Saturday, February 16, 2019

Abortion and culpability


Yesterday at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru responded to a reader who criticizes opponents of abortion who express special outrage at late-term abortions.  If all direct abortion amounts to murder, the reader says, then it is only a cynical political tactic to speak of late-term abortions as if they were especially odious.  I more or less agree with Ponnuru’s reply to this (give it a read, it’s brief), but I would add a clarification and a qualification.

Here’s the clarification.  Ponnuru says that late-term abortions are worse, not because an embryo doesn’t have the same right to life that an eight-month-old fetus does, but rather because “people have less excuse for misunderstanding the moral status of an eight-month-old human fetus than they do for misunderstanding the moral status of a human embryo” so that it “shows a deeper corruption of conscience” to approve of aborting the eight-month-old fetus.

I know what Ponnuru means and I think this is true as far as it goes (with a serious qualification I’ll come to in a moment), but I think that he should put the point instead by saying that while the act of aborting an embryo and the act of aborting an eight-month-old fetus are, objectively speaking, equally bad, nevertheless a person’s subjective culpability can, in theory, plausibly be greater in the latter case than in the former.  And that is correct, for while it is obvious just from appearances that an eight-month-old fetus is a human being, it isn’t obvious just from appearances that an early-stage embryo is.  After all, even Aquinas, given his mistaken assumptions about the biology of embryonic development, thought that at the earliest stage of pregnancy a true human being did not yet exist, so that abortion at that stage wouldn’t count as homicide.  (He still disapproved of such abortions because they amounted to a kind of contraception.)  

Here’s the qualification.  We’ve come a very long way from Aquinas in terms of our knowledge of embryonic development, and that knowledge is now widespread enough that while in theory someone could be less culpable for approving of aborting an early-stage fetus than for approving of a late-term abortion, the number of people who are in fact less culpable is in my view smaller than Ponnuru might suppose (though for all I know, Ponnuru might not think the number is actually any higher than I think it is).   

Of course, it’s impossible to come up with a specific figure, but here’s the reason why I think the number of people who are not subjectively culpable is not likely to be large.  Suppose we classify pro-choicers into the following three groups:

(a) those who see that early-term and late-term abortions are morally on a par, and approve of late-term abortions for that reason,

(b) those who aren’t sure whether or not early-term abortions are as morally objectionable as late-term abortions, but who approve of keeping the former legal anyway despite not approving of the latter, and

(c) those who feel certain that early-term abortions are morally permissible even though they believe that late-term abortions are not.

Now, those in group (a) exhibit a “deep corruption of conscience” (to borrow Ponnuru’s phrase).  For it is manifest that infanticide is gravely evil, and it is manifest that late-term abortion differs in no morally significant way from infanticide.  Hence it takes a great deal of self-deception and moral depravity to approve of late-term abortion.  A person of basic decency and intellectual honesty would never approve of such a thing.  But the people in group (a) also realize that early-term abortion is on a par with late-term abortion.  Hence the depravity and self-deception they exhibit in approving of the latter seeps over into their approval of the former.  They have no excuse for favoring even early-term abortion.  Their correct judgment that it is on a par with late-term abortion should obviously have led them to reject early-term abortion rather than to accept late-term abortion.

I think Ponnuru would agree with me about that much.  (I’m aware that some readers will not agree, and that they would need argumentation in order to be convinced of what I say in the previous paragraph.  But this post is not about why we should object to late-term abortion, infanticide, etc.  It’s about what those who already do object to it, as Ponnuru and I do, should think about the subjective culpability of those who approve of early-term abortions but not late-term abortions.)

How many pro-choicers are in group (a)?  It’s hard to say.  Given recent events in Virginia and New York, it seems that a significant number of pro-choicers have moved into this group, but I have no idea what percentage of them that would be.

What matters for present purposes is group (b).  For I would suggest that that is very probably the group that the majority of pro-choicers fall into.  And I would also suggest that this group too is guilty of a “deep corruption of conscience,” of moral depravity and culpable self-deception.  

Consider, after all, the kind of rhetoric that has been standard among pro-choice politicians for decades now.  Bill Clinton famously said that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”  Barack Obama said that answering the question about when a fetus has the right to life is “above [his] pay grade.”  Mario Cuomo acknowledged that his conscience and Catholic faith required him to be “personally opposed” to abortion even though he was pro-choice.  

Now, why would Clinton say that abortion should be “rare”?  The reason, surely, is that even many who favor keeping abortion legal worry that it might amount to murder, even if they aren’t sure whether it does.  Even though they are pro-choice, they aren’t comfortable with simply dismissing all moral concerns about the practice.  Hence, in order to appeal to such voters, Clinton evidently thought that he had at least to pay lip service to the idea that abortion is morally problematic enough that we ought to minimize its frequency.  Obama too essentially conceded that abortion might amount to murder.  After all, he didn’t say that fetuses don’t have a right to life, but that he didn’t know whether they did.  Cuomo essentially conceded that abortion does amount to murder – that is, after all, what his Catholic faith tells him – but held that he still wanted to keep it legal anyway.

Now, to borrow an example sometimes used in old moral theology manuals, imagine that a hunter suspects that there might be someone standing behind a certain bush, though he isn’t sure.  Is it morally permissible for him to fire into the bush, since he isn’t certain that someone is behind it?  The moral theologians and common sense agree on the answer: Of course not.  If the hunter even suspects that there might be a person there, he must not fire into the bush, even if he is not certain and indeed even if he thinks it more probable that there is no one there.

Now, Clinton and Obama are like a person who says: “I think there might well be a person behind that bush, but I’m not really sure.  Go ahead and fire into it if you like.”  Cuomo is even worse.  He is like someone who says: “I am personally convinced that there is someone standing behind that bush.  But go ahead and fire into it anyway if you like.”  Now, either of these positions is morally depraved.  But the position of these politicians on abortion is parallel, and thus no less depraved.  Clinton and Obama are saying, in effect: “Abortion might in fact amount to murder, but if you want to, go ahead and have one anyway.”  And Cuomo was saying, in effect: “Abortion is murder.  But go ahead and have one anyway if that’s what you want to do.” 

I submit that it takes what Ponnuru calls “deep corruption of conscience” and culpable self-deception to talk oneself into this kind of position.  It’s just too obviously incoherent to chalk up to an honest mistake.  But it isn’t just Clinton, Obama, and Cuomo who are guilty of this.  After all, they said the sorts of things they did because they wanted to appeal to voters.  And it isn’t pro-life voters they were trying to appeal to, because the average pro-life voter would say exactly what I just said.  They were trying to appeal to pro-choice voters.  And they evidently judged that most pro-choice voters fall into group (b).  For if they thought that most such voters fell into group (c), they wouldn’t have implied that abortion at least might amount to murder.  They would have just confidently asserted that it does not.

