassert the mother's right as the fundamental moral primary.

Finally the last thing to think about with respect to your proposed tack is that all "facts of reality" imply moral judgements. That is the objectivist is-ought resolution. To answer a moral argument, with the facts of reality, and not draw their countering moral implications. Is to cede the moral high ground in a debate on morality. Why not just call "mate" right there? You've let them define the key essential terms of the debate.

Before I go and have political motivations ascribed to my posts here: I believe that a woman should be allowed to decide the fate of her unborn child, without coercion from the government or from advocacy groups on either side of the argument (and it is an argument, not a debate). I don't believe we should be providing federal funding for abortions, in large part because so many people feel so strongly about the issue that there is little doubt that charitable contributions would be adequate to provide abortions to low-income women.

Got it, thanks.

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I'm a little late joining this dust-up but I had other feathers to ruffle.

I may have missed a fine point or two but as I understand it:

Sarah Palin knowingly had a DS child, her legal and within her frame of reference her moral right to do so.

Her doing that offended the code of morality of one of our members here and he stated that offense, his legal right to do so.

If I remember my Objectivism 101, Governor Palin has no responsibility whatsoever for the thoughts or opinions of our member, or for any of us for that matter.

If she shows up on our doorstep, literally or figuratively, asking for support of the child, then we have a beef.

I took the position a long time ago that I have one too many appendages to put a dog into this fight. With one exception that I could see, all of the posters fall into the same category. :D

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... Such a refutation is on an objective basis, and must inherently admit that the morality of such a thing is contextual. However, having done that, one has "affirmed the morality of abortion" even if not every abortion committed is moral....

The fact is that from an objective viewpoint, all morality is contextual. Every statement of morality can be absolute only in the principle it espouses, not in it every instance. "The morality of killing civilians in wartime" says such killing can be moral, but not that every such instance is a moral instance.

Asserting the morality of a specific aspect of a contextual situation is pretty much the definition of context-dropping, isn't it? I'm having a real hard time thinking of any action that would never, ever be a moral choice, given wide enough latitude to construct a context within which to come to that decision, which means that the concept of affirming the morality of something in that manner has no purposeful meaning.

Rand did not have strong feelings about this issue, at least not strong enough to make any of her major compilations, and where she did offer her take, she recognized soft ground beyond the first trimester. I believe she recognized the two competing principles of morality behind the abortion issue, which are: the right of a woman to her body, and the right of a human being to his life. Immediately after conception, the former outweighs the latter for most people; as the fetus approaches birth, the latter tips the morality to life for most. Of course there are some who have no compunction aborting the fetus even as it is leaving their bodies. Am I prepared to judge their morality in that situation? Probably not. Am I willing to judge Palin's decision to give birth to and take care of her DS child? Hell, no. What I've recognized is that abortion is a non-issue. Even if it is outlawed, its name will change to therapeutic dilation and curettage, and will continue as it always has. I'm going to leave it at that, and get to my punch line:

With our economy falling down around our ears, and our nation run by a gang of kleptocrats, I couldn't give two rat turds for this issue one way or the other. There are probably a dozen posters on this site whom I would trust to teach high school or college kids economic principles, and explain to them exactly what is going on in Washington. The idea that a self-described Objectivist from an organization called "The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism" would go on a nationally syndicated talk show and waste even five seconds musing on the moral status of a lump of cells in Sarah Palin's uterus is so utterly beyond any rational contemplation that it makes my head spin!!! A single appearance like this wipes out any good done by 100 appearances by a Yaron Brook.

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I'm a little late joining this dust-up but I had other feathers to ruffle.

I may have missed a fine point or two but as I understand it:

Sarah Palin knowingly had a DS child, her legal and within her frame of reference her moral right to do so.

Her doing that offended the code of morality of one of our members here and he stated that offense, his legal right to do so.

If I remember my Objectivism 101, Governor Palin has no responsibility whatsoever for the thoughts or opinions of our member, or for any of us for that matter.

If she shows up on our doorstep, literally or figuratively, asking for support of the child, then we have a beef.

I took the position a long time ago that I have one too many appendages to put a dog into this fight. With one exception that I could see, all of the posters fall into the same category. :dough:

1. You have a beef, then, since almost all retarded individuals receive some form of welfare/medicare.

2. Your "Objectivism 101" perspective is correct, but your conclusions are off. She doesn't have any responsibility for Nick's or my own thoughts and feelings towards the issue. This doesn't make her action any less immoral, if they are based on the premises Nick assumes.

