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Abortion Ethics: Natural Law vs. Naturalism

This article will examine (1) natural law’s and (2) naturalism’s opposing views on abortion. Their diverse philosophies determine radically divergent abortion ethics, which will be examined solely through natural reasoning.

Pertinent Thomistic Doctrines

Since embryology teaches that specifically human life begins at conception, modern natural law ethics – following the principles of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) – prohibits direct abortion at any stage, since it is the taking of innocent human life. This position is consistent with the philosophical doctrine of hylemorphism, which teaches that all physical substances are composed of matter and form. Since form determines what kind of thing a substance is, the human substantial form, or soul, determines the presence of human life. Soul determines that something is a single, unified living organism of a given species.

Embryology makes clear that a specifically human organism, distinct from the body of its mother, begins life at the moment of fertilization. “Zygote” is simply a technical name for the first single-celled human organism. That selfsame human organism lives throughout all the later stages of fetal development, birth, infancy, pubescence, adulthood, and senescence – until death.

Because the same individual human substance lives from conception to death, no change makes it suddenly become a person based on acquisition of certain properties, say, cognitive abilities. If it is a person at any later stage of life, it is a person at conception and has the same personal rights throughout life.

Rationality belongs to the human essence throughout life, even though sentient and rational faculties become active as organic functions develop. We do not become human at a certain point of development, only to later lose our human rights because of irreversible dementia. The distinction between potency and act is crucial. The human organism is always a person with rights in act, even though various human faculties may go from potency to act and even back to potency later.

Specifically human faculties (operative potencies) are not yet in act with respect to their operations – but are fully in act with respect to existence, even from the time of conception.

These faculties, which are immaterial properties of the human soul, must not be confused with mere brain organization, which, when sufficiently developed, is used for the faculties’ operations. While a certain brain organization is needed for understanding to occur, it is the intellectual faculty that actually allows the person to think. Mere physical brain activity cannot even perceive sensible images as a whole, and certainly cannot form universal concepts.

This is why faculties must be present from conception, since they have no way of later developing in the immaterial substantial form – and brain function alone can neither think nor sense. The faculties of the soul are needed, so they must begin existence when the soul does.

There has to be a distinction between the substance itself and its operative potencies (powers, faculties). Otherwise, the act of the substance (existence) would be identical to the acts of the faculties (sensing, thinking) – meaning that when not sensing or thinking a man would stop existing!

The faculties exist continuously, while they go into act and sometimes cease acting, and then, begin acting again.

For example, I can be not thinking or seeing, and then begin thinking or seeing, and then cease thinking or seeing again – all the while continuing to (1) exist as a substance and (2) possess the powers to think and to see.

Since this continuously living human organism belongs to the species of rational animal, it is what Boethius defined as a “person,” since “a person is a supposit (substance) of a rational nature. The only other such created persons are angels.

Natural Law and Abortion

Natural law ethics defines murder as the gravely immoral evil of directly taking innocent human life. Decent men recognize this as a basic moral precept. Without space to defend this precept fully, the argument begins that rights flow from obligations. God gives us life and obliges us to live it well so as to attain the Supreme Good, God himself. That obligation gives us the corresponding right to live. Because others must respect our right to live, it is immoral to violate that right by taking an innocent human life.

Abortion is such an immoral act -- evil by its very nature (intrinsically evil), since it directly attacks the most fundamental human right. Nor can such an act be justified by any utilitarian purpose, however good, since natural law forbids using an intrinsically evil means to attain a good end.

Up to half of embryos die before implantation. Could their genetic material be so defective that they do not constitute human life? Could one infer that very early stage abortion might be licit? But, those which do survive are human lives and ought not be killed. Those that do not survive either were human or not. If not, then, since they die anyway, there is no reason to kill them. But, if they were human lives, then killing them is clearly immoral. So, the objection is pointless.

But, did not St. Thomas accept the outdated successive animation theory that the human soul is not present at conception, but rather appears in the third month, after a vegetative and then sentient soul was present in the first and second months of gestation? Yes, he provisionally accepted Aristotle’s reasoning about this, because the ancients did not see how the early stages’ matter looked fit for the human form.

Modern Thomists know that the material organization of the human organism, even as a single-celled zygote, is uniquely specific to the human species, as evinced by the uniquely human DNA present in every living human cell, even in its initial stages. Hence, they now correctly insist that the human form must be present, even in the zygote.

Naturalism's Abortion Stance

Accepting neither God nor a spiritual and immortal human soul, naturalism approaches abortion’s ethics very differently. Ethical norms themselves are based, not on some transcendental metaphysics, but simply common human approbation of what is right or wrong, possibly augmented by some claim of evolutionary advantage to those who practice such norms. Absent natural law foundations, many different theories are advanced.

For example, the principle not to take innocent human life is not viewed as protective of all human organisms. Rather, criteria as to who merits the “right-to-life-conferring” designation of a “person” are considered and applied only as “warranted.”

This means that the human zygote is not considered a person because it lacks certain “personhood” properties, including sentience, self-consciousness, rationality, creativity, socialization, and so forth. Depending upon criteria selected, different stages of fetal development may or may not be granted full human status, with birth being an important event for both ethical and legal purposes.

The gaining of personhood and its corresponding right to life, then, is seen as a gradual process. Properties, such as various levels of cognitive awareness, birth giving “embodiment in the world,” and even societal acceptance, become benchmarks by which personhood is more or less arbitrarily conferred upon the developing human organisms.

Using this reasoning, various seeming paradoxes can be explained. For example, a baby born several weeks prematurely is presently considered a legal person with a right to life, whereas a full term fetus can be aborted at the moment prior to natural birth, since he is still not born – even though neurologically more fully developed than the prematurely born baby.

One explanation is that birth itself confers “embodiment into the world,” and thus establishes a claim for the premature infant that is lacking to the as yet unborn full term fetus.

For naturalists, the defining characteristic of the human person becomes the development of some brain function that enables activities which fulfill “person conferring” criteria, such as certain cognitive abilities.

Hylemorphism vs. Atomism

Central is the question of whether the human zygote is correctly described as (1) a hylemorphic unity, that is, living things are made substantially one being by having an immaterial form that unifies the matter and places it into the human species, or (2) as simply a product of biological evolution, that is, a group of synergistically interacting organic molecules with no metaphysical uniting principle.

Because naturalism ascribes no substantial form having special human powers to the human zygote, there is no basis for saying that the zygote is a “rational animal” that would fulfill Boethius’s definition of the person, or, for that matter, any other definition of person that naturalists would accept.

Naturalism rejects God’s existence, typically by espousing atomism -- the claim that all reality ultimately reduces to the smallest physical units: atoms or subatomic particles. Thus, the focus is now on atomism.

Does hylemorphism or atomism correctly describe the zygote? Several arguments show that hylemorphism prevails.

First, without hylemorphism, not only is the substantial unity of the zygote denied, but so is that of all later stages of human development. Substantial unity means that a thing is undivided in itself and distinct from other beings.

This is crucial because we do not even exist without such unity. My video, “Atheistic Materialism,” shows that Richard Dawkins does not exist – based on his own atomistic premises.

If one takes atomism seriously, the only things that really exist are whatever basic atomic or subatomic units of matter one selects as ultimate. For sake of argument, let us consider that the building blocks of organic chemistry and of organisms are atoms. And atoms combine to make larger entities, be they molecules or entire organisms.

The logic is as simple as this: When two atoms combine chemically, say, sodium and chlorine, do they become one thing (salt?), or are they really still two things (two distinct atoms), functionally associated? Atomism logically is forced to the latter position, since all that really exists is atoms, even though they may enter into temporary chemical bonds with other atoms.

The same logic must be followed all the way up through the zygote, the newborn, and the adult human being -- including Dr. Dawkins. Atomism is ontologically committed to the sole realities being atoms, despite highly-complex chemical bonding taking place in functional unities (organisms) obeying DNA dictates.

This means that zygotes are not persons, not merely because they lack certain cognitive abilities, but because they lack substantial unity.

In a word, the philosophy of atomism or naturalism may exist, but atomists and naturalists do not.

Absent some real unifying principle, such as form, atomism’s self-defeating truth is that nothing really exists above the atomic level. This is why there is no stable principle of existence on which naturalism can depend to establish a principle of “personhood.” Atomism’s most embarrassing “public secret” is that, not only is the zygote not a person (on its false premises), but there is no unified supposit, substance, thing… on which to ground the notion of personhood at all.

Even the concept of “neural networks or patterns” suffers the same problem. A certain neural pattern may exhibit cognitive activity, much like a computer with AI, but there is no “there” there to be the person having “personhood.” Just atoms exchanging outer orbit electrons. That’s all.

Atomists have abolished substantial forms. But they have also abolished themselves in the process!

The entire debate over when personhood is present, based on various cognitive or other criteria, misses the point – since the same atomism that denies full human rights to the zygote also denies the ontological basis for the substantial existence of any person at any stage of human life.

The only way to avoid this intellectual suicide is to grant that there is some principle of existential unity above the atomic level in living organisms, including the zygote. Dare we call it a “substantial form?”

What atomism lacks is a stable principle of unification for living organisms. That is why naturalists struggle to designate the point at which the “person” finally appears in fetal development.

“Personhood” never can appear in naturalism, since all that really exists is the atoms – not the atomists who believe this fantasy.

At best, the concept of personhood that atomism can support is that of a certain neural pattern that has “achieved” epiphenomenal consciousness. This functionally, but not substantially, unified neural pattern would then become the “person,” using the entire organism, brain and all, like a parasite alien invading a victim host.

Even then, the neural pattern’s consciousness could not be just material atoms, since even sense experience of the wholeness of images must be immaterial, as shown in an earlier Strange Notions piece.

Conversely, if zygotes really exist as substantial unities, hylemorphism reappears – together with continuously existing substances and powers, whose secondary cognitive activities come and go.

Naturalism lacks a continuous principle of substantial unity for the living organism. What hylemorphism has is an essential nature that is present from conception to death – a nature manifesting fully human cognitive abilities sometime after conception.

Previously, I have shown non-material activities of sentient and intellectual substances comport with hylemorphism, but not atomism’s materialism -- specifically by pointing to (1) sentient cognitive abilities shared by lower animals to apprehend sense data as a whole (which no material device can do), and (2) spiritual intellectual abilities found in man by which he forms universal concepts. Atomism can explain none of these abilities.

Ethical and Legal Principles

Two principles pertain to abortion:

  1. It is never licit to directly kill an innocent human being.
  2. It is never licit to perform an action unless one is morally certain that it will not directly kill an innocent human being.

These principles have substantial acceptance, both in ethics and in law.

Regarding the first principle, it is the primary obligation of society or the state to protect the innocent human life of every human person within its jurisdiction. With respect to secondary rights, such as bodily autonomy and consent, these rights are limited insofar as they violate the more primary right to life of another human being. Autonomy and consent over my body ends when it allows me to destroy your body and life. That the right to life is more primary than any other right follows from the fact that unless one is alive, no other rights can exist.

The second principle reflects a common sense provision of law. People go to jail for shooting humans they fail to make certain were deer.

For hylemorphism, human life begins at conception and is a continuous substantial entity until death. All scientific evidence supports that the same organism present at conception is the one present in adulthood. Therefore, the same substantial form must be present from conception to death. As shown above, this includes the soul’s immaterial faculties. Since the form of the adult is clearly human and a person, the soul and human person must have been present from conception on.

Therefore abortion is always morally wrong and to be condemned. And since it is wrong by its very nature (intrinsically wrong), no set of circumstances or good intentions or outcomes can possibly justify it – for no good end can ever justify an intrinsically evil means to that end.

But what of the view of atomism?

Since neural networks capable of “human” acts, such as creativity, do not develop until a certain point in gestation, or even at birth in the case of “embodiment in the world,” atomists claim specifically human faculties are non-existent until such neural development. Thus, they can claim moral certitude (beyond a reasonable doubt) that a “person” does not yet exist, and thus, abortion violates no human rights.

But, as demonstrated above, in atomism the human organism has no substantial unity at any stage of its existence. All that exists are individual atoms. There is never a substantially unified single being to serve as a substrate for “personhood.”

At best, the “person” turns out to be a certain neural complex of atoms, developed in the human brain, having no substantial unity. Even then, no purely physical neural complex can grasp the wholeness of an extended image in a single, simple act. To do this, an immaterial form is needed, which atomism rejects.

With no immaterial “form” to unite the neural network, its existential experiences of unity and selfhood have no rational basis. Conversely, the existential experience of the self bespeaks some kind of substantial unity, which atomism cannot explain.

Legality

Never even having heard of hylemorphism, the common sense metaphysical insights of most people will lead them rightly to suspect that, if we are a single organism as adults, we must have been one as a human zygote – and that the same individual human life developed from conception into the adult we encounter as a person today.

For that reason, most citizens who follow the ethical principles enunciated above will conclude that one cannot, with moral certainty, say at which point the human organism became a person. Being uncertain of this point, they may well conclude that it would be as immoral to kill the unborn child at any point. For this reason, we should not be surprised if legislators conclude that the common ethical principles of society operate to protect the unborn.

While some will protest that society has no right to violate the autonomy and consent of women with pro-life legislation, since most people recognize that the first obligation of society is to protect the life of its innocent members, pro-life legislation may find increasing support.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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  • Logike

    "All scientific evidence supports that the same organism present at conception is the one present in adulthood."

    --No it doesn't, no more than that it supports the view that the acorn is the same entity as the oak tree. This is a metaphysical assumption explained by one's favored account of identity. So, what about this assumption? Is the later oak tree identical to the acorn? It's not clear that it is. An equally plausible view is that acorn ceases to exist, either at some discrete moment in time or continuously, until a new entity arises from the acorn altogether. So though I agree that hylemorphism, rather than atomism, better explains continuity of identity, that doesn't mean hylemorphism is true, because it's not obvious there *is* a continuity of identity in the first place.

    Hylemorphism is brought in after the fact to back that assumption; it's not a reason to believe it.

    • Mark

      You're arguing against the entire medical and scientific community with "No it doesn't". Any other account of identity is an unscientific metaphysical assumption.

      • You're arguing against the entire medical and scientific community with "No it doesn't". Any other account of identity is an unscientific metaphysical assumption.

        Really? The entire scientific community? Ship of Theseus arguments are rather more philosophical rather than scientific so I'd be surprised if the scientific community was unanimous on this! In general science doesn't concern itself with issues of identity, but only with the physical processes it can measure. Identity becomes more of a language issue.

        • Mark

          In general science does concern itself with identification, classification, and lifeform. Identity becomes "an issue" when we make moral/philosophical claims about that lifeform.

          • "In general science does concern itself with identification, classification, and lifeform."

            Only to the degree that it is necessary describe the natural world. For example, we break animals into species not because it's important to be able to talk about them, not because there is an Aristotelian essential difference between species. Attempts to consistently define a species such that it conforms to our intuition consistently result in exceptions and irregularities such as ring species.

            But it's important to understand that this isn't the same thing as the natural processes which are the proper subject of science. Instead it is a matter of interpretation. It is a matter of opinion as to whether dilophosaurus should be grouped with allosaurus because of its diet or oviraptor because of its crest. In practice paleontologists attempt to group dinosaurs based on their evolutionary relationships because that's what's important to them but they will still use other groupings when relevant.

            Apply this to acorns, and you'll find that its a matter of interpretation whether an acorn is somehow identical with the tree that will grow from it. In some senses it is and in other senses it isn't. This interpretation is distinct from the observations about how the natural processes surrounding acorns and their growth actually work.

          • Mark

            "Apply this to acorns"

            Show me a plant biologist that plants an acorn that grows into a oak tree identify the acorn and the oak tree as two separate organisms.

            Muddy that water all you want; science considers a human organism in zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, child, adult lifeforms the same organism.

          • If you're going to play that game, Richard Dawkins has argued that acorns are not oak trees and is a zoologist. That's not exactly the same as a botanist but close enough.

            The problem with that demand however, is that it's an appeal to authority. You're asking about the personal opinion of individual scientists rather than the results of their work and are not distinguishing between different concerns. There is a difference between acknowledging the scientific fact that an acorn can develop into a full grown tree and deciding whether that means that they are the same thing. One is a scientific question and the other is philosophical and trying to blur the distinction between them muddies the waters on this subject.

          • Mark

            I'm not playing any games. Dr. B stated a scientific fact in his article which I agree is a scientific fact and which I think most scientists would/should universally agree. He identifies it as a scientific statement in the sentence by appeal to embryology. While he didn't cite a specific reference, I happen to have a 9th edition Guyton's medical physiology book on my bookshelf (ch 82 & 83 pp 1033-1058). If you don't agree a zygote that develops into an adult human is the selfsame organism offer your evidence.

            So we can see who is playing games, here is the Dawkins 1/27/13 tweet: "An acorn is not an oak tree. A fetus is not a baby. "Pro life" idiots, please stop abusing language (btw you're only pro HUMAN life anyway)."

            Dawkins is a good scientist and a bad philosopher. He should probably stick with what he's good at.

          • Jim the Scott

            @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus

            >If you're going to play that game, Richard Dawkins has argued that acorns are not oak trees and is a zoologist.

            Except that is a philosophical question not a scientific one & Dawkins is a complete incompetent when it comes to philosophy even philosophy of science. Thought if it is a comfort to him he wasn't as bad as the late Stephen Hawkings who was pure Shite in the philosophy department.

          • Richard Morley

            Show me a plant biologist that plants an acorn that grows into a oak tree identify the acorn and the oak tree as two separate organisms.

            Show me a plant biologist that sees that acorn divided into 100 germs which develop into 100 trees, and identifies all those trees as the same organism.

          • Mark

            Thank you for providing additional supplemental evidence to the individual organisms.

          • Richard Morley

            Thank you for providing an incoherent response to my point.Unless you thought that I was actually trying to convince the oak trees, in which case your response is coherent but insane.

            Do you, or do you not, have an example of any 'plant biologist' who would say that each and every tree derived from that acorn were "the same organism"?

          • Jim the Scott

            Shifting the burden of proof I see rather then answer his question. How droll.

          • Richard Morley

            His answer was both incoherent (a typo?) and not a question. I still answered it. Do you think that any 'plant biologist' would consider 100 different oak trees to be the same organism? Do you consider identical twins to be the same person?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Do you think that any 'plant biologist' would consider 100 different oak trees to be the same organism? Do you consider identical twins to be the s
            same person?

            Your sophistry is amusing, as are your Red Herrings (which Dr. B justly accuses you being on a fishing trip for IMHO. Nothing personal.) & leading questions.

            Mark said "Show me a plant biologist that plants an acorn that grows into a[sic] oak tree identify the acorn and the oak tree as two separate organisms."

            You gave your "response" (i.e. twins & germinating seeds which I notice in another reply Dr. B gave you a metaphysical explanation for which you didn't quite get) which was weird. Because you see if I take your "response" to Mark seriously (which I cannot as it is silly) then in effect I am a "separate organism" from my 5 year old self which on a substantive and essential level I am not. Now I am clearly really distinct from my 5 year old self in terms of accidents. 51 year old me is older, wiser, went threw puberty, had sex and fathered children, drank alcohol legally, gained weight, argued with a host of clueless persons, became a bitter cynical old arsehole etc.. but in essence I am the same person as I was then as I have always directly perceived myself to be me. It is not hard.

            The ability of a fertilized ovum to become two people if the Zygote splits apart is unremarkable(as are germinating seeds). Two different substantive forms & thus different organism are made & it matters little to me wither God (who would foresee the split) initially creates two souls which proceeds the split of the ovum or God chooses to create a soul for the broken off ovum after the fact. Like that matters?

            So your criticisms are strange to me.

          • Richard Morley

            Your sophistry is amusing

            Your attempts to dismiss cogent arguments as 'amusing' or 'droll' rather than responding to them are likewise.. 'failures' is the word I would use. Whatever, they are not cogent arguments.

            in another reply Dr. B gave you a metaphysical explanation for which you didn't quite get

            No, I got it, you just did not get my response. As he would say, reread my response more carefully.

            If 'personhood' coming into being at germination is not a problem for his understanding of his philosophy, why is 'personhood' coming into being upon twins separating or cognitive function coming on line apparently a problem?

            in effect I am a "separate organism" from my 5 year old self

            You speak about identity, not personhood. But fine, you are clearly not clear about these issues.

            But yes, in a sense. Have you never heard the phrase "I am not thesame person I was then"? Twins were once the same 'person'. Which one was the 'original'? Was the unfertilised egg that became you already 'you'? Adult, or even infant, humans cannot realistically divide, but to entertain sci-fi scenarios, if a teleporter accident split you into two people, would you both be 'the same organism'? Trying to drag this back on topic, if Dr Bonnette's philosophy cannot reconcile any of these situations without invoking divine intervention, does this prove God exists or just that his philosophy (or his understanding thereof) is lacking?

            Like that matters?

            Not if you are blind to the implications. Have a nice day.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Your attempts to dismiss cogent arguments...

            Is that what ye call yer sophistic ignorant twaddle Mr. "My Heroic Pro-Life Relative Lost her life so Abortion is Bad"? Feck off ya boring me.

            >If 'personhood' coming into being at germination is not a problem for his understanding of his philosophy, why is 'personhood' coming into being upon twins separating or cognitive function coming on line apparently a problem?

            You haven't show us the problem genius. A fertilized egg is at minimum one person if it is predestined to be twins then its two by the will of the Almighty.
            How is this hard? It is a person because in its essence it has intellect and will. It doesn't matter that the intellect and will will develop and manifest later the potential exists in the complete organism. Unfertilized eggs and sperm are components nothing more till they car combined to make a person. Why is this hard? What do twins have to do with the fecking price of weed in Compton?

            >You speak about identity, not personhood. But fine, you are clearly not clear about these issues.

            No you are equivocating all over the place and it is hard to keep up with ya. Mark's point was obvious and you are going out of yer way to dodge it. Also Richard if you follow yer own advise that you condescendingly gave Dr. B and "read carefully" Mark was talking about "identity".

            >But yes, in a sense. Have you never heard the phrase "I am not thesame person I was then"?

            I already explained it in Thomistic terms how I am the same (in essence) and how I am not (in accidents) learn the lingo and stop boring the shite out of me with yer streams of consciousness.

            >but to entertain sci-fi scenarios, if a teleporter...

            Stop boring me with that Star Trek crap I am into Hard Scifi. What ya gonna jump to Hyperspace or some gay crap like that? Go Ben Bova or Gregory Benford or go home! I thought you heathen types where into science? You might as well have given a Star Wars example. Epic Fail!

            >Twins were once the same 'person'. Which one was the 'original'?

            Now who is confusing identity with personhood? If a particular ovum is predestined to be twins why can't that ovum be both me and my brother?
            Why is that a problem? That could be the metaphysical reason as to why the ovum divided? Two blastocyst who reform one accidentally kills the other. Which one dies? I couldn't tell ya. Tis a mystery.

            > if Dr Bonnette's philosophy cannot reconcile any of these situations without invoking divine intervention,

            He kind of did and you have not made a coherent count case. Here is the problem. Your real argument is Dr. Bonnette's philosophy cannot reconcile any of these situations under your own philosophical materialist presuppositions that you bring to the table and beg the question with. We don't hold any of those presuppositions. That is the point.

          • Ficino

            It doesn't matter that the intellect and will will develop and manifest later the potential exists in the complete organism.

            Do you mean that intellect and will exist potentially in the embryo?

          • Jim the Scott

            More precisely it exists in the essence of the fertalized ovum but it actually develops later as a potential that exists in said essence. The term "potential" here means "a power" so the power of intellect & will exists in the essence of the ovum that are made actual by biological forces(at least on the material side).

            Thank you for saying something sensible. I was loosing hope.

    • Ameribear

      Embryology identifies the nature of the zygote as that of a new, whole, genetically distinct, autonomously developing, human organism and states that that nature never changes from conception until death. How is that not the same organism present at both conception and adulthood?

  • Chris Morris

    I see a lot here about scientific definitions, philosophical concepts, logical principles and so on but I don't see much evidence of actual care and sympathy for real individual humans. Would it not have been possible even briefly to note that sometimes an abortion, though a heartbreaking choice, is the best option?

    • Rob Abney

      Chris, an abortion should not be a heartbreaking choice if you are a naturalist, since according to the OP "they can claim moral certitude (beyond a reasonable doubt) that a “person” does not yet exist, and thus, abortion violates no human rights".
      If you understand the reasoning based on hylemorphism that the zygote is a person then an abortion can never be "the best option".

      • Chris Morris

        Rob, yes that's all very well in the hypothetical world of philosophical debates, especially the disembodied world of analytical philosophy, but in the real world where a real person has to decide whether it would be better for their real child to live or die, anyone that doesn't consider that a heartbreaking choice I suspect is going to have difficulty offering sensible and helpful suggestions to the problem.
        Even if we're talking about governments formulating laws here, the idea that this should only be formalised through such abstract analysis disregarding real world situations would in my view be the wrong way to approach this.

        • Rob Abney

          in the real world where a real person has to decide whether it would be better for their real child to live or die

          The choice to kill a real child can only be made if you arbitrarily grant that decision-making power to one party over another, in this case the born have the right to life and the unborn do not. You can dismiss the philosophical reasoning but you should acknowledge what system you are using “in the real world”, most likely you are preferring some form of political reasoning, in this case it seems to be might-makes-right reasoning.

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, I think you're missing the point. It's not a case of being arbitrarily granted the power, rather it's the case that people do find themselves in the situation of having to consider that choice. Certainly, one could 'solve' that problem by imposing (either arbitrarily or justified by a particular religious or philosophical opinion) a complete ban on abortions and presumably accept responsibility for the consequent death and suffering or one could try to understand the actual circumstances where the problem arises, perhaps through empathy (I can't remember offhand which philosophical system this comes under - Pragmatism, is it?) and help to negotiate strategies in areas such as education and contraception that may reduce the number of unnecessary abortions and alleviate some suffering.

          • Rob Abney

            Chris, I think that your point is that you want to reduce hardship and suffering, which is admirable. You consider abortion to be one way to solve certain problems but I consider abortion to always be unjust so not an option. There are many ways to address unplanned or unwanted pregnancy and if abortion is not an option then those other ways to help people will be more humane.

          • Chris Morris

            Yes, Rob, I think reducing hardship and suffering is what the debate should be focussed on and, clearly, abortion is one option that has to be available (and I shouldn't need to rehash the list of situations where it is the only option).
            My unease is in the way that the debate is framed, both here in the type of article Dennis has written and in the usual sort of response the pro-choice side offer, as a dry, academic philosophy debate of the 'my side wins, your side loses' form which distracts from the real problem, polarises opinions and gets in the way of finding political strategies that actually make a difference.

          • Rob Abney

            and I shouldn't need to rehash the list of situations where it is the only option

            You do have to, unless you’re only looking for a political solution which includes continuing abortions.

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, this is a reasonably interesting internet conversation I'm conducting while I'm putting masking tape round my living room so that I can redecorate and cooking my dinner - I really don't "have to" do anything. However, I would, indeed, be looking for a political solution which includes abortion as an option. As I've indicated, I think that anything else is unlikely to improve the situation and may possibly make it worse.
            Would you care to give an indication of how your view could be implemented?

          • Rob Abney

            Please provide one example where abortion is the only option.
            Why does your political solution have to include abortion?

            My view would be implemented when governments recognized that the zygote is a person and deserves the right to not be killed. Then there would be very few abortions and there would have to be a greater understanding that our society should be shaped to be friendly to larger families.

          • Chris Morris

            Examples:
            11 year old girl pregnant through rape, too frail to withstand a full-term pregnancy
            Patau's Syndrome
            Trisomy 13
            Ectopic pregnancy
            and so on...
            I think we all 'deserve the right not to be killed' but the above list indicates that this still means that sometimes someone has to choose.
            A society "shaped to be friendly to larger families" is an interesting idea. Generally, the better educated and affluent a society is, the smaller families become. Perhaps government incentives could encourage larger families?

          • Rob Abney

            None of your 3 examples represent "abortion as the only option", the first two represent very difficult medical situations, the ectopic pregnancy has the same effect as an abortion but not the same intention.
            Why are you so committed to abortion?

          • Chris Morris

            Actually, there are four examples provided and I'm not particularly interested in quibbling about definitions of 'abortion', 'medical emergency' or 'difficult medical situations' for the same reason that I think it's a waste of time arguing about when a foetus 'becomes a person'.
            However, I would like you to explain in what way those four examples fail to represent abortion as the only option.
            "Why are you so committed to abortion?" Why would you twist my view that some abortions are necessary in to being "committed to abortion"?

          • Rob Abney

            The young girl is the victim of a rapist, why would killing the unborn person be a just idea much less the only option.
            Why would someone with a severe disability need to be killed?
            Finally, you are committed to abortion, you cannot imagine a world without it.

          • Chris Morris

            "Why would killing the unborn person be a just idea much less the only option?"
            Because the example gives you the choice of killing one person or two people.
            "Why would someone with a severe disability need to be killed?"
            Because of the extreme suffering the child will experience in the few weeks or months that it will survive.
            "...you cannot imagine a world a world without it." Trying to tell me what I can and cannot imagine is simply being obnoxious - please don't descend to that level.

          • Rob Abney

            In the first scenario you would support "certainty" in the killing of one over only the "possibility" of two dying.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_youngest_birth_mothers

            Are there other scenarios where you support killing a person rather than providing compassionate care to relieve suffering?

            Can you imagine a world without abortion? What would it look like?

          • David Nickol

            Can you imagine a world without abortion? What would it look like?

            Good question. Can you imagine a United States in which abortion is prohibited and those prohibitions were as strictly enforced as other homicide laws? Would it be a better country?

            I would note that under current "pro-life" political thinking, women would still be legally free to have as many abortions as they pleased. Only those who performed abortions would be breaking the law.

          • Rob Abney

            That's a different subject. I'm interested in abortion supporters becoming aware of the many alternatives to abortion, so that abortion is not only the last option but not even an option to consider.

          • Good question. Can you imagine a United States in which abortion is prohibited and those prohibitions were as strictly enforced as other homicide laws? Would it be a better country?

            At the rate we're going, particularly in GOP controlled south, one may not have to wait too long in order to actually see what the US would look like. We'd probably have a lot of women in jail, simply for asserting their reproductive rights.

            We'd probably also have women in jail for getting into situations where they endanger the life of their unborn child, such as this: https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/2019/06/woman-indicted-in-shooting-death-of-her-unborn-child-charges-against-shooter-dismissed.html

          • Chris Morris

            Good morning, Rob.
            I can see that you're determined to bring the conversation down to the level of a primary school slanging match rather than talk sensibly about how the abortion debate can be framed in such a way as to actually make a difference which is disappointing but not surprising.

          • Rob Abney

            I honestly don't know what you are referring to. So far your position is that you support killing unborn persons when the delivery may be difficult or when the born child may be disabled. Since your first comment dismissed any philosophical reasoning on the subject the only way to approach a discussion is to consider individual cases. Also for the individual cases that you presented you claimed that abortion was the "only option". I have shown in those cases that it is not only not the only option but that it does not even need to be considered.

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, my 'position' here is simply that framing the conversation purely in terms of producing a single decision-making procedure based on any philosophical system that doesn't recognise the full human social reality or of an endless argument about scientific definitions of when a baby becomes a human being seems to me more likely to divert attention from the socio-political project of reducing the number of unnecessary abortions.
            Trying to make me out to be 'the enemy' here does nothing to make your view, if that is 'no abortions', look achievable. However, you've also used the phrase 'very few abortions' and if this is your view then we're in agreement and we should be discussing how best to implement policies that would help achieve that goal.

          • Rob Abney

            You are either easily offended or that is a debate technique that you are employing. I do not consider you the enemy, I consider you to be someone engaged in a combox dialogue who may be open to being persuaded to be in agreement with the position of "no abortions".
            To be clear, I am not advocating for very few abortions, that was taken out of context.
            Here is my position, it is the same as the OP as stated by Dr. Bonnette; it is illicit to take the life of a human person, and science and philosophy demonstrate that the zygote is a human person so it is illicit to kill it even if it is disabled, unwanted, unplanned, etc...

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, thank you for the clarification on that.
            Perhaps I am easily offended or just frustrated because you don't seem to be recognising my point in the original post and engaging with it.
            That point is that you and Dennis may well be correct in your claim that your religious, philosophical and scientific arguments justify the view that abortion is killing a human. I wouldn't disagree with that as I've never yet met a pregnant woman who regarded her baby as a 'zygote'.
            However, my problem is the practical one of "what are you going to do about it?"
            If it's your aspiration to persuade people that all abortions should cease, then you have to engage with the fact that there will always be situations where an abortion is the less harmful outcome. Despite your desperate attempts to show that this is not the case, you must realise that it's true and there can be no meaningful progress in improving the situation until this is recognised.

          • The young girl is the victim of a rapist, why would killing the unborn person be a just idea much less the only option.

            Why should an 11 year old girl be forced to remain pregnant against her will?

          • Rob Abney

            That is an extreme example and likely to elicit very emotional responses. But the reasoning is that her will is important but not more important than the life of her baby. Our society doesn't even condone her having the rapist assassinated so why should we be in favor of her killing an innocent party?

          • But the reasoning is that her will is important but not more important than the life of her baby

            Says who?