Now, skillful politicians know their voters, and these three men were very skillful politicians.  So it seems plausible that most pro-choice voters are in group (b).  But as I have said, the position of people in that group is so obviously incoherent that only a morally corrupt person could adopt it.  Again, saying that “Abortion might be murder, but if you want to do it, go ahead” is like saying “I think there might be someone behind that bush, but go ahead and fire into it if you want to.”  So, it follows that most pro-choice voters, and not just those who favor late-term abortion, are guilty of a “deep corruption of conscience.”

I would argue that only a pro-choicer in group (c) could plausibly be characterized as lacking in subjective moral culpability.  Mind you, I’m not saying that all or even many people in group (c) really are lacking in subjective culpability.  In my opinion, the arguments in defense of abortion are so flimsy that it is hard to see how an intellectually honest person could feel certain that early-term abortions are morally permissible.  The point is just that being in group (c) would be a necessary condition for a pro-choicer’s lacking subjective culpability, even if it is by no means a sufficient condition.  Anyway, as I say, I think most pro-choicers are actually in either group (b) or group (a), and thus are culpable.

So, while I agree with Ponnuru that in theory a pro-choicer who approves of late-term abortion may thereby exhibit greater moral corruption than a pro-choicer who does not, I don’t think that in actual fact there is really much of a moral difference between the two groups of pro-choicers.  In actual fact, the subjective culpability of both groups is probably pretty close.  And again, Ponnuru himself may well agree with that, for all I know.

111 comments:

  1. What kind of punishment or deterrence should be issued to those who commit abortion? It seems it can't be same as what is issued to murderers in general.
    This is a topic on which I haven't done reading or thinking much. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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    1. It's a tough question. I think moral corruption dulls one's intellectual capacity to thoroughly apply cogent moral reasoning. I am convinced that most pro choicers have some sort of intellectual incapacitation. Girls have been conditioned since they hit puberty that abortion is either a sacrament or a justified evil. People have accepted that one's subjective will can determine the value of the unborn--are they wanted or unwanted? There are so many corrupt moral premises that form the case for abortion that I believe many people have a dulled intellect when it comes to moral reasoning. I think Alasdair Macintyre is right, we live in an emotivist culture. Because of this I think it is very hard to judge the precise culpability of those who commit abortions.

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    3. It depends.

      One circumstance is if a 16 year old girl who is violently raped (thus probably suffering trauma), and gets pregnant (probably adding to the trauma), and then has her parents and friends all tell her to get an abortion, and then she does so while in the first trimester.

      Another circumstance may be a fully grown women who has consensual sex without contraception and becomes pregnant and everyone tells her she shouldn't have an abortion because it would be murdering her own child, but she goes and has one anyway in the third trimester.

      I would think that these would definitely be treated very differently.

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    4. If abortion was an unequivocal capital offense, 99%+ of abortions would not take place.

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    6. Apart from corporeal punishments like death, mentally ill perpetrators are usually transferred to a psychiatric facility where they are more or less imprisoned while getting psychological attention. This would be the corresponding consequence for someone who might have been raped or wasn't fully culpable while committing the abortion. Since this abortion might not have been a fully voluntary act, they cannot be punished as a willful abortion. In this case, death should be the appropriate punishment, or lifelong confinement. This, of course, in regard to the woman and the abortioner (be it a medical doctor or the boyfriend or whoever).

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    7. This is incredibly stupid and unempathetic. Let's remember that libertarian free will is incoherent babble (randomness in disguise). It's not women's fault that a baby often results from a highly pleasurable activity. A lot of people who get abortions are poor. It's easy for ivory tower Catholics to pass judgment on them when they don't have to deal with the everyday struggles that these poor women do.

      Babies in the womb either can't feel, or their pain is short and pales in comparison to the pain of life. And your fictional deity doesn't have a problem with babies being born with cancer, and being smashed against rocks.

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    8. What kind of punishment or deterrence should be issued to those who commit abortion?

      As far as I know, the most widely accepted theory is to punish not the pregnant woman, but the abortion provider - because she is being pressed and exploited to obtain pecuniary advantage

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    9. @didymus
      If abortion is murder then so is capital punishment isn't it?

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  2. A very good read, Dr. Feser.

    I've spoken to many self-described pro-choicers who consider a fetus to become a human being at some arbitrary point (usually at the first heart beat or the first brain activity). When I point out that, in our country of Canada, abortion is legal past their point of preference (indeed in Canada there are no laws against abortion), these people will usually just shrug their shoulders. The incongruity is completely lost on them.

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    1. Those who want legal abortions say they just want to give every woman the ability to make their own choice about the morality of the abortion. They say the only way to accommodate every possible preference is to make every sort of abortion legal. This strange because in no other area of law do we let the person decide the morality of their own choices. Criminal law usually treats moral standards as objective even when many people in that culture do not believe in objective morality. Even when you find people who think that morality is just a social construction, they still want laws that treat morality as objective.

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    2. Rene,

      I'm a pro-life advocate, with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, in Canada. Where you from? Let me know if you want to connect. kcoffey@endthekilling.ca

      But to your comment. Yes, it just goes to show that many pro-choicers work from their desired conclusion backwards. "I'm pro-choice because human life doesn't begin until a heartbeat" "Oh, the heartbeat starts before most elective abortions? Oh well life begins at viability" (Or birth or whatever)

      I hear this all the time.....

      That is why it is important to show the visual evidence of what abortion does to a human being along with giving clear logical reasons for abortions immorality. This twofold approach brings people out of the ivory tower and out of their abstractions and helps humanize the pre-born to them, so they can stop reasoning from their desired conclusion backwards.



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    3. Kyle Coffey here ^

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  3. I would argue that most pro-choicers I know argue a different position.

    It is essentially a variant of the (in)famous Judith Jarvis Thompzon Violinist argument. A babay may or may not be human but due to the specific circumstances pregnant women find themselves in they have the right to take thst life anyway. Those circumstances change the scenario from murder, much like killing a home intruder posing sn imminent threat isn't murder due to the circumstances.

    Or else they argue that while a fetus is BIOLOGICALLY humsn it does not take on the moral status of *person*hood, until some arbitrary stage of development is reached.

    I don't ADVOCATE such positions, of course. I find then abhorrent. I only submit they are the most common justifications I hear.

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    1. Equating abortion to self-defense, while a terrible argument, is actually the best argument they have in my opinion. One at least doesn't have to blatantly ignore all of reproductive biology and plain common sense to argue it, as it is a philosophical point. A terrible one, as I said, but still better than the others.

