What do you think of when you think of philosophy? If you’re like me philosophy conjures up images of old dudes in white robes pontificating in Athens. At least your mind will be near the dazzling white buildings and clear blue waters of the Medterrainean!
Philosophy seems like it belongs in the annals of history along with the language of latin and the “science” of alchemy.
Hopefully this book gives you the opportunity to reframe that view. Why? Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom and this book is designed as a dialogue between Socrates and several current individuals: Dr Rex Herrod, Abortionist; Dr Attilla Tarian, Philosopher; and Dr “Pop” Sykes, Psychologist. In each of these three exchanges, Socrates interacts personally with each individual in turn and makes sure that a logical conclusion is reached.
For philosophy it’s pretty fun.
Before I tell you the central premise they keep coming back to, let me point out that this book is entirely dialogue and Kreeft puts a note in the margin and points out the ideas being discussed so one keeps track of the flow of ideas. This makes the book eminently more approachable compared to a more traditional philosophy text.
Each of the three exchanges ends up coming down to whether or not the fetus is a human being. The success or failure of each of the camps on this issue depends on the outcome of this question.
One last note, no biblical references are used here and no one is there to argue the “prolife” side, it is simply Socrates asking the next question logically in the socratic method.
Whether you believe we can undeniably know the answer to this question or not we are faced with several situations. According to Socrates on Pg 71 of the book and Dr Kreeft in a recent debate with David Boonin, we have four potential outcomes. In three of these, we will see that abortion is ill-advised.
Let’s consider each of the four in turn. The first two deal with scenarios where we know for sure whether the unborn are or aren’t human
First, the unborn are human and we know that for sure. In this case abortion ends a human life and it can accurately be called murder since it was intenionally carried out on the innocent human in the womb by another party.
Second, the unborn are NOT human and we know that for sure. If we find ourselves in this situation, then abortion has no more moral consequence than clipping your toenails or having your appendix out.
Things change as we approach these next two situations where we don’t know for sure whether the unborn are human, but they could still end up being human or not. Forewarning: philosophic scenarios ahead.
If the unborn are human but we don’t know for sure that they are, then taking action that could end their life is incredibly negligent. Consider this analogous situation from Dr Kreeft’s debate. If you were about to fumigate a building and your boss asks you, “Have you checked the building for children?” You respond, “No, there’s no need to check, we don’t know if there are children in the building.” To fumigate that building, not knowing for sure whether human children were present or not is extremely foolish. In the case of abortion, if we don’t know for sure whether the unborn are children and it turns out they are, it could be termed manslaughter according to Kreeft.
If the unborn are NOT human but we don’t know for sure that they are not, then we also find ourselves in a situation where action that could end a life is not a correct course. Consider yourself driving and you see a man-shaped overcoat in the road in front of you. It could be a human or it could be a bunch of clothes. Would you intentionally drive over it not knowing whether it was a man in the coat? Or think of yourself hunting, and you hear a rustle in the bushes. Will you shoot at the rustle not knowing if it is your hunting partner or the deer you are pursuing? An action that could result in death in both of these situations seems outlandish without verifying the humanity or lack therof of the rustle or lump.
Hopefully you made it through those two paragraphs with your brain intact. I encourage you to think carefully on these issues and to check out this book for an entertaining dialogue on the subject.
Until next week!