Abortion: Function versus Essence

Discussion for Christian perspectives on ethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, sexuality, and so forth.
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Abortion: Function versus Essence

#1

Post by Forge » Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:00 pm

AnbortMan, haven't been on here in ages. What's up, people.


Anyway, gotten myself into a debate with abortion. In short, the main argument now is functionalism versus essense, whether or not functionalilty equals essence or whether essence dictates function. Being an Essencist (?) I take the anti-abortion stance, while the other person is a functionalist, and takes the pro-abortion stance. Right now, I'm a loss how to coherently respond to this:
(By the way this person is an atheist who nonetheless believes murder is wrong. Where we disagree is whether abortion kills a person. The more non-religion-specific the coutnerarguments I can get, the better)
As I said, the criterion is FUNCTIONALITY, not FUNCTION. FUNCTIONALITY can be defined as the capability of something, to function.

People who who still have functioning brains ALWAYS display brain activity, as minimal as it may be, during prolonged comas, dreamless sleep, unconsciousness, drug induced sleep, sometimes enough to retain memories such as voices, or the doctor who does their pupil check, and most of the time enough for them to retain the capability to walk, talk, think, rationalize and function like human beings once they wake up. Braindead people don't ever wake up from being brain dead, the term braindead is used when the brain is damaged beyond repair. If my brain was ever damaged so, I would expect my family to pull the plug on me so that I don't uselessly suck on resources until the damage reaches my vital functions coordination center and finishes the job, or in the case that doesn't happen, until my body finally gives up, which is inevitable in all cases of brain death.

A car that is turned off, can be turned on again. A car that has been damaged beyond repair, can't. Hence a car that is turned off is still a car, while the damaged car is scrap. A car in the midst of being built is just materials that are coming together nicely into a car, but it is not a car yet. Same goes for humans, a braindead person is a corpse, and a fetus is just cells coming together to form a person, but it is not a person yet. It does not feel, it does not think, it does not rationalize, it does nothing but suck on resources and it is uncapable to do anything else.

So, let me rephrase my definition. A person is a self aware living being with the capability (not the potential) to think, rationalize, and feel emotions. A 3 month old fetus does not yet possess the capability to do that. The guy in the dreamless sleep, the guy in the drugged stupor, the guy with in a temporary coma, and such, retain the capability to think, and in the case of the dreamless sleep there's a lot more brain activity going on there than you realize. Those people, though not thinking at the moment, are still functional, they're just not functioning. The fetus is not functional as a person because it is not capable of functioning like a person.
If you guys need context, ask away.
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#2

Post by Kurieuo » Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:33 am

Whatever function they define as meaningful, would extend to the born world also. Therefore those people with lesser or reduced "function" (in whatever they defined as functionally meaningful) are less important and therefore should be bestowed lesser rights.

Someone with brain damage for instance should not be accorded full human rights, for the person who defined brain functionality the important defining feature. They are lesser than human is someone of a functional persuasion is consistent with their view.

Just take their line of thinking to the logical conclusion and the absurdities and prejudice will be revealed.

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#3

Post by Forge » Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:32 am

The problem is, though, is that he seesm to have an all or nothing concept of it.

You etiher have some brain function and the capability for love, rationalization, etc, (which makes one a person) or one does not, (which means not a person).
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#4

Post by Forge » Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:13 pm

Er, anyone have any counterarguments to that?

The concept that humanness does not revolve around the degree of, for example, brainwaves, but rather the absolute there-is-or-there-is-not brainwaves.

Another quote:
Pro-choice advocates, that since there's actual evidence that fetuses possess none of the above described traits,[Forge's Note: He means sensory perception, emotions, stimuli, etc] a fetus is not yet a person and hence should not possess legal rights inherent to a person. Pro-life advocates (when not taking the religious approach), that since gestation Biologically speaking, the zygote created at fertilization possesses a unique genome of human DNA, a unique blood type, and all other essential biological manifestations of a living organism and that alone should be enough to grant it the status of a person. The weak point in this argument, is that animals possess such traits too, and they are still not granted status of a person. Which would mean that humans are somehow not animals, which they are. It has already been determined by science, that the one thing that differentiates humans from other species of animals are the above described traits.
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#5

Post by Kurieuo » Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:17 am

Forge wrote:The problem is, though, is that he seesm to have an all or nothing concept of it.