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    2. I don't think they equate it to self defense per se. Rather, like in self-defense scenarios, the particulars of the situation move this away from the category of "murder".

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    3. These are more the extremist pro-choice arguments. I think most pro-choicers assume or argue the fetus isn't a person. I think many would be distinctly uncomfortable with the suggestions it the legitimate choice of a woman to kill an actual person inside of her. It's quite a hardline pro-choice position to countenance such arguments.

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    4. Amos,

      That may be true of academics and public intellectuals, and such arguments would put them into category (c) (whether or not one thinks the arguments are very plausible, which of course I don't). But I was talking about the average voter who votes for pro-choice candidates without knowing anything about arguments like Thomson's. Those are the people I was saying are mostly in category (b).

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    5. But I would argue, to my experience, that most people are using a rudimentary version of category C.

      Think "My body, my choice". When they say that, what they are saying is that the particular circumstances of being a pregnant mother uniquely change the situation into something in which killing can be justified, and only the pregnant individual is qualified to decide whether or not this is the case.

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    6. (And as I noted in my community college Intro to Philosophy course, many pro-choicers simply don't consider fetuses human persons at all. Thus killing them in the womb is not "killing them early" but rather preventing their existence).

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  4. Abortion is one of the more "interesting" topics to discuss, particularly among pro-abortion Christians, because of all the logical and moral hoops they twist themselves into, attempting to avoid admitting that abortion ends a human life. Abortion seems to be a case of being such a sacred "right" that facts are irrelevant - the conclusion must be "support abortion" no matter what.

    The blatant ignoring of facts in order to continue supporting the killing of the unborn pretty well shines a spotlight on the moral culpability of anyone in any of the three groups.

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  5. Dr. Feser do you think that people who are pro choicr are also, unknkowlingly, reasoning via some flavor of nominalism? Realism permits kinds and, subsequently, any moral value that pertains to all instances of a kind. Pro choicers obvisouly don't think along these lines when it comes to determining the value of the fetus. Instead they opt for an almost voluntaristic determination of human value--that humans are valuable insofar as they can make life choices, enjoy relationships, act freely, etc. In other words, human beings flourish when their will is unfettered. No doubt this is also the bedrock for pro euthanasia arguments.

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    1. Yes, in that materialism is a species of nominalism, and most modern people are some species of (possibly unconscious) materialist.

      Oddly Buddhism is a form of atomist nominalism—anatman, literally "no soul" (same Indo-European roots as "inanimate"), is the denial of what Aristotle would call "formal parts"—that traditionally forbids abortion.

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  6. We rank murders by "badness" according to all kinds of terms, many of which are not strict philosophical definitions. A slow painful murder is worse than a quick painless one; mutilation is (generally considered) worse than leaving the corpse largely intact. Those two examples are obviously relevant to why we find late-term abortions more horrifying than early ones, and have nothing to do with anyone's knowledge. (As you say, there's basically no excuse, other than possibly rank unteachability, for aborting at any point. Even a "humane" murder is still a murder. But there are more "extra" evils involved in murdering the more mature unborn person.)

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    1. *Rather, no (intellectual) excuse for approving of abortion at any point, the fetus's humanity being established basically beyond question.

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  7. It's pretty clear that liberals know, they just don't care:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYjUjpfUT9s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQduJhOAaRk&t

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    1. Yes, Liberals know that abortion is murder in any case. But it's justified in their eyes. There is no question about what abortion actually is. But society is so obsessed with death, that it has become acceptable to even talk about the muder of born children if the mother so wishes. It is lunacy.

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  8. It seems to me that most important issue in all of these kinds of debates is whether Pain( both physical/mental) is intrinsically wrong and whether pleasure is intrinsically good. Whether morality is ultimately just about striving to reduce or not inflicting pain and maximizing pleasure.

    The fact that some pro-choicers think that appearance of brain activity which enables a person to feel pain and pleasure is a sort of cut-off point in whether we can permissibly kill it or not. And the fact that it is thought that any action even Killing oneself and perverted sexual acts are permissible because they don't harm someone which usually just means they don't cause pain to someone else or usually cause loss of pleasure.

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    1. Agree. The question of suffering drives the debate over euthanasia, as here. Catholics have a well-thought out answer regarding the meaning and purpose of suffering, but it is not shared or understood in the broader culture.

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  9. Not a Catholic or even a theist, but I always appreciate and tend to agree with your social and political commentary, Dr. Feser. Well said.

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  10. Dr. Feser, as an amateur philosopher (emphasis on the amateur), I wanted to see if you could point me to some online reading (I am underway at the moment, and do not have access to much beyond what is online) that can lay out a fairly basic and solid case for the humanity of the baby from conception. I am afraid that my argumentation on this point is weak, as convincing someone that even the just fertilized ovum has all the marks of unique human potency becoming actualized through the process of gestation is not simple to
    make - and frankly, I think I just butchered the heck out of the argument there, but that is the state of my apologetic.

    This topic has actually come up once in my current travels, and the monstrous decision in New York, and equally monstrous remarks of the
    Virginian politician (at least that is the limit of the news I have out of Virginia) are sure to bring the topic up in the future. I hate
    not being up to snuff on so critical an issue. Nothing sickens me more than the thought of precious little ones being snuffed out of
    existence as a matter of convenience. I recently had my first child, back in June, and so the weight of the issue is much magnified for me.
    The opening panel you selected, which I normally find poignant and humorous, actually made me shudder. Thanks for all you do, and
    remaining an outspoken voice for Christ in what is an increasingly godless age.

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  11. Google "Edward Feser Scholastic's bookshelf." He has multiple lists of recommendeded reading within the AT tradition.

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  12. It seems to me that most important issue in all of these kinds of debates is whether Pain( both physical/mental) is intrinsically wrong and whether pleasure is intrinsically good.

    I suppose they might think in these terms, but it displays a fundamental distortion: the questions are wrong questions.

    "Pain" and "wrong" are different categories, and cannot be fused into the same notion. Pain can be borne for a good purpose, and everyone who willingly persists in something that is painful to achieve the good object knows this. Such as, for example, every athlete. It is impossible for anyone who has lived into adulthood to think, on a practical and lived level, that all pain is "immoral" and must be avoided at all costs even to the point of (painless) suicide.

    Christians know (or should) that God intends to allow pain in our lives to draw some good result from it, and that "all things work to the good for those who love God", including pain. It is morally evil to intend pain for its own sake as an end, but even saying this makes it clear that moral evil and pain are different categories.

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    1. @Tony,

      Quote:" It is morally evil to intend pain for its own sake as an end, but even saying this makes it clear that moral evil and pain are different categories."