          • Rob Abney

            Western civilization

          • Given the status of abortion in Western civilization, I don't think your assertion is as strong as you think it is.

          • Jim the Scott

            BTW Chris just so ye know. I'm the father of three mentally handicapped children with Autism. Any suggestion to me "imperfect children" should be destroyed because they are imperfect will not end well if you bring it up with me.

            I hold people who think people like my children should be killed before or after birth in the deepest contempt.

            Just so you know.

          • Chris Morris

            Jim the Scott, as the father of a disabled person, suggesting that "imperfect children" should be destroyed is the last thing that I would do. You seem to have such difficulty in controlling your emotions that it affects your ability to read the posts here and you find yourself seeing what you want to see rather than the views actually expressed.
            "Just so you know." I would say "calm down, Jim, your hysteria is showing."

          • Jim the Scott

            >Jim the Scott, as the father of a disabled person, suggesting that "imperfect children" should be destroyed is the last thing that I would do.

            Let's be clear man I extend that to disabled persons in the womb and rage against those who think it a good reason to kill an unborn child. I'm not suggesting you run around Glasgow knifing kids in wheelchairs or who are obviously slow or advocate such a foul thing.

            >You seem to have such difficulty in controlling your emotions that it affects your ability to read the posts here and you find yourself seeing what you want to see rather than the views actually expressed.

            Naw I am too cool for that.

            >"Just so you know." I would say "calm down, Jim, your hysteria is showing."

            Rather I am just fighting fair. Also it tells you I am not moved by "what if the baby had down syndrome" such arguments so you don't have to waste time using them. Yer welcome M8.

            Cheers.

          • Richard Morley

            Is that what ye call yer sophistic ignorant twaddle Mr. "My Heroic Pro-Life Relative Lost her life so Abortion is Bad"?

            And many other attempts to mock my reference to her.

            Amusing to contrast with:

            BTW Chris just so ye know. I'm the father of three mentally handicapped children with Autism

            And other references to your poor wee kids. So now who is trying to exploit family tragedy for rhetorical gain? At least there is no way I can possibly be responsible for my relative's situation. Can you say the same? For three kids?

            BTW, both I and a certain Jewish carpenter's son hold hypocrites in

            the deepest contempt

            Just so you know.

          • Jim the Scott

            >And many other attempts to mock my reference to her.

            Well you clearly cited her tragic end as a consequentialist argument in favor of abortion. So I countered by bringing in Gosnell which Nickols then tried to shut down with his virtue signalling. Well if its wrong for me to counter you with Gosnell then it was wrong for you to bring up your relative in the first place. In short you started it.

            Also it was uncool exploting her death when she clearly didn't endorse your view which she paid for with her life.

            >Amusing to contrast with:
            BTW Chris just so ye know. I'm the father of three mentally handicapped children with Autism

            So my kids having Autism amuses you? That speaks for itself and doesn't speak well of you sir.

            >And other references to your poor wee kids. So now who is trying to exploit family tragedy for rhetorical gain?

            I am against abortion and thus abortion of the mentally handicapped and I referenced my personal tragedy to show I walk the walk. I make no apology for that.

            > At least there is no way I can possibly be responsible for my relative's situation. Can you say the same? For three kids?

            Wow! So I am "responsible" for my kids condition for not murdering them or bringing them in the world in the first place?

            In what universe did you think you lived in where this type of vile attack would be a good look for ya?

            >BTW, both I and a certain Jewish carpenter's son hold hypocrites in
            the deepest contempt

            An Atheist who professes to know the mind of the Son of God? Sure pal.....

            You already it seems believe in some sort of Eugenics. You sir got problems....

            Just so you know.

          • Richard Morley

            Well you clearly cited her tragic end as a consequentialist argument in favor of abortion.

            Wow. They really should teach logic at schoool.

            Also it was uncool exploting her death when she clearly didn't endorse your view which she paid for with her life.

            You don't know her, and you are again trying to exploit her death while trying to criticise me for doing so. All the while, your (THREE!) kids are still suffering from your narcissism.

            PS, again, she and I were both pro-CHOICE. You are the one forcing your choices on your kids.

            So my kids having Autism amuses you? That speaks for itself and doesn't speak well of you sir.

            No, your hypocrisy of trying to exploit my aunt's death and then sneer at me and then try to get sympathy points for your kids' autism? That makes me smile.

            Wow! So I am "responsible" for my kids condition for not murdering them or bringing them in the world in the first place?

            Well, yes. You don't get that? Any natural father would. She gets mugged in New York, her plane is struck by lightning, she gets cancer, she is flattened by a meteorite, you are to blame. You were (allegedly) her Dad, you were supposed to protect her against the world. Whatever happens to her, a real dad feels guilty.

            But autism? THREE times? Yep, that is your fault, even absent a natural father's protectiveness.. Lack of clean hands, babs. You sneer at my aunt, you have no right to complain at me pointing out your guilt.

            In what universe did you think you lived in where this type of vile attack would be a good look for ya?

            Back atcha. Auntie dearest died before I even knew there was an issue, yet you thought it was clever to blame me for it. Your whole internet persona is about posturing and blustering like this. Honestly, my best guess is that you are an atheist trying to make christians look bad by posing as one.

            An Atheist who professes to know the mind of the Son of God? Sure pal.....

            Yeah, I have a book called "the Bible". You should look into that.

            You already it seems believe in some sort of Eugenics. You sir got problems....

            Well, if we are making vile unsupported assertions, you apparently support church sponsored child abuse.

            Just so you know.

            Quite

          • Jim the Scott

            >Wow. They really should teach logic at schoool.

            Which implies you didn't learn any logic back in the day either. It is evident in your responses.

            >You don't know her, and you are again trying to exploit her death while trying to criticise me for doing so.

            I don't but I was largely hitting back at Nickols who butted in after being triggered when I brought up Gosnell and led us off on this tangent.

            >All the while, your (THREE!) kids are still suffering from your narcissism.

            They have Autism I don't think they notice or comprehend my personal flaws. At least I hope they don't.

            >PS, again, she and I were both pro-CHOICE.

            Yet she choose not to murder her child? She clearly sucked at being Pro-choice which was obviously a good thing. She and my Mom would have gotten on well. I have other female relatives who are pseudo pro-choice. That is they claim to be PC but find the idea of destroying their own children repulsive. Like with my Father that is a start. A Step in the right direction. I approve 100%.

            >You are the one forcing your choices on your kids.

            Says the foul git who would have liked me to murder them in their mother's womb for not being perfect. Forcing death on them is a "choice"? It is also forcing a choice on my kids. An evil choice.

            >No, your hypocrisy of trying to exploit my aunt's death

            You exploited her first. You brought her up to use as an argumentative device. I answered it by citing Gosnell and that would have been the end of it then Nickols butted in. I blame him too.

            > and then sneer at me and then try to get sympathy points for your kids' autism? That makes me smile.

            There is no moral equivalence. Me: You shouldn't exploit you Aunt's death for your argument. You: You should have killed your kids in their mother's womb. Yeh that is not the same.

            >Well, yes. You don't get that? Any natural father would.

            I pray God I never do "get it". My own now Pro-life Father couldn't bare the shame if I did "get" it as you say. That type of "fatherhood" is anything but natural.

            >She gets mugged in New York, her plane is struck by lightning, she gets cancer, she is flattened by a meteorite, you are to blame. You were (allegedly) her Dad, you were supposed to protect her against the world.

            For you protecting her is seeing to it she is dismembered or burned in her Mother's womb for not being perfect? That is pretty sick and that is not "logic". That is demented and diabolic.

            >Whatever happens to her, a real dad feels guilty.

            No irrational guilt is a sin. I don't feel guilt for choices that are not evil.

            >But autism? THREE times? Yep, that is your fault, even absent a natural father's protectiveness..

            Protection to you of course is murdering "imperfect" children. Right now I have never been more proud to be Pro-life and Father to my special children. You OTOH I truly pity. What a dark soul who thinks murdering the innocent is a good thing.

            > Lack of clean hands, babs. You sneer at my aunt,

            Project much? I think that is you. Because if you read my past Posts I called her heroic. I never sneered at her. I find her actions admirable. You OTOH it seems sneer at her for not choosing to murder her child & loosing her life. You are the one who brought her up. Betch you regret that.

            >Back atcha.

            Not really since I think your aunt made the morally correct choice. You objected to her choice & advocate the evil choice. That is the difference.

            > Auntie dearest died before I even knew there was an issue, yet you thought it was clever to blame me for it.

            Where did I blame you for her death? Now you are talking crazy or are you not being clear? I blamed you for bringing her up first lace and I mostly did so as a hit back against Nickols who did his little hit & run pouring gasoline. Nothing more.

            > Your whole internet persona is about posturing and blustering like this. Honestly, my best guess is that you are an atheist trying to make christians look bad by posing as one.

            Rather if I was an Atheist being who I am I would be so very very very very much worst then I am right now. After all I without the fear of Hell restraining me I would turn the volume way up.

            >you have no right to complain at me pointing out your guilt.

            I think you are projecting. For me murdering them is never a "choice" other than a choice to commit an evil crime.

            >Yeah, I have a book called "the Bible". You should look into that.

            Catholics don't read the Bible apart from the teachings of Tradition and Church. We are not Lutherans here. Why don't you lot get that?

            >Well, if we are making vile unsupported assertions, you apparently support church sponsored child abuse.

            Gosnell.

          • Richard Morley

            Which implies you didn't learn any logic back in the day either.

            Only formal logic. AND/NAND/NOT and so on. Was really ~@&^%&ed off when I got to Uni, and learned from the Physics and Philosophy bunch what more there was. This should be taught at school. It might save people like you.

            I don't but I was largely hitting back at Nickols who butted in after being triggered

            Is that not what you were trying to do? Not that I agree you succeeded, but you clearly miss his points so how would you know?

            They have Autism I don't think they notice or comprehend my personal flaws. At least I hope they don't.

            It would be nice to think so. But you are missing the point that you should be responsible for them, whatever happens, and that you are hypocritical for trying to use them as rhetorical fodder while condemning me for mentioning my 'Aunt' (distanter than that) in a much less passive agressive manner.

            Yet she choose not to murder her child? She clearly sucked at being Pro-choice

            You clearly do not understand the word 'choice'. While shopping for a Bible, consider looking for another book called "The Dictionary". Or learn to use Google.

            Where did I blame you for her death?

            Compare and contrast with:

            Says the foul git who would have liked me to murder them in their mother's womb for not being perfect.

            You: You should have killed your kids in their mother's womb.

            For you protecting her is seeing to it she is dismembered or burned in her Mother's womb for not being perfect? That is pretty sick and that is not "logic". That is demented and diabolic.

            Protection to you of course is murdering "imperfect" children.

            You OTOH it seems sneer at her for not choosing to murder her child & loosing her life.

            Where have I said any of those things? But yes, I could quote you trying to guilt shame me for a death that I only learned about after the fact. Are you claiming equal innocence about your childrens' autism?

            I pray God I never do "get it". My own now Pro-life Father couldn't bare the shame if I did "get" it as you say. That type of "fatherhood" is anything but natural.

            Wait, what? You either have even less understanding that I thought, or you are literally saying that you not only have no urge to defend your children but that you actually "pray God" that you never understand why a father would? Wow.

            Because if you read my past Posts I called her heroic. I never sneered at her.

            In scare quotes. And sneered at her. And sneered at me for bringing her up. Then tried to bring up your (THREE!) autistic kids, for whom you are responsible, as a sob story.
            Matthew 23: "But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."
            "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" and so on and so forth. He is very clear on his feelings about hypocites, and nothing in the Magisterial teachings contradicts that.

            You are the one who brought her up. Betch you regret that.

            Nope. See, my reference to her was relevant and in no way hypocritical. Your reference to your poor wee kids was not.

            You objected to her choice & advocate the evil choice.

            Gosh, when did I do that? Or are you lying again?

            Rather if I was an Atheist being who I am I would be so very very very very much worst then I am right now.

            I would say "not possible" but you have already managed to lower my estimation of your parenting below what I thought was rock bottom. So maybe. Assuming you do actually have kids, as opposed to just pretending to do so for sympathy points, which at this point would be less low than your stated persona.

            Gosnell.

            Birmingham! Abiogeneisis! Algebra!

            That whooshing noise above your head was my point passing by.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Only formal logic

            Really? Sorry I am no seeing it.

            >Is that not what you were trying to do? Not that I agree you succeeded, but you clearly miss his points so how would you know?

            No initially I was hitting back against Nickols' unjustified attack on moi for mentioning Gosnell which I savaged him. I did notice your little "atta boy" post to him approving of this.

            So I am not impressed with how two faced you apparently are. Talk about being passive/aggressive.

            >It would be nice to think so. But you are missing the point that you 1should be responsible for them, whatever happens, and that you are hypocritical for trying to use them as rhetorical fodder while condemning me for mentioning my 'Aunt' (distanter than that) in a much less passive agressive manner.

            As I recall I brought up my children to Chris because I was letting him know I am not moved by arguments abortions are justified for disabled children due to my personal experience &I hold those who argue for it in deep contempt based on that as well. I was warning him. I was being sporting. You just set two different statements I said in two different contexts aimed at two different people against one another for your own rhetorical effect. Again talk about passive aggressive.

            >You clearly do not understand the word 'choice'. While shopping for a Bible, consider looking for another book called "The Dictionary". Or learn to use Google

            I prefer duckduckgo. I understand 'choice' rather well but I am not moved by sophists who equivocate at the drop of a hat.

            >Compare and contrast with

            Playing rhetorical machine gun with my various quotes in different contexts isn't impressive. Speak plainly or bugger off.

            >Where have I said any of those things?

            Playing rhetorical games isn't impressive. Ok then let's take a page from your playbook

            Compare and contrast with

            All the while, your (THREE!) kids are still suffering from your narcissism.
            But autism? THREE times? Yep, that is your fault, even absent a natural father's protectiveness.. Lack of clean hands, babs...

            At least there is no way I can possibly be responsible for my relative's situation. Can you say the same? For three kids?END

            So how is one responsible for their children's autism unless you are implicitly accusing them of being responsible for either having them in the first place or for not killing them in the womb? I said this before and you glossed over it.

            Sad you are too cowardly to own it or too disingenuous to deny it.

            >But yes, I could quote you trying to guilt shame me for a death that I only learned about after the fact.

            No you cannot or you would have done so. You can quote me shaming you for bringing up your relative in the first place but why would I shame you for her death? You accused me of mocking her? Where did I do that? I praised her and called her heroic. You forget that?

            > Are you claiming equal innocence about your childrens' autism?

            So you somehow got it in your thin brain I was blaming you for your relative's death when I was merely blaming you for bring her up back when you where arguing with Rob over wither or not an abortion is ever justified?

            Go re-read what I wrote. There is a good chap.

            >Matthew 23:

            Is not relevant here. I wasn't using my kids autism for rhetoric. I was warning Chris because I have autistic kids I am less moved by arguments that say it is OK to have an abortion.

            >Nope. See, my reference to her was relevant and in no way hypocritical. Your reference to your poor wee kids was not.

            I wasn't even talking to you when I brought them up. I was talking to Chris. You dropped out of the conversation for 5 days then jumped in out of left field to start it up. Your sophistry isn't moving.

            >>You objected to her choice & advocate the evil choice.

            >Gosh, when did I do that? Or are you lying again?

            I am still trying to figure out how you get from me that I was blaming you for her death or I was mocking her & at this point it is impossible to follow but that is what happens when you bow out of the conversation for 5 days.

            >would say "not possible"

            Hold my root beer.

            >but you have already managed to lower my estimation of your parenting below what I thought was rock bottom. So maybe. Assuming you do actually have kids, as opposed to just pretending to do so for sympathy points, which at this point would be less low than your stated persona.

            I don't need or want sympathy. I merely warned Chris what rhetoric will automatically fail with me. The rest is your imagination.

            >Birmingham! Abiogeneisis! Algebra!
            That whooshing noise above your head was my point passing by.
            There was a point?

            No this is just a game of rhetorical one ups menship which might be based on a misunderstanding or not. I have ceased to care.

          • Richard Morley

            >Only formal logic
            Really? Sorry I am no seeing it.

            Why would you? It is only relevant in the kind of discussion I might ahve with Dr B, not this one.

            I did notice your little "atta boy" post to him approving of this.

            And I am sure your parents are very proud. It was still blatantly hypocritical of you, as shown previously.

            So I am not impressed with how two faced you apparently are. Talk about being passive/aggressive.

            So "two faced" and "passive aggressive" are both terms you use without understanding. Gotcha.

            As I recall I brought up my children to Chris because I was letting him know I am not moved by arguments abortions are justified for disabled children due to my personal experience &I hold those who argue for it in deep contempt based on that as well. I was warning him.

            You mean "a bloo hoo hoo, me puir wee bairns ae autisitic and it ain't mae fault, ha ha your aunt died, but a bloo hoo hoo feel sorry for me not mae puir wee bairns. M8"

            Playing rhetorical machine gun with my various quotes in different contexts isn't impressive.

            What 'context', exactly, would justify you claiming that I have said things I never said, or thought, then calling me a "vile git"? For that matter, there are two of us in this conversation and those thoughts (e.g. cutting up your kids in the womb) did not come from me, so who exactly is projecting here?

            So how is one responsible for their children's autism unless you are implicitly accusing them of being responsible for either having them in the first place or for not killing them in the womb?

            They are you children, you are responsible for everything if you are any kind of natural parent. Also you could well be causally responsible (such as by having a genetic defect or trying to have kids in your 40s) - probably are if you have only three kids and all were autistic - but that is missing the point.

            >Matthew 23:

            Is not relevant here.

            Directly relvant. Or Acts 23:3. There are loads of them, hypocrisy is universally condemned.

            You dropped out of the conversation for 5 days then jumped in out of left field to start it up.

            So I deprived you of the glory of my presence for a working week? A bloo hoo hoo. You are familiar with the term "a working week", yes? Some people have businesses or jobs or family or friends. You sobbing about your kids' alleged autism then sneering at my aunt is just not that pressing an issue.

            I am still trying to figure out how you get from me that I was blaming you for her death or I was mocking her & at this point it is impossible to follow but that is what happens when you bow out of the conversation for 5 days.

            A bloo hoo hoo. But again, when and where did I advocate what you claim? Or does 'lying' not count as a sin in your book?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Why would you? It is only relevant in the kind of discussion I might ahve with Dr B, not this one.

            I am not seeing it there either and I suspect Dr. B isn't seeing it as well.

            >So "two faced" and "passive aggressive" are both terms you use without understanding. Gotcha.

            You might as well have said "I know you are but what am I?". But maybe U might display some wit. I live in hope.

            >You mean "a bloo hoo hoo, me puir wee bairns ae autisitic and it ain't mae fault, ha ha your aunt died, but a bloo hoo hoo feel sorry for me not mae puir wee bairns. M8"*

            Did ye git any of that? Silly Teuchter. (Truth be told I am almost impressed with this one).

            >What 'context', exactly, would justify you claiming that I have said things I never said, or thought, then calling me a "vile git"?

            I don't know? Since Nickols pour gas on this and ran off I & you jumped in 5 or 7 days later I haven't been playing close attention. I simply don't care. I am suprised you still do?

            > For that matter, there are two of us in this conversation and those thoughts (e.g. cutting up your kids in the womb) did not come from me, so who exactly is projecting here?

            Dude you are pro-abortion(falsely called Pro-choice). Like it or not you are for or at least not against cutting up kids in the womb. Pro-lifers can't plausibly be connected to such practices. Own or become Pro-life.
            Here this should be more your speed.
            https://www.secularprolife.org/

            >They are you children, you are responsible for everything if you are any kind of natural parent.

            That is a trivial observation like liquid water is wet. What would be the purpose of saying that? Ergo your rantings on my responsibility are clearly an attack that implies my wife and I should have slain our kids in the womb or use morally evil methods to avoid children. You denial are about as convincing as AOC's denials she called Nancy Pelosi a racist. That is strongly implied by your next statement here

            > Also you could well be causally responsible (such as by having a genetic defect or trying to have kids in your 40s) - probably are if you have only three kids and all were autistic - but that is missing the point.

            A genetic cause is trivial in nature. The greater discussion here is on morality so it is a trivial observation unless it really means (& it obviously does) the responsibility to kill one's children who are not perfect or prevent their conception by immoral means. Of course I know of families that have multiple children where only one is autistic & I know of one who has seven. Still implicit here is the systemic belief "defective" children are life unworthy of life. Which I mercifully will always find contemptible.

            >Directly relvant. Or Acts 23:3.

            Sorry it is futile for Atheists to quote the bible at Catholics. You are not my Pope so yer interpretation means nothing to me. I wonder why you lot never get that? The fundamentalist Protestants it seems live rent free in yer 'ed.

            >So I deprived you of the glory of my presence for a working week? A bloo hoo hoo.

            Except everybody moved on. But if you need to respond hey I respect that.

            >You sobbing about your kids' alleged autism then sneering at my aunt is just not that pressing an issue.

            You herotic aunt you mean. I can never in principle sneer at somebody who like my own saintly mother puts her life before that of her unborn child. Unlike some of us who think killing unborn babies is OK.

            It is never OK under any circumstance.

            >A bloo hoo hoo. But again, when and where did I advocate what you claim?

            Yeh I understand that game of trying to get me to comb threw yer past posts and reproducing the ones that I took offense at and interpreted in a malignant fashion. It is a fun way to get someone to waste of time.

            For example
            >Or does 'lying' not count as a sin in your book?

            Where have I ever sneered at your aunt? I sneered at you no question but yer heroic aunt? Are you going to now comb threw my posts looking for this "sneer"?.....No..you claimed to have citations but ye dinna bring them up. Dinna kent what they are M8? No this is just a poop flinging show at this point. You others posts kvetching about your obvious Scientism views are far more interesting......

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Nah. Pragmatism would off the kid as soon as she became useless.

        • Faith seeking understanding

          Chris, OK I'll bite - when do you feel it is the best option, heartbreaking as it is, to kill a child in the womb?

          • Ficino

            Chris will have his own considered answer, but I'll mention a case that I mentioned recently: a late term fetus that was discovered to have no digestive organs at all. This was reported to me by a friend, whose obstetrician was involved in that case.

            The anti-abortionist will say that the birth should occur anyway, and that the born baby with no digestive system should either be allowed to die on its own or something else (pray for a miracle or keep it on life-support for years or I don't know what). I don't see what's good about that except on assumptions that we've been debating here for some months. And I've read a good number of accounts by women who very much yearned for a child, only to find that the fetus would not survive once born. Some women decide to go ahead and have the birth anyway, but others in conscience do not want to inflict the consequences of non-viable life (or whatever is the best phrasing) upon the born baby.

            ETA: also ectopic pregnancies, which we've discussed on here previously. Anti-abortionists who want medical intervention to be OK classify it as not an abortion but under some other heading, even though the outcome is that the embryo is killed. I am fuzzy on whether some Catholic moralists allow drugs to be employed to end ectopic pregnancies. As I remember, Rob Abney posted a link to an article by a Catholic moralist (so identified, "moralist" need not be a pejorative term) who ruled the use of drugs to end ectopic pregnancies illicit. I remain unconvinced that such a position carries weight except on certain assumptions.

          • Faith seeking understanding

            Understood, and don't assume I have medical background to have statistics, or medical arguments to bring to bear, I just agree there are case-by-case instances where it looks like there is no viability....but... who determines, and by what agreed to terms do we say there is zero chance of life and we should therefore just cut off life? We are great at 20/20 hind-sight saying there was no viability in all these different cases, but I would submit that we can be horribly wrong in projecting into the future that same non-viability case, even if in only one case where the baby does survive against enormous odds. My daughter as a nurse witnessed a case where there was a comatose patient where the family working with the medical staff all determined there was no chance of their grandmother surviving and scheduled the date of pulling the plug, only to find out a day later she came out of it on her own fully functional and was released a day later. To just determine at the outset that the baby would not survive, seems as a well-intentioned, yet in essence more of a proportionalism argument...i.e. we are avoiding a greater evil by committing a smaller evil of compassionately sparing the embryo from a painful short existence, or sparing the family the emotional pain of keeping a "failed" pregnancy on life-support. There are cases where arguably there should not be extraordinary measures to keep someone on life-support indefinitely waiting on a miracle, and in fact is doing more harm than good to the body through these extreme measures. However, there is also arguably a graver danger on the other side risking fostering a sliding slope situation similar to what went on in Iceland "eradicating" Down Syndrome through state-sponsored abortions...one person's definition of non-viability might not meet another's definition of non-viability, so we should not use one case as the standard for all. Nor should we use a projection of future failure to determine what should be done now. I know of absolutely no one that can predict exactly what the future will bring, we only have what we sense now to help predict, but I would much rather predict future goodness than predict future futility.

          • Ficino

            How about the state's not criminalizing abortion, given that there are so many exigencies and different ways of weighing them by different people - starting with the women who are pregnant?

            Did Iceland mandate abortions of downs syndrome fetuses against the will of the women carrying them? I would oppose that!

          • Faith seeking understanding

            Hmmm, not criminalizing abortion? Just because many people have differing definitions of what shoplifting is doesn't necessarily mean there shouldn't be a law against it. And just because you get picked up for shoplifting doesn't mean you are necessarily guilty of it...

            I think it shouldn't be ok to kill another human being intentionally, which I feel falls under the definition of abortion.

            However, I think what we're arguing here is more of the morality of the action vs. legality,yes? Just because something is legal doesn't necessarily make it right morally. We had laws on the books not allowing women to vote for many years, for example...

          • Ficino

            Yes, these threads have mostly not been about laws. I was going to point that out above but then I thought, why make my comment even longer?

            ust because many people have differing definitions of what shoplifting is doesn't necessarily mean there shouldn't be a law against it.

            I don't think this goes far as an argument, but I'm happy to leave the question about laws aside.

          • Richard Morley

            Did Iceland mandate abortions of downs syndrome fetuses against the will of the women carrying them?

            No. But this is often claimed by the anti abortion lobby. All mothers have to be informed about the availability of screening for genetic defects, most take it andchoose to abort if the test is positive, and there is arguably too much pressure to do so, but that is as far as it goes.

            More to the point, Iceland is tiny, with only 4 to 5 thousand births annually. But the World Health Organisation list Down's syndrome by numbers per 100,000 births. So since Iceland may have 0, 1 or 2 Down's children born per year, one gets dramatic sounding statistics such as 43 Down's children [per 100000 births] one year dropping to zero the next. Sounds sinister, doesn't it? Until you realise it means 2 kids one year and none the next. And according to Google 1989 and 2009 are the only recent years with a zero Down's birth rate.

          • Rob Abney

            a late term fetus that was discovered to have no digestive organs at all

            F, can you get clarification from your friend/obstetrician of the exact name of the condition that you keep referring to, for those of us who are unfamiliar with such an extreme malformation?
            Of all the severe and rare digestive tract conditions that I can find in medical journals and the Merck Manual, I am unable to find any that are that severe.
            Though I'm not sure what the reasoning would be that concludes that it would be immoral for a person to live on life-support.
            I thought that your position on abortion was that the fetus is not a person, but now you seem to be in favor of abortion because the fetus is not perfect

          • Ficino

            I thought that your position on abortion was that the fetus is not a person, but now you seem to be in favor of abortion because the fetus is not perfect

            The fetus is not a person. And you are not reasoning clearly.

          • Rob Abney

            The fetus is not a person

            At this point that is only an assertion by you, and others have certainly provided reasoning to oppose that assertion, especially Dr. Bonnette.
            So now you've abandoned that discussion and are using other reasons to support abortion, such as the emotionally-laden reason that it is cruel to force parents to give birth to a child with birth defects.

          • Ficino

            I have argued my position at great length, as you well know. And I have abandoned no position. There is more than one issue to consider in a particular case.

            Don't pretend that your concerns are not influenced by emotions.

            Bonnette's reasoning requires certain theses to be true, which no one but a Thomist is likely to grant, e.g. that humans have a spiritual soul, that the Active Intellect is always in act, etc.

          • Rob Abney

            no one but a Thomist is likely to grant, e.g. that humans have a spiritual soul, that the Active Intellect is always in act, etc.

            you assert this but do not back it up. I would estimate that a large majority of people have always believed in a spiritual soul, and yet only a tiny minority are Thomists or have any idea about the Thomistic definition.
            But I would like to hear your further reasoning about when/how the intellect becomes actual at a later point in life?

          • Ficino

            no one but a Thomist is likely to grant, e.g. that humans have a spiritual soul, that the Active Intellect is always in act, etc.
            you assert this but do not back it up. I would estimate that a large majority of people have always believed in a spiritual soul,

            I was not making all precisions. In the above I was considering people who bring considerable philosophical training or exposure to the discussion. Sure, there are a lot of professional philosophers who believe in a spiritual soul, but the majority are atheists, according to the stats I've seen. I grant that in the US at least perhaps more than 1/2 of people in general believe in some sort of spiritual soul. Years ago a guy who taught ancient philosophy at Durham (UK) told me that almost all his students believe, once you're dead, you're dead. We chuckled over how a guy who taught in the SUNY system said that among his students, 1/3 hold you have a soul that goes to heaven or hell, 1/3 believe in reincarnation, 1/3 believe that once you're dead you're dead (i.e. would seem not to believe in a spiritual soul, though maybe some would think there's a spiritual soul that is destroyed at death). Difference betw UK and USA university students.

            As to the rest, I've written quite a lot over the last month on here. In a nutshell, I think that the brain and neural structures are necessary for acts of intellect, and there is their development plus education before the child reasons in the sense of operating from "nous." Remember that on the Greasley argument about personhood, rationality is but one of the complex of things, of which at least one needs to be present for us to say that the organism is a person in the moral sense.

          • Rob Abney

            I think that the brain and neural structures are necessary for acts of intellect

            I understand that that is your position but if you don't mind I would like to hear your explanation of how the brain and neural structures have that capacity? Hylemorphism explains the basis for that but you've only dismissed it, you haven't explained how it is possible to develop those acts if there is no soul/form/essence/substance...

          • Ficino

            I don't think you understand the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions.

            I have work to do, can't instruct you about neuroscience, which isn't my field anyway, in a combox.

            Hylemorphism explains the basis for that but you've only dismissed it, you haven't explained how it is possible to develop those acts if there is no soul/form/essence/substance..

            Hylomorphism may be treated as the default here on SN but it is not so for most philosophers and scientists. Since you seem to want to maintain that it is possible for a human to have cognitive activity without a brain or nervous system, the burden of proof is on you to convince the scientific establishment to go back to 13th century (and older) categories of explanation. The mesh of generation of the human organism and the actuality of the Active Intellect in Aristotle isn't even coherent.

          • Rob Abney

            Does this address necessary and sufficient conditions? (I use the Summa with you since you are very familiar with it).
            "because the substantial form makes a thing to exist absolutely, and its subject is something purely potential. But the accidental form does not make a thing to exist absolutely but to be such, or so great, or in some particular condition; for its subject is an actual being. Hence it is clear that actuality is observed in the substantial form prior to its being observed in the subject: and since that which is first in a genus is the cause in that genus, the substantial form causes existence in its subject. On the other hand, actuality is observed in the subject of the accidental form prior to its being observed in the accidental form; wherefore the actuality of the accidental form is caused by the actuality of the subject. So the subject, forasmuch as it is in potentiality, is receptive of the accidental form: but forasmuch as it is in act, it produces it. This I say of the proper and per se accident; for with regard to the extraneous accident, the subject is receptive only, the accident being caused by an extrinsic agent." (from the First Part, question 77, article 6)

          • Ficino

            Does this address necessary and sufficient conditions?

            Unless you are using the term "address" in a non-standard sense, no, it does not. It addresses a different distinction.

          • Rob Abney

            That is a vague response, I'm not using address in any non-standard sense. It seems as though your defense of hylemorphism is to dismiss it not to refute it. If you don't want to engage with the explanations provided that is fine but it leaves your rationale for abortion without any firm foundation.

          • Ficino

            If P, then Q.

            Q is a necessary condition for P. P is a sufficient condition for Q.

            It seems as though your defense of hylemorphism is to dismiss it not to refute it.

            ?? I am not defending hylomorphism. If you mean my rebuttal of or the like, I can't get into what could be a book-length disputation. And I'm not sanguine that hylomorphism can be proved false, strictly speaking. But I consider my earlier suspicion validated, that A-T is necessary for a robust philosophical defense of the anti-abortion / pro-life position. Since most philosophers and scientists do not subscribe to A-T, I am skeptical that the generality of philosophers who write on the morality of abortion are going to be pro-life to the extent that will align with the teachings of the Catholic Church, though obviously there are philosophers who do agree with those teachings - some who try to defend them without adopting hylomorphic accounts, like Robt. P. George.

            ETA: a very rudimentary discussion of nominalism's advantages vis-a-vis systems that hold to some form of realism is here:

            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2017/11/11/personhood-setting-scene/

          • Rob Abney

            A-T is necessary for a robust philosophical defense of the anti-abortion / pro-life position

            Yes, I agree and am thankful that explanation exists even if many of us can't explain it precisely. But those who say "life begins at conception" embrace that explanation.
            The patheos link doesn't dispute the universality of the concept of personhood, it just says that looking at the properties leads to differing interpretations.

