Does Opposition to Abortion Demand Certainty That the Fetus Is a Person?
My latest on the Front Page. A excerpt:
I agree with Ned Resnikoff that the issue of abortion hinges on the question of personhood, but I am not sure the question of personhood as related to nascent human life has to be answered definitively before one may have an ethical basis to avoid (or morally permit) lethal violence against it. We may not, for example, have to settle the debate over whether this life is a potential person or a person at the early stages of development before covering any ethical ground.
In the history of philosophy, ontology has usually preceded ethics: what something is, metaphysically speaking, sets the basis for how one ought to treat it. I have no moral qualms about the insects that splatter upon my car windshield, but I would feel terrible if I ran into a dog or a cat, and the thought of hitting a human person is unbearable. My reactions to these imagined scenarios presuppose a hierarchy of being, an ontological framework.
Some postmodern philosophers, Levinas and Derrida among them, questioned this foundational arrangement of ontology before ethics. If ethics can precede ontology, then perhaps the morality of abortion may be discussed apart from the question of personhood.
Read the rest.