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Asserting the morality of a specific aspect of a contextual situation is pretty much the definition of context-dropping, isn't it? I'm having a real hard time thinking of any action that would never, ever be a moral choice, given wide enough latitude to construct a context within which to come to that decision, which means that the concept of affirming the morality of something in that manner has no purposeful meaning.

What manner would that be? In a single sentence as you so often wish to quote him? My point was that a single sentence almost certainly must drop context. That is the nature of language. One almost cannot cleanly assert anything that cant' be misinterreted in a single sentence. That's why he added the numerous paragraphs after it. The only one dropping context is you, and his detractors. They hold responsiblity for not accepting the full context of his statement. First time, mistake. Told you're misinterpreting and you still do it: intellectual dishonesty.

With our economy falling down around our ears, and our nation run by a gang of kleptocrats, I couldn't give two rat turds for this issue one way or the other. There are probably a dozen posters on this site whom I would trust to teach high school or college kids economic principles, and explain to them exactly what is going on in Washington. The idea that a self-described Objectivist from an organization called "The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism" would go on a nationally syndicated talk show and waste even five seconds musing on the moral status of a lump of cells in Sarah Palin's uterus is so utterly beyond any rational contemplation that it makes my head spin!!! A single appearance like this wipes out any good done by 100 appearances by a Yaron Brook.

Well you missed C. Augusts great follow-up post on why abortion and capitalism are related. Thanks goodness is goes by the name "The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights" not the Ayn Rand Center for Capitalism, otherwise we might get this confusion all over again.

It's odd to me that you enter wanting to discuss the substance of the ideas, and you leave, "not giving two rat's turds" about the issue. Calling it a "non-issue". Wiping out good done by Brook? How do you figure? Got some measurements of that fact? or are you just supposing?

Edited by KendallJ
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Rand did not have strong feelings about this issue, at least not strong enough to make any of her major compilations, and where she did offer her take, she recognized soft ground beyond the first trimester. I believe she recognized the two competing principles of morality behind the abortion issue, which are: the right of a woman to her body, and the right of a human being to his life. Immediately after conception, the former outweighs the latter for most people; as the fetus approaches birth, the latter tips the morality to life for most. Of course there are some who have no compunction aborting the fetus even as it is leaving their bodies. Am I prepared to judge their morality in that situation? Probably not. Am I willing to judge Palin's decision to give birth to and take care of her DS child? Hell, no.

So is your stance that we shouldn't actually fight this thing on principle because the opponents of abortion, when they get everything they want up to the first trimester, will simply stop and say "that's enough". You really should take a look at the poeple who are advocating the opposite side. Don't just go by what Nick has posted. Google: Nick Provenzo, and check out the perspectives of his/our opponents.

Any intusion on abortion on the principle that a fetus at any stage is a human being has rights is an intrustion on the wrong principle and should be countered on the right principles. That is what the organizatoin that Yaron Brook heads has chosen to do.

What I've recognized is that abortion is a non-issue. Even if it is outlawed, its name will change to therapeutic dilation and curettage, and will continue as it always has. I'm going to leave it at that, and get to my punch line:

Abortion used to be illegal. This was not the case. It was out and out illegal. What exaclty makes you think it will be different?

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With our economy falling down around our ears, and our nation run by a gang of kleptocrats, I couldn't give two rat turds for this issue one way or the other. There are probably a dozen posters on this site whom I would trust to teach high school or college kids economic principles, and explain to them exactly what is going on in Washington.

Just as an FYI, I too expressed this dismay when the financial crisis started. However, if you look at blogging community I belong to, Obloggers, you'll see that most of them aren't financial experts.

However, the volume of posts on the crisis is increasing as those of us who have some knowledge are able to frame the conversation.

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What manner would that be?

The manner: Taking a complex situation, asserting the morality of the choice involved in that particular situation, removing the act (abortion) from the context of the situation, and asserting that the morality of that choice is "affirmed" outside of the original context. That is context-dropping. You are the one who argued that showing a context in which an act was shown to be moral established the morality (by which you meant the potential morality) of an act, not Nicholas. He never offered a definition of his phrase, other than the implication of its composite terms. Here are your words:

The fact is that from an objective viewpoint, all morality is contextual. Every statement of morality can be absolute only in the principle it espouses, not in it every instance. "The morality of killing civilians in wartime" says such killing can be moral, but not that every such instance is a moral instance. "The morality of being rational" says that such an act can be moral, but not that every such instance is moral.

