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I agree that birth is an obvious and clear point at which to draw a line. But so is viability. So is conception.
Kesg:

You are being completly ignorent of the argument which Betsy (and the rest of the Objectivists here) is making--either that or you are DELIBERATLY putting up a straw-man here. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

When Betsy says:

...birth is an obvious and clear point of demarcation as far as the facts giving rise to the concept of rights is concerned.

She offers you, not only a convinent point to draw a line, but an objective one; one which follows the rules about what may have rights and what may not; one which stays in line with the facts that give rise to rights to begin with.

Right. If a viable fetus is an actual human being, we are talking about two human beings with rights, not just one. The question then becomes not whether the fetus has rights, but the different question of what are its rights as against the rights of the mother.
This is absurd. It has been repeatedly shown that a fetus is NOT a human being, it is a part of its mother.

Her position is certainly a minority position among Objectivists, but in my opinion it is a defensible one -- and, as far as I can tell so far, more easily defensible than many of the contrary arguments I've seen here.

Her position is NOT a minority among Objectivists, it is not Objectivist at all, and nor is she. And your repeated claims that our argument is circular, or contradicting, or not defensible are inappropriate, because you have not even shown any sort of understanding of the argument.

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

It would be circular, if we were not giving REASONS why. The claim is not only that a a human being must be born, but that it must be born because a physically dependant object cannot be a human being--it cannot have rights. Then we proceded to give you reasons for that: the nature of rights--the nature of the facts that give rise to rights--is such that a physically dependant object cannot have them.

Surely you can see how this is not a circular argument, no?

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Her position is NOT a minority among Objectivists, it is not Objectivist at all, and nor is she.

Huh? You're gonna have to back that one up, man.

The specific date at which a baby ought to be considered a person is more a legal/scientific matter than a philosophical one. Diana draws the line at viability, which I don't necessarily agree with, but I don't think it's a ridiculous position to take -- nor, certainly, is it one which throws her outside the boundaries of Objectivism. (With regard to that last, by the way, you might find it useful to recall that Rand explicitly considered it open to debate whether abortion should be permissable in the third trimester..)

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The specific date at which a baby ought to be considered a person is more a legal/scientific matter than a philosophical one.
But the question of what is a person is a philosophic consideration. Science can only tell us when the criteria--which we discover with philosophy--have been met. The criteria is what Diana has disagreed with Rand (and I) about, not when the criteria has been met. It is a philosophic disagreement, and is enough to place her outside of Objectivism.

With regard to that last, by the way, you might find it useful to recall that Rand explicitly considered it open to debate whether abortion should be permissable in the third trimester

Rand mentioned once that the late stages of pregnancy were not the issue--that one may argue about them, but that it does not change the primary conclusion (politically)--if that is what you mean. Her position was clear, however--and she stated it repeatedly--that one is not a human being until birth.

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When Betsy says:

"...birth is an obvious and clear point of demarcation as far as the facts giving rise to the concept of rights is concerned."

She offers you, not only a convinent point to draw a line, but an objective one; one which follows the rules about what may have rights and what may not; one which stays in line with the facts that give rise to rights to begin with.

So I have been repeatedly told. These are assertions, not arguments.

It has been repeatedly shown that a fetus is NOT a human being, it is a part of its mother.
No. It has been repeatedly asserted, but not shown.

It would be circular, if we were not giving REASONS why. The claim is not only that a a human being must be born, but that it must be born because a physically dependant object cannot be a human being--it cannot have rights. Then we proceded to give you reasons for that: the nature of rights--the nature of the facts that give rise to rights--is such that a physically dependant object cannot have them.

Surely you can see how this is not a circular argument, no?

This argument is, in fact, a textbook example of circular reasoning and, more specifically, the type of circular reasoning that involves phrasing the argument so that the premise and conclusion say the same thing in two slightly different ways (i.e. saying that only born human beings have rights because only physically independent human beings have rights). Virtually every standard textbook on logic covers this variation of circular reasoning.

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The specific date at which a baby ought to be considered a person is more a legal/scientific matter than a philosophical one.  Diana draws the line at viability, which I don't necessarily agree with, but I don't think it's a ridiculous position to take -- nor, certainly, is it one which throws her outside the boundaries of Objectivism.  (With regard to that last, by the way, you might find it useful to recall that Rand explicitly considered it open to debate whether abortion should be permissable in the third trimester..)

Exactly. As Rand herself said, "One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months."

