Metsfanmax wrote:john9blue wrote:Metsfanmax wrote:
The basic logic, which is fairly simple, is that to be a person, an organism needs to have the traits we normally associate with personhood (e.g. the ability to feel pain, and the ability to see oneself as existing over time).
comatose and unconscious people meet neither of these criteria. can we kill them all?
No. In the case of someone who is temporarily comatose or unconscious, one would obviously reach unintended conclusions if one applied directly the standard of presently seeing oneself as existing over time. Therefore the theory may be modified to be made more explicit by saying that a person is any being that has at some time been self-aware, even if they are not presently in this state (this is what I meant when I said that an organism has the ability to see oneself as existing over time -- it may not be exercising that ability at every moment, though). It can be modified even more if one were to discuss cases of humans in persistent vegetative states that are no longer capable of being self-aware, in which case one might want to extend the definition even further by saying that a person must have at some time been self-aware and also must be capable of being self-aware at some point in the future. These are complications on the main issue at hand, but do lead into interesting questions about how to treat, for example, brain-dead patients.TGD wrote:Metsfanmax wrote: At any rate, I choose this definition as a simple way to express self-awareness. If you do not like it, there are other definitions. For example, a crude definition would be that any organism capable of passing the mirror test is a person.wikipedia wrote:From the age of 6 to 12 months, the child typically sees a "sociable playmate" in the mirror's reflection.
So if you have a child, it would be perfectly okay for someone to kill that child before he or she reaches 12 months of age? Note, I'm not talking about a child; I'm talking about your child.
No, of course not. There are external reasons why it would be gravely wrong for someone to kill my newborn child -- namely, the distress it would cause to me (although this is largely hypothetical as I do not intend to have children). My argument is that it is wrong but it is not murder to kill a newborn child. Note that I specifically advocated a standard of one month after birth to be conservative, because there will certainly be some cases of children maturing faster than the norm.Metsfanmax wrote:Although there are plenty of reasons why the typical absolute right to life standard is flawed,
I would like to get into this. Why is the absolute right to life standard flawed if applied to your definition of a person?
My apologies again for the lack of clarity; I was referring to the traditional "absolute right to life of humans" standard that is often espoused by, for example, the Catholic Church. One reason it is flawed is, for example, the issue of twinning. Twins can be formed up to two weeks after conception, and this muddles the question of what it means for the newly conceived fetus to be a unique person. Another is that it demands that we can never actively terminate the life of a gravely ill patient in serious pain, yet doctors effectively (passively) do this all the time when they, for example, decide to stop treatment on such a patient that extends the agony. From the doctor's point of view, both decisions terminate a life, yet for some reason people call the first murder and the second being a good doctor.Metsfanmax wrote:One is either a person or not a person. Once a being is capable of forming memories and being self-aware, it is a person. You are not more of a person than when you were a young child, but you were not a person at all when you were a fetus. This is simply logically obvious. If you insist that you were a person as a fetus, then all you are doing is redefining "person" as "human being," in which case the entire meaning of the argument is lost.
Can you flesh this out some more? This is where I'm having trouble with respect to your definition. Let's ignore abortion for a second and focus on the idea of "personhood" and your definition (from what I can gather): namely, self-recognition. If a human being will eventually be a person, why is it okay to kill the human being?
Well, because we don't apply rights when the conditions for those rights have not been fulfilled. Prince Charles is next in line to be the head monarch of England, but we don't presently grant him the rights of the King just because he will someday hold that title. A President-elect has several months after being elected where we do not give this person access to the nuclear football.I'm also a bit concerned about your use of logic in what can only be considered a desire (namely, the ability or right to live).
There is no problem with it; in fact, it's the basis for my system of ethics (preference utilitarianism). Ultimately, reason and logic do not dictate what people's desires are; those desires are inputs that must be respected in a system of ethics. Perhaps for that reason, I don't believe in an absolute right to life for persons, but do believe that such an effective right springs from the categorical imperative. Namely, it is my desire not to be killed, so a proper universalization of that principle leads one to the principle that one should not murder.By the way, for those that care - Mets' definitions and reasoning are not the definitions and reasoning used in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
This is quite correct. My arguments are not accepted as any current legal doctrine; nevertheless, I find them to be compelling on philosophical grounds, even if I doubt that after-birth abortion will be accepted any time soon in this country.
Thanks. This was helpful. I obviously do not agree with you. I can't get past the idea that, of all the things we may call rights, the desire to live is the fiercest defended. Whether it is logical or not, most living organisms desire to live above all else.
I also cannot accept your definition of personhood (or your analogy - one that I thought of before posting, but thought I'd wait). It's not that we're treating a prince like a king in the event that he may become a king. It is not certain that prince will become king. It is virtually certain that a human being will become a person.
If we combine the two: a human being's desire to live plus that it is virtually certain a human being will become a person, it is unacceptable, to me, to hold your point of view. Logic and reason should not factor in to the determination of a "right" or "desire" to live.
It's disappointing that you don't want to have children. I cannot begin to explain how much illogical and unreasonable love I have for my own children.