Friday, February 08, 2008

there is a curious contrast between the foundations of the moralist and the utilitarian, and yet a very similar morality is produced. one place that a discrepancy is found, is in the issue of abortion.

moralist and the utilitarian find so much common ground. they march as one against the murderer, the rapist, the thief, the cheat.

but they are interestingly divergent over the issue of abortion. even more interesting, the most out spoken on this issues have never taken the time to recognise the foundations from which their disagreement arises.

they are different in the following ways :

the moralist declares there is an external arbiter, who's authority is absolute. what this arbiter thinks should be done, should be done, and what this arbiter thinks ought not be done, ought not be done.

the moralism of western society originates in christianity, and core to christianity is the prohibition of taking life (excepting defending the innocent, and capital punishment). this is an idea that need little explanation to the reader, anyone having grown up in the western world would be familiar with most of what this entails.

the utilitarian declares there is no external arbiter. there is no absolute moral basis for anything. it is simply a matter of opinion. hitler may have been evil, but that is only your opinion.

here the moralist demands to know, 'by what authority then, do you condemn the murderer? why must he go to gaol, when in his mind his actions were justified? in the absence of an arbiter his opinion is worth no less than yours.'

but here the utilitarian responds, thus revealing himself as a utilitarian:

"if we permitted murder, then society would suffer, and ultimately i would suffer. similarly, whilst there isn't anything morally wrong with rape, or theft, their existence makes for a worse society, that is why i on the one hand declare there is no ultimate moral basis, and on the other condemn almost all the same actions as you do"

and here is the crux of the issue. what happens in the darkness of a womb, is too distant from every day life. everyone would join in condemning the killing of newly-borns, their connection to the life we enjoy is too strong. but the unborn child, deep in that mysterious place, the capabilities of its mind impossible to assess, its form alien to us. its life can be taken.