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Philosophy 304 Sample Questions

1. What does Judith Jarvis Thomson find to be mistaken in the conservative position regarding abortion? Describe thoroughly the analogies she uses to make her case.

1. Judith Jarvis Thomson: Finds the conservative position to be mistaken regarding abortion.

• The conservative position commonly spends most of their time establishing that the fetus is a person, but the moral impermissibility of abortion doesn’t follow simply from the admission that the fetus (as a person) has the right to life. In her view, the right to life is to be understood as the right not to be killed unjustly and does not entail the right to use another person’s body. The fetus’ right to life outweighs the mothers right to decide what happens in and to her body unless the mother is in an extenuating circumstance in which she did not voluntarily become pregnant or the mother’s life in danger because of the fetus.

The Violinist Analogy
• You are asked to imagine a famous violinist falling into a coma. The society of music lovers determines from medical records that you and you alone can save the violinist's life by being hooked up to him for nine months. The music lovers break into your home while you are asleep and hook the unconscious (and unknowing, hence innocent) violinist to you. You may want to unhook him, but you are then faced with this argument put forward by the music lovers: The violinist is an innocent person with a right to life. Unhooking him will result in his death. Therefore, unhooking him is morally wrong.
• For the same reason, Thomson says, abortion does not violate the fetus' right to life but merely deprives the fetus of something—the use of the pregnant woman's body—to which it has no right. Thus, it is not that by terminating her pregnancy a woman violates her moral obligations, but rather that a woman who carries the fetus to term is a 'Good Samaritan' who goes beyond her obligations

The Expanding Baby Analogy
• In almost all instances, a woman’s right to abortion may hinge on the doctor’s willingness to perform it. If the doctor refuses, then the woman is denied her right. Accordingly, in this analogy you are asked to imagine being trapped in a very tiny house with a very rapidly growing child. You are already up against the wall of the house and in a few minutes you’ll be crushed to death. However, the child won’t be crushed to death; if nothing is done to stop him from growing he’ll be hurt, but in the end he’ll simply burst open the house and walk out a free man.
• A third party (abortion doctor) indeed cannot make the choice to kill either the person being crushed or the child. However, this does not mean that the person being crushed cannot act in self-defense and attack the child to save his or her own life. To liken this to pregnancy, the mother can be thought to be the house, the fetus the growing-child. In such a case, the mother’s life is being threatened, and the fetus is the one who threatens it. Because for no reason should the mother’s life be threatened, and also for no reason is the fetus threatening it, both are innocent, and thus no third party can intervene. But, Thomson says, the person threatened can intervene, by which justification a mother can rightfully abort.

People Seeds Analogy
• As opposed to cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, it seems reasonable to think that a woman who voluntarily engages in sex with the full knowledge that she might become pregnant, it seems the fetus has some claim to live off of the mother. But even this depends on the details. Suppose people-seeds drifted about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpet or upholstery. You don’t want children, so you fit your windows with a fine mesh, the very best you can buy. As it happens, one somehow slips through and takes root. Does this person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house?
• If the people-seeds do not have a right to live and develop in your living room carpet, why should a fetus have a right to live in the womb of a woman who has conscientiously used contraception, but which has failed through no fault of the woman?

Minimally decent Samaritan: Suppose you decide to have a baby and get a great career opportunity, can you change your mind? She says no: a minimally decent person has the obligation to deliver at this point.

2. Grab Bag. Answer all
A. What is Marry Anne Warren’s criticism of the traditional conservative argument against abortion?

*traditional conservative argument*
1. It is wrong to kill a innocent HUMAN BEING
2. A fetus is a innocent HUMAN BEING
3. Thus it is wrong to kill a fetus

The traditional conservative argument against abortion is the a fetus is “human” in the moral sense. Therefore killing a “human” is wrong and should not be done. Mary Ann Warren believes that there is no stage of fetal development at which a fetus resembles a person enough to have a significant right to life. Also, a fetus’s potential for being a person does not provide a basis for the claim that it has a significant right to life.

• Warren also believes that a woman's right to obtain an abortion is ABSOLUTE and there should be no legal restrictions on her decision.
• She believes that there are 2 senses of the term “human” that the conservative argument ignores. o “human” in the genetic sense- when one is a member of the biological species Homo Sapiens o “human” in the moral sense when one is a full fledged member of the moral community

Ultimately stating that conservatives have failed to make the distinction between a fetus and human

B. What is the lecturer’s criticism(s) of Lee and George

Lee and George both hold a conservative position on the issue of abortion. They believe that the human organism, beginning at conception, is a human being in every sense of the term. They also provide biological facts about sexual reproduction. They challenge JJ Thomson and Mary Anne Warren’s philosophies.

LECTURER’S CRITICISM

1. The Lecturer believes that Marry Warren’s view on dualism is correct.
2. Lee and George’s attack on JJ Thomson completely misunderstands Thomson’s position on abortion being intentional and justified.
3. Lee and George feel that all abortion is wrong except life saving abortion BUT they ignore women’s rights. What about a 14 year old rape victim that comes up pregnant and has no intention, nor the means to raise a child that she did not plan for?

• They give the fetus more priority than the rights of a 14 years old rape victim

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