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Minors: Rights And Children

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Alright, this is tiring, and I this is off topic, but I can't let this fly. A fetus would certainly turn into a child without conscious input? This ranks as one of the most ingorant statements I've ever heard. So, it doesn't matter whether the mother carrying the fetus stops feeding herself, stops eating, stops breathing, kills herself--the fetus will still develop into a child?

I'm tired of this random pontification, what are the essentials of this discussion and can we please stick to them?

I didn't mean that fetus' magically become children, I meant that you don't specifically choose to turn a fetus into a child at any point. You do choose to turn sperm and egg into fetus.

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Every time a mother takes an action that is for her fetus is a point at which she decides to make her fetus into a child; the sum of all these actions leads to the maturation of the fetus and is based on the motivation: "I want my fetus to come to full term." Figuring out at what point a fetus is full term, or a "child," depends on how one defines "full term" or "child." Is identifying this point of much significance? No, because so long as the fetus or child or whatever is in its mother's stomach, it is part of her mother's body and can be done with as she pleases.

I could speak like you and say "there is no specific point at which we consciously choose to have a sperm go into an egg, since this is actually a process that isn't specifically willed, at the detailed microscopic level, by consciousness." But this is pointless. People choose to get pregnant or not, and they choose to carry a pregnancy to full term or not. That these choices aren't "willed" at the microscopic level is of not importance whatsoever.

So, in conclusion, there most certainly is conscious input in both becoming pregnant or not, and carrying a pregnancy to full term or not.

Edited by Felipe
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So, in conclusion, there most certainly is conscious input in both becoming pregnant or not, and carrying a pregnancy to full term or not.

So would you say that someone also has the choice of whether or not to care for their child? I did put that out there as a possible answer...

Alternatively, we could say that no one has the RIGHT to anyone else's life, and if a child doesn't get what it needs from its parents, and no one wants to care for it, or the parent won't allow anyone to care for it, then that just sucks.
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So would you say that someone also has the choice of whether or not to care for their child? I did put that out there as a possible answer...
The long, arduous process of carrying a child to full term constitutes a legal commitment to the care of the child. It's not like having a child can be accidental or something that "just hits you." The choice to have child, a living entity with a specific identity, constitutes your commitment, morally and legally, to not attempt violate its identity. Edited by Felipe
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I just don't see why the distinction comes at birth. It's a pretty unimportant event in the child's development from a physical standpoint. Would it be ethical to abort a child a week before it was due? It's pretty much a child already at that point, why doesn't it have the right to live qua week-before-birth-human?

I just think it's pretty arbitrary to say, "Before this being eats food from its mother (milk) through its mouth, rather than from a tube, and breathes air, it has no rights." I don't think that breathing air and eating food make something human.

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Actually, this discussion is pointless: hardly no abortions are carried out in the third trimester, far less at the end of it. I mean, who would want to go through the incredibly taxing process of carrying a fetus to full term only to abort it? Think about it, damn it! Anyway, this ain't the abortion thread. The question is whether children have rights; stick to it.

Edited by Felipe
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I must say I am baffled by your response. Did you actually read what I wrote, or quit after the first sentence about the purpose of definitions? If you had read what I wrote, you would understand softwareNerd's point (well put, I thought) in post 188.
I meant you were digressing in reviewing "concept" for me.

We agree that rights are not something that would apply solely to humans? Shall we begin with softwareNerd's take on rights?

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I just don't see why the distinction comes at birth. It's a pretty unimportant event in the child's development from a physical standpoint. Would it be ethical to abort a child a week before it was due? It's pretty much a child already at that point, why doesn't it have the right to live qua week-before-birth-human?

I just think it's pretty arbitrary to say, "Before this being eats food from its mother (milk) through its mouth, rather than from a tube, and breathes air, it has no rights." I don't think that breathing air and eating food make something human.

The reason for the distinction at birth is the nature of the child until it leaves the whom. Until the child leaves the womb it is by definition a parasite on the woman. Although we often (are rightly) give a baby in the womb more affection that we give parasites, it doesn't change the fact that the embryo is "forcefully"(not sure this is the right word) making use of the mother's body, which makes the embryo by definition a parasite.

In addition, even today the process of child birth can be a dangerous process. Child birth constitutes a potential threat to a women's life that she, at any moment, may choose to forgo. You cannot put the potential life of the embryo in the womb above the actual life of the mother, no matter what stage of pregnancy she is in because at every stage she faces the future ordeal of childbirth.