          • David Nickol

            Hylomorphism doesn't really explain anything about acts of intellect. As I understand the concept as it is used here, a fundamental tenet of hylomorphism it that acts of intellect require a spiritual soul. For hylomorphism to be an explanatory theory, it would have to be explained how a spiritual soul makes acts of intellect (e.g., abstract thought) possible. In other words, there would have to be an explanation of how souls work.

          • Rob Abney

            "the universal concept or idea utterly transcends all material conditions. Thus, horseness or triangularity is not even imaginable. Because universal concepts must apply to each and every possible concrete actualization, they can express the concrete physical characteristics of none of them. Thus, “triangularity” must express every possible triangle’s essence – be they obtuse, acute, or isosceles. That is why idealized sculptures of something like “triangularity” never express every single possible triangle, but only some idealized, but concrete, representation of the concept. So, too, there is no concrete ideal of “horseness,” since it must express the essence of every possible concrete horse. Indeed, some concepts are directly of spiritual entities which inherently cannot be physically expressed, such as justice, beauty, truth, oneness, and so forth.
            The fact that the human intellect can form such spiritual entities, demonstrates the spirituality of the human soul, since the less perfect cannot produce the more perfect."
            https://strangenotions.com/how-we-know-the-human-soul-is-immortal/

            I think I recall you writing that you didn't really care to read some of these metaphysical argument articles, maybe you missed this one.

          • David Nickol

            I think I recall you writing that you didn't really care to read some of these metaphysical argument articles, maybe you missed this one.

            Your quote doesn't answer my question. You quoted Ficino as saying, " I think that the brain and neural structures are necessary for acts of intellect." You asked him for his "explanation of how the brain and neural structures have that capacity." I presume your answer is that a spiritual soul provides that capacity. My question to you is, how does a spiritual soul provide that capacity?

          • Ficino

            Aquinas in various places talks about the power, "vis", of a purely spiritual or non-material entity to effect changes in matter-form composite entities. After two years of hunting, I have not found an account in Aquinas of the mechanism by which this is effected. It's just asserted. If Rob Abney or Jim the Scott or Dennis Bonnette can adduce a passage where Aquinas unpacks this claim and demonstrates how an immaterial, separate substance causes changes in material things, without itself undergoing reciprocal change or "pushback,", I'd love to consider it.

            Meanwhile, neuroscientists make actual discoveries about how our brains do cognitive work. Oh, I forgot - western civilization went downhill starting around 1270, so neuroscientists aren't discovering anything significant about cognition. That's already been nailed down with certainty.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The only "separate substances" St. Thomas would be talking about are either angels or God. Why would you expect him to provide an account of a "mechanism" for a causal power that does not operate by any mechanical means? God creates creatures and surely can alter the mode of their existence if he holds them in existence. Indeed, would not the texts of the prima via provide descriptions of God moving secondary movers and the final movent? Mechanisms are unnecessary. Similarly, angels act through the secondary powers God gives to them. Again, why expect a "mechanism" for a "non-mechanical" agent? No wonder no texts are found giving "mechanisms."

            As for expecting immaterial agents to suffer reciprocal change or pushback from causing changes in hylemorphic bodies, this would be to completely misapply Newtonian physics to non-material agents. The Newtonian principle that "every action begets and equal and opposite reaction" has application solely between physical bodies. It is absurd to apply it to the action of a spiritual agent on a physical body.

          • Ficino

            Of course. That's why the above doctrines are formulated so that they are in principle immune to any disconfirmation, as far as I can see.

            ETA:

            Why would you expect him to provide an account of a "mechanism" for a causal power that does not operate by any mechanical means?

            We apply the word 'mechanism' to contrivances, not all of which are physical machines. E.g. a legal or a legislative mechanism. I think you'll be aware of this.

            So far I with very many others find no reason to posit undetectable operations of spiritual agents upon bodies. You can say that an angel moves a body by its will, and who am I to prove your statement false? I can't even prove that there is no music of the spheres. But I think the burden is on the person making the assertive claim.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, I think we may be both approaching this problem from the wrong end. Or, perhaps, another way to put it is that the solution is there, but depends on the broader picture.

            If you are a materialist, no mechanism makes any sense because spiritual things are not really real and therefore can exert no influence on material beings. No "mechanism" makes any sense because spiritual beings don't make sense in the first place. One of the whole problems with any "God" is that there is no reasonable way to posit spirit-matter interaction. And merely positing that God or angels can "will" actions on matter is obviously not anything we can verify in this world. So, why posit it, except gratuitously or as begging the question?

            On the other hand, if you can prove that God exists by looking at this world and inferring that it does not explain itself, but rather needs a First Cause of Motion and Being, then the whole picture changes.

            Since God not only creates creatures in the first place, He also has to continuously create them to keep them in existence. For God to act on creatures is necessary at every moment of their existence. A fortiori, it is a piece of cake for God to act on them so as to change their mode of being, which is what we needed to show. Is it His act of will? Sure. Since He is simple and His will is His very being, every action that comes forth from God is effected by His total power. If God exists, He can cause all being and changes in beings with no further explanation needed.

            As for angels, God can give them the natural power to move bodies just as He gives natural powers to bodily creatures to move other bodies. It it neither more nor less miraculous. Or, He could simply will that whatever an angel wills be effected. Where is the problem?

            It all depends on which worldview one finds credible in the first place. So, which explanation is correct must be decided the same way we decide the overall question of materialistic monism vs. a dualistic worldview with God as the source of all being and becoming.

          • Ficino

            Since God not only creates creatures in the first place, He also has to continuously create them to keep them in existence.

            I think you're putting too much weight on "since" above, but I am happy to suppose that you're speaking colloquially. Thomists deny existential inertia, of course, but I wouldn't be convinced that such denial is entailed by the sole premise that God creates.

            Where is the problem?

            As you've already noted, the problem lies in the thesis that there exist undetectable spiritual agents that carry out undetectable operations upon bodies.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Gosh. I thought my comment was the least controversial one I ever posted -- and you still have reservations?

            First, I was merely giving a summary of the opposing views -- even without taking my own side.

            Second, for that reason, I conceded to either side whatever they needed to make their case. In the theist's case, that included continuous creation.

            Third, my comment about "Where's the problem?" was from the theist's perspective. It was not in the context of applying to both sides. Obviously, the materialists would maintain there is a big problem!

          • Rob Abney

            My question to you is, how does a spiritual soul provide that capacity?

            Because a brain cannot function without the foundation of an immaterial soul recognizing immateriality. Did you read that OP or not?

          • David Nickol

            According to the OP, "Up to half of embryos die before implantation." That represents roughly the first six days of life. Many more are lost before a woman knows she has become pregnant. Of women who know they are pregnant, 10% to 15% will have a miscarriage. And finally, about 1% of women who give birth will have a baby that is stillborn. Additionally, for every thousand babies born in the United States, about 5 or 6 will die before their first birthday. According to the CDC, the five principal causes (2017 data) were as follows: 1. Birth defects, 2. Preterm birth and low birth weight, 3. Maternal pregnancy complications. 4. Sudden infant death syndrome. 5. Injuries (e.g., suffocation). Consequently, it seems that even setting aside procured abortions, most babies die.

            Of all the severe and rare digestive tract conditions that I can find in medical journals and the Merck Manual, I am unable to find any that are that severe.

            We could use an embryologist or an obstetrician here, but I am sure you are not going to find extremely rare or unusual conditions in medical references—certainly not the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. It is, after all, for diagnosis and therapy, and not for explaining rare, fatal genetic disorders. Undoubtedly the reason that so many embryos and fetuses die before birth is because the developing human organism is so complex that thousands of things can (and often do) go wrong. I feel confident in saying that there can be no catalogue of everything that can go wrong, and the overwhelming number of cases in which embryos and fetuses die go uninvestigated.

            Though I'm not sure what the reasoning would be that concludes that it would be immoral for a person to live on life-support.

            Concerning the baby without a digestive system, we are all speculating, but I would imagine if such a severely malformed infant were born, it could not be kept alive on life support. Babies born without kidneys, for example, do not survive (although there seems to be one case where such an infant was saved).

            I thought that your position on abortion was that the fetus is not a person, but now you seem to be in favor of abortion because the fetus is not perfect.

            This doesn't make any sense, actually. And in any case, "not perfect" is certainly an inappropriate way to characterize babies without digestive systems, kidneys, and brains (as in anencephaly).

          • Mark

            The most common US finding that would result in a abortion is the absence of male genitalia. In China (worst case scenario) estimates are 110-121 males to 100 female birth ratio. "Not being perfect" is also the characteristic of being a female and that is socially acceptable in China where they abort roughly 10% of babies based on sex-selection. @ 17 million births per year in China they induce two female sex-selected abortions to every one induced abortion in the United States. Of course these are rough estimates on incomplete data, but how does a woman's rights activists justify a woman's intrinsic unworth?

          • David Nickol

            I fail to see how your comment above is a relevant response to what I wrote. I was not defending abortion at all—certainly not sex-selection abortions in China! I was responding to Rob Abney overly sunny dismissal of what can go wrong in fetal development and pregnancy, as if there was nothing so serious every baby couldn't be born alive and kept alive through treatment. Particular cases that we don't have any details about are less important than that we do know, for various reasons, that a huge percentage of conceptions never make it to birth. There are birth defects that are fatal much of the time and some are fatal all of the time (anancephaly, i.e., a missing brain).

          • Mark

            I merely wanted to point out "not being perfect" is a subjective opinion as is viability of many birth defects. Humans are historically bad at determining who retains the dignity of human life. I certainly didn't want to incinuate you advocate for such abortions.

            Maybe I get a little over emotional when it comes to this subject matter as I have developmentally handicapped loved ones I'm very attached to that seemingly have no human value to some.

          • David Nickol

            Maybe I get a little over emotional when it comes to this subject matter as I have developmentally handicapped loved ones I'm very attached to that seemingly have no human value to some.

            I understand, but as I said in an earlier comment, I think there is an unwarranted "empathy" for the unborn that is displaced from the living—in this case those living with disabilities—to the victims of abortion. One might have made certain predictions when abortion was legalized in the United States. One might have predicted that the ability to abort babies determined to have, say, Down Syndrome might have led to a lessening of care for children and adults living with Down Syndrome. But I think that is far from what came to pass. I think we as a society are much more sympathetic and sensitive to the rights and needs of people with disabilities (and their caregivers) than ever before.

            I have been meaning to plug a new book somewhere on SN that is very eye-opening. It is Mind Fixers: Psychiatry's Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness by Anne Harrington. One of the lessons I took from it is how terribly wrong the medical profession and society in general can be, and how horrid some things look in retrospect. It would not be an exaggeration to say that lobotomies were performed cavalierly in the US in the 1940s and early 1950s. Also, psychiatry went through a phase in which mothers were seen as a major cause of certain mental illnesses to the extent that some psychiatrists held them in contempt. It didn't help any patients, and it devastated family members who were trying to care for their mentally ill children. It makes me wonder what will be said about our current prevailing notions in, say, fifty years from now. We look back on eugenics or the lobotomizing of the mentally ill and wonder how people could have been so wrong and so inhumane. How will 2019 look to people in 2069?

          • Rob Abney

            Rare conditions certainly are described in the medical literature, more likely in a journal than the Merck Manual perhaps. But Ficino has invented a horrific sounding condition of "a late term fetus that was found to have no digestive organs at all"!!! Does that mean no mouth, no espohagus, no stomach, no intestines, no kidneys, no gall bladder....

            Consequently, it seems that even setting aside procured abortions, most babies die.

            How is this pertinent to whether babies should be killed or not? Its like saying all people die so if we murder some no one should oppose it.

          • Ficino

            But Ficino has invented

            @ Rob Abney: are you calling me a liar?

          • Rob Abney

            No.

          • Rob Abney

            No, but to be more clear, a liar is one who says something is true when he knows it to be false. In your case, you want it to be true, and probably believe it to be true but it is most likely a gross generalization for a non-medical person. But it is similar to when you try to use general terms to describe a person but are frustrated when more precision is used that then defeats your rationale for terminating an unborn person.

          • Mark

            While ultrasound (US) has made magnificent technological strides the last 15 years, they are still just a sound image. There is operator error and other factors that weigh into the diagnostic certainty produced by US. I don't dispute the facts of this particular case as I didn't review it. It remains that this argument, that abortion based upon US findings, would likely result in the eventual abortion of a healthy child if it hasn't happened already. There would be no way to know, because no autopsy is performed on an aborted fetus.

            Grieving mothers is a tangent subject mater, but suffice it to say the ones I've been around invent all sorts of ways in their minds to condemn themselves for not saving their child's life. Psychologically euthanizing or natural death are very different.

          • Chris Morris

            Faith seeking understanding,
            As that post, I hope, indicates, my answer to your question would be: "whenever the people involved feel that it is the best option." What I'm arguing against here is the idea that human choice should be handed over to disembodied/abstract/mechanistic decision-making procedures based on simplistic forms of logic that fail to recognise the full context of any particular human situation.

            Despite opinions to the contrary presented here, I remain convinced that there are circumstances which force people to consider whether to kill their unborn baby or not. Personally, I can't imagine a worse situation and I'm sure that goes for the majority of people who find themselves faced with that choice but I believe history shows that trying to take away the possibility of making that choice will not reduce the suffering and may actually make it worse.

      • George

        In your worldview, if God is in control, does every life ultimately get what it deserves?

        What ultimate fate would be heartbreaking to contemplate under theism?

        • Rob Abney

          Ultimately, yes.
          Injustice in this world is heartbreaking.
          Poor reasoning is also heartbreaking.

      • Richard Morley

        Chris, an abortion should not be a heartbreaking choice if you are a naturalist, since according to the OP "they can claim moral certitude (beyond a reasonable doubt) that a “person” does not yet exist, and thus, abortion violates no human rights".

        You tacitly assume that the only reason for this being a heartbreaking choice is if the 'violation' of the foetus/zygote's human rights is the only possible cause for this to be heartbreaking. You ignore absolutely, and revealingly, the hopes aspirations and personal beliefs of the mother.

        If she were truly convinced that pursuing this pregnancy would kill her, or leave her sterile, yet she desperately wanted a child, you don't care? No heart break there. Care to clarify this urgently?

        • Rob Abney

          An opinion is offered in a statement issued by the Association of Pro-Life Physicians. “When the life of the mother is truly threatened by her pregnancy, if both lives cannot simultaneously be saved, then saving the life of the mother is the primary aim. If through our careful treatment of the mother’s illness the pre-born patient inadvertently dies or is injured, this is tragic and, if unintentional, is not unethical and is consistent with the pro-life ethics. But the intentional killing of an unborn baby by abortion is never necessary.”

          • Chris Morris

            Presumably, the "Association of Pro-Life Physicians" is offering a completely objective and unbiased view....

          • Rob Abney

            Chris, would you prefer a quote from the unbiased Kermit Gosnell?
            If you are concerned about the life of the mother and the baby then your best option is a biased pro-life physician.
            Here's another one to consider: Further support for the this position comes from a pro-choice Ob-Gyn, Dr. Alan Guttmacher who was Planned Parenthood’s president for over a decade until his death in 1974. In his book, The Case for Legalized Abortion Now (1967), he stated, “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through the pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save life.”

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, I must admit to not having heard of Kermit Gosnell previously but an internet search suggests he may well be a psychopath so I'm not sure what value any opinion he may articulate would have.
            The quotation from Guttmacher is interesting in that it actually suggests some support for my view. That "almost" indicates how difficult it is to maintain the position of entirely removing any possibility of an abortion.
            A recent article on the Guttmacher Institute website indicates that, if Guttmacher's book is an objective and unbiased source, the persuasiveness of your view is somewhat reduced: "2019 has become the year when antiabortion politicians make clear their ultimate agenda is banning abortion outright, at any stage in pregnancy and for any reason." (Unprecedented Wave of Abortion Bans is an Urgent Call to Action, Elizabeth Nash).
            I would still be interested in reading your (and Dennis') answer to my earlier question on how you would go about successfully implementing your view.

          • Rob Abney

            You’ve only asserted that some abortions are required based upon difficult circumstances and your subjective notion of suffering. Please provide a situation where it is objectively clear that the only intervention available is abortion.
            How to implement anti-abortion laws depends upon whether abortion is ever needed or not.

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, I've not actually asserted anything. All I've done is raise some potential problems in answering your posts that I think your view needs to recognise if it is, as you say you want, to be persuasive to the general population while I wait for you or Dennis to respond to my initial point which was that any abstract discussion of the problem is unlikely to produce a useful solution if it doesn't take in to account real people and real-life situations.
            My view may well be based on my subjective notion of suffering; I have to admit I'm not sure what an objective notion of suffering would look like. You ask me to "provide a situation where it is objectively clear that the only intervention available is abortion." My original example of a young girl too frail to survive pregnancy is one although you chose to reinterpret it to effectively claim that it could never possibly happen that such a girl could exist raising the unfortunate possibility of having to say "sorry, kid, we're going to let you die because you're unique and our principles don't allow us to make an exception."
            The other example I would suggest is the case of Savita Halappanvar who died in Ireland in 2012.

          • Rob Abney

            You can dismiss the basic foundational principles for how moral decisions are made but then you'll just have endless relativistic discussions and continue to be frustrated.
            Again, I never said that I'm trying to persuade the general population, my target audience is you since I am in a dialogue with you.
            You have made assertions that abortions are necessary to solve certain problems, I've responded that in each of the situations you presented that abortion was not necessary.
            Your response about the 11 year old girl is hostile, I never said anything approximating that. What I did say is that she would very likely be able to survive the delivery, and I linked to a list of very young birth mothers.
            Now you mention the unfortunate case of Savita Halappanvar but again it doesn't demonstrate a need for abortion, from the wikipedia article it appears to be incompetent medical care, which I also think should be banned.

          • Chris Morris

            I'm not sure that I would entirely dismiss 'basic foundational principles' but it appears to me that morals tend to be socially constructed and I'm quite 'unfrustrated' with relativism - I think that human reality is an ongoing process.
            I assumed that, as you don't know me, I'm representing some sort of 'everyman' figure in this conversation but it's OK if you don't see it that way.
            "You made assertions..." No, not really. You demanded that I provide examples because I voiced doubts about your assertion that abortion never need be an option so I reluctantly mentioned some even though I considered it a distraction from the point I was trying to make.
            I'm sorry that you felt my response was hostile. I inferred from your reply that you seemed to be claiming no girl would ever die as a result of pregnancy but you've now clarified that by saying "very likely to survive" thus accepting the possibility of that situation arising.
            The Savita Halappanavar case might be considered incompetent medical care but the report clearly made the case for the change in Irish law that followed:
            "The reason for the absence of such guidelines may be that the clinical practice in other jurisdictions would have led to an early termination of pregnancy in equivalent clinical circumstances. It is recommended that such guidelines be developed for such patients as a matter of urgency and they should be explicit in the guidance given as to when one should offer termination based on symptoms and signs of infection implying increasing health risk to the mother which may even threaten her life. We recognise that such guidelines must be consistent with applicable law and that the guidance so urged may require a legal change."

          • Rob Abney

            "very likely to survive" thus accepting the possibility of that situation arising.

            This is a very low threshold to use to determine that abortion is needed.

            morals tend to be socially constructed and I'm quite 'unfrustrated' with relativism

            And this is the reason that I will be unsuccessful in persuading you that abortion is never licit, so I'll end this dialogue and you can have the last word if you want. Thanks for the discussion.

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, I had to chuckle over your desperate attempt to close the conversation and undermine any "last word" I might have. However, it won't wash, I'm happy to say; my relativism has no bearing on the fact that you've failed to make a convincing case.
            The underlying assumption for your view seems to be that it is possible to create a world of medical and social perfection whereby nothing will ever go wrong during a pregnancy and no one will ever have to choose between the psychological welfare and the life of a child perhaps, as you suggest, by 'banning incompetent medical care'.
            Going back to what we can and can't imagine, I'm sure we can all imagine such a world and who can say whether it might not one day be a real possibility. My guess is that such a world is a long way in the future and, in the meantime, we have the real problem of trying to reduce the suffering that people are experiencing now.
            You haven't at any point in your replies to me made it clear whether you're solution to this is simply the hope of a better future or support for legislation making all abortions illegal but, if it is the latter, I've indicated that I would regard this as, at best, unlikely to improve things. Even in the USA, I suspect that there may not be majority support for such legislation and I'm sure there isn't here in Scotland, so any attempts to force it through are likely to polarise opinions and create even more entrenched views which, as I've mentioned, I believe will distract attention and delay any potential improvements.

          • George

            > appears to be incompetent medical care, which I also think should be banned.

            from a conservative mindset, would enforcing that require "shrinking" or "growing" the government?

          • Rob Abney

            I'm personally in favor of consumer decisions and market principles to provide that regulation. Unfortunately, this case seemed to used politically to falsely claim that the anti-abortion law was the cause of the mother's death.

          • It would mean making the government do its job and ban abortion and enforce that.

          • Richard Morley

            Hey, he said "an opinion is offered...", he said nothing about it being objective, unbiased or even relevant. ;)

          • Richard Morley

            Umm... so ?

            How does this counter the point that a women may find an abortion, even if necessary to save her life, heartbreaking? Or that finding this heartbreaking is somehow possible even for a naturalist?

            So the answer to my question is that no, you do not care?

          • Rob Abney

            "the intentional killing of an unborn baby by abortion is never necessary."
            Here is a more clear answer to your false propaganda dilemma. Now to return a little emotional shaming, it seems you are uncaring for women and for bables.

          • Richard Morley

            Read the whole thing, not just the little bit that can be quote mined to support your view

            When the life of the mother is truly threatened by her pregnancy,

            Not really compatible with the implication that the authors thought that pregnancy never causes death, is it?

            And I had a (distant) family member die due to pregnancy related complications. After refusing an advised abortion.

            So nuts to you.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems as though your distant relative was antiabortion, maybe you should honor her decision rather than using her to support your position.

          • Richard Morley

            It seems as though your distant relative was antiabortion, maybe you should honor her decision

            Obviously we did, that is why she is dead. Not that I was directly involved in the decision, BTW, so attempt at guilt shaming fails. Which in no way justifies your morally abhorrent and utterly unjustified assertion that I am "uncaring for women and for bables[sic]".

            Nor does it affect my point. If the choice is between abortion and death that is as close as you can get to 'necessary'. If you have no choice other than submit to what will happen regardless, that is no choice.

            Also, she was outspokenly prochoice, so we respected her choice.

            rather than using her to support your position.

            Riiight. So it is not OK for me to cite her as a reason why I am not "uncaring for women and for bables[sic]" but perfectly fine for you to use her as emotional blackmail in lieu of you having an actual argument?

          • Rob Abney

            Nor does it affect my point. If the choice is between abortion and death that is as close as you can get to 'necessary'. If you have no choice other than submit to what will happen regardless, that is no choice.

            That may be as close to necessary as one can get but it is not there. As of yet, no one on this thread has presented a case where abortion is necessary, that position is propaganda. But, everyone who has presented examples also has no issue with abortion at any time based on their own philosophical position. From the position that considers the preborn baby to be a person from the time of conception, the choice includes the option of ending the life of a person.

          • Chris Morris

            "...everyone who has presented examples also has no issue with abortion at any time based on their own philosophical position."
            Incorrect, Rob, as anyone who can read this conversation will be able to recognise.

          • Jim the Scott

            @rob_abney:disqus
            >Incorrect, Rob, as anyone who can read this conversation will be able to recognise.

            I read threw your debate and don't recognize it at all. You declined to make a philosophical argument and fell back on some nebulous concept of "the real world" or "reality" (which looks quite unreal).

            So I am with him. You are free to disagree till google takes over the world and censors us all for "hate speech".

          • Chris Morris

            Jim the Scott,
            I'm sorry, I missed seeing this post as the conversation is becoming too fragmented.
            "I read [threw] your debate and don't recognise it at all..."
            Rather than declining to make a philosophical argument, my whole point (my only reason for making any comment on this article) is that such abstract philosophical arguments as are presented here, and by many people making 'pro-choice' arguments also, tend to distract from the possibility of actually doing something to help alleviate the problem.
            My "nebulous concept" of the real world certainly includes such abstract philosophy as Dennis presents here but only insofar as it may provide a framework for understanding whole lived human being.
            My disagreement with Rob is that he attempts to characterise this as being only a 'black and white' debate where anyone not arguing for his view must necessarily be arguing that abortion is acceptable in every case.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well I dinna blame ya ...wait I feel a surge in the dialect continuum. I am switching back to NYC speak ah.......Fuhgeddaboudit!;-)

            Anyway let us be serious .
            >Rather than declining to make a philosophical argument, my whole point (my only reason for making any comment on this article) is that such abstract philosophical arguments as are presented here, and by many people making 'pro-choice' arguments also, tend to distract from the possibility of actually doing something to help alleviate the problem.

            Well by definition this begs the question and ignores the root problem. Without a moral basis & moral first principles from which to operate then rather than alleviate the problem you create more problems.

            If I may offer an extreme example. We could eliminate the migrant crisis at our southern board here in the USA by oh killing all the migrants. It would alleviate the problem. It would also be morally evil and I wouldn't stand for it and note I am a Trump Voter and contrary to the smears of the leftist media we are not genocidal racists (that would be most of the modern left but that is an argument for another forum focused on pure politics ;-)).

            Given moral first principles and natural law murdering unborn children is not a solution. That is the point and begging the question on your part is not a solution IMHO.

            >My "nebulous concept" of the real world certainly includes such abstract philosophy as Dennis presents here but only insofar as it may provide a framework for understanding whole lived human being.

            That philosophy would need to be justified and debated of course.

            >My disagreement with Rob is that he attempts to characterise this as being only a 'black and white' debate where anyone not arguing for his view must necessarily be arguing that abortion is acceptable in every case.

            Rob is right then. Hypothetically murdering migrants at the Southern boarder is black and white. Ya can't do it. You can't slay innocent people. In a like manner you cannot perform a direct abortion in any case.

            If you can make one exception to the murder of one class of innocents then the slippery slope allows for two then three then you have scum bag specky twat Judges in the UK trying to force a Catholic woman to have an abortions against their will. Which was overturned but it is only a matter of time. Will they then do the next logical step? The next real world solution to solve the problem and order the euthanizing of the mentally handicapped. Will it spread to the USA? One that day will they come for my kids? Well you know M8 what happens historically when Scots are pushed too far. I don't look forward to that day. I fear in my heart it will come.

            God keep you. God keep us all.

          • Chris Morris

            "Anyway let us be serious." Yes, I've been serious throughout the posts attached to this article as I think it's a serious subject.

            "Well by definition this begs the question and ignores the root problem." Does it? Presumably, you would need to prove that formulating and implementing a policy derived from "a moral basis & moral first principles" could be guaranteed to be both possible and effective. You're missing the point that my view can't "create more problems" - my view is that we have problems and that, perhaps, better education, more available contraception and better economic policies may help reduce the problems.
            "If I may offer an extreme example." I don't mind but, when I offered Rob an extreme example, he told me I was "setting a very low threshold".
            "We could eliminate the migrant crisis... by killing all the migrants." Well, one would hope that you, at least, distinguished between people applying to legally enter the country and those entering illegally before you start killing them. Actually, I'm not sure that this is such an extreme example as you think; it could be said that we, in Europe, are killing would-be illegal migrants by not rescuing them from the people-traffickers who cram them in to lethally unsafe boats and push them out in to the Mediterranean.
            "Given moral first principles and natural law..." I suspect that this may be a real example of question begging but, as I've mentioned previously, I'm not particularly interested in whether these moral principles or natural laws exist or whether they can be convincingly justified by philosophy. Rather, it's a question of how that plays out in the real world and the type of approach which tends to follow from that belief. Your 'slippery slope' argument is a good example of this: "If you can make one exception to the murder of one class of innocents..." The point is, it doesn't happen (for example, it hasn't happened that legal abortions in the USA have led to the government killing large numbers of illegal immigrants) because most of the time people, generally, do not operate through what Horkheimer referred to as 'instrumental reason', the type of mechanical decision-making procedure that would, indeed, hold that 'if we can kill this person, then there's no reason not to kill that person.'
            What we do, perhaps not always knowingly or consciously, is to make choices based on a much wider context, meaning that the process is imperfect but always open to improvement and recognising the possibility of human error.
            Just as a minor matter of interest, I frequently drive along the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Why do you keep mentioning it?

          • Jim the Scott

            (I apologize if my grammar is off. The wife needs a break and is rushing me out the door with the kids. I'll check it later)

            > Does it?

            Pretty much.

            > Presumably, you would need to prove that formulating and implementing a policy derived from "a moral basis & moral first principles" could be guaranteed to be both possible and effective.

            So I have to guarantee it is both possible and effective to not murder migrants as an effective way to not solve the boarder crisis? That is a bit daft.
            Murdering the innocent as an immoral act & is clearly wrong regardless of any positive utility that might flow from it. Since logically murdering migrates would likely discourage them from coming. But it is still wrong. I prefer a Wall and with babies some self control.

            >You're missing the point that my view can't "create more problems" -

            Tell that to the lunatic judge who tried to force an abortion. That is clearly a problem.

            > my view is that we have problems and that, perhaps, better education, more available contraception and better economic policies may help reduce the problems.

            Artificial birth control is immoral but being that I endorse a soft Integrist political view I don’t see myself outlawing it(at least types that are not abortifacients) and I am all for education on the dangers of fornication. Thought parents should control the moral education of their children and not the state outside of informing kids if you get yer end away a baby can come of it.

            
>”If I may offer an extreme example." I don't mind but, when I offered Rob an extreme example, he told me I was "setting a very low threshold".

            My point is to show the principle involved. You can’t murder the innocent. The unborn are innocent human beings. They cannot be murdered.

            >Well, one would hope that you, at least, distinguished between people applying to legally enter the country and those entering illegally before you start killing them.

            No rather it would be immoral either way. Even illegals who are technically criminals it violates the principle of proportionality and thus illegal entry into a country per sey cannot ever morally be a capital crime.

            >Actually, I'm not sure that this is such an extreme example as you think; it could be said that we, in Europe, are killing would-be illegal migrants by not rescuing them from the people-traffickers who cram them in to lethally unsafe boats and push them out in to the Mediterranean.

            I agree but you wouldn’t sink those boats or scuttle them with people on board as a matter of policy.

            >I suspect that this may be a real example of question begging

            Nope you need an objective moral philosophy based on human reason and as I argued before absolute relativism is incoherent. That it is wrong to murder the innocent is a clear first principle.

            >but, as I've mentioned previously, I'm not particularly interested in whether these moral principles or natural laws exist or whether they can be convincingly justified by philosophy.

            That is just begging question again. Also yer removal of any or all moral positions or philosophies as a basis for making these policies is itself a moral philosophical position. Thus by your own standards you would need to prove that formulating and implementing a policy derived from “this moral philosophy of yours“ could be guaranteed to be both possible and effective

            I don’t think avoiding the argument in Dr. B essay is useful to you. I think you need to either refute them or accept them.

            >Rather, it's a question of how that plays out in the real world and the type of approach which tends to follow from that belief. Your 'slippery slope' argument is a good example of this: "If you can make one exception to the murder of one class of innocents..." The point is, it doesn't happen

            So Nazi Germany never practiced involuntary euthanasia? That foul Judge in the UK didn’t try to order an abortion? If you stack your Appeals Court in GB with jerks who believe as she does they would have forcibly murdered that woman’s child. So much for “choice”. It does happen. It has happed and will happen again if we ignore moral principles.

            >(for example, it hasn't happened that legal abortions in the USA have led to the government killing large numbers of illegal immigrants)

            With all due respect that’s like saying Hitler murdering 6 million Jews didn’t lead him to murder millions of Chinese. That kind of misses the point.

            >because most of the time people, generally, do not operate through what Horkheimer referred to as 'instrumental reason', the type of mechanical decision-making procedure that would, indeed, hold that 'if we can kill this person, then there's no reason not to kill that person.'

            Now you are equivocating. We are not talking about generic question of if it is ever justified to kill a person. We are talking about murdering an innocent person. Fallacies of equivocation are not gonna help ya here M8.
            
>Just as a minor matter of interest, I frequently drive along the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Why do you keep mentioning it?

            Funny! Well played. :D. Cheers.

          • Chris Morris

            "So I have to guarantee it is both possible and effective to not murder migrants as an effective way to not solve the [boarder] crisis?" No. We both agree that it is wrong to kill innocent people but you, Rob, Dennis and others hold that view because you believe that an absolute/natural law, which dictates that this is so no matter what the context, exists. I'm sceptical of the existence of such a law because history suggests to me that moral imperatives vary over time and between different cultures. It suggests that some ideas, such as that killing innocent people is wrong, are so widely held and so deeply embedded across many cultures that they appear to be the objective moral principles that you recognise.
            As I've implied previously, the problem with your view is in choosing which moral imperative is absolute and in implementing that choice. For example, you write that "artificial birth control is immoral" which presumably is part of your Catholic culture, whereas many other Christian cultures would not see it in that way and you also suggest that there can be exceptions to that rule.
            "Nope you need an objective moral philosophy..." This is actually begging the question.
            "...as I argued before absolute relativism is incoherent." This isn't an argument, it's a tautology, as in "a square circle is incoherent."
            "...removal of any or all moral positions or philosophies as a basis for making these policies is itself a moral philosophical position." Who said anything about removing them? All I've said is that isolating the philosophical argument from real world contexts is not a good way of analysing social problems.
            "So Nazi Germany never practiced involuntary euthanasia?" In the Debating world there's an unwritten rule that, as soon as you mention Nazi Germany, you lose the debate but it's actually an interesting example here because many totalitarian regimes such as Soviet communism and various fascist dictators, attempted to operate with just that type of 'instrumental reason' that sees humans as 'means to ends' rather than autonomous individuals.
            You've mentioned a judge here 'ordering an abortion' a couple of times, can you give a reference so that I can look it up?

