Dictionary of Arguments

Philosophical and Scientific Issues in Dispute

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Disputed term/author/ism Author
Abortion Thomson Singer I 132
Abortion/J. J. Thomson/P. Singer: Thought experiment: Imagine that you should be connected to the blood circulation of a seriously ill, famous violinist for 9 months in order to save his life. After that, your help is no longer needed. All the music lovers of the whole world are watching. Thomson: When you wake up in the hospital (kidnapped by music lovers to help the violinist) and find yourself in this situation, you are not morally obliged to let the violinist use your body. It may be a generosity on your part - but it is not morally wrong to reject it.(1)
Singer: Thomson's conclusion does not depend on the fact that the violinist came into his circumstances involuntarily. Thomson also expressly states that the violinist has a right to life, but this right does not include the right to use another body, even if one dies without this help.
Singer: the parallel to rape is obvious.
Singer I 133
For the sake of the argument, we assume that the embryo is considered a fully developed human being. Question: can Thomson's argument be extended to cases of pregnancy that are not based on rape? This depends on whether the theory behind it is well-founded. For example, could I force my favorite movie star to save my life?
Thomson/Singer: it does not say that although I have a right to life, I would always be forced to take the best path or to do what would have the most pleasant consequences.
Solution/Thomson: instead, it accepts a system of rules and obligations that allows us to justify our actions regardless of their consequences.
Cf. >Consequentialism, >Deontology.
P. SingerVsThomson/UtilitarianismVsThomson, J. J./Singer, P: in the case of the violinist, the utilitarianism would reject Thomson's theory.
Singer I 308
In this way, utilitarianism would also reject Thomson's position on abortion. >Utilitarianism, >Preference utilitarianism.

1. Judith J. Thomson, "A Defense of Abortion" in: Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971.

ThomsonJF I
James F. Thomson
"A Note on Truth", Analysis 9, (1949), pp. 67-72
Theories of Truth, Paul Horwich Aldershot 1994

ThomsonJJ I
Judith J. Thomson
Goodness and Advice Princeton 2003

SingerP I
Peter Singer
Practical Ethics (Third Edition) Cambridge 2011

SingerP II
P. Singer
The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. New Haven 2015