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2/20/2016 1:32 pm  #31


Re: The Abortion issue.

Mattman wrote:

I definitely agree that the embryo is innocent but I don't see why that would make it wrong to kill it in this case.

Well, there's your fundamental issue, then. You don't agree that deliberately taking an innocent life is wrong.

Mattman wrote:

If a toddler was drugged and coming at me with a knife I think you should be able to kill it. It would be innocent.

You continue to fail to make the distinction we've been discussing. As I've already said, you may well be morally permitted to "kill it" if that means defending yourself by doing something that happens to result in its death, if you have no non-lethal alternative. But that's not the same thing as directly willing its death and acting on that intent. (And, as I've implied, you can't kill it if some less deadly alternative is available to you. I'm betting you could manage to take out a drugged toddler without killing it, even if it had a knife.)

Mattman wrote:

The threat to the mother comes from the embryo being in the womb. Once the embryo goes so does the threat. The two can't be separated.

I think DanielCC has already addressed this. You're equivocating on the word "threat" here. The embryo isn't threatening anyone in the relevant sense; indeed, in the case of rape, not only is it not an aggressor, it's a second victim.

Mattman wrote:

I don't understand why someone must have the intent to do you harm in order for you to defend your life-- especially when the persons existence itself is the threat.

I don't think I've ever said or implied that someone else's intent to do me harm is a necessary condition of my moral liberty to defend my life. Whether and when such defense can involve accidental and/or deliberate killing -- that's the issue.

Mattman wrote:

I do agree with her right to terminate a pregnancy so she can save herself- no matter what the means are. Is this what you agree with??

No.

None of this, it seems to me, is getting us one bit closer to your logical difficulties with anti-abortion arguments; so far, to put it frankly, the strictly logical problems seem to be on your side.

Most fundamentally, though, the issue seems to be that you disagree with the pro-life claim that the deliberate, directly-intended taking of innocent life is everywhere and always wrong. From what you've said so far, I can't tell whether you mean that it isn't always wrong in and of itself, or that even though it is always intrinsically wrong it might under some circumstances be the lesser of two evils and thus morally acceptable, or that it might be made right by its good consequences, or what. Perhaps the most fruitful way to proceed would be for you to try to clarify that a little further.

 

2/20/2016 1:50 pm  #32


Re: The Abortion issue.

The basic pro-life argument, for reference, is essentially this:

(1) The deliberate, directly-intended taking of innocent life is everywhere and always wrong/evil. ("Innocent" is important here. The premise doesn't rule out the capital punishment of criminals, nor does it forbid the killing of non-human animals, which are not "innocent" for the simple reason that they are not capable of moral guilt in the first place.)

(2) Wrong/evil acts are not rendered good, or even permissible, by their further consequences.

(3) Abortion is, by definition, the deliberate, directly-intended taking of an innocent unborn life.

Therefore: abortion is everywhere and always wrong/evil, even when supposedly performed for the sake of good consequences. (Again, this doesn't rule out e.g. removing the cancerous uterus of a pregnant woman, or excising the fallopian tube from a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy, even though these operation indirectly result in the death of the embryo and could in that sense be said to "kill" it.)

So there you go. The logic is pretty clearly valid (or can be made so by tightening up some of my loose language), so if you want to find flaws, you'll want to concentrate most of your argumentative fire on the premises: the principle that deliberately taking innocent life is wrong, and the principle that we are not permitted to do evil so that good may result. (You may also wish to question the Doctrine of Double Effect, but that doesn't play any direct role in the argument, just in the apparent exceptions.) In addressing those points, you'll be clarifying what I suggested you clarify in the last sentence of my previous post.

 

2/20/2016 2:12 pm  #33


Re: The Abortion issue.

Hey Scott, thanks for taking the time with me. I'm not good at sorting out my ideas in case you haven't caught on to this yet. Lol. But stick with me.

"You continue to fail to make the distinction we've been discussing. As I've already said, you may well be morally permitted to "kill it" if that means defending yourself by doing something that happens to result in its death, if you have no non-lethal alternative. But that's not the same thing as directly willing its death and acting on that intent. (And, as I've implied, you can't kill it if some less deadly alternative is available to you. I'm betting you could manage to take out a drugged toddler without killing it, even if it had a knife.)"