          • Jim the Scott

            > No. We both agree that it is wrong to kill innocent people but you, Rob, Dennis and others hold that view because you believe that an absolute/natural law, which dictates that this is so no matter what the context, exists.

            Do we agree? What you said implies we don't agree and that you believe there is a "context" which allows for the murder of innocent people?

            > I'm sceptical of the existence of such a law because history suggests to me that moral imperatives vary over time and between different cultures.

            They vary in details but there does appear to be a core value of moral absolutes IMHO.

            >It suggests that some ideas, such as that killing innocent people is wrong, are so widely held and so deeply embedded across many cultures that they appear to be the objective moral principles that you recognise.

            Natural Law is based on reasoning according to human nature vs mere Law, Custom or Convention. So you are "skeptical" yet you concede a lion's share of the Natural Law proponent's point here. Well that is some progress I guess.....

            >As I've implied previously, the problem with your view is in choosing which moral imperative is absolute and in implementing that choice.

            Not at all. One merely reasons & studies what is good for human nature and its healthy function.

            >For example, you write that "artificial birth control is immoral" which presumably is part of your Catholic culture,

            Not at all. It is reasoned that the final cause of Sex is reproduction and deliberately perverting that final cause in order too artificially separate the pleasure of sex from reproduction perverts its true end. Like gorging yourself on food then boking so you and fill up again separates the pleasure of eating from the final cause of nourishment. Of course that only touches the surface of the reasoning behind the perverted faculty argument. One cannot prove Quantum Physics true in 50 words or less and neither can that be done with natural law.

            Here is some heavy reading in case you wish to explore the philosophy you wish to reject. If only to get a good sense of it so you can reject it properly from a place of knowledge. Of course if ye are no interested in it that is fine too. I also have a 20 minute attention span..ooohhh.....shiny!

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/06/love-and-sex-roundup.html#more

            I should note before 1920 all Christians condemned AC.

            >This is actually begging the question.

            Why? Isn't the rejection that we need an absolute moral philosophy itself an absolute moral assertion?

            >This isn't an argument, it's a tautology, as in "a square circle is incoherent.

            Given the definitions & rules of logic it is clearly incoherent and a contradiction. To deny it condemns us to have zero basis for rational discussion. I don't do mere rhetorical persuasion. I need reason.

            This is why Aquinas and Aristotle said "Dispute not with those who deny first principles for such dispute is futile". It would be like debating a Young Earth Creationist on the truth of Evolution & he demands we can debate evolution but we can't make any appeals to science or biology. Who would put up with that? If you and I cannot agree on the statement "a square circle is incoherent" then what is the point in us having a discussion. Its nothing personal. You seem like a nice fellow.

            But that is the core of our dispute.

            >All I've said is that isolating the philosophical argument from real world contexts is not a good way of analysing social problems.

            I don't see how you can use sociology as a substitute for philosophy without committing a category mistake.

            >In the Debating world there's an unwritten rule that, as soon as you mention Nazi Germany, you lose the debate...

            No if I call you a Nazi that would be the case. Here I simply stated a historical fact. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The Nazis killed the mentally weak first it was "voluntary" then it became obligatory.

            > Soviet communism and various fascist dictators, attempted to operate with just that type of 'instrumental reason' that sees humans as 'means to ends' rather than autonomous individuals.

            Well they don't believe in natural law. Humans are not means to an end and their "reasoning" denies first principles.

            >You've mentioned a judge here 'ordering an abortion' a couple of times, can you give a reference so that I can look it up?

            Here ya go M8.

            https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/uk-court-orders-forced-abortion-for-disabled-woman-34728

            https://nypost.com/2019/06/24/britain-says-no-to-forced-abortions-for-now/

            https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-48751067

          • Chris Morris

            "...you concede a lion's share of the Natural Law proponent's point here." Yes, as I say, I think that there are views which are so widely held and have changed so little over time that they give the appearance of a natural law. Is this progress? Not in my case, it's what I've believed ever since I first started thinking about this many years ago.
            "One merely reasons & studies what is good for human nature and its healthy function." A lot of people reason and study this subject and come up with a considerable variety of different answers.

            "Here is some heavy reading..." Well, I've read a lot of Feser's articles over the last three or four years since I found myself having a conversation with a neo-Thomist but I haven't been particularly impressed by any of his views. His main interest seems to be in promoting extreme conservatism within the Catholic church.

            ("Nope you need an objective moral philosophy..." This is actually begging the question.) "Why?" Because you're asserting your conclusion and that shapes your reasoning to achieve that end.
            "Isn't the rejection that we need an absolute moral philosophy itself an absolute moral assertion?" It may be but that's not what I'm doing. As I've said previously, I don't know whether a natural law exists, I just don't think it's a useful way of thinking about how we should live our lives if it excludes everyday reality.

            "Given the definitions & rules of logic it is clearly incoherent and a contradiction." Yes, that's why saying "absolute relativism is incoherent" is a tautology as is, for example, "all unmarried men are bachelors."

            "I don't do mere rhetorical persuasion. I need reason." Yes, I agree. That's pretty much my original point in commenting on the article Dennis has presented here.

            Thanks for the links to that case. I have to say, the way the case is reported in the three news organisations is very interesting. I'm impressed that the Catholic News report is considerably less biased than the NYT article.
            In some ways this case demonstrates the point I'm trying to make. As soon as it becomes a legal matter, there has to be a decision based on the case in isolation rather than seeing it in a wider context. The original judge presumably felt obliged to prioritise the rights of the pregnant girl. On appeal there seems to have been some wider context taken in to account and the decision was overturned. Was this the right decision? I don't know, presumably it depends on how much psychological damage the girl suffered and how good a life the baby will have. The judges can only attempt to assess the balance of harms.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Yes, as I say, I think that there are views which are so widely held and have changed so little over time that they give the appearance of a natural law.

            Hmmm a sort of pragmatism that comes to similar concussions as NL.

            > Is this progress? Not in my case, it's what I've believed ever since I first started thinking about this many years ago.

            In which case you are doing philosophy. Philosophy is inevitable the only question after that is wither you do it well or do it badly.

            > A lot of people reason and study this subject and come up with a considerable variety of different answers.

            Actually I suspect you will find more broad conscious then you think.

            >Yes, that's why saying "absolute relativism is incoherent" is a tautology as is, for example, "all unmarried men are bachelors."

            It is still true. At worst it is only tautology in a nominal sense. Like 1=1 but 1=2 is incoherent.

            >. As soon as it becomes a legal matter, there has to be a decision based on the case in isolation rather than seeing it in a wider context.

            Actually it is rather straight forward. The original decision was not only wrong it was intrinsically evil and a tyranny. A government that makes it policy that it can force an abortion must be resist even to the point of being overthrown.

            This is where we differ. Indeed what sickens me most about this so called ruling is the hypocrisy. The so called "free choice" to have an abortion (i.e. given the right to murder your innocent child) devolves into it being obligatory.
            It is only a matter of time before the State mandates it and on that day the social order will colapse.
            To quote the great American Patriot of Scottish ancestry Patrick Henry "Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me give me liberty or give me death". I will never submit to that tyranny. I won't surrender my freedom except with my life. It's in my DNA.

            >I don't know, presumably it depends on how much psychological damage the girl suffered and how good a life the baby will have

            Everybody has a right to life. We cannot foresee who will be happy or not and our presumptuous speculation we might not be happy in the future gives no man the right to end us "for our own good".

            When I watch my most low functioning daughter smile I feel great joy in my heart and great anger at those who think her life isn't worth anything because she is slow.

            Cheer M8 . I think we have said all we need to say. You may have the last word. I will try to resist giving a response.

          • Chris Morris

            "I think we have said all we need to say." I'm disappointed, clearly you and Rob lack stamina... :-)

            Pragmatism, yes that's how I would see it and it may often come to similar conclusions as natural law views but the element of doubt or scepticism, which tends to be missing from natural law thinking, I think makes it a little less likely that it be used to impose any conclusions on other people.
            "In which case you are doing philosophy." Yes, I have a philosophy degree and have been studying philosophy for more than 50 years now so I hope I do it reasonably well. What I do tend to do is distinguish between the overly-academic philosophy which tends to lose itself in increasingly precise and detailed analysis that it loses touch with everyday life and the sort of philosophy we all do as human individuals - creating a narrative framework that makes sense of our lives.

            "This is where we differ." Yes, I think it's a serious mistake to see any social phenomena as 'rather straight forward'. I think that when we start considering these things as straightforward, we are inclined to start seeing society as merely a large number of individual objects rather than a complex reflexive system.

            "I will never submit to that tyranny." Presumably, none of us want to submit to tyranny but we all tend believe that there would be fewer problems if everyone just thought the same way that we do - our own particular tyranny is never tyranny to us.

            "Everybody has a right to life." Well, I would say that we have a right to a reasonable quality of life and neither Rob nor you have given me reason to alter my view that there must be times when we have to make a choice and that trying to take away the possibility of that choice must generate more suffering than leaving open that possibility.

          • Jim the Scott

            > I'm disappointed, clearly you and Rob lack stamina... :-)

            That is such a Scottish thing to say. Well Done!:D I have to get ready to go on vacation. So all hands to the pump. Cheers.

            *This post still counts you getting the last word as I haven't commented on yer final points.

            Cheers again M8.

          • Chris Morris

            :-D Enjoy your vacation.

          • Ficino

            Yes, I have a philosophy degree and have been studying philosophy for more than 50 years now

            Chris, if you would be inclined to share more about your philosophy background and activities, I should like to hear of them.

          • Chris Morris

            Ficino,
            I've given some details about my philosophical background in conversations with Luke Breuer. My interest was prompted in the 1960s by the first generation of working-class kids to come out of university with social science degrees starting to make current affairs tv series such as 'World in Action' and others which tended to promote a vision of all society's ills being solved by social science and a simple form of Marxism.
            It always seemed wrong to me that individuals should be considered 'objects of study' particularly in isolation from their historical and social context. Without really being aware of it I followed a similar thought process to many postmodern and communitarian thinkers until I eventually arrived at university as a mature student in 1989.
            A couple of things I find interesting are that, as a moderate conservative product of a typically 'politically incorrect' 1950s upbringing, I find a lot of the postmodernist manifestations of social change very uncomfortable and some of those 'fellow-travelling' thinkers have found their way back to their religious roots (Alisdair MacIntyre, for example) whereas I never had a religious context in which to think about this so a hard choice between religion and 'naturalism' or 'materialism' always looks like a false dichotomy to me.

          • Ficino

            Thank you for "sharing" this, Chris, as we say in the States. I recall reading somewhere the suggestion that where a philosopher invokes "nature," we quietly substitute "culture." I don't know if you'd go that far, but I think you are right that none of us reasons outside of a historical and social context.

            Cheers, and all the best of luck if you find yourself somewhere on the M-8

          • Jim the Scott

            >And I had a (distant) family member die due to pregnancy related complications. After refusing an advised abortion.

            What if she choose to have one and Dr. Gosnell was her physician? My Father wasn't always pro-life in the full Catholic sense. He was a convert from Protestantism who only converted so my Grandfather would allow him to marry mom.
            He believed an abortion to save my Mother's life would be justified if it ever came to that but my mother told him "No! If it is a choice between saving me or our child you choose our child!".
            I am proud as feck to be the son of that women.
            My Father changed his mind in the end. Mom converted him.

            So keep your nuts.

          • David Nickol

            What if she choose to have one and Dr. Gosnell was her physician?

            Bringing Kermit Gosnell into this discussion, in this manner, is about as low as insisting on talking about pedophile priests as somehow representative of Catholicism. Gosnell was tried and convicted of murdering "post-born" babies, which nobody here arguing the pro-abortion position has (or would, I am confident) defended.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Bringing Kermit Gosnell into this discussion, in this manner, is about as low as insisting on talking about pedophile priests as somehow representative of Catholicism.

            Spare me your passive aggressive hypocritical self righteous horse crap Nicklol. Your phony virtue signaling makes me physically ill & the smell of roses from yer arse even more so. Your boy Morley is using his own relative's tragic unforeseeable death to argue for the murder of un-born human beings. That is low. Why no words for him? Well? So go admonish him and spare me your tribal hypocrisy.

            > Gosnell was tried and convicted of murdering "post-born" babies, which nobody here arguing the pro-abortion position has (or would, I am confident) defended.

            Stop making crap up. He killed all sorts of babes at all stages of development & killed their mothers by his medical incompetence and Pro-abort virtue signalers & establishment covered for him(safe abortions my arse!) like you are covering for Morley using the death of his pro-life relative to argue for abortion but I am the villain for citing Gosnell? Plueez!

            Now get lost. Nobody who calls themselves "Pro-choice" gets to speak to me! Because it is a LIE!

            https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/uk-court-to-force-mentally-disabled-woman-to-have-an-abortion/

            Mercifully it was overturned but it is a matter of time. The girl didn't want an abortion and nether did her mother or family but the anti-Catholic judge tried to force it.

            Now where was I? Oh yeh! Get lost.

          • OMG

            The "post-born" babies for which Gosnell was convicted did not succumb to Gosnell's attempt to abort them before birth. They exited the womb, alive, one whimpering, before Gosnell snipped the base of their brains with his scissors. Gosnell performed abortions, and a dead infant was what he delivered, pre- or post-born.

          • Richard Morley

            Bringing Kermit Gosnell into this discussion, in this manner, is about as low as insisting on talking about pedophile priests as somehow representative of Catholicism.

            'Low' seems to be the norm for this discussion.

            I am wondering if walking away is not the best response.

          • Richard Morley

            What if she choose to have one and Dr. Gosnell was her physician?

            What if she tried to convert to Catholicism and Cardinal McCarrick was her confessor. What is this supposed to prove?

            my mother told him

            ..what her choice was. So?

            So keep your nuts.

            No backsies. But the nuts were not sent to you, so why are you upset?

          • Jim the Scott

            >What if she tried to convert to Catholicism and Cardinal McCarrick was her confessor. What is this supposed to prove?

            I was thinking if you morons had any brains you would pull McCarrick out of yer arse. But I am three steps ahead of ya. Need I remind ya you are the one who brought up your heroic pro-life relative in the first place to exploit her death. Why did you do it? What does that prove? Because whatever invalid argumentative fallacy it "proves" then it proves too much. So what "abortion" is good because pregnancy can be bad under certain circumstances? Well then Abortion is bad under Gosnell like circumstances and by extension Catholicism is bad under McCarrick circumstances and atheism is bad under Stalinist circumstances. Ad infinitum Ad nauseam & Rob is right no one on this thread has presented a case where abortion is necessary.

            So stop boring the shite out of me with your whiny sophistry and make an intelligent philosophical argument or "walk away" as you suggested above. Better yet just feck off. Because we have enough infidel philosophical illiterates around here stinking up the joint. Try your manipulative crap somewhere more effective & more your speed. Like a Young Earth Creationist message board or something.

            No on yer bike and don't sit on yer nuts.

          • Chris Morris

            Jim the Scott,
            "...Rob is right no one on this thread has presented a case where abortion is necessary."
            I have actually presented such a case (whether it's a good case or not is a different matter) but only half-heartedly as I didn't feel it was particularly relevant to the point I started out to make.

          • Jim the Scott

            An American Scot(moi) vs a local boy(Chris). I'm intrigued.

            >I have actually presented such a case (whether it's a good case or not is a different matter) but only half-heartedly as I didn't feel it was particularly relevant to the point I started out to make.

            I appreciate your candor M8 on its limits. I really do. Let's not mince words. But yer case is just an exercise in begging the question. The Problem with absolute relativism is it refutes itself and it is incoherent. If all values are relative & no one value is absolutely true than that value cannot be absolutely true and thus must be false according to its own standard. One is forced to admit there are some objective immutable values. If you fall back to limited relativism which replaces the word "all" with "some" and cuts off the last wee bit of the proposition above you still are left admitting there are at least some absolute objective values. If you want argue Abortion is a relative value (like wither or not my niece should color her hair blue or not) then have at it M8.

            But I think we are in very separate universes philosophically.

            >Going back to what we can and can't imagine,

            Hume as a thinker was ming'in. The worst philosopher the Mother Land ever shat out of her fanny. He was no Dun Scotus. Like all essentialists ^ Thomists I prefer to conceive vs imagine.

            (Like my use of Scottish Slang? Do ye feel patronized enough? I could switch back to NYC speak at the drop of a hat if ye like? Hey why am I asking you? I'll just do what I like to please myself. Cheers M8).

          • Chris Morris

            Jim the Scott, your colourful and emotive language suggests the sort of passionate Celtic soul frequently to be found enthusiastically tilting at windmills. I'm sure that, if you came to Glasgow at the moment, you would enjoy meeting the good Christian boys at the local Orange Lodge (who at this time of year are preparing their effigies of King James to burn in celebration of his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690) and having an interesting discussion with them.
            If you would like a sensible (translation: not Straw Manning) conversation about relativism, I'm happy to join you in that but this doesn't seem to be the place as I'm sure Dennis would, quite rightly, object to having his article hi-jacked.
            I'm not sure why you think that Rob's interest in what we can and can't imagine has anything to do with Hume and I'm puzzled as to why you believe that you're being patronising, perhaps it all makes sense in your universe.

          • Jim the Scott

            > I'm sure that, if you came to Glasgow...

            Oh Glasgow is it now? Yeh my ancestor came from Edinburgh....so yeh. For my fellow Americans that is the equivalent of New York vs New Jersey and naturally you lot are Jersey(perhaps that last bit was too harsh? I did just come from confession. Ah well ye know it's just wee bit of
            banter). They would never let me in the Orange Lodge. The Rosary around my neck is a dead giveaway I am a wee Romanist thought my Clan fought for King George not the King-over-the-water.

            >If you would like a sensible (translation: not Straw Manning) conversation about relativism, I'm happy to join you in that but this doesn't seem to be the place as I'm sure Dennis would, quite rightly, object to having his article hi-jacked.

            Dr. B is cool I am sure. I'll think about it thought.

            >I'm not sure why you think that Rob's interest in what we can and can't imagine has anything to do with Hume

            I think Rob knows Hume relied too much on Imagination and the mistake in his philosophy is he conflates it with conception which is why his criticisms of causality are invalid.

            > and I'm puzzled as to why you believe that you're being patronising, perhaps it all makes sense in your universe.

            Some native Scots think we American Scots who are very gung ho are no real Scotsmen (pun intended). They call us plastic Scots. I can see their point. I really can but I also dinna care. I don't need anyone permission to be proud of who I am and where I come from.

            You it seems are not one of them types of natives & it is enough to make me forgive you are from Glasgow. ;-) . At least you are not from New Jersey. :D

            Cheers M8.

  • Naturalism rejects God’s existence, typically by espousing
    atomism -- the claim that all reality ultimately reduces to the smallest
    physical units: atoms or subatomic particles.

    What? No it doesn't. What a bizarre statement. Naturalism reduces reality to natural processes not atoms. Atoms figure heavily in natural processes but then so does gravity. There's not reason to pick on atoms here. The only sense I can make of this statement is perhaps as a reference to ancient Epicureans, some of whom argued that reducing reality to atomic processes released us from certain moral considerations but I don't think that really applies here. I suspect Dawkins would feel weird being described as an 'atomist.' I think the term one should be using here is 'physicalism.'

    If one takes atomism seriously, the only things that really exist are whatever basic atomic or subatomic units of matter one selects as ultimate. For sake of argument, let us consider that the building blocks of organic chemistry and of organisms are atoms. And atoms combine to make larger entities, be they molecules or entire organisms.

    The logic is as simple as this: When two atoms combine chemically, say, sodium and chlorine, do they become one thing (salt?), or are they really still two things (two distinct atoms), functionally associated? Atomism logically is forced to the latter position, since all that really exists is atoms, even though they may enter into temporary chemical bonds with other atom.

    This is such a weird argument. If two atoms chemically combine, they are both one or two things depending on your point view and what aspect of them you are talking about. You don't need to believe in metaphysical substances to refer to concrete wholes. Instead of talking about atoms, a naturalist might just as well say that reality is composed of systems, all of which are components in larger systems with the largest system being the universal as a whole. These systems can be considered by themselves or as parts of larger systems.

    Thus a spleen can be considered by itself or as part of a man who in turn can be considered as an individual or as part of the larger system called 'society'. How we differentiate objects (or subsystems) depends not on some metaphysical substance but on our human pattern matching abilities, and in fact we can make machines capable of doing the same thing using mathematics.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      A spleen that is not part of a man is not actually a spleen, but a mass of tissue. This tissue lacks spleenishness, even if people still call it by that name by habit.

      Reifying abstractions is a mistake from a Naturalistic perspective as well as from a Realist perspective. "Systems" and "processes" do not exist independently of the material objects that comprise them. They are forms, or patterns in inanimate objects. "Gravity" is likewise a name we give to a power of matter. By the current paradigm, gravity does not exist unless and until matter exists. See the general field equations for details. It describes the motion of matter, but there is no separate immaterial entity called "gravity." Only a curvature in the space-time manifold caused by the presence of matter.

      'Atom' as used in the OP is simply the irreducible particle of which matter is composed. It is not our Daltonian 'atom,' which is actually reducible to protons and electrons.

      • A spleen that is not part of a man is not actually a spleen, but a mass of tissue. This tissue lacks spleenishness, even if people still call it by that name by habit.

        It is both a speen and a mass of tissue, but regardless it can still be considered by itself even if it needs the rest of the body to function under normal circumstances.

        That said, you need to clarify what you mean by 'spleenishness.' You mean a spleen is defined as that which possess the form of a spleen, I think, but this is circular as the 'form' of a spleen is however you define a spleen. In other words, it seems that you have merely defined a 'spleen' in a certain way so as to make it easier to support a set of conclusions.

        "Systems" and "processes" do not exist independently of the material objects that comprise them. They are forms, or patterns in inanimate objects.

        Yes exactly. This is partly why appealing to such things as 'substances' and assigning immaterial existence to forms is a mistake. 'Form' is merely a word for the arrangement of matter ( or some subset of that arrangement.)

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          1. Spleenishness includes such things as the power to filter old or damaged red blood cells and to assemble white blood cells to fight infection, not just the size, shape, color, etc. But a spleen outside the body is no more a spleen than the carcass of a horse is a horse.

          2. There is nothing arcane about substances. In Greek, ouisia; in Latin, substantia. The Saxon equivalent is thing. Things are all around us and although we can use the word loosely in common speech for a part of a thing, it more properly refers to something that exists in itself and not as a part of another thing.

          3. Nor does it refer to a merological sum of things. A horse is a thing, but a horse-and-saddle is not a thing. It is two things: viz., a horse and a saddle. A sandpile is not a thing, but the mereological sum of things: i.e., grains.

          4. Socrates is a thing. He is not part of a society (a reified abstraction). Humans can and do function outside of a society, as the examples of hermits, recluses, and off-gridders illustrate. A man is not part of a society in the same way that a spleen is a part of the body. Consider, e.g., the acts of a free electron to a valence electron. The latter is bound and conformed by the form of the atom of which it part.

          5. Form is not just a word for an arrangement of things, although such arrangements are formal. It is form that makes a thing what it is. A chlorine atom and a sodium atom are made of the same matter - protons and electrons. What makes one a poison gas and the other a flammable metal is the number and arrangement of those parts; that is, their forms.

          There is a discussion of forms by Alexander Pruss here http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/Forms.html

          Also by William Wallace https://www.amazon.com/Modeling-Nature-Philosophy-Science-Synthesis/dp/0813208602

          • 1. Spleenishness includes such things as the power to filter old or damaged red blood cells and to assemble white blood cells to fight infection, not just the size, shape, color, etc. But a spleen outside the body is no more a spleen than the carcass of a horse is a horse.

            That a thing cannot exist (for long, spleens can survive long enough to attempt a transplant, for example) outside of a given context does not mean that it cannot be considered or discussed outside of that context.

            2. There is nothing arcane about substances. In Greek, ouisia; in Latin, substantia. The Saxon equivalent is thing. Things are all around us and although we can use the word loosely in common speech for a part of a thing, it more properly refers to something that exists in itself and not as a part of another thing.

            3. Nor does it refer to a merological sum of things. A horse is a thing, but a horse-and-saddle is not a thing. It is two things: viz., a horse and a saddle. A sandpile is not a thing, but the mereological sum of things: i.e., grains

            There's a few problems with this. First of all, language is defined by use. I doubt the Saxons had precisely your definition in mind when they started using the word 'thing.' (In fact, it apparently started as a word for possessions.) That people use the word differently from you does not mean that they are wrong but that the word can have multiple meanings.

            The second problem is that everything (aside from the universe as a whole) exists as part of another thing.

            4. Socrates is a thing. He is not part of a society (a reified abstraction). Humans can and do function outside of a society, as the examples of hermits, recluses, and off-gridders illustrate. A man is not part of a society in the same way that a spleen is a part of the body. Consider, e.g., the acts of a free electron to a valence electron. The latter is bound and conformed by the form of the atom of which it part.

            Socrates is clearly a part of society as are we all, even so called off-gridders and recluses. Ted Kaczynski, despite his efforts still had to shop at the store and interface with society occasionally to get supplies. Even true loners such as that last surviving member of that one tribe in the Amazon is only able to survive because his tribe raised him and instilled the necessary knowledge. He is a part of (a lost) society as well.

            Even then, if I were to grant the notion that people can exist outside of society that still doesn't make them not part of a larger system. The environment is also a system which you are a part of. There is no real world circumstance in which humans exist outside of a larger system. We must eat just the same as a spleen must receive blood flow and we must have shelter just as much as a spleen needs to exist in a certain environment.

            In the end, the only thing that makes a spleen a part of a larger system and a person not part of a larger system is the circumstance under which they can exist apart. This difference is accidental rather than essential.

            5. Form is not just a word for an arrangement of things, although such arrangements are formal. It is form that makes a thing what it is. A chlorine atom and a sodium atom are made of the same matter - protons and electrons. What makes one a poison gas and the other a flammable metal is the number and arrangement of those parts; that is, their forms.

            Actually, what makes one element poisonous and the other not is their chemical properties in relation to other elements. Poisonousness is not an independent property of chlorine and inflammability is not an independent property of sodium.

            More to the point, 'form' in this instance is the arrangement of matter and not anything but, even by your own description.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            does not mean that it cannot be considered or discussed outside of that context.

            Of course not.

            language is defined by use.

            Up to a point. But there is also technical use, and words can mean different things than they do in the common speech. Consider that a maze is a simple curve in topology while a figure-8 is a complex one. Since we are discussing philosophy here, I suggest using the terms the way they were intended by philosophers. "Thing" is only a homey, English substitute for ouisia, since Late Moderns cannot wrap their minds around Greek (or Latin substantia). [sub-stantia: that which 'stands under']

            The second problem is that everything (aside from the universe as a whole) exists as part of another thing.

            Then how can we give names to things if there is nothing that exists of itself? (I could make a case that the universe is not a thing, but a heap; i.e., a collection of things.)

            Socrates is clearly a part of society as are we all

            Not in the same way that a spleen is part of the body. A spleen, e.g., cannot decide to leave its body and move to another; but Socrates could decide to leave Athens and move to Thebes. Language is defined by usage, right? But that generates confusion when people use colloquially the same term for two different concepts. Socrates was a member of his society. Maybe that gets the distinction across.

            that still doesn't make them not part of a larger system.

            Systems are abstractions. You yourself said we ought not reify them.

            Poisonousness is not an independent property of chlorine and inflammability is not an independent property of sodium.

            See? You can get hyper-technical when you need to. Unless specified otherwise, let's suppose ordinary conditions.

            'form' in this instance is the arrangement of matter and not anything but, even by your own description.

            Indeed, for inanimate things, that's pretty much all she wrote. Matter has the four powers of gravity, electromagnetism, radiation, and nuclear. For living matter, it is more complex, but as I noted, it is the form which gives a thing its powers

          • But there is also technical use, and words can mean different things than they do in the common speech.

            I think that it's fine and useful when having a discussion to provisionally agree on terms for sake of the discussion. I still object when someone implies that people are wrong to not use his preferred definition.

            Also, 'the terms the way they were intended by philosophers' depends an which philosophers we are talking about as different philosophers would often reuse terms with different definitions. So far I have assumed that you have been arguing from an Scholastic mindset.

            Then how can we give names to things if there is nothing that exists of itself? (I could make a case that the universe is not a thing, but a heap; i.e., a collection of things.)

            Why would something need to 'exist of itself' to have a name? We can name anything.

            Systems are abstractions. You yourself said we ought not reify them.

            No I didn't. That's something you said. My position here is sort of nominalist. We can cut up the world any which way we want, conceptually, and use that to help us understand the world. We understand the world through abstraction, but what I mean by abstraction is different from what a Thomist means whereby some agent intellect extracts the forms from concrete objects, but rather a pattern matching capacity whereby patterns are detected and identified with each other. Abstraction may be how we understand the world, but we must not confuse our abstractions for the world itself. That is, we reify them, or at least name them, but the reification is not itself reality.

            (Or rather, we can, because it's inevitable that we do so. Our minds are limited that way, but it's particularly bad to confuse the fact that we abstract with some kind of deeper knowledge about the nature of the universe.)

            Not in the same way that a spleen is part of the body. A spleen, e.g., cannot decide to leave its body and move to another; but Socrates could decide to leave Athens and move to Thebes. Language is defined by usage, right? But that generates confusion when people use colloquially the same term for two different concepts. Socrates was a member of his society. Maybe that gets the distinction across.

            Clearly there are differences between spleens and people but I don't think this affects my argument. Yes, spleens don't generally have volition whereas people do, but that doesn't mean that people aren't part of a greater whole.

            Look at it this way, all of the restrictions you've stated so far for the spleen could apply to a fetus as well. They can't exist outside of a womb, they can't opt to move from one womb to another, they don't really have volition in the same sense that an adult has, etc. However, I don't think that there is anyone who would argue that a fetus is a part of the mother in exactly the same way that a spleen is a part of the body. What this means is, that viability cannot be the standard for 'substance.'

            The exact relationship between parts and wholes is generally different between each part and each whole, but that does not mean that you cannot consider each part as part of a whole or on its own. And you can apply names to any of these parts independently or to their interactions as a means of helping to discuss and understand them.

            But if you can hold down that most obvious observation, some other things can be noticed that do not at first appear.

            The first is that the motorcycle, so described, is almost impossible to understand unless you already know how one works. The immediate surface impressions that are essential for primary understanding are gone. Only the underlying form is left.

            The second is that the observer is missing. The description doesn’t say that to see the piston you must remove the cylinder head. "You" aren’t anywhere in the picture. Even the "operator" is a kind of personalityless robot whose performance of a function on the machine is completely mechanical. There are no real subjects in this description. Only objects exist that are independent of any observer.

            The third is that the words "good" and "bad" and all their synonyms are completely absent. No value judgments have been expressed anywhere, only facts.

            The fourth is that there is a knife moving here. A very deadly one; an intellectual scalpel so swift and so sharp you sometimes don’t see it moving. You get the illusion that all those parts are just there and are being named as they exist. But they can be named quite differently and organized quite differently depending on how the knife moves.

            For example, the feedback mechanism which includes the camshaft and cam chain and tappets and distributor exists only because of an unusual cut of this analytic knife. If you were to go to a motorcycle-parts department and ask them for a feedback assembly they wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about. They don’t split it up that way. No two manufacturers ever split it up quite the same way and every mechanic is familiar with the problem of the part you can’t buy because you can’t find it because the manufacturer considers it a part of something else.

            It is important to see this knife for what it is and not to be fooled into thinking that motorcycles or anything else are the way they are just because the knife happened to cut it up that way. It is important to concentrate on the knife itself. Later I will want to show how an ability to use this knife creatively and effectively can result in solutions to the classic and romantic split.

            - Robert Pirsig - The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Also, 'the terms the way they were intended by philosophers' depends an which philosophers we are talking about

            Dr. B, whose OP is being discussed, was using Thomistic language.

            Why would something need to 'exist of itself' to have a name? We can name anything.

            Sure. You can name unicorns, if you like. What I'm trying to get at is that Fido is part of a pack in very different sense than a cell is a part of a tissue or a tissue is part of an organ or an organ is part of an organism.

            We cannot "cut up the world any which way we want." What is the name we use for {Andrew Stine, the Moon, Scotch tape}? Or why do we have a label [not a name, but a label] for {Fido, Spot, Rover} and not for {Fido, Spot, Tabby}? Fido is a thing, but "dog" is not. It is an abstraction from the thing. (Which would remain true even if Fido were the only instance of "dog" in the universe.) IOW, why group and label these three things, but not those three things. Because we recognize a pattern/similarity? But there must already be something in the things themselves by virtue of which we abstract the pattern. That is, it's in the world, not the word.

