A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2002/11/4
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David Boonin has written the most thorough and detailed case for the moral permissibility of abortion yet published. Critically examining a wide range of arguments that attempt to prove that every human fetus has a right to life, he shows that each of these arguments fails on its own terms. He then explains how even if the fetus does have a right to life, abortion can still be shown to be morally permissible on the critique of abortion's own terms. Finally he considers several pro-life arguments that do not depend on claims that the fetus has a right to life and concludes that these too are ultimately unsuccessful. This major book will be especially helpful to those teaching applied ethics and bioethics in philosophy departments or professional schools of law and medicine. It will interest students of women studies and general readers for whom abortion remains a high-profile issue.
'Boonin gives a persuasive interpretation and developments of Judith Jarvis Thompson's good-samaritan argument. He dispatches with great authority Don Marquis's future-like-ours argument. This original and carefully argued book will revitalize the abortion controversy.' Bonnie Steinbock, State University of New York, Albany
'I have never read a better examination of all the arguments that have been raised against abortion. Nor have I read a better series of counter arguments against each of these arguments.' Rosemarie Tong, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
A background in informal logic and philosophy will certainly be helpful to the reader here. While this book is really the most comprehensive of its kind, it is not a simple read. I had to take notes just to understand some of the complexities within arguments. Fortunately, I was also able to read this with a friend, which made dense parts of the book easier.
The author is careful in framing the debate and stresses arguing on an opponent's own terms. The author explains the contrast between morally criticizable and morally permissible. Moral relevance is also an essential idea. Further, the author establishes a moraly relevant criterion by brain development that may act as a cutoff point late in pregnancy so that it is still morally impermissible to kill an infant. I recommend previewing the table of contents to get a flavor of argument structure and the arguments covered. I have not encountered a topic that was not covered in the book except for maybe ageism. However, after reading this book my reasoning was developed enough to where I practically laid out a proof as to what ageism was and was not and why it was not a valid objection.
I think this book may have been a little stronger had it looked at more than fetal rights in isolation, but rather also mention that what the question being asked is does the fetus's right to life outweigh the mother's right to her body and vice-versa. Fetal rights arguments are thoroughly explained as well as non-rights based arguments. This book has also been helpful in detailing how the logic works in analogies and why the weirdness objection is not valid. The author also takes apart the violinist analogy and explains why it is poor. Because of this book, even though I am pro-choice since I think it has a stronger argument, I can argue strongly on either side.
Even if you are pro-choice, you should make sure you are pro-choice for logical reasons. I know many pro-choice people that couldn't answer standard pro-life objections. If you are pro-life, this book will challenge all your arguments and at least make you think of the issue differently. I recommend this to anyone who takes a stance on the issue and definitely anyone interested in philosophy, informal logic, and debate.
Marcel Zuijderland, Amsterdam
The book is accessible and thorough. A handy reference guide.
It's most impressive for its goal of defending abortion using arguments that pro-life folks already accept.
Most of the right-to-lifist abortion-philosophy books I have seen, particularly Beckwith's and Klusendorf's and Alcorn's and George's books, focus on showing fetal personhood, and give the BO/JH argument only a brief and cursory treatment. But the BO/JH argument, not the personhood argument, is the argument which right-to-lifers must answer in order to justify preventing abortion by force or by law. Showing that fetuses and embryos are persons with rights may support the claim that pregnant women ought to choose to grow their pregnancies, but it cannot prove that they should be compelled by force or by law to do so, unless the BO/JH argument can be convincingly answered.
The BO/JH argument was first popularized in 1971 by Professor Judith Jarvis Thomson's essay "A Defense of Abortion" (from which Boonin gets this book's title), in which she compares the fetus to a hypothetical violinist with temporary kidney failure, who needs to connect his bloodstream to yours in order that your kidneys may maintain the homeostasis of his blood, for nine months. Just as your ownership of your body would be entitle you to unplug yourself from the violinist, thereby causing him to die, so, Thomson argues, women are entitled to abort their pregnancies even though fetuses are persons.
Boonin spends almost half of his book discussing the BO/JH argument and defending it from the objections which right-to-lifers typically raise against it. The objections he answers include the "Tacit-Consent" objection, the "Responsibility" objection, the "Killing-vs-Letting-Die" objection, the "Intending-Death-vs-Foreseeing-Death" objection, the "Stranger-vs-Offspring" objection, the "Adult-vs-Infant" objection, the "Different-Burdens" objection, the "Organ-Ownership" objection, the "Child-Support" objection, the "Extraction-vs-Abortion" objection, the "Duty-to-Save-the-Violinist" objection, and what he calls the "Feminist" objection. (Significantly absent is the "Naturalness" objection which I have frequently encountered, in which the right-to-lifer claims that women should be forced to grow their pregnancies and endure full-term labor and delivery against their wills, because pregnancy is "natural" and inducing abortion goes against a hypothesized teleological "order of Nature". I don't know why Boonin neglects to give this objection, which is a relatively easy one to answer, its own section in the book.)
Boonin's defenses against these objections are often very technical, and involve fanciful thought-experiments, but his answers are readable, well-researched, and for the most part convincing. Boonin is conscientious about defending the BO/JH argument from all these right-to-lifist objections on the right-to-lifers' own terms, using their own assumptions. Too much so, in fact. One of my objections while reading this book was that Boonin treats right-to-lifers too gallantly, often giving their arguments more indulgence than they deserve, bending over backward in his effort to show that those arguments can be defeated on their own terms. For instance, he spends almost ten pages defending the violinist metaphor from what he calls the "weirdness objection": the complaint, which some of his undergrad students apparently make, that the violinist-analogy is simply too weird to be convincing.
Another objection I had to Boonin's treatment of the BO/JH argument is that he is too much married to Thomson's essay. Sure the essay is historically important, but the BO/JH argument can be stated more concisely and convincingly without drawing the problematic metaphor between a fetus and Thomson's violinist, and without needing to defend that metaphor from its obvious objections. One need only state that just as the medical right to control the contents of ones body and its life-support functions, and to avoid medical/surgical trauma, overtrumps the needs of already-born patients, so it should overtrump the rights of unborn patients as well.
For clarity, thorough research, and readability, and for giving the BO/JH argument the attention it deserves, I give this book four stars out of five.