Friday, November 23, 2007

Something to Ponder

while I'm studying the arguments for and against the death penalty:

Recommended Reading: The Heart Has its Reasons: Examining the Strange Persistence of the American Death Penalty
Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2008

The debate about the future of the death penalty often focuses on
whether its supporters are animated by instrumental or expressive
values, and if the latter, what values the penalty does in fact
express, where those values originated, and how deeply entrenched they
are. In this article I argue that a more explicit recognition of the
emotional sources of support for and opposition to the death penalty
will contribute to the clarity of the debate. The focus on emotional
variables reveals that the boundary between instrumental and expressive
values is porous; both types of values are informed (or uninformed) by
fear, outrage, compassion, selective empathy and other emotional
attitudes. More fundamentally, though history, culture and politics are
essential aspects of the discussion, the resilience of the death
penalty cannot be adequately understood when the affect is stripped
from explanations for its support. Ultimately, the death penalty will
not die without a societal change of heart.

(Via Mirror of Justice.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Confession Time

I've had a sneaking suspicion that the ESCR advocates had more than one mad scientist in their ranks. It's doubtful that this issue will get into our discussions in the class; there's too much on our plate now.

Why NOT Embryonic Research?: "

I heard about this new stem cell research yesterday on NPR, which broadcast a brief debate on the subject between Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical
Research, and Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of Pro-Life
Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Basically, Dr. Doerflinger takes this advance as Great News in that soon there may be no scientific (let alone moral) justification to continue controversial research on human embryonic stem cells, whereas Dr. Tipton thinks such research should continue - just in case. He sees stem cell research as a race to the finish line (his analogy) and whatever it takes to get there is fine, even though 'some people' have moral problems with it.

It wasn't so much his point of view that puzzled me (after all, you can't expect someone who doesn't believe in moral absolutes to behave as if they do*) but the way he defended it; So, why should we continue with controversial research, even in the face of grave moral misgivings? Because 'we live in a pluralistic society'.


Now, I'm sure Dr. Tipton could give a better, more well-rounded defense than that, if pressed, but tho whole idea (very popular, of late) that a 'pluralistic society' must allow scientists to pursue 'whatever works' is just freaky.' Never mind advanced ethical philosophy, has Dr. Tipton never seen Frankenstein or Them or even The Hideous Sun Demon? Hollywood had this all sussed many decades ago... there are Some Things that Man was Not Meant to Tamper With.

And, the question must be asked; if Moral Pluralism is the standard, the foundational dogma of our modern society, then what is NOT to be allowed, and why? Aren't all ethical frameworks equally - that is subjectively - valid? Why NOT eugenics? Why NOT a genetically modified warrior race? Why NOT chemical and biological weapons?

The natural law would proscribe all these things on the basis that they are offenses against human dignity. Pluralism might find them all wrong now (because most people find them morally repugnant, even if they can't say why), but there can be no guarantee about the future. If most people' - or even if enough of the right people - become okay with it at some point, well, we can expect these kinds of examples of the New, Improved Dynamic Morality.

'How beautious mankind is! O brave new world: That has such people in't!'.

*This touches on a recent mammoth combox debate on morality and ethics. There is this idea that one may arrive at a workable moral framework in a number of ways and that there will be little practical difference in the end. But that is not true. Toss out moral absolutes and the divergences in ethical philosophy and practice are profound and immediate.



Monday, November 19, 2007


Yes, I have managed a little reading of late. At bedtime, I've been going through P.D. James' Devices and Desires. Murder mysteries are a favourite of mine, but she raises the genre to the level of serious literature. I've borrowed The Children of Men for my next read.

And over the weekend, I read John Finnis' Fundamentals of Ethics. It's a bit of a slog for a quick read, but I need a more sophisticated conceptual vocabulary. One of the possible questions on the mid-term involved constructing an argument about whether or not voluntary active euthanasia should be legal. It took quite a bit of thinking to come up with an argument (nine premises and a final conclusion) that seemed doable. I was planning to go against the Professor's recommended strategy: liberty of the individual takes precedence, so use a slippery slope argument if you oppose the legality of euthanasia.

Since he left open the possibility that Virtue Theory might have an argument against euthanasia, I tried reconstructing the argument, based loosely on what I read here. In a way, it's too bad that question didn't come up. I put so much effort into it. On the other hand, it was long and involved. And I barely finished the exam on time as it was. C'est la guerre.