            Yes, spleens don't generally have volition whereas people do, but that doesn't mean that people aren't part of a greater whole.

            Forget volition. I was distracted last night and didn't express myself clearly. Would interchangeable parts be better? Atomists may have trouble with the concept because to them every thing is a heap and they have a hard time seeing that [cell:tissue::person:society] is not a good analogy. There is something about Fido that is not true about his tail, nor about his pack.

            Regarding the motorcycle. A motorcycle is an artifact, not a natural thing, and its parts do not develop from an ur-bolt. And while it is true that art imitates life, an art-ifact is not a living thing.

            viability cannot be the standard for 'substance.'

            Of course not. But remember Minkowski 4-space. Those things you see right now are 3-space cross sections of a 4-space "worm." The thing (organism) is continuous in all four dimensions, X, Y, Z, and T. The cross-sections at T=now or at T=conception are no less the organism than the top of the head or the big left toe. There is no discontinuity, no magic moment between conception and today any more than there is between the feet and the head. It is All One Thing along the time dimension, just as ir is along its height, breath, or depth.

      • David Nickol

        A spleen that is not part of a man is not actually a spleen, but a mass of tissue. This tissue lacks spleenishness, even if people still call it by that name by habit.

        So it would appear that there can be no such operation as, say, a heart transplant, since once the donor heart is removed, it is no longer a heart.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Not until it is re-installed. But many use terms loosely in common speech.

          • David Nickol

            So what do we call a heart that has been "harvested" from an organ donor and is in transit to to the intended recipient—the organ formerly known as heart? If transplant surgeons call a donated heart a heart, are they using terms loosely?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If transplant surgeons call a donated heart a heart, are they using terms loosely?

            Yes, we ought not allow the deficiencies of language stop us. Call it a heart if you like in lieu of a more complex locution. After all, we still gaze upon the corpse of our beloved mother and act as if that's her. Just remember that it simply a heap of cells that absent some embodiment will follow the usual trajectory of a mass of organic tissues.

          • David Nickol

            I remember it has come up several times that Aquinas said, "Abraham's soul is not, strictly speaking, Abraham." So if Abraham's corpse is not Abraham, and Abraham's soul is not Abraham, did Abraham cease to exist upon his death? In fact, in the saying quoted above, what do the worlds Abraham's soul actually mean? If Abraham does not exist, what does the possessive Abraham's refer to?

            Just remember that it simply a heap of cells . . . .

            Why, then, do we treat human corpses with respect? I just recently learned that there are many local charitable organizations that provide funeral services and burials for unclaimed bodies of children and/or adults. (See here for an example.) This strikes me as an admiral thing to do. If a human corpse is just a heap of cells, why go to such lengths as to treat it as something worthy of respect?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I remember it has come up several times that Aquinas said, "Abraham's soul is not, strictly speaking, Abraham."

            What Thomas said was

            For it is clear that the soul is naturally united to the body and is departed from it contrary to its nature and per accidens. Hence the soul devoid of its body is imperfect, as long as it is without the body. … In another way, because it is clear that man naturally desires his own salvation; but the soul, since it is part of man’s body, is not an entire man, and my soul is not I
            -- Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on I Corinthians: 15, 942
            [...anima autem cum sit pars corporis hominis, non est totus homo, et anima mea non est ego]

            https://perennis.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/my-soul-is-not-i%E2%80%A6/

            ...during a discussion on the necessity of the resurrection of the dead. I.e., that the soul be eventually combined with a second body. Note that the word here translated as 'soul' is anima, which is to say 'life.'

            If a human corpse is just a heap of cells, why go to such lengths as to treat it as something worthy of respect?

            Because it was so recently conjoined with a soul, we are honoring and respecting the man he or she once was.

            This strikes me as an admiral thing to do.

            Only if it is a burial at sea. ROFLOL

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that some of the more emotional opposition to abortion is engendered by a kind of fantasized empathy for aborted babies. I am not talking about the horror of late-term abortions in which almost everyone would agree that what is medically called a fetus is actually an infant person. I am talking about first-trimester abortion plus the loss from alleged failure of a pre-embryo to implant some claim can result from the use of oral contraceptives. The "victims" in these cases cannot be reasonably empathized with, since they have no experience even remotely similar to our own. (I would go so far as to say they have no experiences at all.) Yet some make quite a fuss over "the most innocent among us," as if the innocence of a zygote were somehow a spiritual achievement on the part of the unborn. There was even a movement—nixed by the Vatican—to have the victims of abortion declared martyrs!

    If Dr. Bonnette is correct about hylomorphism and the rest, that certainly means there are very sound moral arguments against abortion. But the so-called victims of (early) abortion are in exactly the same boat, it seems to me, as the huge number of early embryos that are lost for natural causes without the mothers even knowing about it. I acknowledge fully that natural embryo loss, no matter how massive, cannot justify abortion. But surely it cannot be argued that the eternal fate of a spontaneously aborted embryo is different from a deliberately aborted one. Both are in God's hands, and it is difficult to imagine an all just, all loving God punishing a person because its mother took a birth control pill and the embryo failed to implant.

    I can see the intellectual arguments against abortion, but I am rather baffled by people who seem to be suffering from what seems to me imaginary grief over the suffering of loss of life in early pregnancy. I can intellectually conceive of a zygote being a person if it has an immortal soul, but I can't imagine lookin at a zygote under a microscope and thinking, "The poor little thing!"

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I agree that there need be no emotional identification with the "experience" of very early stage aborted embryos. But the question of ethics remains as to whether it is licit to deliberately kill them. What nature does by itself is not attributable to human responsibility. But, if we deliberately kill them, then the guilt for taking an innocent human life is upon us.

      >"I acknowledge fully that natural embryo loss, no matter how massive, cannot justify abortion."

      I fully agree.

      "But surely it cannot be argued that the eternal fate of a spontaneously aborted embryo is different from a deliberately aborted one. Both are in God's hands, and it is difficult to imagine an all just, all loving God punishing a person because its mother took a birth control pill and the embryo failed to implant."

      I agree that the fate of both is the same. Why then do you imply that the embryonic human being killed by its mother suffers some greater "punishment?"

      Why do you assume that what God does with that departed soul entails some form of "punishment?" It sounds to me as if you have wandered off into theology now, not just natural reason.

      But in theology, the Catholic Church's teaching as to the state of possible natural happiness for unbaptized babies is not all that clear. I edited a book once for Fr. Bertrand De Margerie, S.J., one of the genuine periti of Vatican II. He speculated that angels might prepare the souls of these babies for baptism of desire or some similar saving method so that they go to Heaven anyway.

      Conversely, though they might never reach the Beatific Vision, an alternative view is that a state of natural happiness is attained, which should not be viewed as a punishment, since the Beatific Vision is a gift beyond the natural state of human nature.

      As you imply yourself, the ethical objections to abortion of tiny embryonic human life need not be based on emotion, but pure reason.

    • ClayJames

      I would be really careful with the mindset you are defending here. I think the empathy of a fetus is perfectly justified for the same reason that we can have empathy for a newborn or a toddler, who themselves have almost no more significant experiences than a fetus and that is because they are members of our own species who deserve a future like ours.

      Most people would save their own child over the lives of 5 strangers, because their empathy is a function of our interaction with the human being in question and not because of the intrinsic experiences of the being itself. This is why most Christians are hipocrites when they support putting immigrant children in cages and are ok with them being treated like animals. In the erroneous empathy calculation that you seem to be defending, they value the rather nebulous economic and legal benefits of people they empahize with over the real life and death struggle and suffering of brown children that they dont .

  • Ficino

    It's worth considering this passage from Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics II.8.14, 1224b29-35: “And in fact reason is among the things that are by nature starting-points, in that it will be present if one’s development (Greek is γενέσεως, literally, "generation") is left to proceed and is not disabled, as also is |1224b30| appetite, in that it is present from the outset following birth. And it is pretty much by these two things that we define what is by nature: whatever is in everyone from the outset following birth; and whatever comes about for us when our development is left to proceed normally—for example, gray hair, old age, and other things of this sort” (tr. Reeve). Ηere Ari allows that generation, genesis, is not complete when birth, genete (γενετή), occurs, but that generation extends through the time during which all the natural faculties become manifest (unless it is impeded). Appetite is present from conception (even the zygote needs to take in nourishment), but reason is not yet “in it” nor is it yet a ruling principle in the organism. Aristotle’s distinction drawn here between birth and generation is usually overlooked, since in the Physics he says that generation is not a motion. But here in EE his point is that not all ruling principles, ἀρχαί, that align with the human's nature are "in" the human at conception or birth; compare ἐνέσται, "will be in it," to ἔνεστιν, "is in it," of reason and appetite respectively as internal ruling principles of the human. This distinction in turn points to A-T's problem of incomplete substances, which I've brought up previously.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      This is why I have to keep reminding people that I am not an Aristotelian, but a Thomist.

      And not a Thomist who slavishly follows the text of St. Thomas Aquinas either, but a modern Thomist who follows the principles of St. Thomas, particularly in metaphysics.

      The example I gave in the article itself illustrates this point. Modern Thomists do not follow St. Thomas's provisional acceptance of the "outdated successive animation" theory, because modern scientific information tells us that even Aristotle and St. Thomas would no longer follow it with respect to judging as to when human life begins in the womb.

      • Ficino

        In the above passage, Aristotle isn't talking about successive animation as such. He's not talking about a post-40 day fetus still in the womb having gotten "animal soul" and now getting "human soul." He's talking about a human already born, and about the process by which the first principles of its nature still over time become present in it. I'd characterize the issue here as the problem of incomplete substances, as I said above. I haven't tackled it in depth and have only dipped into the literature (e.g. Sheldon Cohen's Aristotle on Nature and Incomplete Substance). Do you think Aquinas or later Thomists solve that problem? In my view, it is a difficulty for hylomorphism, but as I said, I haven't worked it all through.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I was not referring to successive animation as a specific response to your citation from Aristotle above, but merely as an example of how modern Thomists do not follow the texts of either Aristotle or St. Thomas slavishly.

          I think that the reasoning within my article as to why the powers of the soul must be present from its inception and why their presence does not depend on organic brain development is made clear in the text of the article itself.

          • Ficino

            Specifically human faculties (operative potencies) are not yet in act with respect to their operations – but are fully in act with respect to existence, even from the time of conception.

            Yes, you've often asserted this distinction between a faculty's being in act with respect to existence at the time of conception and its not being [able to be] in act with respect to its operations. As I said over on the other thread, I'm not seeing reasons that compel us to accept this distinction, and I think it relies on an incoherent notion of actuality. But not to repeat everything on that thread.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I said, the reasoning behind this is in the article.

            If you take seriously the immateriality of the powers and do not confuse them with neural development, then there is no way for them to "appear" after the initial appearance of the substantial form. Perhaps, the key is the proof for the distinction between the form and its powers, which is also in my text.

            If power is really distinct from its substantial form, then how can it come into being simply because of organic development? I say this because the organs by themselves cannot explain how the powers can go into act.

            If you view this as a materialist, thinking the organs themselves can produce the acts, then the need for distinct immaterial powers of the soul becomes incoherent. But if you find the explanation that brain formation can explain the acts to be incoherent, then the need for powers becomes evident.

            Once the powers are seen as needed and distinct both from the substantial form and from bodily organs, there is no way to explain their origin at any time after the point at which the substantial form appears.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          ca. 7 years old is sometimes called the 'age of reason' since it is only around then that children begin to reason rather than react.

  • Ah, what a refreshing article. It reminds me how much more intellectually satisfying philosophical debates about abortion are than popular or political debates. When philosophers argue about abortion, they do not demean themselves by employing the weak arguments, unargued assertions, and Orwellian word games that pro-abortion non-philosophers so enjoy. In particular, philosophers do not waste their time arguing about whether an embryo or fetus is a human, a topic which provokes so much popular debate. The pro-abortion philosophers grant that an embryo is a human, because it is so obvious. They simply argue that the principle that, "It is never licit to directly kill an innocent human being" is wrong, based on arguments about personhood and identity.

    Then again, I suppose the reason the popular debate focuses so much on the question of humanity is precisely because both sides of the popular debate accept that principle. As you say, all decent men recognise that principle as a basic moral precept. In that respect, at least, the popular debate is actually on a sounder footing than the arguments of pro-abortion philosophers. One is reminded of Cicero's adage that, "There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher has not already said it."

    • VicqRuiz

      It reminds me how much more intellectually satisfying philosophical
      debates about abortion are than popular or political debates.

      They may score high on intellectual satisfaction but very low indeed on real world impact.

      The reason is that at least in the United States, the position of a majority of the public is a nuanced, conditional opposition to abortion. Among this majority, no one wants to vivisect an eight month child in the womb, but no one wants to require a raped twelve year old to carry a child to term, either.

      "Philosophical debates" bounce off this admittedly emotion driven consensus like spitballs off the side of a battleship.

      I would like to ask the American pro-life posters on this forum whether they would support a law which would simply outlaw all abortions after the first trimester. I suggest to them that they should oppose it, because should it come to pass, the issue of abortion would rapidly disappear from public debate.

      • Ficino

        I would like to ask the American pro-life posters on this forum whether they would support a law which would simply outlaw all abortions after the first trimester. I suggest to them that they should oppose it, because should it come to pass, the issue of abortion would rapidly disappear from public debate.

        Α while ago on here we were discussing cases of late-term pregnancies that doctors deem very likely to kill the woman or severely damage her health, or cases where the fetus will not be viable. A friend recently told me that her obstetrician recounted a case where a fetus was discovered to have no digestive organs at all. I don't think the American public in general will support a law that simply criminalizes procedures that seek to address these tragic cases by ending the pregnancy (= killing the fetus). In such cases, the woman by that point in the pregnancy usually wants a child and is heartbroken when it is determined that the fetus won't survive or may even kill her.

        • VicqRuiz

          And that is also a matter of nuance. Some abortions under limited circumstances - yes. All abortions - no. That is where I expect we will eventually wind up, and when we reach a compromise that is acceptable to the majority view, the debate will die down to a distant murmur.

      • Rob Abney

        I would like to ask the American pro-life posters on this forum whether they would support a law which would simply outlaw all abortions after the first trimester.

        I would oppose it on the grounds that it is arbitrary and thus inconsistent with either position.

        • VicqRuiz

          Yes, I can see that point of view.

          Is it appropriate to accept the existing abortion regime until such time as all abortions are legally prohibited (knowing that millions of children will be aborted during that time frame), as compared to seeking incremental reforms which will save some now, and leave open the possibility of saving more later?

          • Rob Abney

            That's a political issue/strategy; my opinion is that incrementally reducing abortions will never result in prohibition. I pray for a supreme court decision.

          • David Nickol

            I pray for a supreme court decision.

            If the conventional wisdom is correct (and I believe it is), the Supreme Court could at most overturn Roe v Wade, which would not prohibit any abortions, but would leave the matter up to the states. "Red" states would criminalize abortion, and "blue" states would keep it legal. And as I said before, in states where abortion would be criminalized, women would not be subject to legal penalties for procuring abortions. Only abortion providers would be punishable by law. How pro-life politicians can call that justice is beyond me. It is like punishing paid assassins but making it legal to hire them.

          • Rob Abney

            Punishing abortion providers is akin to punishing drug traffickers, if you stop the supply then you don’t have the opportunity for illegal action by consumers of abortion or drugs.

          • Ben Champagne

            If Roe gets overturned, it will be illegal in many states for women to procure abortions as well. These laws currently are designed specifically to challenge Roe. A sad state of affairs of American governance yes. The will of those states and it's populations it is not.

      • Ben Champagne

        Why would it disappear from public debate? That is a very misguided view. The majority of the public is against socio-economic abortions, in any trimester. There are 'good reasons' to habe an abortion. All medical. Rape is not a reason to abort. It is a reason to overcome. Committing an evil against an innocent because of a previous evil by another is never an acceptable stance to take.

        And apparently you should actually read up on abortion statistics...

        • VicqRuiz

          Okay, let's try a different tack. Would you be willing to support laws which would prohibit most abortions currently being performed, in the interest of saving many babies right now, and work toward prohibiting all abortions at some future date?

          • Ben Champagne

            I don't agree with prohibiting all abortions. Nor do most people when you get right down to it. If for instance, a doctor (and a second/third opinion) were saying that it was 50/50 whether the mother would survive the pregnancy, or worse, then that decision should be left to the person whose life is in jeopardy. In other rare cases, as someone disingenuously tried to use in their defense of abortion in this thread, such as ectopic pregnancies, the baby wouldn't survive and it is the only choice. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made. Socio-economic abortions never qualify for that distinction.

            That said. I agree with any law which coincides with the actors full autonomy so long as it is voluntary between parties. You get into an argument and want to settle it with pistols at dawn. Fine by me so long as you and the other actor agree on settling it with pistols. Government when functioning properly tries to protect innocence from involuntary outcomes inflicted by other actors, not you from yourself. That's the individuals job.

            In the case of abortion, any law which further prohibits socio-economic abortions (97%+ of all abortions in the US) is favorable. Justice is when they are outlawed entirely.

          • VicqRuiz

            My contention is that if we achieve the prohibition of what you term "socio-economic abortions", the pro-life movement will no longer represent a large enough portion of the population go any further, because most Americans really don't have much of a problem with the other three percent.

            And I don't say that will be a good thing, or that it will be a bad thing. I just think it is reflective of the fact that the majority of Americans are opposed to almost all abortions.

          • Rob Abney

            At this point in time abortions are widely available and can be performed for any reason, and I'm not sure that a majority of Americans are against almost all abortions. But if the convenience of abortion was severely restricted then maybe people would look more closely at the few abortions that were available and say "we are not in favor of killing any baby to solve a problem, there must be another way to solve the problem".

          • VicqRuiz

            That's reasonable.

            I have spoken online with other pro-lifers who absolutely will not advocate for or support anything other than a total prohibition because they believe it is acquiescing with murder to do anything else.

            Reminding them about the millions more abortions that will take place between now and that ideal future, if and when it ever comes to pass, is of no effect.

            Glad to see you are not in that camp.

  • >With respect to secondary rights, such as bodily autonomy and consent, these rights are limited insofar as they violate the more primary right to life of another human being.

    But of course this breaks down when we consider other examples. We don't take the position that it is moral to take someone's kidney or blood to save another's life.

    >For hylemorphism, human life begins at conception and is a continuous substantial entity until death.

    This is a slight mischaracterization bit an important one. A sperm is human and us alive, so is an egg. What this statement means is that human life should be considered an individual moral subject from conception based on the belief that some immaterial form starts when the DNA of the sperm connects with that in the egg.

    This single cell that cannot think or feel is just as important as a 12 month baby.

    But this cannot be the case. Because that cell sometimes divided into two or more zygotes. So one of these began after conception.

    But consider that sometimes these cells fuse back together. Did one soul die? Which one? Is that a body with two souls? It doesn't make sense.

    Also if we are excluding cognitive abilities from the equation of what a moral subject is, why have we excluded animals and plants? These too commence from a single cell.

    It's no good saying because animals and plants lack the spiritual unity to fully apprehend things, because that is just a different basis for explaining cognition in humans.

    So it would seem that there is no basis other than the choice of a deity to grant moral worth to humans but not others. And we are given no basis for this choice. It appears to be arbitrary.

    This is not to say that other moral frameworks are perfect. But they have the advantage of being based on what we observe, rather than having to accept the metaphysics and the nature of a deity as described above.

    Additionally, secular ethics can equally arrive at the same conclusion. For example a value ethicist may also consider taking any human life as never licit, or a utilitarianist might assess that no amount of well being can be worth the ending of an "innocent" human life.

    • But of course this breaks down when we consider other examples. We don't take the position that it is moral to take someone's kidney or blood to save another's life.

      So what would you think of a mother who refused to give her blood to save her child's life? I can't imagine it but if such a thing happened you think nobody would question if it was the right thing to do?

      There is also the issue of the purpose of things. Blood and kidneys do not exist for the purpose of supporting new life. The womb of a mother exists precisely for that purpose. So asking someone to use thier body parts in an unnatural way to do some good is going to be less clear morally than asking people to use their body parts for precisely the task they exist to perform.

      • >So what would you think of a mother who refused to give her blood to save her child's life?

        I would find it morally awful in some circumstances, laudibe in others.

        >There is also the issue of the purpose of things.

        Not for me there isn't.

        >The womb of a mother exists precisely for that purpose.

        So what? I don't see why this means a single cell can be a moral subject.

        • It mostly means your kidney parallel does not work. You may believe that nobody is ever obligated to save another’s life. That is a separate issue

      • George

        > So what would you think of a mother who refused to give her blood to save her child's life? I can't imagine it but if such a thing happened
        you think nobody would question if it was the right thing to do?

        Should the state detain the mother and force her to give blood?

        > The womb of a mother exists precisely for that purpose.

        If a woman develops uterine cancer, was that put there for a purpose? Is it going against Yahweh's plan to operate and remove it?

        Is the purpose of tumors to kill us? Are we violating Yahweh's plan by fighting cancer?

        We know people have died from cancer in the past, whether from lack of any healthcare or failed attempts to remedy it. Were their deaths all violations of Yahweh's plan?

        • > Should the state detain the mother and force her to give blood?

          This is such a rare hypothetical that it is hard to say. Giving blood is a very low risk thing to do. Not at all like donating a kidney. If a child needed the mother's blood and only the mother's blood, which never happens, and the mother refused, which also never happens, I do think a doctor might ask the courts to order such a thing. I would not say a judge should never do it. Maybe the mother would be declared mentally incompetent. Who knows?

          >Is the purpose of tumors to kill us? Are we violating Yahweh's plan by fighting cancer?

          No. If you accept Christian revelation this is an easy answer. If you just accept natural law reasoning it can also be inferred from pure reason that cancer is not allowing a living thing to reach its full potential but rathwer destroying that potential. Therefore is not something we need to respect but something we need to fight.

    • Ben Champagne

      Please share with the class how a human sperm cell has the potentiality to develop into a human being. You are confused.

      • A sperm is a kind of cell that can mate with a cell colloquially called an "egg". These form a cell that can divide and eventually we get something new call a human being.

        • Ben Champagne

          Yes. A sperm and egg have that potentiality. Not a sperm alone. Thanks for proving the point and refuting yourself.

          • Ficino

            Not a sperm alone. Thanks for proving the point and refuting yourself.

            BGA didn't contradict himself, because he was in fact comparing the zygote, not only a sperm cell, to a baby:

            BGA wrote this: "What this statement means is that human life should be considered an individual moral subject from conception based on the belief that some immaterial form starts when the DNA of the sperm connects with that in the egg. [my bolding]

            This single cell that cannot think or feel is just as important as a 12 month baby."

          • No problem. Take it easy.

        • Richard Morley

          Indeed, what human being has not developed from a sperm cell? One (1) alleged case.

    • ClayJames

      There is a huge difference between a sick person needing someone else´s organs to live and a completely healthy person in its natural habitat being killed.

      • You agree we cannot dismiss the bodily integrity issue as secondary to the human life. We prioritize it all the time over the lives of innocent people.

        I wouldn't say so in terms of rights. Not a huge difference, though a difference to be sure.

        From the donor perspective, use of the uterus and the body is a much larger committment than say giving blood. The birthing process is relatively safe but very difficult, painful, and potentially painful.

        For the recipient, both will die. Though for the unborn they don't have any other option.

        The biggest difference is that the unborn has no awareness of its existence or personal interest in continuing.and this is why is say it is not immoral to abort.

        • Ficino

          The birthing process is relatively safe

          Relatively, but as has been pointed out often, a significant number of women die as a result of effects of pregnancy or giving birth. For US in 2018:

          https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/health-of-women-and-children/measure/maternal_mortality

          It's worth noting that as said in the linked source, the risks are considerably higher for women who have five or more children.

          • The birthing process is safe compared to heart surgery, but dangerous compared to an abortion.

        • BCE

          "not immoral"

          I enjoy nature programs and the series *The Zoo*
          The keepers and scientists get very emotional and take a deeply
          moral position on saving very tiny embryos and eggs.
          Their worth not measured by their personal awareness, or for that matter the personal awareness of the mother.

          • David Nickol

            The keepers and scientists get very emotional and take a deeply moral position on saving very tiny embryos and eggs.

            It is very much a stretch to classify this kind of concern as "moral." Would they have the same concern over a hen's egg as over the egg of a California Condor (or any other endangered species)?

          • BCE

            No they wouldn't.
            So your point is a hen's egg(common chicken I presume )
            is not protected because it's common ,easily renewable and utilitarian.
            So while it's a "valued" food source, the maturation of any single egg
            is of no consequence.

          • But worth isn't the question, the question is what is a moral subject.

            There are lots of things that people get very emotional about and can take a moral positions on that we can agree are not moral subjects. Take a historical buildings that some may want to save others destroy it. From a moral perspective we take into account the feelings of these humans, we don't take into account the perspective or rights of the building. That's because the issue is a moral one as it affects moral subjects (humans).

            Your animals example is not great because many people do consider some animals to be moral subjects.

          • BCE

            Yes I used worth. Of course if you don't except ensoulment then it's easier to consider a painting more valued then a person.

            Exactly, you make my point, we don't consider the rights of the building
            But humans have rights, so say you the lawyer.
            Not based on it being an ear asking for an ears worth of justice, or a
            toe asking for a toes worth, rather if your toe is missing or the whole of your being is no greater then a toe, justice is not parsed out based on
            accidents : like you having a size 10.5 foot and another man having no foot.

          • >Of course if you don't except ensoulment then it's easier to consider a painting more valued then a person.

            No it isn't.

            >But humans have rights, so say you the lawyer.

            Persons have rights, more than just humans have rights and not all human life has rights. We agree on this, a sperm cell is human life, it has no rights. Corporations have rights, this is why the court said a corporation has religious freedom, not just the people making up the corporation.

            This is the substance of the dispute, you would say this soul you believe exist is what should generate rights? You would then have to agree the Hobby Lobby case was wrongly decided and that corporation must pay for contraception.

            You would also need to show me why a would means something has rights. Irrespective of a soul I wouldn't grant rights to anything that lacks awareness and has no interest in its own well-being.

          • BCE

            Well, I think your last line is sufficient to explain your position, though if I made that a public pronouncement I wouldn't have been able to keep my professional certification.

          • BCE

            Btw
            Hobby lobby and businesses like it became protected
            not because they are made of steel and block, but because they are either private or "closely held".
            It means *pop's pizza palace* is the brain child, creative expression, and toil of papa Tony (a person) either as sole owner or partner
            where the major share of the stock is held onto by a defined small number of persons who represent its creative expression.

            I'm sure you knew that: and that this class of business is limited and does not extend to all publicly traded corporation.

          • What professional certification? Why not?

          • BCE

            You referred to... "anything" (inclusive of all persons)
            "Lacking awareness{without the mental capacity} and no interest in its own well-being". I think you miss spoke?

            I assume it's an oversight on your part, I believe you've eluded to your
            helping people through a private nonprofit.?
            Health and Human services workers under Fed agencies go through mandatory ( ours annual) ADA certification.
            To demonstrate we know all persons even those who "lack awareness " still have rights" Not all the same rights (ie you're blind you can't drive)
            but your right to due process remains.
            We must also know that parents, spouses, advocates( like you) in -para parentis and institutions, in- loco parentis, must act on their behalf.
            It is not because those who lack awareness have no rights, but because they do, that others are required to attend to them.

            I can't believe I'm even responding except to give you the benefit of the doubt, or if someone read what you wrote, they think there
            are no legal rights for those you defined

          • No, I didn't mispeak and what you put in brackets is not what I said or intended to say.

            >believe you've eluded to your
            helping people through a private nonprofit.?

            I don't know what this is referring to, or what you are asking.

            >ADA certification

            I don't know what this is. What profession and why would you not be certified if you said what I said publicly?

            >To demonstrate we know all persons even those who "lack awareness " still have rights" Not all the same rights (ie you're blind you can't drive)
            but your right to due process remains.

            Yes, the blind are self aware AND have an interest in their own well being.

            >It is not because those who lack awareness have no rights,

            I never said awareness was that. I said "I wouldn't grant rights to anything that lacks awareness and has no interest in its own well-being"

            I didn't say anything about who or what has rights. There are unaware entities such as corporations that have rights.

            >I can't believe I'm even responding except to give you the benefit of the doubt, or if someone read what you wrote, they think there
            are no legal rights for those you defined

            Up to you. If you're interested, this framework is outlined in Peter Singer's Practical Ethics. It was required reading in my philosophy 101 university course.

            Not to say that it's a mainstream view, I'm not sure. I don't think most people reflect too much on what they accept or would reject as a moral subject. This is the best framework I have encountered.

            I'm afraid I cannot accept this idea of a soul as the basis for rights. It is arbitrary even if a soul exists, but we have the prior problem of no good evidence for a soul.

          • Mark

            What would "good evidence for a soul" look like BGA?

            ETA: In response to what a natural law is, it is a law that transcends geopolitical boundaries: i.e. inalienable rights given to you by virtue of you being a human being.

          • >What would "good evidence for a soul" look like BGA?

            You'd have to give me a definition of a soul so I don't strawman you. But going with my definition which would be some aspect of a person's mind that exists even if their body is dead, I'd say some evidence of this undying part existing. Some event of communication from it. Some detection of it.

            You didn't say natural law, but natural rights. But on natural law as you've defined it, I don't think it exists.

          • Mark

            I wouldn't agree with your definition of a soul and I'm skeptical to its existence as well.

            I'd say a fair (Catholic) definition of a soul is the immaterial animating principle that is in some sense distinct from the material body. The human soul, since a human is a rational living body is unique from other souls, but all living things all have a soul including plants and dogs.

            Sorry on the confusion of law/rights. My bad. I did mean natural rights. Thank you for clarifying your position.

          • >I'd say a fair (Catholic) definition of a soul is the immaterial animating principle that is in some sense distinct from the material body.

            Ok, that's way to vague for me to tell you what evidence would entail it exists. For example "art" satisfies that definition.

          • Mark

            Art would not be living/animated, well unless a guy's name was Art:) You can feel free to use a less vague definition from a reputable Catholic source. In a general case AT philosophers don't view the soul as anything to do with consciousness.

          • You didn't say living, or animated, you said an animating principle. Art is a principle use to animate. If you mean life, there is no life that is immaterial.

            >You can feel free to use a less vague definition.

            No, it's your concept, you should be able to define it easily and specifically. It's not my job to define something you believe in and I don't.

          • BCE

            Sorry If I misunderstood "anything" as all inclusive(including persons who lack awareness )
            Or maybe I misunderstand your use of "awareness" as cognizant
            or that you meant "interest" as concern.
            My "blind" example was preemptive, to those who might think
            I was arguing "rights" are universal.
            I said I was addressing your last line

            You say you "didn't say anything about who or what has rights"
            True, you said "I (Brian ) wouldn't grant rights to ... "

            ADA is Americans with disabilities.
            My reference to those in fields of advocacy(I thought that included you)
            know your personal criteria "awareness (cognizance )" is not
            the standard.

            The following not directed at you.
            Persons who are unconscious, or lack appreciable measurable
            cognition (or awareness )do not lose their rights.
            Someone may be appointed to act on their behalf (not because they lack rights ) but retain rights to representation.

          • >The following not directed at you.
            Persons who are unconscious, or lack appreciable measurable
            cognition (or awareness )do not lose their rights.

            >Someone may be appointed to act on their behalf (not because they lack rights ) but retain rights to representation.

            I never said anything inconsistent with either of these statements.

          • BCE

            True, you didn't say they didn't have rights
            but I understood based on your criteria " awareness" or as you said
            "a mind capable of reflecting, that you "... (Brian) wouldn't grant rights
            Remember you said irrespective of a soul so you and I were only discussing "rights" and not religion. Just the practical application of the law and your criteria.

            As a side bar, no, in my profession(Health and Human services)
            if I said, what you say, it could be misconstrued as my saying
            people need awareness and a mind capable of reflecting...
            in order for me to grant their rights.
            So no, I wouldn't say it, nor do I think it, and yes, if I did bias might be alleged.

          • Mark

            Curious how do you define "interest in its own well-being" and "awareness"? Those are easy to vary terms.

          • Mark

            "Irrespective of a soul I wouldn't grant rights to anything that lacks awareness and has no interest in its own well-being."
            Natural rights or legal rights?
            What is your definition of "lacks awareness" and "interest in its own well-being"? Just curious BGA; those terms seem easy to vary to me.

          • Legal rights. Not sure what you mean by natural rights.

            A lack of awareness would be an entity without a mind or with a mind incapable of reflecting on its own existence and interests.

  • Richard Morley

    Because the same individual human substance lives from conception to death, no change makes it suddenly become a person based on acquisition of certain properties, say, cognitive abilities.

    Again you just assume that 'human substance' comes into existence at conception and yet absolutely cannot come into existence in any other way. Why is the unfertilised egg not a person? Two identical twins are not the same person. Two fraternal twins who combine into one chimera are. Your point of view is incoherent. What, beyond historical entrenched political views, supports the claim that the zinc flash must be the point at which personhood develops, as opposed to something like a functional cognitive substrate?

