Philosophy 304 Sample Questions
1. What does Judith Jarvis Thomson find to be mistaken in the conservative position regarding abortion? Describe thoroughly the analogies she uses to make her case.
1. Judith Jarvis Thomson: Finds the conservative position to be mistaken regarding abortion.
The conservative position commonly spends most of their time establishing that the fetus is a person, but the moral impermissibility of abortion doesn’t follow simply from the admission that the fetus (as a person) has the right to life. In her view, the right to life is to be understood as the right not to be killed unjustly and does not entail the right to use another person’s body. The fetus’ right to life outweighs the mothers right to decide what happens in and to her body unless the mother is in an extenuating circumstance in which she did not voluntarily become pregnant or the mother’s life in danger because of the fetus.
The Violinist Analogy
You are asked to imagine a famous violinist falling into a coma. The society of music lovers determines from medical records that you and you alone can save the violinist's life by being hooked up to him for nine months. The music lovers break into your home while you are asleep and hook the unconscious (and unknowing, hence innocent) violinist to you. You may want to unhook him, but you are then faced with this argument put forward by the music lovers: The violinist is an innocent person with a right to life. Unhooking him will result in his death. Therefore, unhooking him is morally wrong. •
For the same reason, Thomson says, abortion does not violate the fetus' right to life but merely deprives the fetus of something—the use of the pregnant woman's body—to which it has no right. Thus, it is not that by terminating her pregnancy a woman violates her moral obligations, but rather that a woman who carries the fetus to term is a 'Good Samaritan' who goes beyond her obligations
The Expanding Baby Analogy
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