So I survived the exam this morning. It's mildly interesting that the two greatest philosophers were not mentioned in this Moral Philosophy course, so far, at least:

The Two Most Important Philosophers Who Ever Lived: "

The Two Most Important
Philosophers Who Ever Lived | Peter Kreeft | The Introduction to
Socrates Meets Descartes: The Father of Philosophy Analyzes the Father of Modern
Philosophy's Discourse on Method


This book is one in a series of Socratic explorations of some of the Great
Books. Books in this series are

intended to be short, clear, and non-technical,
thus fully understandable by beginners. They also introduce (or review)
the basic questions in the fundamental divisions of philosophy (see the

chapter titles): metaphysics, epistemology, anthropology, ethics, logic,
and method. They are designed both for classroom use and for educational
do-it-yourselfers. The 'Socrates Meets . . .' books can be read and understood
completely on their own, but each is best appreciated after reading the
little classic it engages in dialogue.

The setting – Socrates and the author of the Great Book meeting in
the afterlife – need not deter readers who do not believe there is
an afterlife. For although the two characters and their philosophies are
historically real, their conversation, of course, is not and requires
a 'willing suspension of disbelief '. There is no reason the skeptic cannot
extend this literary belief also to the setting.

This excerpt is the Introduction to Socrates
Meets Descartes

Socrates and Descartes are probably the
two most important philosophers who ever lived, because they are the two who
made the most difference to all philosophy after them. Socrates is often called
'the Father of Philosophy' and Descartes is called 'the Father of Modern
Philosophy.' The two of them stand at the beginning of the two basic
philosophical options: the classical and the modern.

At least seven features unite these two
philosophers and distinguish them from all others.

Continue reading...


(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

With apologies to George Orwell. One of the remaining topics we will take up in Moral Philosophy will be Animal Rights. So this article is interesting.


Not the kind you get out for Thanksgiving Dinner. (Felicitations to our American friends who are about to celebrate.) Rather the country and it's future: bleak. Try growing an economy while the population shrinks: can't be done over the medium and long-term. This has been an observation of mine for years (as my poor, harassed daughters will attest). This article was an excuse to renew the assertion here.

I'm getting the usual pre-test jitters (Mid-Term #2). I'll try to get through the paralysis and do creditably well on Monday. Anyway, that's the excuse for the lull in blogging.

The two issues to be dealt with on the mid-term are Abortion and Euthanasia, as my readers no doubt have noticed. I'm at least better prepared than the average fresh-out-of-high-school classmate, in that I've done reading and thinking about these topics for some decades. But formulating and properly critiquing arguments to a freshman standard is a challenge. But that's the point of an education, right? (To be intellectually challenged, I mean.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Maybe all that BMI stuff is oversold. There's at least some evidence that being "overweight" could be good for you.

Thanks to William E. on ROFTERS (more about them here).

Will Women Be More "Valuable" in the Future?

The gendercide is going apace and it's consequences are looming in many countries.

Value-Free Science?

This Lifesite News article might provoke some concern.


in the public abortion debate is one reason not to keep blogging about it. But, from the anti-abortion perspective, anyway, there is some evidence that there are reasons for the emotional responses:

Head like a hole: "

At what point does the state of ignorance end or the manifestation of wickedness begin within each individual who comes to abhor anything considered Pro-life? When or how does one cross-over from a distorted sense of altruistic compassion into the realm of the wicked? A New York Times article which featured an abortionist named Dr. Susan Wicklund brought this to mind.

While the article starts off with a somewhat negative connotation towards abortion, it eventually becomes apparent that the NY Times is setting Wicklund up as some sort of twisted mother of mercy. It’s the times! To me, there’s something even more so wicked when those in positions of authority and trust employ techniques of establishing a false sense of security and trust, only to draw victims into the corruption of their lies and deceit. Whether or not she believes in her own lies is of little concern to me, as opposed to the prevalence of liars who perpetuate and create the lies and deception which is responsible for a crime which is one of the most despicable acts one human could ever inflict on to another. Among her claims to promote a normalcy for abortion:

40% of American women have abortions.

More common that the removal of wisdom teeth.

Abortion restrictions are about the control of women, about power, and it’s insulting.

Protesters who regularly appear shouting outside abortion clinics also get abortions.

Abortion give women back their life, their control.

In addition to Susan’s apparent deficiencies simple math, is another example to remember that figures don’t lie, but liars do figure, and yet more proof of funny numbers and protecting sex offenders.



