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Article > Humanity's Two Dilemmas
Description :: A logical argument for and against declassifying human beings
You've already ignored me haven't you. Come back! I'm not that longwinded right? :)

It seems like the issue of abortion is talked about all the time in the sense that people sit down and say words at each other. It also seems like no one is ever convinced because each party 1) villifies the other and 2) has different definitions. Pro-lifers become people that want to control a woman's body. Pro-choicers become blood-thirsty savages who consciously destroy their offspring before they are even born.

So here's my work in progress to logically discuss the issue.

Background

Before you can agree or disagree with my argument, we need to establish a dialogue.

This entire issue revolves around the concept of Personhood. "Lifers" like myself think that the fetus is a person. Pro-choice advocates by and large believe that the fetus is not a person. Lets remember also that the standard used to be that a fetus was a person. I can find evidence from medical magazines that says essentially "If we want to have abortion, we will have to change our culture's reticence about this issue." This statement comes from a view of morality I do not share, however, I must analyze it.

Lets quickly examine the Lifer perspective. Many lifers are pro-life / anti-abortion because their religious stance leads them to believe that the fetus is a person. That is they believe that there is an objective standard apart from man for what a person is and that that objective standard includes all human beings. They would argue that we've come out of the dark ages of declassifying other human beings as persons (like the Jews were in the Holocaust and like the slaves were during that period of American history). They believe that all humans are people. This is a fairly natural definition, but that means nothing in and of itself.

Now for the pro-choice perspective. I don't claim to know everything about it, but I do know that almost all (if not all) of them believe that there is not an objective standard for what a person is. If this is true, then the idea of personhood is simply a cultural construct. The idea came from somewhere. This idea did not not come from a source greater than man (i.e. a god)...it came from mankind itself. Such people can point to the idea behind our government and say that the government has no business enforcing religious morality..it is to remain apart from religion. Thus, if the people change, the definition changes, and they would argue, the people have changed. We used to believe that the fetus was a person (no one worth talking to about this issue believes that it is not Homo Sapiens Sapiens). Now we believe a human gains personhood at birth. That is when we begin counting their age. This is fairly natural. I have not heard a pro-choice advocate answer the question about the difference between declassifying fetii and declassifying a race.

The attempt to logically analyze declassification of humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) as persons

Lets take what we know, that is, either there is an objective standard for personhood or NOT(there is an objective standard for personhood). There is no middle ground by the Law of Excluded Middle and the definition of dilemma and one of them must be true (and the other false) by the Law of Noncontradiction. Remember that. It is key to this discussion.

If there is an objective standard for personhood, then it is not for the courts to decide. It is not for the people to decide. If we have an objective standard apart from humanity, that standard is not made, it is discovered. It has already been decided. This makes Roe vs Wade look rather silly since the idea behind battling this subject out in court is in direct conflict with the idea of an objective standard. It is like the Legislature trying to revoke the law of gravity. Try. It could be funny.

Else, that is, if NOT(there is an objective standard for personhood) then we have another dilemma. Does humanity then have the right to define itself? Is personhood derived from the humanity (i.e. is the idea of personhood a cultural context)?

I would argue that if there is no objective standard for personhood, then humanity can make her own standard if she "pleases." We make laws to enforce a vague idea of what we believe is Just and to protect ourselves from those who are selfish or disorderly. Even the logical laws of thought that we use to govern discourse and which are the foundations of Logic and Mathematics and Science are axioms..definitions, or perhaps theories so foundational so as to be thought of as self evident. If this is the case, then man can define personhood in whatever way is advantageous.

What if we do not have the right, but there is no objective source either? Well, that pretty much kills Roe vs Wade and the entire debate as it is currently waged. This is a line of thought which either needs to be dismissed or researched more thoroughly. I do not know what source we can have which is not objective and not subjective, but that doesn't mean one doesn't exist. However, this seems unlikely since such a non-objective and non-subjective source seems to be unknown to the human race. It is unknown to me.

I'll address the remainder of this article to the line of reasoning which has the condition NOT(there is objective standard for personhood) and that humanity has the right to define it.

The issue of how advantageous it is for humanity to create its own standard for personhood is quite complex, however, it is important to realize that it is arbitrary. It is completely open to the whims of the culture. Notice also that "The culture" is rather hard to define as there are subcultures and since cultures very frequently collide. What if a person A who was born in Country X and raised in Religion G and person B from Country Y and raised in religion H have a fetus and person A (the female) wants to abort it? What if they live together in Country Z, a country which is predominately Religion I? Can Country Z which outlaws abortion ask another country to extradite a person they view as a murderer? Which culture's standard shall we take? What if a person has their own personal beliefs that no one else shares? Shall we stomp on them simply because they're different?

