More on abortion, and liberalism (and for that matter liberaltarianism)

Avatar

Murali

Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

Related Post Roulette

192 Responses

  1. Avatar b-psycho says:

    People often make claims against each other. For example, person A is gay and wants to live with his gay partner and person B is morally offended by this. Satisfying A’s preference violates B’s preference and similarly satisfying B’s preference violates A’s. Given that we care about resolving this conflict, the question arises as to how we should go about doing so.

    …tell person B to fish off because there’s no such thing as a right to not be offended?Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 says:

      Yup, it sounds like Mr Murali is giving equal importance to person B’s “feelings” and person A’s right to live his life as he sees fit. It morally offends me that someone who lives in another country and culture presumes to lecture Americans in high-handed tone about what kind of marriage is suitable, but surely the League should not pay the least attention to my “feelings” on the subject in determining who should and shouldn’t blog here. Why is the “feelings” of the person offended by gay marriage so important that it’s a contradiction that must be resolved?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      tell person B to fish off because there’s no such thing as a right to not be offended?

      I agree with you that there isn’t, but you can’t just assert it. You’ve got to prove it. Youv’e got to say why someone’s preference to marry whichever other consenting adult he or she wants always trumps other people’s feelings. Rawls’s original position argument gets me there. And it gets me there without having to make strange ontological assumptions about self ownership or the existence of a natural law or Lawgiver thereof or about what has intrinsic worth.

      What that means is that Rawls’s theory has far fewer starting assumptions and is therefore something which eberyone can endorse.

       Report

      • Avatar b-psycho says:

        I agree with you that there isn’t, but you can’t just assert it. You’ve got to prove it. Youv’e got to say why someone’s preference to marry whichever other consenting adult he or she wants always trumps other people’s feelings.

        Does it harm the life or liberty of the uninvolved party?

        If the answer is “no”, then the uninvolved party can fish off. Period.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          let me play devil’s advocate a bit and ask why. Why is it the case that the uninvolved party can fish off just because it doesnt harm her life or life or liberty?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Rawls begs several questions, chief among those questions is the opacity of his famous Veil.   There are so many specious assertions in Rawls one scarcely knows where to begin, but I’ll start with how much knowledge is available to the moral actor, especially about himself.  If the Veil of Ignorance is completely opaque, we might as well call it Rawl’s Blindfold.

            But more perniciously, Rawls assumes our moral natures trend toward a common good, leading us to a common set of rules.   Life is not fair.   We are best served by a frank acknowledgement our differences, not sententious statements about what we have in common.  We don’t share moral sentiments:  if they overlap, those overlaps can only represent some prior status-quo which gave rise to them.   And they’re constantly changing:  people can’t spank their kids anymore.

            I am not gay.  Insofar as I cannot fully enter into the mind of a gay person, I cannot speak to what sort of love he feels,  nor he mine.  I would turn Rawls on his head and say, “Take off the blindfold.  There is no Veil.  Insofar as love is only defined by the lovers themselves, anyone who presumes to define lawful and unlawful love can Fish Off.  Let ’em get married:  gay marriage only expands the market for wedding consultants and divorce lawyers, hopefully more of the former than the latter.”Report

          • Avatar b-psycho says:

            Because harm to them is the only legitimate criteria by which they have any standing whatsoever to care. Without harm they’re just throwing a hissy fit because the world isn’t conforming to their personal aesthetic tastes. A society attempting to accommodate such people is flushing freedom down the toilet.

            I don’t see how Rawls changes anything here.  If you’re A, you have the right to do whatever you wish with consenting adults; if you’re B, you have that same right. If you’re B and you whine because you don’t get to block A, then you’re confusing liberty with obedience.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Some people equate offense with harm.  I don’t, but I find it difficult to delineate the distinction.  How about you?

              If the knowledge of gays engaging in butsecks and getting state approval for it really really distresses me, you might argue I’m overly sensitive and a busybody and should get over it, but it might still be making me miserably unhappy.  So why is that not harm?

              Some environmentally concerned liberals think we benefit just from the knowledge that there are wild places and wild species still thriving, so the corollary is that we suffer from the knowledge that such things are disappearing.   So at least some liberals have accepted that the mere knowledge of certain things happening can constitute a harm–how could such a person argue that a moralistic conservative’s distress over butsecks isn’t harm?Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                This is one reason why I am not fond of utility arguments.

                For example, if I argue for gay parenting rights on utility grounds using charts and graphs, then I am susceptable to someone using better charts and graphs to show that we must outlaw sodomy.

                “Harm” and “offense” are as you point out, extremely slippery concepts.

                The most common argument of contemporary liberalism is not the libertarian one, but turning the conservative arguement around-

                Most liberals argue that Rick Santorum is being cruel and immoral in his attack on gay rights; gay sexuality is every bit as moral and life-affirming as straight sex, our argument goes.Report

              • Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

                James,

                I’ve always found this topic to be an interesting one for social progress. As you explain, it is possible for somebody to have a desire which is not about themselves, but about others. They can value that everybody else be a Christian, or avoid gay touching, or even that everyone else be equally prosperous.

                Where this conflicts with the will of others, it creates a necessary win/lose dynamic. They won’t be happy until they can force others to their views. Thus these views can spread and amplify unhappiness and social regress. They fester.

                Social progress requires widespread flourishing based upon each individual’s values, goals and situation. There is no role for the extremely intolerant in social progress. Hopefully they can voluntarily change their views.  Otherwise, progress is — at best — for the rest of us.

                 Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                If the knowledge of gays engaging in butsecks and getting state approval for it really really distresses me, you might argue I’m overly sensitive and a busybody and should get over it, but it might still be making me miserably unhappy. So why is that not harm?

                Does the knowledge of this impair your freedom, yes or no?

                Perhaps if simply knowing people were engaging in such acts were equivalent to forcing one to join in they’d have a point. Last I checked, gays weren’t going around buttraping conservatives, so no.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    “The conclusion is therefore clear: liberals qua liberalism should be against abortion as well. This is exactly the same way liberals should in addition to being in favour of gay marriage, should also be in favour of legalising polygamy, incestual marriages and marriages of convenience. Anyone who wants to contend with these positions has to argue either why what people in the original position would choose is irrelevant, or argue why people in the original position would protect the right to abortion. “

    Yep.  This is pretty much Philosophy in a nutshell.  Rewriting reality to make it fit more neatly into your clever world view.

    What, liberals aren’t for all those thing?  No, no, don’t admit error.  Just go back and make your argument longer, and use bigger words.  You’ll get there!Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 says:

      Don’t take it too seriously, Mr Kelly, Mr Murali is in the process of redefining liberaltarianism and liberalism so as to fit himself into the category (he so desperately wants to call himself the former after all), and throw everyone one else off the ship. We’re all just pawns in his grand project.Report

  3. Avatar Kirk says:

    I read the linked post and found it unhelpful. Abortion policy boils down to when life begins… The accompanying rawlsian framework did not actually help resolve the problem.
    Is an aborted fetus a possible fate from the persepective of the OP? Rawls can’t help you anymore than kant, mill, or jesus christ.

    I noticed that the argument quickly reverted to a fairly vanilla pro-life “bright line” argument… Which once again makes me wonder whether rawls is useful, or just a debating technique to make your argument more appealing to liberals???Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      The Rawlsian framework does 3 things.

      1. It tells us why this is something which cannot be left up to individuals (because the basic structure of society is something that everyone in society unavoidably shares.)

      2. It shows us why it is origin of life which is important and not the origin of personhood. (because people care about what happens to them before they became full persons)

      3. It shows us how to balance the various competing interests. (imagine you didnt know whether you would end up as the foetus or the preganant woman would the principles you choose give the woman a right to abort?)

      Absent the original position, all 3 stances are open to dispute.Report

      • Avatar DarrenG says:

        1. It tells us why this is something which cannot be left up to individuals (because the basic structure of society is something that everyone in society unavoidably shares.)

        And, of course, liberals and libertarians specifically reject this argument as an over-vague, Rawlsian version of the Commerce Clause which can be invoked broadly and at will to justify totalitarianism.

        2. It shows us why it is origin of life which is important and not the origin of personhood. (because people care about what happens to them before they became full persons)

        I think it’s likewise clear that liberals and libertarians do not grant this blanket ontological assertion as a given.

        It shows us how to balance the various competing interests. (imagine you didnt know whether you would end up as the foetus or the preganant woman would the principles you choose give the woman a right to abort?)

        I also reject the notion that the only, or even the best, way of balancing competing interests is through emotional identification with fictional parties in a contrived scenario. There is a well-developed literature on decision theory that covers this, after all.

        In short, if liberals and libertarians were willing to swallow Rawls’ framework whole and without question, they wouldn’t be liberals or libertarians.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          And, of course, liberals and libertarians specifically reject this argument as an over-vague, Rawlsian version of the Commerce Clause which can be invoked broadly and at will to justify totalitarianism

          No, the basic structure of society (i.e. the fundamental social institutions) cannot be individuated. You cannot have your own DarrenG special tax rate nor can you have your own DarrenG constitution, nor can you have your own DarrenG laws. If you live in a society you will be subject to those laws that operate in said society. So, if something is a question concerning what rights you have, you have the same rights as everyone else who is subject to the same jurisdiction as you are.

          I think it’s likewise clear that liberals and libertarians do not grant this blanket ontological assertion as a given.

          Its not to be taken as a given, it is actually argued for. I’m merely stating the conclusion of the argument.

          competing interests is through emotional identification with fictional parties in a contrived scenario. There is a well-developed literature on decision theory that covers this, after all

          Its not about emotional identification so much as asking what rational people would choose under certain constraints of knightian uncertainty.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            How little you know of us.   Yes he can get his own tax rate.  He goes to Washington, hires a good lobbyist, preferably one who’s been on the Ways and Means Committee and gets his own tax rate.   Do you know we have more statute law governing taxation than criminal law?

            I develop models capable of prediction.  The best ones are not always completely accurate:  these better models are righter more often than they are wrong.   Some of the worst ones will give me a dead-on prediction a few times and are hideously wrong for the vast majority of their runs.   I crank ’em out all day long, I have Python scripts which mangle new ones into shape every few hours.   I’ve got four running right now.

