in defense of abortion and infanticide n.
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“In Defense of Abortion and Infanticide”. Michael Tooley. Introduction. Infanticide v . Abortion If one believes that abortion is morally permissible at all stages of gestation, then one seems to be committed to infanticide as well.

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introduction
Introduction
  • Infanticide v. Abortion
  • If one believes that abortion is morally permissible at all stages of gestation, then one seems to be committed to infanticide as well.
  • If one is not committed to the view that it is morally permissible to kill infants, then one needs to explain the morally relevant difference between a late-term fetus and an young infant.
cut off problem
Cut off Problem
  • The problem is in determining at what moment in the developmental stage of the fetus or infant does it become morally impermissible to kill it and why?
  • The problem is not that, (1) if we do not believe that it is permissible to kill an infant, then we must find why it is permissible to kill a fetus?
  • Rather, the problem is that, (2) if we believe that it is permissible to kill a fetus, then we must find a reason why it is impermissible to kill an infant?
infants and adult humans
Infants and Adult Humans
  • The question also arises between infants and adult humans, so that, (3) if it is permissible to kill infants, then we need to find a morally relevant difference for why it is not permissible to kill an adult.
  • Tooley argues that he has an answer for the latter (3) but not for (2).
  • Therefore, he argues that it is permissible to kill infants.
passion vs reason
Passion vs. Reason
  • Tooley points out that most people are against infanticide because the idea is intuitively morally repulsive.
  • However, he claims that this is not an argument and does not support the view that infanticide is morally wrong.
  • Some philosophers disagree and argue that our moral intuitions do serve as a ground for moral principles; we appeal to our intuitions to support many of our premises.
  • Tooley disagrees, but, even if moral intuitions can support moral reasoning, he argues that not all intuitions tell us that infanticide is wrong.
what sort of being can possess a right to life
What Sort of Being Can Possess a Right to Life?

(1) What properties, other than potentiality, give something a right to life?

(2) Do the corresponding potentialities give something a right to life?

(3) Do the potentialities make it seriously wrong to destroy the fetus?

(4) At what point in its development does a member of the biologically defined species Homo sapiens first possess those nonpotential properties that give something a right to life?

rights and the interest principle
Rights and the Interest Principle
  • Tooley borrows the idea from the philosopher Joel Feinberg.
  • The Interest Principle: the sorts of beings that can have rights are those that can have interests.
  • For example, a newspaper cannot have the right not to be torn up, because a newspaper has no desires and thus no interest in not being torn up.
the interest principle and right to life
The Interest Principle and Right to Life
  • According to the interest principle only a living thing that has an interest in living can have a right to life.
tooley s argument
Tooley’s Argument
  • Tooley argues that a zygote cannot have an interest in living because it dose not have a desire to live or a desire of any kind for anything in the future.
  • Therefore, it CANNOT have a desire for its future existence.
  • For him, “What is in a thing’s interest is a function of its present and futuredesires, both those it will actually have and those it could have.”
tooley
Tooley
  • Tooley argues that a thing’s interest requires that the interest be supported by a desire for it or something that requires it.
  • For instance, if a thing, S, has a desire for y , and S needs x for y, then we can conclude that S has an interest in x and y.
  • Therefore, S CAN have a right to x.
  • Notice we say can and not does.
  • Therefore, if a being has a future desire and needs to continue living to fulfill that future desire, then the being has an interest in both the particular desire and in continuing to exist.
  • I guess this would be true even if the being does not have an explicit desire for its continued existence.
cantens 1 st objection
Cantens’ 1st Objection
  • I argue that a being, S, can have an interest in something, x, even if it has no present or future desire for x or anything else that requires x.
  • For instance, imagine a child who inherits $100,000. The child has no present desire for the money or for anything in the future that would require the money, nevertheless, we could safely predict that, in the future, when the child gets older, she will have desires for things that would require the money. We might even argue that we can be quite certain that, in the future, the child will have desires for the money itself.
  • Therefore, the child has a real interest in it.
cantens 2 nd objection
Cantens’ 2nd Objection
  • I would argue further that a person does not need an interest in a thing or anything that requires the thing for one to have an interest and right to it.
  • I argue that desires can justify one’s interest in something (in some cases) but desires are not a necessary condition.
  • For instance, imagine a child who inherits 150 billion dollars. We might argue that the child has an interest and a right to ALL of this money, even if he has no present or future desiresfor the entire amount or for anything that would require the entire amount.
  • It might be argued that the right being protected is that of the donor, because she had an interest in leaving the money to the person in question. But this would not help Tooley because she is dead and cannot have interest.
particular interest and particular rights
Particular interest and particular rights
  • “A cat has a right to a University Education”

