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Hi, this is my blog for all sorts of pro-life news, statistics, stories, and personal ventings. I am a wife and mother, as well as a nursing student. I I truly believe that abortion has failed women, and will continue to do so as long as it is legal.


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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reframing the Debate

I've given my thoughts on personhood, and though some may not find them sufficient, I defy anyone to more accurately and completely define "person".

In fact, I call on all my non-fetal-personhood readers to explain to me their qualifications for personhood.

In addition, I'd like to know why you believe the killing said "person" is wrong.

This is my blog, and I will not be bullied. If you want to keep open the lines of communication, answer my questions. If not, go away. It is ridiculous to debate when only one side is exposed for scrutiny.

Edit: For all my readers who have been respectful, this isn't intended as an ultimatum for you. I would love to hear your opinions, but you are welcome here even if you're not into "debate".

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22 Comments:

  • Lauren

    I’m assuming your comments are directed at me, since I’m basically the only person that’s responding to you on these issues. Nobody is bullying you. Reasonable people can disagree regarding matters of principle. If you can’t handle that basic tenet, then you are correct that we have no room to converse.

    Since you have thrown down the gauntlet, I’m happy to respond. Personhood, as a concept, has a very complicated history, and simply cannot be defined in the same form as “Water = H20.” That, of course, does not mean it is invalid.

    I would propose that one immediate criterion of personhood is recognition. That is, I recognize you as a person, and therefore intuitively place you in that category. For example, if I saw you walking down the street, even for only a minute, and without knowing a single thing about who you are, I would immediately categorize you as a person.

    Things are of course more complicated for an embryo, since it is not immediately recognizable as a person. This is evidenced by the brute fact that there is disagreement between groups of people regarding the status of the embryo, as well as different religious beliefs regarding the status of the embryo. However, there is no disagreement as to whether you (the person I saw on the street for a minute and know absolutely nothing about) are a person. Even most religions are relatively in agreement on that point.

    To be absolutely clear, I am not making an evaluative claim. I am not saying this is how things should be, only how the structure of human experience is organized. It has been organized differently in the past; therefore one can conclude that it will be organized differently in the future. So far, it has been difficult to have a meaningful conversation with you, largely because you do not separate your personal moral views from your critical capacities. In other words, you only see the world as you think it should be seen, and therefore anybody who sees the world different from you is wrong. I’m not asking you to change your personal moral views – I’m only trying to determine if you are able to be critical. Perhaps you consider this bullying; if so, feel free not to respond, and I will cease to post here.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:42 PM  

  • They "bullying" I'm refering to is the snide comments directed at me at Christina's blog.

    You accuse me of not seperating my "person morals" with "critical thinking" while the only thing you've managed to say is "Well if it looks like a person it is, if it not TOO BAD". You may not think that's what you're saying, but it is.

    You've effectively told me that your only qualification for personhood is based on superficial recognition. Apparently because that's what society thinks.

    That's flawed from the get go because of the very fact that most mothers recognize their unborn children as "people". Even pro-choice mothers, though they won't admit it.

    Go to an ultrasound room and see what the pregnant woman says. "Oh wow, that's my BABY, look at his nose it's just like daddies!"

    This isn't just in late term closer to term ultrasounds, this is evidenced at the first time a heartbeat is seen or heard at 6 weeks.

    Obviously a large part of society *does* recognize fetal personhood using only your paradigm of "recognizing that the child is a person".

    So, your definition of personhood is invalid even at its base.

    Also, I want to know why you feel that murder of any "person" is wrong.

    I am perfectly comfortable in a debate, but a debate is ridiculously biased if only one set of opions is known.

    Also, one more thing can you not see how unobjective you were being by not accepting my definition of personhood when you entered the debate with the pre-concieved notion that personhood could not be defined. Perhaps you are the one who is letting personal morals trump logical thought.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 7:32 AM  

  • Lauren

    I can appreciate your zeal, but you make several basic errors in your headlong assaults on my position.
    1. You state: “the only thing you've managed to say is "Well if it looks like a person it is, if it not TOO BAD". You may not think that's what you're saying, but it is.” This is known as reduction ad absurdum. That means you take something someone else has said and you completely distort its meaning to serve your own purposes. This is also known as a “rookie mistake.”
    2. Then you say: “You've effectively told me that your only qualification for personhood is based on superficial recognition.” This is wrong. Please re-read my post and you’ll see I use the qualifier “one” when I describe potential criteria. Using that qualifier indicates that there could be more. I know it’s subtle.
    3. Also, in your previous statement, you use the word “superficial” incorrectly. Recognition is immediate, not superficial. You are not understanding what this means. For example, you immediately recognize different objects – persons, dogs, plants, cars, etc., when you walk down the street. You may not know what breed of dog it is, or what year the car was made. You can determine these characteristics upon closer inspection. But the point is you must make immediate distinctions in the world.
    4. You are exactly right that making these distinctions does not confer any moral certainty, and that humans have made some grievous errors because of this. But the major problem for your position is how to reconcile the fact that different religious systems had different conceptions of the embryo over time, as well as right now. If personhood is indeed inherent as you claim, then the only conclusion you have is that some of these religions (e.g. Judaism) are not only wrong, but immoral when it come to this issue. Is that your position?
    5. You state: “Also, one more thing can you not see how unobjective you were being by not accepting my definition of personhood when you entered the debate with the pre-concieved notion that personhood could not be defined.” While I’m not sure exactly what you’re saying here, it is a basic norm that you don’t use the word “objective” as a rhetorical weapon. We are people, and as such we come from a perspective (see point 3). Objectivity, the way that you use the term, has to do with scientific rationality, and again, if you re-read my previous post, you can see that I not only anticipated your move but I explained why it is not appropriate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 AM  

  • Thom, you may have said "one" but because you offer no alternative definitions, we must take what you say at face value.

    What you call a "rookie mistake" I call "cutting the bullshit".

    As for "some religions think this, are they wrong". Yes, my position is that they are wrong. I don't buy into moral relatism nor that we're all right in our own way. I have the honesty (and I suppose audacity) to say that yes, I believe that they are wrong.

    If we look closely at both the TANAK and the New Testament a pattern of personhood emerges.

    "This is what the Lord says- He who made you, who formed you in the
    womb, and who will help you" --Isaiah 44:2

    "For You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my
    mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully
    made." --Psalm 139:13-14

    "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived
    me." --Psalm 51:5

    "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him." --Psalm
    127:3

    "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless...Rescue the weak and
    needy." --Psalm 82:3-4

    "Before I was born the Lord called me..." "And now the Lord says-He
    who formed me in the womb to be His servant..." --Isaiah 49:1,5

    "Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same
    One form us both within our mothers?" --Job 31:15 (NIV)

    So while reform Judaism may teach that the unborn are not "people" the Tanak clearly states otherwise.

