The Botereid

Thursday, October 14, 2004

When they're wrong

Yesterday, Eugene Volokh wrote one of the most level-headed pieces I've ever seen on abortion. What's shocking is that it's such an obvious problem within both the anti-choice and anti-life groups.

Even someone who is otherwise libertarian, or even otherwise liberal, may reach this position [of opposing abortion] if he just accepts one moral axiom that I don't accept — that human life begins at conception — but that isn't inherently inconsistent with my other moral views.

Similarly, for all the abortion opponents out there: people who support abortion are not malicious. They believe that their position is not morally wrong.

There is a division based in fundamental conceptions of what human life is, and most people are just too volatile to think for a moment and realize it. How can you oppose a position you don't understand? Can you turn a doorknob with a closed fist?

Further, when you choose an extremist position as the standard-bearer of an opposing viewpoint, you're going to convince yourself of the whole argument's lunacy. You're going to be that less understanding of the opposing viewpoint. Eg. Michael Moore is as much the Democratic Party as Ann Coulter is the Republican.

Mr. Volokh's stance is an admirable one; it's one I share. Furthermore, his defense of it is estimable, and in it I hear echoes of one of the great philosophers, speaking about a studying a subject that he believes has "nonsensicality [as its] very essence."

Eugene Volokh
But if one does think that it's murder, or even that it's killing that's roughly the moral equivalent of slavery if not precisely of genocide, then the [abortion is genocide] perspective is right, and quite unsurprising. That isn't reason to agree with them: If one is pro-choice, then they're wrong. But it seems to me that there's nothing worthy of mockery in their view.


Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Lecture on Ethics"
My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language. This running against the walls or our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it.

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