            We must not throw our hands in the air and weep over uncertainty.   Real life is a question of probabilities.   The Uncertainty Monster doesn’t exist.   In this country, we value our freedom of our consciences and we have considerable reservations about matrons inspecting our bathroom trash cans for proof of menstruation in our women.   This sort of Sharing we consider Avoidable.   Perhaps in a Confucian ethic uncertainty is a horror and individuation a sort of insanity but not among us.Report

      • Avatar Kirk says:

        1.But the OP only applies to entities that have moral worth… That’s the whole point of the exercise!
        You’re argument begs that “comprehensive” question.

        2. That was the “bright line” argument I alluded to. I could make several counter-arguments… But then we’d be arguing ABOUT ABORTION, NOT RAWLS!

        3. You’re paragraph on the balancing test indicates the need for some more r.e… I don’t think any woman who has experienced pregnancy would find it a fair characterization of the inconvience and health costs… More importantly, it begs the question of whether there are interests to be balanced.

        It’s obvious to anyone who’s read Rawks that you are sneaking an (authoritarian, masculinist) comprehensive view into your supposedly free standing theory.

        I prescribe 3 weeks behind the veil of ignorance!Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

           I don’t think any woman who has experienced pregnancy would find it a fair characterization of the inconvience and health costs

          I’ll cop to the possibility that I may have underestimated the inconvenience and health costs of pregnancy. If I’m as wrong about that as you seem to think I am, then I’ll change my mind (yet again) about whether abortion should be legal. But I doubt that it is rational to risk the chance of being aborted in order to gain the freedom to abort a foetus even when there isn’t significant risk to one’s life.Report

      • Avatar dL says:

        Even Rawls abandoned Rawls. Of course, a philosopher’s repudiation or modification of an earlier position does not demonstrate the ‘wrongness” of the position. But here is a rather long post on the problems with Rawls normative framework.

        http://rulingclass.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/liberaltarian-failure/Report

  4. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The separation of Church and State in the West arose from several different quarters.   Henry VIII wanted a son and a divorce and couldn’t get the one from Catherine of Aragon nor the other from the Pope.  The Pope might have given him the divorce he sought but the Pope was the unfortunate prisoner of Charles V at that point in time and received few visitors.   Both Henry Tudor and Cardinal Wolsey bent over backward to deal with this problem but Charles V of Spain had no intention of granting Henry Tudor his wish or the Pope his freedom.

    Thus did Henry Tudor writhe about in fury for a few months, gnashing his teeth.   Wolsey would bear the brunt of his anger but everyone knew the score.   Henry Tudor wanted to be supreme in his own nation and would not be held hostage by some inbred, epileptic Hapsburg who in turn held the Pope hostage in Castel Sant’Angelo.

    Law isn’t morality.  At one time, slavery was legal.  If religious people object to abortion today, they do on the same grounds as the debate over slavery:  they feel it is an affront to human life and human dignity.   The Bible clearly defends slavery, both in the Old and New Testaments:  how could the Christians reach this conclusion, based on the precepts of their own religion?  Judaism hadn’t condemned slavery, either. Where had this objection arisen?  Kant had a great deal to say about humanity: humanity is an objective end, if Kant is to be taken seriously, and I believe Kant was right.

    Trying to dissect religious morality away from secular morality is to make a specious distinction. Belief in the State is no less an article of faith than any religious doctrine.  As Christianity changed its tune over time, so has the State.

    I fear you may have misunderstood what Liberals believe about abortion and morality in the large. Abortion is legalized on the basis of our Right to Privacy, as the Roe case was decided. It’s not very good law, by my lights.  When I read the Plessy case, I see a similarly awkward justification on the basis of Property Rights. Our Constitution as constructed is terribly vague on the nature of personhood, though our Declaration of Independence was blazingly clear on the subject.

    Because we Americans have only the Fourteenth Amendment to give us equality, we are hamstrung as a people, as was Henry Tudor in his day, looking for some skeevy route to dumping his wife.  We are wrapped around the axle of a politically awkward situation where the morally abhorrent abortion of convenience is lumped in with medically necessary termination of a pregnancy.  Because personhood is so ill-defined, we are left with the entirely inadequate antique moral constructs of religion.Report

  5. Avatar sonmi451 says:

     “We are wrapped around the axle of a politically awkward situation where the morally abhorrent abortion of convenience is lumped in with medically necessary termination of a pregnancy.”

    Because the alternative is horrifying. Should we have abortion panels? Have you been a good girl enough (i.e. have a husband and not a slutty slutty slut) and your life is threatened enough (how close are you to death? Two days? Two hours/)  so that you deserve to get an abortion?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Let’s first get past Mr. Kant’s statements about humanity as an objective end.  When I grow a uterus, I think I’ll have a valid opinion on abortion.   Until then, I’ll go with Roe for now, it’s a matter for a doctor and a patient and nobody else.  I just had my cat euthanized yesterday and I don’t want anyone else involved in that decision but me, my girlfriend and the vet.

      But we don’t have a working definition of personhood.  Where exactly does it stop, the legality of abortion?   There’s always infanticide as an option, still moral in some places.  If I’m to entertain begged questions, you won’t mind a few begged answers.   There are plenty of options, and don’t you get huffy if some people find your own personal definitions immoral, we all have our standards we think so sacred.   But it’s all so much bunk, articles of faith, axioms and weak thinking all round, trying to foist off our own assertions on others.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        Even under Roe, some form abortion restrictions are legal. Infanticide are not legal under Roe. And the possibility of a law that ban any restriction ever on abortion passing in this country is ZERO. But pro-lifers talk about abortion in the US as if women who are nine months pregnant routinely get abortions for “convenience”. We know where the legality of abortion stops in the US under Roe, certainly well before INFANTICIDE. But go ahead, trot out that word again and again to scare, shame and morally-blackmail people. How about genocide of black babies? Ethnic cleansing?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          You are preaching to the choir.   No woman whistles on her way to the abortion clinic, any more than I whistled on my way to the vet yesterday.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Condolences on your cat BlaiseP.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      There are ethics boards for all sorts of things including organ transplants. Having one for abortion is not out of the world so long as all they do is check whether a doctor has performed it appropriate to the relevant risk to life of the mother.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The problem is more fundamental than the life of the mother.  Again, you were the one who tried to put Kant on one side of this argument and Religion on the other.   Is the fetus a person and if so, is it so protected?   We don’t have that definition in law in the USA: it’s all an ugly muddle.  We have corporations with the rights of persons and corporations may be dissolved.   Do you see what I’m driving at, here?Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          “The problem is more fundamental than the life of the mother.”

          So if we agree to define the fetus as a person with rights that must be protected, even the life of the mother wouldn’t trump the rights of the fetusperson?Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Well, when the courts get around to defining personhood, we could have that discussion.  Roe was a weak decision and we both know it.  If it isn’t shored up on a more substantial basis, we’re going to end up with some Department of Menstrual Cycles demanding you fill in some form every 28 days like some unemployment filing.   I’m telling you plainly, that day is coming if we don’t arrive at some definition of personhood in law.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        Of course. I should have expected the great mr liberaltarian to support the abortion panel. So what if the panel suspects the mother wasn’t in danger enough to warrant an abortion? Throw the doctor and mommy in jail for the “morally-abhorrent abortion of convenience”?Report

  6. Avatar DarrenG says:

    As such this argument against legalising abortion is a liberal argument against abortion (and for that matter a libertarian one as well)

    In addition to the excellent points above that adequately demolish this argument, this phrase gives away a different part of the game.

    Namely, liberals (and most definitely libertarians) believe that actions should be legal by default and the state must make a compelling case to restrict them, not the opposite as you phrase it above, and as you concede, “my religion forbids it” isn’t sufficient.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Heh.  Alas, that in a free nation the State must first justify its own role in the argument.  Or would you prefer a world in which everything is either forbidden or required?Report

      • Avatar DarrenG says:

        I’m assuming this question is targeted more at Murali than me, since I most certainly side with those whose bias is to require the state to justify their involvement in restricting people’s actions.

        Nor do I buy Murali’s “but you have to prove it” argument above. Since when have we had a nation governed by formal logic?

        I, like many, don’t have a problem claiming that in arguments that take the form of person A saying “I choose X” and person B saying “I am morally outraged by X, therefore you should be forbidden it by the state” that these should generally be resolved in favor of person A.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Yes, exactly.  The State is the preferred engine for abusing personal liberties where once it was Religion in former times.   They’re really no different when you come down to it.Report

          • Avatar Charles Manson says:

            Are you folks aware that if you didn’t have this imaginary “police state” to rail against, you’d have to invent one?

            Why are people so irresistibly attracted to the very idea of victim-hood?  Are their lives so pathetically and starkly barren that without homosexual goblins they become nothing but dispensable, ordinary,mundane, human beings.  This is NOT a ticket to heaven.   You just might do the impossible and bore God to death.Report

  7. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    “This is exactly the same way liberals should in addition to being in favour of gay marriage, should also be in favour of legalising polygamy, incestual marriages and marriages of convenience. ”

    Are liberals in favor of banning marriages of convenience? I’ve never heard of that, I guess that’s an issue that arise with regards to immigration policy, but I don’t see how that’s relevant to your attempt to guilt-trip liberals here. How is this not just an attempt to make gay marriage sound as bad possible, as per right-wing tropes? I guess we should be thankful that at least you didn’t include bestiality in your list of things liberals MUST be for as well. Like I said before, Mr Murali gets a lot of pass because he’s not from the US, even the commenters disagreeing with him are being extra-polite, as if everything he says has some merit and truth to it. If Tom van Dyke had been saying the things Mr Murali is saying, people would be less polite in pouncing on him.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      How is this not just an attempt to make gay marriage sound as bad possible, as per right-wing tropes

      I’m not. you’re just being inconsistent (and illiberal) if you think that something being morally abhorrent is sufficient reason to make it illegal. I think Gay marriage should be legal as should any other marriage-like thing between consenting adults.

