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February 05, 2013

Comments

In my opinion, I don't think we even need to go into this much depth when discussing this analogy. Pulling the plug vs. killing a baby are two different physical acts altogether. Also, the conditions of said person aren't equal either.

In pulling the plug, we are merely allowing the person to pass on. When we induce abortions, we are actively killing a human being. So, there's a passive act vs. an active act. Dying is a natural part of life and if someone cannot physically survive on their own anymore in this world, then it is not inhumane to let them die. On the other hand, physically taking another's life is murder. It's very simple in my opinion.

Secondly, is the term "brain-dead." Babies aren't brain dead in the womb. So, they cannot be properly compared to someone who is outside the womb on a vent.

Pulling the plug isn't an accurate analogy to abortion whatsoever.

For example, a temporarily comatose person who is suffocated to death "experiences no harm," ...

Wrong. There is the harm of knowing and fearing, prior to entering the coma, that this would be a possibility.

RonH. Having a belief that one may be harmed in the future is not the same as being harmed in the future. Imagine, if you will, two persons, X and Y.

1. X enters a coma knowing and fearing that he may be suffocated while in the coma.

2. Y enters a coma but harbors no such belief while entering a coma, though he is suffocated while in the coma.

So, 1 is a case of a person temporarily enduring a troubling though false belief while 2 is a case of a person being murdered. Are you actually suggesting that these two cases are morally equivalent?

Francis J. Beckwith ,

Actually?

I will just clarify.

Here are two policies:

1) You can suffocate the comatose - provided they 'experience no harm'.
2) You can't.

Everyone under Policy (1) is harmed - they experience the worry you referred to.
That worry/harm is missing under Policy 2.

I trust you see the difference I am pointing out now.

What is the purpose of the coma?
Would not anyone killed without experiencing harm fill the bill here?

It is not clearer if we look at these two alternative policies?

3) You can kill anyone anytime - provided they 'experience no harm'.
4) You can't.

(Those who evaporate in a bomb blast 'experience no harm' - I suspect.)

I trust you see that Policy 3 would terrorize every one under it - a great harm.
IN this respect, Policy 3 is worse than war.

In this respect Policy 3 is quite different from abortion - especially especially especially early abortion.


RonH

RonH, it sounds like you're saying the harm is just in the fear rather than in the actual killing. Is that right?

I'm with Sam. It looks like Ron is saying that the only thing wrong with killing someone (provided that they experience no harm in the killing) is the antecedent fear they might feel that they could be painlessly killed.

At the risk of multiplying policies without need. what if the state had a secret policy of painlessly suffocating the comatose. We may imagine that those who are in on the secret are exempted from suffocation.

Now no one is afraid of being suffocated while in a coma.

I guess that secret government policy is morally permissible.

Right?

It might even be morally good or even required, since it saves the public money that can be used for other beneficial purposes...like science and such.

Ron, it's always odd to me when you argue there can be no objective harm unless there's subjectively perceived harm (or a subjectively perceived threat of harm). That seems obviously false.

Consider this: We divide everyone in the country into two groups. We tell everyone in group X they can kill people from group Y anytime they want. The people in group X are completely assured they will never be under any threat, and nobody in group Y will ever know anything about the deal (their deaths will be covered up completely). The people in group Y will never even know someone's been killed.

So there you go. There's no perceived harm happening whatsoever. Nobody who's under the threat actually knows about the threat. Death for them will be too swift to cause them any subjectively perceived harm. No one will miss them or know they've been killed. There is absolutely no worry involved.

So there's a scenario that solves all of your concerns.

"I think I might go into a coma now. Hmmm... what if someone suffocates me while I'm 'out'? That's a bit scary... maybe I won't go into a coma right now."

Seriously... this is even being discussed?

Seems like some read things into my comments that I have not said.

There is GREAT harm experienced in policy 3.
It's not experienced at the time of killing, but beforehand.
This harm is A BIG reason people don't propose policy 3.
THIS harm has no counterpart in a policy that allows early abortions.

