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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

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Bill,

Thanks for re-posting.

Before I can tell whether and where I agree or disagree, some preliminary questions. Not that they are equally relevant, but all seem to me worth-asking.

-- When do you count something as self-aware, sentient, rational, and purposive? Am I sentient self-aware etc., in your sense, _only_ at those times at which I am paying attention to myself, have feelings, and am entertaining logical thoughts and my own goals?

-- Why do you say that "whatever is genetically human has the _right_ to life just in virtue of being genetically human"? What is so great about being genetically human that it confers the right to life? The only answer I can think of is this: whatever is genetically human has, just in virtue of being genetically human, the (in principle) _capacity_ to think logically, make free decisions, have higher emotions, be self-aware, have conscious goals, or the like. Similarly for being genetically Martian.

-- Of course, a deeper question would remain, what is so great about having the capacity to think logically etc.? Likewise, although you reject that _all_ human beings have the capacity, you still think that some or even most do have it. And you think that some or even most embryos have the corresponding potentiality. So what do you think it is about this potentiality that confers the right to life?

-- You may say, I don't know but the potentiality to think logically etc. confers the right to life because this explains "most of our moral intuitions in this matter". Which intuitions, exactly?

-- Why say, in the context of this post, that a Down's Syndrome baby is "severely damaged" and suggest that it does not have some, even if impaired, capacity capacity or at least potentiality to think logically, make free decisions, have higher emotions, be self-aware, have conscious goals, and the like? An anencephalic baby would be a better (although IMO still very problematic) candidate.

Better formulation of my last question:

Why say, in the context of this post, that a Down's Syndrome baby is "severely damaged" and suggest that it HAS NO, not even impaired, capacity or potentiality to think logically etc.?

Thanks for the response, Vlastimil. But I thought we had agreed to disagree about potentiality and what exactly it entails. I don't see much point in continuing to discuss it. I think we have reached the point of diminishing returns on this topic.

Bill,

-- We have agreed to disagree about the idea of in principle potentiality. _Before_ you re-posted this. And now it shows up that the idea is relevant even here.

-- I agree with principles RP, PP and SPP if "self-aware, sentient, rational, and purposive" means: currently paying attention to oneself, have feelings, and entertaining logical thoughts and one's own goals. I agree, too, if it means: in principle capable of paying attention to oneself etc.

But I guess neither reading is yours. So tell me, what is it?

-- Also, I agree with SP, MSP and SPP. But this is _precisely because_ I think that whatever is genetically human, Martian and the like has, just in virtue of being genetically human, Martian and the like, the in principle capacity or potentiality to pay attention to oneself, think logically etc. It is precisely this in principle capacity or potentiality that makes all such beings so precious that they all have the right of life, ascribed to them by SP, MSP and SPP.

But suppose, as you believe, that this hypothesis of mine makes no sense or is simply false. So I guess your reason for those three principles is that they explain our moral intuitions. But which intuitions? And more importantly, how do you explain, without my hypothesis, the principles themselves?

My point is that they are not plausible if my hypothesis is nonsensical or false.

-- Finally, _even if_ my hypothesis is nonsensical or false and anencephalic humans have no capacity or potentiality to think be self-aware, think logically etc., you should still ascribe the capacity or potentiality to Downs. For they are, or they will be, self-aware, thinking logically etc.

Damn English grammar. I belive I should have said: "We AGREED (not HAVE AGREED) to disagree about the idea of in principle potentiality. Before you re-posted this."

Have you seen this over at Philosophical Percolations?

http://www.philpercs.com/2015/07/the-plausibility-of-the-principle-of-vulnerability-and-its-application-to-life-based-issues.html#more

Tim

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