    The only verse that in anyway negates this is "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall surely be punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges
    determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life..." -
    -Exodus 21:22-25, King James Version.

    From MKeaton:

    The "pay" in question is not, in fact, a simple fine. That would be 'shalam' (to make complete) such as is used in reference to payment for the lose of an ox or 'shaqual' (a fine or weighed price). The Hebrew writer instead uses the word 'nathan' (to give) a much broader term implying the potential for much higher stakes. Within the same scroll of the Torah, it has already been established that the judges may require 'nathan' repayment to any level including stoning. The key phrase in the passage is not the 'pay' but the mischief ('ason'). 'Ason' means injury and is of a wholly different meaning than verbs like 'ratsach'. This portion of the law is refering to accidental death, manslaughter or negligent homicide, rather than the deliberate termination of life. Most schools of rabbinical thought hold that the presence of this specific set of instructions placed here among other matters of life and death is intended to show just how significant the death of the unborn is--that it recieves special mention under the law. That is to say, rather than the dismissive sense of "killing the unborn is not as significant as killing the born" it suggests instead "this act is so tragic that there must be special and specific guidance in the case of an accident to prevent over-reaction." This is the seperation of manslaughter and murder.

    As far as general Jewish law, it is my understanding that abortion is "allowed" only when necessary to save the life of the mother, or when the fetus is seen as a "rodef" or a persuer after the life of the mother.

    I found this debate at www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org that seems to show the complexity of the issue:

    "The argument regarding whether a fetus is included in the prohibition of murder is complicated and fascinating.[14] Both positions garner support from two sides of the same page of the Talmud. Arachin 7a states that the court should strike the abdomen of a pregnant woman to cause a miscarriage prior to her execution.[15] The life of the fetus seems inconsequential in that discussion. On the other hand, Arachin 7b states that the Sabbath may be desecrated for the life of a fetus, something which may only be done to save a life, for pikuach nefesh. This apparent contradiction is dealt with at length in the responsic literature.

    But is the pre-embryo included in this prohibition? That question is best answered by evaluating the next possible Biblical source for abortion. When Noah and his family exited the ark, G-d commanded them seven laws, which apply to all of humanity. The usual translation of one of these laws is: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."[16] The Torah clearly demands capital punishment for murder. While this prohibition appears straightforward, there is a fascinating twist.

    The Talmud[17] attempts to prove that non-Jews, who are not obligated by most of the Torah's commandments given at Mount Sinai, are forbidden to perform abortions.[18] The Talmud brings the literal translation of the previously mentioned passage (with slightly altered punctuation), which is: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, within man, his blood shall be shed." It then asks: "What is the meaning of 'man within man'? This can be said to refer to a fetus in its mother's womb." This prohibition, as part of the Noachide laws, would apply to all people, Jew and non-Jew alike, although for technical reasons, the degree of severity would differ.[19] "

    ([14]
    For more extensive treatment of this debate, see Jewish Ethics and Halakhah For Our Time, Sources and Commentary, Vol. I, by Rabbi Basil F. Herring.

    [15]
    To spare her the embarrassment of bleeding during her execution.

    [16]
    Genesis 9:6

    [17]
    Sanhedrin 67b: "In the name of Rabbi Yishmael they said: A ben Noach [is liable] even for killing a fetus. What is the reasoning of Rabbi Yishmael? Because it is written [in Genesis 9:6]: 'Whoever sheds the blood of man by man [literally "in man"], his blood shall be shed'. What is the meaning of 'man in man'? This can be said to refer to a fetus in its mother's womb."

    [18]
    Since the Torah was given to the Jews at Mount Sinai, only they are bound by its commands. Nevertheless, all laws given to Noah, the father of all nations, are binding on non-Jews.

    [19]
    Tosofot, Chullin 33a, (d.h. "Echad oveid kochavim"), Tosofot, Sanhedrin 59a (d.h. "Layka") )

    *wooh*

    I got a bit off track with that, but my point is to show that biblically there is much that points to the personhood of a fetus.


    As far as using objectivity as an insult: Pleas, Thom. You accused me of letting my bias blind me and pointed out that you are doing the same. Let's be mature and admit that everyone enters a debate with bias and attempt to work through it.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 11:32 AM  

  • Lauren

    Your misreading of what I write is truly stunning. You write “you may have said "one" but because you offer no alternative definitions, we must take what you say at face value.” First of all, I was not offering a definition. Seriously, please read what I write because you completely misrepresent it. I wrote that one “criterion” is recognition – one criterion does not a complete definition make! I was leaving it relatively open to see if you would respond to one point at a time. I was trying to make things easy for you, but apparently not easy enough.

    Then you write: “What you call a "rookie mistake" I call "cutting the bullshit".” That’s wonderful, referring to my comments as bs. Very nice.

    Here’s my favorite: “I have the honesty (and I suppose audacity) to say that yes, I believe that they are wrong.” It’s neither. It’s called arrogance.

    Then you write: “As far as using objectivity as an insult: Pleas, Thom. You accused me of letting my bias blind me and pointed out that you are doing the same.” This does not make any sense. How does having a bias have anything to do with bad rhetoric? Two different issues, my friend.

    Since you like cutting and pasting quotes, here are some of my own:

    “Don’t look back, something might be catching up to you.”
    -Satchel Paige

    "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."
    -Yogi Berra

    “Boo-Boo, let’s get us some pic-a-nic baskets!”
    -Yogi the Bear

    “You are so mercifully free from the ravages of intelligence.”
    -Evil Genius (from Time Bandits)

    Really, you don’t have to respond any more. You have said quite enough.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:26 PM  

  • Thom I wasn't saying that your entire view was "bullshit" just that I was widdling down your arguement to it's base componant and getting rid of the superfulous fluff. Arguments are made mostly of said fluff and thereby refeared to as "bullshit".

    Your point was and is that recognition is a critera for personhood and that beings at prenatal stages in their development do not have this recognition. I pointed out that fetuses have very wide spead personified recognition. Perhaps your qualification is universal recognition?

    This is perplexing because there have been many times in history where intial recognition of "people" have differed from our currant recognition. You seem to conceed this. How then could this possibly be a usable critera.

    Not too long ago a black man would not be "recognized" as a person. Should this lack of recognition dehumanize him?

    It seems to me that, again, using recognition as even a critera for personhood is easily manipulated in order to deny rights.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 12:45 PM  

  • Also, Thom. If you believe in everything you belive nothing. If I created a religion worshiping Hitler as God and went on a genocidal rampage, you'd say that I was "wrong".

