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Saturday, November 01, 2008

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Ohhh!

I guess I figured out how to sign in on this new post. Splendid! Now, where are the bolds, and the italics, and such?

Bill,

Re: PA and my objection.

1) I will attempt to recast both PA and my objection in an abstract form, a form which displays the logical form of both arguments. Then we can tell whether my objections are sound. Specifically, we will be able to tell whether EEPP does indeed contradict PP.

2) Despite your very generous, charitable, and helpful attempt to give EEPP credence by reformulating it as above, I must decline your formulation. The reason is that so formulated EEPP leads to a stalemate over premise (3), thereby, undermining the very point of EPP and EEPP to derive a conclusive refutation of PA based upon the concept of potentiality on which PA relies. Either EPP and EEPP refute PA or they do not. A stalemate in this context is in favor of PA. Therefore, your formulation of EEPP is unacceptable here. Let me first show why your formulation leads to a stalemate:

3) You formulate EEPP so as to make it rule out any of the properties that distinguish an actual F from a potential F. However, nothing in such a formulation tells us which properties exactly are included in the scope of EEPP. That is, nothing in your formulation indicates which properties distinguish an actual F from a potential F, thereby allowing this matter to be decided by considerations external to EEPP. The result is that we need to add a specific premise, premise (3), which states explicitly that the right to life is one of the properties that distinguish an actual F from a potential F. But nothing in your version of EEPP entails that it is indeed one of these properties. Therefore, the proponent of PP is free to reject premise (3) without rejecting EEPP. This was my own instinctive reaction when I read your proposal in the previous venue and then again here. Since EEPP does not determine whether premise (3) is true or not, the question of the truth of (3) is left undecided by EEPP. HEnce, EEPP so formulated leads to a stalemate at best. A very unfavorable result to my position on the chessboard. By contrast it is a very favorable result to a proponent of PP, because such a stalemate removes the threat of EEPP to refute PP from considerations derived from our very concept of potentiality, a concept used essentially by PP.

4) I am now more convinced than before that EEPP is indeed true and enjoys EPPs status regarding our concept of potentiality. Moreover, I am convinced that it contradicts PP. Therefore, I cannot at this stage accept your formulation of EEPP. I think I am closer now to formulating a viable version of EEPP that (i) Captures our intuitions about the concept of potentiality involved; (ii) responds to the various concerns people had about it; and (iii)it contradicts PP. I, therefore, must decline your generous offer to accept the above formulation of EEPP. Still, it was a good try.

Thanks anyway!

peter

Peter,

Now I have no idea what you are saying. What is EEPP? What is your argument against PP?

Bill,

What I have said above is very simple.
Premise (3) is completely independent from (1).
Or to put it in a different way: whether the right to life is one of the properties that are covered by your formulation of EEPP in (1) is an independent question and, therefore, must be decided on the basis of considerations that are totally independent from EEPP.
As a result a proponent of PP can deny premise (3) without denying EEPP. It s for this reason there is no conflict between PP and your formulation of EEPP.

A viable formulation of EEPP, if there is one, must entail that if the right to life is taken to be an essential property of descriptive persons, then it cannot be a property of the object that is said to be a potential person. This must follow as an instance of EEPP. Since it does not follow from your formulation, I conclude that either there is no viable formulation of EEPP, in which case I do not have an argument against PP, or there is one that entails the above conclusions and hence contradicts PP.

peter

The Extended Exclusionary Principle of Potentiality (EEPP) Revisited


1) Reformulation of EEPP:

1.0) The term ‘essential property’ is used throughout in the sense given to it in metaphysical essentialism. I assume a modal interpretation whereby an essential property of x is a property x type things must have in every possible world in which object of type x exist.

1.1) A categorical property is an essential property that a thing must have in order to be an object at all: e.g., the property of self-identity is a categorical property because nothing can be an object unless it is self-identical.

1.2) A potentiality independent property is any property an object has independently of its potential to become such-and-such.

1.3) EEPP*: for every object x and property G, if G is an essential property of being an F and G is not a categorical property and G is not a potentiality independent property of x, then if x has the potential to become an F at t, then x cannot actually have G at t.

2) Reformulation of PA:
2.1) The property of being a descriptive person is the property of being rational, sentient, and having consciousness.

2.2) Original-PA:

2.2.1) PP: For every x, if x has the potential to become a descriptive person at t, then x has the right to life at t; [premise]

Note: The argument can proceed from here by either selecting a class of objects y as instances of premises such as PP; e.g., the class y of all and only fetuses, or by selecting any arbitrarily chosen fetus z from the class of fetuses. The two versions lead to exactly the same conclusions. However, the former version involves taking the instances of some premises to be classes whereas the later version involves taking such instances to be arbitrarily chosen individuals. The later version is simpler because it avoids quantifying over classes. So I shall proceed stating the argument in terms of an arbitrarily chosen fetus z, thus, discharging the universal quantifier. It is important to remember that whatever is true of an arbitrarily chosen individual in a class is also true of every element of the class.