Also, to disregard late term abortions because they are rare or because someone "should know by then", strikes me as naive. A lot can happen before you give birth that would make you decide not to commit to raising a child. Suppose the father or other care giver runs off dies. Suppose a new law is passed that requires babies to be raised by the state. Suppose.... anything. Until the child leaves the body of the mother, she is committed to nothing.

Edited by Thermopylaen
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I meant you were digressing in reviewing "concept" for me.

We agree that rights are not something that would apply solely to humans? Shall we begin with softwareNerd's take on rights?

At this point, I have no desire to repeat my entire argument for children's rights. I've presented my case several times. I don't see much to be gained by presenting it again.

In particular, I see virtually no chance of agreement if we disagree on such basic epistemological issues as the meaning of concepts and the purpose of definitions.

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I see virtually no chance of agreement if we disagree on such basic epistemological issues as the meaning of concepts and the purpose of definitions
:blink:

The long, arduous process of carrying a child to full term constitutes a legal commitment to the care of the child. It's not like having a child can be accidental or something that "just hits you." The choice to have child, a living entity with a specific identity, constitutes your commitment, morally and legally, to not attempt violate its identity.
And, regarding the topic, you're saying that abandoning at birth would violate the infant's identity?

What do you mean by violate its identity?

Giving birth is not a willful act. If there is a child brewing in your body, you will give birth to it, whether you like it or not.
That might not have been stated the best way, but taking you to mean that an unborn develops naturally (i.e. requiring only a mother's regular survival acts and no abortion) is a point that I think eventually is significant.
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I wouldn't mind taking you up on the debate, but please read the article I linked in my last post. You're operating from the premise that conceptual thinking begins at birth, but this is false. Thought begins far before birth, the only difference is its environment.

Here's that link again[...]

Interesting article, but it doesn't persuade me to change my point. I should, however, clarify my point. I did not intend to argue the premise from which you claimed I had. Your reply shows me that I didn't present my thoughts clearly.

My intention was not to assert that conceptual thought begins after birth (although this is what I had inadvertently indicated). In an effort to keep my post concise, I threw out too much of what was essential to the ideas I was trying to convey. I should have written: conceptual thought as an independent being begins at birth.

[...]The purposeful beginning is conception. The point where it becomes fundamentally human is when it begins to think. The point where it can fend for itself is currently established as 18.

But the real question is what rights it does in fact possess. The right to live qua man don't really help a fetus or a child, because neither are capable of such survival. They require the right to live qua fetus or child, and life qua either of these things requires some form of outside value, for which they must either rely on charity to obtain, or must be legally guaranteed to obtain[...]

I think Thermopylaen's response was great. Rights can only pertain to creatures that engage in rational goal directed action to sustain themselves. A fetus is not only a parasite, but does not even take the action that sustains it; all of its sustenance is force fed by the mother. A baby, by contrast does things such as eating and breathing by itself, albeit with help from its guardian.

The concept "man" indicates many things, including a requirement for the fetal stages of development. However, the thing that makes man different than other animals (rationality) gives man rights only after birth, because that is the point when the being becomes capable of volitional goal directed action.

This is why birth is the point where the parental obligation begins. A volitional, rational, independent being did not exist before the moment of birth. Also, this creature came into being through no action of its own, so the responsibility for its care lies with those who chose to create it.

edit for grammar and clarity

Edited by FeatherFall
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Here's what my problem is with what most of you are saying. It is the part where carrying a child to full term supposedly implies a "implicit" legal contract between parent and child.

It seem's to me that allowing "implicit" contracts between two parties, one that can't think and one that never signed anything destroys the concept of a contract. It acts as an anti-concept to defeat its purpose.

Now, that's not to say an explicitly made contract, the only valid concept, cannot contain implicit conditions for lack of a better word. An example I suppose would be marriage. Two fully concious individuals, hopefully only male and female, enter into a binding legal contract, a marriage that contains "implicit" clauses such as fidelity and financial obligations. But this sort of thing is only possible when an explicit contract has been agreed upon first. Otherwise, you are negating the definition, purpose, and validity of the concept of contract.

Now someone might say something in rebuttle like-- what about a person being invited into my home or business and then threatening, annoying, or otherwise acting a nuisance-- isn't he violating an "implicit" contract.

The answer is no. One an "implicit" contract is an anti-concept. And two, what he is really violating is your property rights. Not some ill-defined "implicit" contract.