      That may be correct, but it's also important to point out that they do overlap because pain is specially related to moral use as a fitting instrument of harm.

      For example, the reason pain is often considered bad is because pain by it's very nature feels bad and is a negative experience, thus we judge it to be "bad". Pain also serves as a warning system, telling us to avoid the thing that brought us pain because it harms us in some way or could harm us.

      Which is why intentionally bringing about pain in someone in order to intentionally harm or torture them is morally wrong. Pain by it's nature is meant to feel bad and make us avoid it, and because of this natural badness it presents to the body, it can be used in morally wrong ways.

      And though pain can obviously be used to bring about good and some goods may even be related to it such that they can only be brought about via pain, in general pain is meant to be avoided because of it's closeness to bringing us physical harm.

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    2. So, pain has an aspect of badness to it, but it's an aspect that is relative to other considerations. That is, it does not denote a kind of badness that should and must be avoided absolutely, but only avoided relative to other goods and purposes. In the grand scheme of things, God created a nature whose design entails that some animals kill other animals for food, and one must say that God intended this. St. Thomas clarifies that God intends, primarily, the good with respect to the ENTIRE order, not just the good of this or that component of it, and so in willing a natural order that has violent death, he wills pain in willing the specific order that is a good order.

      We join in willing pain relative to a good both in general by aligning our wills to God's, and in particular when we willingly accept a means to an end that entails pain to achieve the end.

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  13. I think you have discussed whether doctors and parents who engage in abortion should be charged with murder--where was that?

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  14. Dear Ed,

    You write, "We’ve come a very long way from Aquinas in terms of our knowledge of embryonic development..."

    I wasn't aware of anything in modern biology that so much as hints that St. Thomas's view on the nature of the human foetus is mistaken. My understanding is that, somewhat like the abandonment of hylomorphism, the idea that an early-stage foetus did not have an eternal soul was simply dropped. What have I missed?

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    1. Aquinas, like Aristotle, thought that the foetus was formed when the female menstrual fluid coagulated into a foetus at around (IIRC) the fortieth day after conception. Before this, there was no foetus. Now we know that there is in fact a foetus before this, it's just too small to perceive without a microscope.

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  15. Bill Clinton famously said that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Barack Obama said that answering the question about when a fetus has the right to life is “above [his] pay grade.”

    Is it just me or do liberals come up with the dumbest possible brainfart mottos and responses? Both of them are cringeworthy.

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    1. It happens on both sides. One of the most ridiculous is the idea of "alternative facts", which was used to defend Trump making repeated false statements. That is a serious brainfart if any.

      Recently, some conservative pundits started trying to circulate calling unborn babies "undocumented infants" in an attempt to equate them with how liberals call illegal immigrants "undocumented workers" which might get them to start defending the unborn. That is somewhat cringeworthy.

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  16. To be clear, I'm prolife and I even got into an extended debate about the issue using a variation of the bush argument Feser used in this post over on Reppert's forum a few months ago.

    However, I would pick two bones with this article:

    1. Just anecdotally, as a person who has a lot of liberal friends, most pro-choicers seem to fall into category c.

    Which makes sense, given Gallup polling says only 13% of Americans support abortion in the third trimester:

    Link: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/02/08/late-term_abortion_stance_may_be_trump_card_in_2020_139409.html

    2. It doesn't follow from believing abortion should be rare that abortion might amount to murder. I think chemotherapy should be rare, that doesn't mean I think cancer cells might be persons. Abortion is quite often an invasive and painful medical procedure. And even if you think an embryo is not a person, the decision not to have a child could be traumatic. People who fall into category c thus have very good reasons to want abortion to be rare.

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    1. On 2, it is true that Feser's interpretation is not as obvious as he states above. Other reasonable interpretations are possible. Still I think his interpretation is the most likely, and more likely than yours. In context, it seems to me that Clinton and the like are speaking to the public at large and trying to say to them they want abortions to be rare. It makes more sense that this is due to a certain squeamishness about abortions themselves, not simply that they are invasive for women. I think you'd most likely phrase it differently if the latter were your meaning.

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    2. I can't think of a painful, unnecessary medical procedure that I don't want to be rare. This is a dry hole.

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    3. But that rather goes to the point. You would hardly bother saying you want heart surgery to be rare, for example. For this reason, and given the context of the general abortion debate, the better interpretation is Clinton and the rest are using rare because they are at least squeamish about abortion.

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  17. Found a better link. According to Gallup polling, only 18% of Democrats think abortion should be legal in the third trimester:

    https://news.gallup.com/poll/235469/trimesters-key-abortion-views.aspx

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    1. Chad, that presents a conundrum: why are Dem politicians voting for laws making it legal, if only 18% of their own supporters want such a law? Presumably, if 18% think it's good, probably 40 % don't care or don't know, and the other 42% think it's bad. Why are they defying their own voters?

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    2. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see many Democratic politicians pushing for late term abortions. Feser only quoted Clinton, Obama, and Cuomo talking about abortion generally.

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    3. NY State just passed, and VA is proposing to pass, laws in favor of 3rd trimester abortions. Legislators in other states seem to be interested in following suit.

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    4. Yes, like Arizona and Rhode Island. You can also include the suite of Democrat Reps and Senators that support abortion at any time for any reason like Booker, Warren, Gillibrand, Harris, Feinstein, Gabbard, O'Rourke, Ellison, Schiff, Sinema, Wasserman-Schultz, and the like.

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    5. Well, I said this is not something that a wide swath of Democratic candidates is proposing or supporting, and you retort by claiming it's been made law in exactly one state out of 50. Are you disagreeing with me, and if so, how?

      Don't have time to check behind all of dover_beach's claims, but I'm pretty sure the overwhelming majority of Democratic political candidates support viability as a reasonable legal limit on abortion. I know for a fact it's true of Corey Booker.

      This whole conversation reminds me a bit of the CS Lewis quote about curing ourselves of the perverse desire to believe the worst of our enemies. The overwhelming majority of most liberals are not NEARLY as radical about abortion as some of you seem to think. Take that for the good news that it is.

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    6. Most Democrats I know have made that claim as long as I've known them, but then they turned around and supported the New York and Virginia bills.

      What that tells me is that most Democrats like to THINK OF THEMSELVES as people who don't support late-term abortion because it is so obviously murder and they would have to admit to themselves that they are monsters otherwise, but in matter of fact they do support late-term abortion when push comes to shove, as they inevitably will for removing absolutely any obstacle to total sexual autonomy without judgement.

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    7. When confronted with hard evidence, the desperate man turns to anecdotes. According to hard date, the "people you know" aren't representative. That's a good thing, unless you love hating liberals more than you love saving the unborn.