2.2.2) Let z be an arbitrarily chosen fetus from the class of all and only fetuses:

Instance of PP:
if fetus z has the potential to become a descriptive person at t, then fetus z has the right to life at t;

2.2.3) fetus z has the potential to become a descriptive person at t.
[premise]

Therefore,
2.2.4) fetus z has the right to life at t. (for any arbitrarily chosen t)
[from (2.22) and (2.23)]

3.0) Proof that PA plus EEPP* leads to a contradiction:

3.1) Let F=the property of being a descriptive person; G=the property of having the right to life.

3.1.2) Assumption A: The property of having the right to life is not categorical;

3.1.3) Assumption B: The property of having the right to life is not a property the fetus already has independently of its potential to become a descriptive person.

3.1.3) Assumption C: The property of having the right to life is an essential property of being a descriptive person.

3.2) PA + Instance-of-EEPP*:

3.2.1) Instance of EEPP* for the fetus’ case:
for every fetus y, if having the right to life is an essential property of being a descriptive person and the property of having the right to life is not a categorical property and having the right to life is not a potentiality independent property of the fetus, then if fetus y has the potential to become a descriptive person at t, then fetus y cannot actually have the property of having the right to life at t;
[instance of EEPP*]

3.2.2) for every fetus y, if fetus y has the potential to become a descriptive person at t, then fetus y cannot actually have the property of having the right to life at t.
[from (3.2.1) & discharging Assumptions A, B, and C]

3.2.3) PP: For every x, if x has the potential to become a descriptive person at t, then x has the right to life at t; [Original PA-premise]

3.2.4) Fetus z has the potential to become a descriptive person at t.
[Original PA-premise]

3.2.5) Fetus z has the right to life at t.
[Original PA-conclusion: from (3.2.3) & (3.2.4)]

3.2.6) Fetus z cannot actually have the right to life at t;
[from (3.2.2) & (3.2.5)]

3.2.7) It is not the case that fetus z actually has the right to life at t.
[from (3.2.6)]

3.2.8) Contradiction: (3.2.7) is the negation of (3.2.5).

3.3) Thus, EEPP* plus PP, plus Assumptions A, B, C, and the premise that the fetus has the potential to become a descriptive person lead to a contradiction. So at least one of the premises or assumptions must be false.

3.3.1) But clearly the premise that the fetus has the potential to become a descriptive person is not false.

3.3.2) Let us assume for the moment that Assumptions A, B, and C hold. Then EEPP* and PP are responsible for the contradiction. Therefore, EEPP* contradicts PP.

3.3.3) Assumption A cannot be rejected. Assumption B cannot be rejected either, for then PA becomes a pointless argument: for by rejecting Assumption B, the proponent of PA concedes that the fetus has the right to life independently of and antecedently to its potential to become a descriptive person. But the whole purpose of PA was to establish the right to life of the fetus based upon its potential to ecome a descriptive person.

3.3.3) So the proponent of PA must reject Assumption C. But rejecting Assumption C is maintaining that the right to life is not an essential property of being a descriptive person. Let us explore this option.

3.3.4) If the right to life is not an essential property of being a descriptive person, then PP is not a necessary truth in virtue of expressing a necessary link between being a descriptive person and having the right to life.

3.3.5) Moreover, PP cannot be a necessary truth due to the fact that it is an analytical truth. The term ‘descriptive person’ is explicitly introduced to present a contrast with the term ‘moral person’. The purpose of making the distinction between a descriptive and a moral person is precisely so as not to construe PP as merely an analytical truth.

3.3.6) what other grounds can there be to construe PP as a necessary truth? I cannot identify any other relevant consideration that would render PP a necessary truth. Therefore, if Assumption C is rejected, then PP is not a necessary truth.

3.3.7) But if PP is not a necessary truth, then it is a contingent truth, if it is true at all.

3.3.8) How can we determine that PP is true in the actual world, given that it is not a necessary truth? Well, one way is to inspect whether societies conform to the practice of endowing fetuses the right to life. Such an inspection will find that some societies do and some do not. Therefore, PP is falsified by any society in the actual world that deprives the fetus of the right to life. But, surely, PP was not intended to be expressing a proposition that can be falsified by means of such empirical investigation.

3.3.9) Therefore, I conclude that PP must be viewed as a necessary truth and, hence, Assumption C must be accepted by the proponents of PA.

3.4) Notice that in every case where one or more of the Assumptions A, B, or C are false, EEPP* still remains true. Such cases do not render EEPP* false; they merely render EEPP* vacuously true. Since the proponents of PP must accept all of the above assumptions, they must accept that the relevant instance of EEPP* is not vacuously true. Hence, EEPP* applies to the very same cases to which PP applies. The above argument shows that if EEPP* applies to the very same cases to which PP applies, it contradicts it. Hence, if EEPP* is true, PP must be false.

3.5) Let me now consider certain objections to EEPP*.

3.5.1) Objection from Normativity: Bill has argued that EEPP* cannot contradict PP because while the later includes explicitly the normative property of having a right to life, EEPP* does not mention explicitly any normative properties at all.

