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marotta
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Is pro-life consistent with Objectivism?  

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  1. 1. Is pro-life consistent with Objectivism?

    • No, Objectivism is inherantly pro-choice.
      111
    • Yes, the fetus is rational and has rights sometime before birth.
      6


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Anything that one says on this topic is probably a repetition of that arguments already in those threads to which I linked, above. Nevertheless...You're right, that the pure fact of a connection is not all there is to it. We'd might need to modify the idea of rights, and add in some special obligations, if fully-grown humans were routinely bodily-attached to each other. Other factors go into drawing the legal "line". Personally, I think separation is the best point at which to draw it.

But why separation rather than cognition? What's the basis for attaching any significance at all to attachment? Or more clearly, what's the reason to consider any factor beyond brain activity? I would disagree with the assumption that a fetus cannot formulate desires before the umbilical chord is cut. But again, my scientific backing on this is unsure at best- does anyone know of real evidence that no "human" perception and integration takes place before the umbilical chord is cut? That seems like a pretty big assumption to me, and if in fact it's not true, then both the questions of separation and the ability to communicate desires are nonissues.

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From my experience, newborn humans are pretty similar (and actually less competent) than other newborn mammals. Many of them have to be coaxed even to suckle! I'm not saying that one may not logically draw the legal line before separation. However, if anyone wants to do so, the onus of proof is clearly on them.

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But why separation rather than cognition? What's the basis for attaching any significance at all to attachment? Or more clearly, what's the reason to consider any factor beyond brain activity? I would disagree with the assumption that a fetus cannot formulate desires before the umbilical chord is cut. But again, my scientific backing on this is unsure at best- does anyone know of real evidence that no "human" perception and integration takes place before the umbilical chord is cut? That seems like a pretty big assumption to me, and if in fact it's not true, then both the questions of separation and the ability to communicate desires are nonissues.

I think given how rudimentary the mental abilities of a baby is, ie not being able to find out where the milk is, and the fact its sensory facility is initially more limited, that we should be asking for proof that the baby can perceive properly and integrate even just after birth let along before it.

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I'm not saying that one may not logically draw the legal line before separation. However, if anyone wants to do so, the onus of proof is clearly on them.

Really? What we're talking about here is the potential execution of a human, and if we accept that cognitive ability is the determining factor, then I think an "innocent until proven guilty" attitude is more reasonable. That is, unless we have evidence to suggest that a fetus doesn't have any such abilities at a given point of development, then we probably shouldn't be killing it. So, the question becomes, what are you willing to consider as human cognitive ability? I think their disorientation or lack of initiative (as in the suckling example) are pretty irrelevant- but I wonder if it's possible to examine brain waves of human and non-human organisms and to pinpoint certain kinds of brain activity that are specifiically "human". Either way, this quesiton of onus of proof seems a bit off- if the line you're drawing is arbitrary (and I don't see why relying to an infant's feeding abilities as a determining factor is any more sensical than it's size or its eye color), then why would the onus of proof be on one line and not another? We know that the embryo will at some point develop abilities solely human, whether that's at age 1 or week 30 after conception, and assuming we don't know when exactly it happens, it seems much more sensical to demand that someone prove that those abilities don't exist than the opposite. Is it different somehow than demanding conclusive proof to condemn a man to death, rather than relying on a lack of proved innocence?

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I remember a couple of weeks ago I reaised the question of how easy it was to distinguish between what is "essential" to Objectivist philosophy and what is not. I was described as an "annoying" troublemaker for pressing the issue, and most people gave me pat responses that basically amounted to saying it would of course be obvious. I think this issue indicates that it is NOT in fact obvious.

Moreover, the poll is flawed because it needs a third option.

"Yes I believe that a pro-life posiiton is compatible with Objectivism, but I am pro-choice" or...

the Yes answer needs to be reworded to just say

"Yes I believe that a pro-life position is compatible with Objectivism."

The way the poll is currently worded, it guides the reader to affirm that their own opinion on the issue is in fact the only answer for Objectivism, when the poll is ostensibly designed to answer the question of whether there is such a correct answer.

Edited by Korthor
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What we're talking about here is the potential execution of a human, and if we accept that cognitive ability is the determining factor, then I think an "innocent until proven guilty" attitude is more reasonable.

