Medical Ethics
Michael Green
Manuel Vargas
phone, office information

03 April. The Basic Argument Against Abortion
06 April. The Extreme View
08 April. The Voluntariness Objection
10 April. Samaritanism and objections
13 April. Warren's criticism, more voluntariness
15 April. Fetuses aren't persons?
20 April. Nicole's point, one more time.
22 April. Wrapping Up

Medical Ethics: 20 April. Does Marquis have to say contraception is wrong?

Why are we talking about this?

1. Marquis's account of why abortion is wrong seems also to show that contraception is wrong. The very same reasons for opposing abortion, it seems, are also reasons for opposing contraception.

2. Contraception seems not to be wrong. At least, if contraception is morally wrong, it isn't as bad as killing. This is something many people believe. (If you do not, this argument won't seem very important to you.)

3. So, if point 1 is correct, there must be some mistake in Marquis's argument that abortion is wrong.

Marquis tries to refute point 1.

What was all that discussion of (9) and (10) about?

It was about having a lot of fun. Thanks for the excellent discussion!

Seriously, here's a quick run-down.

Look at point 3 of the "Contraception Objection" argument on the handout. It says "The use of contraception deprives a being of a valuable future." If that's so, then contraception would be wrong, according to Marquis: he says that it's wrong to deprive something of its valuable future.

Marquis tries to deny point 3. He says that there's no being that is deprived of a valuable future when people use contraception. Points (7) - (10) mention all the beings that might be deprived of a valuable future by contraception; Marquis tries to show that none of them is the right kind of being.

So the question is: what is the being that is deprived of a valuable future by contraception?

Why does Marquis think it is wrong to say the being is ...

(9) a sperm and an ovum separately.

Marquis's answer: those are two beings with two futures. What the objection needs to show is that contraception deprives a being of one valuable future since it's only the one, person's future that has value, not the two zygote futures.

That last clause, the one starting with "since," borrows a point Jean made in class. Thanks, Jean!

(10) a sperm and an ovum together.

Marquis's answer: there is no such being when (some forms of) contraception are used.

I denied Marquis's answer to (9)

In (9), there are two beings, a sperm and an ovum, with one future: the future in which they meet and grow into a person. Contraception denies these beings their valuable future.

So, if it were wrong to deny a being of a valuable future, it would be wrong to use contraception. As Jesús noted, it would be doubly wrong: contraception deprives two beings a valuable future.

Nicole's point

Nicole said that the arguments about (9) and (10) should be parallel. Suppose Marquis could find contraception legitimate in case (10) on the grounds that contraception prevents the relevant being from coming into existence in the first place. If there's no being, there's no depriving a being of a valuable future.

In case (9) I supposed the separate sperm and ovum each have a valuable future. But that future doesn't exist either. That future is prevented from existing in just the same way that the being is prevented from existing in (10).

Oops, looks like trouble for my argument!

I respond

What distinguishes (9) from (10) is this.

In (10), contraception prevents a being from coming into existence that would have a valuable future.

Marquis's principle did not say that this was wrong. He only said that it is wrong to deprive a being that already exists of a valuable future. Consequently, he is not committed to saying that it is wrong to prevent the being in (10) from coming into existence.

In (9), there are two beings that have a valuable future. Contraception deprives these beings of their valuable future.

Marquis's principle does say this is wrong. It says that it is wrong to deprive a being of its valuable future. So, Marquis is committed to saying that it is wrong to use contraception.

Here's a slogan. In (10), there's no being to deprive. In (9), there are beings to deprive. Contraception deprives in (9), but it doesn't in (10).

In (10) contraception does something different; it prevents a being's existence. Preventing existence is not wrong, according to Marquis's principle, but depriving a being of a valuable future is wrong, according to Marquis's principle.

Whee ...

Manuel has a really nifty argument that seems to block mine. But I won't give it away. Go to section, you'll love it. Trust me.

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This page was originally posted on 4/24/98; 1:59:56 PM and was last built on 4/24/98; 2:00:01 PM with BBEdit and Frontier 5 on a Macintosh running System 8.0.