Response to Objection from Normativity: EEPP* is completely general. It applies to any property, normative or otherwise, that an object is alleged to posses based upon a given potential.

3.5.2) EEPP* is false:
(I) There are two types of considerations that might render EEPP* false:
(a) There are genuine counterexamples (CEs) to EEPP*;
(b) EEPP* is not part of our concept of having the potential to be such-and-such; where the concept of potential involved here is that of a developmental potential.

(II) Response to EEPP* is false:
Response to (a): Can there be CEs to EEPP* that render it false?

(i) Any case that violates Assumptions A, B, and C cannot be a CE to EEPP* because such cases render the antecedent of EEPP* false and, hence, EEPP* remains true.

(ii) So a genuine CE to EEPP* must render each conjunct of the antecedent of EEPP* true yet render the consequent false. Can there be such cases? Well, such a case must be a case where there is some essential property of being such-and-such that is not categorical; the object that is said to have a certain potential at t does not already have it independently of the said potential at t; and the said object has the essential property in question at the same time it has the potential. Intuitively, such a case must be such that an object that is said to have a given potential to become such and such also simultaneously has an essential property of being such-and-such in virtue of having the said potential. But no such a case can be produced if EEPP* is indeed part of the concept of having a developmental potential because having such a potential excludes actually having the said potential (EPP) and having whatever is essential to actually being such-and-such (EEPP*).

Response to (b): How can one maintain that EEPP* is not part of our concept of a developmental potential? After all, if one accepts EPP, then one already accepts the intuition that our concept of potentiality excludes certain actualities. For instance, surely everyone accepts that if an acorn has the potential to become an oak-tree at t, then it cannot actually be an oak-tree at t. But, now, what does it mean to accept that an acorn cannot actually be an oak-tree at t? Well, of course it means among other things that the acorn is not actually a member of the class of oak-trees at t. But that is not enough, for the acorn’s failure to be a member of the class of oak-trees might be a consequence of some contingent circumstance concerning the acorn.
For instance: Suppose that a particular acorn is kept frozen forever. We can still truly say of this acorn that at any given time it still has the potential to become an oak-tree provided it were unfrozen. Thus, it is going to be true of this acorn at t that it has the potential to become an oak-tree and it is also true regarding this acorn that it is not at t, nor will it ever actually be, a member of the class of oak-trees.
But our original intent was to say something much stronger. Our original intent was to say that the acorn’s potential to become an oak-tree at t excludes any possibility that it should be actually an oak-tree at t and that this later fact is excluded nor merely because of some contingent circumstances befalling the acorn; rather it is excluded precisely because of its potential to become an oak-tree. So our original intent was to say that the acorn’s failure to actually be an oak-tree is a direct consequence of it failing to have something that is necessary in order to actually be an oak-tree and that the later failure is a direct consequence of the acorn’s potential to become an oak-tree. And that something can only be some essential property of being an oak-tree. EEPP* truly fleshes out our intuitions that support EPP. Hence, accepting EPP entails accepting EEPP*.

3.5.3) EEPP* collapses into EPP:
(a) While EEPP* and EPP apply to the same cases, that alone does not mean that they are equivalent in meaning. Therefore, meaning equivalence cannot be the grounds for the claim that EEPP* collapses into EPP.
(b) Nor can one make the case that EPP and EEPP* are necessarily equivalent because there may be possible worlds in which EPP applies, whereas EEPP* does not. For instance, there may be possible worlds in which there are no essential properties at all. Then, while EPP may still have an application, EEPP* may not. Note that EEPP* is still true in such worlds, although it is vacuously true.
(C) The reason one might think that EEPP* may collapse into EPP, and that is the reason it “feels” true, is because it does indeed apply to the same cases in every world in which the relevant notion of potentiality is applicable. However, EEPP* is different than EPP because it is a more fine grained principle than EPP. EEPP* fleshes out in terms of the notion of essential properties why EPP is true in the first place. Therefore, if one accepts EPP as part of our concept of the relevant notion of potentiality, then one must also accept EEPP* as part of this notion.

4.0) The argument I have given above can be viewed as a reductio ad absurdum of PP. (I am referring here to the argument given in (3.2) above).

4.1) The argument is certainly valid. Therefore, the premises involved really entail a contradiction: they are logically inconsistent. The question we are facing is which premise(s) is responsible for the contradiction and, therefore, must be rejected.

4.2) The following premise is clearly true:
Premise (3.2.4): Fetus z has the potential to become a descriptive person at t.

4.3) I have argued that the proponent of PA cannot rejects any of the Assumptions A, B, and C and at the same time preserve the truth of PP.

4.4) I have argued above that the proponent of PA cannot consistently reject EEPP*. Therefore, the proponent of PA cannot consistently reject premise (3.2.1), since this is an instance of EEPP* for the fetus case.

4.5) The only remaining premise is PP. Hence, it is inconsistent with the rest of the premises, including EEPP*. Since the proponent of PA cannot reject any of the other premises involved in the argument, it follows that PP is false. Hence:

~PP: It is not the case that every potential descriptive person has the right to life.

