Monday, June 29, 2020

Videos on Ethics and Abortion

Many people like watching video presentations and so here are some Youtube videos.

First, a 5-minute video presentation of my 1000-Word Philosophy article that gives an overview of arguments about abortion:


Second, videos that review a PowerPoint presentation on arguments about abortion that was developed for teaching purposes; those slides are below. This is basically a non-argumentative version of much of the discussion of Thinking Critically About Abortion

Introduction and Defining Abortion:

Question-Begging Arguments about Abortion

Common, "Everyday" Arguments about Abortion:

Arguments that Abortion is Prima Facie Wrong:

Arguments that Abortion is Prima Facie Permissible and Conclusions:

Much of this discussion involves stating arguments in what's called logically valid for, as syllogisms. Here's a video on how to do that:

PowerPoint slides:


These slides in PDF.

All other blog posts are available here: here are some of them:

Friday, June 26, 2020

Soundbites and Abortion

Someone recently alerted me to this post "Can You Explain Why You’re Pro-Life in a 30-Second Sound Bite?"

It reminded me of our article "Abortion and Soundbites: Why Pro-Choice Arguments Are Harder to Make."

Here's their proposed soundbite:
I am pro-life because we know the unborn are alive, because they’re growing. We know the unborn are human because they have human parents, and I think human beings like me and you are valuable. 
In fact, I think all human beings have an equal right to live, because they all have something special in common: they’re human. That’s why racism and sexism are wrong. Racism is wrong because it focuses on a surface difference that doesn’t morally matter and ignores the thing we all have in common, which is the thing that does morally matter: that we’re human. 
And because the unborn are clearly human, they should be given an equal right to life as well.
Honestly, what - if any - are this soundbite's faults? What - if any - are its strengths? Please free free to discuss in the comments section!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Is Herbie 'The Love Bug' a Person?

Recently I have watched a few of the old "Herbie the Love Bug" films. They are fun movies, and we can learn something from them about personhood, which is fun too.

So Herbie is a personified car: he (how is Herbie a "he"?) is a car that is given the traits of a person.

If something is given the traits of a person that, of course, tells us something about what persons are or what it is to be a person.

(That Herbie doesn't exist or is a fiction doesn't matter to this: whether something actually exists or not is not relevant to whether a concept or idea describes, or would describe, that thing: e.g., a fictional or made-up house still exemplifies the concept of "house" even though it doesn't really exist).

So why is Herbie a person, or what personifies Herbie? 

It seems like the more immediate answers are along these lines: Herbie is personified, and so displays the characteristics of a person, because:
  • he is aware of things: he knows where things and people are, 
  • he has beliefs, 
  • he has desires, 
  • he has preferences, 
  • he has emotions, 
  • he has a memory, 
  • he has goals and the like: 
  • in "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo" he even has romantic interests! 
In short, this car is personified in having a mind.

This seems to be a good explanation of why Herbie is a person and so what personhood is. We discuss this explanatory theory of personhood here, and observe that this theory implies that early fetuses are not persons since they completely lack any of the above or anything like it: they are completely without minds. 

A different answer to what personifies Herbie is this: Herbie is personified in that Herbie is presented as having a rational nature or essence.

Here I am not going to discuss this proposal, but instead just ask three questions about it:
  1. how is saying that "Herbie has a rational nature or essence" different from saying "Herbie is rational"?
  2. how is saying that "Herbie has a rational nature or essence" related to Herbie being rational?
  3. most importantly, is the explanation that Herbie is personified because of his rational nature or essence better or worse than the explanation that Herbie is personified because he is conscious, aware, has thoughts, feelings, beliefs, preferences, and so on? Whatever one's answer, why? And how does one decide these issues?
If you'd like, feel free to answer the questions below as a comment!

Some discussion relevant to evaluating the "rational nature or essence" proposal for personhood is here and here.

As a reminder, why are we talking about Herbie? Because thinking about Herbie (and other examples, especially ones from real life) can help us better understand what persons are, and what persons are is surely relevant to evaluating many arguments about abortion and other important ethical issues.