Ok. I'm having issues with definitions galore. "direct", "Intent" so forth.

"Most fundamentally, though, the issue seems to be that you disagree with the pro-life claim that the deliberate, directly-intended taking of innocent life is everywhere and always wrong." 

This might be true.

I think what I'm having an issue with is when/how we know when something is deliberate, directly intended. As you said-- Whether and when such defense can involve accidental and/or deliberate killing -- that's the issue.

     Thread Starter
 

2/20/2016 2:37 pm  #34


Re: The Abortion issue.

Mattman wrote:

I think what I'm having an issue with is when/how we know when something is deliberate, directly intended.

And I think you're entirely justified in having an issue with that; in most cases, it's hard to tell. But that's a question of what we can (in practice) know, not of morality itself. Somewhat analogously, I might have a lot of trouble counting up exactly how many jellybeans there are in a jar. But I still know that if there are 23,793, I can divide the jellybeans into 721 piles of 33 jellybeans each with none left over. Likewise, I may not be sure what a specific doctor's intentions are, but that doesn't alter my knowledge that if they're of a certain sort, his act is wrong.

I don't want to overcomplicate things here, but it's probably important to note that in Catholic moral theology, three things factor into the moral evaluation of an act: the objective nature of the act itself, the motivation behind the act, and the circumstances under which it's performed. The present discussion is about the first.

I mention this because it's another possible source of confusion. If an act is wrong in its objective nature, then (e.g.) motivation doesn't make it right; it just reduces culpability. So we don't want to get sidetracked into discussions of the motives of the abortionist; according to Catholic moral theology, at least, if he's performing an abortion in order to save the mother's life, that fact may render him less personally culpable, but it doesn't alter the objective nature of the act itself, which is the deliberate taking of an innocent life.

My point here is that at least one sort of "intent" -- better called motive -- is irrelevant to the moral nature of the act. The only kind that matters here is the kind that's "built in" to the objective nature of the act itself. To put it roughly, if somebody is deliberately killing a fetus, it doesn't matter (to our evaluation of the act itself, ignoring the question of their culpability) why they're doing it; if that's what they're doing, then it's wrong.

Now, I think that makes the question of intent a lot easier to deal with, because we're looking at something of pretty narrow scope. We do have to go beyond the mere physical act itself to the intentionality it embodies; two acts aren't the same just because they include similar physical movements and achieve the same "result" (a dead fetus). But at least we can focus in on the idea of deliberate killing and avoid all sorts of extraneous questions about what further goals the doctor hoped to accomplish, and so forth.

So take two extreme cases. In one, a doctor kills a healthy fetus solely in order to terminate a normal pregnancy. In another, a doctor removes the cancerous uterus of a pregnant woman, knowing that the fetus will die as a result but without intending that result -- perhaps even taking whatever steps are possible to keep the fetus alive outside the womb for a little while. Is it clear that -- even aside from the doctors' motives -- the intents in the two cases are poles apart?

 

2/20/2016 3:23 pm  #35


Re: The Abortion issue.

Hmmm, so much to think about here.I'm glad you're helping me narrow down ...it seems like intentional/direct/deliberate are intertwined in a way that's incredibly difficult to tease out.

What means specifically would you not be OK with her using to save her own physical life while terminating her pregnancy?

(Do I need to give an example of a specific pregnancy situation to answer?)


"if he's performing an abortion in order to save the mother's life, that fact may render him less personally culpable, but it doesn't alter the objective nature of the act itself, which is the deliberate taking of an innocent life."

But wouldn't the taking of the life not be deliberate in this case-- BECAUSE he is saving the mothers life and that is the unintended side effect of cleaning out the uterus?

"So take two extreme cases. In one, a doctor kills a fetus in order to terminate a pregnancy. In another, a doctor removes the cancerous uterus of a pregnant woman, knowing that the fetus will die as a result but without intending that result -- perhaps even taking whatever steps are possible to keep the fetus alive outside the womb for a little while. Is it clear that the intents in the two cases are poles apart?"

Don't you mean that the physical acts would be different and than you would be able to try to say what they intended? If we are going by intent Wouldn't the intent of both be to terminate the pregnancy which is causing the problem? Why couldn't we just say that, rather than I intended to kill the fetus? Or maybe there are different intents going on at the same time for both doctors? I mean there is a physical difference of the two situations.