4.6) If ~PP is true, then PA is not a valid argument: i.e., PA fails to validly entail the conclusion that every fetus has the right to life. It is important to note that this proof does not show that the proposition that every fetus has a right to life is false. There may be other arguments that entail this conclusion that are sound or the truth of this proposition may be accepted on some other grounds. I have only shown that PA fails to validly entail it because PP is false. Period!

peter

I've tried to post, without success, and am now trying a simple test. If this works, I'll try to follow up with something less "procedural".

>>1.3) EEPP*: for every object x and property G, if G is an essential property of being an F and G is not a categorical property and G is not a potentiality independent property of x, then if x has the potential to become an F at t, then x cannot actually have G at t.

'Being an F' picks out a property. So G is a property of a property? You seem to be confusing properties of properties with properties of individuals.

>>.1.3) Assumption C: The property of having the right to life is an essential property of being a
descriptive person.<<

Literally, this is nonsense. 'Being a descriptive person' picks out a property. How can a property have a right to life, either essentially or accidentally? It makes no sense. Properties are neither alive nor dead, nor do they have rights. This is the same problem as before: a confusion of properties of properties with properties of individuals.

But these problems can be ironed-out with more careful formulations.

We now come to the heart of the matter. Your latest formulation of EEPP, EEPP*, is rigged in such a way as to be inconsistent with PP. This allows you to validly argue from EEPP* to the negation of PP. But of course I run the argument in reverse: I validly argue from PP to the negation of EEPP*. This leads to a stand-off or a situation of mutual question-begging. I can say: 'Your EEPP* begs the question against PP.' And you can say: 'Your PP begs the question against EEPP*'

That you beg the question against the potentialist is shown by your Assumption C: "3.1.3) Assumption C: The property of having the right to life is an essential property of being a
descriptive person."

Properly formulated, that says that the property of having the right to life is an essential property of all and only (actual) descriptive persons. But of course the potentialist will reject this assumption as question-begging. For the whole point of PP is to extend the right to life to potential descriptive persons. Stated in full, PP says: Every actual and potential descriptive person has the right to life. If this is inconsistent with your EEPP*, then so be it. The potentialist will simply reject your EEPP*

Please note that I have argued for PP on the old blog. Since I have reason to maintain PP, those same reasons are reasons for my rejecting EEPP*.

Note also that I accept EEPP in some formulations.

Note further that you will have to add further 'rigging' to EEPP* to avoid having to say that young post-natal children and a dead-drunk (comatose, etc.) man lacks a right to life. The more rigging, the more ad hoc to get the result you want. But then the less plausible.

Here I think this particular discussion ends. I have failed to persuade you to accept PA, and you have failed to persuade me to reject it. Note that I never claimed it was an absolutely compelling argument. Indeed I have maintained many times that there are no absolutely compelling arguments in philosophy for any substantive thesis. I maintain merely that PA is a reasonable and
defensible argument.

One might wonder what the good of a discussion is in which neither interlocutor can persuade the other. Well, we have learned something about the underlying issues, problems, and concepts. We
have refined and clarified our ideas, and our differences. We better know what we believe. Certain interesting distinctions have emerged. On my aporetic conception of philosophy that is what philosophy is mainly about.

Sorry, just testing.

Bill,

1) "Here I think this particular discussion ends. I have failed to persuade you to accept PA, and you have failed to persuade me to reject it."

I agree with this assessment. And perhaps nothing more can be said that will sway opinions one way or another.

2) I also agree with your statements in the last paragraph: "we have learned something about the underlying issues, problems, and concepts"; I certainly learned quite a lot and I wish to thank you and others for a very productive discussion on this matter.

3) Just to clear up one matter of formulation. The phrase 'G is an essential property of being an F' does not mean that G is a second-order property of the first-order property 'being an F'. It means rather that G is an essential property of all objects that are Fs. I hesitate to use here "and only" because some essential properties may be shared by objects of different kinds. For instance, the property of being a feline is an essential property of all household cats as well as all cougars. The "all" part suffices for my purposes.

4) As for whether I or you beg the question, I think that depends upon our intuitions about the concept of potentiality and what we think is included in it. And here your view may be informed by PP and mine by its negation. Stalemate, once again.

Well, in any case, it was certainly a pleasure.

peter

Peter,

May I reformulate EEPP* in more concise terms as follows:

Suppose an F is a potential G (pot-G). Let property p be
1. not categorical
2. G-essential
3. pot-G dependent
Then the F cannot possess property p.

Much hinges on conditions 2 and 3. I take G-essential to be equivalent to G-->p. I'm not sure what you mean by a dependence between properties. I'll assume that 'p is pot-G dependent' means that ~pot-G-->~p, ie, p-->pot-G. If this is so then EEPP* appears to be a corollary of EPP. For if G-->p, and p-->pot-G, then G-->pot-G. But this is ruled out by EPP, so the F (or anything else) cannot possess p.

