Saturday, July 27, 2002

TF Barans

As promised, TF Baran's response to my brief comments on Phil's argument against embryonic personhood (see the earlier post from today below).

TF comments thus:

Clever observation, but at a more serious level it fails to consider several critical points.

First, you have got to know that I'm going to point out the difference between human "life" and human "personhood" -- and that what dies between fertilization and early pregnancy is human "life" (as are eggs, sperms and many forms of cell tissue) but has none of the ACTUAL qualities of an actual human person, but merely the POTENTIAL of possibly developing them in the future. This is especially true of the many fertilizatons that occur but which die very early without even becoming attached to the uterine lining.

Second, even if someone does actually consider the embryonic fertilized material to be a human person, there is a real difference between "someone" dying at the start of their expected life span, before they have had any actual experiences of being a person (and I would reiterate before they have the capacity for experiencing personhood because they are not persons yet), and at the end of a reasonable life span when they have actually lived life and experienced personhood.

Third, if one considers "risk" in purely relative terms, and considers "risk" to the one PERSON involved whose personhood is not in question -- the pregnant woman -- it is not only obvious but supported by extensive statistical evidence that carrying a pregnancy to full term is far more hazardous than abortion. The only reason to bring it up at all is that sometimes the objection to abortion is shrouded in a rather silly argument that it is risky to the woman.

In the course of my discussion with TF previously, I often proposed the definition of personhood which I posted previously: a person is a being which has the active capacity to reason and freely-will. TF has never really grasped this definition, or at least she doesn't seem to have done so on the basis of our discussions. That this is so is seen in her first point, in which she argues that the embryo lacks actual personal qualities, and therefore is not a person. On the contrary, the embryo does have one of the essential elements of personhood: it has the active capacity (i.e. a capacity which it develops of itself, and is not developed by an external action) to reason and freely-will.

She then points out that there is a difference between a person dying at the beginning of their life and and the end. So there is, but it has no significance vis. the moral and ontological status of said person.

Finally, she points to the dangers of pregnancy for the mother, but along the way begs the question of the personhood of the embryo.

I'd invite you to go to TF Baran's essay (linked in the earlier post today), read it, and -- if you have the time -- engage her in a charitable discussion of embryonic personhood. You'll definitely learn how to argue for your position, and -- who knows? -- you might make some progress with showing her the truth of that position.

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