You etiher have some brain function and the capability for love, rationalization, etc, (which makes one a person) or one does not, (which means not a person).
I understand, and I purposefully wrote what I did regardless because I don't buy into their definition. I believe they are inconsistent. They still arbitrarily add functions of the brain which make the degree of brain functioning the important qualifier. If consistently applied this would mean those human beings with mental retardation would be lesser than those who aren't. Some might find this quite reasonable. I find it morally detestable.
As I said, the criterion is FUNCTIONALITY, not FUNCTION. FUNCTIONALITY can be defined as the capability of something, to function.
Nice to know what THEY said the criterion was. Still seems like such criterion is arbitrarily applied as it suits them. If functionality is defined as a capability (capacity?) of something to function then I think an unborn human by all means qualities. Their brain may not be able to fully function and be self-conscious, but it is just a matter of development and time similar to a comatose person who may recover from the ailments.
So, let me rephrase my definition. A person is a self aware living being with the capability (not the potential) to think, rationalize, and feel emotions. A 3 month old fetus does not yet possess the capability to do that. The guy in the dreamless sleep, the guy in the drugged stupor, the guy with in a temporary coma, and such, retain the capability to think, and in the case of the dreamless sleep there's a lot more brain activity going on there than you realize.
This person is logically inconsistent if they state it is an "all or nothing" deal with the brain and then have sliding definition of what brain activity counts as important. I simply say whatever is biologically human, is human, is a person, and has the right to life. This is "human rights" is its most foundational sense.

It is interesting that the person you quote "imposes" their own definition beyond simply being human as to what is important. They assign metaphysical importance (self-consciousness) which isn't necessarily tied to what one is physically by nature. What are they trying to do is avoid a simplistic approach in order to conform with their own desires of what they want to be the case. That is, a human is entitled to human rights if they are of the human species no matter how developed or under-developed they may be. Their definition of what is important is arbitrarily their own opinion which they make quite clear when they say "let me rephrase my definition". Get out Occam's razor I say.

Black people were once not considered persons either because they didn't have light skin. Jews were also considered not persons by a dominating Nazi majority. It was an all or nothing deal in many instances. Who can rightfully decide what is important? And... if noone can, and we just can not know either way, then why is it alright rather than not alright to kill the unborn? Would it be wise or foolish for a demolition man to demolish an old building without first knowing whether there was anyone inside? I think the answer is clear.
So, let me rephrase my definition. A person is a self aware living being with the capability (not the potential) to think, rationalize, and feel emotions. A 3 month old fetus does not yet possess the capability to do that.
At 40 days brain waves can be detected, but this person you quote pushes their definition into a sliding scale of "brain" functionality (I say brain in quotes for a reason! since I question the validity of just assuming that the "brain" is who we are like I believe many Cartesian dualists make the mistake of believing we are our minds).

Finally would this person also support infanticide? Some argue that until 2 years the baby does not have full self-awareness. Born babies are still developing many of the criteria he/she considers important.

I understand what you have quoted and written quite clearly. I just don't buy it.

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#6

Post by Forge » Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:55 pm

Kurieuo wrote:
The problem is, though, is that he seesm to have an all or nothing concept of it.
You etiher have some brain function and the capability for love, rationalization, etc, (which makes one a person) or one does not, (which means not a person).
I understand, and I purposefully wrote what I did regardless because I don't buy into their definition. I believe they are inconsistent. They still arbitrarily add functions of the brain which make the degree of brain functioning the important qualifier. If consistently applied this would mean those human beings with mental retardation would be lesser than those who aren't. Some might find this quite reasonable. I find it morally detestable.
But this is the difficultly of his argument though. Here's what he says:
Now, here you're putting words in my mouth, certainly the degree of intelligence, awareness, and conscience varies from person to person, but I never said that meant that somehow is more of a person than someone else, once you're a person, you're a person just like any other person, stop assuming my beliefs. There may be degrees of functionality but that doesn't mean there may be degrees of personhood.
I reply with:
Okay. Let's try a syllogism.

