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In discussing abortion, I've been told that the woman has a right to bodily integrity. Therefore she has the right to withdraw consent at any time to the fetus using her body, regardless of the situation of the conception (consensual sex, planned conception). Some say any time prior to viability. Is there a fully fledged philosophical argument along these lines? I'm aware of Judith Jarvis Thompson's thought experiment about the room and the people-seeds, but that didn't invoke the intuition in me, "yes, the seeds can be pulled up at any time." Does the fetus have a competing right to bodily integrity?

In the same essay, Thomson also tells the story of the violinist newly connected to you: "You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own." In nine months the violinist will have recovered from his ailment and can then be safely unplugged from you. But if you unplug him much earlier, then he will surely die. Does this do it? Do you have the intuition that it would be permissible for your to unplug right away?

Hi all, In his response to a question on the justice on mercy on December 6, 2012(http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/4957), Dr. Thomas Pogge argued that he does not necessarily equate mercy with a deprivation of justice and gave three reasons for justifying his argument. I understand the reasons he gave, but am confused by the example he uses and how that example which functions to illustrated the third reasons actually illustrates the point of the third reason itself; if "the absence of this excuse is very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt," how does that lead to the recognition that a, "rare, morally valid excuse in the law might be a bad idea? And how does recognizing that a "rare, morally valid excuse in the law might be a bad idea" lead to greater opportunities for criminals to escape punishment? I find the entire issue of justice and mercy particularly topical given the recent tragedies of the shootings in the United States and the gang rape situation in India and how an argument...

The three reasons I gave were meant to establish the intermediate conclusion that the criminal law cannot perfectly anticipate all realistically possible cases, cannot be designed so that it always yields the correct result by declaring guilty all and only those who really are guilty. As my third reason for this I adduced the example of rare but morally valid excuses that should nonetheless not be recognized in law. Here is a concrete case. I was caught by a speed camera going 47 mph in a residential area with a 30 mph speed limit. I was going so fast because I was trying to get back home quickly because I had this sudden fear that, lost in thought, I had somehow turned on the gas dial of my kitchen stove without igniting the gas. I feared that gas was filling my apartment, posing a substantial risk to people living above and below. So I drove faster than legal in the reasonable belief that the risk posed by my speeding was very much smaller than the risk posed by my possibly gas-releasing stove....

Should it be permissible, both legally and ethically, for governments to censor material either in print or online that instructs how to commit violent crimes (e.g. "How to Make Plastic Explosives" or "How to Poison the Water Supply")? Are such materials really considered to be "Speech?" Many Western democratic societies allow hate speech, and incitement is only ever prosecuted if it calls for direct violence against a particular group or individual; instructional manuals need not call for violence against people or any action at all. But at the same time, people like Timothy McVeigh have carried out acts of mass violence by using such manuals.

The legal question varies from country to country, and with regard to the US there is a case to be made that the kinds of instructions you have in mind are speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Morally speaking, the case for considering it permissible to prohibit the publication of such instructions seems overwhelmingly strong. There is no legitimate public interest in having such information widely available, and there is a considerable danger to the public from such wide availability. So the public is better served if such publications are prohibited. Here it is important to formulate the prohibition narrowly and with some precision because a broad or vaguely worded statute can easily be used to criminalize or intimidate legitimate political opposition.

Is it abuse, if the person ( allegely abused) does not consider it abuse? If the person is an adult and feels ok with it is it abuse?

Not necessarily. The fact that the adult in question feels OK with the treatment she receives does not show that her feeling is based on a sound judgment. Not long ago, black citizens of the US were routinely treated as inferior creatures: they were scolded for drinking from the whites-only water fountain, for sitting in the front of the bus, and so on. Some blacks, deeply conditioned to feel inferior in a white society, may have felt OK with such abuse ("oh gosh, yes, I am so sorry, I didn't realize this is the whites-only water fountain"). But this hardly shows that there was no abuse going on when blacks were told off in the ways described.

Is mercy on an offender a lack of justice? That is, if an offender is treated mercifully, as in, given less punishment than is warranted, doesn't that mean the offender is given less justice than is warranted?

