philosophy guide

Essay by sahlkarim June 2014

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Philosophy: Introduction A

Life, Death & Morality


"Abortion is impermissible, because it deprives a being of a future like ours. Accordingly, it is morally similar to killing a healthy adult." Critically discuss this argument, drawing upon at least one of the authors we have looked at in the readings.

This essay looks at the morality of abortion by using the theories of Don Marquis, Judith Thomson, Peter Singer and Mary Anne Warren to assert my opinion that the crux of the abortion debate is dictated by distinctions in development of personhood, and that as such I can conclude that abortion is morally impermissible except in extreme circumstances. I will do this through both supportive arguments provided by these authors, and counter-arguments to unsuccessful elements of alternate theories.

To understand this argument we should first look at the overall moral theory that it is wrong to kill humans - this premise is agreed on by an overwhelming majority of people.

This is because a human is seen to qualify as a person - a being that "can think of itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places" (John Locke). Don Marquis illustrates that "what primarily makes killing wrong is … its effect on the victim" and that "the loss of one's life is one of the greatest losses one can suffer"1 because a loss of life involves the loss of all experience and enjoyments that would have constituted the victim's future. This is similar to a utilitarian argument - that killing a person a) decreases happiness/utility by the death of a person and/or b) that the killing of a person thwarts their future preferences. At this point, we can realise that this debate centres on the question of whether human foetuses are persons are...