Now, let's apply this EEPP* to Bill's example: F=foetus, G=descriptive person, p=has rights. Let's suppose that condition (2), G-->p, is met (though I see in Bill's latest comment that he denies this). What about (3)? We need p-->pot-G, but does the possession of rights imply potentiality to be a descriptive person? So I think EEPP* in this formulation doesn't address Bill's problem.

But I suspect I have misconstrued what you mean by inter property dependence.

Bill - I'm back at my home computer, so I'll have another go at posting my comments to you and Peter. But I'll understand if neither of you wishes to pursue this topic further. So I beg your indulgence as I gnaw on this bone.

Bill - I don't understand what is incoherent in the claim that a potential moral person is a rights possessor. You say, "Since a potential F is not an actual F, a potential moral person is not an actual moral person, which implies that a potential moral person is not a rights possessor." It's that last implication that I'm stumbling over. Can you elaborate?

Peter - I'm struggling to understand EEPP*. The account of 'essential property' that you provide is how I've understood this notion throughout our discussions. I'm less clear about categorical properties; but it's 'potentiality independent property' that's giving me the greatest difficulty right now. Consider Bill's earlier example of being able to make all the sounds necessary for spoken english. Presumably, this is an essential property of being a speaker of english. Presumably, it is not a categorical property. Is it a potentiality independent property? I've noted that there are potential speakers of english who can make the sounds in question. If EEPP* is true, this means that being able to make the sounds necessary for spoken english must be a potentiality independent property of those potential speakers of english. But how could this be? In what sense would it be independent of their potential to become speakers of english?

Turning to another issue that has vexed our discussion, you say, "While EEPP* and EPP apply to the same cases, that alone does not mean that they are equivalent in meaning. Therefore, meaning equivalence cannot be the grounds for the claim that EEPP* collapses into EPP." While it's true that the fact that EEPP* and EPP apply to the same cases does not mean they are equivalent in meaning, it also doesn't mean that they are not equivalent in meaning. So it's not clear why you say meaning equivalence can't ground the claim that EEPP* collapses into EPP.

(As an addendum, it might help if I say how I understand what I've called the "collapse" of EEPP into EPP. I suspect that if the intuitions behind EEPP are made completely explicit, EEPP would turn out to be implied by EPP, and so, could have no implications beyond those of EPP. If this runs afoul of an account of meaning that is being assumed, then perhaps that's what's preventing me from fully grasping the premises of your argument against PP.)
Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

Bob wrote,

>>Bill - I don't understand what is incoherent in the claim that a potential moral person is a rights possessor. You say, "Since a potential F is not an actual F, a potential moral person is not an actual moral person, which implies that a potential moral person is not a rights possessor." It's that last implication that I'm stumbling over. Can you elaborate?<<

'Moral person' and 'rights-possessor' are equivalent expressions. Now a potential rights-possessor is not an actual rights-possessor. Therefore, a potential moral person is not a rights-possessor.

Bill - OK. I can follow the logic of that, but then a new question presses: Is the notion of a potential moral person, or a potential rights possessor, itself incoherent?

Bill,

I'm all at sea with this again. Here are some assertions you have made recently:

1. RP: All persons have a right to life.

(http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1224815944.shtml)

2. PP: All potential persons have a right to life. (ditto)

3. 'Moral person' and 'rights-possessor' are equivalent expressions. (your preceding comment)

4. Now a potential rights-possessor is not an actual rights-possessor. Therefore, a potential moral person is not a rights-possessor. (ditto)

By 1,3 all persons are rights-possessors and hence moral persons. It surely follows that a potential person is a potential moral person. So by 4 a potential person is not a rights possessor. Contradiction with 2.

What has gone wrong?

David,

By 1, 3 all descriptive persons are moral persons. That is clear. But it doesn't follow that a potential descriptive person is a potential moral person: a potential descriptive person (by PP) is an actual moral person. It does follow, however, that a potential moral person is a potential moral person, since a tautology follows from anything.

Where is the contradiction?

At the very beginning of this long series of posts and comments, I made the standard distinction between descriptive and moral persons. That distinction was assumed at every step. You may be ignoring it.

It is also important to realize that 'potential' in this context is an alienans adjective, like 'decoy' in 'decoy duck.' A decoy duck is not a duck. A potential F is not an F. A potential person is not a person. A potential descriptive person is not a descriptive person. A potential moral person is not a moral person. But none of this prevents me from saying that a potential DESCRIPTIVE person is a MORAL person, which is what PP says.

Related point. 'Person' is not a genus of which descriptive person and moral person are species any more than 'leather' is a genus of which artificial leather and real leather are species.

Another point. 'Actual' in this context is redundant. If x is a cat, then it follows straightaway that x is an actual cat. 'Potential' is alienans, 'actual' is redundant. These points mirror each other. No cat is a potential cat. Every cat is an actual cat.

Bob asks "Is the notion of a potential moral person, or a potential rights possessor, itself incoherent?"

I would say so. What could it mean?

And I think this has something to do with what I take to be the wrongheadedness of Peter Lupu's EEPP*. Potentiality and actuality are concepts we bring to bear in the understanding of a changing world of living things. They are not normative concepts in the modern sense. So 'potential moral person' has no clear sense.


