Metsfanmax wrote:I do not see my proposal as lowering human persons to the standard of being; I see it as raising the standard of non-human animals to how we already treat adult humans.
And yet I feel that these things are indeed one and the same. What are you going to do make all animals sacred animals? Such as the Cow for the Hindi Religion?
I do not view humans as sacred, so I would not make non-human animals sacred. I would simply state that from an ethical perspective, there is no a priori
reason to deny consideration of the preferences of a non-human animal. A decision that disrespected those preferences would have to be justified in terms of the greater benefit that would be provided. For example, killing a sentient animal because you like the taste of its flesh could not be justified. Killing a sentient animal because you would be sparing it from a seriously disadvantaged and painful life could be.
Metsfanmax wrote: But with that said, there are consequences that come with this approach. In particular, we must seriously take responsibility for our ethical decisions. I do not think it is appropriate any longer for us to assert the existence of unchanging and absolute ethical principles. These were undoubtedly useful in earlier periods.
I think that unchanging ethical rules were put there for a reason, secular or Scriptural (some of which overlap) I am a great believer in the inherent evil in the human race, and have found this to be true even in my own life and struggles. It is these unchanging laws that make the peace and stability that you say we have developed. To throw one of these laws out would be similar to throwing out the law of Gravity in my opinion. I know that if I drop something, no matter how heavy it is whether paper or a bowling ball, it will fall towards the ground. However if Gravity is no more then my certainty and trust in objects falling towards the ground in every case is no longer well founded, and thus negates the possibility of the law of Gravity on Earth.
There is a reason that Theft is illegal, and has been for ages on end. There is also a reason why it says Thou Shalt Not Kill.
If we are inherently evil, then what is the value of the life of an infant? It sounds like you're saying that only through reason can we conquer our base instincts. But a newborn child has no reasoning ability, and is therefore completely evil by your standards. Why is this being worthy of protection?
Also, I clearly do not reject the rule of law as a method of maintaining stability. I argue that this rule of law is sufficient, without someone needing to believe that they will be tortured for eternity. The fear of social stigma and prison time is an effective deterrent.
Metsfanmax wrote: However, collectively as a society we have developed enough peace and stability that we can re-think these rules and come up with ones that better fit reality. That is, we no longer need to pigeonhole ourselves into a specific box just because we think that society will be better off that way. We are intelligent enough and have our act together enough to take these ideas and run with them.
I think I have addressed the first sentence here already. I disagree with you that we are pigeonholing ourselves into a box, as I stated earlier most if not all ethical laws that are unchanging and absolute have been so (as you mentioned) for an extreme amount of time, and as such hold much wisdom and knowledge already into them. The basic nature of humanity as a whole has not changed since then IMO so why would you think that the outcome at the end would be different? Its similar to a teenager who won't listen to his parents and has been through the school of hard knocks because he threw out their advice and later realizes that they were right.
The fact that we have believed something for a very long time is not a testament to its moral correctness. For most of human history, it was completely natural to commit acts of incredible violence to one's political, social or religious enemies (the Bible contains plenty of instances of this). "Thou shalt not kill" is really just "thou shalt not kill your fellow Jews." I reject the assertion that society became more peaceful and stable as a result of these views that you adhere to.
I don't argue for this just because I disagree with things on some abstract level. Instead, the status quo leads to some seriously unfortunate results. As an example, many people who are in serious pain and have made the rational decision to end their lives, cannot legally get assistance to do so in most jurisdictions. That is because we still cling to an absolute right to life framework in most cases, at least formally. But in reality that is not how most of us think
Suicide IMHO is a decision neither made rationally, but rather emotionally (especially at a young age). Seeing as I have attempted this in the past, I can speak from first hand knowledge. Looking back I am glad that I did not succeed in my attempt. I partially regret ever attempting it, and will never do it again. I only partially regret it because now I know and can tell others that It really isn't a viable option, and Thank God for every life that is saved because someone stops them. Logically speaking Suicide is running away from your problems instead of confronting them. You don't have to eliminate the person causing the pain to stop the pain or find a way to heal it and move on. I am glad for the absolute right to life framework we have. It is what keeps murder, murder and keeps death as a serious thing. If you are talking a medially sick person, they can as my Grandmother did, choose rather to go off of what is keeping them alive. However I would say that these people have a motivation other than revenge, and can make a more logical choice than the first group. However I also think that these people dying of an incurable disease as you say are more serious in considering every option, and the people it will affect. These people can (if not already) prepare for their death in a way that people who for whatever reason just go and hang themselves suddenly do not. There are ways for the doctors to reduce, and try to remove the pain without having to kill the person to do it.
Modern medicine is not a panacea. Even in Western societies, there are many diseases that we simply do not have effective treatments for, and in some cases we can't even effectively manage the pain, especially towards the later stages of terminal diseases. Furthermore, artificially keeping someone alive is expensive and drawn out. It may be intellectually easy to insist that "doctors can reduce the pain," but that doesn't change the fact that there are many people right now who are in pain and would probably prefer to end their lives. This is not an irrational decision. Most people don't want to have to live through severe pain, especially if they know the illness is fatal. It is cruel to insist that these people cannot make the choice to end their own lives. It serves no good purpose, but inflicts much pain.
