Humanist philosophy shipwrecked on the abortion issue?

  1. In general, I like the philosophy of Humanism.
  2. But to me, the philosophy of the Humanist movement becomes shipwrecked on the issue of abortion. Hear me out, if you please.
  3. First, it seems that support for unrestricted abortion rights for pregnant women and their doctors seems to be virtually universal among those calling themselves Humanists and participating in Humanist associations. The position that abortion rights should be upheld is practically a dogma among Humanists. No one in the Humanist associations is allowed to deviate from that view, practically speaking (swift and severe social rejection seems to come to anyone speaking against abortion rights in a Humanist setting). I think it is true that no one could be an official leader in the American Humanist Association if they were known to support some restrictions on abortion rights. I think no one could be named Humanist of the Year by the AHA (there’s a list of these on Wikipedia) if they were known to support any restrictions on abortion rights.
  4. Second, the arguments in favor of laws that protect the lives of human fetuses, after the point during which the fetus has all or most of the features of any human being (features such as: a brain, brain activity, a heart, a heartbeat, sensitivity to pain, a face, ears, ability to hear sounds, eyes, hands, fingers, feet, toes, genitals, etc.) seem to be AT LEAST as strong, reasonable, and convincing as the arguments in favor of unrestricted abortion rights for pregnant women and their doctors.
  5. When I was a child, my family had a pet cat that became pregnant; my father killed all kittens right after they were born. I was shocked, appalled, and disgusted. Maybe you would feel the same way if you witnessed this. Now, isn’t it reasonable and arguable that the lives of unnamed human fetuses, after they’ve attained all or most of the features of all humans (listed above in #4; the features probably develop in the 2nd trimester), are worth AT LEAST as much as the lives of some nameless newborn kittens?
  6. It seems that a majority of people in the US came to support abortion rights when the normative role of women changed in society in the late 1960s and 1970s. Before that time, most US states had laws against abortion, and there was very little opposition to those laws.
  7. Starting in the 1970s, abortion became necessary if women were to have careers outside the home just like men.
  8. Also, abortion is necessary if women are going to be able to have lots of sex outside of marriage per the new norms of the "Sexual Revolution” that became normative in the 1970s.
  9. It seems obvious that Humanists (and others) support abortion rights because they wish to make it possible for women to live according to the new social roles for women that became normative in the 1970s.
  10. And it seems that many or most Social Conservatives oppose abortion rights because they do NOT wish to make it possible for women to live according to the new social roles that became normative in the 1970s.
  11. But this pro- or con- stance regarding the new social role of women does not address in the slightest the “existential” or “essential” status of human fetuses that have developed all the features of human beings (as listed above in #4), and which are healthy and not deformed, and which do not threaten the life or health of the pregnant woman.
  12. Whether or not a human fetus at a certain point in its development is deserving of a legally protected right to life, due to easily observable (with a sonogram or other instruments) physical and mental characteristics of the fetus, has no strict logical relationship to human desires to support or to oppose the liberated or egalitarian model of behavior for human females.
  13. In the ancient times of Western philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza, Kant), it was commonly held that philosophy could prove and establish definitively the rightness or wrongness of human acts.
  14. But in modern times, I think a majority of professional philosophers hold that philosophy simply cannot prove or establish definitively the rightness or wrongness of human acts.
  15. Yet, it seems to me that Humanists commonly write and speak as if reason and rationality have shown definitively and beyond all doubt that it is right and good that women and their doctors have an unrestricted right to carry out abortions in all trimesters.
  16. Thus, it seems to be that, in this regard, Humanists are being unreasonable and irrational.
  17. Thus, it seems to me that, on this issue, a political impulse, an irrational zeal, or social dogma has swept away reason within the Humanist community.
  18. I don’t mean that Humanists should uniformly adopt a right to life stance for human fetuses.
  19. But it does seem to me that Humanists should be more agnostic or tolerant on the issue of abortion, recognizing that the arguments against abortion rights in the second and third trimesters (which is roughly the position that Roe v. Wade took with its “viability” standard) are at least as reasonable as the arguments for unrestricted abortion rights in the second and third trimesters.
  20. In writing this post, I am trying to be philosophicallly humble (not political, not polemical, not trollish, not oneupmanish, not provocative, not domineering), in the tradition of the sober, stoic, logical, humane, sympathetic, generous approach to issues taken by Bertrand Russell, as seen in his masterwork of 1945, “A History of Western Philosophy.” For those who like “Star Trek,” I am trying to think and speak somewhat like Commander Spock, who is famous for his logic, fairness, balance, good heartedness, and inability to lie. (Spock was created by Gene Roddenberry, who was a committed philosophical Humanist.)

I heard you out. I think you have some gall - and I don’t think you have any business telling a woman what to do.

Focus on keeping your own house in order.

