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哲學功課﹕墮胎的道德爭議 Is Abortion Morally Permissible or Wrong?

這個學期我修讀了道德哲學。這科除了講解道德理論外﹐還會從道德哲學的角度﹐去討論現今社會常見的道德問題。這篇功課是探討墮胎是否合乎道德。在一般有關墮胎的道德爭議中﹐爭論的問題是胎兒是否算是人﹐擁有人類的基本生存權。毫無疑問新生嬰兒一定是人﹐但正如我們不會說雞蛋等於雞﹐同樣道理受精卵不可能算是人。那從受精卵至出生的十月懷胎裏﹐胎兒那一刻起才可以算是人﹐才可以受到人權的保護呢﹖

法律定義上一般把胎兒分為三個時期。第一個時期是出生到二十個星期左右。這個時期的胎兒還未成形﹐沒有心跳也沒有腦波活動﹐在法律上第一時期的胎兒不能算是人。第二個時期大約到六至七個月﹐這個時期的胎兒還不能在母體外獨立生存﹐胎兒是否算是人具爭議性。第三個時期是六七個月直至嬰兒至出﹐這時期的胎兒已可以憑醫學儀器幫助﹐在母體外獨立生存。基本上第三個時期的胎兒與早產嬰兒沒有分別﹐所以除非母親生命健康受到威脅﹐法律禁止在懷孕後期進行墮胎。

胎兒從那一刻開始是人的問題﹐只是墮胎爭議中最粗淺的一環。哲學家Judith Thomson提出著名的小提琴家思想實驗﹐說明就算胎兒當是人﹐母親依然擁有墮胎的權利。假設有個小提琴家患了一個很奇怪的病﹐昏睡不起需要另一個人身體去提供養份去繼續生存。那個小提琴家的支持者把你綁架了﹐用管道把你的身體和小提琴家連接起來﹐用你的身體來當他的維生儀器。小提琴家自然是人也擁有生存的權利﹐但他沒有權利使用你的身體當他的維生儀器。儘管沒有你的身體小提琴家會死亡﹐你也絕對有權把管道拔掉。在道德上你沒有責任去救小提琴家﹐而要整天陪他睡在病床上。當然若果你自願救人犧牲自由是一件值得稱讚的善行﹐但你要選擇自由也沒有人可以指責你做錯。同樣道理胎兒有生存的權利﹐但胎兒沒有權利用母親的身體當維生儀器﹐墮胎正是母親行使她的身體主權。

哲學家Don Marquis則從另外一個角度去反對墮胎﹐避開了胎兒有沒有人權的爭議﹐亦間接地繞過Thomson提出母親有墮胎的權利。他先解釋為什麼殺人不合道德﹐是因為殺人剝奪了受害人的所有未來。墮胎就是剝奪了胎兒的所有未來﹐因此墮胎等同殺人一樣的不道德。我這篇文章就是探討Marquis的立論是否充份﹐檢視他能否合理地推論出墮胎等同殺人的結論。這篇是我修讀哲學幾年以來﹐破天荒第一次拿到A級成績的功課﹐努力總算沒有白費。

Is Abortion Morally Permissible or Wrong?

In Don Marquis’ paper “An Argument that Abortion is Wrong”, he argues abortion is morally wrong for the same reason as murder. Marquis criticizes the classic anti-abortion argument and the pro-choice arguments both face problems that are mirror image of one another, hence a stand-off results. (p.129) By using a different approach, Don Marqui claims his argument can avoid the stand-off results in the debate of whether the fetus is qualified as a human whom process the right to life. In this paper, I am going to show Marquis’s argument will also end up having a stand-off result.

Marquis starts his argument with asking why killing an adult human is wrong. (p.130) Killing is wrong because killing deprives the victim of a future value. The killing victim suffers the misfortune of a premature death which consists of the loss to the victim of the future goods of the consciousness. In general, killing is wrong because it deprives the victim of a future like ours (FLO).