    Like it or not there is moral truth. Though I do not believe most religions to be dangerous(as the HitlerGod theology would obviously be) I believe they are wrong.

    If I did not believe this and spread this word, I would not be following Christ's direction that the ONLY way to the father was through Him. I care more about people than to give them false hope of redemption.

    I will save no one by telling them that God makes no critera for salvation. This is one area where the bible is VERY clear.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 12:52 PM  

  • Thom -
    Lets go back to your original point Thom. Im going to quote your original post exactly and respond to each point you made.

    "Lauren

    I’m assuming your comments are directed at me, since I’m basically the only person that’s responding to you on these issues. Nobody is bullying you. Reasonable people can disagree regarding matters of principle. If you can’t handle that basic tenet, then you are correct that we have no room to converse."

    Im sorry, maybe you do not consider the manner of respect, or rather lack thereof as bullying, but to quote cartoon characters in a snide response and calling someone a "rookie" are defintely not the actions of a level headed person with innocent intentions. You are being rude, and you know this.

    "Since you have thrown down the gauntlet, I’m happy to respond. Personhood, as a concept, has a very complicated history, and simply cannot be defined in the same form as “Water = H20.” That, of course, does not mean it is invalid."

    Your point here is that personhood is a complicated debate. I dont think this even needs to be mentioned, but since you did, I can agree that you are right, personhood IS complicated.

    "I would propose that one immediate criterion of personhood is recognition. That is, I recognize you as a person, and therefore intuitively place you in that category."

    Let me get this straight. You are stating that in order to have the classification of personhood, one of the tennants, and interestingly the only one you even bring up, is that some random stranger has to intuitively recognize me as such? So going back through history the various ethnic groups of various societies not recognized as persons were in fact NOT persons because they were not perceived as such, based on your definition.

    Ignoring the obvious social complications of basing personhood on visual recognition, lets adress the logical absurdity. You make the point that your recognition defines my status correct? What if you see me, and you immediately assume I am a plant, either because your view is obscured or you have some sort of mental issue? Does this intuitive recognition then assign me the rights of a plant? Of course not.

    "For example, if I saw you walking down the street, even for only a minute, and without knowing a single thing about who you are, I would immediately categorize you as a person."

    So, should you see a mindless remote controled robot that has the exact likeness of a human, and you would be fooled, even after a whole minute of observation into thinking the robot was a human, then that said robot would be a human? Clearly you can see how ridiculous your arguement is.

    "Things are of course more complicated for an embryo, since it is not immediately recognizable as a person."

    See its funny, but to me an embryo is immediately recognizable as a person without a shadow of a doubt, so therefore it is a human right? Or does this law of the universe only apply to you and your one minute evaluations of somethings personhood?

    "This is evidenced by the brute fact that there is disagreement between groups of people regarding the status of the embryo, as well as different religious beliefs regarding the status of the embryo. "
    Thomas Jefferson released a report, after weeks, as opposed to a single minute, of observation, that the African slaves were not persons. Does this prove that people of African descent were not and are not immediately recognizable as persons?

    "However, there is no disagreement as to whether you (the person I saw on the street for a minute and know absolutely nothing about) are a person. Even most religions are relatively in agreement on that point."

    But should a religion come out that says that all people except those with green socks on are not persons, it would be a different issue all together.

    "To be absolutely clear, I am not making an evaluative claim. I am not saying this is how things should be, only how the structure of human experience is organized."

    So essentially, what you are saying is that everything you just supplied as a definition for personhood is not actually something you believe. How is this a reponse to her "gauntlet" exactly? You have failed to supply even one arguement for personhood other than this absurd notion that personhood is defined by some dude who is walking down the street, something you now seem to claim you do not even neccesarily believe.

    "It has been organized differently in the past; therefore one can conclude that it will be organized differently in the future."

    Im sorry but I dont see the point in stating something as vague as this. What is the relevance of this , or even this entire post in the argument on personhood?

    "So far, it has been difficult to have a meaningful conversation with you, largely because you do not separate your personal moral views from your critical capacities. In other words, you only see the world as you think it should be seen, and therefore anybody who sees the world different from you is wrong. I’m not asking you to change your personal moral views – I’m only trying to determine if you are able to be critical. Perhaps you consider this bullying; if so, feel free not to respond, and I will cease to post here.

    Thom"

    Again, statements like these have no real use in debate. Personally this is the first post by you that I have read and from what I can gather is that I would have trouble having a meaningful conversation with you because this post has redundantly asserted something incredibly absurd that you dont even neccesarily believe.

    Feel free to respond to this post or others, but know that I will be quoting every post you make, breaking it down into portions and directly responding to each point. Next time you post on personhod, dont throw around a bunch of meaningless statements you do not even support. Just simply post "I believe personhood is defined by this and this and this point." Make it easier and list it in bulliten form if it helps you to remain focused. So far you havent supplied a single argument as to what defines personhood, and Im looking forward to what you have to say.

    Personally, like I commented earlier, find the issue incredibly complicated. I have trouble throwing down a simple definition, but find that the definitions I have been supplied with are flawed and that I reject them based on their premises. I typically learn by deconstructing flawed arguments, which is how I came around to the solution to fetal human rights versus the mother's right to bodily domain. So I am interested in what you have to say.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:21 PM  

  • Anon,

    I’m going to ignore your many personal attacks, even though you have just jumped into the middle of an on-going conversation. Perhaps I was a little dismissive to Lauren at times, but we have been going at this for a while. If you re-read her posts, she’s no angel either. Or perhaps you missed her apology.

    You bring up a large number of issues, and it’s best if they are dealt with one at a time. So here’s my first response to your claim:
    “You make the point that your recognition defines my status correct? What if you see me, and you immediately assume I am a plant, either because your view is obscured or you have some sort of mental issue? Does this intuitive recognition then assign me the rights of a plant? Of course not.”

    Recognition, as I am using it here, is not determined at the individual level. So perhaps you are misunderstanding me. Recognition is a social phenomenon – individuals will have different psychological responses of course, but these differences are always in response to some kind of underlying structure that makes events meaningful. Unfortunately your example does not hold water. If I tried to convince people that you were really a cabbage, I would be considered crazy. Therefore, the answer is no – my personal views on your identity do not determine your status. But again, that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the structures of recognition that must be in place prior to any perception to occur.

    Then you say: “So, should you see a mindless remote controled robot that has the exact likeness of a human, and you would be fooled, even after a whole minute of observation into thinking the robot was a human, then that said robot would be a human? Clearly you can see how ridiculous your arguement is.”

    No, although this scenario has been the subject of some very good literature and movies. For example, “Blade Runner” brought up this exact problem. The simple answer to your question is that I would have been fooled. However, after checking the robot, I could easily determine if it was human. However, that does not damage my argument in any way. While our immediate perceptions of objects are important, as I stated to Lauren they can be wrong at times. We are fallible creatures, yet this fact does not undermine the necessity of recognition in the slightest.