--A criteria of being a person is the amount of brainwaves someone has. (Grounded on your argument that zygotes do not have brainaves while a grown person does)
--Levels of brainwaves differ from person to person
--Therefore personhood differs from person to person.
Is that a good way to go about it? I'm getting confused.



Also:
FUNCTION preceeds essence. I cannot be called a swimmer if I have never swam in my life, or if I'm unable to swim anymore. A fetus cannot be called a person if it hasn't thought in its life and brain dead guy can't be called a person if he cannot function like one anymore.

If Phelps had suddenly become invalid beyond repair a DAY before the Olympics, would he still have been given 8 Gold medals? No! In order to be considered the best swimmer in the world, you have to swim like the best swimmer in the world. In order to be considered a person, you have to THINK, like a person.
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#7

Post by Kurieuo » Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:36 am

He seems confused by his own words. It looks to me like he is being shifty.

A lot of my argumentation above still stands which of him arbitrarily applying certain criteria. Why not just say what is biologically human is a person? Why add new criteria? Does he support infanticide up to a certain age when they display intelligence, self-awareness and a conscience?

The best thing you can do is not get into a debate on personhood. He adds in an extra criteria of "personhood" because it is evident that the unborn is a human life. I just say a human life is a person. He, along with other pro-abortionists add all this other criteria as to what counts as important. At the end of the day we as a society define what a person consists of. It was declared blacks were not persons in the US based on the colour of their skin. Companies can be considered persons by law. What is important is what one is by nature not what arbitrary functions they have. As I have read one author put it, we are valuable as human beings, not human doings. Whether they like it or not, any criteria they apply singles out some group of born human beings as less than persons.

I recommend reading the following article: Are Humans Persons?. Stand to Reason have many good article to do with this issue. I would recommend taking the time to sift through them when you can.

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#8

Post by Forge » Sat Sep 20, 2008 1:38 pm

Kurieuo wrote:A lot of my argumentation above still stands which of him arbitrarily applying certain criteria. Why not just say what is biologically human is a person? Why add new criteria? Does he support infanticide up to a certain age when they display intelligence, self-awareness and a conscience?
Sadly, yes. He doens't give an exact age, since he allows that humans develop at different rates, but he says a baby isn't a person until it displays personhood traits. That's why I'm beginning to question whether I can effectively argue with him. It's like arguing math with someone who insists 1+1 != 2.

He had a particularly chilling quote, something to the effect of "I don't consider drowning a baby any worse than drowning a puppy, but since I'm against animal cruelty I wouldn't do it."

Brrr.
I just say a human life is a person.
I usually qualify that with "coherent human life", since technically a white blood cell has human life. You kill a blood cell, you kill part of someone. But if you kill enough parts that it effect the organism as a whole, that's a whole new story.
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#9

Post by Kurieuo » Sat Sep 20, 2008 3:07 pm

Keep in mind not everyone you discuss on the Internet with is like you. You do not know who you are talking with. To discuss issues further with those who are morally corrupt (as this person obviously is if they condone killing babies as fine and dandy) is to give their views more credit.

In this case, you have someone with whom you are discussing which you can use to win others over. The logical conclusion of the pro-abortion position is to argue the right to kill babies until a certain level of development where they assign the human life a magical status of "person".

Use argumentation like I have presented here, for example, that he is just arbitrarily applying subjective conditions as to what makes a human life a person. You just view what is biologically a human life as a person and see no reason to make a distinction. He is fabricating additional criteria. Then hit him hard with lines like "I can't believe you seriously think it is alright to kill babies", "I guess you are just taking the pro-abortion position and those who condone it to its logical conclusion." Invite others over to your position with loaded reasoning, "I'm sure other readers can see you are just arbitrarily applying conditions as to what a person is and would have the moral decency to also realise killing babies is wrong!" Keep drawing readers in and focusing in on the points they will find hard to swallow. Don't worry about winning him over, I can tell you now he will not care if he has gone as far as he has. Rather focus in on winning other readers over and give them logical reasons to embrace your position (pro-life I assume) as the more sound and valid option.

