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Choice or Life?

In the previous post, we discussed the pro-life versus pro-choice moral frameworks. Within the liberal framework, autonomy, specifically autonomy over one’s own body, seems to carry the greatest importance. Why is this? What is the nature of the moral universe such that individual autonomy should be valued over all things, even over life itself? Even if someone feels such a thing to be true, can he know it? Once such a worldview is adopted, do no contradictions arise? What is the ultimate authority by which such proclamations are made?

The opposite view, the Christian view, is comparatively simple. God has given us life, and life is sacred. Freedom and abstractions such as moral choice are important too, but are manifestly secondary to life–after all, in order to act autonomously, you have to be alive first. And the ultimate authority, within the Christian worldview, is God Himself, as expressed through the Bible.

Alex writes:

The ultimate authority by which such proclamations are justified from a liberal point of view, is the relief of a “suffering situation”. Compassion is of the essence in liberalism: it elevates the minimization of suffering to a political principle. As Kenneth Minogue observes in his study of the liberal mind, liberalism is goodwill turned doctrinaire; it is philanthropy organized to be efficient.

WI writes: 

Compassion. In C.S. Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man, he is trying to derive the basic-most principle by which a moral innovator (as he says), would try to displace and update traditional morality which the ancients used to call “the natural law”–with a more modern update. He arrives at ‘instinct’ as the (supposed) essential imperative. “Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people’.  People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence? To listen to that instinct speaking in its own cause and deciding it in its own favour would be rather simple-minded. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest. By the very act of listening to one rather than to others, we have already pre-judged the case.”

Compassion is much the same. Compassionate to whom? “Well, to the mother, of course!” But what about compassion for the baby, for the fetus? What about compassion for the father, who stands idly by? If you were a juror in a rape case, unconstrained compassion for the accused might lead you to free him entirely. Likewise, compassion for the victim might compel a penalty of death. And so compassion, as such, can never independently provide us a clear way forward on moral questions. It is indispensable, of course, for decent living, but much more is needed to think rightly.

Alex writes:

I’m trying to outline the liberal point of view here as I understand it: I’m not in sympathy with the “new morality” of liberal compassion. So I guess in answer to your question about compassion to whom, the liberal would be compelled to argue that a baby is not entitled to any rights until it becomes a human being. If one discounts any religious sentiment or claims based on natural law, the unborn child exists, liberals believe, in a vacuous condition without moral law. (Or at least constrained by the higher priority of the mother’s wishes and welfare.)

Note that a baby is usually referred to as a fetus in discussions about abortion. This introduces a quasi-objective presupposition that seems to give liberals the upper hand in a rational discourse on the topic.

WI writes: 

As Alex notes, “If one discounts any religious sentiment or claims based on natural law, the unborn child exists, liberals believe, in a vacuous condition without moral law.” I’m sure he would agree with me in responding to such a claim, that in the absence of any religious sentiment or claims based on natural laws, it is not only the unborn child that exists in a moral vacuum, but the mother, the father, you and me, and everyone else as well!




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