Most people recognize that life is full of shades of gray, and that it can be deleterious to insist on this, as when a patient is dying from an incurable disease. Similarly, if someone is in a persistent vegetative state, with no chance of regaining consciousness ever again, we cannot reasonably insist a family incur high medical costs over years when the patient has ceased to be a person.
I don't think that the patient has ceased to be a person.
And as such, I do not see Life
as a shade of grey. You are either alive, or you are dead. There is no in between state. You may try to argue that a person in a persistent vegetative state is in between, however is that true? Is it the fact that we keep them "alive" by using artificial means, or is it the fact that they cannot respond in any way? I don't know the answer, and probably never will.
What does it mean to be alive? Any close examination of this issue reveals that it is quite difficult to describe what it means, say, for a patient to die. Is it when the heart stops beating? What about when detectable brain function ceases? Or when the person stops breathing? How can one be sure, after these things have occurred, that there is really nothing there? There is nothing at all black and white about how we define life as an ethical issue.
1. It is also probably true that you probably don't believe that there is a God, and thus your stance on "Human rights" as you put it fits quite logically for stance of "Survival of the Fittest."
I did not advocate for an ethical stance of "survival of the fittest."
2.I find this to be highly hypocritical. You cannot say that there is zero chance that a human being is not or will not be a person/self-aware. And yet as a child inside the womb the surroundings and emotions/actions of the mother effect you, and can cause distress which is a trait of awareness of surroundings and of others.
There is a serious difference between an infant human being aware
-- mammals are, in general, aware of their surroundings in the sense that they can feel pain and directly respond to stimuli -- and being self-aware
-- that is, being cognizant of one's own existence over time. Fetuses and newborn humans are simply incapable of appreciating their own existence. There is no neurological mechanism for them to do so.
I also find offensive the statement of some debiltating or terminal disease which makes their life not worth living. All humans deserve the right to live. And further more, you might consider those with Aspergers, Down Syndrome, Alzheimers, or someone with a heart disease all people who can be "terminated" during pregnancy or shortly after birth. And yet these people can make a contribution to society that probably very few of us will ever make. Why? Because the focus that they have is different and the viewpoint of the world is different, and yet it may be their viewpoint that could change the world.
Where would it stop, logically you would have to "terminate" every baby that was not fully "functional" with no inherent DNA/physical disabilities. People like Mozart would have never been able to live.
I do not think it would ever be ethical to tell other people whether they should maintain the lives of their children. I argue that, if a medical expert determines that a human fetus or newborn infant would not live very long and would suffer substantially while it was still alive, a parent should have the option of deciding to terminate that life. Cases such as Down syndrome are harder to judge. The fact of the matter is that if you asked someone who was severely disabled whether they would prefer, all other things being equal, a life without that severe disability, they would almost certainly be lying if they said no. This does not mean that such a person cannot live a full life, simply that they face great obstacles in doing so, and there is no particular reason to desire those serious obstacles. A fetus, as it is not yet a unique person, is completely replaceable (to the extent that its parents and others directly affected would be happier with another child without serious defects). I do not deny that we would have to answer some tough ethical questions regarding when it can be justified to terminate a young human's life. I also do not think that we should choose a poor answer to avoid having to make a hard, but better choice.
3. Drop the again. Why, because we can all be self aware at some future point in time again. An infant sleeps and wakes up the same as we do. It is influenced by its environment and has emotions like we do. It knows who its mother is, and is quite attached to her. It is suggested that Music such as Bach and Mozart are good for intelligence (this might be a common rumor...) Sure we might die by some sickness early in life. However we cannot choose everything that effects us, neither can we pick and choose most everything like in the Game of Life (or Risk).
We can only be self aware "again" if we were once self aware. A newborn human has never been self-aware, and does not deserve the same ethical considerations as a human that has been.
Metsfanmax wrote:Note that all this skirts the issues associated with how we treat non-human animals in other ways. The act of killing (assuming it can be done painlessly) is a unique ethical issue, because if an organism is deceased then it no longer has any preferences. So if you could be completely sure that you could kill a merely sentient organism without any pain (e.g. insects), then it should not be treated as murder. However, in reality it is never so simple. We can't really be sure that what we are doing is painless to a creature. In fact, the commercial meat industry inflicts great pain to cows when they are slaughtered for beef. So even though we could conceive of situations in which we could kill an organism without causing any pain, in practice we can almost never be sure of this, so we should abstain from such acts.
And yet you advocate for what you consider "merely sentient" infants to be killed if such is desired. These statements are highly conflicting. Sure we know that certain things remove pain, and that overdoses remove that. However not all humans are the same, which makes me believe that not everything that causes one person pain, causes another person pain.
The point I was making in this paragraph is more or less compatible with what you said, which is that we cannot ever really be certain that an act of killing is painless. However, the question of abortion goes beyond this, as it deals with whether that inflicted pain can be justified in certain circumstances.