The Relevance of Metaphysics to the Morality of Abortion
Hershenov (David) & Koch-Hershenov (Rose J.)
Source: Mind. (Resubmission Requested)
Paper - Abstract

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Authors’ Abstract

  1. Earl Conee has argued that the metaphysics of personal identity is irrelevant to the morality of abortion1. He claims that doing all the substantial work in abortion2 arguments are moral principles and they garner no support from rival metaphysics theories. Conee argues that not only can both immaterialist and materialist theories of the self posit our origins at fertilization, but positing such a beginning doesn’t even have any significant impact on the permissibility of abortion3.
  2. We argue that this thesis is wrong on both accounts. We do so, in part, by relying on a hylomorphic rather than a Cartesian conception of the soul. There are good reasons for believing such a soul theory can favor an earlier origin than the leading materialist accounts.
  3. We also show that the theological metaphysics of hylomorphism provide greater support for a pro-life position than the Cartesian position Conee discusses. However, we argue that even on a materialistic account of personal identity, metaphysics has substantial bearing upon the morality of early abortions4.


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