Now, the argument could be made that it is a violation of the child's right to life if he is abandoned. And of course, this is true withing a specific context. I.e., it would be wrong to abandon a defenseless child in a place where it will probably die or be injured. And this should be within the scope of the law. But, if a child is abandoned in a place specially created for that purpose, then no force has been initiated, ie, the childs rights have NOT been infringed, regardless of the morality of the situation.

However, the rights of the parent would be infringed if under the specific context above, a legal abandonment area existed (which it should, ideally) and a parent was not allowed to do so based on the belief in a faulty concept called an implicit contract. In other words, the goverment would be forcing a non-criminal individual to do something that he had never explicitly agreed to.

Remember, there was no contract and no violation of rights, and yet members of this board are encoraging govenment coersion in what is only a purely moral conflict. If that is as direct an attack on Objectivism that is possible then I don't know what is. The position taken by the majority here supposedly on behalf of "Objectivism" is baffling to me.

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EC, By "Implicit" contracts, I am not sure if you mean anything that is not made explicit by words alone. All legal systems that I know of take into account contractual obligations that are made explicit by action (sometimes even by "inaction", but that's a different topic)..

An early example in many law books is when you hail a cab. You get in and say "77th and Park Ave". You never say: "I will pay you for taking me there". The cabbie never says: "I will charge you based on my meter". He never says: "My meter uses the normal rate that all NYC cab meters use". Yet, if you decide not to pay what the meter says or if the cabbies meter is running faster than normal, then the law would correctly say that you should pay what a normal meter would pay for that normal trip. There was a contract, made explicit by the actions of the parties. The law correctly recognizes that. If the parties did not make any special explicit deal, then the law will try to figure out their implied intent from their actions.

The law is not creating a contract in such a case. The law is merely looking at the facts and considering what type of actions people take and what a reasonable person implies by his actions.

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I've written on this topic, please see this.

Sweet :)

The long, arduous process of carrying a child to full term constitutes a legal commitment to the care of the child. It's not like having a child can be accidental or something that "just hits you." The choice to have child, a living entity with a specific identity, constitutes your commitment, morally and legally, to not attempt violate its identity.

I read the given topic, but I don't see how choosing not to abort equates to choosing to provide guardianship for the child.

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You make it seem like "choosing not to abort" is some instantaneous moment, some flip of a switch--some inconsequential decision.

Do you think that choosing to live in this society constitutes an obligation on your part to respect the rights of others? Did you ever sign a contract for that? Oh wait, is that what you sign up for when they take your baby foot prints at birth?

I can't make you see it, it's self-evident. Just as choosing to live here requires that you respect the rights of others, choosing to carry the fetus to full term requires that you respect its rights by caring for it, unless you legally relinquish that responsibility. I don't see what's so hard about the matter.

Insidentally, what is your motivation for believing that parents are not morally and legally obligated to care for their children? Would you feel fine abandoning a child of yours?

Or, picture this. Suppose a loved one, say your wife or future wife or whatever, lapsed into a comma, one for which the doctors told you there's a 50/50 chance for her to come out of. Suppose then that you chose to bring her home and care for her yourself. Does it make a difference that she isn't presently capable of free-will? Does she loose her rights by falling into a comma? If so, would it be moral and legal for you to do as you wish with her, including ending her life?

Choices have consequences. Choosing to live here means you are obligated to respect the rights of others, and choosing to carry a fetus to full term means you are obligated to care for it. What is so god damn difficult about this.

Edited by Felipe
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I think one of the "blocks" in thinking about this is the issue of the "borderline", as in "if I cannot draw an exact borderline to distinguish between one color and the 'next', then both colors are the same". Some posts have said this already, but it bears repeating.

From fertilized egg to 17 year old lad, the nature of the entity changes to "human being". Similarly, from fertilized egg to 17 year old lad, the degree of the parent's "implicit agreement" intensifies. If you are deciding to abort a fetus or to kill a child, you have to ask yourself: "is this now a human being?" and "have I, by my actions, taken this being to a point where I have an obligation to support it?"

The law has to answer such questions too, in an objective way. Individuation -- i.e. birth -- is a reasonable place to draw the legal line.

The line drawn by morality will usually require more of me than the line drawn by law. For instance, early posts in this thread spoke about the morality of killing a child. In fact, morally I am obliged to act as my child's agent to the best of my ability -- to do the best I can for me and him. Ideally, there is no contradiction here; no more than there is between doing something that's best for me versus something that's best for my wife.

