Re: Arguments from Nonexistence. Was: Extropians and animal rights

joe dees (
Fri, 15 Jan 1999 15:05:24 -0500

At Fri, 15 Jan 1999 09:00:55 -0000, you wrote:
>-----Original Message-----
>From: <>
>>I understand but disagree with the arguments that yield the "conservative"
>>stance. It seems less a simple inconsistency than a skewed prioritizing
>>of the lives of potential beings over existing ones. As for the corollary
>>"liberal" inconsistency, notice that the whiff of paradox vanishes if the
>>"liberal" permits abortions for both human and nonhuman animals, while
>>also pooh-poohing the consumption of either human or nonhuman animals as
>>food. Again, existing beings have priority over nonexisting ones. No
>>inconsistency at all. Best, Dale
>The basic argument is
>1) Killing people is wrong.
>2) Foetuses are people.
>Most people would go with statement 1, less people with statement 2.
>The problem being that it's hard to define when a foetus becomes a person.
>For instance, my father is a neonatologist specialising in premature babies.
>I know his NICU has dealt with babies down to 22 weeks gestation and they
>have survived. This would seem to indicate higher personhood than the ball
>of 8 cells that they are a teensy bit earlier in their gestation. Only
>counting people as people when they are born seems a tad arbitrary.
A professor of mine once asserted that he would be willing to grant full rights of personhood to fetuses the moment they petitioned for same - his point being that it is an act of bad faith to assign personhood rights to organisms that do not and never have possessed the subjectivity essential to the exercise of freedom and choice, and cannot assume any responsibility correlative to such rights. To claim that the embryo or fetus possesses a unique DNA sequence is no argument for its being granted equal status with a functioning member of society, unless one is prepared to defend an entirely chemical definition of conscious human life. A fetus is not a potential human being, it is possibly an potential human being (1/3 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, a fact which makes christians squeamish, for it means that their god is far and away the universe's most prolific abortionist). When the rights and freedoms of an actual human being, with a unique subjectivity, an individ! ual personal history, and an existent and continuing participation in a web of social interrelations, are weighed against the alleged rights of a possibly potential human being, who (and "who" does not even actually apply here) lacks all of these, the rights of the actual person must take precedence.

Joe E. Dees
Poet, Pagan, Philosopher

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