Arguments and Logic

Sometimes there is a shorter way to the truth of things. And Comedians sometimes find it. Take Stephen Colbert:
On another night, bioethicist Lee Silver from Princeton visited the show. Colbert told him he believed that science and spirituality could go hand in hand and that all people, embryos included, have souls. Silver begged to differ. He told Colbert that, in the shower, we scrub off thousands of skin cells every day, and that the cells on his arm are human life in the same way that embryos are. To which Colbert responded: “If I let my arm go for a while and didn’t wash it, you’re saying I’d have babies on my arm.” Thank goodness we have comedians to take such arguments to their natural conclusions.

Thanks to Nathaniel Peters at First Things.

Freedom and Virtue

While I'm anxiously awaiting the study outline for our next mid-term, you are invited to consider this:

The Illusion of Freedom Separated from Moral Virtue: "

The Illusion of Freedom Separated from Moral Virtue | Raymond L. Dennehy, University of San Francisco

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Journal of Interdisciplinary
(Vol XIX, 1/2 2007), and is reproduced here by the kind permission of JIS. It won the Oleg Zinam Award for Best
Essay in JIS 2007.

This essay proposes that
liberal democracy cannot survive unless a monistic virtue ethics permeates
its culture. A monistic philosophical conception of virtue ethics has its
roots in natural law theory and, for that reason, offers a rationally
defensible basis for a unified moral vision in a pluralistic society. Such
a monistic virtue ethics--insofar as it is a virtue ethics--forms
individual character so that a person not only knows how to act, but
desires to act that way and, moreover, possesses the integration of
character to be able to act that way. This is a crucial consideration, for
immoral choices create a bad character that inclines the individual to
increasingly worse choices. A nation whose members lack moral virtue
cannot sustain its commitment to freedom and equality for


The thesis defended in this
essay is that liberal democracy cannot survive unless a monistic virtue
ethics permeates its culture. Two arguments are given in its support.
First, a monistic philosophical conception of virtue ethics has its roots
in natural law theory and, for that reason, offers a rationally defensible
basis for a unified moral vision in a pluralistic society. Second, a
monistic virtue ethics--insofar as it is a virtue ethics--forms individual
character so that one not only knows how to act, but desires to act that
way and, what is more, possesses the integration of character to be able
to act that way. This is a crucial consideration, for immoral choices
create a bad character that inclines the individual to increasingly worse
choices. A nation whose members lack moral virtue cannot sustain its
commitment to freedom and equality for all.

Read the entire essay...


(Via Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More of the Same

Alas! I'm still not done with the abortion issue. While I'm pondering some of the pivotal issues (direct/indirect killing; universal human rights/partial temporary rights; the "space traveller" thought experiment) here's something from Ramesh Ponnuru on Thomson:
The philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson has famously argued that even if human fetuses are persons with rights (as she is willing to concede they are from a fairly early point in development), those rights do not entail an obligation on the part of pregnant women to continue nourishing them. But as I note in the book, this defense is false to the nature of abortion. Perhaps it would work if abortion were a mere eviction from the womb. But the death of the fetus is in nearly every real case the goal of an abortion, and it is always the means to whatever its goal is.

As for the "Not all humans are persons" line of arguing, he says:
Neil Sinhababu...takes the view that not all human organisms are persons with rights, that there are human non-persons—a view I consider both wrong and dangerous. He believes that I am placing too much importance on the humanity of the human fetus. If the right to life attaches to any organism that happens to belong to the human species, he asks, then what would happen if we met intelligent extraterrestrial life? “To ground moral status in biological humanity is to shrug at the enslavement of hobbits, the slaughter of kittens, and the destruction of all life beyond earth.” Nice line—but no. From the premise that all human beings have a right to life it does not follow that all non-human beings lack it. Humanity is a sufficient condition for having the right to life, but not a necessary one. I even mention, in a footnote, that an alien could have the right to life. The key question would be whether those aliens have a rational nature, as humans do. Indeed, my premises would allow for more protection of those aliens than Sinhababu’s theory would. He believes that human beings and other types of beings have value to the extent that they have the immediately exercisable capacity to perform mental functions. That would leave immature or handicapped aliens, hobbits, and humans without protection.

