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"The Famous Violinist" and the ethics of abortion


Mercurial

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Given that there are so many abortion-related threads going on at the moment, and given my inclination not to engage in discussion on the Halappanavar case until all the facts are in, I thought it might be interesting to devote a thread to a more abstract discussion of the ethics of abortion, with a particular focus on The Famous Violinist thought experiment. Some background:


The philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson came up with this one in 1971 ("A Defense of Abortion"). (A Defense of Abortion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )


Here's the quick Wiki-summary:

The "famous violinist" thought experiment asks a person to consider the ethics of a scenario where they wake to find themselves in a hospital serving as life support to a famous violinist. The person is asked to consider that they were not consulted prior to this arrangement, but that if they detach from the violinist he will die. Thomson wrote, "If you stay in the hospital bed, connected to the violinist, he will be totally cured in nine months. You are unlikely to suffer harm. No one else can save him. Do you have an obligation to stay connected?" ( Violinist (thought experiment) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )
Here's the full text of "A Defense of Abortion": Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion

The Wikipedia page on A Defense of Abortion in particular is a good place to start in terms of objections and responses to the paper.



(Note that what makes this sort of argument especially interesting is that it works even if you assume that the foetus is a person with the full range of rights we would normally think people ought to have)

NB: Please try to stay on topic, which in this case is the merits or flaws of the above thought experiment or ethical arguments surrounding abortion more generally. There are loads of threads already dedicated to various aspects of the Halappanavar case itself.


So, is Thomson's argument convincing and if not, why not?
 
Last edited:

darkhorse

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Do we have to have a thread on every 'famous persons' view on abortion?
Or are sites like this about giving everyone a say...
An opinion is an opinion - regardless of how rich or famous the holder is
 

Mountaintop

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If it's Nigel Kennedy.....I'm already in the pub explaining why I'm in a nightie with tubes hanging out of my arm...
 

titmouse

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Do we have to have a thread on every 'famous persons' view on abortion?
Or are sites like this about giving everyone a say...
An opinion is an opinion - regardless of how rich or famous the holder is
Idiotic thread. It takes one argument for abortion and complicates it by attaching some jargon to it.
 

Mercurial

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Jun 4, 2009
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Do we have to have a thread on every 'famous persons' view on abortion?
Or are sites like this about giving everyone a say...
An opinion is an opinion - regardless of how rich or famous the holder is
It's worth discussing because it's extremely influential, at least where the ethics of abortion are concerned.

Indeed, articulating this view is more or less what made Thomson famous in the first place (insofar as any modern philosopher is famous).
 

PlanetBertie

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I live next door to a man who practices the violin regularly, I would gladly pull the plug on him.
 

titmouse

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It's worth discussing because it's extremely influential, at least where the ethics of abortion are concerned.

Indeed, articulating this view is more or less what made Thomson famous in the first place (insofar as any modern philosopher is famous).
She became famous for stating the obvious because of a condescending attitude to a mediocre woman.
 

Mercurial

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Idiotic thread. It takes one argument for abortion and complicates it by attaching some jargon to it.
The point of the thought experiment is to simplify, rather than complicate. I certainly can see no jargon in the quote in the OP.
 

Hewson

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Apr 29, 2009
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Given that there are so many abortion-related threads going on at the moment, and given my inclination not to engage in discussion on the Halappanavar case until all the facts are in, I thought it might be interesting to devote a thread to a more abstract discussion of the ethics of abortion, with a particular focus on The Famous Violinist thought experiment. Some background:


The philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson came up with this one in 1971 ("A Defense of Abortion"). (A Defense of Abortion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )


Here's the quick Wiki-summary:



Here's the full text of "A Defense of Abortion": Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion

The Wikipedia page on A Defense of Abortion in particular is a good place to start in terms of objections and responses to the paper.



(Note that what makes this sort of argument especially interesting is that it works even if you assume that the foetus is a person with the full range of rights we would normally think people ought to have)

NB: Please try to stay on topic, which in this case is the merits or flaws of the above thought experiment or ethical arguments surrounding abortion more generally. There are loads of threads already dedicated to various aspects of the Halappanavar case itself.
Stringjack already tried this stunt before.

You posting it hasn't improved its effectiveness, I'm afraid.
 

darkhorse

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Dec 12, 2005
Messages
18,210
It's worth discussing because it's extremely influential, at least where the ethics of abortion are concerned.

Indeed, articulating this view is more or less what made Thomson famous in the first place (insofar as any modern philosopher is famous).
In sites like this, you shoot your opinion and take the consequences
So if you have something to say then say it and stop hiding behind 'famous people'
 

Mercurial

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Jun 4, 2009
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Stringjack already tried this stunt before.

You posting it hasn't improved its effectiveness, I'm afraid.
I have faith that eventually someone will come along who is interested in discussing the topic.
 

titmouse

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In sites like this, you shoot your opinion and take the consequences
So if you have something to say then say it and stop hiding behind 'famous people'
There's a class of people who read commonplace opinions attached to labels in certain books, and so they use the same labels attached to those commonplace opinions to seem clever and well read, and to somehow appeal to authority in their defence of them.
 

Mercurial

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Jun 4, 2009
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88,215
In sites like this, you shoot your opinion and take the consequences
So if you have something to say then say it and stop hiding behind 'famous people'
I started the thread because I'm interested in whether people find the arguments convincing and if not, why not.
 

Hewson

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I have faith that eventually someone will come along who is interested in discussing the topic.
Given the number of abortion threads running you may grow old waiting. Each one gets sillier than the last and the intellectual midgets are in full flight.

But good luck anyway.
 

darkhorse

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Dec 12, 2005
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I started the thread because I'm interested in whether people find the arguments convincing and if not, why not.
Well, next time, start one stating what YOU think
And then back it up with how some famous person agrees with you
You seem to have it backwards
 
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