      I do know of liberals and libertarians who when confronted with scary slippery slope type arguments go for that illiberal dodge about how its not likely to lead to all those things. The fact is we should be supporting gay marriage as well as plural marriages and sibling marriages.

       Report

      • Avatar Kirk says:

        Liberals who object to polygamy do so on feminist grounds, not the “yuck factor.”
        Whether these objections are sound is an empirical question that strikes me as highly contingent on historical circumstances.

        Once again, Rawls cannot answer this question.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          “Anyone who wants to contend with these positions has to argue either why what people in the original position would choose is irrelevant, or argue why people in the original position would protect the right to abortion. Calling me names doesnt cut it.”

          People must do this, they must argue in this way and not that way, if people don’t extend their belief to this thing that I tell them to, then they are being inconsistent in their ideology, bla la bla. Frankly, I’m getting sick of Mr Murali telling people what they can and cannot do. Maybe ideologically-speaking, Mr Murali really is a liberaltarian (and pigs can fly and there are ponies in my garden!),  but in terms of personality, he’s definitely a grade-A AUTHORITARIAN.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Most liberals I know tend to:

          1) Accept polyamory because what business is it of theirs how your sex and romantic lives go?

          2) Reject polygamy simply because, legally speaking, it ranges from PITA to impossible to fit three+ people into the legal marriage framework. Just sorting out things like medical power of attorney would be a nightmare. A polygamous marriage, to be equivilant to a standard marriage, would require the services of a good contract lawyer and a ton of time.

          A TON of time. Then there’s tax laws, employers — that extra person turns basics of marriage (as far as the state is concerned) into something ranging from complicated to ridiculously impossible.

          If someone were to come up with a workable solution for it, I suspect most liberals would happily embrace it. Why not? No skin off my nose. Sadly, the only solution I’ve heard of is “abolish marriage as a legal entity” which is a non-starter and only offered by unserious people.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            If someone were to come up with a workable solution for it, I suspect most liberals would happily embrace it.

            Singapore and Malaysia both recognise polygamous marriages (but only for Muslims) Granted that the Muslim marriage ceremony is not exactly the most gender egalitarian ceremony. I’ll even grantt that Sharia maital legal norms can be illiberal. However, that can be changed. We don’t have to adopt wholesale every aspect of current plural marriages. Its not an unworkable framework.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              As I said, when [i]someone comes up with a workable legal framework[/i], you let the liberals know and we’ll see where it goes.

              Pointing out that there exists unworkable frameworks — and polygamyous marriages in which there is unequal legal power between participants is the very definition of “unworkable” — does not change things.

              It’s still an unworkable legal framework.

              Marriage, in America, is a fully equal institution between two people. Liberals see no problems extending it to gay couples because the gonads really don’t matter. It’s still two people. (They DO see a problem extending it to kids and animals because, you know, issues with consent. Just to head off any Santorums reading).

              They have an issue extending their reasoning to polygamy because offering a boilerplate equal exchange of power and rights between more than two people breaks down.

              The ability to make medical decisions is the easiest example. Say Bob, Tina, and Sandy are married to each other. Bob gets wanged on the head and is incapable of making medical decisions. The doctors are recommending a risky surgery over a ‘wait and see’ approach. Tiny and Sandy disagree over whether to have the surgery done on Bob.

              Who decides? In a married couple, there’s just the one spouse — not two who might disagree. What if there’s more? Do you take a vote? Who makes the call? How is the hospital supposed to know?

              You can, with a good lawyer, anticipate such things — and I suppose carry it around on you to show the hospital legal staff. But you can’t provide an off the shelf solution like you can between two people, because the problems get to complex.

               Report

  8. Avatar Kirk says:

    But is it rational to consider a fetus as one of the outcomes from behind the VoI?
    People’s intuitions will reflect deeper (comprehensive) views about the nature of personhood.
    More inportantly the crux of your argunent is the “bright line” objection… Which in fact requires a debate about abortion rather than rawls.

    The whole point of a free standing theory is that it garrners a consensus from liberals regardless of theur comp views… It is a DESCRIPTION of how we come to agreement ina liberal society.
    Your attempt to make it a PRESCRIPTION for your idiosyncratic social views is deeply antithetical to the impulse behind “Political Liberalism.”Report

  9. Avatar Will H. says:

    I’m going to comment on this one, because I don’t think Murali deserves the abuse he’s getting here in the comments section.
    First, let’s dispel the notion that he’s giving a photographic portrayal of the State in its present condition, but as a proposal of the ideal State.
    There also arises needless entanglements from the concept of a photographic portrayal of the State.
    Let us set those aside.

    Secondly, I would say that I am pro-life, although I agree with Jaybird’s position. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the distinction between us lies in the interpretation of erring on the side of caution; and certainly, personal experience has some bearing on the matter.

    I’m ok with abortion up to th 20th week of pregnancy, even though I still see there being something wrong with that. I recognize that as a refutation of absolutism among competing interests.
    I believe that requiring safeguards in our society is of greater value than requiring that other persons should think the same as me.
    However, I see the position of a married woman as being distinctly different than that of an unmarried woman.
    And yes, I also see some value in the fatherhood rights of the male “donor.” Any claim on future earnings and productivity should be taken seriously. (Isn’t that what we take as “interest” in the financial sense?)
    But then, maybe I’m just way to into Aristotle.
    Henceforth, I shall announce my position as an “Aristotlean pro-lifer.”

    No, I don’t think that gay marriage is demanded as a right, as this would exclude other similarly affected parties. At the same time, I see the need for some greater covenant than is currently provided for by law which would offer protections, not only to gay partners, but to a greater share of couples.
    That is, I see the remedy of “marriage” for couples who are gay as being the easy way out– and especially so if we are required to ignore so many others in doing so.

    Yes, abortion is subject to all manner of monitoring. I don’t really care to go into all that.

    I will add that I believe that the typical pro-lifer position of required waiting periods is misplaced. By that time, the decision has already been made. It is post-care that should be required, as the incidence of post-natal depression among abortion patients is quite high.

    I will also say that I thought this was a fine post, and that the Rawlsian framework is useful in dealing with certain matters. It matters not one whit whether positioning that framework within the current debate is plausible or not; to do so is a worthy endeavor.

    And I thank you for a fine post, Mr. Murali.

    That’s all I have to say on the matter, and I have no intention on participating in the discussion further.Report

  10. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    Maybe actual liberaltarians should chime in before your ideology is completely hijacked by Mr Muirali to defend all the things he believes in. If you’re not careful, pretty soon liberaltarian will stand for the belief that democracy is overrated and people are stupid to worry too much about their right to vote, abortion panels are a good idea (just like transplant panel, but with the addition of jail-time!), romantic love = bad,  arranged marriage = good, and whatever else crosses Mr Murali’s mind. For Mr Murali is not content to just state his belief, he works hard to prove that if you don’t believe the things he elieve in, they you’re a fake liberaltarian, a fake liberal, illiberal. Oh god, he’s moved on from redefining liberaltarianism to redefining liberalism, now, woe is us. I wonder what is the next target? Socialism? Communism? And then moving on to the right wing?Report

    • Avatar North says:

       

      Gently Sonmi, I understand (and agree) that questions of abortion and gay marriage are emotionally freighted but best to remain level toned. Murali’s excellent thought provoking writing was no more representative of liberaltarianism than is was a legitimate rewriting of what liberals and libertarians believe. Murali is merely presenting his view and reasoning as it appears to him from his unique cultural and philosophical background. I think there is an enormous amount of value in him presenting that even though I don’t agree with him.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        “Murali is merely presenting his view and reasoning as it appears to him from his unique cultural and philosophical background.”

        No, he’s presenting his view and drawing a boundary over it – if you are a liberal, then you must believe a, b and c, or you’re an inconsistent liberal, or not a liberal at all (the a, b and c just happens to coincide with Mr Murali’s own beliefs and views). That is not “merely presenting his view and reasoning as it appears to him from his unique cultural and philosophical background.” And I think he gets too much deference over here compared to the other bloggers because of his so-called “unique cultural and philosophical background.”

         Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          I mean, if Tom van Dyke writes about supporting the creation of abortion panels that can throw doctors and women in jail, I doubt people would be talking about  “excellent thought provoking writing” or “there is an enormous amount of value in him…”. But since it’s Mr Murali, we all should “remain level-toned”.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            There are plenty of writers here who I regularly disagree with. Maybe even most of them! I regularly learn from all of them, however, and that’s what I come here for, much more than agreement.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Sonmi, I take second place to very few people in my support of abortion choices for women but surely you have to admit that Murali’s presentation comes from a much different angle than your standard pro-life lines.

            I personally think that even by his own Rawlsian reasoning he’s giving too much weight (and simplicity) to the position of the pre-personhood fetus and far too little to the pregnancy carrying woman. But it’s an interesting formulation.

            I’d also agree that his more expansive definitions of “if you’re liberal or libertarian then you should believe not only this but also this and this” lines are certainly weak and grating. That they’re weak merits them having holes poked in them. That their wording may be grating does merit some charity; we’re not discussing this in his first language and he is from a foreign (and more authoratarian) culture so yes he’ll see and present things in a different and potentially more jarring manner.

            Also I like to try and remain level of cheerful toned regardless of the author.Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              not discussing this in his first language

              Sorry guys, English is my first language.

              When I say “you should……” I realy dont se how that is authoritarian at all. I dont see how anybody can reasonably  believe anything they dont think other people (with same evidence) need not believe.

              i.e. either my current set of beliefs are the most reasonable ones I can have or they aren’t.

              If I know that some of my beliefs aren’t the most reasonable, then I should change my beliefs (if I aim to be reasonable in that area) to the one that is most reasonable.

              If I think that my beliefs are the most reasonable ones for me to have, then everyone who disagrees with me is having an unreasonable belief.

              And the reason why their beliefs are unreasonable are…

              Now, I dont always write as clearly as I could. And I have often put my foot in my mouth. But that has as much to do with me not thinking about how what I write may sound to someone else or with pressing <Enter> too quickly than with a lack of familiarity with the language. The most I lack may be a familiarity with the american idiom, but I do watch hollywood.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                “Sorry guys, English is my first language.”