Ponnuru's conclusion is hopeful:
In 1970 and for many years thereafter, advocates of legal abortion portrayed themselves as the party of cool, dispassionate reason. Their opponents were the prisoners of superstition and emotion. Pro-abortionists back then tried—not, I think, well—to argue either that fetuses were not “alive” or “human” or that their killing could be justified philosophically.
Today, they tend with few exceptions either to refuse to engage the argument at all or to retreat behind their feelings and other non-rational defenses. There are, of course, very smart people on the other side of the debate. But I think The Party of Death and the reaction to it demonstrate something else that has changed in the last four decades: The intellectual high ground is now ours.

Read the whole thing (if you can stand pdf).

Thanks to Kevin Miller at HM&S.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Good News and Bad News

"Beer After Exercise May Be Better Than Water, Study Finds". The downside is I have to start exercising again. (Bum shoulder is my excuse, what's yours?)

Thanks to Kevin Miller at Heart, Mind & Strength.

Who Reads More?

Professor Miller of First Things considers a NYT article [log-in required] that effectively praises the price-controls on books in Germany. Miller argues that freer markets better serve the general reading public, even if publishers thereby publish fewer books. (And, thus, criticizing the NYT author's argument.

It's interesting that he uses the parallel of the now largely unregulated air travel industry as an example of good things happening for the consumers. It just reminded me of how unhappy some of the airline employees are now, feeling that their jobs have been degraded in pursuit of the bottom-line lowest price.

In any case, the title question has some ambiguity in it. Apparently there are more books published in Germany than in the U.S., even though the U.S. has four times the population. So do Germans read more than Americans? Or do some Germans (the relatively wealthy) skew the publishing numbers because the effective cartel-pricing imposed by the government, causes competition in otherwise more expensive titles?

Trouble is, I'm still wrestling with some of the pro-abortion arguments. And today we started grappling with euthanasia arguments. No room in this old-style processor for so much input. But it is intriguing.

Friday, November 02, 2007

How to An Create Urban Legend

This counts as a quibble, too, I suppose. "Anti-abortionists are not only lacking in compassion, they're violent", is a frequent theme in the MSM and in Entertainment. One of my favourite shows, Law and Order, gives a fascinating view into the world view of the educated, secular elite that produces so much of our information and entertainment.

The only remotely sympathetic characters that are explicitly religious on these shows are "cool", "hip" priests and nuns, who couldn't inspire religious fervour in anyone, much less real Christians. Just the sort of religious people the elite finds tolerable. All other characters with religious convictions are:

1. neurotic,
2. murderous,
3. unpleasantly, even inhumanly, cold,
4. stupid or ignorant, or
5. some combination of the above

Which tells me that the people producing the shows have never met, or at least never recognized, a well-adjusted, law-abiding, compassionate, intelligent and well-educated Christian. (Muslims generally get a pass from L&O, but that's another story.) From which lack of experience they must conclude that such people don't exist or are very rare.

So, associating anti-abortionism with religious beliefs, they project these characteristics onto the appropriate characters. And burning, bombings, and murders are the result.

And everybody knows that a) anti-abortionists are violent and that, b) they burn and bomb abortion clinics.

Or do they?

Speaking of ancient civilization

I ran across this:

Philosopher thinks polytheism (many gods) would be an improvement - really!: "Here's something you don't see every day: A defence of polytheism. Arguing that 'Mere mortals had a better life when more than one ruler presided from on high', professor emerita Mary Lefkowitz of Wellesley College argues that we should 'Bring back the Greek gods':

The existence of many different gods also offers a more plausible account than monotheism of the presence of evil and confusion in the world. A mortal may have had the support of one god but incur the enmity of another, who could attack when the patron god was away. The goddess Hera hated the hero Heracles and sent the goddess Madness to make him kill his wife and children. Heracles' father, Zeus, did nothing to stop her, although he did in the end make Heracles immortal.

But in the monotheistic traditions, in which God is omnipresent and always good, mortals must take the blame for whatever goes wrong, even though God permits evil to exist in the world he created.

Et cetera. Actually, polytheism was rejected in the Western tradition for two reasons: First, it seemed illogical (irresistible force meets immovable object?). Second, the capricious qualities of the old gods, which Lefkowitz admires, were despised among the people.

Interestingly, during the Christian era, many of the gods found a second career as fairies, goblins, and witches - which doubtless suited them well enough. The opera Tannhauser offers a look at this process.

More generally, I have difficulty with the idea that anyone today would actually BELIEVE polytheism. I wish I could remember the name of the Canadian feminist philosopher who pointed out that problem years ago. Christians actually believe in the Triune God, even though we can't entire grasp the relationships involved in the Trinity. But no one could believe in the same way - in Venus or Mars or Bacchus. They merely represent our own states of mind to ourselves.

