Value of a person


#1

I’m curious to know what others think about the relative value of persons. First, let me admit that “relative value” is not exactly what I want to convey, but I can’t think of a better way of asking the question. Perhaps “categorical difference” would be better.

Is there a categorical difference between:

  1. An embryo
  2. A (let’s say) five month old fetus
  3. A year old baby

My question is not, are they all persons? The answer to that is unequivocally yes. My question is whether or not there is a categorical difference between them?

To help answer, think of these scenarios:

  1. If walking down the street, which would you save, if you could truly only save one? An embryo being destroyed for its stem cells or a five month old fetus being aborted? Why?

  2. If walking down the street, as above, which would you save: the fetus or the year old baby?


#2

a person’s a person no matter how small
-Horton hears a Who (Dr. Seuss)


#3

Is this a situational ethics question from a secular humanist school?

  1. If walking down the street, which would you save, if you could truly only save one? An embryo being destroyed for its stem cells or a five month old fetus being aborted? Why?

First you inform the mother of the immorality and consequences of what she is doing, and that adult stem cells are better anyway, then you might save all of them.

  1. If walking down the street, as above, which would you save: the fetus or the year old baby?

An unborn baby and a 1 year old are too dependant to be “walking down a street” without a mother.
Warn the mother of a condition called post-abortion syndrome, where she may need psychiatric treatment for dealing with the subconscious guilt of killing her unborn child, educate the mother that it is a horrible mistake she will regret, then you might save both of them.

As for the 1 year old, the priority would be to save the child because the mother would want that, and the child has not yet had a life, where the mother has. The second best option is not much different from the first, save both.

Picket an abortion clinic, stop the holocaust. Walk down a street.

“The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.” Pope John Paul II


#4

I repeat: I am not a secular humanist; I do not believe in abortion; I am not a moral relativist or believer in situational ethics.

Now, that said, I’m looking for views regarding my question not answers to the question you wish I had asked.

If you think my question was in poor taste, I apologize. I did admit that I may not have worded the question in the best way. Even so, I hope you can get the just of what I’m getting at. For those of you who don’t mind an honest inquiry…others, please don’t bother because it is tiresome being accused of being something you are not or having an agenda you do not have.


#5

[quote=FelixBlue]I’m curious to know what others think about the relative value of persons. First, let me admit that “relative value” is not exactly what I want to convey, but I can’t think of a better way of asking the question. Perhaps “categorical difference” would be better.

Is there a categorical difference between:

  1. An embryo
  2. A (let’s say) five month old fetus
  3. A year old baby

My question is not, are they all persons? The answer to that is unequivocally yes. My question is whether or not there is a categorical difference between them?

To help answer, think of these scenarios:

  1. If walking down the street, which would you save, if you could truly only save one? An embryo being destroyed for its stem cells or a five month old fetus being aborted? Why?

  2. If walking down the street, as above, which would you save: the fetus or the year old baby?
    [/quote]

Your question is the moral equivalent of asking: If you were walking down the street and saw a black man, a white man, and a hispanic man being killed, which would you save? You are asking someone to discriminate among persons based upon outward appearances. Such an act is immoral, and I would say the very premise is immoral. All are persons of equal dignity, made in the image and likeness of God. If a choice in such a situation must be made, it must be made for reasons other than those of appearance, age, color, or anything else that inheres in the human being.


#6

[quote=All4lifetoo]Your question is the moral equivalent of asking: If you were walking down the street and saw a black man, a white man, and a hispanic man being killed, which would you save? You are asking someone to discriminate among persons based upon outward appearances. Such an act is immoral, and I would say the very premise is immoral. All are persons of equal dignity, made in the image and likeness of God. If a choice in such a situation must be made, it must be made for reasons other than those of appearance, age, color, or anything else that inheres in the human being.
[/quote]

You make an excellent point, and perhaps the premise of the question is immoral (though I can asssure you I have no hidden agenda).

My goal is to get to the bottom of why its ok to defend an ex-vitro living child (even, if need be, by killing someone) and the same is not ok regarding an abortion doctor (whom I know is killing) and a scientist destroying embryos (whom I know is murdering).

I believe the reasoning must go beyond the authority issue: that is, that one doesn’t have the authority to kill the doctor or scientist, but does have the right, in defense of the child, to kill the one who threatens the living child.

I think we all have a natural sense that there is something different about the one year old as compared to the fetus or embryo.

Let me give an example. I have four children. Really five. One of ours didn’t make it due to a miscarriage. When that miscarraige happened, I felt a certain sadness, but nothing near what I imagine I would feel if, say, my two year old were to die. Why?

If you argue that it was merely because I didn’t yet know the fetus-child, then I would agree. That would have to be part of the explanation. But beyond that, I believe there is a natural sense in which we understand that there is a categorical difference between the one miscarried and the one born.

Please understand that I am just “exploring” this issue. I repeat that I’m willing to admit that I am wrong and that I am mistaken on the part of my perceptions. But I wish someone would eplore the issue with me…why is it that we have this natural sense that there is a difference between the three?