    For that matter, was Jesus conceived? When did whose sperm enter the egg? Yet you would surely not deny him personhood? Surely?

    Since embryology teaches that specifically human life begins at conception

    No. As pointed out before, eggs and sperm are both recognisably human and alive. Conception is not abiogenesis.

    Also, neither eggs nor sperm are intelligent or self aware, so the old claim that we never see intelligence arise from the non intelligent fails absurdly. Until AI succeeds, we never will unless you claim Adam witnessed God create Eve.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      While you seem to be on a fishing trip for red herrings, I thought it fairly clear in context that the article is talking about the beginning of life of the human organism, which excludes things like sperm and ova that are human tissue, but not complete human organisms.

      Of course, substantial changes can occur, as when identical twinning occurs, whereby clearly a new substantial form appears for "half" the embryo. Or, the unfertilized egg does not have the ability to grow into a complete human organism. Identical twins are simply two distinct substances and persons. Chimerism might actually entail the death of one twin.

      All these oddities may need sorting out, but the general principles concerning the single human organism having one substantial form from inception to death remains correct. However Jesus or Adam came into existence, the fact still remains that the substantial form began its existence at that point and continued until death.

      As to why the person must be present from a human being's inception, I addressed that complexity in detail in the article.

      >"Also, neither eggs nor sperm are intelligent or self aware, so the old claim that we never see intelligence arise from the non intelligent fails absurdly."

      I have no idea what you are getting at here, since ova and sperm and not human beings at all, just tissue from the human species. In fact, as I have shown elsewhere, the creation of a rational, spiritual soul requires God's direct act. It arises neither from the egg nor sperm nor even from the human parents.

      You can raise a million objections and exceptional circumstances. That is why the article addresses exclusively the central philosophical points.

      • Richard Morley

        While you seem to be on a fishing trip for red herrings,

        Be nice, Dr B, that was beneath you. To use your own terms, if you reread my post slowly enough, you should eventually understand my meaning.

        I thought it fairly clear in context that the article is talking about the beginning of life of the human organism, which excludes things like sperm and ova that are human tissue, but not complete human organisms.

        How not? They are human, alive, have all the genetic code necessary for human life. They just have not actualised that potential. They will die eventually, but so will we we. They don't think, but according to you that is not necessary to be a 'human being'. Yet according to your understanding of your philosophical framework it is entirely possible for them to fuse and generate 'personhood' yet not possible for a foetus to develop beyond a certain point and do the same.

        Of course, substantial changes can occur, as when identical twinning occurs, whereby clearly a new substantial form appears for "half" the embryo.

        Which half? And why the scare quotes? And why is it possible for a new "substantial form" to be generated by a splitting twin, but not by a developing foetus that has not split?

        Or, the unfertilized egg does not have the ability to grow into a complete human organism.

        Don't be daft, they do it all the time. That ability may not have been actualised yet, but that is the point is it not? Something that could think one day is not the same as something that already has the abilty to do so, even if it is not doing so right now.

        Identical twins are simply two distinct substances and persons.

        But which was the original, and if 'personhood' can materialise at this point how can you claim that it cannot do so in other cases? Your argument is incoherent.

        All these oddities may need sorting out, but the general principles concerning the single human organism having one substantial form from inception to death remains correct.

        Even if the "single human organism" were originally two, but became one, or vice versa? Or in the case of Jesus, or angels, or an AI, or an alien whose biology does not involve two humnan cells merging?

        I have no idea what you are getting at here

        It was a side comment, aimed not at anything you have said but at what others often say in this debate. My apologies if that was not clear. It is often claimed that we never see intelligence arise from non intelligence, yet that is in fact the only way we perceive intelligence to arise - barring the assertion that eggs and sperm are sentient, or the intervention of an undetectable sentient God. Which by definition we do not perceive.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Sorry you did not appreciate my sports analogy to the several irrelevant examples you offered in your comment.

          They are all irrelevant because the article shows that the proper approach to the question is not from determining the exact beginning point of the human life, but working back from its later evident personhood to show that its essence and immaterial faculties must have always been present from its inception.

          The logic is given in the complete section entitled, "Pertinent Thomistic Doctrines," from which we find this extract:

          "If it is a person at any later stage of life, it is a person at conception and has the same personal rights throughout life."

          No matter when you start human life, once it commences the rest of the metaphysics holds. If it is a person as an adult, it must have been so at all earlier stages of existence.

          I already responded to your specific examples in my earlier comment, even though you don't concede my explanations are adequate.

          But the key in each case is that either you are starting with a complete human organism or not. If not, it is irrelevant. If it is, it can die very early. I addressed that question in the article where I talked about nearly half of embryos not implanting.

          The facts that a second human life appears when twinning occurs, or that even one may die in the process of forming a chimera in no way affect the metaphysics of what must be true of the new or surviving human being. If twinning takes creation of a new human soul by God, so what? The central theme remains: once the essential human form is present, so are all its immaterial faculties, even though their operations cannot be actualized until later in life.

          It is all in the article.

      • >Of course, substantial changes can occur, as when identical twinning occurs, whereby clearly a new substantial form appears for "half" the embryo.

        So it is not the case that human personhoodn begins at conception. It can happen at conception, unless when that cell divides for the first time that might be the instantiation of another person, or it may join st be the second cell of the first person.

        So it is not dependent on what is materially happening with this tissue but when god decides a cell gets a unifying spiritual form?

  • Not sure where the fallacy is. We are more than our biology. Still if something is biologically human then it is fair to ask why it is not afforded the right to life. We understand many will not be comfortable with ensoulment talk. Still there should be some basis for why taking a human life is wrong. Why should one stage of human life be exempt?

    • Steven Dillon

      The argument jumps from biological human to metaphysical human without argument. It takes it for granted that the former implies, entails or is co-extensive with the latter. But, this assumption is question begging as it is precisely what is at issue. *Does* having a certain genotype or epigenetic primordia mean being a rational animal? The argumemt just assumes that the answer is yes. It steadily gets worse for this pro-life argument the deeper we look into what hylemorphism involves, but this is enough by itself

      • Jim the Scott

        Are you sure you are not confusing Hylomorphism with cartesian dualism? Just asking because statements like this
        "Hylomorphists should endorse delayed ensoulment" make me think "yes"?

        • Steven Dillon

          Hylemorphists have traditionally endorsed delayed ensoulment, from Aristotle to Aquinas. Recently, they've said science has been updated and we know better now. But, I doubt Aristotle or Aquinas would change their minds: there's just nothing in the matter that looks like it's for rational use, and that's really the only basis for thinking matter is in the form of rational animal. I should add that even if there is such a reason, it's not given when this sort of pro-life argument is given, which is what I was objecting to.

          • Ficino

            Bonnette says that the rational faculty/potentia of the embryo exists in actuality but simply does not perform any operations:

            Specifically human faculties (operative potencies) are not yet in act with respect to their operations – but are fully in act with respect to existence, even from the time of conception.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Specifically human faculties (operative potencies) are not yet in act with respect to their operations – but are fully in act with respect to existence, even from the time of conception.

            That puts it better than I did. Good for point that out Ficino. Well done man.

          • Jim the Scott

            I called it. Ya don't know the difference between the two different views od dualism & I think your general knowledge is a wee bit erroneous.

            Let me school ya then for yer benefit.

            >Hylemorphists have traditionally endorsed delayed ensoulment, from Aristotle to Aquinas.

            No you are confusing ensoulment at conception with ensoulment at the creation of the seed form. The ancients with their faulty views on biology believed Semen and Menstrual blood mixed together in the womb (which they thought was conception) and over a short time(40 to 80 days) started the mysterious process of forming into a basic human form. That is the basic "seed form". When the seed form of the human was present then ensoulment occurred. With the help of biology in the 19th century we found out the seed form came about at what we call today conception(fusing of an Egg and Sperm).

            Of course Aquinas still taught it violated natural law to interfere in this process with early abortion. He taught such an act was intrinsically evil and the expression of a homicidal will even if there is no soul present.

            > But, I doubt Aristotle or Aquinas would change their minds:

            I can't speak for Aristotle as he was a heathen. But Aquinas would clearly upon learning the mechanisms of biology change his mind as he firmly taught ensoulment happened at the creation of the basic seed form of a human being. A soul united to an egg is that form.

            > there's just nothing in the matter that looks like it's for rational use, and that's really the only basis for thinking matter is in the form of rational animal.

            Yep you don't know the difference between hylemorphic dualism vs cartesian dualism. It is obvious.

            Here man. Read up and get up to speed. I am too old and too much of a cruel arsehole to clean up this shite show. There is a good lad. *edit added another link from Feser should be way way way easier to digest then Oderberg who I even have to read twice to understand him.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-is-soul.html

            https://www.newdualism.org/papers/D.Oderberg/HylemorphicDualism2.htm

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/09/was-aquinas-dualist.html

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

            Good luck man see you in a few months.

          • Steven Dillon

            Well, you're annoying, and not particularly clear. But, I take it there is some distinction you're trying to draw that's some how relevant, and those links have something to do with it. I don't have the time or patience to try and unravel the secrets of your ramble though.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yeh if you don't know the distinction between Hylomorphic dualism & cartesian dualism then you cannot criticise the former in a meaningful way. Rather then get pissed at me correct that deficiency. Or not.

            > I don't have the time or patience to try and unravel the secrets of your ramble though.

            Then get used to offering meaningless critiques and not having Hylomorphic dualist take your seriously.

      • One needs to jump somehow from biological human to a thing having the right to life. How one does that is something about which you want to make as few assumptions about as possible. Still you either don't do it and end up asserting murder is OK. Nobody really argues that. Alternatively, you do it for some arbitrary subset of humans and end up denying the humanity of a people group you don't like. That is what pro-abortion people do but it puts them in the same boat as every genocide apologist out there.

        Anyway, I have read many pro-life thinkers going over these altrernatives. It just seems strange to assert they don't. Many do say you can assert that based on age or race or gender or disability or whatever you could deny a biological human has human rights. That is a choice. A bad choice because it makes human rights easy to deny to any people group you like. Still the choice is there.

    • George

      Do you believe health care is a right?

      • Reasonable health care, yes. Things like bandaging wounds and giving someone a reasonable place to rest and recouperate is just basic human dignity. Doing open heart surgery is not really basic.

        • George

          Do you think a profit-driven private healthcare system that forces diabetics to choose between dangerously rationing their insulin, and being homeless and destitute, should be abolished?

          • Rob Abney

            George, you should just ask Randy if he still beats his wife rather than giving such a ridiculous dilemma.

          • Chris Morris

            Rob, I'm pleased to see that you regard profit-driven healthcare systems forcing people to choose between medical treatment and basic necessities as presenting them with a ridiculous dilemma.
            I'm happy that I live in a country with a National Health Service as I could not have afforded the medical treatment that kept my daughter alive and supplied the specialised hearing aids that she required.

          • Rob Abney

            A false dilemma is a fallacy, it has nothing to do with medical care. I thought you studied philosophy?!

          • Chris Morris

            Oh dear, Rob. One of the most popular areas of philosophical study over the last 30 or 40 years is 'medical ethics'. Fallacy, like any other logical idea, can be applied to any area of debate - that's what logic is for.
            I take it, then, that I misinterpreted your post; that, in fact, your were claiming that the idea of people having to choose between medical treatment and basic necessities either doesn't ever happen or, if it does, it is not a problem for them?

          • George

            Is it ridiculous because technically not all diabetics are that desperate in the USA?

            I'm posing this question after considering it a month ago, when someone here commented about people's minds not being fully developed until roughly age 25, according to neuroscience.

            I thought it might be darkly "funny" to say that maybe that's the rationale for sustaining the for-profit healthcare system, under which a 25 year old man did die from rationing his insulation. "They aren't fully developed yet".

            That story gets conflated with another, about a diabetic who couldn't raise enough money for his insulin through GoFundMe. One event is bad enough. Two of them are worse, and so on.

          • Richard Morley

            under which a 25 year old man did die from rationing his insulation.

            what? "insulin"? Or this as crazy as it sounds? Please say no.

          • George

            yeah, insulin. maybe it was auto correct that got it wrong or I might have just been tired enough to do that on my own.

            anyway, yes, two cases of ordinary people dying because life-saving medicine was dangled just out of their reach.

            our conservative culture says those deaths are an acceptable part of doing business.

          • Richard Morley

            Yeah, autocorrect does that. I was tired and struggling to understand. So what, the NHS withheld a sufficient dose of insulin? It is not exactly pricey, but the NHS bigwigs have done dafter things. My sister works for the Local Health Board, and the stories she tells...

          • George

            Apologies, I didn't specify I was referring to health care in the United States.

          • I live in Canada so I am not familiar with the situation you describe. I, like most Canandians, do beleive our system with heavy governement involvment in health care is a good one. Heath care is for everyone. Having one system for the poor and another for the rich will always mean the one serving the poor will be of low quality. Make everyone use the same service and people will insure it is of good quality.

  • Jim the Scott

    It is an amusing lie by the baby killers that abortion is safer than childbirth(not unlike their lie about "choice" which in England recently came within a hair's breath of being discarded as well). But like the majority if arguments I've read here on this and other subjects it is based on one fallacy after another.

    https://www.hli.org/resources/abortion-really-safer-childbirth/

    • Chris Morris

      Are you not supposed to be on vacation? Why are you talking to strangers on the internet rather than enjoying time with your family?
      We've already dealt with the English court case that you referenced. No surgical procedures can ever be considered 100% safe which is why there needs to be choices available.

      • Jim the Scott

        >Are you not supposed to be on vacation? Why are you talking to strangers on the internet rather than enjoying time with your family?

        Do I intimidate you & that is why ye want moi to shut up? ;-) :D That is understandable. I am a force of nature and a legend in my own mind. Fear my American Anglo Scottish Italianess! :D

        I never said when I am going and I won't get specific on the Internet if you don't mind & if I want to take a potshot at the pro-aborts I can take five minutes to send something after I get out of the Hottub and change out of my Bathing suit(see what ye made me do? I put that image in yer ed. Can you imagine anything more nightmarish than me in my all together? Straight women have been turned gay and gay men have become straight upon accidentally seeing my nudity. It adds new meaning to Lovecraft's statement about "things man was not meant to see". But enough about that unspeakable horror and on to abortion.).

        > No surgical procedures can ever be considered 100% safe

        That isn't really the point. The point is the illegitimate argument abortion is safer than pregnancy. The link says it all.

        Cheer M8.

        • Chris Morris

          "Do I intimidate you...?" No, I was concerned about your family.
          I'll avert my eyes while you get dressed and quickly pass on to the link which "says it all." Well, it might say it all from the perspective of 'pro-life missionaries' but I'm rather sceptical of its ability to present a balanced view of the debate.
          There isn't any 'argument' about the fact that sometimes abortion is safer than pregnancy.

          • Jim the Scott

            >but I'm rather sceptical of its ability to present a balanced view of the debate.

            I am equally skeptical of the claims from the other side and abortion is never safer than pregnancy as it always, when successfully accomplished, results in the death of a patent. An innocent one.

            >I'll avert my eyes...

            Which is no small mercy for you & you would never be able to unsee it. Cheers I'll pass your felicitations to my family & if I sound overly posh its because I am now binge watching Poldark on masterpiece theater.

    • The website you linked to cited a study from the Center for Disease control in the US for the purpose of showing that abortion figures and resulting deaths are hard to come by and underreported.

      The study actually indicates that very few people die from abortion anymore.

      For example it stated there were seven deaths discovered to be related to legal abortion in 2004. There were a few others that turned out to be stillbirths or spontaneous abortion, or not abortion related.

      The article suggests abortion and therefore deaths about caused by it Are 1/3 underreported.

      This report of the CDC indicates that in 2004 the childbirth death rate was 15.2 per 100000 live births.

      https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm

      In 2004 there were about 4.1 million live births in the USA, so that is about 623 deaths in childbirth.

      So if we inflate the abortion death not by a third as this article suggests, but 40 times higher than the CDC was able to calculate, abortion would still kill well under half as many women as legal abortion does.

      So... maybe tone down your rhetoric about fallacy after another and look and the actual evidence.

      • Jim the Scott

        >So if we inflate the abortion death not by a third as this article suggests, but 40 times higher than the CDC was able to calculate, abortion would still kill well under half as many women as legal abortion does.

        But as the article says "The chances of dying of either abortion or childbirth are vanishingly small for the average healthy woman, at less than 1/10,000 for both childbirth and abortion."

        >So... maybe tone down your rhetoric about fallacy after another and look and the actual evidence.

        Yeh that is not going to happen. Quote""it is probably safe to say that very few women bathe outside with garden hoses simply because they have read that more than one hundred women die of falls and drowning in bathtubs each year, while gardening fatalities are much rarer."

        Also to put these probabilities into perspective, a woman’s chances of dying in childbirth or from abortion are equal to those of being killed in a car accident over a period of three months of driving.

        Of course, abortion always results in the death of one human being ― the unborn child.END QUOTE

        This is like saying 40 people out of tens of thousands die from riding motorbikes vs 20 who take the bus therefore we should ban motor bikes.

        I don't see how the insignificant number of deaths from childbirth as compared to the lesser number of insignificant deaths from abortion justifies the mass murder of 60,942,033 people?

        Baby killers are sick. Abortion is never safe for a child and maybe that lot should think about the implications of the evidence first before blathering on? Repeating a fallacy isn't impressive.

        • >The chances of dying of either abortion or childbirth are vanishingly small for the average healthy woman, at less than 1/10,000 for both childbirth and abortion

          But demonstrably much higher for childbirth.

          >I don't see how the insignificant number of deaths from childbirth as compared to the lesser number of insignificant deaths from abortion justifies the mass murder of 60,942,033 people?

          No one is saying that, I am saying if you get pregnant you have a significantly higher chance of dying by in childbirth compared to having an abortion. From your comments above I take it you agree?

          >Baby killers are sick.

          I don't disagree. I do disagree with calling abortion baby killing. But I get why you'd use that rhetoric.

          >Abortion is never safe for a child and maybe that lot should think about the implications of the evidence first before blathering on?

          I emphatically agree, and I have. What I objected to was the false statement you made about the risk of abortion compared to childbirth.

          There is no fallacy in what I've said. This is an important issue with serious consequences for millions of people. At minimum we should try and be accurate and kind to each other.

          • Mark

            It is an important issue. The firing of Dr. Wen MD (director of PP) today over "philosophical" differences is the plain writing on the wall that PP has placed "reproductive rights activism" over "women's health". You're not going to get accurate numbers in the US on this because the primary source of this information for the CDC is from the Guttmacher Institute who has an obvious bias.

            In Finland and California, two separate studies showed the morbidity and mortality rates of mothers the day of to one year after either an abortion vs a childbirth is about 4 to 1. A woman is 4 times more likely to be dead one year after the abortion vs the childbirth.

            If you don't like fallacy, maybe you like the "manipulation of data set for political purposes". People, including the SCOTUS (which used flawed evidence from Potts, Tietze, Lader in the Roe v. decision) have only an unsubstantiated opinion or at best hope that abortion is safer for the mother than childbirth. Mostly the evidence is just the opposite: morbidity is substantially higher due to the unreported and unconnected latent effects of abortion and the socioeconomics of women that utilize abortion. We as a society don't give a wooden nickel about these women's well-being. If you're the utilitarian you claim to be you're fighting for the wrong side.

            Edit done.

            Journal of Contemporary Health Law & Policy 2004; 20(2);279-327

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that abortion proponents and opponents can both find studies that support their viewpoints. The takeaway from both sides of the argument over the immediate risk of abortion is that whatever the risk, it is probably so low that accurately reporting it to women seeking abortions would have little or no effect on their decisions.

            It is interesting to note that the abortion opponents bring up the immediate risks of abortion, but also include (possibly) related adverse effects in the year following abortion—including suicide, homicide, accidents, and so on. One article I read said that researchers connected these things with the stress of having had an abortion. It is impossible, of course, to know what the stress for these same women would have been had they not had an abortion. Since women who have abortions (in the United States, at least) are disproportionately poor and tend not to be conscientious about using birth control, it seems to me that the group of all women who have abortions seem to be necessarily different kinds of women than the group of all women who carry babies to term. The latter are wealthier and more conscientious (or at least more conscientious about birth control). To do a really solid study about the effects of carrying a baby to term would require taking a large group of pregnant women, all of whom want to abort, and seeing to it that half of them somehow are persuaded or forced to carry their babies to term. This would be unethical and impossible, although it should be noted that what "pro-lifers" seek to do, at least in part, is to prevent pregnant women who want abortions from getting them.

            The open question in my mind, then, is—assuming it is really true that women who have abortions are at increased risk of accidents, suicide, murder, and so on—is it because have an abortion in and of itself has adverse effects, or whether women who are poorer than average and less conscientious about health-related matters tend to have more problems (accident, etc.) than more wealthy, more conscientious women. (I stress this would all be averages and tendencies.)

            To the best of my knowledge, there are no studies of the outcome for pregnant women who want abortions and are prevented from having them. Yet the goal of "pro-lifers" is to prevent women who want abortions from having them. Is there really any significant evidence that preventing women who want abortions from obtaining them will work out to the advantage of such women?

            We as a society don't give a wooden nickel about these women's well-being.

            It often seems to me that the more conservative/"pro-life" people are, the less they care about poorer and/or minority women and their (unborn or born) babies. Why does the United States have such a shameful infant mortality rate compared to other countries? Why does there seem to be a correlation between being "pro-life" and resisting efforts to assure everyone in the US of adequate health care?

            APPENDIX

            23. On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable arrangements for adoption - a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.

          • >You're not going to get accurate numbers in the US on this because the primary source of this information for the CDC is from the Guttmacher Institute who has an obvious bias.

            The CDC was the source Jim's link chose. I didnt use their numbers, I multiplied them by forty and deaths from abortion were still half that of abortion. I don't know how to be more charitable to your side.

            Just go get the numbers.

            >A woman is 4 times more likely to be dead one year after the abortion vs the childbirth.

            But this isn't the question. The question is which procedure is more dangerous. It is clearly childbirth.

            >We as a society don't give a wooden nickel about these women's well-being. If you're the utilitarian you claim to be you're fighting for the wrong side.

            I think, again we should refrain from such rhetoric. This issue is about facts.

            Your link is from a defunct Catholic law journal. Do you have any non Catholic science sources? Why would you cite law journal for a question on medicine?

          • Mark

            @davidnickol:disqus

            But this isn't the question. The question is which procedure is more dangerous. It is clearly childbirth.

            Childbirth is not a medical procedure per se. Abortion is an elective medical procedure. It is clearly not more dangerous than abortion, unless you refuse to critically read medical literature, or source your opinion from political activist like PP. While a woman may not die in the abortion stirrups, the likely iatrogenic effects of the abortion procedure are not reported as such. You're playing data point games like the filth at PP. This is mostly a fools errand for medical clinicians, but of course it matters because abortion advocates are not being honest with either themselves nor the public about the true complications of this procedure. It matters because abortion clinics are exempt from typical medical standard of care reporting. It matters because Blackmum used this argument of his majority opinion in Roe v Wade. Here is why it's distasteful to anyone in the medical sciences: If you die from an infection induced by a knee replacement it is reported as a complication of the medical procedure. In the abortion world it isn't. You are simply refusing to critically read available literature or you're an ideologue. Nobody in the medical world without a political axe to grind believes that garbage.

            Here from the peer reviewed article Public Health Impact of Legal Termination of Pregnancy in the US: 40 Years Later by John Thorp MD, an OB at Women's Hospital at UNC Chapel Hill:

            In contrast to the US, countries with mandatory reporting and the ability to link birth, abortion, and hospital registries show increased rates of mortality above US estimates and increased relative risk of death after TOP when compared to women having a child. Similar findings have been reported in the US from administrative databases, such as publicly-funded TOPs from California [38]. This casts further doubt on contemporary US surveillance systems to generate reliable estimates for TOP-related mortality.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820464/

          • Mark

            And in case that I get flagged for the link here are other peer reviewed journals on the subject of abortive sequela:

            Surgical and medical hospital admissions after abortion:

            Ostbye T, Wenghofer EF, Woodward CA. American Journal of Medical Quality 2001

            Breast cancer rate increases after abortion:

            Daling et al., Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1994; Pike et al., British Journal of Cancer, 1981

            Suicide rates after abortion:

            Reardon et al., Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 2001

            Decrease in fertility rates after abortion:

            Frank et al., British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 1993

            Increase prematurity rates on subsequent pregnancies after abortion:

            Moreau et. Al., International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2005. Ancel et. Al. Human Reproduction, 2004

            Lets all continue to sit back and pretend this is a simple little procedure

          • David Nickol

            Lets all continue to sit back and pretend this is a simple little procedure.

            I find your position puzzling. You and other pro-lifers consider abortion to be the killing (murdering) by mothers of their own children. [“If we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other?"—Mother Teresa] Is it that you wish to deter abortions by frightening women out of seeking them? Or do you just want women who want to kill their own babies to be aware of the health risks so they can make an informed choice? Don't you want to see all abortions banned? If so, why are you so concerned about extended research looking for delayed ill-effects?

            I would like to believe that you have done a thorough and objective survey of all the literature, but I have a very strong feeling you have plucked names of studies from anti-abortion web sites. Why no links? Take this one:

            Breast cancer rate increases after abortion:

            Daling et al., Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1994; Pike et al., British Journal of Cancer, 1981

            These are 25- and 38-year-old studies. The American Cancer Society has an excellent article the conclusion of which reads,

            The topic of abortion and breast cancer highlights many of the most challenging aspects of studies of people and how those studies do or do not translate into public health guidelines. The issue of abortion generates passionate viewpoints in many people. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women aside from skin cancer; and breast cancer is the second leading cancer killer in women. Still, the public is not well-served by false alarms. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.

            I can't find any major medical organization that affirms there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. Interestingly, there are many recent reports (see here, for example) that childbirth may temporarily increase the risk of breast cancer.

          • Michael Murray

            Surely before you consign yourself to eternal suffering in hell you would want to know if there are any attendant health risks?

          • Ficino

            You are going to Buddhist hell.

          • David Nickol

            Childbirth is not a medical procedure per se.

            Perhaps, but a little over 20% of deliveries now in the United States are by caesarian section. Those are medical procedures.

            If you die from an infection induced by a knee replacement it is reported as a complication of the medical procedure. In the abortion world it isn't.

            But according to information you have provided, if a woman gets hit by a car, or murdered, within a year of having an abortion, you want count that as evidence that abortion is a risk to life.

          • Mark

            But according to information you have provided, if a woman gets hit by a car, or murdered

            or commits suicide, or dies of sepsis or hemorrhagic shock yes. And interestingly those particular statistics would be included in the COD as a maternal childbirth up to 3 months after birth but not a TOS per se.

            Again maternal death is a 40 plus week time frame, TOP by induced abortion death is limited to typically the day of or within a few days of the procedure and rarely reported as such in North America. It's why this whole debate is a fools errand.

          • David Nickol

            It would seem from every source I have checked that what you say above is not true about death by murder or accident being counted in the statistics about maternal mortality. For example, according to Wikipedia,

            Maternal mortality refers to the death of a woman during her pregnancy or up to a year after her pregnancy has terminated; this only includes causes related to her pregnancy and does not include accidental causes. Some sources will define maternal mortality as the death of a woman up to 42 days after her pregnancy has ended, instead of one year. . . . Although the United States was spending more on healthcare than any other country in the world, more than two women died during childbirth every day, making maternal mortality in the United States the highest when compared to 49 other countries in the developed world.

            It occurs to me to ask why in the world abortion should be treated (as far as statistics and reporting) as childbirth??? It would make it much easier, I suppose, for "pro-aborts" to claim abortion is less risky than childbirth, or "anti-aborts" to claim that abortion is more risky than childbirth, but in many ways comparing abortion and childbirth is like comparing apples and oranges.

            It's why this whole debate is a fools errand.

            If you mean trying to say abortion is riskier than childbirth or vice-versa, I couldn't agree more.

            Meanwhile, while you are intent on emphasizing the health risks to women who procure abortions, the United States has a shameful record both in maternal mortality and infant mortality.

          • Mark

            Some relvant studies referenced in the artcle comented on include the morbidity and mortality of all causes and then they control out accidental causes as a way. They compare those rates to reported rates. There is not universal consensus on some COD and their inclusion in (or not) such as suicide from depression.

            Scientifically it is a fool's errand because abortion is legal and doctors are not interested in comparing apples to oranges. Politically it is one cornerstone of RR advocacy as argued to the SCOTUS. It is at best a bad argument and most likely a lie. Philosophically the question is the fetus a human being worthy of human rights and is it ethical to abort. Catholics philosphically see induced abortion as (there are rare exception) always as a COD for the in utero so comparing rates is 1+ subsequent maternal death.

          • >Childbirth is not a medical procedure per se. Abortion is an elective medical procedure.

            Neither need medical services, but doing it without this help seriously increases the risk.

            >unless you refuse to critically read medical literature, or source your opinion from political activist like PP.

            I'd be happy to actually defer to the medical expert opinion. But Jim didn't link to that, he linked to a webpage by a PhD.

            >You're playing data point games like the filth at PP.

            This kind of rhetoric is unhelpful in a civil discussion.

            >It matters because abortion clinics are exempt from typical medical standard of care reporting

            Don't exempt them then! I doubt this is true in my jurisdiction. What is the reporting you are talking about?

            >You are simply refusing to critically read available literature or you're an ideologue.

            How dare you say that. I certainly am not. I went to the source Jim cited which was not medical literature. It cited the CDC which is what I used.

            Have you critically read my comments and checked my sources? Did you catch the huge mistake I made?

            From the report you cite:

            > this is not a systematic review. The relevant literature has not been systematically searched, read by multiple reviewers, graded against a standard, or quantified by meta-analysis. A more subjective and qualitative approach has been chosen. This approach was selected due to the lack of randomized controlled trials for a procedure that cannot be ethically assigned by chance, the inherent difficulties in synthesizing observational data, and the ethical controversy that swirls underneath this topic. Meta-analyses on appropriate outcomes are included in the paper when they have been done.

            We are talking about deaths and negative health outcomes directly related to the medical procedure. The fact that women who have abortions due earlier dies not tell us anything about the safety of the procedure. Can you spot the fallacy here?

            This is an article on public health outcomes not individual health outcomes.

          • Jim the Scott

            >But demonstrably much higher for childbirth.

            You also have a "higher" chance of dying in the bathtub than hosing yourself down in the yard. But it is not significant.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjdzrJ3fDG4

            >No one is saying that, I am saying if you get pregnant you have a significantly higher chance of dying by in childbirth compared to having an abortion. From your comments above I take it you agree?

            No we don't the "higher" number is not significant. 1 in 10,000 are pretty good odds.

            >I don't disagree. I do disagree with calling abortion baby killing. But I get why you'd use that rhetoric.

            On that we agree and agree to disagree. Of course from where I am sitting you are not just wrong but tragically wrong. I think of the Pro-life argument used by Atheist Pro-lifers. This life is all you get so abortion is worst in a goddless universe then a divinely created on since you are forever denying something their chance to exist and have a shot at life. I don't agree with the goddless universe part but it has a good point. Abortion is a foul evil wither or not gods exist.

            >I emphatically agree, and I have. What I objected to was the false statement you made about the risk of abortion compared to childbirth.

            I said it was an amusing lie based on a fallacies(which the paper shows it is). I never said one way or another how many women died.

            >There is no fallacy in what I've said. This is an important issue with serious consequences for millions of people.

            Well I didn't address you directly. I addressed the general claim which is clearly based on many fallacies & much question begging.

            > At minimum we should try and be accurate and kind to each other.

            We should be accurate & I can be kind to the misguided moderates but I see the extremists at a threat. What almost happened to that woman in England could happen to me & my children. Also if you can force an abortion for someone's own good you can force Euthanasia too. I'm not having it & before you dismiss my fear as paranoia till last June outside of Communist China I couldn't believe a western democracy would try to force an abortion. Yet it almost happened in England. So I am pissed till further notice. Cheers.

          • >You also have a "higher" chance of dying in the bathtub than hosing yourself down in the yard. But it is not significant.

            So you do agree thanks.

            >No we don't the "higher" number is not significant. 1 in 10,000 are pretty good odds

            Yes we do 1 in 10000 is the risk of childbirth. For abortion it is ten times safer. Ten times is significant

            >On that we agree and agree to disagree.

            No I do not agree to disagree. You are simply wrong on this issue. The sources you cite demonstrate this.

            What is incredible to me us this fact does not impair the anti choice argument at all. I don't know why you'd try to obfuscate it.

            > I said it was an amusing lie based on a fallacies(which the paper shows it is).

            The sources used by the web article you linked to show that abortion is much much safer that childbirth.

            You said "It is an amusing lie by the baby killers that abortion is safer than childbirth"

            You now imply since they both are less than 1 in 10,000 there is no significant difference.

            >Well I didn't address you directly. I addressed the general claim which is clearly based on many fallacies & much question begging.

            But the claim is correct. Abortion is much safer for the mother than childbirth.

            >Also if you can force an abortion for someone's own good you can force Euthanasia too.

            These are irrelevant, its not the issue you raised.