Bill,

I have reviewed 'Why we should accept the Potentiality Principle' and its Related Posts. You introduced 'descriptive person' in 'The Potentiality Principle: the State of the Debate' where you say 'A descriptive person is anything that satisfies the criteria of personhood.' This suggests to me that 'descriptive person' and 'person' are equivalent. Could you expand a little on your point that 'person' is not a genus of which 'descriptive person' is a species?

I appreciate that 'moral-person', being equivalent to 'rights-possessor', does not imply personhood. But my argument does not assume that a moral-person is a person.

What I do assume is that if all Fs are Gs then a potential F must also be a potential G. This seems intuitively right to me---could you explain why you reject it?

Lastly, my argument that your 1--4 are inconsistent relies on the notion of 'potential moral-person' that appears in 4, so if this is incoherent my argument fails.

Bill - Your recent comments prompt me to make a request. Could you outline your views relating to the metaphysics of morals that underly the distinction between descriptive persons and moral persons? How the normative and descriptive aspects of things are related seems to be at the heart of PP, and I sense that I'll need that grounding to fully appreciate the constructive arguments for PP.

Another Argument against PA:

1) In light of all the disputes and misunderstanding that EEPP raised, I decided to present another argument against PP. The new argument relies on EPP, which was accepted by Bill and others, as well as on a new principle. I will call this principle the Principle of Potentiality (POP). I think that just as EPP, POP is a conceptual truth about our concept of potentiality.

2) EPP: If an entity x has the potential to become F at t, then this potentiality rules out x actually being F at t.
3) POP: If an entity x has the potential to become an F at t and G is an essential property of all Fs, then x has the potential at t to become a G.
4) F=descriptive person; G=has the right to life;
5) Assumption*: The right to life is an essential property of every descriptive person.
6) PA:
(i) PP: All potentially descriptive persons have a right to life;
(ii) The fetus has the potential to become a descriptive person at t;
Therefore,
(iii) The fetus has the right to life at t.
7) Let z be a particular fetus. Then
8) z has the potential to become a descriptive person at t & the right to life is an essential property of every descriptive person;
9) z has the potential to have the right to life at t;
(POP, Assumption*, (8))
10) it is not the case that z actually has the right to life at t; (EPP, (9))
11) it is not the case z has the right to life at t;
12) (iii) and (12) contradict each other. Hence, one or more of the premises must be false.
13) Denying Premise (ii) of PA (i.e., The fetus has the potential to become a descriptive person at t) is not a viable option.
14) Since EPP is a conceptual truth, it cannot be denied.
15) There are two other premises involved: POP and the assumption that the right to life is an essential property of every descriptive person.
16) I do not see how anyone can deny POP. After all, POP simply says that if an object has the potential to become such-and-such at t, then the object in question has the potential at t to acquire those properties that are essential to be such-and-such. How could this be false? How could an acorn have the potential at t to become an oak-tree yet fail to have the potential to have those properties that are essential to be an oak-tree?
17) So the only other alternative here is to deny assumption (#5) that the right to life is an essential property of every descriptive person.
18) But, if the right to life is not an essential property of every descriptive person, then it is at best a contingent property of every descriptive person. Hence, PP is a contingent truth, if it is true at all; therefore, it could certainly be false in the actual world.
19) What kind of empirical evidence do we have to establish that PP is indeed true?
20) Another option is to stipulate that PP expresses a brute fact. But, surely, PP is not the sort of proposition that one would typically view as expressing a brute fact. Moreover, opting for this position weakens PA significantly and rather than presenting a powerful argument against abortion, it merely reverts back to stipulative propositions that the opponents of PA will rightfully refuse to accept.
21) It will not do to present properties such as self-identity or being extended in space as putative CEs in order to prove that POP may prove too much and, therefore, must be false. Such examples merely show that self identity is an essential property of every object quite independently of any of the object’s potentials. Thus, take our familiar acorn. Since an acorn is an object, it is actually self-identical regardless of whether or not it has the potential to become an oak-tree. Therefore, the converse of EPP rules out that the acorn can have the potential to be self-identical. So the converse of EPP rules out any property that the acorn actually has already at the time it has the potential to become an oak tree. None of these properties can be entertained as putative counterexamples to POP.

peter

David,

I made a mistake above when I wrote, " 'Person' is not a genus of which descriptive person and moral person are species any more than 'leather' is a genus of which artificial leather and real leather are species."

What I meant to write was this: Person is not a genus of which potential person and actual person are species any more than leather is a genus of which artificial leather and real leather are species.

That is to say: persons don't come in two kinds, potential and actual. A potential person is not a person.


All,

I have set Typepad Authentication at optional. Let's see how long we can go without cyberscum showing up here. If necessary, I will make it mandatory again. And there are other draconian measures that you hope I won't have to take. You will notice that the ComBox appears automatically now.

I have also configured it so that you can use HTML in the ComBox. Apparently, I had to choose between allowing HTML in the ComBox, or setting it so that URLs are automatically turned into hyperlinks, a very nice feature that was absent at PowerBlogs. But I am not sure why I can't have both features on at the same time.