    Then you say: “Make it easier and list it in bulliten form if it helps you to remain focused.” Very bad form. Stop trying to goad me into calling you bad names. Here you go. Personhood is comprised of the following criteria:
    1. Recognition by others
    2. Capacity for autonomous decision making
    3. Volition that is future directed
    4. Perhaps some other things I’ve neglected

    BTW, what is your name?
    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:36 PM  

  • Thom, if I'm understanding you correctly, volition in any sense does not occur until well into childhood and future directed volition occurs at earliest in puberty.

    Infants lack basicc self awareness, let alone any concept of will.

    Is it your view then that children do not become people til puberty? Understand that we are talking about personhood in the most basic sense and not dealing in the realm of property or voting rights. Simply the humanity granted to children and the mentally handicapped.

    I believe we are in agreement about capacity, unless you're using a different definition.

    On recognition, I'd very much like for you to address the issues of dehumanization of various ethnic groups throughout history and how recognition was so obviously flawed in this respect.

    Visual recognition is by far the weakest qualification for personhood I've heard and if examined does nothing to deny the humanity of the unborn.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 7:26 PM  

  • "Anon,

    I’m going to ignore your many personal attacks, even though you have just jumped into the middle of an on-going conversation. Perhaps I was a little dismissive to Lauren at times, but we have been going at this for a while. If you re-read her posts, she’s no angel either. Or perhaps you missed her apology."


    Thats fine, but I never did claim that she was perfect. However if she is admiting her mistakes I think it prudent that you admit you are at the least being rude. But thats neither here nor there.

    "You bring up a large number of issues, and it’s best if they are dealt with one at a time. So here’s my first response to your claim:

    Recognition, as I am using it here, is not determined at the individual level. So perhaps you are misunderstanding me."


    To quote you exactly again -

    "That is, I recognize you as a person, and therefore intuitively place you in that category. "

    You neglected to explain that by "I" and by "you" you meant society etc. If I did misunderstand you, and you are not back peddling, then I think you can see how easily that happened.

    Recognition is a social phenomenon – individuals will have different psychological responses of course, but these differences are always in response to some kind of underlying structure that makes events meaningful. Unfortunately your example does not hold water. If I tried to convince people that you were really a cabbage, I would be considered crazy. Therefore, the answer is no – my personal views on your identity do not determine your status. But again, that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the structures of recognition that must be in place prior to any perception to occur.

    It was the perception of society at one time that the world was flat. It was immediately clear to a vast majority of the population. Did this in fact determine the state of the world as flat? So why should the current common perception of society hold true across all time. If I lived in a society that squashed the rights of african-americans it would not justify those actions nor would it allow me to partake in those actions without being held responsible morally.

    To go another step further, where draw the line on society's collective "recognition?" Do we say, I dunno 99.99999% of society does not view me as a plant, therefore I am not a plant. What if its only 99%? 98%? What if 49% of the population viewed me as a plant? There is no qualitative difference between any of those portions of society, only quantitative. In essence then, there is no philosophical difference between one insane man claiming Im a plant over the rest of the entire world claiming Im a person.

    Then you say: “....”

    No, although this scenario has been the subject of some very good literature and movies. For example, “Blade Runner” brought up this exact problem.


    First of all...Blade Runner was absolutely NOT about mindless remote controlled robots being mistaken as humans on the street. It was about genetically desiegned robots that developed the capacity for self awareness and emotion and the complexities following. And even then, that is only the superficial interpetation. The movie was less about "DUDE what if robots were people?!" and more about examining the human condition involving our struggle for more life, delving into our complex relationship with God and the limitations we have to develop lasting human connections etc etc.

    "The simple answer to your question is that I would have been fooled. However, after checking the robot, I could easily determine if it was human."

    Have you even seen Blade Runner? I somehow imagine you veiwing a person through the little lens and then just saying "well, this is obviously a robot duh."

    However, that does not damage my argument in any way. While our immediate perceptions of objects are important, as I stated to Lauren they can be wrong at times. We are fallible creatures, yet this fact does not undermine the necessity of recognition in the slightest."

    Sure its a neccesary thing in the sense that you need to recognize your surrounding to get around and survive etc, but it it completely undermines the relevance of recognition in the realm of personhood. In all honesty I never imagined Id actually be arguing that personhood is not derived by individual, or as you now claim, society's recognition.

    Its a completely flawed and absurd notion. I mean, what if I was a mindless robot and there was no method for you or anyone else to become aware of this. You and society could never recognize me as anything other than a person. However I am not a person. Do you see how this makes no sense?

    To sum up, the argument that personhood is defined by societal recognition is flawed because -

    1. There is no clear distinction as to what constitutes "society." IE one person holds as much qualitative weight as everyone else, so all perceptions of reality would be true, which is a clear contradiction.

    2. Clear moral sins have been commited in the past justified by societal recognition.

    3. Even in cases where 100% of society believed one thing, they were wrong and failed to alter reality based on recognition.

    4. In a situation where 100% of society would be unable to correctly identify something's quality, the quality does not change. IE If I were not a person but no one was capable of deriving this information, I would still not be a person.

    Then you say: “...." Very bad form. Stop trying to goad me into calling you bad names. Here you go. Personhood is comprised of the following criteria:
    1. Recognition by others


    Already been adressed above, of course.

    2. Capacity for autonomous decision making

    "au·ton·o·mous (ô-tn-ms)
    adj.
    1. Not controlled by others or by outside forces; independent: an autonomous judiciary; an autonomous division of a corporate conglomerate.
    2. Independent in mind or judgment; self-directed.
    "

    Every living creature makes decisions autonomously. Do you mean self awareness or something?

    3. Volition that is future directed

    Young children do not have this capability, so do you assert that young children from fetus on till 7-10 years old are not persons and are therefore subject to termination based on various reasonings?
    What about the mentally disabled, such as indiiduals with Down Syndrome? The senile? None of these people are capable of future driven volition.

    4. Perhaps some other things I’ve neglected

    I hope that you have other criteria, because based on your assertions, if a being is to meet all of these to be considered a person, only 7 year olds and up, that are not sleeping, or in a coma and are also not mentally handicapped, have future driven amnesia, and are not senile would make the cut. If a being only needs to meet one criterion, than every living animal, and even some remote controled, very life-like robots, would be considered persons.