But since you brought it up:


On Abortion Rights, considering the fundamentals

I want to start with the greatest truth humanity has achieved, we are born out of Earth’s processes. It’s a truth born out of our increasing understanding of human history going back into the dimmest reaches of Earth’s deep time. Beginning with geology, then biology joined in, then complex biology, then living sensing creatures that created environments and ecology on an ever changing Earth. Folds within folds of cumulative harmonic complexity flowing down the cascade of time, rushing into a future inhabited by humans.

Birth and death is our lot. It has always been part and parcel of our human condition. It can’t be moralized out of existence by idealistic extremists who believe “God” is personally speaking with them.

Pregnancy is never a guarantee. A fetus is a germinated seed, a being, a human potentiality. Spontaneous miscarriages, natural abortions happen all the time. A fetus may be a human, but it doesnt take on the mantle of personhood until those first breaths of life-giving air are infusing its lungs and pumping through its arteries and veins.

It should be significant that the fact of practicing abortions is older than civilizations, with Jewish scripture going into details on the topic, explaining why within particular circumstance abortion is a sad inevitability and that it is okay in the eyes of their God. (God never promised us a rose garden!)

Beyond that, in a free society, legally speaking, why doesnt a woman deserve the Right to Self-Defense along with Sovereignty Over Her Own Body?

Pregnancy is a difficult gauntlet, always will be, there will be deaths. Those deaths aren’t confined to unborn beings, all too often the mother is also at mortal risk.

When push comes to shove, a just law would clearly acknowledge that a womans life is more precious to her existing family and society than an unborn potentiality.

Another factor all too often forgotten is that facing an abortion situation is nothing any woman (or young girl & her family) ever wants, life thrusts the situation upon her, and it is foremost she, herself, who must continue carrying the consequences of her choices, as others lose interest with the passage of time.

Another unspoken matter is that most often she’s also acting with the best interest of the unborn life within her at heart. The fetus inside of her will always matter more to herself, than to any moralizing bystanders. Women should be entrusted above all others, with the responsibility of making their own best informed choices about their own pregnancies.

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Welcome back eupraxophy100

May I ask what gender you are to determine if abortion rights affect you personally and physically.

Interesting take. As far as I can tell Humanism seems to place human agency as the highest value, so it makes sense for humanists to be completely pro-choice. It would be surprising to find humanists who are not pro-choice.

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You failed. You see, you mentioned that abortion is a necessity for two reason in the 70s. Spock was more logical about such topics than you have been.

This is a load of rubbish and not at all logic or even scientific. An abortion is necessary if it means the mother’s life to carry the pregnancy to term. It is also necessary if the fetus will just die within hours after birth or is already dead in the womb. If the pregnancy is not terminated and the woman is forced to carry the dead fetus to term, the woman can and often does end up with sepsis, which is life threatening- to the woman. In the case of H.E.L.L.P. Syndrome, the treatment is to induce labour or maybe terminate the pregnancy. Most of the time labour is just induce and the woman gives birth, ends the pregnancy prior to the due date. The list goes on and on concerning life and death situations during pregnancy and how they are handled. The list goes on concerning complications even, which also required informed decisions with the help of a knowledgeable doctor. Last I knew, you’re not a doctor, much less an obstetrician. You’re not even scientific and if you really were a Star Trek fan, you’d also know that Spock was not only logical (of which you are not), he was also a science officer. Gene Roddenberry also respected science, a woman’s right to choose, and he was also a humanist, philosophical and more.

There are also circumstances, not related to medical, in which a woman should have every right to terminate the pregnancy, which is no one’s business but her own and her doctor. We wouldn’t be in this mess if people would stay out of a woman’s doctor’s office visit. As is, with Roe v Wade repealed, women and the unborn babies you believe you are saving by being Pro-death (yes, you believe you’re pro-life, but you are not) will die more often than before it was repealed. You know not what you do, by demanding people be pro-death like you.

Every woman’s health care, which includes abortion, is between her and her doctor and no one else, unless the woman says another maybe involved. That too is her business also. Not yours. So please, do all women a favour, whether they choose and abortion for medical reasons or other reasons that are none of your damn business, get out of their doctor’s office visit and their medical care. This has nothing to do with being a humanist. It does have something to do with being human though and a blastocyst, zygote (whether it’s mono or di), or a fetus aren’t human until around the time of birth. Before that, they look no different than any other mammal in the uterus. Just becoming pregnant and giving birth is risking one’s life.

Side note, humanist and humanism are not generally capitalized.


You might have succeeded, because Spock failed, sometimes spectacularly, and then he would cover it up, claiming an emotional choice was logical. His failure was recognizing how emotion is part of thinking. We act out of love, and sometimes consider utilitarianism.