One straightforward way to see that this is not so starts from the realization that the criminal law cannot perfectly anticipate all realistically possible cases. This is so for at least three reasons. First, human powers of anticipation are limited. Second, a criminal law doing justice to all realistically possible cases would be too complex for citizens and officials to comprehend. Third, such a criminal law would also be impossible to administer fairly because it would give criminals too many opportunities to escape punishment. Example: recognizing a rare, morally valid excuse in the law might be a bad idea if the absence of this excuse is very difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. We can expect, then, that in some cases punishments warranted under even the best-designed and -administered criminal law are excessive. In those cases, at least, mercy would not be unjust. For example, we may pardon an offender because we are convinced that he has a morally valid excuse that the law, for good...

Greetings. In regards to the situation of Jean Baptiste Clamence in La Chute (The Fall) of Camus, can we say that "doing nothing means also doing something"? Being more specific, for instance if one has witnessed something "bad/evil" which s/he could have done something about and chose to do nothing for avoiding a row of enormous, maybe even deadly consequences like a chain reaction for other people's lives if he chose the opposite; should we consider him as "acting in bad faith or guilty"? Of course in the second option things would get worse also for him too. But by doing nothing, this time he will have to carry the burden alone like Clamence. The content of bad/evil can be understood as subjective, but i meant a valid moral perspective in general by using that term. (E.g., killing a random person in the street)

We often do nothing in such situations without recognizing this failure to act as a choice, and perhaps even really without making a choice not to act (see Hilary Bok: Acting without Choosing ). Bad faith is manifested not in doing nothing, but in the failure to acknowledge our responsibility for doing nothing. Whether we make a conscious choice or not: we have a choice, we are fully responsible for what we do and we ought to face up to this responsibility -- or so I understand Camus' point here. Doing nothing in the face of an impending bad/evil is sometimes the right thing to do (for example, when intervening would afford little protection to those under threat relative to the costs and dangers to which it would expose third parties) and sometimes at least permissible (for example, when the dangers and cost of intervention to oneself would be high relative to the protection one might afford to those under threat). If, in La Chute , Clamence would have run a serious risk of dying by jumping...

According to Utilitarianism as I understand it, an action should be judged by its outcome. I can't understand how this argument has any credence. How is it possible before the action is undertake to be able to know its outcome? We can not tell the future. Even to do with things that are very straightforward the influences and flow on effects from the near distant future to the far future would be astronomical in number. Which raises the further question how do you judge where to draw the line in terms of future ramifications, is it once removed effect, twice, thrice?? It seems completely illogical to me to call it a philosophy.

It is true that you often cannot know the outcome of alternative courses of conduct beforehand. But you can typically assign reasonably accurate probabilities, at least a little time forward. We do this all the time when we make decisions -- between two holiday destinations, perhaps, or about whether to accept a job offer or have a child. Utilitarians ask us to do the same sort of thing but then to evaluate in terms of the happiness of all those affected (including oneself). We are to choose the course of conduct that we have good reason to believe will produce the highest probability-weighted expected happiness. The probability-weighted expected happiness produced by a particular course of conduct (C) is calculated this way: one identifies the possible outcomes of C, evaluates each outcome in terms of happiness, multiplies each outcome's happiness by that outcome's probability (subject to one's having chosen C), then sums the products. You are right that one can do this with tolerable accuracy...

what is the difference between Kant's "things in themselves" and Locke's secondary qualities? (I don't see the "real" difference other than semantics). thanks, Todd

Secondary qualities are properties that a thing appears topossess for certain observers of this thing. On reflection, however, secondaryqualities turn out to be ways in which certain observers are affected by thething in question. Colors are an example. Colors are not genuine propertiesinherent in things but rather ways in which human beings with normal eyesightare affected by certain things they encounter. Secondary qualities are thus to be explainedby reference to both: the object with its “primary” qualities and the perceptual apparatus of a specificobserver of this object. The doctrine of secondary qualities brings with it thethought of the object as it is apart from whatever qualities it merely appearsto possess for certain observers. You can call this the thing it itself, thething considered apart from its merely apparent, observer-dependent properties.So the two expressions you query are not at all synonymous but rathercorrelative: “thing in itself” refers to an object as it is apart...

When a philosopher describes his or her work as a "critique" of something, what exactly do they mean? Is there a general consensus among philosophers or are there different possibilities? I assume it means something different or more specific than what we ordinarily mean by "criticism", right? Thanks!

Immanuel Kant used this word in the titles of his most important books, and Kant's use has greatly influenced the sense this word has in later philosophy. By a critique Kant means a critical examination, which will sometimes criticize or undermine a view or method but sometimes also justify and vindicate it.

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