I said Frank was wrong and this is what I said he was wrong about.

Now, there are a few ways to respond:

A) Agree with me.
B) Disagree and say why.
C) Change the subject.
D) ?

If you change the subject now, what shall I think?

Mark H,

I removed the comas from the analogy.
They are pretty rare and that distracts from what I take to be the aim of the analogy.


Ron, my and WL's scenarios are constructed based on the principle you're offering and have offered in the past--namely, that the reason we can kill the unborn is because there's no subjectively perceived harm by anyone. This is the difference you cite between the comatose and the unborn.

For this reason, WL and I have both explained why we disagree with you on this by offering a scenario that satisfies your requirement of no perceived harm on the part of the people killed. I think they show the principle you're proposing to be self-evidently false. They show that objective harm is real (and is, in fact, what really matters), regardless of whether or not it is subjectively perceived by the victim.

Are you or are you not okay with those scenarios? If you are not okay with them, please explain why.

RonH. Suppose you have a rich uncle who dies and leaves a million dollars to you in his will. The executor of the will never tells you, and keeps the money for himself. You live the rest of your life never knowing. Yet, it's clear that you have been wronged, indeed harmed, by this theft. Your not knowing it is irrelevant to that truth.

Consider another case. Suppose a scientist disrupts the development of fetus in such a way that it never achieves higher brain functions. (This all takes place in an artificial womb). The scientist does this because he wants to harvest its organs and sell them on the black market. Now suppose an enterprising prolifer breaks into the scientist's laboratory, steals the developing fetus, and subsequently allows prolife scientist to fix the fetus so that it can develop normally. Was the healing of the fetus an act of justice? Was it restored to the health that it ought to have? If the answer is "yes," then clearly one can be restored to one's proper state after being harmed without ever knowing it.

Changing the subject again? I conclude you both agree.

Again, Ron, this is not a change of subject. We are merely examining the moral principle you've given us to see if it holds up. The principle you've given us is this: "Unless it is perceived by the victim, true harm has not taken place." And this is the principle that follows from that: "A human being may be killed if neither he nor anyone else perceives any harm in the action." And: "There is no objective harm done to the person killed because harm can only be measured subjectively."

A moral principle can be discussed using many different scenarios, but that doesn't mean the subject is being changed, it merely means the principle is being examined from all angles to see if it holds up.

So again, are you or are you not okay with those scenarios? If you are not okay with them, please explain why.

I suspect even you can follow the scenarios given and see that the subject has not been changed, RonH; your arrogant reply simply doesn't win the argument.

And again, Amy, I made a narrow point which you ignored choosing, instead, instead to talk about something else.

Francis offered the same argument again with different upholstery but without addressing my objection.

The executor who takes your inheritance (without you knowing) is the same as the one who kills you unawares: Anticipating either of these actions, we experience harm.

That harm is sufficient reason to object to a policy allowing such actions.

This harm in these cases has no counterpart on the abortion side of this analogy.

Summing up, it is entirely coherent for me to favor a policy that allows abortion while opposing policies that allow you to kill me or take my inheritance provided I never knew what hit me.

Guys, take heart! I'm not taking completely taking down Christianity here.
This is one objection to one part one argument about one issue.
If you don't change the subject, maybe you can answer it!
Failing that, maybe other arguments can save your view.
Failing that, maybe Christianity can be saved without banning abortion.

Ron, I'm not sure why you can't see we've responded specifically to your claim.

You said that only if one anticipates the harm is there real harm.

We've demonstrated to you that this is absurd.

You've also contradicted yourself by saying you "oppose policies that allow you to kill me or take my inheritance provided I never knew what hit me." Since there is no anticipation of someone stealing your money in a case where you never knew what hit you, there is no harm, according to your moral principle. This is why in our illustrations, we specified there was no anticipation of harm.

