Embryos, Souls, and the Fourth Dimension
Shoemaker (David)
Source: Social Theory & Practice, Jan2005, Vol. 31 Issue 1, p51-75, 25p
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. This article addresses ontological arguments pertaining to the status of human embryos1.
  2. Several questions have played a major role in the longstanding abortion2 debate, of course, which nevertheless generally focuses not on the embryo3 but on the fetus4.
  3. Specifically, abortion5 theorists typically want to figure out what the ontological status of the fetus6 is, that is, into what category of the world it fits, and what its ontological status implies, if anything, about its moral status, that is, how entities categorized-like-that ought to be treated.
  4. Fetuses7, though, especially late-stage fetuses8, at least resemble clear-cut human beings – specifically infants – rather closely, and so granting them the ontological status of human beings is a rather easy pill for many to swallow.
  5. The stem cell issue is primarily a public policy issue, but despite the fact that this debate is taking place within secular democracies like the U.S. and the Great Britain, religious arguments against such research are regularly heard and taken into consideration by various public advisory committees, leaving many secular liberals with their collective jaws agape.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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