As always happens when the topic of abortion raises its ugly head, the commentator responded with passionate and entertaining arguments. Outstanding in the fray were the posts of jmv0405and Benjamin on opposite sides of the question of when life begins and human rights attach to it.
I’m combining two of Benjamin’s comments here, both addressing jmv0405‘s contention that the unborn doesn’t necessarily qualify as human. In his second comment, directly attempts to rebut specific assertions.
Here is Benjamin’s two-part Comment of Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Actress Busy Philipps”...
You’ve moved the question “what does it mean to be human?” into the fore. I think you’ve taken it lightly though. We’ve all seen the science fictional stories of men who turn into animals. If you turn into a horse in this sense, your physical form becomes that of a horse, but you somehow remain you. There’s another sense of this that intrigues old philosophers. What if the physical form remains the same, and you (the you that lies under and in all that meat, the you that’s looking at this screen through your eyes) become a horse in some essential sort of way? How would that appear to us from the outside? You can forget things and even experience amnesia and still remain you, so memories and knowledge aren’t you rightly so called. This horse imposter may very well behave exactly as you did before you were displaced. This could be happening every day. It may have happened to you, you horse, you! There’s no evidence to tell us otherwise. I suppose this does not happen. You suppose something like this does happen at some vague stage of human development.
I argue that my supposition, a continuous chain of being, is no more false than yours. William of Ockham would agree, his razor being rightly understood, because we have no reason to think otherwise.
Consider the utilitarian woes that would follow your supposition (I’ll cater to my utilitarian hearers). We can’t physically prove which apparent humans are horses. If we also suppose that these horse-humans are less intelligent, can we kill (humanely, of course) those we find to be of lower intelligence? How much less intelligent is a horse imposter than a man? Are any genuine men similarly unintelligent? Are any horse men more intelligent? Can this bar be adjusted, and based on what evidence?
You can see, if I’m clear, that limiting this to a stage of human development is no less arbitrary. An arbitrary metric, knowingly arbitrary, can be arbitrarily changed. I suppose, however, that there is a truth which is true regardless of our recognition of it. I suppose that we are charged with the care and protection of the innocent and that the risk of killing a human whose humanity cannot be proven outweighs the risk of permitting what may in fact be unprovably non-human to live. A utilitarian moral realist has no way of maneuvering past that epistemological wager. A rich tradition of scholastic philosophy assures me that nature is consistent, though.