    Hopefully

    BTW, what is your name?
    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 AM  

  • You state: “It was the perception of society at one time that the world was flat. It was immediately clear to a vast majority of the population. Did this in fact determine the state of the world as flat?” You’re confusing two different arguments. One of which is traditionally called debates over realism (or anti-realism.) While I do find that stuff interesting, it has nothing to do with our disagreement over personhood.
    Concepts, like personhood, do not determine the world. They are more like heuristics that help us to do things (this has to do with a distinction between epistemology and ontology that you also seem to mix up.) The world is a whole ‘nutha thing.

    Again I’m not sure that you’re understanding what I’m arguing. Since you like bullet points:

    1. There is no clear distinction as to what constitutes "society." IE one person holds as much qualitative weight as everyone else, so all perceptions of reality would be true, which is a clear contradiction.

    You seem to think that I’m arguing that something called “society” makes us think things. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you go back and re-read my post, you’ll see that I never mention “society.” I said recognition is a “social phenomenon.” You then turned it into “society makes us think things.” That’s incorrect – by social phenomenon, I mean it is intersubjective. It requires more than one person. I know it’s a subtle distinction, but it ends up being important.

    2. Clear moral sins have been commited in the past justified by societal recognition.

    Sure, but that does not damage my argument. Unless you think there will be a time when humans will commit no more moral sins. Also your use of the word “justification” betrays your misunderstanding. I’m not talking about the retrospective evaluation of an act. I’m talking about the possibility of action as meaningful. In other words, recognition is prior to justification.

    3. Even in cases where 100% of society believed one thing, they were wrong and failed to alter reality based on recognition.

    See above re: realism

    4. In a situation where 100% of society would be unable to correctly identify something's quality, the quality does not change. IE If I were not a person but no one was capable of deriving this information, I would still not be a person.

    I think you’re confusing ontology with epistemology. That is, what a thing is vs. what we know about the thing. Personhood is a concept, and is an epistemological concept. I think it’s fine to be a nominalist when it comes to personhood – as I’ve stated, perhaps someday embryos will be considered persons by 100% of humanity.

    The Real Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 AM  

  • Forgot about these comments:

    “Every living creature makes decisions autonomously.” So plants make decisions?

    “What about the mentally disabled, such as indiiduals with Down Syndrome? The senile? None of these people are capable of future driven volition.” Not only is that absolutely wrong, it’s demeaning to these individuals. You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel with that comment.

    T

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:29 PM  

  • You state: “...." You’re confusing two different arguments. One of which is traditionally called debates over realism (or anti-realism.) While I do find that stuff interesting, it has nothing to do with our disagreement over personhood.
    Concepts, like personhood, do not determine the world. They are more like heuristics that help us to do things (this has to do with a distinction between epistemology and ontology that you also seem to mix up.) The world is a whole ‘nutha thing.


    If premises are constant, than so are also the truths. There is no difference between observing that the world is flat and observing that if A implies B and B implies C, than A implies C. Even if A and B and C are concepts. If we agree that A implies B and that B implies C, but agrue that A does not imply C, we have a problem. At times, society has argued that A did not imply C, and that is the point I believe we are at right now.

    I did not say personhood determined the world, but that societal recognition did not determine the state of the world anymore than it can determine the state of a derivitive from identical premises.

    Again I’m not sure that you’re understanding what I’m arguing. Since you like bullet points:

    You seem to think that I’m arguing that something called “society” makes us think things. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you go back and re-read my post, you’ll see that I never mention “society.” I said recognition is a “social phenomenon.” You then turned it into “society makes us think things.” That’s incorrect – by social phenomenon, I mean it is intersubjective. It requires more than one person. I know it’s a subtle distinction, but it ends up being important.


    To quote you - "Recognition is a social phenomenon"

    "so·cial (sō'shəl)
    adj.

    1. Living together in communities.
    2. Of or relating to communal living.
    3. Of or relating to human society and its modes of organization: social classes; social problems; a social issue."

    Again, Im sorry if I "misunderstood" you, but the phrase social phenomenon means an observable event pertaining to that of society. Maybe English is a second language for you, so I understand that you have said something twice now and meant something else. At first it was I and you, and by that you meant social phenomenon, and then by that you meant intersubjectivity.

    You claimed that I said society makes us think things, which you quoted. I never said, nor implied this in any way. However, I will make it clear for you that what I originally said and what I am saying now. I said that the things society thinks do not change what those things are. Please do not put words into my mouth.

    Anyways, Intersubjectivity cannot define a derivitive from constant premises. Intersubjectivity is a social phenomenon in the most literal sense. It is the observance of reality by a collective group of persons. It cannot be the definition of a derivitive because by its nature it is observant. Intersubjectivity is observing the premises and its derivitives. A simple one would be that if society did say that a fetus was a person, and that a fetus did have the right to infringe on its mothers bodily domain, that same society should then come to the conclusion that abortion is immoral. It wouldnt matter if the collective observation was that abortion is okay in spite of these premises. A group of people can be misinformed, not know the premises, or illogical and incapable of making the proper derivations. It doesnt change what the derivitive is.


    2....

    Sure, but that does not damage my argument. Unless you think there will be a time when humans will commit no more moral sins.


    No it does damage your argument. The intersubjective observance was something that in actuality was in opposition to the moral truth.

    The relevance of future sins has nothing to do with my point. Im not sure what you are even trying to say by "that does not damage my argument. Unless you think there will be a time when humans will commit no more moral sins." My point and what I said was that the failure for a collective interpetation of morality to define actual moral truths has been clearly demonstrated in various societies across the world and across history.

    Also your use of the word “justification” betrays your misunderstanding. I’m not talking about the retrospective evaluation of an act. I’m talking about the possibility of action as meaningful. In other words, recognition is prior to justification.

    Sure recognition is prior to justification, but it doesnt dispute the assertion that recognition can be flawed and that it is a passive observance of existing derivitives based on constant premises, and is incapable of establishing derivitives that do not logically follow the premises.


    3. ....

    See above re: realism


    Again, if the premises remain constant, the derivitives are as solid as scientific foundations.

    4. ....

    I think you’re confusing ontology with epistemology. That is, what a thing is vs. what we know about the thing. Personhood is a concept, and is an epistemological concept. I think it’s fine to be a nominalist when it comes to personhood – as I’ve stated, perhaps someday embryos will be considered persons by 100% of humanity.


    What is the relevance of making that distinction? You cant just make a claim that I am confusing two subtley different schools of philosophy and then leave the argument.

    My point was that what we know about a thing does not alter what a thing is. Personhood is a state. It is what something is. I dont care what we know about it or what we think about it, a being has personhood or not. We may come to find out that after all these years, plants have personhood, but due to our ignorance we treated them immorally. Our flawed observance did not change its state.