For this reason, you should be fine with the situation in my illustration. And in fact, you are fine with approving that situation, since this is exactly the policy you hold for the class of human beings who are in the womb who know nothing about our plans to be able to kill them. If it's right to have that exact policy for killing unborn humans because they don't anticipate harm, then the same principle should hold for born humans. And yet we can see clearly that the principle is absurd. Therefore, if it's absurd to hold that principle for human beings, it's absurd to hold that principle for human beings in the womb. The fact is, objective harm has nothing to do with whether or not it is perceived. This we see from the illustration.

Rejecting the idea of objective harm in a situation where the harm is not perceived leads to all sorts of absurdities. Stealing a person's entire life is an objective harm whether or not he anticipates it. This seems obvious.

This atrocious situation is, in fact, exactly what you're arguing for:

We divide everyone in the country into two groups. We tell everyone in group X they can kill people from group Y anytime they want. The people in group X are completely assured they will never be under any threat, and nobody in group Y will ever know anything about the deal (their deaths will be covered up completely). The people in group Y will never even know someone's been killed.

That's what comes from your moral principle, and it applies to born humans just as it does to unborn ones.

It is quite clear that I did not say that "only if one anticipates the harm is there real harm."

Nor did I say it in other words.

Nor did I say anything that implies it.

Try reading more closely or slowly or carefully.

___________________________________

This is why in our illustrations, we specified there was no anticipation of harm.

Yeah that was bizarre. I put the anticipation back in your illustrations: so that they would cohere and so that the brokenness of the analogies would be re-exposed.

Who would, for example, agree with Francis that they would be harmed by such an executor theft and THEN say they are, nevertheless, in favor of (or indifferent to) a policy allowing such executor theft - provided it's not detected?

___________________

The real problem isn't a couple of broken analogies though.
It's the way you carve up the world.

You place the five-day embryo with us morally because of the brand of DNA it has.

But, in spite of having human DNA, a five-day embryo is morally more like a colony of bacteria.

It is a different sort of thing from you, or a toddler, or the neighbor's pet.

And, if it came to it, you'd SO want that recognized.

Who would, for example, agree with Francis that they would be harmed by such an executor theft and THEN say they are, nevertheless, in favor of (or indifferent to) a policy allowing such executor theft - provided it's not detected?

Not provided it's not detected, provided they will for sure never be stolen from themselves. That is, only someone from the other group of human beings (who will never know they were stolen from) will be stolen from. Therefore, you have no anticipation of harm by being in favor of harming someone in the other group.

This is, in fact, your view on abortion. So the answer to your question of "who would agree" to such a policy is, you would.

Who would, for example, agree with you that they would be harmed by [having their life stolen from them] and THEN say they are, nevertheless, in favor of (or indifferent to) a policy allowing such [stealing of the lives of human beings]?

You would. Provided you can be assured that you will never ever be part of the group that can be killed. You have been assured this is the case when it comes to abortion, therefore you're fine with it. You don't consider it "harm" to kill a human being, as long as you know you won't be killed under the policy, and as long as the person being killed has no anticipation of being killed.

That is obviously false, as we've shown you in our illustrations, and this is why your assertion fails as a moral principle. Therefore, it's not a good support for abortion.

Yeah that was bizarre. I put the anticipation back in your illustrations: so that they would cohere and so that the brokenness of the analogies would be re-exposed.

If you're going to argue that anticipation is necessary to harm, then of course we're going to remove the anticipation to see whether or not harm can exist without anticipation. That's the only way to test the principle you're proposing. In other words, we're not creating analogies to your illustration, we're testing your illustration to see if your "anticipation" requirement is really necessary to harm.

I'm so glad you found the illustrations to be bizarre because that means you recognize that your moral principle fails.

If you're going to argue that anticipation is necessary to harm

No I'm not going to argue that way
Nor have I.
My point is elsewhere.

So, you have mischaracterized me again here.
And this is not the only mischaracterization in your latest.
(I will not take the time to list them all.)

I think I'm done.
I told you before that you are misreading.
This doesn't seem to be getting better.

I will try to bear it in mind that, perhaps, your mischaracterizations are rooted misunderstanding.
This is difficult - since you have been told repeatedly.
But I'll try.

