Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Party of Me: Right of Life

The Party of Me recognizes that the Right of Life is not about life at all, nor is it about humanity. Being both human and alive are biological terms. We can thus assure ourselves of what is and isn't alive, and what is and isn't human. The distinction, therefore, is what it means to be a person. Personhood is what separates human tissue from a human being.

The Party of Me furthermore recognizes that there are infinite gradations of humanity on every known scale. Any categorization of humanity, any definition of personhood, will therefore be arbitrary, since the distinction between the greatest of one category and the least of the next is nonexistant. This situation is inherently dangerous, as the definition of personhood can be so easily narrowed.

The Party of Me therefore rejects any distinction that denies the personhood of any individual on any criterion.

7 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

Being both human and alive are biological terms. We can thus assure ourselves of what is and isn't alive, and what is and isn't human.

Those aren't plainly biological terms like "chromosome." And as biological terms, I expect their definition would be challenged even more than it is by laymen. Laymen don't run into the border cases like Siamese twins, homo floresensis, viruses, and even when they do they don't care about precision the way that scientists do. Biological terms in textbooks, I think, are often given more authoritative definitions than actual experts would subscribe to.

Would you deny the personhood of an individual big monkey? On what criterion?

1:38 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Would you deny the personhood of an individual big monkey? On what criterion?

You are missing the point. One can easily come up with a criterion that denies the personhood of all big monkeys, for example, the ability to communicate abstract issues. There is no political ramifications of such distinctions. However, when one applies those same criteria to humans, one develops political ideas that are inherently dangerous. Thus, even though we could develop such specifications of personhood, the Party of Me rejects all attempts to apply them to humanity.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

I see, a slippery slope argument. I'll bring out a rainbow analogy -- rainbow has infinite gradations, arbitrary distinctions, "color" is the fuzzy term (analogue of "person") while "wavelength" is the precise scientific concept. Yet you don't have to worry that arbitrarily calling a slice of the spectrum "red" might eventually bit by bit eat away at "orange" until there's none left. "Person" might be narrowed uncomfortably to exclude babies with birth defects, but it'll never exclude healthy but unwanted live babies.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Yes, it is a slippery slope argument, but one that I justify on the grounds that the consequences of even a marginal shift are too dire to risk.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

You don't typically invoke a slippery slope when the marginal shift has clear bad consequences. You can just point and say, "Time to stop!" Typically a slippery sloper has to draw a logical chain through increasingly unacceptable consequences.

I'm sure you have some in mind, they just don't fit in this post, which is relentlessly abstract. That's probably my basic problem with it, too much generality for my taste. Terms like "personhood" are empty symbols to me, I'm no philosopher.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

It's relentlessly abstract because it's written as a party platform. Principles, rather than policy, is the stuff of which platforms are made.

I don't think we have a useful model of something where any change is bad. It's not the domino effect, which has unique units, but the slippery slope involves a crash at the end. Hmm.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

It's relentlessly abstract because it's written as a party platform. Principles, rather than policy, is the stuff of which platforms are made.

Aha! Like writing in old Elizabethan romantic style, that's a style I don't appreciate or read well. Now I understand why it seemed so weird to me. You just warded off a whole series of perplexed comments over the series.

4:34 PM  

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