The main problem that faces us however under this condition is that if humanity has the right to define personhood such that some humans are not persons, this gives humanity the arbitrary right to kill them. Face it, fetuses undergo treatment that we would not wish on our enemy's dog and that would be illegal to inflict on wildlife (I love the bunny in a blender argument). Okay the dog one was mostly a joke...maybe you have a really bad enemy or bad enemy's bad dog that you wish to dissolve in acid or cut to pieces with surgical equipment and then vacuum up. In other words (probably better, less colorful words), The biggest disadvantage to this condition is that it validates the holocaust, the mistreatment of slaves, and genocide in general. If there is no objective standard, then don't apply an objective standard. If there is no objective standard, then don't expect your subjective standard to apply to all of humanity.

Notice: This is not a slippery slope argument. I am not saying "If you allow abortion, you will create more holocausts." While this is possible, (probable if you ask me, but you didn't), the logic is really much more abstract then that. The issue is not "can we declassify fetuses in specific." It's "can we declassify any given human class..taking away their status as a person." If the second is true, then the first is true. But we cannot apply an objective standard and then say that there is no objective standard. This is really and truly a yes or no question (not a complex question or a false dilemma). Under this condition, humanity can and you can bet that we will never all agree as to how it should be done. (As a sidenote, I also find that if you are going to poll the "culture" it would be fascinating to include children. As another sidenote, I don't believe the Supreme Court polled anyone. They polled themselves.) It is also not taking advantage of a "division" fallacy argument whereby it may be that humanity is only allowed to make certain divisions for personhood but not others. This violates the "no objective standard" of this condition so there can be no such argument of a division fallacy.

Now that we have that covered, there are many advantages socially to declassifying certain groups of human beings. If you declassify fetuses (fetii?), you can experiment on them to make medicines, learn to perfect the human race through genetic engineering, and avoid troublesome, emotionally painful (because of rape or some such thing), expensive or embarrassing childbirth. If you declassify old people or poverty stricken people, you can test these medicines and get them to market much more quickly. Indeed, we could make a classification of fetii that will never be people, and then use them for spare parts and medicine tests, protecting those of us who are people. If you declassify the super rich, you can distribute their wealth to the multitudes of poor people who, some argue, will spend it "better." If you declassify your enemy, you can kill him like the animal you have made him and feel no guilt. Now, at least one of these probably disgusts or angers you. (I certainly hope so, but my opinion comes from the first condition; it has no place here.) Perhaps you feel I am making a straw man argument; attacking one reason for liking abortion with another one that is obviously flawed. To make such a claim ignores the subjective and arbitrary nature of cultural contexts or, more logically, the complete abscence of an objective standard for personhood. A cultural context different then your own is not obviously flawed; please try to be open minded. To be sure, our ancestors are turning in their graves at what we do now, but they should understand that its all relative. No indeed, this is not a straw man argument, but my attempt to best play the devil's advocate. When I began this paragraph, I thought the disadvantage of holocaust was too great, but I realize some may not see it that way. If I weigh all of these advantages against the cost of holocaust perhaps we will find that it is indeed worth the cost to society for the rich gains of declassification of human beings. Imagine if we could remake ourselves in the image we wish through genetic engineering. We could be more attractive. We could be smarter and live longer. We could be far more resistent to disease; find a cure for aids and for cancer..or perhaps weed out the gene that causes cancer. We could clone our finest soldiers and make an invincible army. Such a culture; one that accepts human nature and the arbitrary and subjective nature of cultural contexts could be great and powerful. The advantages just might outweigh the disadvantages. An army of clones against an army of animals. We could wage a war to end all wars and usher in peace for thousands of years. We could begin to explore space without worrying about our borders; without worrying about who was starving in what country. Perhaps we should start now. Lets not pretend that health, intelligence, attractiveness, military might, medicine..that these things do not give us great advantage. Are we to say that to remake ourselves in the image we desire, are we to say this is objectively wrong? By no means...that violates the condition that we are operating under in this paragraph. There is no "sort of" objective standard for personhood. It either is or it is not. You cannot have the sudden legalization of abortion via cultural contexts with an objective standard for personhood. You cannot prohibit the things listed above via cultural contexts with a system with no objective standard for personhood.

So, given this information and whatever evidence about life you've gathered, I'll let you make up your own mind, but don't give yourself the false comfort that this logic utilizes a false dilemma or a straw man. The cost of holocaust may be great. It may not be. It is up to you to decide for yourself whether it is up to humanity to decide. As for me, I'd better stop writing..I feel a little ill.

~Ensis

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Owned by Ensis Involucrus - Created on 07/08/2003 - Last edited on 07/15/2003

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