    So far this is the only atance youve defended, as you obviously ignored my other responses. So essentially what you want me to believe is that a being only has personhood because a group of people identified it as such. Under which basis did these people indentify the being as a person? Did they base their decision off the fact that other people observed it as a person therefore making it a person so that they then observed it as a person? Where did those people they made their basis off derive that the being was a person? Its a ridiculously redundant loop. In order for your theory that recognition decides quality to even exist, there has to be a reasoning behind the original recognition. Frankly its absolutely absurd.

    On another note, I am upset that you seem to just ignore my other arguments and responses to you. It seems that you pick and choose what to argue. I would like it if you would give me a response to your other points in the previous post. If need be I can just add them on to my next post. You can leave the Blade Runner part out if youd like, although I am honestly curious if you ever did see the movie.

    To sum up, intersubjectivity is a social phenomenon only capable of passive observance. My internal states exist regardless of group interpetation. If the moral premises stay constant, than so must all derivitives, again, regardless of how multiple people immediately recognize these said derivitives.

    I guess the best way to say it is that its not "society makes us think things" but that the "things society thinks [does not] make us."

    Now if Im again misunderstanding you, it would be helpful if instead of throwing buzzwords around hilly nilly, give me a little background as to the exact contextual meaning you have for each word. Multiple words and phrases have multiple implications depending on the cirumstance. Im sure youll come back with another meaning and purpose for "intersubjectivity," the buzz word of the day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:13 PM  

  • My bad, by creature, I intended animals. I could have sworn I made that distinction.

    Regardless, every living animal has the capacity for decision making.

    Many forms of mental issues inhibit the individual from making future volition, and from personal observation, neither are those with severe senality. This also goes for children.

    Unless you have a really loose defintion, in which case, more than likely many animals are again capable of achieving this.

    Placate me, how strictly do you define "future volition?"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:18 PM  

  • As a reminder:

    Respect is mutually expected. I do not think I need to point out places where disprespect has been shown, we're all grown ups here.

    By Blogger Lauren, at 6:29 AM  

  • My anonymous friend

    I’m going to give it one last shot here, although it’s become clear to me that you do not want to debate the issue. Rather, you want this to be some kind of forum for you to take cheap shots. So far my two favorites are:
    “Maybe English is a second language for you” Insulting non-English speakers, very classy.
    “it would be helpful if instead of throwing buzzwords around hilly nilly” Intersubjectivity and epistemology are “buzzwords?” I use them “hilly nilly?” Attacking the vocabulary of your opponent is not exactly the best way to establish your position in a debate.

    You also say: “I am upset that you seem to just ignore my other arguments and responses to you.” Have you looked at the length of your responses? And the large number of different issues that you raise? I’m not saying that’s bad, just that I’m trying to give each part of your argument thoughtful replies. So I’m actually not ignoring you.

    So I’ll just take your first paragraph, which I’m not sure I understand: “If premises are constant, than so are also the truths.” I think you are referring to deductive reasoning here, but the better way to state it is: “If the premises are true, then so must be the conclusion.” I don’t know why you included the word “constant.”

    Your next sentence: “There is no difference between observing that the world is flat and observing that if A implies B and B implies C, than A implies C.” I think by this A implies B, etc., you are referring to the law of transitivity. This law is derived from algebra, and is a formal property of a set of statements that claim some resemblance, for example. What I don’t get is what this law has to do with people making errors in perception and judgment? They are two different arguments, unless you believe that concepts determine the world.

    So here’s my last attempt to explain recognition: think of it as analogous to language. The English language is a system, made up of bits (like words and phrases) that work together by a set of rules (grammar and syntax) to produce a (fairly) coherent whole. You use this system every time you speak to another English speaker. Do you make up English from scratch every time you meet someone? No, you use a pre-existing structure to make sense of the world (whatever that might be), and exchange meanings with the other speaker (BTW, this is what I mean by intersubjectivity). English existed before you did, and will continue on after you die. In a sense, it is outside of you as an individual.

    You can think of recognition as a structure like language. That is, individuals use it, but they don’t make it up from scratch every time they see something. You use a structure of recognition to make sense of objects that you come across in your daily life. In other words, if you lacked the capacity for recognition, the world would simply be an unintelligible cacophony of things without any relation. Just like language can change over time (e.g. slang), so can recognition. My argument is that we are at a moment where the category of person is being extended to cover objects (embryos) that have historically not been considered persons. This is leading to considerable friction between groups of people.

    OK, now I’m starting to get long winded.
    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 AM  

  • To address your subsequent comments:

    “Regardless, every living animal has the capacity for decision making.” No, you don’t mean animals either. You mean vertebrates, unless you think sponges and scallops make decisions. But I don’t think you mean vertebrates either – perhaps only mammals. I’m not convinced that reptiles make anything that could be called a “decision.” They seem pretty much driven by instinct alone.

    “Many forms of mental issues inhibit the individual from making future volition, and from personal observation, neither are those with severe senality. This also goes for children.” I would again urge you not to go down this road. It will only undermine your position – take this as a friendly gesture. Comparing individuals with mental deficits and children is a very bad argument.

    “Unless you have a really loose defintion, in which case, more than likely many animals are again capable of achieving this.” Again “future volition” does not apply to all instances of the class called “animals.” It is restricted to mammals, and perhaps other nearby taxonomic classes.

    “Placate me, how strictly do you define "future volition?"” The capacity to understand that a current act will have an effect on a future state. The horizon of understanding can extend from seconds (in which case it covers infant humans) to years (i.e. adult humans). But, as you might have guessed, some other mammals might possess this quality as well.

    T

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:42 AM  

  • My anonymous friend

    I’m going to give it one last shot here, although it’s become clear to me that you do not want to debate the issue. Rather, you want this to be some kind of forum for you to take cheap shots. So far my two favorites are:
    “Maybe English is a second language for you” Insulting non-English speakers, very classy.


    Im not insulting people who speak Enlgish as a second language, Im just trying to figure how you made two comments now and meant something other than what you said. Especially how you make the claim that something that is "social" as in your exact phrase "social phenomenon" is not something to do with society, when the modifier "social" means "pertaining to society."

    “it would be helpful if instead of throwing buzzwords around hilly nilly” Intersubjectivity and epistemology are “buzzwords?” I use them “hilly nilly?” Attacking the vocabulary of your opponent is not exactly the best way to establish your position in a debate.

    Im not attacking your vocabulary, just the manner in which you toss out a word or phrase without clarification, such as "social phenomenon" and "volition," then come back and claim I misunderstood you.

    You also say: “I am upset that you seem to just ignore my other arguments and responses to you.” Have you looked at the length of your responses?

    I responded to every word you have put out, I would think that if you have the time to post, you could take the extra few minutes to respond to all of my objections as opposed to just a handful. It gives me the impression that you have no response to the other things that I say, and that you just want to zone in on what you feel you can dispute.