Feinberg

  • (1) A right holder must be capable of being represented and it is impossible to represent a being who has no interest.
  • (2) The right holder must be a beneficiary in his own person, and a being without interest is a being that cannot be harmed or benefitted.
  • Notice that Feinberg is only speaking about interest and not desire.
particular interest principle
Particular Interest Principle
  • “It is a conceptual truth that an entity cannot have a particular right, R, unless it is at least capable of having some interest, I, which is furthered by having right R.”
examples
Examples

(1) “An adult human being has the right not to be tortured”

(2) “An adult human being has the right not to be killed”

(3) “A kitten has the right not to be tortured”

(4) “A kitten has the right not to be killed”

According to Tooley, 1,2, and 3 are true but 4 is not because of the particular interest principle.

right to life
Right to Life
  • Tooley argues that the right to life is not really concerned with the biological organism but rather with the subject’s experiences.
  • For instance, if one were to replace the Pope’s memories with those of Bertrand Russell’s the Pope’s right to life would be violated.
  • Therefore, the right to life means “the right of a subject of experiences and other mental states to continue to exist.”
fetus
Fetus
  • Tooley argues that a fetus cannot have a right to life because it does not have an interest in its continued existence.
  • It cannot have an interest in its continued existence because it cannot have a desire for anything present or future that involves its continued existence.
objection refuted
Objection Refuted
  • Tooleyrejects the argument that if we were to considered Mary as an 19-years-old adult, then she could argue that the fetus she was19 years ago did have an interest in her continued existence.
  • He argues that “A subject of interest, in the relevant sense of ‘interest,’ must necessarily be a subject of conscious states, including experiences and desires.”
  • The fetus is not a subject of consciousness, therefore, it could not have interests or desire.
cantens
Cantens
  • Again, I am not convinced that a living subject that is not conscious and therefore lacks desires necessarily lacks interest.
  • A subject, S, can be benefitted by things that it will received and use in the future and thus while technically it might not be able “to have an interest” an interest can be attributed to such things by third parties.
  • Moreover, a subject, S, might have acquired an interest in something, x, lawfully and thus has an interest and right in x, despite its lack of desire for x.
slide20
Baby
  • Tooley argues that even a baby cannot have a desire and interest in its continued existence.
  • He rejects the argument that if we were to considered Mary as an 19-years-old adult, then she could argue that the baby she was 18 years ago did have an interest in her continued existence
mary and the baby are not one
Mary and the Baby are not one
  • “…suppose that Mary, at a much later time, does not remember any of the baby’s experiences, but the experiences in question are not psychologically linked, either via memory or in any other way, to mental states enjoyed by the human organism in question at any later time.”
  • “Here it seems to me clearly incorrect to say that Mary and the baby are one and the same subject of consciousness, and therefore it cannot be correct to transfer, from Mary to the baby, Mary’s interest in the baby’s not having been destroyed.”
cantens objection
Cantens’ Objection
  • Tooley gets into all kinds of problems here concerning the identity over time of an individual.
  • First, it seems incorrect to claim that because Mary cannot remember the psychological events of the past that these events are not connected in a substantive way
  • A plausible view is that these psychological events are connected and they make up who Mary is because the early ones influence the present psychological events, even if we do not know how.
  • Therefore, there is reason to believe that Mary and the baby are one and the same person and one and the same subject of consciousness.
final expression of the argument
Final Expression of the Argument

(1) The concept of a right to life is such that an individual cannot have a right at time t to continued existence unless the individual is such that it can be in its interest at time t that it continue to exist.

(2) The continued existence of a given subject of consciousness cannot be in that individual’s interest at time t unless either that individual has a desire, at time t, to continue as a subject of consciousness, or that individual can have desires at other times.

(3) An individual cannot have a desire to continue to exist as a subject of consciousness unless it possess the concept of continuing self or mental substance.

(4) An individual existing at one time cannot have desires at other times unless there is at least one time at which it possesses the concept of a continuing self or mental substance.