The intrincisists suggest that all abortion regardless of the circumstances is immoral. To refute that objectively, one shows that abortion has the capacity to be a moral act. In the face of such opposition such a stance "affirms the morality of abortion."

No, the intrinsicists suggest that all abortion regardless of the circumstances, is either moral or immoral, in all cases. So how does Nicholas stand on this point?

I've reread Nicholas' piece several times, and he is asserting that abortion can be considered a moral act - in all cases. That is, his defense against the assertion that abortion is immoral in all cases, is to counter-assert that it is moral in all cases. Since he is using "moral" to mean his evaluation of the morality of someone else's act, not the specific personal context within which an individual makes that choice, it's easy to see the confusion over his phrase "affirming the morality." He is clearly affirming the universal morality of the choice to abort, not the morality in his own actions, or a principle by which he makes personal choices. But going further, he then asserts that the choice not to abort in Palin's case is immoral. Apparently, we can not affirm the morality of not aborting a DS child, since that choice... well, in his concluding words:

Given that Palin had complete foreknowledge of her child's severe disability yet nevertheless chose to have it, it is hard not to see her choice as anything less [than the "worship of retardation"].

This, apparently, affirms the immorality of not aborting a known DS fetus. Therefore, from Nicholas' perspective, Palin acted immorally. QED. Nevermind that the immorality assumes a motivation, which is apparently established by her association with other people who have made statements that imply that motivation. Nevermind that Palin has stated that the principle that guided her choice is the belief that human life is sacred and that human life begins at conception. Objectively, there is nothing illogical about this point of view, except as a semantic difference of what "life" is (i.e., biological v. philosophical) If Nicholas would like to make the case that human life begins at birth, and not at conception, then have at it. If he wants to take the strict Objectivist stand and argue that human life begins at the development of conceptual thought, then let's open up the debate to fourth-trimester abortions. Hell, since the argument seems to focus on the fact that DS people are non-productive and a burden on the rest of us, why not check people's productivity and terminate anyone who is a net burden on society? What is the principle at work in the argument, after all?

And thanks for the link to C. August's follow-up post. Individualism. Yes, very nice. Problem is that without resolving the fundamental definition of human life, the argument of individualism and capitalism could just as validly be used to defend the fetus against abortion, just as it is used to defend man against murder. Unless both sides can come to agreement on our premises, there is no way to logically argue to conclusion on this issue. It is therefore a waste of time, and a hindrance to any efforts to win people over to the Objectivist point of view on tractable issues.

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And thanks for the link to C. August's follow-up post. Individualism. Yes, very nice. Problem is that without resolving the fundamental definition of human life, the argument of individualism and capitalism could just as validly be used to defend the fetus against abortion, just as it is used to defend man against murder. Unless both sides can come to agreement on our premises, there is no way to logically argue to conclusion on this issue. It is therefore a waste of time, and a hindrance to any efforts to win people over to the Objectivist point of view on tractable issues.

Not necessarily agreeing with anything else agrippa1 has said, but this is a key point he's touched on here.

The "pro choice" (in favor of abortion remaining legal) side of the debate cannot win the way most of them argue it--which is to simply ignore the question of when, during the whole span between fertilized egg and corpse, the lifeform gains rights. The "pro life" (yeegh) side explicitly states their premise that it's a human being with the right to its life from conception. With very few exceptions, the "pro choice" side simply ignores or assumes away this rather key issue and jumps directly to "woman's right to choose." And therefore they look to be missing the point. This self-imposed weakness is targeted directly by the bumper sticker I've seen, saying "It is not a choice, it is a child."

If we do not argue against this premise, explicitly, every time, then by default we allow them to frame it as an issue of an innocent life versus the convenience of a woman, and we will (deservedly!) lose that argument, every time.

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So is your stance that we shouldn't actually fight this thing on principle because the opponents of abortion, when they get everything they want up to the first trimester, will simply stop and say "that's enough". You really should take a look at the poeple who are advocating the opposite side. Don't just go by what Nick has posted. Google: Nick Provenzo, and check out the perspectives of his/our opponents.

No, my stand is that we should not fight this thing on wrong principle. If you want to argue for abortion rights, you first examine the pro-life argument, which boils down to "abortion is murder."

Okay, let's, for the sake of argument, take the stance that life begins at conception and then explore the assertion that abortion is morally equivalent to the murder of an adult.

That forces us to examine the moral basis of adult murder. There are several aspects of murder that make it immoral:

First, there is the victim's immediate experience of terror at being murdered and knowing that he is going to die.