    And the large number of different issues that you raise?

    The large number of different issues "I raised" that were ignored were partly responses to your definitions of personhood and various other points you in actuality raised.

    I’m not saying that’s bad, just that I’m trying to give each part of your argument thoughtful replies. So I’m actually not ignoring you.

    No, you have had several days now to respond to some of the issues I raised and to the points of yours that I refuted. You still have not responded to many of them. It has nothing to do with thoughtfulness, otherwise you would have made many posts following the one you made, carefully adressing everything I said.

    So I’ll just take your first paragraph, which I’m not sure I understand: “....” I think you are referring to deductive reasoning here, but the better way to state it is: “If the premises are true, then so must be the conclusion.” I don’t know why you included the word “constant.”

    What I mean by constant premises, is that the premises remain constant throughout time. For example, the thought that murder is wrong has been laregly a constant moral premise, in both the sense that we both believe this premise and in the sense that society for ages have also believed this premise. If we believe identical premises, then we must also believe in identical conclusions. So that even though society at one time enslaved other human beings, the fact that they believed in the same moral premises shows that their actions were mistaken. They should have been able to come to the same conclusions.

    The relevance of this point is that regardless of societal recognition, if moral premises remain constant from person to person and from society to society, the conclusions must also remain constant.

    Your next sentence: “There is no difference between observing that the world is flat and observing that if A implies B and B implies C, than A implies C.” I think by this A implies B, etc., you are referring to the law of transitivity. This law is derived from algebra, and is a formal property of a set of statements that claim some resemblance, for example. What I don’t get is what this law has to do with people making errors in perception and judgment? They are two different arguments, unless you believe that concepts determine the world.

    It is relevant to the argument because you are trying to establish that the idea of personhood is based only on intersubjectivity, something that does not apply to deductive reasoning. It doesnt matter how a group of people inherently classify another group of people if it flies in opposition to the moral deduction.

    If we believe A is true, and we believe if A is true it implies B, and that if B is true it implies C, then we can say that if A is true, it must also imply C. It doesnt matter if we believe C is false. If we believe the other premises, our recognition is flawed.


    So here’s my last attempt to explain recognition: think of it as analogous to language. The English language is a system, made up of bits (like words and phrases) that work together by a set of rules (grammar and syntax) to produce a (fairly) coherent whole. You use this system every time you speak to another English speaker. Do you make up English from scratch every time you meet someone? No, you use a pre-existing structure to make sense of the world (whatever that might be), and exchange meanings with the other speaker (BTW, this is what I mean by intersubjectivity). English existed before you did, and will continue on after you die. In a sense, it is outside of you as an individual.

    You can think of recognition as a structure like language. That is, individuals use it, but they don’t make it up from scratch every time they see something. You use a structure of recognition to make sense of objects that you come across in your daily life. In other words, if you lacked the capacity for recognition, the world would simply be an unintelligible cacophony of things without any relation. Just like language can change over time (e.g. slang), so can recognition. My argument is that we are at a moment where the category of person is being extended to cover objects (embryos) that have historically not been considered persons. This is leading to considerable friction between groups of people.


    I understand that you are trying to take the phenomenon of language and apply it to how rights are applied to various beings. The problem with this is that you are listing how we recgonize an induvidual as a criterion for what that individual is.

    Language itself, as well as various other things such as asthetics, are by their very nature comprised of intersubjectivity. Words have no meaning if they cannot be related to other people or to yourself. This I agree with and understand. I understand the concept of intersubjectivity in many social settings. However, the intersubjectivity has to do with the premises we all agree on and share. We share the premise that a person has the right to not be murdered. We share the premise that adult human beings with perfect mental clarity etc are persons. Therefore, based on our shared assumptions, we must also agree that murdering a human being is wrong. It would not matter what society shared as a belief if they believed those first two premises.

    I cannot believe it is wrong to murder a person and that humans are persons and also believe that I can murder a human. Intersubjectivity does not distort logical conclusions.


    OK, now I’m starting to get long winded.
    Thom


    I can agree that our very very base moral premises are derived from intersubjectivity, although I personally believe they are derived from our soul. However, you cannot make the claim that a derivation as complex as "personhood" is a base moral premise. If I can break down the criteria on what personhood entails, Ive broken it down into a series of less complex premises. Therefore, these premises are what we have to examine and apply to various other non-persons to see if they are indeed persons based on logical conclusions.

    o address your subsequent comments:

    “....” No, you don’t mean animals either. You mean vertebrates, unless you think sponges and scallops make decisions. But I don’t think you mean vertebrates either – perhaps only mammals. I’m not convinced that reptiles make anything that could be called a “decision.” They seem pretty much driven by instinct alone.


    Although we could debate if various other vertebrates and nonvertebrates do indeed make decisions, and debate what exactly constitutes a decision etc, you see my point that your criteria extends personhood to a large group of beings that we know are not persons.

    “....” I would again urge you not to go down this road. It will only undermine your position – take this as a friendly gesture. Comparing individuals with mental deficits and children is a very bad argument.

    Im not comparing them, I am grouping them into a similar catagory as well as those in vegetable states and the senile, being incapable of true future orientated volition. This comes largely from experience, as well as scientific data.

    As a disclaimer, I only feel that some mental disorders truly limit future driven volition.

    “....” Again “future volition” does not apply to all instances of the class called “animals.” It is restricted to mammals, and perhaps other nearby taxonomic classes.

    So these creatures are persons as well then?

    “....” The capacity to understand that a current act will have an effect on a future state. The horizon of understanding can extend from seconds (in which case it covers infant humans) to years (i.e. adult humans). But, as you might have guessed, some other mammals might possess this quality as well.

    Infants are incapable of recognizing that they even have a state. They are not self aware untill an average of 18 months. This also again applies to various mental disorders. Now, if the term "future state" really just means something that will happen in the future, regardless of selfawareness, then every decision is future driven volition. If my son decides to grab the pencil, then he has made a future driven decision to soon be holding a pencil. This would of course extend rights to every mammal, and in my opinion, every animal with a functioning brain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 PM  

  • Is it just me, or does every definition of personhood put forward other than "a person is a human being" leave us with one of two ideas:

    Some nonhuman beings, such as other mammals, are persons;

    or,
    Some humans, such as individuals with certain problems, children of certain ages, and sometimes individuals in certain states of conciousness, are not persons.

    No one has proposed anything remotely like the law in countries where abortion is legal, which has extended personhood--in the form of the right not to be killed or abused and citizenship for those born in this country or of certain parentage--only to born, living humans (at most). In some cases, these can be removed also from the very old, the terminally ill, the disabled, or the very young. They can also sometimes be removed when an individual requests they be removed.