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    8. Chad, have you provided any hard data that contradicts the claim that the vast swath of Democratic reps don't support late-term abortion? Right now you have Democratic Senator Patty Murray blocking consideration of Sasse's Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in the Senate which simply obliged doctors to provide medical care for infants that survived an abortion.

      Further, Tony didn't "retort by claiming it's been made law in exactly one state out of 50"; he said it had already been passed in NY and was under consideration in Virginia ( I added AZ and RI), but he didn't limit the practice to those states alone. It is already legal in Alaska, Colorado, D.C., New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont for any reason, for the life and health of the mother in 16 states, life and physical health in 27 states, and life only in 3 states. See https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/gestational-limit-abortions/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Abortion%20Later%20in%20Pregnancy%20Permitted%20When%20Pregnancy%20Threatens%20Woman%27s:%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D.

      As for Cory Booker, he supports abortion post-viability as well for life and health of the mother reasons which given the broadness of 'health' means effectively for any reason.

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    9. Chad, it's a good thing when a Democrat doesn't support 3rd trimester abortion - it's a good thing for every person who doesn't support that.

      The problem with the "hard data" in polls is of this sort is that it is entirely possible to get different results when you change the process. For example, if you early on asked the question (for each respondent) "when do you think the fetus becomes a human person", my guess is that you will get different results from asking "do you think it is OK to abort the fetus at X point" that is later than that respondent thinks the fetus becomes a person: by raising consciousness of personhood as pertinent to the issue, you can modify people's understanding of their own preferences. Same if you alter the questions not simply by reference to "trimesters" but also include "pre- or post-viability", because a lot of people consider that point pertinent, and it happens in the middle of the second trimester. (More or less - it keeps changing.) At the same time, some people who would care about the timing at which the fetus becomes sensitive to pain, don't know when that happens. So creating questions that inform them of that point will alter numbers. The possibilities are endless.

      The odd thing about voting and abortion views is that people who elect pro-abortion Dems tend to elect Dems who are distinctly more pro-abortion than the average Dem is. The party culture has made it that Dem politicians who would say "I would be willing to go along with some limits on abortion" are slaughtered by the party leadership and don't generally get to the legislatures. The culture of the party foments fear of even a tiny bit of "backsliding" on abortion-available-at-all-times. (Repubs foment other fears.) The average voter can't be hurt by saying "I can live with some restrictions on abortion" but the Dem politician can.

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    10. I can't really disagree with any of that, Tony. I would maintain, though, that even with perfect information, I would guess that most Democrats would be much more hesitant to support abortion the further along the pregnancy goes. IOW, I would bet that no matter how you phrased the question, you'd still get the result that most Democrats fall roughly in category c, not b.

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    11. dover,

      Several of the states you list are not dominated by democratic politicians. Alaska is, and as far as I'm aware, has always been, a Republican-dominated Red State. Colorado is a swing state. So is New Hampshire. Laws providing for unrestricted abortion in those states couldn't pass without broad swaths of support (or apathy, or inaction) from Conservative and Republican candidates and voters.

      For the record, the same Gallup poll that says that only 18% of Democrats support third trimester abortions says that almost HALF of Republicans... 46 percent... support abortion in the first trimester. Abortion is a complicated issue that doesn't break down to a liberals bad/ conservatives good.

      I will grant that Tony is correct - like most Conservative Republicans get pushed further to the right than their constituents on guns by the party establishment, so too do most Liberal Democrats get pushed further to the left than their constituents on abortion. But the preponderance of the evidence tells us that, contrary to Ed's argument above, most Democrats are in category c, not b.

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  18. Ed,
    I recently read an early Jewish source (from the Talmud, or a Targum or a midrash) that mentioned 40 days as when a fetus became a full human being--the same number cited by Aquinas in the comment you alluded to in the OP. I wish I had written down the reference but I didn't. Do you happen to know whether Aquinas was citing a common Jewish tradition with regard to the 40 days as when a fetus became a "fully formed" human being?

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    1. Aquinas (Commentary on the Sentences lib. 3, dist. 3, art. 2) is going on something said by Aristotle, which gives the times as forty days for males and ninety days for females, and by Augustine, who gives the time as being about forty-six days. Aquinas himself never actually commits to a timetable for it, though, and while he's a bit vague, it's possible to interpret the comment as just giving when the fetus is fully articulated, rather than fully formed. He does, like everyone else at the time, regard conception as something that takes place over a long period of time. (Knowing about sperm and egg, we tend to think of 'conception' as meaning something that happens very quickly at the beginning, but prior to this knowledge, everybody takes conception to be a long-term 'cooking' process by which the mother's body gets the materials up to the right temperature and keeps the heat on as things mix together properly.)

      My suspicion, without knowing for sure, is that the rabbis you have in mind were themselves drawing on the broader medical views of the time, which would have been largely based on Aristotle and Galen (rabbis who were also physicians were quite common).

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    2. Thank you, Brandon! That is very helpful information and makes sense. I shall try to track down the rabbinic reference when I have time.

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  19. Thanks Brandon, however I don't think you have addressed anything that I said, or indeed anything relevant to Ed's comment, unless perhaps you are suggesting that St. Thomas thought that prior to "the quickening" there was no foetus at all? If so, and please correct me if this is mistaken (I haven't read about it for a couple of decades), how did St. Thomas also hold that the foetus had an animal soul in stage one, then an eternal soul from the quickening (which was, in the theory of the day, the moment when the eternal soul was created and infused)? If there's no foetus, there's nothing to have a soul of any kind, obviously.

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    1. I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about with regard to addressing you or Ed; I was explicitly answering Tim Finlay's question about rabbis, so I don't have any idea where any of your comment is coming from.

      It is worth noting, though, that Aquinas doesn't talk about "the quickening" at all, for the reason that nobody does prior to the early modern period -- "quickening" is a term that arose very late in certain legal contexts for determining precisely what crime was committed if (e.g.) violence toward a pregnant woman led to miscarriage. It has no significance outside of such legal contexts except in popular folklore.

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    2. Just saw your correction; I confess I was quite baffled!

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  20. Sorry, just realised that I was replying to Gaius, not Brandon.

    I should also add that I am anti-abortion, from conception, and emphatically. I am not convinced of the notion that it is murder from Day 1, but that to my mind doesn't weaken the prohibition one iota. If something is gravely sinful, it is gravely sinful. Adultery is not murder either, but we don't think, "Oh, adultery is OK sometimes because, you know, it doesn't involve murder."

    My suspicion is that the rampant naturalism of the modern era, even affecting most Catholics, is responsible for this obsession that abortion = murder. If it's not murder, the naturalist reasons, then it cannot be condemned (precisely because they do not really believe in divine revelation, which is supernatural).