                Well, then, maybe now people can stop pussy-footing around you too much. Mr Murali writes like a hectoring, condescending guy not because he’s unfamiliar with the language, it’s because he IS a hectoring,. condescending guy. Good to know.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic says:

                When I say “you should……” I realy dont se how that is authoritarian at all. I dont see how anybody can reasonably  believe anything they dont think other people (with same evidence) need not believe.

                i.e. either my current set of beliefs are the most reasonable ones I can have or they aren’t.

                If I know that some of my beliefs aren’t the most reasonable, then I should change my beliefs (if I aim to be reasonable in that area) to the one that is most reasonable.

                If I think that my beliefs are the most reasonable ones for me to have, then everyone who disagrees with me is having an unreasonable belief.

                I believe that I have the right to hold unreasonable beliefs.  I do not believe that I have the right to force others to hold them, nor to behave as if they do.  Thus, I believe in the inherent goodness of mankind, despite all evidence to the contrary.Report

  11. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    This all reminds me of the old saw: How many Rawlsians does it take to replace a lightbulb?

    Which granted isn’t as amusing as the same question asking the same of Beysians (obviously, it depends)Report

  12. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Now that I’ve had my fun(don’t worry, while I’m pithy and dismissive of Rawls, I’m pretty much dismissive of any major political philosopher since Aristotle), let me actually take a stab at arguing the premise of Abortion from a Rawlsian framework.

    Specifically I think your line of reasoning when considering from the perspective of Rawlsian VoI thinkers to be insufficiently rigorous given: 1. insufficient attention paid to the second order implications of defining fetal personhood in a way that restricts abortion in a fundamental sense (rather than as a matter of policy) and 2. Minimalization of the costs that accrue toward the mother as a result of 1.

    As I have noted in other abortion threads, I think the definition of “personhood” is the most fundamentally important question when determining any debate about abortion, and one that is glossed over. There is an inconvenient truth that abortion is not the most common circumstance under which pregnancy is terminated. There is an additional, more fundamental truth that many conceptions don’t result in actual pregnancy. Definitions outside of viability complicate the former case, while definitions that are based on conception (favored by Catholics and the most ardently pro-life defenders) create enormous problems for the latter.

    The burdens and costs that accrue to women under these circumstances are enormous.

    Specifically: If we are defining that protection burdens accrue the moment a woman becomes a lea parent (as noted in your original post, you suggest there’s a higher standard of responsibility in this case) then we are substantially increasing the burdens of motherhood from simply pre-natal health to a poltical responsibility for a mother to take care of a fetal person. Whether or not this is justifiable, if we are using a maximalist position on the morality of abortion and state coercion, then we start seeing a great many implications for women’s responsibilities in pregnancy, and to the act of even trying to get pregnant to begin with.

    For example, what about IVF? Should we imagine a world where we discuss the perspective of the fetus (or embryo) and the perspective parents? Does the potential for the former to be created and then “die” outweigh the costs of disallowing IVF treatments for couples with fertility problems? What about placing strict limitations on what women can do while pregnant? To what extent should we invasively investigate miscarraiges or stillbirths? Afterall, the costs to the (now dead) fetus were much greater than anything that might’ve happened to the woman, right?Report

  13. Avatar Murali says:

    attention paid to the second order implications of defining fetal personhood in a way that restricts abortion in a fundamental sense (rather than as a matter of policy)

    Didnt I say that abortion was only to be restricted as a matter of policy? (unless we mean something different when you say that abortion is to be restricted at a fundamental sense).

    Also, I thought I wasnt very specific about when abortions were to be restricted. I indicated sometime after conception and before viability. The fact that lots of embryos and very young foetuses tend to abort spontaneously seems to indicate that over the normal course of events a foetus at that stag of development cannot be expected to develop into a baby. As a general rule spontaneous miscarriages in healthy women drops very quickly 10 weeks after the last menstrual period (roughly 8 weeks of pregnancy) This coincides with the start of the foetal period. Before this, it was an embryo. Compared to the 28 weeks that Roe vs Wade uses, there is still a massive difference. Even if we split the differenc and allow it up to 18 weeks, the other 10 weeks is not some small trifling matter,

     Report

  14. Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

    Murali

    As I commented on your OP earlier this month, I read Rawls the same way as you. I am always amazed that pro-choice progressives don’t see the obvious contradiction in their reasoning. Rawls veil leads to the conclusion that we should prohibit abortion. The rest is just window dressing.

    Progressives need to either reject Rawls’ reasoning, or their stance on abortion.

     Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Yeah, it made me feel good that at least someone else thinks the same thoughts I do. (really, honestly, no sarcasm intended)Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      My religious upbringing taught me that there is a heaven and an age of accountability.  The logical conclusion is that the souls of aborted fetuses go directly to heaven, whereas those who aren’t aborted have a non-zero chance of ending up in hell.

      Now, I’m behind Rawl’s veil and thinking about the long term….Report

  15. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    Not to be an intellectual snob, since I’m the last person you could call an intellectual (I know, I know, you all know that already, just smirk in your own time), but  I glanced upon Mr Murali’s bio, and he’s currently getting his Masters in Philosophy, as in, his current qualification is a BA or BS. Wow, with all his snide talk and condescension towards other people here when it comes to philosophy and Rawls and the first principles for liberal, I would have thought he’s at the very least a non-tenured professor with a PhD already. Well, well.Report

  16. Where does Machiavelli’s idea that the Prince – and by modern extension the State – must sometimes sacrifice its soul and do something it knows to be immoral, for the sake of the greater good of societal stability?Report

  17. Avatar Chris says:

    You know, Rawls did actually say something on the subject.

    Since Rawls is specific about whom we consider in the O.P., the first step is to determine whether embryos, say, meet his criteria. I don’t think it’s obvious either way, and perhaps an interesting discussion could result from such a discussion for Rawlsians (most progressives, by the way, have never read Rawls, so I don’t think they’re in a position to reject his reasoning).Report

    • Avatar BSK says:

      This is key.

      If we don’t define who is to be considered, I could use Rawls to argue for veganism under the assumption that someone in the OP may end up a cow.  We do not all accept that a fetus belongs in the OP and to assume so is to put the cart before the horse.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I completely agree with this completely. A zygote doesn’t have the decion-making abilities to even be behind the veil in the first place, so that would preclude its inclusion. If the argument is response is that ‘I might be a zygote behind the veil’, then it seems that the glint in your daddy’s eye ought to be behind the veil as well.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Ooops on the ‘completely’. {{mental note: hire a better proofreader}}Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          You don’t have to be a zygote. You just have to ask the white heterosexual male behind the curtain “what percentage do you want to have to deal with when it comes to whether you’ll die before you are born?”

          If someone says “Jeepers crumpets, I’d like that number to be as low as possible!”, what does that mean?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            And then you ask the women behind the veil ‘to what extent do you want to accommodate all the white heterosexual males who want to increase their chances?’

            I wonder where jeepers crumpets fall on the ensuing discussion.

             Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I don’t know. Would you ask them questions about the odds that they’d be aborted because their parents would want a real baby with a real gender? Would we hammer out that we’ve stipulated a society in which the only reason they’d be aborted is for reasons that women everywhere can be proud of?Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            How much does abortion move the needle on that percentage?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Some quick googling of “what percentage of pregnancies end in abortion?” gives some wacky, wacky numbers.

              “Surely those numbers cannot be right”, I said to myself when I read them.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                It is my understanding that most abortions happen during a period where spontaneous abortion rates are (relatively) quite high.  So if we look at the TOTAL number of conceptions (which would have to be estimated because there are many women who spontaneously abort who never even knew they were pregnant) and compare the difference between spontaneous abortions and all abortions (spontaneous and induced), what is the change?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                In the period when most abortions occur, after the pregnancy is known about, the miscarriage rate is between 10-25%. It’s hard to nail down an exact figure, but it’s likely lower than the rate that are aborted.

                As mentioned below, the wildcard is the number of miscarriages that occur before the pregnancy is noticed. Which, since it occurs before anyone knows about it, is rather hard to pin down.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Dunno. What is the highest number that would get you to say “that number doesn’t strike me as too high”?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What is the highest number that would get you to say “that number doesn’t strike me as too high”?

                Do we have an apriori conception of what constitutes ‘too high’?

                Do we have a cultural pre-concetption of what’s ‘too high’:Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I have no idea what an a priori conception of “too high” would look like. When it comes to “cultural pre-conceptions”, I think that part of the point of the veil is to end up with a society that includes a particular culture.

                What kind of culture do we want to end up with? What pre-conceptions of what is “too high” does our ideal society happen to have?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                22% of non-miscarriages, give or take, no?

                I think what BSK is getting at, though, is how many are miscarried. We don’t know that number since a lot are miscarried before the pregnancy is even noticed.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                No idea how reliable this is, but it is something: http://www.pregnancycharts.org/miscarriage.php

                Even assuming these are accurate, I have no idea how to do the math on these.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                That’s the number I saw that had me say “golly, that seems way too high”, for the record.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                If we completely ignore spontaneous abortion/miscarriage, 22% is much higher than I thought and indeed concerning.  Not sure it changes my position, but I co-sign your “golly”.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I guess I was familiar enough with the statistic that my response, when I just looked it up, was “did abortion rates go down?” 1/4 was the number I’ve always been familiar with.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Define “low” and “possible”.

             Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Wouldn’t we have the person behind the veil do that?

              “We’ve achieved great things with pre-natal health, we could say. The number one thing you have to worry about is the percent chance that you’d be a pregnancy terminated early.

              You can move this percent chance up or down this scale.”

              Where do you think they’d likely move the percent chance to? A range, say.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                There is a chance of being born addicted to crack.  Would you like to raise or lower this chance?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                As snarky as this comment was, it actually has me thinking.