It is not, because what you are *actually* talking about when you talk about granting rights to a fetus before it is born is *violating the rights of the mother*. ANY attempt to grant rights to a pre-born fetus means *precisely* that you are turning a full-grown adult woman into a *slave*. THIS is why *separation* is the dividing line.

But everyone just worries about the theoretical cognitive ability of the proto-baby, when it's not of any fundamental importance whatsoever.

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It is not, because what you are *actually* talking about when you talk about granting rights to a fetus before it is born is *violating the rights of the mother*. ANY attempt to grant rights to a pre-born fetus means *precisely* that you are turning a full-grown adult woman into a *slave*. THIS is why *separation* is the dividing line.

But everyone just worries about the theoretical cognitive ability of the proto-baby, when it's not of any fundamental importance whatsoever.

A mother does have an obligation to provide for her infant child, yes? That is because, I assume, the infant has certain rights, given its nature, and because it is in danger as a result of the mother's actions, the mother is therefore obligated to provide certain things until it is able to fend for itself. So what about the nature of the infant gives it those rights? Is it the fact that it is no longer attached by an umbilical chord? I don't see how its being a rational entity can be of no importance whatsoever in determing its rights. I assume you wouldn't call a mother a slave to her infant because of her obligation, but you feel the term is justified when dealing with a fetus. It make ssense to me to say that since an infant's rights are derived from its rational faculty, however limited that may be, then a fetus' rights should be determined the in the same way, and not based on the existence of an actual physical connection between mother and offspring. This definitely does not mean that a fetus at any stage should have the same rights as an infant, or any rights at all for that matter, but it does suggest that if a similar rational faculty can be demonstrated at some point of development, then the rights should be similar as well.

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I moved the posts about abortion itself (as opposed to the recent SCOTUS decision) to this thread.

There are some longer (and better) threads on abortion. Use Search to find them. The longest is this one.; but there's also this one, and this one.

I appreciate your guiding us to other references, and I understand that no one wants to rehash old material over and over again, but the threads you provided links to are both really long and generally really multi-faceted. I'm sure there's lots of interesting stuff, but I'm not sure that wading through 50 pages of it is the best way to answer relatively specific questions. I did look through 10 pages or so, and I didn't find much of an answer to my primary concern, that being: what determines a fetus' rights, or lack thereof? Or, more specifically, why would the determing factor be anything other than its rational faculty, or lack thereof? A two-week old baby doesn't have rights because it's physically independent of its mother, any more than a twenty-year old does- it has them because it has a rational faculty of some sort. though it's obviously not fully developed. Or is this not the case? Ar ethe rights of an infant based on something other than rational faculty?

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Kevin, I appreciate the problem wading through those long threads. Part of the hassle is that any thread on abortion, or on sex (or on tipping :)) tends soons becomes a 300-post thread in its own right. Hopefully someone will take you up on your particular question.

Personally, I'm willing to take this a step further by asking you to clarify one aspect of your position:

Reading between the lines, I think you're advocating a line drawn in a place quite different from that drawn by Aureus (a few posts above, within this thread), who wants to protect zygotes. I understand that you think a zygote does not warrant any protection. I don't even know if "zygote" is the right term, but let me ask it this way: from what you know and have learnt about the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, do you think there is no question that abortion should be allowed during that very early stage? [Here's a link with some info on the first trimester.]

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Kevin, I appreciate the problem wading through those long threads. Part of the hassle is that any thread on abortion, or on sex (or on tipping :)) tends soons becomes a 300-post thread in its own right. Hopefully someone will take you up on your particular question.

Personally, I'm willing to take this a step further by asking you to clarify one aspect of your position:

Reading between the lines, I think you're advocating a line drawn in a place quite different from that drawn by Aureus (a few posts above, within this thread), who wants to protect zygotes. I understand that you think a zygote does not warrant any protection. I don't even know if "zygote" is the right term, but let me ask it this way: from what you know and have learnt about the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, do you think there is no question that abortion should be allowed during that very early stage? [Here's a link with some info on the first trimester.]

