- In Chapter 15 Michael Tooley asks why and when we may kill embryos2 and fetuses3.
- The answer depends on the nature of persons and the nature of life; if we were never embryos4 or fetuses5 it seems more plausible to say that killing them carries far less significance than killing persons.
- The answer also depends on what an individual's interests are and on what sort of harm death may do to its victims.
- Tooley criticizes Don Marquis' widely discussed view concerning the ethics of abortion6. According to Tooley, Marquis objects to abortion7 on the grounds that (typically) it violates the principle that it is wrong to deprive a human being of valuable states which it otherwise would have had - states that normal human beings, such as you and I, enjoy.
- Tooley says that this principle is flawed, and hence Marquis' case against abortion8 fails. According to Tooley, you and I are neo-Lockean persons, which are roughly continuing subjects of mental states, that form memories, and that have various other sorts of psychological features, and whatever it is that makes killing us wrong would also make it wrong to kill other neo-Lockean persons.
- Yet something need not be an organism to be a neo-Lockean person; these might include angels and sophisticated machines that are not even alive.
- In place of Marquis' account, Tooley offers a rights-based account, according to which all and only neo-Lockean persons have a right9 to continued existence.
- As for fetuses10, they are organisms, but not persons, and organisms do not have the right to continued existence.
Footnote 1: Taken from "Luper (Steven) - The Cambridge Companion to Life and Death: Introduction".
- The reference to Locke may annoy animalists, but this is not really a question of what personal identity consists in, but what persons (qua persons, as distinct from “we”) are.
- What worries me is the “each and only” and the black-and-whiteness of the claims.
- If personhood is a property of something else, it can come in degrees, and the responsibilities we have to such persons will presumably vary to that degree, though there are many other factors.
- In addition, non-personhood is a matter of degree, and the responsibility (if any) of persons for non-persons is a matter of degree. We have a greater of responsibility to a chimpanzee (or a late term human fetus) than to a cow and … to a maggot.
- Rights are nonsense on stilts.
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