                Using Rawls, there are a number of restrictions we could justify putting on pregnant women.  Are all of those acceptable?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                If we want to be ideologically-consistent and not illiberal, it would be. According to Mr Murali, if we’re imagining that we’re the fetus behind the veil of ignorance, wouldn’t we want all the best protections? Control what a pregnant woman can or cannot eat to ensure the fetus gets the best nutrients, control her movements and activities to prevent even the slightest risk of endangering the fetus etc etc. I wonder if in the name of the sacred ideological consistency, Mr Murali would be willing to mandate those measures? Probably so, since he’s already on record supporting the creation of abortion panels.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Using Rawls, there are a number of restrictions we could justify putting on pregnant women.  Are all of those acceptable?

                But consistent with the premise your accepting here, there are no restrictions would couldn’t put on anybody. So at that point, the original position fails to serve the purpose it was intended to serve.

                And at that point we either say good riddance, or we restrict the range of relevant variables in the original position.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Which is why I’m not the biggest fan of Rawls. It seems like a good idea until you start to get into the nitty gritty.

                How would we restrict the range of relevant variables? I’m not following you there…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                How would we restrict the range of relevant variables?

                Arbitrarily!

                I mean, the veil of ignorance makes a lot of sense in theory. It’s purpose is to take idiosyncratic beliefs out of the equation by giving a formal formal apparatus to compel people to think about things objectively. But if you push too hard on it, it fails.

                It reminds me of the conversation between two people where the one guy says “that policy will really benefit me”, and the other guy says “well, put yourself in the other guys shoes, does it still seem right?”, and the first guy says “I’m not in the other guys shoes.”Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Didn’t I just say that above? (Not defensive! Just saying!)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Dude, the point of the veil of ignorance is to help generate a society where you are most willing to show up no matter what the dice end up rolling.

                How much income discrepancy do you want? How much poverty can you handle? Are you going to hope that you end up rolling double zeroes and end up as part of the top 1% or are you going to say “you know what, it’s one heck of a lot more likely that I’ll end up in the bottom half of whatever shakes out”?

                What drug laws will you have in this society? What birth control methods will be available in this society? What is the likelihood of any given person being a crack addict?

                Hammer that out… and, suddenly, we find that it’s unlikely that there are that many cracked-out folks getting knocked up. Right? I mean, we’re setting the society up… right? You didn’t pick a particularly big number for the number of cracked-out folks in your society… right?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Well, I also don’t pick a particularly big number of people getting pregnant and not wanting to keep the child.

                Problem solved, no?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure seems like that that would solve the problem to me.

                So why did my original question get a visceral response, do you think? (If “visceral” isn’t the word you’d use, we’ll use the one you want to use.)Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                What would the range be, you mean?  As close to zero as possible.  But what is the mechanism for doing so?  Abortion restriction is not the only way to reduce the abortion rate.  Sex licenses.  Forced sterilization of those most likely to seek an abortion.  On and on.

                The assumption seems to be that, from behind the curtain, that what any individual stands to gain from not being aborted trumps the losses of living in a world without abortion.

                My original contention still stands, which is that we can’t necessarily assume the fetus a position behind the curtain (a case can be made, but I did not see one).  My secondary contention also stands, which is that when considering a fetus’s position, a whole host of other restrictions could be justified.  Free access to healthcare for pregnant women.  Extreme restrictions on the lifestyles of pregnant women.  Extreme anti-pregnancy measures taken in impoverished areas.

                Unless I’m missing something, I haven’t really seen these addressed directly.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So when we step out from behind the veil of ignorance, we assume that we will fall headlong into our Rawlsian paradise as fully grown humans, like what’s-her-name from the head of that guy?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                I’m okay with including newborns.  Anything prior to that, I’m not so sure about.  It is not an absolute no, by any means.  But I haven’t seen a convincing argument to include fetuses.  And, from my perspective, as wide as the chasm is between a newborn and an adult, the chasm between a newborn and and a fetus is ever great.

                Insert “The birth canal isn’t THAT long” joke here…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Not including them certainly does help us avoid a lot of issues.

                The fact that it helps us to the extent that it does strikes me as a red flag, for the record.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Besides abortion, what other issues are avoided?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The unpleasantness of talking about it.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          One of the arguments that has been made in the literature is that embryos (and, I assume, zygotes as well) meet the same requirements that, say, mentally disabled people, or even infants do (similar to other anti-abortion arguments, it has to do with potential). This means that they are to be considered in the O.P. Rawls didn’t agree with this, but it’s an argument that’s been made. Like I said, this is where the argument would take place, if we were discussing the status of abortion behind the veil.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Here is my assumption, and let me know if it’s crazy:

            I always thought that the point of the veil was to create a culture that you wouldn’t mind being born into even if you were born into the lowest decile as a person without a whole lot of potential.

            You’d still have running water and sewage and enough calories to eat.

            You’d still have a shot at a high school diploma (if not a trade school).

            You’d still have a shot at a decent job that would give you dignity.

            So on and so forth.

            It’s the basic idea of “cut the candy bar in half and let your little brother pick first”. You’d try to cut the candy bar so that even if you are the very last person in this society to pick the piece of candy they get, you won’t mind… and, as such, I always assumed that you’d get born into this society.

            Which, it seems to me, would involve zygotehood at some point.Report

            • Avatar BSK says:

              Jb- doesn’t the assumption of birth make moot abortion? You are already destined for birth, not abortion.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              That seems perfectly reasonable, and is one of the arguments people have made. Alternatively, there are the issues of justice related to the rights of the woman (Rawls’ famous footnote in PL takes this direction). In other words, what gets played out behind the veil, on the issue of abortion, turns out to be pretty much the same thing that gets played out on this side of it.Report

  18. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    Maybe this is just me being an anti-intellectual philistine who has never taken a philosophy class, but I would guess that most people don’t start from first principle reasoning of what an ideology should be and construct their whole views, opinions and belief system based on that. Most people believe certain things about certain issues, and then look for which political ideology or political parties best fit their views on those issues, making compromises along the way. Some people are single-issue voter, such that if they feel one issue is the most important thing to them, they’ll vote for the party that supports that position, even if that party disagrees with them about other issues. Others go for the ideology and party that agrees with the majority of their views. Then there are those on the fence, not content with the available ideologies and parties.

     What’s rare is someone identifying as a liberal for example, because he believes in environmental protection, reproductive rights, gay marriage etc etc, but because he also wants to achieve ideological consistency s defined by sacred liberalism texts, forces himself to also believe things he doesn’t actually believes. I’m not smart enough to know whether Mr Murali’s interpretion of Rawls and the veil of ignorance as it applies to the abortion and gay marriage question is correct. I’m just saying that most people living in the real world don’t consider ideological consistency the most important thing to achieve, and won’t find Mr Murali’s “gotcha, you’re illiberal because you are not ideologically-consistent” as big an insult and shame as Mr Murali seems to think.Report

    • Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

      Sonmi

      What’s rare is someone identifying as a liberal for example, because he believes in environmental protection, reproductive rights, gay marriage etc etc, but because he also wants to achieve ideological consistency s defined by sacred liberalism texts, forces himself to also believe things he doesn’t actually believes… most people living in the real world don’t consider ideological consistency the most important thing to achieve, and won’t find Mr Murali’s “gotcha, you’re illiberal because you are not ideologically-consistent” as big an insult and shame as Mr Murali seems to think.

      My experience on this site certainly backs this up. I have yet to meet a liberal who can present a coherent, ideologically consistent explanation to their views.

      I am reading Michael Cazzaniga’s Who’s In Charge? right now. A central theme is that all of us tend to form our ideology as a result of unconscious moral emotions, and then we work backward to justify it. Liberals don’t seem too concerned with working backward very hard or with being consistent. I’m not even convinced they care all that much about the consequences of their ideology either.

      Just saying…Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        As such a liberal, I would agreee with you, even if for perhaps a different reason than your comments imply.

        Back when I was a conservative, I scorned socialists for that very reason- that they let an abstract ideology define their beliefs, and followed it to its conclusion regardless of how absurd the outcome. In my opinion, the contemporary conservative movement and libertarians are making the same sort of mistakes.

        Insisting on consistency wrt ideology would assume that humans were capable of forming something that was so perfectly conceived and resolved as to be able to take all the messy jumble of actual data in our lives, and organize into something that could fit neatly into the organizational structure of ideology.

         Report

        • Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

          Liberty,

          A couple of months ago James and I tried to get liberals to spell out this ideological framework, and I came to the conclusion you and Somni are espousing. I think James did too, but I will let him represent his own views.

          Liberals do not seem to depend much upon an abstract ideology to define their beliefs. I think Rawls is frequently introduced as an attempt to provide this framework (that liberals don’t crave), but as Murali points out, on the abortion question it backfires.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Just wanted to point out that Rawls didn’t think his framework backfired on the issue of abortion, considering the fact that he was pro-choice. As I said above, Murali’s argument requires some assumptions, or unargued premises, that are not self-evident, and without which one might draw a very different conclusion using the O.P.

            By the way, I don’t think most liberals or conservatives have a unifying ideological framework. I don’t think most people think about it that abstractly.Report

            • Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

              Chris,

              I think Rawls designed his veil to rationalize his moral intuitions. I read somewhere that he even admitted doing this (no citation available though).

              And I agree that most people of every political stripe do not pursue a coherent ideological framework.  Most people are way too busy living to examine how they live.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Eh, I dunno. I’ve never heard that, and in part it has made Rawls the most influential and important political philosopher since the 19th century.

                On one level, I don’t really dig the idea of the Original Position and the Veil of Ignorance. Philosophically, they have too many problems for me. On another level, though, a more informal one, they do seem to make people think about things in a way that they don’t usually think about them, at least for a little while, and that’s a good thing.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          I see your point, and I also admire your frankness.
          The sort of thing that makes the League the place it is.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        “Liberals don’t seem too concerned with working backward very hard or with being consistent. I’m not even convinced they care all that much about the consequences of their ideology either.”

        Actually, I would think it’s people who are so concerned with ideological consistency who would be the one who care so much about the consequences of their ideology. I mean, if being ideologically-consistent means you support sending women to jail for having an abortion, and you’re a dude, why not, in the name of ideological consistency?Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          “who doesn’t care”, sorryReport

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          Ideological consistency is the hobgoblin of Popes and Commissars and adolescents looking to simplify a complex world.

