1. Republic Of Zen

    This article is a very long strawman argument.

    “Much of the debate centers on the concept of personhood.”

    This is an unfounded claim. In Ireland the parliament had a day for medical experts agrueing over abortion, a day for lawyers and a day for random lobby groups(feminists and catholics) that I dont pay any attention to. Personhood has never discused.

    Personhood is an abstract concept that many people, like myself, dont mental comprehend. You’ve given your deffintion of it, I have come across other ones. Moral philosphy is not understandable to most people hence it is not widely discused. This is not our fault. Is your fault for not being argue your points in a logical fashion backed up with empirical data.

    • Autarch

      Libertarianism is a philosophy based on individual rights (those of a person). If a fetus is defined as a person, those rights apply; if it is not, they do not apply.

      Personally, I find it absurd to define a single fertilized cell as a person, but some do. I also find it
      absurd to define a third trimester fetus as not being a person, but some do.

      People can honestly disagree as to where that point of differentiation is, but there’s nothing “abstract” about it. A being is either a person (with rights) or not a person (without rights).

      When you say much of the debate centering on the concept of personhood is an unfounded claim, to libertarians, it’s not “unfounded” at all. In fact, to libertarians it’s an essential concept.

      Of course, for those who are not ideological libertarians (for example, those who believe rights come from the Constitution rather than from our nature), the concept may be irrelevant.

      Mark Read Pickens

      • Republic Of Zen

        The author does not provide any information to pack the claim that the abortion debate is over person hood. I my experience a tiny minority of people discus the concept of person-hood and morality.

        • Autarch

          I suppose to many non-libertarians, you are correct. To libertarians, however, the debate is totally about who is and is not a person.

          To me, all other points people raise, for example, biblical references, are irrelevant.

          Mark Read Pickens

          • Ross Tripi

            Not sure if you’ve ever read The Ethics of Liberty, but the author of that book says that the personhood argument is immaterial to whether or not abortion is ethical. He basically argues that the right to an abortion is the same as the right to forceably remove an intruder from your house if he just keeps robbing you.

            Whether or not it’s moral is left to the individual’s discretion.

          • Autarch

            I’ve never read The Ethics of Liberty, but Murray Rothbard, through his book For a New Liberty, was quite influential in my life. I worked closely with Murray in 1983 at the Libertarian Party national convention in New York.

            Later, I came to realize he had feet of clay, as illustrated by his support of paleo-conservativism (which, to be fair, from a libertarian perspective compares highly favorably to neo-conservativism.)

            I don’t think the analogy you’ve presented is valid. If you invite someone into your house, it’s not legitimate to evict him to die in a blizzard.

            On the other hand, it’s completely different if the unwanted visitor is not a person, and therefore has no rights.

            Imagine a man who used coercion to stop two women from having abortions, is being sued by the women, and I’m a juror. In the first case, the fetus was the size of your thumb, incapable of any sensation. My vote is “guilty;” he owes compensation.

            In the second case, she was nine months pregnant, her water had broken, and contractions begun. I vote “not guilty;” no compensation owed.

            In the first case, I don’t define the fetus as a person; in the second, I do.

            I don’t see a way around first determining whether or not we’re dealing with a person before determining whether or not an abortion is congruent with libertarian theory.

            Mark Read Pickens

        • Chet Lake

          I specifically made that claim in the context of libertarian debate(s). If you don’t think this is the major issue among libertarians, you’re not paying attention.

          • Republic Of Zen

            As I have for the third time. Prove it. I am aware of “moral” philosophy being popular libertarians, I personally dont observe this debate actually happening as you claim it does.

            I’m vegetarian, libertarian and moderately lean on the pro-life side(no idea what the law should be). I couldnt at all argue who or who is not considered for person-hood


    • Chet Lake

      Among philosophers and libertarians, much of it is over whether or not the fetus is a person possessing rights. I don’t really care about what happens in the Irish parliament and apparently you don’t either since you claim not to pay attention and have the nerve to tell me personhood is never discussed.