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#10

Post by Kurieuo » Sat Sep 20, 2008 3:12 pm

Forge wrote:
I just say a human life is a person.
I usually qualify that with "coherent human life", since technically a white blood cell has human life. You kill a blood cell, you kill part of someone. But if you kill enough parts that it effect the organism as a whole, that's a whole new story.
It is a white blood cell of a human, but not a human life. Can it grow and mature in its natural environment into or as a human? Being able to grow and mature is often seen as a condition to call something biologically alive. A fetus is a live human (human life) because it is growing and maturing biologically as a human. Can you say the same thing of a white blood cell or "clump of tissue" even, which technically speaking we all are at the end of the day. It is just a matter of what the status of that "clump of tissue" is when deciding the importance assigned to it.

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#11

Post by LeCherie » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:14 am

I thought I should share with you my perspective as an unwanted child who was blessed to be attending Sunday School for many years.

First, I believe that the Holy Bible is a tremendous book for each person individually, even though most of us do study it in groups.

Second, nowhere in the Bible do we see that we are to tell others how they MUST lead their lives.

Third, God is omniscient and we each can have our own relationship with Him.

As a result of all this, I believe that each woman has a God given right to make their own decision regarding abortion. We are to love her as we love ourselves and respect her relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Further, if we take away the option of abortion, how will that affect the lives of those children who are born? Currently, we have KayLee missing here in Central Florida. We do not know what options her teenage mother was allowed access to - although we can only hope that KayLee is now in a loving home where her new parent(s) is grateful and loving of this gift, we do not know for certain - we do not actually know what her life was like from childbirth until her disappearance - her grandparents seem to be very caring of their daughter, so can we trust them to tell us if all had not been truly great for KayLee?

Only because I had very loving relationships with other members and friends of our familyand sang 'Jesus Loves Me' many nights to stop my crying and to go to sleep peacefully, did I become a very loving person of everyone. It was a hard way to learn that condemning and criticizing others only hurts our relationship with that beautiful child of God.

Namaste

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#12

Post by cslewislover » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:57 am

Yes, we're to be loving - to show God's love to everyone. Yet we're also to be discerning. And perhaps since we all make up different parts of Christ's body, one person will have more love, the other more discernment. I, however, would counsel a woman against having an abortion for quite a few reasons, and those seemingly having to do with love more than biblical discernment.
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#13

Post by Furstentum Liechtenstein » Fri Nov 14, 2008 6:26 pm

cslewislover wrote: I, however, would counsel a woman against having an abortion for quite a few reasons, and those seemingly having to do with love more than biblical discernment.
Yes...any woman looking to have an abortion would probably not be swayed by biblical arguments anyway. Well...maybe biblical arguments would work in the Bible Belt of the USA, but not where I come from: a tragic traffic accident left a young woman dead and killed her unborn baby as well after a reckless driver hit her. Predictably, average citizens found the event tragic, especially since the woman was pregnant.

My own reaction was different. When a pro-choice person expressed sorrow at the death of the unborn baby, I said «The baby? nah!...that's just a blob of protoplasm!» After they got over the shock of my answer, I confronted them: «a fetus is a human being wether it is wanted or not. Killing that human fetus is wrong either way. Do you understand?»

Not one person has yet said that they understood. They have just walked away. (Maybe I should work on my people skills...)

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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#14

Post by cslewislover » Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:50 pm

Fürstentum Liechtenstein wrote: My own reaction was different. When a pro-choice person expressed sorrow at the death of the unborn baby, I said «The baby? nah!...that's just a blob of protoplasm!» After they got over the shock of my answer, I confronted them: «a fetus is a human being wether it is wanted or not. Killing that human fetus is wrong either way. Do you understand?»

Not one person has yet said that they understood. They have just walked away. (Maybe I should work on my people skills...)

FL
That is really amazing - sad. But I doubt if it's your people skills.
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Re: Abortion: Function versus Essence

#15

Post by Kurieuo » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:58 am

LeCherie wrote:As a result of all this, I believe that each woman has a God given right to make their own decision regarding abortion. We are to love her as we love ourselves and respect her relationship with our Heavenly Father.
I didn't know God gave anyone the right to take another human life? y:-/

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