Another design flaw (if it is one one) is the I have to jump through the same hoops to comment as you do! And it's my site! That is one reason I made Typepad Authentication optional.

You will note that each comment has its own hyperlink just as at PowerBlogs.

Since Peter doesn't know any Hyper Text Markup Language, I will explain how to make italics and bolds. First, the forward slash '/' (without the quotation marks) is a switch that turns off a command. 'em' (without the quotation marks) is the ITALICS command, and 'strong' (without the quotation marks) is the BOLD command. Each command must be enclosed in angle brackets '<' and '>' (again, without the quotation marks!) Now obviously I cannot display an HTML command. I have to describe it: if you want to set blah-blah in italics, type this: left angle bracket em right angle bracket blah-blah left angle bracket forward slash em right angle bracket. And similarly for BOLD.

Alles klar?

David,
1) "I take G-essential to be equivalent to G-->p. I'm not sure what you mean by a dependence between properties."

2.1) If by '-->' you mean the material conditional, then it is not equivalent to the relation of '...is an essential property of all Fs'. There is a significant difference between a necessary condition and an essential property. You can get the right result by prefixing 'Necessary' in front of the material conditional because that would be a modal construal of essential property.

2.2) One property is independent from another just in case it applies regardless of whether the other property applies.

3) The point of the independence condition is simple. Suppose an acorn has the potential to become an oak-tree. Clearly this acorn is going to have many properties that have nothing to do with its potential to become an oak-tree. That is, properties that the acorn has regardless of whether or not it has this potential. For instance, self-identity is a property the acorn has simply because it is an object: so the acorn is self-identical regardless of whether it has the potential to become an oak tree. Can this be controversial?

4) Properties that an object has regardless of whether it has a given potential cannot be counterexamples to EEPP*.

5) There is only one way that EEPP, in whatever formulation, fails to apply to PP and that is if the right to life is not an essential property of anything that is a descriptive person. Since EEPP is so formulated that it applies only to the relevant essential properties, if PP is construed so that the right to life is not an essential property of descriptive persons, then EEPP will fail to apply. But under such circumstances PP will face other and even more severe difficulties, as I have argued several times in the past.

6)In a seperate post dated Nov 4 addressed to Bill you say:
"What I do assume is that if all Fs are Gs then a potential F must also be a potential G."
This is interesting. For several days now I have been developing a new argument against PP in order to avoid the controversial EEPP. This argument relies on EPP and a principle I call POP; my last post above titled "Another Argument Against PP" (Nov 5) explains the principle. I think that in the above quotation you also have in mind something like this principle, except you again use a purely extensional account of essential property, which will not work. I have argued above and you seem to agree that POP is very intuitive principle and I doubt that it can be rejected. I believe that the argument with EEPP and its counterpart relying on POP are equivalent.

peter


1) I am puzzled by the suggestion made by Bill and raised by others that phrases such as 'potential moral person' or 'potential right possessor' lack sense.
The phrase 'x is a potential right possessor' has the same meaning as 'x has the potential to acquire certain rights in the future'. How could this later phrase lack a meaning?

2) Do the following lack sense?

-John has the potential to become a good person;
-John has the potential to become a virtuous person;
-John has the potential to acquire the right to vote (once he becomes a citizen); to acquire the right to drive; etc.
All of these phrases are completely meaningful; and so does the following:
-Given this child's upbringing and character, he has the potential to be a honest, law-abiding, and hard working person once he grows up.

3) Moreover, if the phrase 'potential moral person' lacks sense, then so does the expression "a potential moral person is not a moral person" in virtue of the property of compositionality of meaning.

4) How can the phrase 'potential moral person' lack sense, but the phrase 'potential person' or 'potential descriptive person' have a clear sense?

The only difference I discern between these phrases is that while the former attributes to someone a potential to acquire certain moral properties, the later phrases attribute to someone the potential to acquire certain non-moral or factual properties. But why should this difference render the former "incoherent" or lacking a clear sense?

5) It is even more puzzling to hold the view that 'potential moral person' and like phrases lack clear sense in conjunction with the view that moral properties are objective (a view Bill clearly holds). If moral properties are objective, just like factual properties, then their application to persons and actions has an objective truth-value. And if the application of moral properties to actions and persons has an objective truth value, then how does it become suddenly nonsense to assert of an action or of someone that they are liable to act in a potentially sinful or immoral manner.

6) The thesis that phrases such as 'potential moral person' or 'potential right possessor' lack sense is a very radical and counterintuitive move to take in order to block an argument from EEPP or POP. Its motivation is unclear and it has unwelcome consequences.

peter

Since Bill has made Typepad Authentication optional, I'll try posting from my workplace...

I share Peter's puzzlement about the alleged incoherence of notions like 'potential moral person' or 'potential right possessor'. It's because I know that Bill is usually very careful about such things that I requested clarification about the metaphysics of morals underlying his views.