#7

[quote=FelixBlue]You make an excellent point, and perhaps the premise of the question is immoral (though I can asssure you I have no hidden agenda).

My goal is to get to the bottom of why its ok to defend an ex-vitro living child (even, if need be, by killing someone) and the same is not ok regarding an abortion doctor (whom I know is killing) and a scientist destroying embryos (whom I know is murdering).
[/quote]

At the risk of bringing down the wrath of everyone upon me, I would say there is no difference. Self-defense of a third person is moral in all circumstances whether the third person is born or pre-born. The problem with this however is that the repercussions of an act of self-defense of a third person who is unborn do tremendous damage to the overall pro-life movement. One such act may save one or more babies, but most likely the adverse effect of such an act will cost more babies than it will save because of the setback to the pro-life movement. The propaganda value of such an act, gives enormous fuel to the pro-abortion fraction. The only way such violence could possibility succeed in stopping abortion is if it were on a massive scale, and that is not likely to happen.

Many argue that it is not appropriate to use violence in the name of pro-life. I am not so sure about this. Witness all the wars of the past in which the aggressor was met with violence to stop them from more killing and oppression. Should it also be argued that it was not right to resist the evil aggressors with violence and for the same reason? The moral principles seem to me to be the same. The difference is in the propaganda use such actions bring about.

I believe the reasoning must go beyond the authority issue: that is, that one doesn’t have the authority to kill the doctor or scientist, but does have the right, in defense of the child, to kill the one who threatens the living child.

I think we all have a natural sense that there is something different about the one year old as compared to the fetus or embryo.

Let me give an example. I have four children. Really five. One of ours didn’t make it due to a miscarriage. When that miscarraige happened, I felt a certain sadness, but nothing near what I imagine I would feel if, say, my two year old were to die. Why?

If you argue that it was merely because I didn’t yet know the fetus-child, then I would agree. That would have to be part of the explanation. But beyond that, I believe there is a natural sense in which we understand that there is a categorical difference between the one miscarried and the one born.

No, the difference is simply one of bonding. It is much like hearing that someone down the street was killed in an accident. There is less emotional reaction because there is less bonding. The idea that someone is less human because of their looks, is a false judgment. It happens all the time in regard to race for instance. It is easier to bond with those who look like us or share similar characteristics. It is easier to discriminate against those who look dissimilar whether by reason of color, age, ability or birth status.

Please understand that I am just “exploring” this issue. I repeat that I’m willing to admit that I am wrong and that I am mistaken on the part of my perceptions. But I wish someone would eplore the issue with me…why is it that we have this natural sense that there is a difference between the three?


#8

[quote=All4lifetoo]At the risk of bringing down the wrath of everyone upon me, I would say there is no difference. Self-defense of a third person is moral in all circumstances whether the third person is born or pre-born. The problem with this however is that the repercussions of an act of self-defense of a third person who is unborn do tremendous damage to the overall pro-life movement. One such act may save one or more babies, but most likely the adverse effect of such an act will cost more babies than it will save because of the setback to the pro-life movement. The propaganda value of such an act, gives enormous fuel to the pro-abortion fraction. The only way such violence could possibility succeed in stopping abortion is if it were on a massive scale, and that is not likely to happen.

Many argue that it is not appropriate to use violence in the name of pro-life. I am not so sure about this. Witness all the wars of the past in which the aggressor was met with violence to stop them from more killing and oppression. Should it also be argued that it was not right to resist the evil aggressors with violence and for the same reason? The moral principles seem to me to be the same. The difference is in the propaganda use such actions bring about.

No, the difference is simply one of bonding. It is much like hearing that someone down the street was killed in an accident. There is less emotional reaction because there is less bonding. The idea that someone is less human because of their looks, is a false judgment. It happens all the time in regard to race for instance. It is easier to bond with those who look like us or share similar characteristics. It is easier to discriminate against those who look dissimilar whether by reason of color, age, ability or birth status.
[/quote]

Thanks for the response. It gave me much to consider. Your position is very consistent.

The odd thing is that I agree with you in that logically there must be nothing different between the three as all three have bodies (though different) and souls.

Still, the sense that they are somehow different leaves me wondering if there is any substance behind that sense. I’m also left wondering if I really believe they are ontologically equal.

Well, thanks.


#9

Maybe you should imagine walking down the street in a world where many of the people around you have killed their firstborn child at the age of 1 year. You wouldn’t know who they were exactly, but you would know it was lots and lots. Imagine that is is illegal to stop people from killing their first born, and millions of them have been killed in the last decades. You would be surrounded by murders. It would be considered normal to kill your first born.

Would you go insane? Or would you just acclimate to the awfulness? Would I finally understand how to be in the world yet not of it? Perhaps if you saw the deed in progress, you could kill that one perpetrator, but you would make it even more unlikely to stop the slaughter, ever.

I can’t even imagine this scenario because I just can’t grasp that the world could ever come to this without imploding somehow. Boy, even France would want to invade us. Oh, strike that, wrong forum.

I wonder about my humanity sometimes and the slaughter around me. Why hasn’t the world imploded over abortion? And why don’t I expect it should???


#10

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