Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life: Epilogue
Brody (Baruch)
Source: Brody - Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life : a Philosophical View, 1975, Epilogue
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  1. Abortion1 remains an important issue, though I am aware that there is a group of scholars and lay people who regard further discussion of it as fruitless or even eccentric. They are as certain of the resolutions they have made as I myself was when I was first asked to deal with the subject. It is easy enough to take the fetus2, hidden and unknown, as a being alien from humanity and to give no more thought to its destruction than to drowning of an unwanted kitten. Or, I suppose more correctly, even less thought, for I am aware that those who argue for unrestricted abortion3 have their own humane convictions, and many of them probably could not bring themselves to kill an animal but would support its life, make room for it, assume the burden of its dependence.
  2. How can this be? Three answers come to mind.
    • The first is that the killing of the fetus4 seems to be a necessary expedient to human, and particularly feminist, libertarianism.
    • The second is that the killing of the fetus5 is done by a medical procedure, and the same science that ordinarily preserves life in this case terminates it, and in such an abstract and "sanitary" manner that the real nature of the act can be quite suppressed.
    • The third is that pressing world problems of over-population and malnutrition can be used to provide a kind of social certification of the rightness of the act.
  3. We are by this time familiar enough with the method of argument by intuition and analogy used in this book, I hope, to be able to discover for ourselves that all of these answers are flawed. These flaws are not only errors but dangers to us and to all human kind. It is not necessary to prove that the world is now facing a variety of critical problems; the evidence is all around us. It is necessary, however, to point out strongly that in the kinds of remedies adopted, particularly to those problems that touch human life, we may either confirm and fulfill the moral intuitions that perhaps may be the ultimately distinguishing characteristic of humanity or abandon them and, believing we are safeguarding the species, actually set ourselves in the path that can lead only to loss of that characteristic and, in a much more profound sense, to the destruction of what it is we are trying to preserve.
  4. Already the global planners who seek to limit growth are using the word "triage" — a technical term applied to the treatment of battlefield casualties on the basis of a priority established by chance for survival — to describe the tasks ahead of us. Is there famine? Let some starve. Is there overpopulation? Correct it by famine. Do the old and the defective need help to survive? Do not supply it.
  5. We make a mistake if we think this is a new issue. To "decrease the surplus population" is a phrase we all remember, and it contains a motive that is as old as humanity itself. War is nothing but the implementation of that motive by public policy.
  6. Surely the urgent needs I describe require response. But they require a response that is consistent with our moral values. We can, of course, free ourselves from those values, but it is a stunted, faltering freedom that is the result. Surely, moreover, as we develop more accurate definitions of our needs, we ought to raise new solutions. But if the character of humanity is to survive, these solutions must be founded in our moral history. The great task before us is to find a better understanding of that history and to make a better application of it.
  7. I cannot imagine a moral argument that is not ultimately founded in intuition. Whatever we do, we act with what we have, and there is no way of getting beyond it. I suppose that is what the psalmist had in mind when he sang, "It is He Who has made us, and not we ourselves." And how we use intuition is to work by analogy, by moving from those circumstances in which our intuition is sure to connected circumstances that are the objects of our inquiry.
  8. The opportunities for the application of this method, are, of course, immense.


Also, photocopy in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 02 (B1: Ba - Be)".

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