    In general, those seeking to define personhood more broadly or narrowly than "all human beings" are trying to extend more of these rights to animals--presumably not the case here--or to remove rights from certain human beings, usually those same vulnerable classes that are being attacked now, or sometimes those of certain beliefs or ancestries.

    Those who wish to limit personhood to only some members of the human race must make convoluted and imprecise definitions which often still extend personhood to some nonhumans. Perhaps this is in hopes of avoiding the real question--when does a given individual become human? Some--such as the oft-maligned Peter Singer--have the honesty to say that this is not easy to say and that there is nothing magical about birth which conveys rights. After all, the rights of individuals born with serious disabilities, in certain places (such as abortion clinics), or at a very young age are often tenuous. Others argue that an individual becomes human at some point prior to birth. This argument has the disadvantage of denying rights to some preemies (usually) and arguing that some abortions are immoral.

    Any of these approaches has another problem--the "day before" problem. If a person becomes human at twenty weeks of gestation, what is he or she at nineteen weeks and six days? Certainly it seems strange to say that it is morally acceptable to kill that child today, but not tomorrow. When is the precise point of transition? If the child is human at thirty weeks, what if a baby is born at 31 weeks with the development of a 28-week-old baby? (Isn't it interesting, by the way, that no one calls preemies "fetuses"?)

    Most (except perhaps Charles Provan and others of the same school of thought) agree that neither an egg cell nor a sperm cell is human; most would say that a five-year-old is. In fact, most would say that an infant born at normal gestation is human, unless they consider him or her "defective."

    The question of when a given individual becomes human is really the crux of the matter if the issue is abortion.

    My question to Thom would be--when does a person become human? If you want to give some behavioral or intellectual criteria, how could it be tested or quantified, especially before birth? If this quality cannot be tested, then we must give the benefit of the doubt to any human being, and it is also a useless intellectual exercise to have defined it.
    Also, what is a child before he or she becomes human? Does he or she have any rights, and what are they? (Even animals have some rights in most countries, although the right to life is not generally among them.)

    -Young Christian Woman

    By Blogger Young Christian Woman, at 1:15 AM  

  • My two dear interlocuters

    I’ll try to talk with both of you at once.
    “Especially how you make the claim that something that is "social" as in your exact phrase "social phenomenon" is not something to do with society, when the modifier "social" means "pertaining to society."” Here it is as simply as possible: “society” is a noun. “Social” is an adjective. You’re right, they share a common root, but my usage indicates that they have different meanings in my argument. I’m hoping we can move on from this quibble.

    “No, you have had several days now to respond to some of the issues I raised and to the points of yours that I refuted. You still have not responded to many of them.” You’re right, I should drop all my other work and respond to a complete stranger who won’t even sign his name to his statements. Give me a break.

    “It has nothing to do with thoughtfulness, otherwise you would have made many posts following the one you made, carefully adressing everything I said.” You are really disagreeable, and have very little aplomb.

    “For example, the thought that murder is wrong has been laregly a constant moral premise, in both the sense that we both believe this premise and in the sense that society for ages have also believed this premise.” You’re wrong here. The belief “murder is wrong” is not a premise; it is a conclusion. Why? Because the statement “murder is wrong” begs the question of why. Why is murder wrong? There are many reasons, depending on whether you approach the question from moral philosophy, jurisprudence, or theological perspectives. Therefore “murder is wrong” is neither a premise, nor is it constant in any substantive sense.

    “So that even though society at one time enslaved other human beings, the fact that they believed in the same moral premises shows that their actions were mistaken. They should have been able to come to the same conclusions.” But they didn’t! You can’t go back and revise history according to your personal beliefs.

    “The relevance of this point is that regardless of societal recognition, if moral premises remain constant from person to person and from society to society, the conclusions must also remain constant.” But what you refer to as “moral constants” are not constant – this is historically obvious. If you don’t believe me, just read any history of medicine regarding informed consent. You’ll find widely different conceptions of how to treat patients with experimental therapies, for example.

    “It is relevant to the argument because you are trying to establish that the idea of personhood is based only on intersubjectivity, something that does not apply to deductive reasoning.” Reductio ad absurdum. Go back and re-read my post: recognition is one element, not a complete definition.

    “I can agree that our very very base moral premises are derived from intersubjectivity, although I personally believe they are derived from our soul.” Finally! Was that so difficult? You believe that humans have a soul, and this marks them as special. I’m also assuming you believe the soul enters the embryo at the time of syngamy, or following the emergence of the embryonic genome. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    “So these creatures are persons as well then?” I would say no, but some people make convincing arguments, especially around primates. But this is a different argument.

    Your bellicose and combative approach is wearing thin, and if it doesn’t change I will stop replying. Just a head’s up.

    YCW –

    “My question to Thom would be--when does a person become human?” That depends on how you’re using the word “human.” If you mean it in the scientific sense, of having the substantive characteristics of homo sapiens, then it seems obvious that the embryo would be classified as human.

    However, I think you mean human as in having “human rights.” Rights are social conventions; for example, one important recent text on this matter is John Rawls “Theory of Justice.” I think you will disagree with that notion, but I’ll let you respond.

    “Also, what is a child before he or she becomes human? Does he or she have any rights, and what are they?” Since I think the embryo is human, what you really mean is “what is a child before he or she becomes a person?” Rather than starting at syngamy, I propose we start post-uterine implantation, generally 2 weeks post-conception. Again, I predict you will not agree with this proposal, but lets hear you out.

    Thom

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:54 PM  

  • Thom said:
    "That depends on how you’re using the word “human.” If you mean it in the scientific sense, of having the substantive characteristics of homo sapiens, then it seems obvious that the embryo would be classified as human."

    Yes. Okay, then, what I meant is when does he or she become a person?

    Thom said:
    "However, I think you mean human as in having 'human rights.' Rights are social conventions; for example, one important recent text on this matter is John Rawls 'Theory of Justice.' I think you will disagree with that notion, but I’ll let you respond."

    Okay; we can say that rights are granted by social convention and/or law. In this case, the question is not what rights they have, but what rights they should have. What rights, if any, should an embryo have, in your opinion?

    Thom said:
    "Since I think the embryo is human, what you really mean is 'what is a child before he or she becomes a person?' Rather than starting at syngamy, I propose we start post-uterine implantation, generally 2 weeks post-conception. Again, I predict you will not agree with this proposal, but lets hear you out."

    I assume from your context that syngamy means fertilization? What are you starting post-implantation? The granting of some or most human rights? Personhood? I am guessing that you agree that a zygote is human, scientifically, from your earlier comments, so what do you mean by this?

    -YCW

    By Blogger Young Christian Woman, at 7:19 AM  

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