Therefore, (5) An individual cannot have a right to continued existence unless there is at least one time at which it possesses the concept of a continuing self or mental substance.

objection
Objection
  • It is clear that the controversial premises are (3) and (4) and the idea that a things needs to “possess the concept of a continuing self or mental substance” to have interests in its continued existence.
  • While it might be true that the individual will not be able to recognize this interest or desires, such interest could be attributed to the individual by third parties.
the argument from potentiality
THE ARGUMENT FROM POTENTIALITY
  • The potentiality difference is important for anti-abortionist because if it works then they do not need to describe what properties are those that give a thing a right to life.
  • Instead, they can simply argue that an adult human has a right to life based on certain cognitive properties, and we can’t describe or know what these properties are.
  • However, we can then conclude that, If an individual has a right to life if it has the potential to develop the properties of an adult human being, then any organism from a zygote to a baby will have a right to life based on the potentiality principle.
tooley1
Tooley
  • Tooley contends that the anti-abortionist potentiality argument does not have much of a chance if we accept his first argument.
  • The first argument already demonstrates that the fetus does not have a right to life and thus cannot be wrong to kill it.
  • However, the anti-abortionist might argue that even if the fetus does not have a right to life and killing it does not violate the fetus’ right, we nevertheless do something seriously wrong in killing it because it has the potential to acquire the right to life.
anti abortionist
Anti-Abortionist
  • “If there are properties possessed by normal adult human beings that endow any organism possessing them with a right to life, then at least one of those is such that it is seriously wrong to kill any organism that potentially possesses that property, simply in virtue of that potentiality.”
tooley s first argument against potentiality
Tooley’s First Argument Against Potentiality
  • Tooley claims that if we accept the potentiality principle then we should also accept the generalized potentiality principle:
  • “If there are properties possessed by normal adult human beings that endow any organism possessing them with a right to life, then at least one of those is such that it is seriously wrong to kill any organismprevent some system that potentially possesses that property, simply in virtue of that potentiality.”
counter example
Counter-example
  • Tooley then argues that if we accept this generalized potentiality principle, then we would find the following example morally wrong.
  • Imagine an artificial womb in which once the system is turned on the conveyer belts carrying an unfertilized egg and spermatozoa will begin to move until fertilization takes place and nine months later we have a baby. This will happen with no outside interference.
  • In this case turning, off the conveyer belt would be morally wrong, but thus is absurd therefore, the potentiality principle must be false.
cantens objection1
Cantens’ Objection
  • 1) The concept of potentiality concerns the natural process within a natural system/organism. The idea that the process is natural provides the system/organism with an integral unity and identity independent of us. Tooley’s imaginary “system” is not natural and thus lacks the integrity, identity, unity of a fetus.
  • 2) The idea of singularity and individuation is a morally significant property. It is what gives an individual its significance and value. The fetus is substantially different than Tooley’s artificial womb.
second argument
Second Argument
  • Moral Symmetry Principle with respect to action.
  • Positive duty: save a life
  • Negative duty: do not kill another
  • Other things being equal, it is just as wrong not to save someone as it is to kill someone.
kitten examples
Kitten Examples
  • Imagine that we invented a serum that would convert kittens into smart cats with the intellect of humans.
  • First, imagine a case in which a kitten is injected with the serum. It now has the potentiality of being human. Therefore, killing it would be serious wrong.
  • Second, if you had the serum but refrained from giving it to the kitten, then (according to Tooley) you would be, for all intents and purposes, killing it because you would not allow it to become human-like.
cantens objections
Cantens’ Objections
  • I find these analogies to be misguided and my intuitions about these cases are very different from Tooley’s
  • First, the context of the natural sexual reproduction process is completely absent from these cases, leading to disturbing and absurd results.
  • Second, a cat is a natural species that has inherent properties that belong to it. To say that our not giving a cat an injection that would make it human-like is killing it is simply false.
  • Because not giving the kitten the serum does NOT deprive it of a natural properties that belong to it, therefore, it is not a proper applications of the moral symmetry principle.
tooley2
Tooley
  • “If follows from the moral symmetry principle that the action of injecting the former (a kitten that was injected with the serum) with a neutralizing chemical that will interfere with the transformation process and prevent the kitten from developing those properties that in themselves would give it a right to life is prima facie no more seriously wrong than the action of intentionally rejecting the second kitten with the special chemical.”
  • Moreover, Tooley finds this to be like the abortion case.
cantens objections1
Cantens’ Objections
  • Again, I find the example misleading because the kitten is an organism that is an integral whole. Making it human-like would be to change it into another kind of thing.
  • The fetus, on the other hand, is by nature a work-in-process, its nature is a human in-process. It is Not changing into another substance.
  • In addition, we are not depriving the kittens of anything that naturally and properly belongs to the nature of cats. In the case of the fetus we are depriving the fetus of its natural potential that properly belongs it it.
conclusion
Conclusion
  • I find both of Tooley’s arguments to be unsuccessful.
  • First, his argument from the particular-interest principle does not work, and I find that an interest in continued existence could be attributed to the fetus, even though the fetus itself could not realize that interest during its fetal stages.
  • Second, I find that Tooley’s arguments against the potentiality principle do not demonstrate that it is not morally wrong to kill a fetus.
  • We cannot not conclude that abortion IS morally wrong. Only that Tooley’s arguments are not conclusive.