From a philosophical perspective


This article is written in rebuttal to Wednesday's opinion article with the same title. The author begins by stating that human life begins at conception and that an embryo is agreed to be the equivalent of a human being by all truly informed individuals. He further asserts that this fact is not up for any philosophical debate "as some would like it to be." This statement alone brings to question the legitimacy of a philosopher's way of thinking. It's as if the author believes it is the goal of a philosopher to constrict and skew the view of an otherwise commonly known fact to better suit their purposes for a valid argument. Philosophy adds complexity to arguments, sure, but it does not replace facts with something more comfortable.

To begin, a human embryo is not a human being, the same as a human child is not a human adult. When we talk about earlier stages of our development and compare them to later stages we are talking about potential. A human embryo has the potential, under normal circumstances, to eventually become a human being. Hence, for the rest of this article I am amending the author's assertion, I will replace his approximation sign with an equal sign. A human embryo is a potential human being; this is recognized by all truly informed individuals.

The question, then, is whether or not it is acceptable to allow society to abort, destroy, terminate — whatever non-pretty word you wish to use — a potential human being. This is of course a moral question, a question that could be decided on by society and enforced by its laws. According to asserters like this author, it is not morally permissible to terminate a potential human being — a human embryo. His feelings toward his opinion are strong indeed; one would wonder how they hold up on the entirety of his thoughts. When a doctor performs a termination, the terminology the author uses, what are the consequences of this action? The author would argue that the doctor is terminating a potential human being. This holds true during any stage of pregnancy. What about stages prior to pregnancy? What happens if the author decides to wear a condom during sexual intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy and ultimately terminates a potential human being? Do you feel I am being too extreme? Is there not potential?

Allow me to explain the process by which I reached that allegation. It seems that what asserters like the author are truly concerned with is drawing a line at some point they feel is proper in terms of when some object occupying some area is considered a potential human being. The sperm and the egg are joined and so that area occupying the sperm and the egg is a potential human being. Fine, take it a step further. The sperm is right outside the egg, just about to fertilize the egg — is that a potential human being? Is it an object? If you think it is two separate objects then what defines one single object? When two chemicals are covalently bonded? When several million atoms are within close proximity to one another? Is a human adult an object or a collection of several millions of objects? This is system-based thinking. An object is scope, a limit if you will, of area within which we say that that area defines an object. Even a fertilized egg can be considered two objects; it can even be several millions of objects if we take our system scope small enough. But let us stay on track and consider a fertilized egg as one object and at the same token a sperm about to meet an egg as one object. Is stopping the sperm from meeting the egg the termination of a potential human being? It is according to the author's assertion. Well, it makes no difference to stop a sperm the minute it meets the egg or to stop it by a physical wall in the form of a condom. I will take this argument even further and state that any action by which we prevent the existence of the object of an embryo — a potential human being — is morally impermissible and should be regulated by society. What are you doing when you use a condom? You are terminating a potential human being. What are you doing when you say no to sex? You are terminating a potential human being. We have all terminated so many potential human beings in this world — what would it matter if we add to the list a couple of unexpected pregnancies that would nearly destroy the lives of the mothers had they been illegal to discontinue? Many readers forget that the author's assertions also apply to rape, incest and other events outside of the mother's control. Before setting a moral bar in the fabric of human society, you should really consult a philosopher's perspective first. Cheers to the author.

Dmitri Pestrikov is a Rutgers college senor majoring in philosophy and economics.


Dmitri Pestrikov

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