The other day I asked an Amish friend of mine whether he thinks abortion is morally acceptable. His adamant answer was an unequivocal; No. When asked why, he says it’s unnatural; it doesn’t conform to natural law.
My friend is not the typical close-minded Amish person and his idea is that natural law is based on the physical laws; the laws of nature. He agrees with me that evolution is a natural outcome of biological agents living in a universe with our physical laws. He goes on to assert that the characteristics of evolution, such as the tendency to survive as an individual and to reproduce as a species; is natural law. Abortion, he says, is morally wrong because it does not conform to this natural law. It opposes the natural law of reproduction. He claims that morality is objective and it can be derived from the physical laws in the aforementioned way.
My first response to his argument was that abortion isn’t found in the animal world (and is unnatural in that regard) because it requires advanced technology which non-human animals don’t have. My second criticism was that we engage in a lot of activities which aren’t “natural” but he considers to be moral. Marriage and monogamy, for instance, do not conform to his idea of natural law.
My friend admitted that he would have to rethink his position but he refuses to accept my position; that there is no inherent or objective morality, there is only behavior that we don’t put up with.
What do you think? Is morality a set of objective, non-changing, ultimate-truth, ideals or does it evolve with society?
You are both, sadly, incorrect.
Firstly (and most importantly), morality can ONLY be derived from an objective system of ethics, which does exist as a logical conclusion from one’s observation of reality (your friend refers to natural law, which is more of a scientific term that I don’t really like because it implies creation or design where there is none).
Secondly, abortion is quite a moral procedure – and it is a natural one to the human condition. Incidentally, while I’m discussing what is moral for humanity, I should add that making moral comparisons to animals is barbaric and disgusting.
Although I don’t wish to present a full case of the nature of ethics for a simple response to your post, I will offer some basic reasoning as to why I make the above statements.
If human beings are to have any sort of “right and wrong”, in what manner are they to chart their course? The very nature of being a living thing – specifically a human being – demands that we value that which best sustains our life and lifelong happiness according to our rational faculty, i.e. our rational self-interest. It is this key concept – rational egoism – which determines an objective system of ethics and guides our moral decision-making.
Speaking to the particularity of abortion, what moral dilemma is present? In other words, what is the situation which requires a moral decision to be made? In order to answer this question we first establish that, if a moral decision is to be made, then there must logically be one rational agent who may make that decision in their rational self-interest. The only rational agent in this scenario is the pregnant woman. In a HIGHLY OVERSIMPLIFIED model of her scenario, she may choose either to abort or to carry through with the pregnancy (in reality no woman’s choice is so simplistic for there are myriad social and medical considerations and there is no simple “abort or do not abort” option except in this theoretical scenario). Insofar as the woman may best sustain her life and lifelong happiness by aborting the fetus, then she not only CAN do so but she morally SHOULD do so. (I can’t fathom a situation in which, faced with the choice between aborting and not aborting, a woman would come to the conclusion that not aborting would be in her rational self-interest, but if there were a specific situation which would favor her life and lifelong happiness by carrying through with the nine months of agony culminating in a bloody, sadistic, ceremonious childbirth as well as lifelong changes to her body and wellbeing for the sake of A FETUS, then and only then could she make a different moral decision).
Let me point out why it is critical that one cannot accept either of your positions, as they currently stand.
Your friend who identifies as Amish who considers abortion immoral is setting up women to be the victims of men’s whims. Rape? Simple! Punish the victim by forcing her to undergo worse physical and psychological hell than anyone physiologically male will EVER understand.
There is absolutely NO excuse for being anti-choice.
As far as not having any objective right and wrong and just accepting “only behavior that we don’t put up with” – let’s try a real-life example. Suppose that your hypothetical pregnant woman lives in an Islamic state where abortion is forbidden on religious grounds. No one “puts up with” abortion in such a state. It is socially and legally impermissible. So she obviously must carry to term, regardless of her health, her long-term wellbeing, or her freewill. Do you support that vision? Is that the world you wish to live in? There are places where people don’t put up with women who write books, places where people are happy to “put up with” those who would censor, beat, abuse, and rape women who do nothing more than express their individual opinions in writing. There are still places in the world where women are considered the chattel of their fathers and husbands, places in the world where just being born female means that people “put up with” the unsanitary scraping and slicing of your clitoris from your body. Your version of ethics sees nothing wrong with this situation, though.
Right and wrong is not a social or cultural game, and when we relegate it that way, abuse is the only result. The Amish culture might be a great example.
Humanity NEEDS an objective system of ethics based on rational self-interest in order to make moral decisions that do not harm one’s self or others. I implore you to read about rational egoism and make the choice for yourself.
I think I have failed to accurately convey what I meant in my last sentence of the post (I have that problem sometimes). I don’t necessarily disagree with you or with rational egotism, in fact, some of my own ideas on morality are along the same lines. What I meant when I said there is no objective reality is that morality evolves within society, it is not divinely ordained by omniscient beings (like most Amish believe) and it is not deduced from evolution or the laws of physics in a simple manner, like the friend I was referring to believes.
Rather, I believe that morality is simply the set of implicit and explicit rules that governs the interaction of agents in a relatively stable society like ours.
I think the confusion comes from me using the word “objective” incorrectly, to mean “based on or originating outside of the society in question”. I apologize for not stating my position more clearly and I thank you for taking the time to make me aware of it.