Commentary on Peter Singer´s Practical Ethics and his View on Abortion
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The goal of this essay is to summarize Peter Singer’s opinion on the moral approach of abortion, which is describes in his book Practical Ethics. His goal is to clarify and provide a clear-cut answer to what is generally thought as a moral debate with no solution. To him, the subject of abortion is far from being so, as the ethical problem has wrongly been approached.
Singer first points out that the different opinions on abortion come from the debate on when a human life actually begins. He formulates the common argument against abortion as follows: it is wrong to kill an innocent human being; a human fetus is an innocent human being; therefore, it is wrong to kill a human fetus. It is because killing a human being is undoubtedly wrong and immoral that the opposition instead attempts to deny the second part of the argument “a human fetus is an innocent human being”. By doing so, critics argue that the fetus does not have the status of a human being. This debate results in focusing on whether, or when, the fetus can be considered a human being, and therefore given the same rights against being killed as another human being. Singer however claims that it is difficult to find a moral dividing line between a fetus and a human being because the development of the human egg to a child is gradual. To prove his point, he describes four commonly proposed moral lines (birth, viability, quickening, and consciousness), which he then denies with strong arguments.
On the first stage, birth would not be a plausible line because it is so arbitrary. In fact, we are sympathetically inclined towards a newborn baby because we can touch and see it; it however creates favoritism over a fetus. Also, he ar...
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...han an actual person; because of its potential to become one.
Singer’s counter argument to this new objection is that there is no general rule that provides a potential x to have the same value as an actual x. He instead proves the opposite with a few examples, such as the obvious difference between pulling out a sprouting acorn compared to cutting down a full-grown oak. However, the argument of potential can also be approached differently, by insisting on the fact that killing a fetus will deprive the world of a future person. Once again, Singer fins absurdity in such argument, because not all abortions are as such. Some do not deprive the world from a new self-aware being, it sometimes only delays its entry. Also, this argument of potential would also apply to any type of contraception, whether they are artificial or natural, which is an outmoded point of view.