And there is a sense in which the pagan gods were never any more than that, even in antiquity. They were not beyond us, they were usually beneath us. So today, a polytheist must be a practical atheist. I do concede Lefkowitz this, however - polytheism is much more fun than atheism, and produces vastly better art and culture. Compare, for example, the monstrosities of totalitarian atheist architecture in the twentieth century with the Parthenon of ancient Greece."

(Via Mindful Hack.)


I've got a few, but please allow me to vent some of the Abortion-related ones. This might make it easier to focus on the euthanasia issues, though I'm expecting some overlap.

One of the recurrent themes I'm picking up in reading the pro-abortion essays--ok, I'd better stop and explain my terminology. While I prefer Pro-Life as a description, it is true that both this and Pro-Choice are rhetorical names. They try to project the positive about their position. Plus there's an unspoken feeling on both sides that abortion names an unpleasant topic and so is best left unmentioned. For the purposes of philosophy I'll restrict myself to pro-abortion to designate those arguing for fewer or no legal restrictions on abortions; and anti-abortion for those favouring greater or almost complete legal restrictions on abortion.

Back to the original point: there's a recurrent theme in pro-abortion arguments, not part of the argument directly, but alluded to again and again: "We're the compassionate ones!" There may, in fact, be some objective basis for this assertion, though it's initially counter-intuitive to me. "We favour killing the unborn because we're such feeling people. Not like those cold, heartless anti-abortionists." This is a rhetorical device and, no doubt, reflects the beliefs of many, even most, pro-abortionists when dealing with their opponents.

The occasion of this complaint, however, is a remark by Warren in her essay, when forced to confront the reality that her argument, to be successful, must also include infanticide:
Throughout history, most societies--from those that lived by gathering and hunting to the highly civilized Chinese, Japanese, Greeks, and Romans--have permitted infanticide...regarding it as a necessary evil. [emphasis added]

Wikipedia limits itself to saying many, rather than most, societies permitted infanticide. So the "everybody did it" element of the premise is suspect. But move on to the emphasized section: I have no knowledge of history to speak of, and certainly none of the practice of infanticide amongst civilized Chinese, Japanese, and Greeks. But I have certainly heard of pater familias amongst the pagan Romans. And so I'm bound to ask: what sources indicate the the Romans (or any of the other civilizations cited) found infanticide a necessary evil? Consider this:
A letter from a Roman citizen to his wife, dating from 1 BC, demonstrates the casual nature with which infanticide was often viewed:

"Know that I am still in Alexandria. [...] I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered [before I come home], if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl, discard it." – Naphtali Lewis, Life in Egypt Under Roman Rule.[4].

In some periods of Roman history it was traditional in practice for a newborn to be brought to the pater familias, the family patriarch, who would then decide whether the child was to be kept and raised, or left to death by exposure. The Twelve Tables of Roman law obliged him to put to death a child that was visibly deformed.

It's interesting to note that the major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) all reject infanticide explicitly. That's one reason for Warren to reach back to the pagan past for her civilized examplars. Current examples of legalized infanticide are not presented by Warren, monotheistic or otherwise. And the gendercide going on in India and China currently is happening primarily in the hinterlands, amongst the uneducated and least civilized. But what of the civilized Romans?

This phrase ("regarding it as a necessary evil") seems to me to be a rhetorical phrase that attempts to paint the ancients as both wise (so we'll be persuaded to follow their example) and compassionate (so we can be assured that they were people like us). The evidence for this regret is a little thin on the ground, however. A civilization, such as the Romans, that used crucifixion for non-Romans (always preceded by a scourging that defies description), found entertainment in convicts being killed by wild animals (damnatio ad bestias), and that mandated the exposure of defective newborns, doesn't strike me as one that found infanticide as the least bit evil, though certainly necessary.

Of course, I'm open to persuasion to the contrary if evidence is produced.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

When is Enough, Enough?

My first visit to the Sistine Chapel happened in my callow youth. We were in Rome for five days and the visit was coming to an end. So I rushed over to the Vatican Museum, walked quickly through it, passed through the Sistine Chapel on the way out, pausing briefly to look up.

