Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Achieving Disagreement

Over at the First Things blog, Ryan Anderson has a very interesting (long, detailed) post called "The Rare Achievement of Disagreement", in which he reports on a recent symposium at Princeton called "Is it Wrong to End Early Human Life?"  A bit:

“Look, when we think about ending an early human life, this is something that is really bad for the embryo or early fetus that dies, it’s losing out tremendously—I agree with that as I already said. And then you said that it’s one of the things that we should care about. And, um, I think that I should have said before that I think it’s really dangerous to slide from noticing that something is bad for something, to thinking that that gives us a moral reason. And just to prove that that doesn’t follow, think about plants. So lots of things are bad for trees, and plants, and flowers, and often that gives us no reasons whatsoever, certainly no moral reasons. In my view, fetuses that die before they’re ever conscious really are a lot like plants: They’re living things, but there’s nothing about them that would make us think that they count morally in the way that people do.”

That came from Princeton philosophy professor Elizabeth Harman during the question-and-answer period of last week’s star-studded symposium at Princeton titled “Is It Wrong to End Early Human Life?” . . .

Many, no doubt, will find Harman’s comparison of human fetuses to plants—not to mention Singer’s moral defense of infanticide—deeply repugnant. I certainly do. But these are merely the conclusions of a chain of (gravely mistaken) moral reasoning, and such intellectually honest reflection is to be preferred, in fact welcomed, over the unprincipled rationalization that often takes its place. When people like Harman and Singer speak openly and follow their premises to their logical conclusions, the audience realizes what is at stake when a commitment to intrinsic human dignity and equality is rejected—and that realization is a very good thing. . . .


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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