Chapter 8 : Abortion

Reading:  Don Marquis: Why Abortion is Immoral

Outline by  Don Berkich,  University of Texas, Corpus Christi (by permission)

Synopsis:

It turns out that it is possible to argue, even if the fetus is not a person, that abortion is morally impermissible. This is Marquis' argument, which is the argument we considered today.


 

According to Marquis, abortion is seriously morally wrong because it is an act of killing a being with a right to life and killing a being with a right to life is seriously morally wrong because it robs such a being of its future--a future, in particular, of great value like ours. Marquis presents reasons for thinking that his account of the wrongfulness of killing is superior to any other account.

It seems, though, that there are reasons to reject Marquis' account of wrongfulness of killing. In particular, anything which is potentially a person has a future of great value like ours. This is not especially problematic until one recalls Warren's Space Explorer Thought Experiment.

Reliable cloning procedures ensure that nearly every cell in my body is a being having a future of great value like mine. But then it follows that every time I intentionally kill cells, I am depriving these cells of their (possible) future of great value. Surely the absurdity of this implication shows that something is amiss in Marquis' argument.

1

If X has a future like ours of great value and killing X deprives X of that future, then killing X is morally wrong.
 

 

2

A fetus has a future like ours of great value and killing the fetus deprives the fetus of that future.
 

Therefore

3

Killing a fetus is morally wrong.

1&2


 

4

Abortion is killing a fetus.
 

Therefore

5

Abortion is morally wrong.

3&4



 


 

1

Killing X is morally wrong because X has a future like ours of great value and killing X deprives X of that future.
 

 

2

IF [Killing X is morally wrong because X has a future like ours of great value and killing X deprives X of that future.] THEN [If X has a future of great value and killing X deprives X of that future, then killing X is morally wrong.]
 

Therefore

3

If X has a future like ours of great value and killing X deprives X of that future, then killing X is morally wrong.

1&2

Reasons for thinking that FT, the thesis that killing X is morally wrong because X has a future like ours of great value and killing X deprives X of that future, is true:

1. FT explains why death is avoided and considered a great evil.
2. FT allows that it may be wrong to kill beings other than humans.
3. FT allows for Active Euthanasia in cases where no future worth living can be reasonably expected.
4. Unlike personhood theories of the wrongness of killing, FT implies that killing babies and children is, in most cases, morally wrong.
5. FT is superior to both the desire and discontinuation accounts of the wrongness of killing.
6. FT allows that contraception is morally permissible.

 

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Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2002. All Rights reserved.

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