From what I've read, no, I don't see any reason to forbid 1st trimester abortions. I've never seen anything to indicate any evidence for cognition at that stage. And it's true that the vast majority of abortions don't even come close to crossing any reasonable line of cognitive/non-cognitive status (I don't know how partial-birth abortions fit into that). I didn't bring up the question of moral basis because I felt that many abortions aren't actually justified- it's more because the reasons that I've read to justify abortion often appeared based on non-essentials, and while they may ultimately lead to the same ocnclusion most of the time, I'd prefer to establish a more rationally justifiable guideline. Of course, a clear guideline is only half the battle in this case- it may be some time before we can pinpoint with any real accuracy the time at which significant brain development occurs, but there is at least some knowledge, and no doubt more to come in the future.

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I ask this because I'm not exactly certain on how Objectivism define an organism as "human".
There's nothing special there. Some life-forms are by nature dependent on others in order to exist, for example plasmodium falciparum, taenia solium, remora brachyptera, cuscuta and grammica. That is not the nature of humans. The connection between rights and rationality is not in the actual exercise, but in having the rational faculty, so it is immaterial that toddlers can be bratty.
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If one thought that way, it would be proper to say that you agree with all of Objectivism with the exception of the right to abortion, but you should not claim the title of Objectivist.

This kind of language always makes me cringe. Like the fact that I am still evaluating certain topics that were also evaluated by Ayn Rand somehow makes me an Apostate, so my choice is to accept ARI on faith or to reject Ayn Rand. Yeah right B)

OPAR has two paragraphs devoted to the topic of abortion, and it is a normative topic, so the claim that the entire philosophy rests on the evaluation of the abortion issue is ridiculous. Clearly someone who has a claim against abortion because of their religious beliefs has a poor understanding of individual rights. However, the question of when the zygote becomes a man ("rational animal") strikes me as a scientific question, not a philosophical question. My primary skepticism comes from my observation of my cousin who is 3 months old and also clearly meets all of your criteria for "parasite."

This is not an extremely important topic to me since I will never have to opportunity to get an abortion. Currently I am pro-choice because I do not feel the government should be involved, but I would not recommend to someone to get an abortion.

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This kind of language always makes me cringe. Like the fact that I am still evaluating certain topics that were also evaluated by Ayn Rand somehow makes me an Apostate, so my choice is to accept ARI on faith or to reject Ayn Rand. Yeah right :huh:

Your attacks on the ARI (and on Stephen Speicher) are injust. The whole philosophy does rest on each point in a sense, because Objectivism is an integrated whole. If you disagree with part of Objectivism, don't call yourself an Objectivist (because you aren't). If you are not sure if you are an Objectivist, and need to learn more or investigate a given issue in a more indepth answer, call yourself a "Student of Objectivism."

(There is nothing inherently morally wrong with being uncertain about certain points in Objectivism or even disagreeing, but one can't honestly call oneself an Objectivist in those cases).

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Your attacks on the ARI (and on Stephen Speicher) are injust. The whole philosophy does rest on each point in a sense, because Objectivism is an integrated whole. If you disagree with part of Objectivism, don't call yourself an Objectivist (because you aren't). If you are not sure if you are an Objectivist, and need to learn more or investigate a given issue in a more indepth answer, call yourself a "Student of Objectivism."

(There is nothing inherently morally wrong with being uncertain about certain points in Objectivism or even disagreeing, but one can't honestly call oneself an Objectivist in those cases).

When did I attack ARI or Stephen Speicher?

If you don't accept the method of reason to determine ethical questions and would rather just accept the opinion of a philosopher you trust, don't call yourself an Objectivist (because you aren't). Call yourself "someone who takes the opinions of ARI on faith."

Note: I'm using parallel construction to show you why I took your last comment as an insult.

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If you don't accept the method of reason to determine ethical questions and would rather just accept the opinion of a philosopher you trust, don't call yourself an Objectivist (because you aren't). Call yourself "someone who takes the opinions of ARI on faith."
The point here is that the Objectivist position on abortion is unambiguous; if you reject the philosophy of Objectivism, they you can't claim to be an Objectivist. Do you cringe when people point out that you're not an Objectivist? Just to remove any trace of ambiguity, if you reject the conclusion that a woman has a right to abortion, then you have rejected Objectivism. Read the writings of Ayn Rand to know what is defined as Objectivism; then you either accept it, or you reject it. It's a well-defined and closed system. I cringe when I hear people suggest that Objectivism is whatever they feel "is reaonable". And anybody who claims that Rand's conclusion about abortion is based on some insanity about a zygote becoming a man is, well, making stuff up out of nothing.
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if you reject the conclusion that a woman has a right to abortion, then you have rejected Objectivism.

