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   Abortion Debates
     Ronald Dworkin
       Legality vs. Moral Permissibility

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Sarah2006

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Has anyone ever read Ronald Dworkin’s Life’s Dominion? I consider myself to be pro-life, but I recently studied this particular book in a philosophy class and his argument is fairly compelling, although there are problems with it. Remember this argument is his not mine, but I would like to know what both pro-lifers and pro-choicers think about it. This is a very simple summary of his argument and some of the arguments and terms are used very broadly, but the point still comes across.
He first tries to figure out what the abortion debate is really about. He argues that, even though everyone thinks it is about whether or not a conceptus has rights and interests, it cannot be about that. If it were, then most of the population would be inconsistent in their beliefs. Pro-lifers who believe that the conceptus does have rights and interests are inconsistent, because many or most of them approve of abortion in special cases such as danger to the mother’s life or rape. Pro-choicers on the other hand who generally believe that conceptus do not have rights or interests are inconsistent because they tend to become nervous when women have abortions for very frivolous reasons or for their sole means of birth control. So he argues that the debate cannot really be about that because then both sides are being inconsistent. So he looks for what it could really be about and starts with something we all agree upon, namely the sanctity of life. Everyone agrees that there is value to human life. Dworkin goes on to point out that there are two aspects of human life; the human contribution, the work and energy that we as humans put into life; and the natural contribution, the biological fact of just existing. This is where Dworkin believes that the sides of the abortion debate are divided. He argues that pro-lifers believe that nature’s contribution is more valuable than the human contribution to life, and that pro-choicers believe that the human contribution to life is more valuable. This accounts for the inconsistencies in both sides beliefs as while a pro-lifer will disapprove of abortion in most cases, they do agree that since the human contribution to the mother’s life is so great, there are cases where it overpowers nature’s contribution of the fetus and in those cases abortion is permissible. It also accounts for pro-choicers inconsistencies in that when there is no human contribution to life at stake you should not necessarily frivolously throw away nature’s contribution.
Here’s where I think his argument is the most interesting: From this he goes onto say that since this decision over nature’s contribution to life and human’s contribution to life is very spiritual, it is therefore a religious decision. Religious decisions are protected by freedom of religion in the United States. So he concludes that the choice of an abortion should be protected by law, even if the moral permissibility of it is uncertain.
This is where his argument really makes me question if abortion should be illegal or not. While I personally think that it is morally wrong to have an abortion, I also think that it is morally wrong to have premarital sex or drink excessively, but that does not mean those things should be outlawed. His argument does make sense about abortion being a religious decision, and in some ways, it seems like he could potentially be right about it being protected by law. While some of us may think it is wrong, does that mean we can enforce those morals on others. Yes, we can try to convince other’s that it is wrong, but should it be illegal. I personally don’t know anymore, but I wanted to know what you guys thought about the argument.

Sarah
 


Posts: 43 | Posted: 5:05 PM on January 15, 2003 | IP
fallingupwards84

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if what this guy said was true (that pro-lifers value nature's contribution more, and pro-choicers value human contribution more), than pro-choicers would be in favor of single mother abandoning or killing her newborn baby if she cannot afford it. after all, it should be her choice since she has to raise it, correct? and she contributes more to society than the new born baby currently is. so why not just kill it? fortunatly, that is not what pro-choicers believe (although some extreme extreme womens rights groups believe that a mother has the right to destroy a retarded newborn baby...after it is born, because it is her choice).

you say that just because we may think something is morally wrong, that should not make it illegal. what about stealing? what about murder? we think that those are morally wrong (and some people dont). so does that mean they should not be illegal?


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i am a liberal chrisitian and proud of it!!!

"Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most - that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least." - Eugene Debs
 


Posts: 971 | Posted: 5:20 PM on January 15, 2003 | IP
Sarah2006

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They value it more, but not entirely.  That is why they do not allow abortion once it is a viable fetus(except in extreme circumstances).  What youre talking about is an extreme.  Besides, she would have just had an abortion before it was born in the example you gave.  If she really had money problems and abortion would be cheaper than having the baby at all.