  2. Henry Vandenburgh

    I’d think that the standard ethical position for libertarians should be one of situation ethics, not hard ethical positions like the ones expressed here. A woman could decide that, in spite of the life potential of the fetus she was carrying, she, for a variety of reasons that don’t require justification to anyone, wasn’t willing to carry to term. Using the state is at too far a remove from this.

  3. Travis Moore Hearne

    Very nice, a plea for sanity!! “people need to be clear in their language (which may often be intentionally abused) in these kinds of arguments or debates. It’s important to make sure we make a reasonable effort to be on the same page with our definitions as a means for constructive debate and argumentation.”

    This is an interesting argument I’ve never heard expressed so cogently: non-sentient persons are like non-sentient animals; if it’s ok to kill the second, why isn’t it okay to kill the first?

    I think the whole thing has already been solved by fishermen without reference to personhood; it’s only okay to kill it if you plan to eat it! (joking! joking! Mr. NSA man!!)

    The way out of this conundrum seems to be everyone’s way out of it: an arbitrary definition of personhood. “Speciesism” is the thinned segment in the net; so people will say, in response to you, “ok, then I embrace speciesism”.

    If they were really crafty, they would likely turn it around on you and say “if fetuses are like handicapped people, and you think fetuses can be killed, then why can’t handicapped people be killed?” The answer seems to be somewhere within the “subject-of-a-life” theory and the obligations of moral agents toward moral patients. But that theory is (no offense) itself subject to allegations of arbitrariness.

    I think the strongest libertarian arguments against abortion restrictions have to do with women’s rights, devolution of choices to individuals, and the effects of prohibition. It’s best to stay out of the heads of the people you’re trying to convince. But it’s well argued, well written, and enlightening! Thanks!

    • Chet Lake

      Thank you for your thoughts. The point is that almost no one would argue that handicapped people should be experimented on, hence why I use it to get people to realize the arbitrariness of their speciesism.
      The subject-of-a-life criteria actually aren’t all that arbitrary, at least not nearly as arbitrary as rationality or being a member of Homo sapiens.

  4. Christopher Swann

    Very well thought out. I agree that most debates are usually made worse by the fact people mean different things even when using the same words.

    My gut reaction is to protect all innocent human life. I think that is where most pro lifers stand. However it has it’s problems as you point out with the E.T. Superman example.

    So I guess you are right with out some form of speciesim being a vegan (depending on how far you take sentience a fruitarian) would be the only way to not be hypocritical.

    Also I would say that it seems impossible along these lines to protect innocent life without destroying an eco system. Unless all earth could live on fruit and animals that died of natural causes.

    After reading this article my current reaction would be to protect all innocent members of a species in which that species whether majority or minority has moral agents.

    Which still leaves the question. At what point is a fertilized egg considered a member of a species?

  5. dlist777

    I think it’s not a bright line. It goes to “possibilities”. A human has possibilities. A person can grow up, become an author, have deep emotions, love, laugh, cry, discover new things, etc. A fish does not. But, maybe a dophin does or a chimpanzee. So, I don’t like eating “smart” animals…animals that have possibilities. I don’t really mind eating a chicken or a cow….We all seek bright lines, but, I think, its a bit more grey. So, pro lifers argue its not the sentience of the moment that matters…its the possibliites your taking away through abortion.

  6. tsimitpo

    Can a creator, i.e. “giver of life”, with an intended purpose for humans that may or may not be different than their intended purpose for animals fit anywhere into your analysis?

    At the moment – and I’ve yet to see a reason to change – I’m a pro-life libertarian who appreciates the sacrifices animals – as well as plants – make so we can propagate our species.

  7. Davy Goossens

    So as a meat eater who thinks handicapped etc don’t have rights either, i’m still consistent!

    Good. slaughterhouses and eugenics is where it’s at!

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