So, it is immoral for me not to educate my son, leaving him incapable of dealing with the world, but it should not be illegal. If one is agreed that killing a child should be illegal, then one might well ask: how far should the law go? When is malfeasance obvious? (e.g. Can the law say "don't starve your child", when you yourself are starving?) Should objective law only focus on physical aspects: do not allow the child's death, do not seriously injure the child? or should it impose some rules upon a parent, telling them (say) what they should teach a child? On the one hand, the law must never interfere with the individual, nor with the parent's right qua agent of individual child. On the other hand, when one person is acting as an agent of another, whether it is a parent, an executor of a will, or a relative of a person in coma, the rights of the other individual must be protected.

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I can't make you see it, it's self-evident. Just as choosing to live here requires that you respect the rights of others, choosing to carry the fetus to full term requires that you respect its rights by caring for it, unless you legally relinquish that responsibility. I don't see what's so hard about the matter.
IMO what's hard is the idea that infants have a right to care. I believe everyone has agreed that a person who chooses to be guardian is obligated to provide care, but that's not the same thing as saying the child has a right to support.

What's also hard is the basis for this implicit contract. An explicit contract requires that all parties choose to enter it and a moral basis in order to be legitimate. It's not been clearly defined, but I take it that a implicit contract would be legitimate even if it did not have the consent of all parties... so long as it had a (rationally) moral basis/justification.

I see a rational basis for living in society being an implicit contract to not initiate force. I do not see the basis for bearing a child being an implicit contract to support sans the mother choosing to support.

If you are deciding to abort a fetus or to kill a child, you have to ask yourself: "is this now a human being?" and "have I, by my actions, taken this being to a point where I have an obligation to support it?"

The law has to answer such questions too, in an objective way. Individuation -- i.e. birth -- is a reasonable place to draw the legal line.

But part of the opposing question is "does one ever have an non-chosen obligation to support someone else?" I doubt there's any question that initiating force against another obligates restitution, or that choosing to be a guardian obligates support. But if a mother's not initiated force against the infant, and she's not chosen to be its guardian, then why is it reasonable to hold her accountable for the life of the child - the fact that the child needs it? The fact that it's a tidy solution (even if it violates the mother's rights?) Or something else?

Insidentally, what is your motivation for believing that parents are not morally and legally obligated to care for their children? Would you feel fine abandoning a child of yours?
The consensus seems to be that the mother's freedom of action stops, not at a chosen guardianship or the child's freedom of action, but at the child's need/inability. As far as I know, another's need/inability has never been a valid basis for being forced to support them. If it's self-evident then I obviously am wasting my time. But if this right to support is based on some moral argument, then I find the evidence spotty.

And no.

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Hunterrose has sent me a PM entitled “reporting for inquisitioning”. I will answer and quote from it here with permission. Anyone who would like to read it in its entirety may inquire.

hunterrose:

I may have precipitated the insulting nature of the aforementioned title by describing your argument as irrational so I’ll let it slide. However, I cannot let another slanderous remark about Ayn Rand’s philosophy go.

If I am judged as having committed heresy by your standards, I freely grant permission to distribute this evidence to the proper witnesses.

To call Objectivism a dogma from which dissenters will be prosecuted as heretics is some of the most hostile and malicious invective I’ve heard on this forum. Again you insult the person who’s rationality and ideas retain tremendous value to most here. It is a slap in the face not only to Ayn Rand but to each of us here, you owe us an apology.

Objectivism is the polar opposite of religion. It is the only fully rational, fully integrated philosophy. Most who identify with Objectivism have, or are in the process of validating it logically by reading and understanding what Ayn Rand has written, determining how well it describes reality and then integrating it into the rest of our knowledge. Your writing will be judged in the same manner -- so far your assertions don’t even rival some of the worst trolls we’ve had here. Polite inquiry is allowed, defaming the person to whom this site is dedicated is against the forum rules.

Again I must ask: what is your purpose here?

As to your answers to my questions, it is obvious that you have no idea how rights are derived or validated. In fact your answers negate the concept of rights. When I asked: “how are rights derived?” you answered:

Men who choose to be rational gain from allowing other men to act freely

Men have rights whether other men “allow” it or not. To “allow” is to give permission.

A right is the sanction of independent action. A right is that which can be exercised without anyone’s permission.

[...] A permission can be revoked at any time.

If, before undertaking some action, you must obtain the permission of society -- you are not free, whether such permission is granted to you or not. Only a slave acts on permission. A permission is not a right.

When I asked: “is anything required of you to realize your rights?” your answer was:

in society, a man has the right to freedom from initiated force regardless of whether he realizes it or not

So you don’t think any action is required of you to exercise your rights. Thus you have no responsibilities with regard to your rights. This is the problem in your argument which I identified in my first post. The problem you have evaded ever since.