          • Jim the Scott

            >So you do agree thanks.

            No since it is trivial. 1 in 10000. To hear the pro-abort propaganda one would think the difference is significant and it clearly isn't. If it was a 1 in 3 vs 1 in 9 that would be significant.

            >Yes we do 1 in 10000 is the risk of childbirth. For abortion it is ten times safer. Ten times is significant

            No it is not significant given the odds of dying in childbirth being so ridiculously remote. That is like saying you have a 10 times higher chance of dying slipping in the bathroom during a plane crash then if you just sat in your seat. It is meaningless.

            >No I do not agree to disagree. You are simply wrong on this issue. The sources you cite demonstrate this.

            Rather they prove you are obfuscating. That was the point of the sources.

            >What is incredible to me us this fact does not impair the anti choice argument at all. I don't know why you'd try to obfuscate it.

            It clearly does impair it. Abortion is not significantly safer than childbirth. At best it could be called "slightly" safer but with 1 in 10000 odds birth is still pretty safe & the measure of safety is not significant at all.

            >You said "It is an amusing lie by the baby killers that abortion is safer than childbirth"

            You left out the qualifier "it is based on one fallacy after another.". There I fixed it for ya. Given the 1 in 10000 statistic the statement "abortion is safer than childbirth" is based a fallacy and thus used in a misleading way by the pro-aborts with the intention to mislead. Thus a lie.

            You don't dispute the stats in my links so you agree with me here the abortion industry are a bunch of liars which they are...

            >You now imply since they both are less than 1 in 10,000 there is no significant difference.

            How can there be a significant difference given those odds? That is not significant that is clearly trivial.

            >But the claim is correct. Abortion is much safer for the mother than childbirth.

            It is "safer" by a trivial margin. To hear the pro-aborts kvetch one would think thousands of women at the time of Roe died of botched back ally abortions? Oh wait that didn't happen! I notice you don't dispute my other link. Here it is again.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjdzrJ3fDG4

            >These are irrelevant, its not the issue you raised.

            No that is in reference to you plea we should be "kind to each other" which you brought up and I am explaining my agressive stance toward and I did reference the almost forced abortion case in England. Read more carefully next time. There is a good chap.

          • Ok I understand you. When you said "It is an amusing lie by the baby killers that abortion is safer than childbirth"

            You meant both procedures kill less than 1in 10000 so no matter how fewer women die by abortion you don't consider it a significantly safer procedure.

            Thanks for clarifying.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You meant both procedures kill less than 1in 10000 so no matter how fewer women die by abortion you don't consider it a significantly safer procedure.

            You welcome anyway if you really think it is significant then feel free to wash yourself in your backyard with a garden hose rather then use the shower as it is "significantly safer" then using the shower by those minimal standards.

            Cheers.

  • Ficino

    "In [the philosophy of] nature however we always ought to accept what is nobler [my bolding], if it's possible." Aquinas In VIII Phys l. 14 C1091, quoting Aristotle.

    He who has ears, let him hear.

    • Mark

      Like a fetus hears his mother's heatbeat before she aborts him.

      • Ficino

        No ears to hear. Sad.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I am sure you don't mean to imply that unborn babies cannot hear -- at least later in gestation, including the sound of their mother's heartbeat. Abortion laws allow abortions during those later stages in many instances.

          https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/when-can-a-fetus-hear#1

          • Chris Morris

            Dennis, I think your usual skill in hermeneutics has temporarily deserted you here. I would interpret Ficino as suggesting that the extremists who would like to force a complete ban on abortions are not 'hearing' the reasoned arguments presented against that position.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            @ Ficino
            I suggest that the context is, at least, ambiguous.

            Perhaps, Ficino could clarify?

          • Ficino

            I was not offering this quotation as a statement about a fetus. Mark made that association out of left field.

            The quotation struck me because this dictum of Aristotle's, transmitted with approval by Aquinas, would seem to have harmful consequences for science if followed as a methodological principle. A scientific explanation that is adopted because it attributes a "worthier" (dignius) or nobler property to the phenomenon under study would seem to be adopted for the wrong reason. I hear physicists talk about the elegance of some theory or explanation, but they usually want experimental back-up. Someone e.g. might think that it's worthier or nobler if we attribute circular orbits to planets, but it's my understanding that their orbits are not circular. Under naturalism of the OP's title, I don't think nobility is brought out as a criterion of a good scientific explanation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you for explaining your true intent. My mistake. Oddly, though, the context could be read differently.

          • Rob Abney

            I wonder if you can better explain what Aristotle and Aquinas intended when they used the term "noble", I'm quite sure that it doesn't mean worthier.
            ETA: I think it seems to mean "more fundamental".

          • Ficino

            dignus means "worthy of, deserving of." nobilis means outstanding in rank, in A-T ontology because the thing participates more fully in existence and/or is closer to a first principle. Aquinas says that something is more worthy, dignius, because according to its being (esse), it is more noble, nobilius.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for those definitions.

          • Mark

            Here is the full quote correct Ficino?:

            "Now, the perpetuity of motion is better saved if motion is
            continuous; moreover, it is a greater thing, if it be continuous rather than successive, because the former possesses more unity and perpetuity, and in nature we ought always to take what is more noble, if possible. But it is possible that there be a motion that is infinitely continuous ,provided it be a local motion. (This is assumed for the present, but later it will be proved.) From this it is plain that local motion must be taken to be the first motion."

            Are you reading (infinitely) continuous rather than successive as a nominalist or a realist? It seems a fetus (in my estimation) is a continuous local motion to rational man. I'm not the philosopher here, just a man with a desire for truth. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

          • Ficino

            I am a nominalist, and Aquinas was not, and one seeks to interpret a text as its author intended it to have meaning, if one can. But I don't think the dispute over universals is directly relevant to the above passage.

            BTW you have pasted the translation of Conway. Strictly speaking, it should read "more worthy," but "more noble" is OK, since the first implies the second.

            It seems a fetus (in my estimation) is a continuous local motion to rational man

            This is imprecise. The fetus is not a motion. It is a substance in motion, in that it is undergoing growth and alteration as well as local motion in the womb. Its local motion [ETA and growth] is not continuous. It is successive: some nutrients are converted into flesh, then some more, etc. A cell divides, then another cell divides, etc. Aristotle in the passage commented on by Aquinas says that only the heavenly bodies are in continuous motion, and that only circular motion can be continuous because only it has the same point as starting point and terminus.

            As I've written before, though, it is true that the fetus' actuality is motion, since it is an incomplete substance.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What do you mean by "incomplete substance?"

            I do not see how that is a coherent conception in hylemorphic doctrine. From an atomistic perspective, it might make some sense that macroscopic entities gain functions or qualities that they did not exhibit at some earlier point in time. But that is because they are not one thing in itself and distinct from everything else.

            But if you are referring to the fact that a living substance, such as the unborn human being, gains functions and actualities as it grows, I have addressed that issue in the first section of the OP where I address relevant Thomistic doctrines. You reject the hylemorphism, but within that doctrine, I see no other way to explain the continuous presence of the same substantial form at the same time that powers become active, since there would be no ontological source for new immaterial properties in the substance. Please see the article near the beginning.

          • Ficino

            What do you mean by "incomplete substance?"

            Not that the human embryo is not a human organism, but that it is not the complete animal. "But just as the animal is complete (τέλειον), but the egg and the grub are incomplete (ἀτελές) ..." Arist. GA 733a2. Whatever is true about the zygote's DNA, I don't see how from an A-T perspective it is not still valid to say with Aquinas that "the embryo is not a completed animal... that the generation of an animal is not one simple generation alone, but that many generations and corruptions follow one another... This continues until the thing conceived has acquired its perfect form." QDA 11 ad 1.

            I am fully aware that you maintain that the zygote already is a suppositum of a rational nature, whose rational faculty exists in act but just isn't operating in act. It would take a considerable investigation for me to go into this problem fully, but I remain unconvinced that it's coherent to talk of the actuality of a faculty's existence when its operations, not simply happen not to be exercised, but CANNOT be exercised, its functions CANNOT be achieved. A faculty is not a substance that has faculties; it is an accident of a subject. I don't admit that it makes sense to speak of rationality's actual existence, as opposed to potential existence, in an organism that has not the necessary systems. We've been over this before.

            It's necessary to remember that “natura quae est forma dupliciter dicitur, scilicet de forma incompleta et forma completa.” In II Phys l. 2 C156. A larva is a member of the same species as it will be when it is a butterfly, but its form as butterfly is not complete when it is only a larva. Generation takes place in stages, over time.

            ETA so why do humans for the most part grow up to be rational, if rationality is not of their nature? Because they are potentially rational by nature. No other animal is potentially rational by nature. I'm denying that it's coherent to say that the embryo's rationality is actual, period.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you for spelling this out more completely. I think I can see your objection more clearly now.

            >“…to say with Aquinas that "the embryo is not a completed animal... that the generation of an animal is not one simple generation alone, but that many generations and corruptions follow one another... This continues until the thing conceived has acquired its perfect form." QDA 11 ad 1."

            This is simply the archaic theory of successive animation. The reason that Aristotle and St. Thomas thought the embryo could not have “its perfect form” was that visual inspection of the gestational matter made it appear that it was not fitted to the rational form, and hence, to the rational animal species.

            We now know better. If Aristotle and St. Thomas could know today what we do about the nature of the human embryo, they would have no doubt but that the matter is specific solely to the species of true man. Modern science does not maintain that there are successive organisms present in the developing human, but that the life of the human organism is a continuum from beginning to end. We are not wedded to the archaic science. Nor are Aristotle and St. Thomas. Rather, all of us would apply the perennial principles to the modern scientific understanding of embryology.

            >“…but I remain unconvinced that it's coherent to talk of the actuality of a faculty's existence when its operations, not simply happen not to be exercised, but CANNOT be exercised, its functions CANNOT be achieved.”

            When you say, “CANNOT be achieved,” it depends on WHY they cannot be achieved.

            The functions might not be able to be achieved for either of two reasons: (1) both faculty and organs are not yet present, or (2) the faculty is present, but the organs are not yet present.

            While the presence of functions demonstrates the presence of faculties, the absence of functions does NOT demonstrate the absence of faculties.

            Since the immaterial faculties do not depend on their operations for their existence, the mere fact that the pertinent organs are not yet developed in the fetus proves nothing about whether the immaterial faculties are present.

            Recall here that we are speaking of two distinct things: (1) immaterial faculties, and (2) material organs.

            In a substantial form that has immaterial faculties, it is perfectly coherent to speak of those faculties being present but unable to operate because the organs are not yet developed. This is simply an instance of extrinsic dependence of the faculty on its organ for operation, just like a car cannot run without fuel, but it still exists when it is out of gas as well as before you pour gas into it for the first time.

            To use my line of argument in the OP, since the fully rational person is evident at adulthood, and since there is no way to be certain its immaterial faculties are not present, but unable to operate because of lack of material organ development, it is never morally licit to kill the living human organism, since it may indeed be a real person from the earliest moments of its life in the womb.

            It is never licit to deliberately risk the taking of an innocent human person’s life.

            Ontologically, I find the whole concept of an organism essentially undergoing substantial changes from subhuman to human during gestation quite opposed to the present scientific understanding of the life cycle of the human organism. It results in a curious mixture of atomism (claiming powers are present at later stages) together with hylemorphism (claiming that the same substantial form is present in all stages).

          • Ficino

            This is simply the archaic theory of successive animation.

            Dennis, you're strawmanning here. Why would I write this - "Whatever is true about the zygote's DNA, I don't see how from an A-T perspective it is not still valid to say..." except to acknowledge that modern embryology sets aside Aristotle's and Aquinas' embryology? The principle that matters is that both thinkers present generation as a process. It goes through stages before the complete natural organism is attained--or, before the specific form is complete in the matter.

            Since the immaterial faculties do not depend on their operations for their existence, the mere fact that the pertinent organs are not yet developed in the fetus proves nothing about whether the immaterial faculties are present.

            If the immaterial rational faculties are present, then is the zygote theorizing and considering universals and immaterial substances and so on? Yes or no? If yes, why should we think this? If no, is there a reason why not? On such reason, why not just say the rational faculties are potential in the embryo?

            In any case, if the operations of intellect cannot be performed by a zygote, whatever the reason, then the organism does not exist in act as rational. If rationality is neither a ἕξις or is ἐν ἐνεργείᾳ, then there isn't any grounds on which to say that the organism's intellect is actual.

            If you have adduced a passage in Aristotle or Aquinas where it is stated, or better, demonstrated, that a faculty of F-ing can exist in act at a time when the substance does not have the power to perform F operations, then I apologize for missing it. If you can adduce such a passage, then we can discuss it. The whole point of a substance's having a faculty that is in act is that the substance has the power (the faculty) to perform the given operation.

            Stepping away from A-T: since your position needs an immaterial soul that carries on rational thought by no bodily organ, we part ways on that point, as will the many philosophers who don't grant this doctrine.

            since there is no way to be certain its immaterial faculties are not present, but unable to operate because of lack of material organ development, it is never morally licit to kill the living human organism, since it may indeed be a real person from the earliest moments of its life in the womb.

            Well, as I've said before, the above is likely to be persuasive only to people who already believe that the zygote has an immaterial, rational soul. To someone who doesn't believe that, this argument is like an argument that it's not licit to cut down an oak tree because we can't be morally certain that there isn't a dryad in the tree that will be killed if the tree is cut down.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"The principle that matters is that both thinkers present generation as a process."

            The point is that they would not have had to conceive it as a process had they believed that the matter fit the form from its earliest stage. Given today's knowledge, the same principle that the matter must fit the form would demand that recognition of a human substantial form be made from the beginning of the recognizable human organism.

            We seem to have a real impasse about what it means to have a power in act. You must distinguish between having the power in existence and having that operative potency go from potency to act. Those are not the same thing.

            Of course, no one claims a zygote can reason and will. But that is simply because the physical organs are not yet developed sufficiently.

            I know you don't accept hylemorphic doctrine, but following it, powers are per se accidents of the soul, that is, properties. They have to stay "in act" with reference to existence as long as the soul is "complete" (to assume your point).

            But using simple logic, two things must be borne in mind. First, following A-T, the power is an immaterial potency. Second, there is a real distinction between the power and its acts.

            Because the power is not always in act, we know (1) the difference between the power and its act, and (2) that the power is sometimes in existence even when it is not in act, which means that the power can be in existence when it happens not to be acting.

            Now you are claiming that the power can only be there when it actually can go into act.

            But given the Thomistic distinction between the power and its organs, it must be at least possible that the reason it is not initially in act is not because the power, that is, the immaterial faculty isn't there, but because the organs are not there yet.

            If that is the case, then you have no way of knowing that the powers are not there, just because they cannot act yet -- since it may be that the reason they cannot act is not because they are not in existence, but because the proper organs are not yet fully developed.

            Once again, if the above is correct, then we know that at some later point in its life, the human person exhibits rational activity. From this, we can argue that the fact that the human exhibits rational activity only later on does not mean that the faculties of the soul were not present at a much earlier time, but merely because the organs were not yet present.

            If that is so, then we can never be sure when the immaterial faculties were first present -- only that they are manifest after the organs are developed.

            And since we don't know when they were first present, we cannot risk killing an unborn human being in which the faculties may well have been present from conception.

            We both know atomists deny this, but, as my article points out, atomists don't even really exist! :)

          • Ficino

            You must distinguish between having the power in existence and having that operative potency go from potency to act.

            The above is not the issue; we are agreed on THAT distinction. I am questioning the existence of the potency in act when the substance cannot perform the function that the potency is to enable it to perform.

            But given the Thomistic distinction between the power and its organs, it must be at least possible that the reason it is not initially in act is not because the power, that is, the immaterial faculty isn't there, but because the organs are not there yet.

            I'm sorry, this seems to be like saying that the car has the power to move quickly when it is in the blueprint stage or just a chassis on the floor of the factory.

            For now, can you tell me whether you agree with Charlotte Witt on the following:

            "It is important to remember that Aristotle's distinction between powers and potentiality does not introduce a new class or kind of entities, but rather it introduces the idea that there are ways of being X by means of two kinds of examples. Recall that the distinction between ways of being is illustrated by powers as well as by the other
            kind of example that Aristotle uses: incomplete and complete substance. A power, like house building, exists potentially when it is inactive, and it exists actually when it is active. When an animal or an artifact is incomplete, it is potentially, and when it is complete, it is actually. For animals, the power responsible for this transition
            from incomplete to complete is nature. We can link together Aristotle's two kinds of examples; a complete substance whose powers are active is actually to the fullest extent. So, Aristotle's arguments for the priority of actuality in relation to powers and in relation to
            nature are ingredients of a general argument for the priority of being X actually in relation to being X potentially... There is a different way in which a dunamis is temporally prior to an actuality, and this is exemplified by an incomplete substance which exists potentially before it develops fully into a complete substance.
            This kind of temporal priority of dunamis is the only exception to Aristotle's general thesis of the priority of actuality." ~ Ways of Being: Potentiality and Actuality in Aristotle's Metaphysics (2003) 77.

            ETA: I'm jumping the gun, since you haven't had time to respond, but I thought it worth appending this from Lee (p. 8), because she touches on the point we've discussed, about how the substance is identical to itself if the faculties that form part of its nature aren't all actually existing at the outset:
            "The ability and exercise example of potential and actual being is Aristotle's model for understanding the identity of incomplete substances,- an incomplete substance (a child) is potentially what a complete substance (a man) is actually. Aristotle's theory of substance is faced with what I call the paradox of identity, which arises once we see that immature substances cannot perform either their typical or their essential functions. If a human baby (or child) cannot reproduce (a typical animal function) or reason (an essential human function), then what is it? The resolution of the paradox of identity requires Aristotle to articulate conditions on being X potentially so that he can avoid both the pitfall of actualism (X is what X actually is) and the vacuity of an overly broad notion of potentiality. As we will see, Aristotle proposes conditions for what counts as
            being X potentially for artifacts and natural beings that are intended to rule out a very weak notion of being X potentially, one which would allow that virtually anything is potentially X because virtually anything could become X (given enough time and the right circumstances). And, as we will also see, what counts as being X actually is a mature, fully functioning exemplar—ripe, sturdy grain or an active, adult male animal."

            As I understand her, she's taking the tack I take, that the child (and a fortiori the embryo) is what exists, and as the substance, it exists as potentially rational but not yet as actually rational. That's all. Cf. Pol. 1260a14 the boy has a deliberative faculty but it is incomplete, ἀτελές.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I don't have time to parse Witt's paragraphs, but I did read them as well as yours -- and they help me to understand yours (I think).

            "You must distinguish between having the power in existence and having that operative potency go from potency to act." DB

            "The above is not the issue; we are agreed on THAT distinction. I am questioning the existence of the potency in act when the substance cannot perform the function that the potency is to enable it to perform." F

            I seems to me that what you mean by having the power in act and me meaning to have it in existence is virtually the same. If it is in existence, it is in act with respect to being in the substance in reality, but using the distinction between potency and act, it is not yet actualized with respect to its proper object.

            For example, my will is in existence in my substance, even though I am not always actually choosing this or that good. Hence, this is what I mean by a power having existence. It seems to me this is what you mean by having the power in act, except that for you, unless the power is actually able to act, it is not there "in act." I am using power here as equivalent to having the operative potency or faculty.

            From your use of the terms it appears that one would not have the power even in existence until it is also in act, meaning it is ready to act at any moment.

            This would seem to mean that rationality would have to be capable of acting from the first moment you have a true human being, which means that the substance is not complete with respect to having its faculties until the faculties are actually able to act with respect to their proper objects.

            Since I read a power as belonging to the very essence of a thing, this would seem to entail that the human being is not there until the faculties can actually act, which means the organs must be developed sufficiently for acts before the organism is a true human being.

            This would mean that prior to actually performing rational acts, the fetus would be subhuman, merely an animal. Thus becoming fully rational would entail a substantial change, since it would not be a true human being until it is rational in act. Do I understand your position correctly?

            What this also entails from my perspective is that, since the true human is not present until the rational power is also present, that makes the rational power an inseparable property of the human substantial form.

            This means that the moment the substantial form is present, so are its properties or powers. So, the question remains: When is the human substantial form present?

            I have noted this before and will say it again: Modern Thomists are not slaves to either Aristotle's or St. Thomas's texts. We know today that all empirical evidence shows that the human organism begins at conception in most all cases (twinning?), and so, following the logic above, this means that the only proper substantial form for the matter would be the human substantial form.

            Following the earlier logic, this means that the rational powers must be present from the beginning, even if the organs for their proper operations are not sufficiently developed for them to form judgments, abstract concepts, reason, and will.

            Since we have no way to know that this scenario is not correct, following hylemorphism and modern science, it would be unethical to directly kill an unborn baby at any stage.

            I have not thought out the matter with respect to the intellect, but with respect to the will, it is evident that there are many times that we cannot make free choices because of organic impediments, e.g., when we are drunk or insane. Indeed, some people appear never to have been sane. Therefore, it seems quite conceivable to me that the rational appetite could be present "in act" even though brain conditions would prevent exercise of the faculty.

          • Mark

            Not to jump in, but how do you reconcile yourself as a zygote (not having intellect) as unworthy of consideration of a substantial form of your sameself? That's the bridge I cannot cross. I want that version of me protected and I don't think I'm being irrationally emotionally contentious for reasoning so.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "We know today that all empirical evidence shows that the human organism begins at conception in most all cases (twinning?), and so, following the logic above, this means that the only proper substantial form for the matter would be the human substantial form."

            As you can see from my quote from my comment above, the position I am taking is that one must presume that the human substantial form is present from conception. Is this not the position you wanted me to take?

            The key word here is "presume." I do not claim certitude, but since any doubt must be resolved in terms of protecting innocent human life, we must presume that the human soul is present from conception.

            I am not speaking as a theologian, but as a philosopher applying the ethical principles pertinent to whether abortion is permitted. It is not.

            Edit: I see your problem! I was restating Ficino's position in the first paragraphs of my comment. Everything before where I say, "Do I understand your position correctly?", is simply my restatement of Ficino's position. It was NOT a statement of MY OWN position. I remain firmly pro-life from the moment of conception.

          • Mark

            And I replied to you rhetorically and didn't specify so.

          • David Nickol

            I want that version of me protected and I don't think I'm being irrationally emotionally contentious for reasoning so.

            If I understand you, "that version of me" is the zygote that became you. But that "version" of you is as invulnerable as anything can possibly be, because it is in the past. No offense intended, but it seems that emotionally identifying with—and concern for the protection of—your own zygote is indeed irrational.

            I fully understand the objection to abortion that it is the unjust taking of an innocent human life. But I do not understand the emotional reaction that seems to come from an imagined empathy for a zygote or an embryo (i.e., a developing human anywhere from conception up to eight weeks of gestation). You can't have empathy for a zygote or an embryo.

          • Ficino

            Dennis, I must dive under the deadline waves again, and lacking time now to do justice to what you write above, I shall reply after emerging - I hope in not much more than a week.

            Best, F

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I understand your need to attend to deadlines. I am adding a brief comment, not to inundate, but to clarify.

            First, I realize that my easy dismissal of Aristotle's and St. Thomas's texts must be scandalous to your classicist ears. But, I think they would argue differently today, based on today's science.

            More importantly, if I am correct that the rational powers are properties of the humans substantial form, then either you have true man, with the powers present, or, lacking them "in act," meaning actually existing as accidents of the substance, what you have is not man at all, but a subhuman substance -- as in successive animation.

            If, then, intellect and will are properties of the soul, they must always be present "in act," as you put it.

            Now you might be right. It might be possible that true man is not "there," until the intellect and will can actually act by using developed organs (brain).

            But, since the intellect and will are spiritual faculties and the organs (brain) are material, there is a real distinction between the two. If such a distinction exists, then it is logically possible that true man has intellect and will before he develops sufficient material organs to have them act.

            The only objection to this inference I see remaining is that Aristotle and St. Thomas did not hold that such was the case. I would then argue that they did so because they did not know that the matter fits the form from conception. But, in any event, they were wrong to insist that it was impossible to have the rational faculties without also having the needed organs.

            I know this sounds like a scandalous solution for a Thomist to offer, but as long as the rational faculties are spiritual and the brain is material, the real distinction between the two makes it possible that the human substance was there before the organs were developed. And the fact that modern science considers the human organism to be the same species throughout its life, even from the earliest stages, makes such a possibility both reasonable and even probable.

            And for the rest of the ethical argument, you already know it well. Since it is possible the spiritual soul was there before the organs developed, we must not take the risk of killing the true human being through abortion.

          • Ficino

            I apologize that I can only give a sketchy reply now. And in comboxes, I may never do justice to what you write. Let's get together at an APA and chew the Aristotelian fat in the bar!

            I just say for now some opinions. I think you are fenced in by confessional commitments, esp. to a doctrine about the soul. I think this is leading you to treat soul as the substance. But the substance is the living human, the body endowed with organs, potentially alive, of which the soul is first entelechy.

            Remember that Aristotle teaches in De Anima that it is not the soul that thinks, but we who think by means of the soul. The soul is not the substance. The substance is the living human. Does Catholic doctrine and its need to have disembodied soul act as a sort of substance, whether complete or incomplete, lead you to positions that philosophically you don't need? Aristotle of course himself says that the intellect comes in "from outside the door." But he does not reify the soul.

            And I think you are missing Aristotle's distinction between existing potentially as F and existing actually as F. You seem to assume that if an essential accident or dispositional property, part of the nature, does not exist in act, then the substance cannot be of the nature. After over a month, I fail to see the problem for Aristotle. The embryo exists as potentially rational. No other animal exists so. The embryo is already human. Its mother's katamenia and its father's spermata are not of any other species. Aristotle says that the embryo lives the life of a plant, but he doesn't say it IS a plant. I've offered many passages in which the Stagyrite talks about young offspring as existing as potentially F but not yet as actually so. Even passages that speak of incomplete substances, of two levels of form, two levels of potency. I cited the Politics on a boy's deliberative faculty existing but being ἀτελές, incomplete/imperfect. Why are you resisting the notion that there are incomplete substances within Aristotle's thought?

            And you seem to want to say that if the essential properties do not all exist in act, then the substance is not of the species. I think you are missing the stupendous step Aristotle tried to take by saying that there are two modes of being F: to be F in act and to be F in potency. The embryo is rational in potency and not in act. No other animal's embryo can be so. I don't see how it's a problem that the young human does not exist as rational in act, since it exists as rational potentially - and no other animal's embryo does that. So it's human.

            So for now I think you are going off the Aristotelian rails because:
            1. you're not considering that there can be incomplete substances in nature;
            2. you are not sufficiently esteeming what it means to exist as potentially F;
            3. you are reifying the soul - and I get that, from confessional commitments. But I don't see reason why non-Catholics are logically compelled to assent.

            OK we should pick up in well maybe two weeks.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I said before, I am constrained neither by Aristotle nor his texts. St. Thomas may be reading Aristotle as defending the immortality of the individual personal soul, but neither Avicenna nor Averroes appear to read him that way. So, I am not taking sides on what Aristotle really meant.

            More to the point, I see where you are heading. You will grant that the zygote is human and is “rational in potency,” but deny that it has “rationality in act” during the first month of embryonic life. (The exact period of time is not terribly relevant, I think you would agree.)

            I suggested that lacking a rational faculty in existence means that what is there is subhuman. You are saying it is human, but, if I read you rightly, not a person, because it lacks “rationality in act” – since a person is a supposit of a rational nature according to Boethius – and it is not “actually rationally” until it is “rational in act.”

            We are disagreeing about what it means to have a rational nature. You are saying it is rational during the first month of gestation, but only in potency – so the substance, while human, is incomplete, since it lacks rationality in act – and hence, abortion would be licit.

            For the record, I am not arguing here from a confessional perspective, but strictly as a philosopher – yet, not necessarily as one slavishly following Aristotle, nor, for that matter, St. Thomas either. Nor am I making the soul a substance, since it is only the form of one. But I would argue that once the supposit is rational by means of possessing the intellectual faculty, it is spiritual in nature, and, both a person and immortal.

            To be a true human being entails having a spiritual intellect – so that to say the earlier stage belongs to the human species, but lacks a spiritual intellect, defines being human in a strange way, since it denies the embryo it spiritual soul. Since we can rationally demonstrate the spirituality of the human soul from its intellectual powers, the intellect alone is able to define man as being a person deserving of the right to life.

            You are saying that the evidence of personhood is not present until the intellect is present in act and that it is not present in act until the organ (brain) is sufficiently developed to enable such acts. But as I have pointed out that, since the intellect is spiritual, whereas the brain is merely material, the intellect can exist “in act” independently of its actions using the brain as an instrument. That is what we call “extrinsic dependence.”

            The central point is that the intellectual faculty can be real in the substance without having to act at all, since its existence does not depend on its activity – but is only detected through observing its activity.

            Your position appears to be that the substance is not complete until the intellect is present “in act,” and this does not occur during the first month of gestation because the embryo is not sufficiently developed at the organic level until then. My point is that, regardless of whether or not you can prove that the intellect is present prior to its use of the organ, it is also possible that the intellect is there, but not able to act because the organ is not developed yet.

            I see no way you can disprove this possibility – a possibility that comports with the simplicity of the full form being present at conception and with the scientific evidence that the life of the human organism began at conception.

            Science today is quite clear that a complete human organism is present from conception. Citing the authority of Aristotle, or even St. Thomas, against my argument does not disprove its force. And, the fact that neither of them knew what we now know from modern embryology places their position in a somewhat different light.

            And, if it is possible that the intellect is present from conception, it is also possible that the person is present from conception, which would forbid risking taking an innocent human person’s life through abortion.

            My philosophical claims about the soul do not depend on whether one is Catholic or not. And, if one is arguing as a naturalistic atomist, my article on abortion makes clear that there would be no basis to claim that even adult humans have any rights, since they do not exist as substantial wholes.

          • Nova Conceptum

            "I see no way you can disprove this possibility"
            You can't disprove a teapot in orbit. The inability to disprove a speculation does not give it factual or explanatory value.

            You have no evidence that a soul inhabits a fertilized egg.

            The whole of medical science provides vast evidence that the intellect is a function of the brain. Cut out part of the brain and you cut out a corresponding part of the intellect.

            Subject the brain to chemicals and you change the functioning of the intellect.

            The brain is the only organ that when it dies the person dies.

            The mind is brain function according to vast volumes of evidence. Your assertion of a soul in a zygote is idle speculation supported by no evidence whatsoever, and thus of no value to anybody else who has not made the same idle speculation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is just more of your philosophy of materialism hiding in the disguise of natural science. It is not science, but a bunch of philosophical assertions and interpretations of scientific data.

            You are still assuming the positivistic stance that nothing is true that cannot be empirically verified.

            Try to empirically verify the principle of non-contradiction that you are forced to obey in your every thought and assertion.

            You ignore the context in which I said " you cannot disprove the possibility" that the rational faculty is present from conception. Without giving every detail of the argument, the general lines are that we find rationality in adult human beings and that hylemorphism (which was accepted as the context for the discussion) maintains that man has certain essential properties that are permanent in his nature. So, if we are rational as adults, it is reasonable to infer that rationality belongs to our nature from the beginning of our life as human beings, which was at conception. Ficino and I had a much more technical discussion ongoing which your superficial criticism did not even address.

            >"The whole of medical science provides vast evidence that the intellect is a function of the brain."

            This claim makes it sound like medical science rejects the existence of the intellect. Medical science does not address the question of intellect at all, since that is a philosophical concept that medical scientists realize is simply outside their field of expertise. Anyone making claims about intellect in terms of medical evidence is simply imposing his scientific materialism onto the empirical evidence and should realize that he is making philosophical claims, not scientific ones.

            Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophers know full well that damaging or destroying bodily organs can affect or prevent the function of the intellect. Since we have philosophical proofs that the intellect is a spiritual faculty of the immortal human soul, these so-called "arguments" against the existence of the intellect or soul are nothing but bad philosophical arguments.

            These arguments remind me of the foolish positivist who tried to prove that the soul did not exist by weighing a dying person to see whether he weighed less after he had died and the soul had departed.

          • Nova Conceptum

            I have never expressed, nor do I hold a positivist philosophy. Your statement is simply false.

            "You are still assuming the positivistic stance that nothing is true that cannot be empirically verified."

            "hylemorphism (which was accepted as the context for the discussion)"
            You are just assuming hylemorphism.

            "Medical science does not address the question of intellect at all, since
            that is a philosophical concept that medical scientists realize is
            simply outside their field of expertise."
            False. You might want intellect to be outside of science but it isn't. Science studies our intellect and how physical changes in the brain affect the intellect. You might not like that or wish to ignore that fact, but it remains a fact of science nevertheless.

            "Since we have philosophical proofs that the intellect is a spiritual faculty of the immortal human soul,"
            No you don't, you are just making that assumption.

            The evidence for human thought in all its forms...cognitive reasoning, emotion, intuition, sensory experiences...are artifacts of brain function is vast, literally filling libraries of millions of pages. You are simply ignoring the evidence.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I can see that we would likely disagree on whether the sun came up this morning.

            I don't think you perceive the degree to which philosophical materialism totally colors your interpretation of scientific data. You assert that intellect is merely a brain function and then claim that science is studying intellect when it studies brain function. Do I detect some question begging here?