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

Rights apply to the category human being. By "human" I simply mean a member of the species Homo sapien, and by "being" I simply mean a physically independent entity. In the species Homo sapien "physically independent" implies biologically independent.

The fetus is a physical part of a woman's body, an organism whose radically different physiological structure makes it biologically dependent on the physical system of which it is a part. For instance, the fetus lacks functional lungs and intestines, and it derives its oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. This changes when the first breath is drawn at birth, when the respiratory circulation is shunted from the placenta to the lungs.

Physical independence, biological independence, is an essential and fundamental characteristic which differentiates a fetus from a human being.

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So, what facts of reality actually lead to the result that physical independence is more essential or fundamental than viability?

I just outlined the facts in response to your prior post. Respond to them there if you like. I can go into as much excruciating scientific detail as necessary, but the fundamental philosophical point is rather simple. While a fetus remains a part of a woman's body, it is the property of the woman, not a human being.

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At the outset, I'm not trying to insult anyone, and I apologize if I did.

The implicatio0n that those who argue against you do so by blind acceptance of what Ayn Rand had to say, is indeed an insult. So, apology accepted.

For purposes of this discussion, one of the most important such milestones is viability, i.e. the point at which the fetus is sufficiently far enough along in its development to survive outside the womb.  At this stage, it seems to me that, at a bare minimum, a strong argument can be made that what was a potential human being has become an actual human being.

This has already been answered. But, perhaps framing the issue along the lines which you outline might show you some of the inherent contradictions and absurdities that such a view implies.

For instance, assuming your argument were true, how would you respond to the following. By justification of the concept of rights, one man's rights cannot logically or physically conflict with the rights of another. Yet, by your argument, the right to life of the fetus would conflict with the right of a woman to her own body. Say that the woman takes a certain medication designed to attack the fetus growing within. By your standard -- the fetus as an actual human being -- you would have to restrict what the woman could do with her own body. But, valid rights do not conflict with the valid rights of others. Your view then implies a fundamental contradiction regarding the basis of rights.

Indeed, to be perfectly consistent, you would then have to argue that the woman should be prosecuted for murder.

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

You give new meaning to the term "separate biological entity." How can you possibly consider an entity whose oxygen and nutrients are derived from the separate biological entity within which it resides?

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

No, I do not. But, then again, I understand the arguments that I have made.

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Rights apply to the category human being. By "human" I simply mean a member of the species Homo sapien,...

Okay...

...and by "being" I simply mean a physically independent entity.
Here is where you lose me. Biologically, the viable fetus is human just before birth; e.g., it has human DNA, human organs, a human brain, etc. and can exist as a human outside the womb.

The fetus is a physical part of a woman's body, an organism whose radically different physiological structure makes it biologically dependent on the physical system of which it is a part. For instance, the fetus lacks functional lungs and intestines, and it derives its oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. This changes when the first breath is drawn at birth, when the respiratory circulation is shunted from the placenta to the lungs.

Physical independence, biological independence, is an essential and fundamental characteristic which differentiates a fetus from a human being.

You lose me here, too. Most important, the fetus is certainly physically attached to the woman's body, but it is not a part of her body, but, biologically, a separate living entity, with its own separate skin, brain, blood, organs, bones, DNA, etc. [Note: Again, I am talking only about a viable fetus -- I am not suggesting that prior to this time, the fetus is anything other than a potential human being even if it is a separate living entity.]

Now, I will agree that physical independence is essential to distinguishing a fetus from an infant. B) However, I still think, as Ayn Rand suggested, that "one can argue about the later stages of a pregnancy." When it comes to the earlier stages, I totally agree with what she wrote.

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Exactly.  As Rand herself said, "One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months."

The "essential issue" which she refers to is the law which Reagan opposed, the one which would permit uncontrolled abortion during the first three months. That was the context and you should not make any generalization from that. Here is a quote unfettered by an ambiguous context, a general and unequivocal statement by Miss Rand as to her position regarding abortion.

"Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?"

The Objectivist, "Of Living Death,"October 1968, published December 1968.

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For instance, assuming your argument were true, how would you respond to the following. By justification of the concept of rights, one man's rights cannot logically or physically conflict with the rights of another. Yet, by your argument, the right to life of the fetus would conflict with the right of a woman to her own body. Say that the woman takes a certain medication designed to attack the fetus growing within. By your standard -- the fetus as an actual human being -- you would have to restrict what the woman could do with her own body. But, valid rights do not conflict with the valid rights of others. Your view then implies a fundamental contradiction regarding the basis of rights.

Indeed, to be perfectly consistent, you would then have to argue that the woman should be prosecuted for murder.