Does the potential principle vary at all with the probability of a fetus becoming a "moral person" or does it remain constant.

EX. Both parents are unrepentant criminals, it is likely this person will be raised in a criminal household, therefore the probability for a potentially immoral person has increased, while the probability of a potential moral person has decreased. Sorry if this was addressed elsewhere and I missed it.

Gentlemen,

Thanks for the comments. I will be slow in responding since I am currently preparing for a Bradley conference in early December. It looks as if I will have to start one or more new threads to discuss properly the new issues that have arisen.

Peter,

Please write 'Peter Lupu' in the name box above your comments so that the display on the front page is correct.

Thanks.

Hi Brandon - I understand the point of your question, but the way you're using the phrase 'moral person' is different from how it's been used in this discussion of the potentiality argument. Instead of meaning something like "person whose actions are morally praiseworthy", it's been used to refer to someone who has "full moral standing" or is "morally considerable". Another way to see the point is in terms of fetuses. The question is what sort of "moral claim" they have on us more-or-less developed moral persons, not whether fetuses have done anything morally praiseworthy.

Bob,

1.0) regarding your inquiry about Bills spoken English example. Very interesting example: I must have overlooked it when Bill proposed it (sorry Bill).

1.1) The idea is, if I understand it correctly, that mastering a set of sounds necessary to pronounce all or most words in English is essential in order be an English speaker (in the literal sense of 'speaker': i.e., being able to speak English not merely being a master of the English language in the sense of being able to write, read, or sign in English).
1.2) Now suppose that someone learns how to pronounce the set of all these sounds, but does not learn how to put them together into English words, sentences, nor learns English Grammar, the meaning of English words, etc., all of which are also necessary to become an English speaker (in the literal sense). Such a person is not an actual speaker of English, for he lacks other knowledge essential to be an English speaker. He only mastered one essential property required to speak English.
1.3) It indeed makes sense to say that such a person has the potential to be an English speaker (since they are not one yet).
1.4) If we apply EEPP to this case we get the wrong result to the effect that the potential at t of this person to become an English speaker rules out that they are actually able to pronounce at t the sounds required for spoken English. But that cannot be because they already actually able to make these sounds at t.
1.5) I concede that this case requires amending EEPP to exclude them.
1.6) The nature of this example as well as other alleged CEs to EEPP already suggests how to amend EEPP in order to rule out such cases. In this case, the person has the ability to make these sounds at t but he is not yet a speaker of English at t. Hence, by EPP, it is false that this person has the potential to acquire the ability to make these sounds, since he actually is able to make these sounds already at t; but it does make sense to say that he has the potential to become an English speaker, since he is not yet able to do so. Therefore, any property that an object already actually possesses at the time the object has the potential to become an F cannot be in the scope of EEPP. While this constraint rules out this case as well as other examples such as self-identity, extended in space, etc., it does not rule out any property that is alleged to be grounded on the potential of the object to become an F. Since the right to life is alleged to be grounded on the potential to become a descriptive person, it cannot be one of the properties that such objects actually possess at the time of having the potential in question and independently from having this potential. So unlike the case of the English sounds, where a person can be said to actually have the ability to make such sounds independently of the potential to become an English speaker, in the case of the right to life, an object cannot have this property independently from the potential to become a descriptive person, for otherwise the right to life is not grounded on this potentiality but on something else completely independent from it.
peter

Re: 'Another argument against PA'

Peter,

regarding your

3) POP: If an entity x has the potential to become an F at t and G is an essential property of all Fs, then x has the potential at t to become a G.

I think what this misses is the possibility that the x may already be a G, which is just what Bill's PP claims. Example: x=acorn, F=oak tree, G=of genus Quercus.

My intuition here is that all that EPP tells us is that if x, an F,is also pot-G then x is not G. Indeed, x may have many more properties that are essential to a G than an F does, but it need lack only one, as it were, to prevent it being a G. But this intuition relies on the idea of 'counting properties' which I suspect is hard to formalise.

Oops, previous comment is mine.

"I think what this misses is the possibility that the x may already be a G, which is just what Bill's PP claims."

1) If the fetus has already the right to life (G) at t independently of the potential to become a descriptive person (F) at t, then possessing this right cannot be "grounded" on the later potential. But Bill wants to ground the right to life of the fetus on its potential; therefore, he cannot be taking PP to state that.

2) Cases of the sort you describe cannot be CEs to POP because EPP will already exclude them. If an acorn actually already has a certain essential property at t; e.g., the property of belonging to genus Quercus, at the time it has the potential to become an oak tree, then EPP rules out that the acorn has the potential at t to acquire the property of belonging to the genus Quercus. Hence, the property of belonging to the genus Quercus cannot be one of the essential property that the acorn has the potential to acquire, since it already has it. HEnce, POP does not apply to this property.

3) Re: Counting Properties. There is a general problem about the individuation of properties and about "counting" them, as nominalists have been arguing forever. We are assuming here that this is not an obstacle to discussing the present issues and all sides to the current debate presuppose a certain intuitive way of identifying properties.

4) Who is the author of the last remark?

peter

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