Identity, potential, and design: How they impact the debate over the morality of abortion
Bindig, Todd S.
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This dissertation addresses the metaphysics of personal identity and the question of the moral permissibility of abortion. I begin, in chapter one, by discussing three general approaches to personal identity: materialism, substance dualism, and hylomorphism. I conclude that a generally-Thomistic hylomorphic approach is the most acceptable theory of personal identity and, thus, that we come into being at fertilization. I explore this further, in my second chapter, in a discussion of the badness of death and the wrongness of killing. I there conclude that though materialism has philosophically acceptable answers to these issues, a hylomorphic approach to personal identity is more consistent with our common intuitions about death and killing; that we harm a person if we kill him or her. In my third chapter, I move to a discussion of the moral significance of potentiality and an examination of different types of potentiality. I conclude that the preborn human being possesses active, identity-preserving potential to develop personhood traits and that this potential carries with it the same rights to protection as those individuals who have manifest these personhood traits; to deny this moral value would necessitate our accepting infanticide. In chapter four, I continue the discussion of potential in an examination of the concept of health and disease; of function and dysfunction. I argue that appeals to species-norms are not helpful in determining health or proper function, let alone moral status. I then conclude that we must appeal to divine design to salvage commonsense ethics. In chapter five, address the issue of the degree of sacrifice required to live a moral life and conclude that when another person will certainly die if I do not make some sacrifice to sustain his or her life, I am required to sacrifice up to just short of my own life to save his or her life. I thus come to the ultimate conclusion that abortion is always morally wrong.