To reiterate, once you have freely chosen to be the guardian of another’s rights (as in the case of bearing a child) you cannot then violate those same rights. You may morally and legally transfer those responsibilities to someone who is willing to accept them.

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Not that I'm the judge or anything but I think that hunterrose is right. Either the entity has a right to make demands on its parents from conception or it has no right to make demands ever.

Saying rights to the care of its parents starts at birth or when language develops, or at some other point either before or after birth is based on nothing rational that I can see other than some sort of fiction that the parent has agreed to a contract with the child implicitly. What are the terms of the contract? Does it exist until the child is capable of taking care of itself? What if the child is never at that stage?

Whatever way you cut it, it amounts to creating an obligation on the parents on the basis of the need of the child/fetus. The extent of the obligation of the parent depends(presumable) on the parents' ability to provide and the right of the child depends on the extent of it's need. Does that remind anyone of anything?

Edited by colin
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But if a mother's not initiated force against the infant, and she's not chosen to be its guardian, then why is it reasonable to hold her accountable for the life of the child - the fact that the child needs it?
This has been explained repeatedly and at length. For instance, the following is from post 174:

(The idea of child's right to material support) forces someone to provide for someone else just because they need it.

Not "just because they need it", but because that period of need is inherent in the identity of man as a rational being, and because they chose to create such a being knowing full well that it must have material support to live.

One could say, with equal validity, that people are forced to recognize man's right to be free "just because man needs it". Indeed man does need it. But it is not the fact of need alone that gives rise to the right to be free. It is the fact that this need is dictated by man's nature as a rational being -- he must be free to think and produce, otherwise he will perish. And if this need is recognized and enforced, man may provide for all his other needs and remain alive.

A child is a special case, in the sense that he is, temporarily, a rational being that cannot survive merely by being left free. His nature as a rational being dictates that he come into existence with a blank consciousness and endure a period of helplessness while he learns and grows. He needs material support, otherwise he will perish. And this need, just like his need for freedom, is dictated by man's nature as a rational being. And if this need is recognized and enforced, infants can reach adulthood, then provide for all their other needs and remain alive.

Now observe that one cannot make this argument for just any need. A bum who destroys his mind with drugs and can no longer get a job, certainly "needs" material support or he will perish. But this need is not a function of his identity as a rational being -- it is a function of the choices he made in life, and thus cannot be invoked as a source of any right.

It is not mere need that gives rise to rights; rights are derived from the fundamental survival requirements dictated by man's identity as a rational being. The question here is why an adult's requirements should be protected by law, while a child's are to be ignored.

Felipe asked, why is this so difficult? Partly because explantions such as the one above are, apparently, simply ignored.

If anyone would like to refute what I have written above, or otherwise find some error in logic or reasoning, please proceed. But please do not mischaracterize my position. I have not said that mere need is a basis for deriving a right to support.

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A child is a special case, in the sense that he is, temporarily, a rational being that cannot survive merely by being left free. His nature as a rational being dictates that he come into existence with a blank consciousness and endure a period of helplessness while he learns and grows. He needs material support, otherwise he will perish. And this need, just like his need for freedom, is dictated by man's nature as a rational being. And if this need is recognized and enforced, infants can reach adulthood, then provide for all their other needs and remain alive.

Can't this same argument be made in respect of a fetus? At least one which has the capacity to reason? Is it lack of a physical attachment to the mother alone which creates the rights of a child?

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Can't this same argument be made in respect of a fetus? At least one which has the capacity to reason? Is it lack of a physical attachment to the mother alone which creates the rights of a child?
Colin, let me throw this back as a question to you. Is a fertilized egg is a human being? Is a 17 year old is a human being? If one draws a line, by what justification does one draw it? A minor is a minor until his 18th birthday. What happens on in that split second at the midnight that begins his 18th birthday? Nothing. So, does that mean we should let a minor sign contracts when he is a day less than 18? Well, what about if he is 17, 16, 15, 14... 5, 4, 3... ? What happens in any one moment to make the law draw a line?
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Is it lack of a physical attachment to the mother alone which creates the rights of a child?

Not quite in those words, but yes. Until it is born, a fetus is not a being at all, but a part of the mother's body. No amount of "brain activity" changes this; if it did, then your cerebral cortex might declare it has rights above and beyond your medulla.

This has been covered over and over again, so you really shouldn't be asking it. It's also off-topic for this thread so you really, really shouldn't be asking it.

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