          I take my inconsistency as a point of pride.Report

        • Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

          Somni,

          I just noticed you quoted me and then implied that I want to send woman to jail for abortions. I am pro choice.

          My concern with Rawls is that his own veil implies a stance against abortion:

          Q: Assuming you are lucky enough not to get aborted, how would you like society to work not knowing your position within the society?

          A: Let’s re-examine the first part of your question!Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 says:

            No, sorry for being unclear, I was referring to Mr Murali’s stance that there’s nothing wrong with having abortion panels that can send doctors and women to jail (we have transplant panel, so what’s wrong with abortion panel, seems to be his reasoning).Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        So would you care to explain what is your “coherent, ideologically consistent explanation to {your] views”? Who or what do you look at for your first principle reasonings and “ideological framework”? Burke? Nozick? Ayn Rand? Explain them to us stupid, inconsistent liberals who don’t care all that much about the consequences of our ideology. Let’s see if you’re ideologically consistent enough for Mr Murali’s liking.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          This is a good point (tho a bit inflammatory if you know what I mean). Noone’s theory is consistent, coherent, etc. At some point right value conflicts emerge, and first principles (or whatever) are unable to produce a decisive conclusion. So coherence isn’t a decisive criticism.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            Actually I do aim at consistency (at the minimum). If you were to show me that the positions I hold are incoherent in some way, I will revise my beliefs.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              That’s a fun challenge. I’m with you, of course. I strive for consistency as well. But at some point the argument’s I make or the views I hold don’t derive from initial premises. They devolve to adhoc-ery. Which isn’t to say that ad hocness is an inconsistency. But when you include too much adhoc-ery, one’s theory gets very close to simply a complete description of preferences. And that’s not a theory anyone could be proud of.

              So to the challenge. First, your view of arranged marriages is inconsistent with individual liberty. Second, your view of eliminating democracy as a check on state power is inconsistent with the consent of the governed.

              Is that a good start?

               Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          For the record, I consider this to be, like, *TOTALLY* unfair.

          The main thing that I keep in mind is the culture that Murali comes from and his perspective with regards to the rest of his culture *AND* his place in regards to the rest of his culture.

          Compared to much of his part of the world, is he a Liberal Guy? Is he a Libertarian Guy? Hells yeah. Is he one of the crazy libertine anarchists that we cultivate here? No.

          He’s trying though!

          (This is why we need to get him to Vegas.)Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            For some reason,JB, I get the feeling you’re well now enough to drink.Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 says:

            “The main thing that I keep in mind is the culture that Murali comes from and his perspective with regards to the rest of his culture *AND* his place in regards to the rest of his culture.”

            I don’t know, how is this not being condescending to him? Like giving him more benefit of the doubt because people assume English is not his first language (turns out it is). “He’s not a liberal or libertarian or liberaltarian by our standard, but by the standard of those poeple, he sure is!”. I would think that Mr Murali might find this insulting.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I’m not one of those Libertarians who sees “uh-oh, someone might be insulted by my opinion!” as a reason to not have my opinion.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                Mr Murali feeling insulted is not my main concern either. My main problem is that some people seem to give him a lot of pass because of his cultural background. What American libertarian (or liberaltarian, I’m not sure what Mr Murali is calling himself this week) can get away with calling democracy overrated or proselytizing for arranged marriage without being called batshit-crazy? But it’s okay in Mr  Murali’s case, because of his cultural background.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m actually a fan of many kinds of soft relativism when it comes to culture. I don’t see Murali as having wandered into “Matters of Morality” territory quite yet (so long as he refrains from passing policy, I doubt he’ll end up there).Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      As Sommi and Liberty said, I don’t have a grand theory of everything or a random dead old guy to point to for my ideology. I have each policy area and what I believe is correct and add in to what extent those policies connect between each other.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        But apparently that’s only true of us bad liberals. Judging from the responses to my comment, conservatives, libertarians et al do have a grand unified theory and that makes them better than stupid us!Report

        • Avatar The Cardiff Kook (Roger) says:

          Sonmi,

          I think people that are drawn to unified theories will indeed believe that it is better to have a unified theory. Libertarians have justified their ideology several times recently on this site, and there are not enough conservatives to put up much of a fight. Progressives have repeatedly stressed that they follow their gut.

          We each need to decide how we will solve social problems and live with the ramifications.

          I believe progressives oversimplify social and economic problems to something their moral intuition can solve and then they sweep unintended consequences under the rug. Further they fall hook line and sinker for the zero sum fallacy and what I call the Big Kahuna fallacy (that problems are always best solved top down). But I may be wrong.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I believe I see the source of your distress.

      Rawls (to my knowledge) was always prescriptive in nature.
      He did indeed argue from First Principles, and I believe there were three of them, though I would be hard-pressed to name a single one. A summary statement would be something like: Ever greater justice for an ever greater share of the people.
      Anyway, he revised his work several times (I believe there were three major revisions) in order to make the material more coherent with the First Principles stance.
      So, the mention of Rawls automatically brings up the concept of First Principles.

      Now then, you are confusing party planks with liberal positions and libertarian positions, et al.
      Parties are coalition-building structures. (stay out of it, Hanley; bear with me for a minute)

      The thrust of Murali’s argument is that “liberal” contains illiberal elements. True. And necessary, in our current system.
      Think of it like this:
      When I say “Blue,” do you think of a light powder blue, or a deeper royal blue, or a darker navy blue?
      Liberalism, et al, arrive in much the same fashion (pun intended).
      Thus, to define oneself as “Liberal,” “Libertarian,” or whatever labels we might choose for ourselves, is merely the overall form of the aggregate, and not depictive of its shade (again, pun intended).

      Here’s another way to think of it:
      We speak in terms of sexual orientation, but what of sexual opportunism?
      How many gay men, do you think, have had sexual contact with a female?
      Does that make them any less gay?

      I believe Murali’s conclusions could be re-stated as:
      Liberalism, as we know it, contains elements other than itself; or
      Liberalism is rarely seen in pure form, even among the staunchest of liberals; or
      If Liberalism were a professional wrestler, it would definitely pull its opponents hair whenever it deemed it expedient.

      It really isn’t so much a rejection of Liberalism; not any more so than admitting that women are beautiful, even if they don’t all look like Penthouse Pets.Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        Is this unique to liberalism?Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        “How many gay men, do you think, have had sexual contact with a female?
        Does that make them any less gay?”

        You’re putting words in Mr Murali’s mouth. He thinks it does make people less liberal (illiberal) if they don’t follow his entire progression of what liberal should believe, or what he thinks liberals should believe based on his “expertise” on Rawls. He’s not merely making the anodyne observations you’re stating here:

        “I believe Murali’s conclusions could be re-stated as:
        Liberalism, as we know it, contains elements other than itself; or
        Liberalism is rarely seen in pure form, even among the staunchest of liberals; or
        If Liberalism were a professional wrestler, it would definitely pull its opponents hair whenever it deemed it expedient.”Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Maybe I should have made the distinction clear. When I was writing this post, I was using the word Liberalism the way philosphy depts use it. i.e. it is a contested term, but it has a uniting framework such that all or most instances of its use would fall under the framework. So, when we are talking about liberalism, some philosophers will say liberalism isall about autonomy. Others will say that liberalism is all about tolerance. Yet others (well mostly me, but I’m trying to get it published) will say Liberalism is all about the separation of morality and the state. Now, if liberalim being about any or all these things is true, then there is reason to suppose that people in the blue team are being inconsistent. or not really liberal or something.

        There is something to be said for consistency arguments. Because if you believe X and Y, but both X and Y cannot be true at the same time, then either X is false, Y is false or X and Y are both false. All I’m doing is pointing that out.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          “Now, if liberalim being about any or all these things is true, then there is reason to suppose that people in the blue team are being inconsistent. or not really liberal or something.”

          Well, there it is, despite the hard work of certain commenters to deny that this is what Mr Murali is doing, he admits it himself.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            “Iron ore” is distinct and different from “rock.”
            For one thing, there are no radio stations, to my knowledge, that would play “iron ore.”
            But we’ll save that for another discussion.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          …which indicates that you were using the term ‘liberal’ in the same way that Rawls himself used it, ie a ‘liberal society.’

          Still doesn’t detract from any of my restatements of conclusions.Report

  19. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Anyone who wants to contend with these positions has to argue either why what people in the original position would choose is irrelevant, or argue why people in the original position would protect the right to abortion.

    Why isn’t this enough: the fetus’ right to life imposes a positive obligation on the mother which she should have the right to reject.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Because then you’ve validated the entire libertarian program!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I don’t think so, but maybe you could explain more.

        The right to life of a fetus is a categorically different thing than the right to life of an adult. For adults, the right imposes only negative obligations, obligations to refrain from killing another unless it can be morally justified. But honoring the right to life of the fetus logically depends on the mother accepting a biologically imposed positive obligations. If you accept that a woman has the right to her own body, pregnancy necessarily creates a rights conflict.

        The conflict is real, and relevantly dissimilar to other right’s based arguments. I see nothing about being behind the veil that would alter this part of the argument. I also think that the mother’s right to her own body is a conceptually prior to the positive obligation a fetus imposes on her. So choosing to permit abortion from behind the veil seems, to me, entirely rational.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          [X] imposes a positive obligation on [someone] which [that someone] should have the right to reject.

          That’s not the worst nutshell understanding of libertarianism that’s ever been written on this here blog.  It’s a generalization of your statement, to be sure, but by employing your more specific usage, you ultimately have to either treat it as a general principle or justify when it applies and when it doesn’t.  I’m not asking you to do the latter, of course.  But if you use that rule, be careful of where it leads–that particularly slippery slope is a quick ticket to libertarian-land.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I’m not sure I see you’re worry about how and when to use what otherwise seems like a fully general principle. Like all moral principles, it applies ceteris paribus. That is, it can be defeated. And in the abortion debate that’s precisely what pro-lifers argue: that the ‘opt out’ principle can be defeated because the rights of the fetus trump the rights of the mother. The argument I’m making is that even if the fetus has full-blown human rights, the pro-life claim doesn’t apply – tho the ‘opt out’ principle still does! – because the mother’s right to determine her own body is a prior right.