            It is fine for you to be a metaphysical materialist if you must, but at least you should realize that you are confusing a clearly philosophical position with the findings of natural science.

            Professional philosophers and scientists normally recognize the distinction between what science can observe and how those observations are interpreted in terms of metaphysical assertions, such as claiming that all reality is physical.

            You reject philosophical concepts and demonstrations as being mere assumptions, but I have my doubts as to the extent to which you even have studied these proofs.

            "hylemorphism (which was accepted as the context for the discussion)" DB
            "You are just assuming hylemorphism." NC

            Of course, Ficino and I are assuming hylemorphism for purposes of discussion here! We both know he rejects it. But he and I are discussing its proper application to embryology. You are not even following the context of our discussion here! It is okay to enter the discussion with us, but you should at least understand what is going on between us first.

          • Ficino

            In the four months since we had the above exchange, I have continued to think about your contention that the zygote possesses in act the rational faculty of soul but is not yet able to exercise the rational faculty / the rational faculty is not operational.

            I continue to think that your contention is incompatible with the A-T notion of something's existing "in act." Existing in act in Aristotle is either existing ἐνεργείᾳ or ἐντελεχείᾳ. When the ensouled body lacks the organs that are instrumental for a given faculty, the body cannot be "in act" with respect to that faculty because it cannot carry out the operations that define the relevant function. It's meaningful to say that an embryo has human DNA. It's not meaningful to say that an embryo's rationality is in act in any sense. It would be meaningful on other theories of soul - say, some form of "Orphism" - that imagine disembodied souls as carrying out all relevant operations. Hylomorphism is not that.

            Consider On the Generation of Animals 737 a17-19: "About the soul, we have distinguished in which way the embryos and the sperm have it, and in which way they do not: they have it potentially but they do not have it actually."

            Here Aristotle says that animal embryos have sensitive soul potentially (he allows that to be alive at all, they must have nutritive soul), not actually. If the embryo does not have sensitive soul actually, a fortiori it does not have intellect actually.

            I don't think it helps to say that modern science disproves the doctrine of successive animation, because modern science is not in the business of proving or disproving any assertions about soul. As I said, I accept it that the human embryo is not in any species other than human. It's the claim that its intellectual faculty is already actual that can't be squared with A-T notions of actuality.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not insist that modern science disproves the archaic theory of successive animation, but neither does it support it. My understanding of that theory is that it was based on the fittingness of the matter to the form. Since the embryonic matter did not appear to have the organs found in animals or man, Aristotle and others thought that the form could not be other than merely nutritive. But, since we now know that the matter is specified by DNA as fitting only to animal or human species, one may argue that even Aristotle, were he alive to day, would accept that the fitting form would be animal or human -- not based on what the eye sees of material organs, but what the intellect understands of the microscopic specificity of the matter to animal or human life.

            But far more relevant is a proper understanding of how potency and act actually work.

            Potency is always understood in relation to its corresponding act. But in a living substance a distinction must be made between its basic existence and its operations. The proof that the faculties or operational potencies of a living thing are distinct from the substantial form rests upon the fact that operations can come and go, while the basic substance that has the operations perdures.

            Thus, there must be a real distinction between my potency to live and my potency to play the piano. For, if there were no such distinction, then the act of living would be identical to the act of playing the piano. Hence, were I to stop playing the piano, I would stop living as well. But, since the activities are clearly distinct, so also must the corresponding potencies be distinct.

            From this, we draw the inference that the potency which is ordered to the basic act of living (the primary operation of any living thing) must be distinct from the potency to various secondary operations, such as playing a piano, driving a car, thinking, seeing, and so forth.

            Thus, the potency to exist is necessarily distinct from the potencies to various operations in act.

            Since the substantial form determines the substance with respect to its unified existence as a thing of a certain kind, it actualizes the matter to be a certain kind of substance. But the operational potencies that are ordered to various operational activities, such as local motion or seeing or even thinking must be distinct from the substantial form of the living substance having such operations.

            Thus, to address your specific objection:

            "When the ensouled body lacks the organs that are instrumental for a given faculty, the body cannot be "in act" with respect to that faculty because it cannot carry out the operations that define the relevant function. It's meaningful to say that an embryo has human DNA. It's not meaningful to say that an embryo's rationality is in act in any sense."

            You are correct that the human substance cannot be "in act" in reference to the operation of the intellectual faculty when the necessary organs are inoperative -- either because they are diseased or filled with alcohol or simply underdeveloped for the performance of such operations.

            But the potency to the intellectual operation is distinct from the potency to existence of a rational substance, as shown above. Hence, the absence of the organs necessary for intellectual operations does not demonstrate the absence of the rational substantial form.

            Now one is free to hypothesize a theory, such as successive animation, which would assume that the successively more perfect substantial forms of vegetativeness, sentient, and then intellectual substances are successively present as the various organs develop.

            But this would be to assume a progression of actual substantial changes from philosophical natural (not biological) species to philosophical natural species, that is, from vegetable to animal to human natural species, as the organism develops.

            Now that we know that the physical organization of the matter of the embryonic organism is specific to the human biological species, it makes much more sense to conclude that the human rational form is present from the beginning of embryonic life, while the actualization of the various and distinct secondary operational potencies takes place when and as the various organs necessary to such operations develop.

            That is why, although we do not have absolute proof that the human rational substantial form is present from the beginning of embryonic human life, we cannot directly terminate such innocent life, since it is not only possible, but highly reasonable, to infer that the human rational substantial form, the spiritual soul of man, is present from its embryonic beginning.

          • Ficino

            But, since we now know that the matter is specified by DNA as fitting only to animal or human species, one may argue that even Aristotle, were he alive to day, would accept that the fitting form would be animal or human -- not based on what the eye sees of material organs, but what the intellect understands of the microscopic specificity of the matter to animal or human life.

            It doesn't help your case to talk about "only to animal ...species." I think animal species are best left out, since we were discussing whether the human embryo is actually rational.

            Findings of modern science about DNA problematize Aristotle less than you appear to think, because we don't have any warrant to think that the Stagyrite believed that the matter configured in human generation is not specific. Human male semen only is the principle of soul for human female καταμήνια, not for that of any other animal. The matter is already specific to human generation in Aristotle.

            The reason why Aristotle denies that human embryos have rational soul is not that they have the wrong kind of matter. It is that the matter is not yet organized into the system of instrumental parts by which higher soul faculties can be actualized.

            Most of what you say about the distinction between activated faculties vs. faculties that are not active - cases of disease or drunkenness or coming and going of an operation, etc. - is beside the point because you are not considering the process of generation. We've been over this. Your examples are of adults. But if a species member has not reached the end of its development, it does not necessarily have as habits the exercise of all the faculties that accrue to the specific nature. When the animal begins its development as an embryo in A-T, according to many passages I've cited, its higher soul functions are just not actual. They are potential, end of story. That's right in the texts.

            The thesis that you have to establish is something like this: a body can be actually F when it lacks the instrumental structure necessary for F operations. Trying to think of a name, I'll try the Nonfunctional Actual Faculty Thesis. A body has faculty F by which it cannot function but which faculty nevertheless is actual.

            I contend that the NAFT destroys the concept of actuality.

            For NAFT to escape the charge of special pleading, it needs to apply across a range of cases. It can't be invoked to argue only for the rationality of zygotes/embryos and in no other contexts. Can you adduce non-controversial examples in A-T where bodies lack the structure necessary for carrying out F operations but yet are agreed to be "in act" with respect to F? If yes, then great, let's look at those other cases. If not, then I suspect special pleading, giving a sense of "in act" that is foreign to A-T. And then, arguments from "in act" as that term functions in A-T will be vitiated by equivocation when "in act" bears this other, non-standard signification.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you are missing here is that there is an actual distinction between the substance and its faculties or operative potencies. This is standard Thomistic philosophical psychology. So, I doubt that it really violates its Aristotelian textual sources. But even if it does, we are not slaves to the texts, but rather must use rational principles based on present understanding.

            One must recall that hylemorphism rests on the concept that there are real immaterial principles that account for why beings above the atomic level possess substantial unity. That is, for example, you and I really exist as unified beings -- not mere aggregates. The form plays the role of unifying our substances, making us the kind of thing we are, and as a real principle organizing all our material components according to our specific nature. That is why it is form that dictates the organization of matter and not vice versa.

            That is also why the form is complete and stable in itself as an immaterial principle, even if the material components are not either yet fully up to their tasks or somehow become disfunctional after reaching that stage of development. The stable form does not depend on the matter for its intrinsic nature once it comes into being. But the matter does depend on the form to maintain its nature with respect to its operations according to that form.

            The only rational alternative is to claim that the organism undergoes multiple substantial changes every time the material disposition changes. Traditional Thomistic psychology maintains that the form is stable throughout the existence of the same substance.-- along with its essential properties, such as the faculties of sentience, appetition, rationality, and free will.

            Yes, I gave examples taken from adults, since that is where the distinction between the stable substantial form and its faculties is most evident. But the point is that if the distinction exists in adults, it must also be valid for younger members of the same species.

            If the faculties are identical to the substance itself, then the act of the faculty must be identical to the act of the substance. But that entails that when the faculty, even of an adult, ceases to be in act, the corresponding act of the substance must also cease. But the act of the substance is life itself, which means that when the faculty ceases to be in actual operation, the substance (which is identical to the faculty) must also cease to be in actual operation. That is, the substance would cease to exist. But this is absurd, since faculties frequently cease operation, while the substances to which they belong never cease to exist.

            For example, I am not always forming new concepts, judging, or reasoning -- yet, I am constantly alive and human.

            Therefore, faculties must be properties really distinct from the substantial form, which can at times be "in act," but whose "act" is not the same as the basic "act" of the substance, which is existence itself (or life in the case of living substances).

            You argue: "When the animal begins its development as an embryo in A-T, according to many passages I've cited, its higher soul functions are just not actual. They are potential, end of story."

            Yes, the functions are not actual, but that does not mean that the substance which has the actually existing faculties that are ordered to those functions is not actual. And by "ordered to those functions," I do not mean simply that they will in the future have said faculties, but rather that it already belongs to the nature of these substances to be able to perform those actual functions when conditions, that is, its organs, are suitable for such functioning.

            And, just as the substance is not its faculties and the form is not its matter, neither is the existence of the immaterial faculties the existence of its material organs. So, the immaterial faculties can exist when their immaterial organs do not have sufficient development to permit the function of the faculties.

            That is the same thing as to say that living organisms possess these faculties during the whole of their existence -- unless, of course, you want to grant the theory of successive animation (which Aristotle does) and maintain that a series of substantial changes occur -- from vegetable to animal to man.

            Since it is clear that in the adult the distinction between substance and faculty is real, there is no reason to deny that this distinction does not also exist in earlier stages of the development of the (human) organism. While you may wish to justify abortion by claiming that the faculties are not yet present, this entails having to say that substantial changes occur during the entire fetal development.

            It is both more economical and ethical to maintain that the substance does not undergo more substantial changes after life begins. And since one cannot be certain that the opposite is true, one is not morally free to presume the embryo is not fully human and to therefore abort its life in utero.

            Regardless, the critical point is that the faculties can exist as essential properties of a living substance, even if those faculties are not constantly "in act" with respect to their proper functioning -- since they are continuously "in act" as real properties of the substance. Otherwise, since essential properties determine the very nature of a substance, the substance would not be a single continuous substance, but rather, would undergo multiple substantial changes throughout its biological continuity -- a "continuity" which would be a mere illusion in truth.

            Where is Occam's Razor when you need it?

            Certainly the distinction between substance and its faculties applies to adult organisms, and certainly one must follow the morally safer course in respecting the life of what could well be, and probably is, an unborn human being -- even from the earliest stages of its development.

          • Ficino

            Dennis, again, thank you for the time and thought you put into your reply. I can't do justice right now to all that you wrote, so I'll just note that yes, you are working with a different theory of soul than Aristotle's. In Aristotle's account of animal generation, as you know, soul is formed in stages, and the formation of an animal soul requires that we have a suitable material basis for it - at minimum, a functional body with a heart. Thomists are right to note that in Aristotle, the soul is the form of the body, but their doctrine that a spiritual human soul is created immediately by God leads to significantly different ways in which powers of soul and their actuality are explained.

          • Mark

            Liking because I had to look up dunamis, which while archaic gives me a one word definition for power to my soul. As in James Taylor music has an inexplicable dunamis.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We Thomists would be among the first to abandon the natural science of the ancients, including Aristotle and Aquinas. But, you have to distinguish between the philosophical aspects of cosmology and the natural scientific.

            As has been noted, physics (Aristotle's) is the study of ens mobile. Modern science focuses more on the "mobile" aspect of that subject matter, whereas A-T philosophers focus more on the "ens" aspect.

            Modern theoretical physics which splits into both experiential and mathematical perspectives, does not specifically address the implicitly metaphysical content of the "ens" aspect of cosmology.

            Since the metaphysical aspects are not subject to the constantly perfecting experimentally-verified hypotheses of modern physics, they stand the test of time because they are based upon universal and eternal metaphysical principles.

          • David Nickol

            We know that the vast majority of abortions in the United States are performed before 18 weeks, so most abortions take place before the baby can hear. But for the case made against abortion on SN, it makes absolutely no difference whether a fetus can hear, or has a heartbeat, or can feel pain, since according to the Catholic position, a zygote is no less fully human than a newborn baby or an adult.

            It is interesting that "anti-aborts" are so interested (or so it seems to me) in the developmental stages during pregnancy that they take to demonstrate that fetuses and even embryos are "people like us" whom it is cruel and inhumane to kill, when in fact they feel it is just as wrong to kill a zygote.

            Saying that a fetus can hear its mother's heartbeat before she aborts it is an appeal to emotion and, as has already been noted, came out of left field. At least it seems to be an acknowledgment that it is mothers who abort their own children, which "anti-aborts" tend to gloss over, or to maintain that such mothers are "second victims."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you follow the logic of my OP, you will note that I don't make emotional arguments central, nor even utilitarian arguments based on the impact on people involved.

            Nor does the logic depend on trying to prove the exact point at which human life begins.

            Rather -- and I am not trying to reprise the whole case here -- the line of reasoning is that human life and its rights are continuous from beginning to end, with the same substantial form determining the nature of the living being present.

            From that perspective, I take the fact that the adult is undoubtedly a person with the right to life and then follow that being with rights back to its point of origin. Frankly, it does not matter for the substance of this argument whether specifically human life begins at conception or very shortly thereafter, since once it begins, it is present continuously into adulthood where its rights and dignity are unquestionable.

            Since it is the same person going back from adulthood to its beginning because it is a single organism with the same substantial form, its rights trace back to its origins.

            My OP grants that the atomists have a different perspective, but I defend the hylemorphic analysis by pointing out that atomism cannot explain how even adults are single substantial unities with any rights at all -- since atoms don't have rights. As I have said before, atomism may exist, but the atomists don't. This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that atomists don't want to discuss.

            If anyone wants to go down that path, first they have to prove that they are there -- as an existing whole -- to discuss it.

  • Ficino

    Cheating on deadline to post this as info:

    https://forward.com/opinion/393168/why-are-jews-so-pro-choice/

    The article includes this:

    [the fetus] "is not considered to have the status of personhood until birth; the Mishnah (Ohalot 7:6) teaches that if the mother’s life is in danger from the pregnancy, even in labor, the fetus may be sacrificed to save her life, unless the baby’s head has already emerged. Only then, according to Rashi (Talmud Sanhedrin 72b), is the fetus or baby considered to be a nefesh, a soul. Elsewhere, the Mishnah (Arachin 1:4) teaches that “If a [pregnant] woman is about to be executed, they do not wait for her until she gives birth. But if she had already sat on the birthstool, they wait for her until she gives birth.” Birth, not gestation, is the critical marker, here."

    • Rob Abney

      Your zeal for abortion has suddenly overcome your expressed concern about the pregnant woman.
      "In almost every country in the world, it is illegal to execute a pregnant woman. Of the 92 countries that retain the death penalty, 83 have passed laws prohibiting the execution of pregnant women." (ETA (from the website deathpenaltyworldwide) because it was detected as spam by disqus.)

      Why are you trying to convince atheists and Catholics to accept the authority of Jewish rabbis? Atheists are at least more likely to use reasoning based upon natural law rather than scriptural exegesis.

      • Ficino

        Why are you trying to convince atheists and Catholics to accept the authority of Jewish rabbis?

        Failing to read for comprehension, as often? I said I posted this as info. You are unwilling to become better informed?

        • Rob Abney

          How does this make one better informed? An argument based on reasoning could do that but not one based on authority.
          Are you opposed to capital punishment for pregnant women?

          • David Nickol

            How does this make one better informed?

            Christianity being descended from Judaism and using the same scripture (in part) as Judaism, the Jewish stance on any issue, especially one dependent (in part) on the "Old Testament" will be of significance for Christians, although certainly there will be times when the two religions disagree.

            Are you opposed to capital punishment for pregnant women?

            You are opposed to capital punishment under all circumstances, aren't you? As I understand it, that would be the pro-life, "seamless garment" position.

          • Rob Abney

            “You are opposed to capital punishment under all circumstances, aren't you? As I understand it, that would be the pro-life, "seamless garment" position.“
            No. Just like my stance on abortion, I oppose killing an innocent person. It will be interesting to hear abortion supporters such as you and Ficino justify a position regarding capital punishment of a pregnant woman.

          • Ficino

            Just like my stance on abortion, I oppose killing an innocent person. It will be interesting to hear abortion supporters such as you and Ficino justify a position regarding capital punishment of a pregnant woman.

            If the person is innocent, it isn't properly punishment.

            You seem incapable of understanding the principle that the rabbis were laying down in the linked article.

            I find that discussion with you is not productive. I shan't be responding often to further posts from you. Channeling other members of this forum, I'm too old, too grouchy, and too bored to school you on how to grasp principles.

          • Rob Abney

            Our discussion is not productive because we have been unable to find common ground. I'm sure that you will keep trying to find a definitive reason that the zygote is not a person. Authoritative religious based arguments don't provide that reasoning, just as I have been careful not to try to convince you based upon Catholic authority. I don't consider this a religious issue, I consider it a matter of justice, all persons deserve justice.
            The pregnant woman should not be executed even if she is guilty because an innocent person would then also be executed.

          • BCE

            Just reading your exchange with Rob.
            Changing the discussion from religion, personhood, and ensoulment
            I'm curious...

            Leaving out miscarriage due to defect, I acknowledge under environmental stress female animals might delay ovulation, or fetal development, miscarry, abandon or kill their young.
            But when there is ample food, no sudden change in troop(pride/herd/pack etc), or other stress(ie weather, shelter, harassment etc.) female animals don't voluntarily seek or engage in behaviors to cause abortion.

            Even if the women claims no factors, other then just not wanting a child, how is it we should be convinced to except that.
            You or (I) society might ignore the psycho social pressure but
            If we care about women why promote the meme that abortion is a reasonable decision when it's more likely a reaction to a hostile,
            stressful, unsupportive, insufficient environment?

          • Mark

            Christianity is not descended from modern Judaism. Ancient Judaism ceased to exist in 70AD with the fall of Jerusalem. I think you probably knew that but wanted to make sure we're all being clear. Modern Judaism is considered separate and distinct from ancient Judaism. For obvious reasons the reading the OT (or Christ's oral teachings) puts the fall of Jerusalem in clearly different contexts.

          • Sample1

            Did ancient Catholicism cease when the Novus Ordo was created?

            Mike, excommunicated!

          • David Nickol

            For obvious reasons the reading the OT (or Christ's oral teachings) puts the fall of Jerusalem in clearly different contexts.

            Is something missing here? I can't make any sense of it.

            Ancient Judaism ceased to exist in 70AD with the fall of Jerusalem. I think you probably knew that but wanted to make sure we're all being clear. Modern Judaism is considered separate and distinct from ancient Judaism.

            Certainly the destruction of the Temple brought an end to "Second Temple Judaism" almost by definition, but you imply an ending when there was actually continuity. Modern Judaism is no more "separate and distinct from ancient Judaism" than modern Catholicism is separate and distinct from the early Church.

            In any case, the Orthodox Jewish position on abortion is just that—the Orthodox Jewish position on abortion. No one says it should be binding for Catholics. I don't think anyone is arguing that it should be adopted as the law of the land. Indeed, if it were, about 99% of abortions currently permitted would be illegal.

          • Mark

            Is something missing here? I can't make any sense of it.

            the Second Temple Judaism is considered the origins of both Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism so when you say:

            the Jewish stance on any issue, especially one dependent (in part) on the "Old Testament" will be of significance for Christians

            What a Rabbinical Jew teaches as the meaning of the OT is mostly insignificant to Catholics because we view the Septuagint in the tradition of Christ and his messianic fulfillment of the Second Temple Judaic tradition and prophecy.

    • Mark

      I'm guessing you already know that the most highly respected medieval and modern Jewish rabbis (including Maimonides) believed that self-defense is the only permissible reason for abortion. I don't think Danya speaks for them, but there are plenty of Christians that are pro-choice and use scripture like Danya used Halacha to justify abortion. I'm not sure there are any Jews that believe an embryo is only water for the first 40 days of pregnancy.

      ETA: I agree these Jewish rabbis would not call abortion infanticide but would call it morally illicit with exception to self-defense none the less.

      • Ficino

        Chabad publishes an article that includes these two conclusions:

        Under normal circumstances it is forbidden to take the life of an unborn child, and it may be akin to murder (depending on the stage of pregnancy and birth).

        As long as the unborn remains a fetus, it does not have a status of personhood equal to its mother, and therefore may be sacrificed to save the life of the mother.

        https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/529077/jewish/Judaism-and-Abortion.htm

        So this view of personhood is different from the view espoused here on SN.

        We've already had many discussions about personhood, so I don't reopen those.

        • Mark

          I find it interesting that the fetus is referenced as an unborn child though not a person according to Halacha. Also that it not being a person in no way materially effects the teaching of orthodox Jews vs orthodox Catholic on abortion. Both arrive at it being illicit morally with the same exceptions via different philosophical traditions.

          Personhood rights as you're superimposing here are centuries/millennia removed from the Halacha referenced. I see your point, but I disagree person in the Halacha can be paralleled to modern use of the term personhood and the ethical considerations of such. Mostly I see backfilled reinterpretations of orthodox teaching by progressive Jews that (like Western Christians) selectively discard the parts of their tradition that make them uncomfortable about their illicit choices. I was an ala carte guy for too much of my adult life so I know all about it.

          • David Nickol

            Also that it not being a person in no way materially effects the teaching of orthodox Jews vs orthodox Catholic on abortion. Both arrive at it being illicit morally with the same exceptions via different philosophical traditions.

            That is simply not true. Orthodox Judaism permits direct abortion to save the life of the mother. (Some sources go so far as to say "requires" instead of "permits.") Catholicism forbids it. There may be arguments about whether it is ever necessary to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother, but assuming such cases exist (rare though they may be) Orthodox Judaism permits them and Catholicism forbids them. (The famous "Phoenix abortion case" gives a good example of a case in which abortion was deemed necessary to save a mother's life.)

          • Mark

            I think you're uncharitably splitting hairs and no the Pheonix case is not a good example.

            https://www.bioedge.org/mobile/view/the_other_side_of_the_phoenix_catholic_abortion_case/9063

          • David Nickol

            I think you're uncharitably splitting hairs . . . .

            If you believe I am splitting hairs, then you either don't understand the Catholic position on abortion or you don't understand the Orthodox Jewish position on abortion, or both. Some things are matters of fact.

            Orthodox Judaism permits direct abortion to save the life of the mother. Catholicism does not.

          • Mark

            I understand both positions. I wasn't trying to make the argument they were exactly the same or philosophically the same, but that materially abortions that would be justified by double effect would also be justified by the more ambiguous and problematic term "self-defense". I very much understand they are not univocal; I just said I find it interesting how close two unrelated ethical traditions come to almost the same resting place considering one doesn't see the unborn as a person.

      • David Nickol

        I don't think Danya speaks for them, but there are plenty of Christians that are pro-choice and use scripture like Danya used Halacha to justify abortion.

        Please link to an example or two of pro-choice Christians using scripture to justify abortion. I have been participating in religion forums online since the 1980s, and I have never heard a scriptural case justifying abortion.

        It does not seem to me that Danya Ruttenberg "used Halacha to justify abortion." She stated accurately the Orthodox position on abortion, which is that in Orthodox Jewish thought, birth (not conception) is the point where full personhood begins. I think she makes it clear that for Orthodox Jews, despite the fact that a fetus is not fully a person, abortion is forbidden except to save the life of the mother. Another article from the Forward (Explained: Orthodox Jews Are Not ‘Pro-Choice’ — But They’re Also Not ‘Pro-Life’) might clarify things for those who are unfamiliar with Orthodox Jewish portions on abortion.

        I'm not sure there are any Jews that believe an embryo is only water for the first 40 days of pregnancy.

        I highly doubt that any Orthodox Jew (including the original author in the Talmud) interprets "mere water" to mean "made only of H2O molecules."

  • Phil Tanny

    Pro-life advocates are going to be disappointed if they finally succeed at making abortion illegal in the United States, and are then confronted with the real world fact that such a victory doesn't really change the reality of abortion. Rich and middle class people will hop a flight to where ever abortion is legal, a neighboring state, or Canada. Poor people will return to the dangerous back alley. Abortion will continue as it always has.

    For evidence, reference the "War On Drugs". Has that ended drug use? Has it put even a dent in drug use?

    What would change the abortion reality would be for the Catholic Church to partner in a constructive manner with Planned Parenthood by offering to raise any children a family doesn't want. Then the Church would be in the room where the decision was being made, and would thus have some hope of being influential. But this won't happen because...

    The Church is using the abortion issue in much the same way that political parties use controversial hot button issues to mobilize their base. The Church first creates an enemy, and then urges it's followers to play the role of hero, a role which is quite self flattering to the user. This helps cement the user to the Church, and keep the donations rolling in.

    If the Church was truly interested in the welfare of children.. Oh well, never mind, there's no need to say the rest.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Here is a new article pointing out that 96% of biologists maintain that human life begins at fertilization: https://quillette.com/2019/10/16/i-asked-thousands-of-biologists-when-life-begins-the-answer-wasnt-popular/

    As the new article points out, that does not settle the abortion question, since many insist that human rights ought not be granted at that point in time for various reasons. Nonetheless, it is a rather dramatic scientific finding which should stand as an objective reference point for any rational discussion.

    • Sample1

      Would you care if 96% of physicists said there is no need for a first mover?

      Mike

      • Ficino

        Another question would be, how many of the biologists hold that formal and final causes as construed in A-T should be applied as explanatory principles in biology?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You and Sample 1 have merely shown that biologists do not as such incorporate philosophical principles into their scientific explanations. So what?

          All that I have pointed to is the fact that biological science concludes that human life begins at fertilization.

          How do your comments contradict that finding? You may add other philosophical criteria yourselves in order to determine such questions as when personhood is present or when human rights obtain.

          But, as good scientific materialists, I would think you would be first interested in such an overwhelming consensus of biological scientists about when human life begins.

          I conceded above that this is not determinative of the ethical judgments I mention. After all, why would one really expect natural scientists as such to make ethical judgments -- or even philosophical ontological judgments?

          • Ficino

            But, as good scientific materialists, I would think you would be first interested in such an overwhelming consensus of biological scientists about when human life begins.

            I didn't think either of us was claiming that the zygote is not a human zygote.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Then I don't understand why you added the references to philosophical concepts in your replies to my initial comment, since my initial comment was merely to note what you just said you affirm anyway. I DID note therein also that "many insist that human rights ought not be granted at that point in time for various reasons," which could, of course, include philosophical reasons.

    • Phil Tanny

      Nonetheless, it is a rather dramatic scientific finding which should
      stand as an objective reference point for any rational discussion.

      The presumption here would seem to be that anyone is interested in a rational discussion, a rarity on the subject of abortion.

      A rational discussion would remove the topic from the legal arena, because that arena has shown it is incapable of stopping large numbers of people from doing things they are determined to do, the war on drugs being an easy example

      A rational discussion would remove the topic from the moral arena, because that is just a staging ground for emotion driven fantasy superiority poses which accomplish little beyond stoking the egos of the participants.

      A rational discussion would focus heavily on making contraception more accessible, perhaps by making it a government funded free benefit.

      A rational discussion would seek to bring everyone on all sides in to a united effort to raise the children that parents don't want. The Catholic Church, other Christian churches, Planned Parenthood, and government at various levels should all be pooling their resources to serve this end, and doing so in a united cooperative effort.

      None of this is going to happen, because the abortion topic has never been about children. It's always been about adults and our relationships between each other, who is superior to who, who can shout the loudest, and all the other such nonsense. Which, come to think of it, is actually quite childish, so perhaps the debate is about children after all.

  • Jason Lem

    As a man, I can not be forced to even give one drop of blood to save a fellow human life, and by a human I mean a thinking, conscience, intelligent, suffering one, even though the cost to me (and you) would be very minimal, what would the cost be ? a tiny sting as they insert the needle ? Some pain for 5 seconds ? To be forced to do so would violate all sorts of freedom/choice and bodily autonomy that would be instantly rejected on the tyranny that would be imposed by forcing people to do such a thing.

    But some people demand and seek to impose by force if they can get away with it that all women from the moment of conception, even in the early stages when there is zero capacity for intelligence, conscious, suffering, etc sometimes referred to as "just a bunch of cells" that the woman any and all bodily autonomy rights/interests of the woman are pushed aside to make way for that bunch of cells "right to life" which really amounts to forced continuation of pregnancy and birth if it gets to that stage.

    It's a double standard to be rejected, we won't force so little for so much as in the giving blood to save intelligent, suffering, conscious human life but they demand to put such a heavy burden on the woman (The forced continuation of pregnancy against her will and all the costs/risk that go with it) for so little.

    • Sample1

      Bingo. One can be personally against anything but to force another by removing bodily autonomy to get your way is tyrannical, and when done behind the smokescreen of legislating, cowardly.

      If you wouldn’t tie, gag, and cage a woman on a desert island to be forced against her will to do your bidding, you’re being morally incoherent. And I’ve yet to meet a SN Catholic who would do such a thing. Yet they try other ways to put lipstick on a pig.

      Mike

      • Rob Abney

        You advocate for the right to life and liberty but you are unable to support your preference for liberty over life.
        I advocate for both also, yet I accept that without the right to life there is no liberty. I’m in favor of liberty for all not just for those who are more powerful than others.

        • Sample1

          Your morality is shit. You are probably not, but your morality is gutter. Go away.

          Mike

          • Phil Tanny

            Please try and raise your game. Note my post above yours. It makes much the same point as you are making, but in a manner which doesn't brand the poster as a 20 year old college sophomore typing juvenile snarkyisms in his mom's basement.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe you would prefer morality if it were relative, as yours is.

          • Sample1

            Of course morality has a relative dimension. It’s often easy-to-vary, hence diverse cultures. If we start with the axiom that human well being is paramount, many cultures can arrive at the fact that owning another person as property is immoral. Something of a controversy for a biblical god who seems more concerned with picking up sticks on a weekend than those who use sticks to beat their slaves, so long as they don’t die within a day or two. Exodus 21.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I think you are confused, you support cultural moral relativism yet you read Exodus as a legalist and reject it even though you're a relativist?!

          • Sample1

            I support non-supernatural explanations for human behavior.

            I reject that Exodus is the product of the supernatural, yes, but you don’t. I can imagine why slavery was a cultural phenomenon from a strictly human, non supernatural, POV. But from a divine authorship POV, it’s immoral to my eyes. Owning people as property is immoral and I don’t need the supernatural to undergird that position. But you, you must vary the interpretation to suit your 21st century morality. Isn’t that tiring?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Why are you trying to tell me what I believe about the bible, I'm sure that I have a different perspective than you do.
            But why do you support that different cultures can have different moral standards but you don't support the standards that you consider the Jews in Exodus to have.
            I think it is because you actually believe there are objective moral standards.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          "... I accept that without the right to life there is no liberty."

          You hit the nail on the head here.

          Without the life of an existing human being, there is no basis for any secondary rights, including the right of liberty or the right to terminate one's own pregnancy. Rights inhere in the living human person. If a person does not first have a right to life, all other rights become incoherent and irrationally-founded.

          This is the logical impasse that sinks all pro-abortion logic -- no matter how emotionally it is defended -- even with expletives.

          • Phil Tanny

            And this kind of moralistic sermonizing is illogical, as it has been proven to accomplish nothing, and distracts us from practical real world action would could at least improve the situation for unwanted children.

            Catholics are not serious about abortion, no matter how sincerely they may feel that to be so. What Catholics are serious about is positioning themselves as being morally superior to somebody else.

            If Catholics were serious about the tragedy of unwanted children they'd be working cooperatively hand in hand with Planned Parenthood so that 1) Catholics could be in the room where the decisions are being made, 2) could earn the trust of those making those decisions, and 3) could make Catholicism's vast financial resources available to the unwanted children.

            Catholic culture is sitting on what must be trillions of dollars of real estate which typically only gets real use on Sunday morning. Lecturing others from a position of imaginary moral superiority while wastefully squatting on these vast resources is simply not credible.