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  21. I wholeheartedly support abortion. You and your rape-allowing god have no right to tell other people to be enslaved to raising a child they didn't choose to have. No one chooses to have sex, given the incoherence of libertarian free will. A person does what he or she desires to do, desires being stable or chosen randomly or on the basis on a prior desire, which in turn, is either stable or chosen on the basis of...regress.

    Euthanasia should also be legalized. Let's stop torturing people who never consented to being born, and are in pain.

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    1. Oh joy, here we go. I will start by pointing out that your account contradicts itself: if nobody can consent to sex, then all sex is rape. Not only is this absurd, it makes it hard to see why God "allowing rape" is such a bad thing, because how can the existence of nonconsensual sex be uniquely evil if ALL sex is nonconsensual? I presume you are not aggrieved at God for making us reproduce sexually, which would at least be a consistent position.

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    2. Cantus, you're wasting your time. Don't bother.

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    3. Perhaps I should have phrased that better. Nobody chooses sex, i.e. libertarianly chooses. Obviously, there's still a difference between sex wanted and unwanted sex (rape).

      I've debated free will with Thomists and they can't explain why the agent chooses B over A. They give superfluous information about the state of affairs consistent with different outcomes.

      I don't expect to change any Thomists' minds given their total lack of empathy for poor women. They think child rape can exist as long as it leads to a greater good. I'm here for fence-sitters and the possible (but unlikely) open-minded Catholics.

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    4. I'm entertaining the possibility that the comment was intended to be ironic.

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    5. It's not ironic at all. Unlike you Catholics, I care about the suffering of poor people, the elderly, sick, and miserable. Unlike your god, I would not dare allow a sweet child to be abused for a needless greater good.

      And most of all, unlike your god, I would never punish someone forever because his or her will randomly landed on rebellion over obedience.

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    6. «Unlike you Catholics, I care about the suffering of poor people, the elderly, sick, and miserable. Unlike your god, I would not dare allow a sweet child to be abused for a needless greater good.

      And most of all, unlike your god, I would never punish someone forever because his or her will randomly landed on rebellion over obedience.»

      Very good, I guess? But with all due respect, we're not here to talk about you. Your sentiments have been noted and appreciated, but they are irrelevant here, as are your views on God or free will, or the supposed immorality of Catholics. If you have an actual counterargument to the OP, then feel free to present one.

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    7. The first thing a fence-sitter and open minded person can observe here is how self-contradictory your whole viewpoint is.
      How is this not simply incoherent view to hold on your view given that you think that no one should hold these views.

      I care about the suffering of poor people, the elderly, sick, and miserable. Unlike your god, I would not dare allow a sweet child to be abused for a needless greater good.

      And last sentence is pretty ironic considering you defend abortion.

      Perhaps I should have phrased that better. Nobody chooses sex, i.e. libertarianly chooses. Obviously, there's still a difference between sex wanted and unwanted sex (rape).

      And this still doesn't remove inconsistency in your view because consent is essentially choosing not wanting even a drugged or manipulated person wants thing.

      And this post is not about free will so please don't post off-topic comments but I remember you still haven't answered my critiques of your arguments against free will.

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    8. I don't care if you think I'm irrelevant. I will not leave the comments section until you tell me why, in free will, the agent chooses B over A.

      I defend abortion precisely because I care about the baby. It will only suffer for a few seconds, and I'm reducing the suffering of the woman.

      Consent just means the man or woman wants to have sex and makes an act of will. It's a choice, you could say, just not a free choice.

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    9. No, I am not really bothered if you leave or not.
      Please stay and keep embarrassing yourself.Keep repeating long refuted claims and insults. Prove your self to even more of a troll then what is already plain.

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    10. Now you want me to stay. Good.

      You never refuted anything. I want to know why the agent chose B over A. You don't have an answer. You just point to things in the state of affairs compatible with both outcomes.

      All you Catholics do is mock. How about answering? Why does a person do B over A? I would be embarrassed to affirm that one deserves hell because of a mental coin toss.

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    11. I don't care if you think I'm irrelevant.

      Kindly re-read what I wrote: your views on God or free will are irrelevant to the issue of abortion. If you have a valid argument against the OP, then please present it.


      I defend abortion precisely because I care about the baby.

      Sweet Mother of Allâh.

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    12. Just let me make this clear for the record that I am not a Catholic. Well ..not yet at least.
      And secondly I have already answered this. If you just want to repeat this claim then plz do. I am sure all this stuff would be deleted here because its off-topic. You're either trolling or just extremely deluded.
      And again, please keep showing everyone your completely incoherent mess.

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    13. Notice that you can't answer why the agent chose B over A. Still waiting on the coin toss lipstick.

      I keep getting called a troll, even though you people are the ones mocking and dodging. All I want is an answer. Why did the agent do B over A?

      My views on free will and God are very relevant to abortion. I don't think babies are human persons. Same with dolphin babies. If the woman didn't freely choose to get pregnant, then the violinist argument goes through. So freedom is central.

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    14. Notice that here you show exactly why you are labeled a troll.
      or maybe you have an unability to read and a very short memory otherwise you wouldn't have been repeating this ridiculous statement.
      And also notice that you still have shown your position to be even internally consistent.
      You should actually be the last person to make any of these claims.

      of course I don't really expect you to suddenly learn your lesson so it is me who should just stop.

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    15. If the woman didn't freely choose to get pregnant, then the violinist argument goes through. So freedom is central.

      That is not necessarily true.

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    16. I want to express my support for abortion on a page about abortion. What's the big deal about killing a baby? It'll only suffer (if it does) for a few seconds, which is nothing compared to the pain it would experience through a lifetime and through the inevitable dying process. The baby will go through a painful death whether or not it is killed in the womb. It's just when.

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    17. ^Man you just showed your true colors to everyone here. I hope you don't have any children.

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    18. True colors? Your god allegedly killed babies too. And human persons. And he tortures people for a flip of the coin. Red is thinking of converting to a religion that teaches people go to hell over randomness!!!! Not to mention the rampant child abuse. That's rather sad. Luckily he's just one person.

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    19. Red,

      Tell me why the agent did B over A. I want to know why you think people deserve hell over a coin toss. Quit dodging.

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    20. >>"It'll only suffer (if it does) for a few seconds, which is nothing compared to the pain it would experience through a lifetime and through the inevitable dying process. The baby will go through a painful death whether or not it is killed in the womb. It's just when."

      This works equally well if you just substitute the word "human" instead of the word "baby". How is this not also a defense of infanticide, and murder more generally?

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    21. I reiterate, Counter Rebel is not worth engaging with. Let's respect Ed's combox enough not to muck it up.