As the years went by, this memory bothered me more and more. So on my second visit, this time with my beloved, I took a book giving some details of the Chapel's frescoes and a small pair of binoculars. After a leisurely stroll through the Museum we moved over to a wall of the Sistine and waited patiently for a bench space to open up. We then sat for twenty minutes, trying to take it all in. I felt much better.

Until today, sigh:

After hours at the Vatican Museums: "

There’s nothing quite like an evening book presentation inside the Vatican Museums. It’s a thrill just to walk through the darkened museum hallways at night, hours after the place has officially closed. Last Tuesday, there was the added spectacle of a thunderstorm raging outside. I headed to the conference hall, strolling past Egyptian mummies, Roman mosaics and rows of imperial busts that came to life with each flash of lightning. It felt like the opening of ‘The Da Vinci Code.’

The book presentation took place under the watchful eye of Augustus in armor on one side and a nude satyr on the other. As I settled in for the inevitable round of speeches, the question occurred to me: Who needs another book on the Sistine Chapel? This one was written by a German Jesuit, Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, who spent nearly 50 years investigating the religious images and symbols of the Sistine frescoes. His thesis turned out to be interesting, though: while modern experts tend to focus on the artistic vision and style of the chapel’s painters, including Michelangelo, the artists actually worked according to quite specific parameters set by papal theologians. As a result, Father Pfeiffer says, the chapel is really a study in Renaissance Christian iconography.

The bonus postscript to the speechifying was a private visit to the Sistine Chapel. As we all stood around craning our necks, Bruno Bartoloni, the longtime Vatican correspondent for Agence France-Presse and Corriere della Sera, took me aside and pointed to a spot halfway up the wall. There, camouflaged in a fresco of drapes, was a rectangular ‘peephole’ used by popes who wanted to watch over liturgies without being seen. Bartoloni, who has visited nearly every square inch of the Vatican’s jumbled geography, said he’d once stood inside the tiny papal hideaway.

It was still raining the next day when I returned to the Sistine Chapel during tourist rush hour. I wanted to see how the Vatican was handling the increasingly huge crowds that pour into the museum. The Sistine, of course, was shoulder-to-shoulder. A U.S. couple told me they had waited an hour and a half in line just to get into the museum; now, standing beneath one of the world’s artistic masterpieces, they felt like they were riding a crowded Roman bus. I don’t think they caught many of the frescoes’ iconographical details.

Back home, they might want to check out Father Pfeiffer’s book,  ‘The Sistine Chapel: A New Vision.’ And those who can’t afford the volume’s high price tag can always view parts of the chapel online at the Vatican’s Web site.


(Via New Advent World Watch.)

A Philosophical Approach to Abortion

We've wound up our consideration of philosophical arguments about the ethics of abortion. We're now approaching the sunlit land of euthanasia. Great.

The arguments for the morality of abortion have one common element. They deny that all human beings are persons (rights holders). (Thomson may be an exception, but her position isn't all that popular in pro-abortion circles). Warren uses analogical arguments (thought experiments) to sketch out her particular view of how we can decide who is human and who isn't. Keep in mind that she is a Contractarian, and believes that rights are something we agree to create. She denies, effectively, the truth of: "All Men are Created Equal". In this sense, she is sketching out a possible method for deciding which human beings we can agree are persons [like us], and which are not.

So let's take one of Professor Peter Kreeft's versions (while speaking at Georgetown University, 10/19/06) of the anti-abortion argument, so we can see what it looks like:

1. The life of each individual member of a species, at least mammalians, begins at conception [fertilization].

2. All humans have the right to life because they're all human persons. [We all share human nature, therefore, we all, all things being equal, share the same universal human rights.]

3. The law must protect the most basic human rights of all it's citizens.


4. Therefore, the law should forbid the direct killing of pre-born humans [zygotic, embryonic, and foetal humans] the same as it protects the life of humans after birth [infant. child, adolescent, adult, aged, and dying humans].

Early pro-abortion approaches tried to deny the first premise. But that is uncontroversially true as a scientific fact. The main focus is now on denying the second premise. The rub is that there is no justification for killing humans before birth that doesn't apply equally to infants (and others) after birth. The grisly result of stubbornly defending the intuition that abortions must be justified is the reality that pro-abortion thinkers, to be be consistent, must, with some greater or lesser enthusiasm, embrace infanticide and euthanasia.

And cobbling together a denial of the [moral] humanity of the unborn while trying to stop sex-selection abortions is a feat worthy of a philosophical Rube Goldberg. Maybe some foetuses are more equal than others?