You keep saying that, but you offer no correction or clarification, so that doesn’t help me correct the mistake. I’m happy to go back to the beginning, and you can explain where we've gone wrong. Perhaps you’ve misunderstood us, as well.

First, I posted this quote from Beckwith:

There are several problems with this argument. First, it confuses harm with hurt and the experience of harm with the reality of harm. One can be harmed without experiencing the hurt that sometimes follows from that harm, and which we often mistake for the harm itself. For example, a temporarily comatose person who is suffocated to death "experiences no harm," but he is nevertheless harmed. Hence, one does not have to experience harm, which is sometimes manifested in hurt, in order to be truly harmed.

1. His point is that objective harm occurs even when it’s not subjectively perceived, and he does this by offering the example of the comatose person. You responded to that claim with this:

For example, a temporarily comatose person who is suffocated to death "experiences no harm," ...

Wrong. There is the harm of knowing and fearing, prior to entering the coma, that this would be a possibility.

2. The point seemingly being that Beckwith has not offered a case analogous to abortion where there is no subjectively perceived harm. (That is, you don’t think Beckwith can prove his point with this analogy you perceive to be faulty.) You then talk about the wrongness of a policy of being able to kill people who experience no harm. You say that this is unacceptable because everyone experiences harm under such a policy because all would be terrorized under it, not knowing if they might be killed under it one day.

3. And here is the key. You say:

In this respect [a policy that terrorizes people in this way] is quite different from abortion - especially especially especially early abortion.

How is it different, according to you? It’s different because unborn children do not know they might be killed under the policy, therefore they don’t experience terror from it. Also, nobody else in the society thinks they might be killed by it (since they’re safely born), therefore nobody else is terrorized in this way by the policy. In other words, only in the case of abortion is there actually no perceived harm. And for this reason—because abortion involves no perceived harm in the population and killing a comatose person does cause perceived harm in the population—the wrongness of killing a comatose person can't be used to show the wrongness of killing an unborn child.

For you, the fact that the unborn child does not subjectively perceive harm is the detail that makes all the difference.

You emphasize this once again here:

There is GREAT harm experienced in policy 3. It's not experienced at the time of killing, but beforehand. This harm is A BIG reason people don't propose policy 3. THIS harm has no counterpart in a policy that allows early abortions.

You were offering your objection (to the analogy) as a counter-argument to Beckwith’s point that objective harm is real, even if not subjectively perceived. Your counter-argument (that our policies exist because of subjectively perceived harm) is used to argue against the idea that objective harm is sufficient (to prove real harm, leading to policies against that harm) by showing that there is no situation with born people where subjective harm doesn’t exist.

4. From this, I conclude that you’re disagreeing with Beckwith’s point, that you reject the idea that real objective harm is done in abortion for the reason that neither they (the human beings being aborted) nor we have a subjective experience of harm when abortion is allowed.

This is how you argue in a roundabout way that a subjective perception of harm is necessary for real harm to exist. That is the principle behind what you’re saying. (We tried to draw you out on this to clarify your position for sure, but you would never respond.)

5. Here’s the bottom line: You corrected Beckwith’s analogy by saying that we couldn’t learn from it because the analogy of a comatose person he offered did involve subjective harm. Since you didn’t think Beckwith could properly make his point with that analogy, we created new analogies to abortion that would more closely mimic the lack of subjective harm in abortions (that is, a situation that would involve no subjective harm to anyone) to see if you still objected to the idea of objective harm when your objections to the analogy were removed and the principle was made clear to you.

In other words, we were trying to clarify what principle you were arguing for by looking at hypothetical situations where there is absolutely no perceived harm either on the part of society or on the part of those killed. We did this to see if this was really what you believed, and also to examine whether or not this principle is true. I would still love it if you would answer the questions we asked you in order to determine this.

I think this is as clear as I can make the situation. Hopefully now you can see my train of thought through this conversation.

Yup, I'm done.


Can you at least tell me where I misunderstood you?

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