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    22. I am worth engaging with.

      So in moral philosophy, there's the veil of ignorance. If you didn't know what person you'd be, what laws would work to make that society worth being in? A society that allows adults and children (not infants), with a desire to keep living and relatives and friends, etc, to just be killed randomly would make society messy. The reason babies are killed is not random or stupid, but out of empathy and love for both the woman and baby. The woman will be able to continue with her life, and the baby is spared the horror of growing up with a mom that didn't want her and would yell and be stressed out all the time.

      I don't have a problem with infanticide in the sense of euthanizing very young infants even after birth. Location isn't the issue, but development and personhood.

      Don't make out as a monster. Unlike your god, I would not sit and do nothing as a child gets raped. I want people to take that in: the Thomists' god watches sweet children GET RAPED and doesn't help them. Even sustains their erect penis. They have no place calling me a monster.

      Also god doesn't hate abortion all that much.

      Numbers 5:20 "But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[a] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

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    23. but out of empathy and love for both the woman and baby. The woman will be able to continue with her life, and the baby is spared the horror of growing up with a mom that didn't want her and would yell and be stressed out all the time.

      That just is the most stupidest reason.

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    24. https://www.lifenews.com/2015/05/18/medical-expert-confirms-unborn-children-feel-excruciating-pain-during-abortions/?fbclid=IwAR0Vr6vLozSmMMDO5sc9Fl2dcqOVkf-vNUQ5EH-ClBAOxRvRmQlwmthFm0M

      If true, I might need to adjust my position. But coming from a pro-life source, I'll need to do some double-checking.

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    25. Guys, stop feeding the troll. This guy is an SP-wannabe that Feser explicitly banned, for reasons that should be obvious.

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    26. You'd reach out to fence-sitters by not posting. Your hysterical, intellectual car-crashes of posts are hardly going to win anyone over.

      And you have never debated Thomists on free will, if you mean you contributes constructively and sensibly to any discussion. Now buzz off.

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    27. "No one chooses to have sex, given the incoherence of libertarian free will."

      This post almost has to be a troll, but on the offchance that it isn't:

      NOBODY CHOOSES TO OPPOSE ABORTION EITHER THEN, YOU ABSOLUTE NIMROD, SO YOUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTALISM IS JUST AS IRRATIONAL BY YOUR OWN LOGIC.

      Then again, I guess you didn't *choose* to be a moron.

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    28. Nobody freely chooses anything. Everything you choose is based on what you desire, and you can't choose what you desire -- lest that choice be based on nothing (randomness) or on a prior desire, and so forth.

      I didn't freely choose to support abortion. I support abortion because I'm not ruled by a fictional deity, and I care about people.

      If you explain Lucifer's rebellion with "Pride," that pride is not a full explanation, since he could've obeyed in spite of being prideful. So granted that pride, why did he rebel _rather than_ obey? This is a question Catholics cannot answer.

      "Your hysterical, intellectual car-crashes of posts are hardly going to win anyone over."

      You guys embarrass yourselves by resorting to insults over and over and over, and not answering the simple question, "Why did the agent choose B over A?" Calm down. It's a simple question.

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    29. You guys embarrass yourselves by resorting to insults over and over and over, and not answering the simple question, "Why did the agent choose B over A?" Calm down. It's a simple question.

      Oh pleezz, At least you should stop repeating this most bizarre assertion. Baiting, aren't you? This is the most typical and obvious troll behavior. You're not even trying to disguise it at this point.

      No one has patience to address your claims on every single new thread you decide to take over when you're just going to come back later and repeat the same claims and assert that others are dodging your Argument.

      Do yourself a favor and stop it. You might have observed by now that no one has taken this bait.

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    30. Since Red is too cowardly to answer a very simple question, would anyone else volunteer?

      Why did the agent choose B over A?

      I suspect that you guys are afraid to answer because you don't have one that's distinguishable from randomness.

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    31. Okay, i bite.

      The agent choose B over A because his intellect perceived B as better than A, causing him to realize than chosing B would be better to him, that a world where he choose B would be better that a world where he choose A,so he choose B.

      I do not understand Aquinas that well, but i believe that is about it. There's several posts about Intellectualism and Voluntarism on the blog, so you can read them and see if you can find answers to your doubts.

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    32. That's actually a good answer, but you'd have to admit to compatibilism. Given that the intellect sees B as better, then the agent could not have done otherwise in a categorical sense. (Unless it chooses to see B as better, but that starts the regress). Scholars disagree about Thomas Aquinas was a libertarian or a compatibilist. I think he was both -- if the intellect has multiple finite goods presented to it, the will can act towards one or the other. If it has the infinite good presented to it (the saints in heaven), then it wills the good out of necessity.

      Soft determinism makes God the author of sin, and it makes it irrelevant what we do, since nothing can change whether I go to Hell or not, since God already foreknows and predetermined it.

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    33. I agree with the first part of the post, thats how i see it. About Saint Thomas, Wikipedia mentions him on examples of compatibilists, but i don't know if he was/is one or not. Using what i know about him on will, i assume that he was/is.

      But i disagree on the second part. God, being omniscient and outside of time, really knows what will happen(though i say He knows using Aquinas doutrine of analogy, not like what "know" means when using to talk about us), but i can't really see how He is "the author of sin". When i choose to sin, i may only be choosing it because God actualized a world where i do it, but it don't change the fact that i choosed to sin, not God or no one else.

      At best you can say that God put me in a situation where i choose to sin, but saying that he made me do it is like saying that a economist that predict a economic crisis is the cause of the crisis! It all depends on me, if i would choose not to sin them God would just know that i wold not sin. Is my decision who determines what God knows, not the contrary!

      I really never studied this discution much, but the best answer to it seems to be Molinism. Willian Lane Craig is a amazing defender of it, so i recomend to you what he has writed and defended about it. Pretty sure he can help more than me.

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    34. Middle knowledge is prevolitional knowledge of how creatures would *libertarianly* choose given certain circumstances; knowledge of conditional future contingents/counterfactuals.. But since you espoused compatibilism, then counterfactuals of freedom would be grounded in God's decree -- it would be free knowledge, not middle knowledge.

      Middle knowledge, like foreknowledge, destroys libertarian freedom. If a proposition is true before you even do anything, then you can't do otherwise without falsifying the truth value of the proposition. So you're fated to act consistently with it. To be free, (conditional) future contingents must be false.* "Sam will do A" and "Sam will not do A" are both false, then the tenseless "Sam does A" goes from variably false to invariably true at the moment of choice.

      *Some open theists say neither true nor false. If one insists on classical logic, they could say they're all false.