Let me ask you a question here about your hypothetical. At what point in the pregnancy is the woman taking the medicine, and for what purpose?

Generally, I don't think that any issue regarding rights even comes into play until the point at which the fetus becomes viable (if not later). At this point, the mother has rights, the fetus arguably has rights, and the mother has, by allowing the pregnancy to proceed up to this point (we are talking approximately six months into the pregnancy, i.e near the end of the second trimester) without getting an abortion, assumed parental obligations -- the same parental obligations that govern relationships between parents and their children after they are born. Even here, there is an exception: the mother should have an absolute right to get even a late-term abortion to save her own life.

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"Biologically, the viable fetus is human just before birth; e.g., it has human DNA, human organs, a human brain, etc. and can exist as a human outside the womb. "

"Can exist" is metaphysically different from "Does exist"

It does exist inside the womb. It isn't a question of existence versus non-existence, but existence in one place versus existence in another place.

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If I see a good argument here, or think of a new one myself, or come to think that I have made a mistake, I'll let you know.  I promise.

A few years ago you publicly called Peikoff and myself names over arguments with which you disagreed. Someone has mentioned that you may have changed your mind about your assessment of those arguments, but you have never apologized for what you said nor have you acknowledged to me that you changed your mind. So, pardon me if when you say about yourself that if "I have made a mistake, I'll let you know. I promise," that I remain skeptical.

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"It does exist inside the womb. It isn't a question of existence versus non-existence, but existence in one place versus existence in another place."

Are you PURPOSEFULLY ignoring the context YOU established and to which *I* responded:

"and it can exist OUTSIDE the womb" (emphasis obviously mine).

Or did you just forget your post, even though it was right above mine, and I even quoted it IN mine (thus EXPLICITLY establishing the context of MY statement)? The latter seems highly unlikely. Which leaves a rational person wondering WHY you would purposefully create one very big straw man.

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A few years ago you publicly called Peikoff and myself names over arguments with which you disagreed. Someone has mentioned that you may have changed your mind about your assessment of those arguments, but you have never apologized for what you said nor have you acknowledged to me that you changed your mind. So, pardon me if when you say about yourself that if "I  have made a mistake, I'll let you know.  I promise," that I remain skeptical.

The person you mentioned is absolutely correct. I have re-assessed a great many things since four or five years ago when I think what you are referring to actually happened back on HPO. I really regret some of the things I said, and of course I hope that others do, too.

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"It does exist inside the womb. It isn't a question of existence versus non-existence, but existence in one place versus existence in another place."

Are you PURPOSEFULLY ignoring the context YOU established and to which *I* responded:

"and it can exist OUTSIDE the womb" (emphasis obviously mine).

Or did you just forget your post, even though it was right above mine, and I even quoted it IN mine (thus EXPLICITLY establishing the context of MY statement)?  The latter seems highly unlikely.  Which leaves a rational person wondering WHY you would purposefully create one very big straw man.

Neither.

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Ah - so you simply choose to IGNORE my post. But you wanted to have your cake and eat it too. So you QUOTED my post, but then actually addressed an idea DIFFERENT from the one I made. In other words, you made it LOOK like you were responding to my post, when in fact you were not.

Perhaps you would care to actually RESPOND to MY ideas instead of engaging in such diversionary tactics.

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The person you mentioned is absolutely correct. I have re-assessed a great many things since four or five years ago when I think what you are referring to actually happened back on HPO. I really regret some of the things I said, and of course I hope that others do, too.

Considering the severity of the insults you slung, this is too little, too late.

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Ah - so you simply choose to IGNORE my post.  But you wanted to have your cake and eat it too.  So you QUOTED my post, but then actually addressed an idea DIFFERENT from the one I made.  In other words, you made it LOOK like you were responding to my post, when in fact you were not.

Perhaps you would care to actually RESPOND to MY ideas instead of engaging in such diversionary tactics.

Please rephrase your question in some form other than "when will you stop beating your wife" and I'll do my best to answer it. What specific ideas do you want me to respond to?

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'I will respond to you if you don't point out the fact that my initial response to your post had nothing to do with your post, yet I made it seem like it did.'

In other words, you will deign to address my idea so long as I don't point out the fact that you made a straw man - and then claimed you didn't. Sorry - I don't sanction logical fallacies for the sake of a conversation with someone purposefully practicing irrationality. (And this forum does not tolerate such behavior).

I have conversations in order to identify reality - I don't ignore reality in order to have conversations.

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