Saturday, April 25, 2020

Thank-you notes!

Philipp Schulz has a blog post on "Practicing Academic Kindness in the Classroom" that offers the great suggestion of having students write "thank you" notes to authors of writings they read in class that the students appreciated: perhaps the reading changed their mind, helped them articulate a belief, presented an opposing view in an interesting light or anything else the student found valuable.

A philosophy professor friend of mine, or his TA, had students do this in their class and some students kindly wrote about how they appreciated my "Early and Later Abortions" and "Reply to Tollefsen" in Bob Fischer, ed., Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues That Divide Us (Oxford University Press, 2019). (This chapter led to another chapter, which led to the Thinking Critically About Abortion book). 

It is, of course, very rewarding for me to know that someone read and enjoyed my writings and it helped them, they believe, think better about a complex and controversial issue. With permission and pride, I'm sharing their reactions below. (Click on the post title to get to the rest of the post).

Ethics Left and Right

1. I would like to write my thank you note to Nathan Nobis, the author of “Early and later abortions: ethics and law”.

This particular essay stood out to me because I enjoyed the clarity and lack of bias present in the argument. Nobis, compared to others, seemed to give a fair and strong argument for both sides of the abortion argument but was able to show how abortion should be morally permissable as a conclusion. 

I thought in particular, his argument about what defines a person and personhood was important to the argument and not an argument that I had thought of before when it comes to this issue. Reading this essay opened up my eyes to different arguments supporting this issue and challenged how simple I used to think my stance on the issue used to be. It is probably typical for students to feel thankful to authors who changed their outlook on a certain issue they used to disagree with, but I feel most thankful to the author who showed me a different argument and a different perspective on an issue that I care about. 

I also enjoyed that Nobis argued about the ethics of abortion rather than the law because the issue of the law would be an entirely different argument which was the argument I always made for my support of choice.

2. Hi Dr. Nobis,

I’m an undergraduate [student], and I’m writing because I took a class this past semester on contemporary moral problems. One of the topics we discussed was abortion, and we read your argument on its ethics and legality, Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law. 

I just wanted to express my appreciation of your writing/arguing style and how straightforward it is to read. We read a lot of arguments and papers from different authors on different topics, and for me, yours was definitely one of the best in terms of comprehensibility and objectivity. I especially appreciated the effort you spent in your argument on describing both flawed and plausible arguments against abortion. As someone who took this class to get a better idea of the overall discussion on important issues, descriptions like this really do help in painting that picture.

I think I should add the disclaimer that this is technically an assignment to write to an author that we’ve read, but I did have the choice of who to write to and what to say. I genuinely do respect the effort you must have put in to make an argument that’s well-paced and well-rounded, and especially accessible to someone unfamiliar on the topic.

3. Dear Mr. Nobis,

I’d like to thank you for your paper “Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law” as it really helped me to understand the issue better, as well as to formulate my own opinion on the matter. 

I have always been pro-choice because I would never presume to tell another woman what she can and can’t do with her body. This reasoning is what led me to think that the government has no place outlawing abortions, yet, I have never been able to articulate why abortion is not wrong, only why it’s none of the government’s business.

Specifically, I found your objection to the “right to life” pro-choice argument very illuminating. I have a slightly harder time accepting some other parts of your argument, but what you said about how even if fetuses have a right to live, they don’t have a right to another’s (the mother’s) body was very compelling to me. 

I can now better articulate my own view: even if fetuses should otherwise be allowed to survive, the mother's right to bodily autonomy trumps that, and that is why abortions are morally permissible.

Thank you for your compelling paper!

4. Dear Nathan Nobis,

Thank you for showing me how to argue about abortion without using religion as the basis for either side's argument. Whenever I have spoken to people about abortion, religion is almost always involved and it can create a much more destructive conversation than intended. Using consciousness as the basis of the argument was something I had not thought of before. This new way to approach the topic of abortion is extremely interesting and helpful for me. Thank you for providing this new insight.

5. Dear Nathan Nobis,

I just wanted to reach out to thank you for your work "Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law." It was able to learn and think about more pro-choice arguments that I had not considered before. It also allowed me to realize that some of the arguments that I make in support of abortion either beg the question or do not apply to the more common circumstances. Thank you again for your work.

6. Dear Nathan Nobis,

Thank you for writing and sharing your piece “Early and Later Abortions: Ethics and Law” in my philosophy textbook. Your argument helped me explore beliefs surrounding abortion and helped me understand and solidify my own. 

Last semester I wrote one of my term papers on abortion, but my argument mostly focused on the laws surrounding abortion and how there should be national standards for free access to abortions. I have never been able to think about the actual act of abortion in the way that your piece challenged me to do. You dealt with the extreme details of the act and the morality behind it which made it possible to see both sides and choose one. Further, your argument gave me a solid foundation for my beliefs and to be able to articulate why I believe in pro-choice. 

Thank you so much for being a great philosophy role model for me.

Thank you all! Nathan Nobis 

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