David,

I would have no problem with someone saying "I am an Objectivist but I do not think a partial-birth abortion is moral." I see rational support for this position, even though I am pro-choice.

I reiterate that ethics is a normative branch, which means a long chain of reasoning from the Axioms will be required to come to a certain ethical conclusion. The abortion issue seems like a trivial part of ethics, since it is one specific application. This largely goes back to the "at what point is a person an Objectivist" debate.

Please show me what else in Objectivism rests on the conclusion that abortion is moral. I doubt you will find anything, because the abortion issue is a single specific application of ethics.

Edit: quote included

Edited by badkarma556
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A mother does have an obligation to provide for her infant child, yes? That is because, I assume, the infant has certain rights, given its nature, and because it is in danger as a result of the mother's actions, the mother is therefore obligated to provide certain things until it is able to fend for itself.

What rights are these, exactly? A definition would be helpful here. It's easy to define the rights of adults, and it's already been done by other people. What are these supposed rights of sub-adults or pre-humans? It's kind of difficult to discuss something that is assumed and not defined.

Are you aware of how rights are defined in Objectivism? Are you aware that it is not possible to have a right to a *thing* (support, care, attention, protection, you name it) only a right to action? Are you also aware of the fact that there is a difference between a legal and a moral obligation? A legal obligation is one that you can be forced to carry out. A moral obligation is one that you have chosen to accept. Some moral obligations can become legal obligations via the signing of a contract or some such, but the fields are not 100% mutually inclusive.

Now, if you are extremely young (or otherwise incapacitated) you may have to have someone else exercise your rights on your behalf (parents or guardians), but this doesn't mean that you have the RIGHT to DEMAND anything from them . . . you certainly don't have the right to demand that the government point a gun at their head and force them to provide you with food, shelter, education, designer jeans and a cell phone. There are already legal mechanisms in place to deal with people that abuse rights they are exercising by proxy, usually by taking the rights-by-proxy away and giving them (with the child in this case) to someone ELSE.

---

I don't think anyone really advocates abortions in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy simply because there is a huge practical issue involved: it's actually more deleterious to the health of the mother to attempt an abortion rather than just have the kid and give it away. I've never heard of an abortion being performed after the sixth month in any case, so in setting this up as an issue of discussion you're attacking a straw man. Are you aware that the moral is the practical?

From 5 1/2 months to seven (IIRC I read that doctors generally consider premature babies before 27 weeks to be nonviable) there may be a chance that extreme measures could keep the baby alive . . . but it might also suffer some really nasty chronic health conditions. Plus this raises the question of: who is going to pay for it? Adults don't have the right to receive massively expensive health care they can't pay for. Do babies? Are you going to point the gun at the mother or the hospital? Here, if it makes you happy we'll induce labor and let the fetus die on the table instead of ending it humanely prior to that point. Sheesh.

Prior to 5 1/2 months the issue of cognition is moot.

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There are estimated to be about 100 third-trimester abortions in the US, out of a total of 1.6 million. Most such cases are when the fetus has severe genetic problems. Most doctros won't perform a third-trimester abortion and almost no doctor will perform a third-trimester abortion without documentation of some sort from a geneticist; also in 40 states it is banned anyway.

Make no mistake, the issue in the U.S. is second trimester (and earlier) abortions.

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Please show me what else in Objectivism rests on the conclusion that abortion is moral. I doubt you will find anything, because the abortion issue is a single specific application of ethics.
I don't need to. All I need to do is show what the Objectivist position is. See the essay "Of Living Death" (The Objectivist, October 1968):
]An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn). 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 Catholic church is responsible for this country's disgracefully barbarian anti-abortion laws, which should be repealed and abolished.
This is a clear philosophical statement in the domain of ethics, and insofar as Objectivism is the entire philosophy of Ayn Rand, you cannot claim to agree with all of her philosophy if you reject some of it. I hope lessons in elementary logic won't be necessary to explain why that is so.
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When did I attack ARI or Stephen Speicher?

Here:

This kind of language always makes me cringe. Like the fact that I am still evaluating certain topics that were also evaluated by Ayn Rand somehow makes me an Apostate, so my choice is to accept ARI on faith or to reject Ayn Rand. Yeah right ;)
Edited by LaszloWalrus
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