Second, there is the grief of family and friends who have incorporated him into their emotional identities.

Third, there is the social and economic impact of his loss on his family and associates, who will now see at least a short term decline in their well-being and quality of life until his roles are filled by someone else.

Fourth, there is the loss of the future potential of his life.

Fifth, there is the recognition that accepting a murder makes it more likely that others will be murdered. (this is an amplifying aspect)

(Any others?) All of these feed a general aversion of all men to murder, by empathy with the victim and his circle. An individual judges murder to be immoral because he does not want it to happen to him. This, I believe, is the principle of rational self-interest.

Of the five aspects of murder that make it immoral, only the fourth, the loss of the future potential of life, applies to a fetus. This is the most abstract of the five, the only one that is not assured, the only one that can not be judged either "good" or "bad" (except by reputation of the murdered adult). Morally, it is a null, as the pro-life example of Beethoven's birth scenario, and the pro-choice example of Hitler's, demonstrate.

In addition, there is absolutely no chance that anyone considering abortion could meet with the same fate, or could even imagine what a fetus "experiences" in an abortion.

Therefore, the assertion that abortion = murder, from a moral standpoint, is demonstrably false.

Now, on the other side of the coin lies a concern that many, including I, have. That is that abortion, while morally neutral in the individual case, has a net negative effect on society, and therefore on all individuals, if the aggregate effect of abortion rights is the reduced birth rate of individualists, and the consequent loss of political power to collectivists. Here is a moral conundrum. Do you protect individual rights in general by limiting one of them, or do you eventually forfeit all individual rights by affirming that same one?

Read "America Alone" if you want one man's exploration of the war of demographics ravaging Western civilization.

(edit: typo)

Edited by agrippa1
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No, my stand is that we should not fight this thing on wrong principle. If you want to argue for abortion rights, you first examine the pro-life argument, which boils down to "abortion is murder."
Of course that has to be fought. However, the religious view is fundamentally a rationalization of their morality of suffering. Without that morality, they would never think of equating a clump of cells with a person.

The bottom line is this: while one cannot say for sure, the most reasonable guess is that Palin's decision to have DS kid was immoral.

Provenzo's article was about that aspect.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Now, on the other side of the coin lies a concern that many, including I, have. That is that abortion, while morally neutral in the individual case, has a net negative effect on society, and therefore on all individuals, if the aggregate effect of abortion rights is the reduced birth rate of individualists, and the consequent loss of political power to collectivists. Here is a moral conundrum. Do you protect individual rights in general by limiting one of them, or do you eventually forfeit all individual rights by affirming that same one?

Read "America Alone" if you want one man's exploration of the war of demographics ravaging Western civilization.

(edit: typo)

You've got to be kidding me. Do you mean to imply that individualism, that the very choice of manner in which one lives one's life, is hereditary? The absolute MOST I would grant you is that individualist parents may be more likely to raise an individualist child, but we are not dealing in imprecise likelihoods here. Only the individual herself can choose whether she will accept reason and live accordingly. It has nothing to do with whose genes went into the kid!

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Kat made a great point! Individualists aren't born, they're convinced! I was, and most are.

It's an odd logic to tone down our advocacy because we're actually not sure if advocating abortion so strongly is good for the creation of individualists, when our advocacy probably does more to create them than our reproductive efforts.

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For Nick

Good Sir, There seems to be an interpretation of your words that because it is legal for a woman to have an abortion and even morally responsible in some instances, Sarah Palin acted immorally by not considering the opinions of others and not aborting her DS child.

Have you been misread? ES

Edited by EdSalti
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For Nick

Good Sir, There seems to be an interpretation of your words that because it is legal for a woman to have an abortion and even morally responsible in some instances, Sarah Palin acted immorally by not considering the opinions of others and not aborting her DS child.

Have you been misread? ES

Ed, Nick's posts come into the the forum via a feed from his blog. In fact this sub-forum (titled "Meta Blog") consists of a collection of posts from such Objectivist bloggers that are cross-posted here. So, it is unlikely that the original authors will read this version and respond to questions here.

Nick's post did not imply that the morality of Palin's choice had anything to do with whether she considered the opinion of others. Has someone in this thread pointed to this as a reason to say her choice was immoral?

As an aside, you say that "abortion [is] morally responsible in some instances". That is true, but weak support. A more accurate statement is this: in the vast majority of cases where a woman is seriously considering an abortion, abortion is the moral choice.

Edited by softwareNerd
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