            Btw, I’m not disputing the strength of your argument here. It’s a good argument. I’m just saying it can be answered. The most comprehensive response I could give in a short time frame is this. Making the ‘opt out’ principle a trumping principle requires substantial argument (that requires Grand Vision Libertarianism). Making it a ceteris paribus principle is easy, since it’s consistent with commonsense morality. Identifying fully general conditions under which it can be defeated is probably really difficult, so it probably needs to be done on a case by case basis. But it’s one of the recurring themes lately here at the league. A discussion I’m very open to having.

             Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              I also think that the mother’s right to her own body is a conceptually prior to the positive obligation a fetus imposes on her.

              On what basis?

               Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Because the fetus right to life is conceptually (and biologically!) dependent on the mother, hence, on the mother’s rights.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Well so is an infant, biologically.

                What do you mean by someone’s right to life is “conceptually” dependent? I don’t get that phrase.

                It seems like you are trying to force a resolution to a thorny problem of competing rights.

                Customarily, life itself trumps any other consideration except another life.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                You can take an infant and give it to someone else to take care of.

                You can’t take a fetus and do the same. Or, when you can, it becomes an infant in the process.

                I consider Stillwater’s line of thinking solid from a libertarian perspective. Indeed, when I was a libertarian, it is precisely what I believed. Now I look at the competing rights as something rather… complicated. I support abortion rights up to a point, but not up to the libertarian point.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Doesn’t that strike you as odd, the concept that a human life can be less important than someone else’s freedom to choose, even to the point of convenience?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                You gamed the answer.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Explain, please. (Not being argumentative,I honestly don’t understand).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                There are people who believe the fetus ought to be afforded the full raft of rights of a human being, but these are typically not the same people who would say that someone else’s freedom of choice trumps those rights.

                There are a minority of people who believe that, though; but typically they also aren’t using “less”, because they’re not comparing rights on a ratio interval… or because they don’t like the rest of the context.

                These are the people who would say something along the lines of:

                “Even if the fetus is an unqualified human being, which I’m not predisposed to grant, and even if the fetus ought to be granted the full set of rights possessed by independent human beings, which I’m also not predisposed to grant, my actual “importance equation” would be something along the lines of,

                “The freedom of a woman to choose her medical care and preserve the integrity of her decision-making regarding her own body trumps society’s power to interfere with those decisions based upon the rights of the fetus, because I’m disinclined to grant that power to society in any formal way, even if those rights exist.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That’s for the most part exactly what I would have said Patrick.. And you said it much better! 🙂Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                A lot of philosophical principles are just fine as first principles, but you still have to put the rubber on the road to make policy.

                There are a lot of things which I believe are things that ought to be, or should be, or even need to be for society to consider itself a just society.  But I don’t grant the endgame as being worth any cost.  (I’m not even sure you can have a just society, really, so that “need” thing is gaming the answer).

                So, then the problem becomes one of practicality.  I can see justifiable cases where abortion ought to be legal.  I can see justifiable cases when it ought not to be, from a rights perspective.

                But the law cannot be in practice a perfect reflection of justice.  It just can’t be.  And thus, when one encodes something in the law, it can fail, in some cases, and produce unjust outcomes.

                Some of those unjust outcomes are pretty monstrous.  This is why I don’t like the death penalty.

                As an aside, it’s funny, people often make fun of conservatives who are “pro-life and pro-death penalty”, but they very rarely make fun of liberals who are “pro-choice and anti-death penalty” on the same grounds of “your principles are inconsistent”.

                I accept that there are people who are consistent in the “pro-life and pro-death penalty” camp, on principle, but who nevertheless come down that way in practice due to the same sort of practical “legal codification is icky” assessments… they’re just measuring things differently from how I’m measuring them.  I even grok how they measure stuff.  I just don’t agree with it.

                I say this as someone who is anti-death penalty, but I’d most likely happily strangle someone who raped and murdered my wife with my own hands.  And I think I have a consistent set of principles for that, too.

                But hey, that’s me.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Patrick thanks for the clarification at comment #98.

                But it still seems that your paragraphs beginning with “even if…” can be fairly summed up as:

                “Even if the fetus IS a human life, its right to life is STILL less important that the mother’s right to choose“.

                Or did I restate it incorrectly?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I wouldn’t agree to that characterization, Liberty, tho it’s clearly an arguable position to hold. The view being presented here isn’t that anyone’s life is worth more or less than another’s. This is strictly a right’s based argument (so relative worth doesn’t come into play). And it’s that a) on the premise that a blasotcyst has a robust right to life from the time of conception, pregnancy necessarily entails a rights conflict, and b) the proposed resolution to the conflict is that the rights of the mother prevail because the right of a women to control her own body is a prior right.

                If you (and I mean you liberty 🙂  ) want to argue that the rights of the fetus trump the rights of the mother, you need to offer a non-question begging argument justifying that claim. I don’t think that’s so easy to do, since a) the right to life of a fetus isn’t a ceteris paribus right (since it entails positive obligations on the mother), and b) rejecting that the mother has competing rights over her own body is question begging.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Oy- here I thought I had resisted such an inflammatory topic.

                You are saying the rights of the fetus are less important than the rights of the mother. Not life itself, just rights in conflict and you pick one over the other.

                But…the particular “right” are discussing is the right to live, to exist at all.

                How do you take life out of this equation? What is the mother choosing, if not life or death?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You are saying the rights of the fetus are less important than the rights of the mother.

                Actually, it gets worse. I’m saying not only what you say above, but that lots of other things radically tip in the mothers favor. I’ve been arguing this assuming what I think is the best argument the pro-life side can offer. But there are all sorts of other considerations which come into play – I haven’t even addressed those.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Your thinking is incredibly dogmatic; You don’t seem at all concerned about the outcome of your logic, only the process itself.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, I disagree about that. And that all on it’s own might reveal the contours of the debate we’re having. I mean, I’ve put my chips on the table. I’ve made an argument. I don’t see that as dogmatic but rather telling you where I’m coming from – especially since I’m answering the question you asked me. If you disagree, that’s fine. If you refute the argument, I’m all in favor. But it’s not dogmatic. I simple presented an argument to justify why my beliefs.

                 Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                But it still seems that your paragraphs beginning with “even if…” can be fairly summed up as:

                “Even if the fetus IS a human life, its right to life is STILL less important that the mother’s right to choose“.

                Or did I restate it incorrectly?

                Either you’re not getting it, or I’m not explaining it correctly, or you’re not interested in the distinction.

                If you’re not interested in the distinction, that’s certainly your prerogative, lots of people aren’t.

                It doesn’t really have anything to do with the mother’s right to choose or the fetus’s right to life.  It’s a question of the boundary of state action.  Wherein do we want to limit what the state – as an agent – can do directly to forbid human behavior (and to a lesser extent how we are going to encode that).

                I’m not comfortable saying that the state, as an agent, should have the power to prevent a woman from making this decision.  This may violate the rights of the fetus.  That’s not enough to make me want to hand this power over to the state.

                I don’t want the state killing people, either.  I don’t want the state to prevent someone from terminating their own life.  There’s lots of things I don’t want the state to do.

                There’s plenty of things I don’t mind the state doing, either; I’m neither an anarchist nor a libertarian, myself.

                There are lots of things than people can do to lessen or prevent rights violations.  So many, many things.  The compulsion to encode all of this stuff in the law as the first and only step is a hallmark of both liberals and conservatives.

                The law is a hammer.  Most problems aren’t susceptible to getting worked out with least injustice when all you have is a hammer.  Some problems are nails, then by all means let’s use the hammer.

                This, in my opinion, isn’t one of them.  I’ve reached this conclusion independently of my assessment of the status of the fetus, and what is or should be the moral obligation of the mother, and numerous other factors.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Pat, you are only confirming my understanding. I do get it and you did explain yourself very well.

                You wave your hand and say “shush, its not about the mother’s right or the fetus’ rights”…as if that could make it so.

                But then you go on to say that the state should only protect the free choice rights of the mother and decline to protect the right to live of the fetus.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                But then you go on to say that the state should only protect the free choice rights of the mother and decline to protect the right to live of the fetus.

                Er, no.

                The state (by my definition) ought to always protect the free choice rights of everybody – that’s the *default behavior* – as long as two conditions don’t exist:

                (1) the free choice of one represents a rights infraction to another.

                (2) the state can meaningfully protect the victim of the rights infraction without creating sufficiently bad ancillary rights infractions.

                I don’t think (2) holds here at all, and I believe there’s a solid case to be made that (1) doesn’t hold (at least, not in all cases) either.  But the (2) is the game-stopper.

                You’re setting up a false dichotomy and saying I choose one of the two false choices.  If you want to take my position uncharitably, you could say:

                But then you go on to say that the state should only protect the free choice rights of the mother and should decline to protect the right to live of the fetus.

                That’s an uncharitable framing, but it’s fair, practically speaking.  I believe the state should decline to protect the (in dispute) right to live of the fetus.

                In all cases, the state should protect the free choice rights of everybody, so that clause is not relevant.

                (edited to add)

                If it *is* regarded as relevant, this presents a major problem for the pro-life side, not the other side… because it is demonstrably the case that the fetus is incapable of free will during some/most of its gestational period and it is certainly incapable of meaningful choice pretty much the whole way through the process.

                Then your dichotomy would look like this:

                The state should only protect the free choice rights of the mother and decline to protect the right to choose of the fetus, as it empirically has none.

                The fetus cannot “choose” life for itself, it has no capacity of reason.

                (/edited)

                You wave your hand and say “shush, its not about the mother’s right or the fetus’ rights”…as if that could make it so.

                Well, it’s not.  If you want to argue those things, we can argue those things, but if you’re talking about the rights conflict we’re going to get into deep weeds.  I don’t mind, myself, I’ve gone into the deep weeds before.  But the existence of the practical problem of embedding this into the law without creating additional serious problems makes this an unnecessary conversation for my position.

                In other words, we can go have that conversation and you might even convince me that the fetus is at the moment of conception worthy of the same rights as we grant a fully adult productive, fair, intelligent, law-abiding, worthy member of society (I doubt it, but I’ve been surprised before) and it’s not going to make me want to change the law wrt abortion.