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    35. Can't see what's the problem really. But them again, the free will debate was never a thing i studied much.

      Like, before* creating the world, God would only know:

      1. All the necessary/non-contigent truths(Natural Knowledge).

      *All the possible things that could happen in every possible situation(Middle Knowledge).

      Both aren't really choosed by God, they are just true.

      Them, using what He Knows, God creates the world. Now He also know:

      *What will happen in the created word(Free Knowledge).

      Is true that FK was decided in creation, but that's not really means that we are not free.

      You says that i'am fated to do X, but what makes me do X? My decision to do X. Can i force myself to choose? Can't see how.

      Yes, in a way, it is true that before i choose God knew that, where i in that situation, i would choose X, but it only was decided by me and by no one else. Where i to choose Y, them God would just know that i would choose Y.

      There's no one controling what i do, only me. All the propositions about what i choose are only true because of who i'am, not because of God will or because "Fate". I define what is truth about me, not the other way around.

      "To be free, future contigents must be false." But why? Does my decisions needs to be random to be free? Can't they be just my choices?

      Can't see a diference between compatibilism and libertarism really. In the two, what someone chooses is really based on is will only, not in anything else.

      *
      There's not exactly a time before the universe, since time begun to exist with creation, but this is not really important right now

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  22. Hello everyone. I've encountered an argument I'm not sure how to refute. An agnostic I know said it's ok to abort earlier term babies since they do not yet possess consciousness, since they have not yet grown a brain. I actually think I agree that they can't possess consciousness without a brain, but I still see it as wrong since I believe in the hylemorphic account of the soul, but that seems like a much harder line to take with someone who knows next to nothing of philosophy, and myself knowing not much more. I'd have to describe an entire underlying bedrock metaphysics, is there an easier way to refute the argument that it is only not permissible to abort a fetus after growth of a brain?

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    1. Merely having a brain is not sufficient for consciousness, what is required is a functioning brain. And the brain can fail to function, which is why we have comatose individuals. If such an individual is unconscious at present but is slowly recover such that in a few months, he will become fully conscious, then such a person is not different from an embryo in any relevant manner. Both have the intrinsic ability to attain brain function.

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    2. I said that and he responded that just because you are unconscious doesn't mean you do not still possess consciousness, there are still brain waves.

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    3. Well, if you are unconscious, then you do not posses consciousness as an act. Thus, to affirm that someone still "possesses consciousness" in an unconscious state, he would need to say that it possesses consciousness because it is the type of thing that can be conscious if certain conditions obtain. This sinks his position, however, because an embryo or fetus is a biological human that develops and grows of its own accord (the mother sustains the process but she doesn't "assemble" the child in any meaningful sense). So, if certain conditions obtain, like uninterrupted growth, then so too this embryo or fetus exhibit consciousness and thus, by his standard would be conscious enough to merit life.
      Brain waves might be a condition for embodied consciousness, but since they are not, by themselves, enough to make a person be conscious (as in the cases where people are unconscious and still have brain activity), brain waves cannot be the deciding factor.

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    4. To add to what @ccmnxc pointed out, electrical activity is present even in the brains of people undergoing seizures, but we cannot coherently say that they have properly functioning brains whilst they have seizures -- strictly speaking, they are unconscious during that time. So if consciousness is the deciding factor of foetal personhood, then epileptics cease to be persons during convulsions. But if we instead posit the capacity for consciousness as the criterion of personhood, then there is no principled distinction that can be made between an embryo and a comatose individual. But even if we posit the actual existence of the brain as the criterion, then the brain is formed by the seventh week of gestation. Any cut-off beyond that point is entirely arbitrary, since the brain continues to develop from that point -- the difference between a seven-week-old embryo's brain and a newborn's brain is one of degree.

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    5. What it comes down to is understanding the distinctions in modes of "being" that are more than "non-being" simply, and yet less than full "being" simply also. A rock doesn't not have actual consciousness right here and now, and the same is true of a sleeping doctor, or his patient A in a long-standing coma, and his other B patient who has been put under for surgery, and his last patient C who is a 3-month fetus still in utero but on whom he intends to operate as soon as feasible (while still in utero).

      But all of these latter ones "have" consciousness in a way the rock does not. The doctor will be conscious as soon as he wakes: he will return to consciousness in full actuality with great ease and in a very short time, he is firmly prepared and strongly disposed to be conscious-in-act. Patient A, if he recovers consciousness (as some in his state do), he will be just as conscious-in-act as the doctor will be upon waking, but while he DID enjoy consciousness-in-act at one time, and he has the some of the pre-requisites to enjoy it now, there is some impediment to one or more other pre-requisites to being conscious-in-act, and so he is less perfectly disposed to enjoy it in act than the doctor. Patient B also enjoyed consciousness-in-act in the past, and also has something that is acting as an impediment to his having in full actuality now, but the impediment is a passing one and his disposition to being fully conscious in actuality is far more so than Patient A. Patient C has never yet enjoyed FULL consciousness-in-act, but is disposed to achieve that state if nothing comes along and blocks it: his internal organizing principles of activity are strongly disposed to bringing him to a state in which he will have full consciousness-in-act.

      Thus they all "have" consciousness in a fundamentally different way than the rock, they are all disposed toward having it in act barring impediments. The attribute of having an innate disposition toward it pertains to all of them by nature, and thus consciousness "belongs" to human beings regardless of whether they have it in act right now or not - i.e. they have it on account of being human as such, and not on account of an accidental attribute which may come and go.

      There are useful terms for the middle states, which include "habit". The doctor who is asleep retains consciousness as a habit (i.e. a habitual attribute) which entails a greater degree of readiness for it than, say, the fetus. The terms are not critical, what is critical is recognizing that there are modes of "actuality" that sit between complete non-being and complete actuality, that tell us that an attribute applies to a thing imperfectly but still really.

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  23. I think any reasonable person would agree that the hunter can't shoot into the bush if he even slightly suspects a person to be lurking in the trees..... For not a slight reason, anyways.

    However, I've had people come back and say something to the effect: "Yes I don't know, with certitude, if we are killing a non-person in an early abortion, although I would say it still is unlikely, what I do know is that we are severely restricting the personal freedom of what we know is an actual person if we proscribe the early abortion."

    To adjust the hunter analogy to reflect this consideration. What if the hunter would undergo a heavy burden, such as likely fatal starvation or a high degree of suffering from malnutrition if he didn't take the chance and fire into the trees? What if he thought there was a much higher probability of that silhouette he sees being a deer, than a human, but he still doesn't have "moral certitude" as to "what" that thing is. May he fire then?

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  24. just wondering.
    do you think abortion should be permitted in the case of rape and incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger?

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