Marquis then further explains the FLO theory is a sufficient reason for killing is wrong. First he argues the nature of misfortune in terminal disease is the loss of FLO, which also the same for premature death. He also argues murder is the worst crime because it deprives the victim all of his future, not merely part of it. Then he argues the FLO theory does not the pit-falls of traditional pro-life arguments. The FLO theory is compatible with euthanasia because those who seek euthanasia have no future. The FLO theory has no implication to animal rights, since animal life is not a life like ours. Therefore why killing is wrong can be explained using the FLO theory alone. At last he applies the FLO theory to abortion. Killing fetuses deprive the FLO of the fetuses, therefore abortion is immoral. (p.133) Here I summarize Marquis’ argument in standard form:

  1. It is wrong to cause loss of FLO
    2. Abortion cause loss of FLO of the fetus
    3. Therefore abortion is wrong

In premises 1, Marquis did not take every case of FLO into consideration. He did not consider the cases when FLO is contradictory to our moral intuition. Let me illustrate the problem of FLO using a thought experiment. Assume a patient has a very rare disease that requires a very expensive medicine to keep him alive. With the help of the medicine, the patient can live pretty much a normal life without any suffering. Take away the medicine will definitely cause a loss of FLO to the patient. Are we morally required to pay for the medicine of the patient? Without doubt, it is a very charitable act if someone chooses to pay the medication bill for the patient. However, there is nothing morally wrong if we choose to spend the money on our personal enjoyment instead of keeping the patient alive. On the other hand, it is patently wrong if the patient purchases the medicine from us and we fail to deliver the medicine and cause a loss of FLO. It is not always wrong to cause a loss of FLO, unless doing so neglect our duty. Therefore premise 1 is not true.

The obvious reflective reply to my objection is to insist that always our duty to preserve any FLO. We should donate every dime we have to keep the patient alive. We are only allowed to keep the minimal living standard so that we will not starving to death, which generate more loss of FLO. All the extra money we spend on personal enjoyment should go to pay for the medication bill of others. Obviously this claim is absurd. No reasonable man will agree he has no right to decide how to spend his money. No one will agree he is morally obligate to give everything he has to preserve the FLO of others. Those who make this claim without taking a vow of poverty like the Catholic priests does are hypocrites. Hypocrites’ moral arguments do not carry much weight. I highly doubt Marquis, as a university professor, not a Catholic priest, would reply this objective by saying every man is morally required to take the vow of poverty in order to avoid loss of FLO.

Marquis may attempt to reply my objection by refining his premise: It is morally wrong only when someone take away the FLO of others; it is not morally wrong if someone chooses to do nothing and let the FLO of others perish. In another word, killing is morally wrong but letting die is morally acceptable. He could apply Philippa Foot’s argument that there is an important moral difference between killing and letting die. This distinction is best captured by saying that one person may or may not be the agent of harm that befalls another (p.174). Since abortion is an active act that takes away the FLO of the fetus, abortion is still morally wrong.

I don’t think Marquis can revise his premise by separating active killing and passive letting die without contradicting himself. Marquis says premature death is misfortune. Premature death is a misfortune, in general, because it deprives an individual of a future of value. We know that killing us is wrong. What makes killing us wrong, in general, is that it deprives us a future of value. Thus, killing someone is wrong, in general, when it deprives him a FLO (p.131). According to his claim on why killing is wrong, there should not be any difference in the case of letting die. Letting us die also deprives us a future of value. Thus, letting someone die is wrong, in general, when it deprives him a FLO. Marquis cannot reject my objection using FLO alone; therefore premise 1 is still false. Granted, he could use the agent of harm principle to save premise 1. However do so would nullify his claim that FLO theory alone is sufficient to justify why killing is wrong, thus nullify his claim that the FLO theory alone is sufficient to show that abortion is seriously wrong.

