Abortion and Infanticide
Tooley (Michael)
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Author’s Introduction

  1. In recent years, the moral issues raised by abortion and, to a much lesser extent, by infanticide, have been the subject of vigorous and sustained discussion in philosophical circles. This book is addressed, however, not merely to philosophers, but to everyone who is seriously interested in the difficult moral questions raised by abortion, and who would like to see how the issues can be sharpened and clarified, and the discussion advanced, by a philosophically informed approach. Philosophy is, for many people, an unfamiliar subject. The book begins, therefore, with a brief account of the nature of philosophy in general, and of ethics in particular. This is followed by a discussion of some important techniques that philosophers frequently employ in thinking about ethical issues. The thrust of later discussions and arguments will be more easily grasped, I believe, given an appreciation of the nature of philosophy, together with an understanding of some of the underlying techniques and strategies that play a central role in philosophical thinking.
  2. The first part of the book also contains a brief discussion of some relevant, but unresolved issues in meta-ethics. Section 1.4 is concerned with the problem of whether moral principles can be objectively justified, and if so, how, while section 1.5 deals with the question of the role that appeal to moral intuitions may appropriately play in an evaluation of ethical views.
  3. The second part of the book focuses upon abortion. The discussion here has two main aspects. First, it is necessary to determine what the basic, underlying issues are. This task is much less straightforward than it might seem to those unfamiliar with philosophical discussions in this area. We shall come to see, in fact, that virtually all public debate on the question of the morality of abortion fails to grapple with the fundamental moral issues.
  4. The crucial questions having been isolated, the next step is to consider alternative answers that might be advanced, together with the most important considerations that can be offered for and against each. We shall see that some of the issues are philosophically very difficult, and that it is by no means obvious what the correct view is. None the less, I believe that when alternative possibilities are subjected to close critical scrutiny, it can be shown that there is at most a very limited range of answers that are intellectually acceptable.
  5. Most current discussions of abortion tend to treat it in isolation from the question of the morality of infanticide. One of the central contentions to be advanced here is that it is very difficult indeed to arrive at a defensible position on abortion unless one is prepared to come to terms with the difficult issue of the moral status of infanticide. The third part of the book, therefore, deals with infanticide. Here I attempt to do three main things.
    1. First, I argue that the question of the morality of infanticide cannot be settled by appealing to moral intuitions, contrary to what many contemporary philosophers appear to believe.
    2. Second, I survey the historical and anthropological background, in order to put the question in a slightly different perspective, and one which will, I hope, facilitate a more dispassionate approach to the question.
    3. Finally, I consider the most important arguments bearing upon the issue of the morality of infanticide. One of the conclusions that I attempt to establish is that this issue cannot be resolved without taking a very careful look at human development, and I therefore go on to offer a fairly detailed summary of what is currently known about relevant aspects of human development, both before and after birth.
  6. The final part of the book contains
    1. a brief summary of the main conclusions,
    2. a general survey of some of the important methodological considerations that have guided the discussion, and
    3. an indication of those areas where further examination appears to be needed before there can be a completely satisfactory resolution of some of the problems discussed here.

    1. Ethics, Meta-ethics, and Philosophical Thinking – 5
      1.1 The Nature of Philosophy
      1.2 Ethics
      1.3 The Clarification and Evaluation of Ethical Positions
      1.4 The Problem of Objective Justification
      1.5 Moral Intuitions and the Problem of Method
    1. Abortion — Introductory Remarks – 33
    2. The Relevance of the Moral Status of the Foetus – 40
    3. Persons and Human Beings – 50
      4.1 The Distinction and its Importance
      4.2 The Moral Irrelevance of Species Membership
      4.3 The Appeal to Essentialism
    4. The Concept of a Person – 87
      5.1 Introductory Remarks
      5.2 Persons and Rights
      5.3 Interests, Rationality, Agency, and Self-consciousness
      5.4 The Question of Capacities
      5.5 Death and the Concept of a Person
    5. Potential Persons - 165
      6.1 Potential Persons, Latent Persons, and Possible Persons
      6.2 Potentialities and the Conservative Position on Abortion
      6.3 The Morality of Destroying Potential
    6. Possible Persons – 242
      7.1 Hare’s Golden Rule Argument
      7.2 Roupas's Objective Value Argument
      7.3 Obligations to Produce Additional Persons:
        7.31 Obligations to Individuals
        7.32 Wronging or Harming Individuals
        7.33 Parfit and the Identity Problem
      7.4 The Repudiation of Obligations to Produce Additional Persons: A Third Attempt
        7.41 Parfit's Mere Addition Argument
        7.42 A Response to the Mere Addition Argument
        7.43 A Third Attempt
        7.44 Anglin and the Extra Person Obligation
        7.45 Sikora's Argument
        7.46 McMahan's Objections
      7.5 Summing Up
    7. Moderate Positions on Abortion – 285
      8.1 A Classification of Moderate Views on Abortion
      8.2 A Moderate View of Abortion: Initial Difficulties
      8.3 Can the Difficulties Be Surmounted?
    8. A Brief Summary – 303
    1. Present-day Attitudes, and the Historical and Anthropological Background – 309
      10.1 Present-day Attitudes: Is there a Need for a New Perspective?
      10.2 The Historical and Anthropological Background
    2. Objections to Infanticide – 323
      11.1 Introductory Remarks
      11.2 Arguments Examined in the Discussion of Abortions
      11.3 Infanticide as Wronging Persons
      11.4 Infanticide as Destroying Persons: Preliminary Considerations
        11.41 Introductory Remarks
        11.42 A Metaphysical Approach
      11.5 Infanticide as Destroying Persons: The Scientific Evidence
        11.51 Introductory Remarks
        11.52 The Views of Kluge and Blumenfeld
        11.53 The Scientific Evidence: Human Psychological Development
        11.54 The Scientific Evidence: Human Neurophysiological Development
        11.55 Conclusion
      11.6 Infanticide Destroys Quasi-Persons
      11.7 The Consequences of Accepting Infanticide
  4. END
    1. Summary and Conclusions – 419
    INDEX – 434


Clarendon Press (27 Oct. 1983)

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