About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Abortion and the case of the desperate violinist
The question, obviously, is how you consider this situation from a moral perspective. Does the SML have the right to do this to you? Suppose that, once hooked up to the violinist, you have the choice to disconnect yourself (of course, the grat musician will die as a result): what would you do?
The idea is to put in sharp relief some of the ethical issues surrounding abortion, where you play the part of the mother (say, in the case of a pregnancy induced by rape), the violinist is the baby, and the SML is the government. Pretty though, eh? That's the hallmark of a good thought experiment!
Of course unborn fetuses are not fully conscious human beings, as the hypotethical violinist, but that -- according to Cohen -- is one of the advantages of the thought experiment, it takes our attention away from one issue (awareness or lack thereof) and focuses it on the issue of the degree to which we are morally responsible for someone else's life. To say the least, Thompson's experiment clearly makes the point that the responsibility for the decision ought to rest with you (the mother), not with the SML (the government). Wow.