     Thread Starter
 

2/20/2016 3:53 pm  #36


Re: The Abortion issue.

Skipping some bits in order to focus on what I think are the most important parts:

Mattman wrote:

But wouldn't the taking of the life not be deliberate in this case-- BECAUSE he is saving the mothers life and that is the unintended side effect of cleaning out the uterus?

I wouldn't say so. The taking of the life would be deliberate; it would just be done with the motive of saving the mother's life. Surely you see the difference between (a) deliberately killing the fetus in order to save the mother's life, and (b) saving the mother's life in a way that happens to result in the death of the fetus.

If not, then the example we're already considering should help:

Mattman wrote:

If we are going by intent Wouldn't the intent of both be to terminate the pregnancy which is causing the problem?

Removing a cancerous uterus is pretty clearly not a way of producing a dead fetus and has no essential connection with that outcome. A doctor could do it even if the woman weren't pregnant at all.

(More fancifully, suppose the Green Goblin tosses a pregnant woman off the top of the Brooklyn Bridge; Spider-Man swings in and catches her around the waist, saving her life, but the impact kills her unborn child. Surely it's obvious that Spider-Man's act isn't one of deliberately bringing about the death of the child in order to save the mother. He'd have done the same thing to save her life even if she hadn't been pregnant.)

 

2/20/2016 4:09 pm  #37


Re: The Abortion issue.

"I wouldn't say so. The taking of the life would be deliberate; it would just be done with the motive of saving the mother's life"

It would be deliberate because the action produces the death of the fetus in a certain way? Let's take this example- a woman is 17 weeks pregnant with a baby that's body is severly infected, the baby is miscarrying but still technically alive-theres a heartbeat. It's arm in stuck through the cervix. The infected baby is causing a severly life threatening infection for mom. Do you think it would be justifiable to pull the baby out the only possible way-piecemeal?

"Removing a cancerous uterus is pretty clearly not a way ofproducing a dead fetus and has no essential connection with that outcome. A doctor could do it even if the woman weren't pregnant at all."

Oh I agree, however in the case where there IS a fetus in the cancerous uterus it seems it would be a way of producing a dead fetus.

Like if you remove a fish from the tank you know you're going to produce a dead fish-- and if you remove an ectopic baby you know you're going to produce a dead baby.

     Thread Starter
 

2/20/2016 4:23 pm  #38


Re: The Abortion issue.

Mattman wrote:

It would be deliberate because the action produces the death of the fetus in a certain way?

No, and this is fundamental: it would be deliberate because the intent of the action is to bring about the death of the fetus.

Mattman wrote:

Let's take this example...

Let's not. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/grin.png

Seriously, I'm deliberately avoiding specific cases and sticking to extremes because I have no relevant expertise; for a particular "in-between" case, you'd want to consult a priest or a Catholic bioethicist My concern here is with principles, and until we've got those clear, there's no point in complicating things.

Mattman wrote:

however in the case where there IS a fetus in the cancerous uterus it seems it would be a way of producing a dead fetus.

Only because you're still not distinguishing carefully between knowing that something will in fact result from an act, on the one hand, and on the other, performing the act for that reason. I'd recommend reflecting on that for a while, and do please check out that Jensen book if you have time/money.

At any rate, I'm about to be away from my computer for an unknown period (and I'm expecting to be busy tomorrow), so I'll have to leave the conversation to others for a while. Thanks for the interesting chat, and I hope we're making some progress on the stuff that's bothering you.

 

2/20/2016 4:38 pm  #39


Re: The Abortion issue.

Ok, thanks Scott. Really do appreciate it!

     Thread Starter
 

2/20/2016 4:58 pm  #40


Re: The Abortion issue.

No problem. And one more thing before I disappear entirely for a while: none of this last round of clarification has any direct bearing on the basic pro-life argument I summarized in Post #32 of this thread. Even if everything I've said about "intent" is flat wrong, what would follow is that according to that argument, it's not permissible to excise a cancerous uterus when there's a live fetus in it. So you may want to start thinking about what you find questionable about that argument itself.

 

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