                If your goal is to get me to change my position, you have to tackle the hard part of the argument first.  The morality part is an *easier* discussion to have!

                Explain to me what your anti-abortion law looks like.  Explain to me how you are going to codify it, enforce it, penalize the infraction of it… in such a way that I can’t immediately tear a couple hundred holes in it from things I find abhorrent.

                Write a guest post.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Liberty, you wrote to Patrick:

                You wave your hand and say “shush, its not about the mother’s right or the fetus’ rights”…as if that could make it so.

                I hope you don’t mind my jumping in here to comment on this. One reason is that Patrick’s view is similar to mine tho we place a different emphasis on the role of the state here. I’m with about one thing in this debate: the state has an obligation to protect basic rights. I don’t think that’s in dispute by anyone here. The argument I’m making (and Patrick too to some extent) is that on the supposition that a fetus has rights at the time of conception, pregnancy creates a rights conflict.

                You’re proposed solution is that the state ought to protect the rights of the fetus. Fair enough. But what’s being suggested here is that honoring the right to life of the fetus entails a positive obligation on the mother which fundamentally violates her right to determine her own body, or her right to autonomy over her body, or whatever.

                So the issue here is that enforcing one persons rights entails violating the rights of another. So, a question: why should the state opt for enforcing the rights of the fetus over the rights of the mother?

                My argument is that the rights of the mother are conceptually prior to the rights of the fetus and ought to take precedence. Patricks argument is that insofar as the rights conflict doesn’t admit a clear resolution (which he isn’t committed to, by the way) less state intervention is better than more.That is, on Patrick’s view, the role of the state has moral (and other) properties which tip things in favor of choice.

                But as I said upthread, on the supposition that pregnancy fundamentally creates a rights conflict, the pro-life advocate needs to make an argument for why the fetus’ rights trump the mother’s. And along those lines, maybe you don’t think that pregnancy does constitute a rights conflict afterall. If so, then we’re definitely thinking about this issue in radically different ways.

                 Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Lest I be unclear, I accept Mr. Van Dyke’s stated-on-other-threads premise that pregnancy can represent a unique obligation to an incipient mother as a legitimate position, which is how Tom would counter Stillwater’s position about positive obligations.

                One can certainly make this case when arguing the morality of abortion.  I’m not entirely convinced of it myself, but I don’t reject it on the grounds that it is unreasonable to accept as a default working premise.

                I have a tendency to come down on the, “Yes, but” side of Tom’s argument a little bit more than the “Yes, but” side of Stillwater’s argument, myself.

                That is to say, I think that existence of a default positive obligation of a mother to carry an infant to term is a more compelling moral position (to me) than the default lack thereof.

                The tricky part is when you get to cases.  There are lots of cases wherein that positive obligation loses its shine.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Tom’s counter argument isn’t something that’s been discussed too much. As I recall that argument, he was saying that the very act of having consensual sex was sufficient to obligate the mother to take the fetus to term (or viability at least).

                If that’s just a brute assertion, then I’d have to reject it. If it’s the result of an argument, then I’d like to see the argument. Personally, I don’t see how that argument could go. In fact, I think it fundamentally begs the question against the mother’s rights: she has no right to her own body except when pregancy results from non-consensual sex. Maybe this premise could be defended on social utility grounds (or something like that), but it clearly begs the question the rights question before the argument even gets started.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I appreciate the cite, but I’ve been sitting this one out.  I’ve had my say in full on all this a week or 2 ago and am not inclined to make the necessary clarifications again.

                I didn’t really go into the political philosophy or constitutional arguments, only the ethical ones, and the moral basis for the traditional exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.

                But since I’m here, I think Murali has been subjected to ad hom attacks and that people should have got his back more on such scurrilousness.  I would have, but I thought it would just make things worse for him.

                 Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                the pro-life advocate needs to make an argument for why the fetus’ rights trump the mother’s.

                The argument for that is that human life itself – any human life, anywhere, belonging to anyone- is of  a higher value than any other right, anywhere, belonging to anyone.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                The argument for that is that human life itself – any human life, anywhere, belonging to anyone- is of  a higher value than any other right, anywhere, belonging to anyone.

                Can you kill someone in self-defense?

                Are you obligated to attempt first to defend yourself using non-lethal means?

                Can you forcibly prevent someone dying of a terminal disease from disconnecting themselves from life support?Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Assuming your questions are framed as “can you, Liberty60 within the terms of your moral framework….”

                Yes, killing in self-defense is acceptable- life trumps other life;

                Yes, you are obligated to  use killing as a last, not first, resort;

                And suicide of terminally ill persons is a classic confrontation between life and intolerable cruelty. There is no universal answer; there are times when either course of action could be morally acceptable.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’d be happy to point out an analogy that argues a position similar to that of TVD’s. Keep in mind that he is a theist, and I am not (and I’m pretty sure that he’s a Christian in the “internal state” sense of the term… and I am only a Christian in the Culturally American Dominant Culture White Heterosexual Male sense of the term). (This is also an argument made by our very own Trumwill in the earlier thread.)

                Paternity.

                I think that you are at least familiar with, if not sympathetic to, the idea that a man should be responsible for the baby if he knocks some chick up.

                If Burt Reynolds happens to have a tryst while out and about and some woman gets pregnant due to the fact that he and she did “it”, I think you are down with the idea that he is obliged to pay child support for this baby.

                Hey, you might say, If he didn’t want to pay child support, maybe he could have kept it in his pants.

                We understand that obligation, correct?

                Of course, the counter-argument to this analogy is usually something of the form “so when a 12-year old girl is raped by her father and if she doesn’t get an abortion *SHE’LL DIE* and you would tell this girl that she should have kept it in her pants???????”

                It’s usually at this point that the conversation falls apart.

                However, there’s that first part. The analogy that, I think, makes sense (even if you’re not sympathetic).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Given your last reply, I would say that you need to qualify this a bit, then:

                The argument for that is that human life itself – any human life, anywhere, belonging to anyone- is of  a higher value than any other right, anywhere, belonging to anyone.

                … because you just admitted that it isn’t, at least using most definitions of the word “higher”.

                I accept that you use this as a working guideline, and that’s all well and good… but if you have exceptions to this as a foundational principle, you have to suss out what those exceptions mean.

                “Intolerable cruelty” is a pretty loaded term.  Hard to suss out cases without relying upon utility arguments, and you don’t like those by your own admission.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                That is to say, I think that existence of a default positive obligation of a mother to carry an infant to term is a more compelling moral position (to me) than the default lack thereof.

                I struggle with this question a bit myself, but I do find it helpful in thinking it through to be sure not to ignore how useful it would be, hypothetically speaking, for a particular gender of the species to socially promulgate such an obligation if they were at all interested in dominating and subjugating the other gender.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                The fact that a moral principle leads to disagreeable consequences for half the population doesn’t mean its wrong.

                It just means we need artificial wombs and soon.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                If upon being impregnated, a woman incurs an obligation to carry the pregnancy to term – not to see that it is brought to term, but to do it herself, which is what you articulated – then how would an artificial womb get her out of that obligation?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I am of the mind that an incubator would merely shift the battle and do little to end it, even in the best circumstances.

                I suspect that most women (who abort) would not be keen on someone else having their genetic child, even if they did not have to carry it for nine months.

                More than that, though, the transfer process will be imperfect, with pro-lifers pointing to the fact that there is an increased risk of fetus death and pro-choicers pointing to some increase in health risk in comparison to an abortion.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Also, it’s not the effect I’m concerned with; it’s the genesis of of the obligation.  I see rights (therefore obligations) as social conventions – they are always socially contextualized and created; they do not exist apart from social context and are not inherent or natural in any way (other than higher-order social facts are in some sense natural facts).  When we are trying to figure out if a right or obligation exists, we are really just trying to figure out whether it has been sufficiently accepted by a society so as to make it generally recognized (or some other such standard).  When looking at this instance, then I find it helpful to note that in practice, women by and large do not feel obligated to carry pregnancies to term (the obligation has not “taken” to the population that supposedly carries it); and the entire discussion of the question of whether this obligation exists, in my view, can be basically traced to the interests of males in seeing their offspring brought into being through the instrumentality of the female body.  Women were for a long time dependent on men and simply not in a position to be heard on the question of this obligation; now that they are they don’t accept it.  Given this and the transparently self-interested nature of the claim by men that the obligation exists, I have a hard time seeing how we can conclude that it in fact does.  My observation is not about the effects of the principle, but about the context in which the very question of it arises.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Stillwater,

              I’m not worried about when to use the general proposition that you can reject claims of positive obligation.  I use it all the time.  I’m just worried about your immortal soul should you get too comfortable with the principle and find yourself slipping into the one true libertarian faith. 😉  That is, yes, it’s a principle that can be defeated; but the very fact of using it as an initial principle, a beginning position, means claims of positive obligation are fighting a rear-guard action every step of the way, always trying to justify themselves as an exception to the general rule in the particular case.

              Contrast with Liberty60s’ beginning position of moral duty toward others, of having binding positive obligations.  From his initial principle, it’s the rejection of a positive duty that has to fight the rearguard action, always claiming special exception in particular cases.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yah, I feel ya on all this. We’ll see what happens in the future!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Come to the dark side!  (We drink our bourbon neat over here!)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And btw, I think Liberty’s claim of a positive obligation in healthcare and welfare is more or less accepted, even by libertarians – Jaybird, Roger, I think Jason, and perhaps even you tho maybe on different grounds. The issue at that point, it seems to me, is easing out the limits and extent of that obligation. As Jaybird likes to say regarding welfare, why isn’t meeting Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs enough? Why should it be any more? Personally, I’m very sympathetic to that position. Healthcare is a bit more complicated, and Jaybird’s worries about cost on this issue are also spot on. But the argument he’s making isn’t a libertarian one as much as a practical one: open-ended costs make the system definitionally unsustainable. (That’s not to say Jaybird doesn’t have other objections to single payer or even the PPACA of course.)Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          This is basically what Rawls says in PL.Report