Proof and Persuasion in the Philosophical Debate about Abortion

Proof and Persuasion in the Philosophical Debate about Abortion Chris Kaposy Philosophers involved in debating the abortion issue often assume that the arguments they provide can offer decisive resolution.1 Arguments on the prolife side of the debate, for example, usually imply that it is rationally mandatory to view the fetus as having a right to life, or full moral standing.2 Such an account assumes that philosophical argument can compel the reader to see the fetus in a certain way and that dissent risks irrationality. I wish to question this image of the use of philosophical argument in the abortion debate. I focus on the question of fetal moral standing, which is one of the subproblems in the debate. I am especially concerned with prolife arguments for fetal moral standing, since the prolife side must argue for a position that is compulsory. The prochoice side, in contrast, typically holds that people are entitled to believe what they want about the fetus's moral standing. My position is that philosophical arguments should be understood as tools for persuasion in the abortion debate rather than as a method for discovering decisive proofs about the morality of abortion. I argue that because any one position on the moral standing of fetuses cannot http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy and Rhetoric Penn State University Press

Proof and Persuasion in the Philosophical Debate about Abortion

Philosophy and Rhetoric, Volume 43 (2) – May 27, 2010

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Penn State University Press
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Copyright © Penn State University Press
ISSN
1527-2079
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Abstract

Chris Kaposy Philosophers involved in debating the abortion issue often assume that the arguments they provide can offer decisive resolution.1 Arguments on the prolife side of the debate, for example, usually imply that it is rationally mandatory to view the fetus as having a right to life, or full moral standing.2 Such an account assumes that philosophical argument can compel the reader to see the fetus in a certain way and that dissent risks irrationality. I wish to question this image of the use of philosophical argument in the abortion debate. I focus on the question of fetal moral standing, which is one of the subproblems in the debate. I am especially concerned with prolife arguments for fetal moral standing, since the prolife side must argue for a position that is compulsory. The prochoice side, in contrast, typically holds that people are entitled to believe what they want about the fetus's moral standing. My position is that philosophical arguments should be understood as tools for persuasion in the abortion debate rather than as a method for discovering decisive proofs about the morality of abortion. I argue that because any one position on the moral standing of fetuses cannot

Journal

Philosophy and RhetoricPenn State University Press

Published: May 27, 2010

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