Marquis may try to revise his premises to render the thought experiment in my objection irrelevant to the debate of abortion. He can agree that we are not morally required to pay the expensive medicine for the patient. Sometimes a loss of FLO is morally acceptable because it is not our duty to perverse that FLO. He may revise his premises to the following standard form:

  1. It is wrong to cause loss of FLO that is our duty to preserve
    2. Abortion neglects our duty to preserve the FLO of the fetus
  2. Therefore abortion is wrong

My expensive medicine thought experiment may no longer irrelevant under the new premises, since it is quite clear that we don’t have any duty to pay the medicine bill for the patient. Yet, I can modify Judith Thomson’s violinist thought experiment so that Marquis cannot resolve the stand-off using the FLO theory alone. Assume there is a patient having a rare disease that requires expensive medicine to keep him alive. Your bank has a bug in the computer system. They setup an auto transfer to deposit every one of your pay check to the bank account of the patient. The patient needs the money to buy the medicine to stay alive. If you stop the transfer, the patient cannot afford the medicine and he will die. Fixing the problem will cause a loss of FLO. Is it moral for you to ask the bank to stop the transfer? What if the patient needs the medicine only for nine months and then he will fully recover? What if you want to setup an auto transfer to your own account, but entered the account number of the patient by mistake? The patient’s right of a FLO does not automatically translate into your duty to preserve his FLO. The supporter of abortion might say a fetus’s right to life does not entail its right to use someone else’s body to preserve its life (p.127). This implies the woman has no duty to preserve the FLO of the fetus. However, an opponent of abortion might point out that a woman’s right to use her own body does not entail her right to end someone else’ life in order to do what she wants with her body (p.127). This implies the woman has the duty over the loss of FLO of the fetus. Therefore, there is a missing link between the fetus’s right of FLO and the woman’s duty to preserve the fetus’ FLO.

In conclusion, the duty to preserve other’s FLO is in conflict with the rights to control one’s own body in the case of abortion. The FLO theory could not resolve the question on it is whose duty to preserve other’s FLO. The FLO theory leads right back to the stand-off result Marquis attempted to solve in the first place. Therefore Marquis failed to solve the stand-off result in the abortion debate.

2 comments to 哲學功課﹕墮胎的道德爭議 Is Abortion Morally Permissible or Wrong?

  • 原文(功課)太長,恕未能完全閱讀,因正在office :)
    不知你有沒有提及”主體和客體”的關係問題,也即是屬於道德本身的範圍,就是母親和其胎的關係不等同小提琴家和被劫的供養者。
    營養供養者是被劫回來的,自然沒有道德責任去繼續維持小提琴家的生命,也正如我們不須為一個不想識的人負擔昂貴醫藥費。
    但胎兒並沒有綁架母親。我想你曾說過父母應當給其子女最好的,這是一個道德責任,所以不應賣。連賣也不應,何況殺掉?
    當然,若維持胎兒生命要等同危害母親生命那當別論。但在現實中,墮胎是為了不同情況的方便而已(例如未婚媽媽)。
    還有一個情況是明知胎兒生下來會殘廢或弱智那又如何,他是否有FLO?

  • 你說的問題是胎兒與母親的special relationship﹐上堂有另外一篇課文講這個問題﹐基本上是應如何去介定母親的責任。這涉及存在(being)的問題。一個被墮胎的胎兒﹐與一個流產的胎兒﹐本質上有什麼分別呢﹖ 當父母不能給孩子最好時﹐父母還應不應帶孩子來世界呢﹖出生是否一定善﹐不出生是否一定惡呢﹖這就涉及如何去介定善惡的問題。

    若果照Maquis的觀點直解﹐弱智或(嚴重)殘廢的胎兒應該沒有FLO﹐理論上可以把那些胎兒打掉。

    不過special relationship從來是道德上的一個難題﹐若果要honour special relationship﹐那殺人救仔是否就合乎道德﹖還是應該要一視同仁﹐不論是親人或是陌生人﹐也應該用同一道德尺度呢﹖

    這篇功課只指出反對墮胎的論點不成立﹐並沒有論證支持墮胎的論點成立﹐結果依然是stand off result﹐不能說誰對誰錯。

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