The two are different even though they frequently coincide.  Stealing is something that hurts everyone, so in order to protect ourselves we in our society agree that stealing is illegal.  Same with murder.  The people who don't think those things are wrong are extremes, and don't make a very good point.  What you say would suggect there should be no laws at all which is not so.  Generally things which are illegal are considered morally wrong, but not everything considered morally wrong is illegal.  Thats the difference between personal morals and societal law, and that was my point in posting it.  Muslims think it is immoral for women to show skin in public, muslims live in the U.S., but just because they think it is immoral doesn't mean it should be illegal.  Christians think it is immoral to take the Lord's name in vain, but it isn't illegal.  Jews think that it is immoral to eat pork, but that doesn't mean it is (or should be) illegal.  Do you see the difference between personal and societal morality.  Take a Philosophy Class in morality some time it is really interesting and will explain this ocncept better than I can.  The point it, since legality and personal morality are not always the same.  Just because I as a Christian find abortion immoral, should it be illegal???  

Sarah

(Edited by Sarah2006 1/15/2003 at 5:34 PM).
 


Posts: 43 | Posted: 5:32 PM on January 15, 2003 | IP
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What I think is funny about this situation is our country's absolute stupidity concerning all things "moral" or "ethical". Do you know that if you kill a pregnant woman, you are charged for the murder of TWO PEOPLE? Wait a minute... I thought that fetuses weren't alive?! How can we say, on one hand, that fetuses aren't alive, yet on the other hand, that killing a pregnant woman is murdering TWO LIVES? It says in THE Bible (there is only one true Bible) that "thou shalt not murder". How then can we justify the KILLING of many innocent lives each year? (Yes, they are alive, contrary to popular belief.) Our country was founded on Biblical principles; how we have gotten so far from our original standards is absolutely beyond my comprehension.
 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 11:15 PM on January 15, 2003 | IP
fallingupwards84

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because our country sucks


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i am a liberal chrisitian and proud of it!!!

"Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most - that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least." - Eugene Debs
 


Posts: 971 | Posted: 10:01 PM on January 16, 2003 | IP
AlexanderTheGreat

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our country does not suck. America s great. I am a second-class citizen and I still love it. if you hate America why don't you move?


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Alex
 


Posts: 292 | Posted: 2:39 PM on January 17, 2003 | IP
fallingupwards84

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because i cant. i dont have any money. canada or sweden sound really nice though


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i am a liberal chrisitian and proud of it!!!

"Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most - that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least." - Eugene Debs
 


Posts: 971 | Posted: 3:41 PM on January 17, 2003 | IP
fallingupwards84

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alex, anyone who is not very wealthy is a second-class citizen. americans hate to admit this, but we are NOT a classless society. there are three classes: the very wealthy, the middle class, and the poor. i belong to the middle class, therefore i am a second class citizen. i do not have the same opportunities has a first class citizen. we all have capitalism to thank for this.


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i am a liberal chrisitian and proud of it!!!

"Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most - that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least." - Eugene Debs
 


Posts: 971 | Posted: 3:44 PM on January 17, 2003 | IP
Sarah2006

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I responded to your post in the politics thread, it is under "what would you prefer."  I just didn't think this was the appropriate place for a politics discussion

Sarah
 


Posts: 43 | Posted: 4:19 PM on January 17, 2003 | IP
AlexanderTheGreat

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first of all, any one who thinks america is classless is a moron. 2nd, i think you are right that everyone should have the same opportunity. however, i don't think everyone having the same condition is a practical goal. therefore, just because you are middle class does not in and of itself make you a 2nd class citizen. i mean an inequalityf rights, not condition. hey, i only have 600 dollars, no job, and no home, and i'm not complaining


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Alex
 


Posts: 292 | Posted: 5:07 PM on January 17, 2003 | IP
    
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