Abortion: A Dialogue

Abortion: A Dialogue

Abortion: A Dialogue

Abortion: A Dialogue

Synopsis

At a coffe-house near the United States Supreme Court, a male lawyer ('pro-choice'), a female pediatrician ('pro-life'), and a moderator who calls himself a 'proselytising agnostic' embark on an extensive exploration of issues central to the abortion debate. Vigorously demonstrating the relevance of reasoning to important moral problems, the participants resist the temptations of strident emotional appeal in an effort to present the most honourable and intellectually sophisticated sides to their arguments. This effort leads them to consideration of antebellum slavery, to a comparison of the notions of absolute truth in ethics versus mathematics, and to constructive discussions of genetics, artificial intelligence, euthanasia, personal identity, human sexuality, and Roe v Wade. A perfect primer or literary supplement for courses involving topical ethics, and a potent stimulant for classroom discussion.

Excerpt

This dialogue is not a comprehensive treatment of the abortion controversy. (Since you have by now held the book and gauged its size, this shouldn't come as news to you.) The arguments at its core, however, are designed to spin out threads sufficient to weave a complete tapestry. The characters in this dialogue do a lot of weaving (especially for one day!), but they stop well short of the finished product. My hope is that they give you enough of a lead to finish the process.

Perhaps you're thinking: Can the process every really be finished? Is there really a fact of the matter as to the moral status of abortion? At least two of the characters herein believe so. Why--I can hear either of them asking you--should we regard problems in the realm of ethics to be forever unsolvable, whereas mathematicians can serenely assume that problems that have resisted centuries of intense reflection will sooner or later yield? And what--I can hear another of them asking--about slavery? Wasn't that a controversy at least as heated, and at least as complicated, as abortion?

I'm indebted to all those who have through the years debated these issues with me. Thanks to Jim Fahey for many helpful comments. In particular, it was Jim who long ago heard my early (more technical) version of the argument from the coma case discussed in Chapter 4 and provided valuable feedback. Finally, I'm deeply grateful to an anonymous referee for remarkably insightful comments on earlier drafts.

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