There are many discussions like this one, you should check into them

  1. The word “Humanist” shares the same etymological history as the word “humane.”
  2. Most humanists agree that so-called “dumb” animals (cats, dogs, horses, pigs, cattle, parrots, chickens, chimpanzees, bears, etc.) should be treated humanely, even though they lack human personhood and human sentience.
  3. Many Humanists support no-kill shelters for animals that have been found living in a feral status on the streets of our cities.
  4. Some Humanists insist on using catch-and-release “live traps” to catch rodents (mice, rats) living in their homes uninvited (rather than the old fashioned traps that injured and killed the rodents)
  5. Some Humanists become vegans or vegetarians because they can’t bear to contribute to the killing, abuse, and torture of innocent animals in the food processing industry.
  6. I think these sentiments are commendable. I share them.
  7. PETA is a noble organization that promotes these sentiments and these moral values in the defense of the defenseless in the animal kingdom.
  8. But the logic of these sentiments seems to call for a similar stance of mercy, sympathy, empathy, care, concern, and respect for the human fetuses that have attained all the features of other human beings (those features were listed above in my original post in this threat, in my point #4 in that post). Such fetuses (starting I think sometime in the 2nd trimester) have a recognizable human body form, have a working human brain, can hear and respond to noises, and can feel and respond to pain.
  9. (NOTE: I am addressing only the cases in which fetuses are healthy and not deformed, and cases in which the fetus does not threaten the life or physical health of the pregnant woman. I think such a limitation in a particular philosophical discussion is justifiable since the vast majority of elective abortions involve these conditions. Abortion seems to me to be undeniably reasonable in cases of a severely deformed or disabled fetus, or a severely chronically ill fetus, or of a fetus that threatens the life of physical health of the pregnant woman.)
  10. It seems to me to be wildly irrational and contradictory to support the rights of animals to humane treatment but have no similar stance regarding the rights of human fetuses that have developed the main characteristics and features of other human beings.
  11. Even if such human fetuses don’t pass a philosopher’s constructed non-scientific “personhood” test, they would seem, per common sense, to have AT LEAST as much inherent dignity and worth and right to life and right to humane treatment as a dog, a horse, or a rat.
  12. Thus, I can’t help but feel that, about 50 or 60 or so years ago, something went awry with the inspiring, noble Humanist movement.
  13. Aren’t Humanists supposed to be the people whose commitment to the humane treatment of others (in both the animal kingdom and the human kingdom) is an exemplar and model par excellence?

"MY LIBERTY is absolute,” said the nihilist to the Englishman. “There is nothing which prevents me from punching you in the nose if I wish to.” “Oh, yes, there is,” replied the Englishman, “Your liberty ends where my nose begins.” That each man’s liberty has as its frontier the liberty of others is the hub of the humanist values which Albert Camus has been restating and revitalizing in terms of the intellectual framework of contemporary Europe. (From a 1958 article in The Atlantic magazine about Albert Camus, who died in 1960 .)

From the essay “The Rebel” (1951) by Albert Camus (Nobel Prize winner in 1957):

Moderation and Excess

The errors of contemporary revolution are first of all explained by the ignorance or systematic misconception of that limit which seems inseparable from human nature and which rebellion reveals.

Nihilist thought, because it neglects this frontier, ends by precipitating itself into a uniformly accelerated movement. Nothing any longer checks it in its course and it reaches the point of justifying total destruction or unlimited conquest. We now know, at the end of this long inquiry into rebellion and nihilism, that rebellion with no other limits but historical expediency signifies unlimited slavery. To escape this fate, the revolutionary mind, if it wants to remain alive, must therefore return again to the sources of rebellion and draw its inspiration from the only system of thought which is faithful to its origins: thought that recognizes limits. If the limit discovered by rebellion transfigures everything, if every thought, every action that goes beyond a certain point negates itself, there is, in fact, a measure by which to judge events and men. In history, as in psychology, rebellion is an irregular pendulum, which swings in an erratic arc because it is looking for its most perfect and profound rhythm. But its irregularity is not total: it functions around a pivot. Rebellion, at the same time that it suggests a nature common to all men, brings to light the measure and the limit which are the very principle of this nature.

Every reflection today, whether nihilist or positivist, gives birth, sometimes without knowing it, to standards that science itself confirms. The quantum theory, relativity, the uncertainty of interrelationships, define a world that has no definable reality except on the scale of average greatness, which is our own. The ideologies which guide our world were born in the time of absolute scientific discoveries. Our real knowledge, on/the other hand, only justifies a system of thought based on relative discoveries. “Intelligence,” says Lazare Bickel, “is our faculty for not developing what we think to the very end, so that we can still believe in reality.” Approximative thought is the only creator of reality.

The very forces of matter, in their blind advance, impose their own limits. That is why it is useless to want to reverse the advance of technology. The age of the spinning-wheel is over and the dream of a civilization of artisans is vain. The machine is bad only in the way that it is now employed. Its benefits must be accepted even if its ravages are rejected. The truck, driven day and night, does not humiliate its driver, who knows it inside out and treats it with affection and efficiency. The real and inhuman excess lies in the division of labor. But by dint of this excess, a day comes when a machine capable of a hundred operations, operated by one man, creates one sole object. This man, on a different scale, will have partially rediscovered the power of creation which he possessed in the days of the artisan. The anonymous producer then more nearly approaches the creator. It is not certain, naturally, that industrial excess will immediately embark on this path. But it already demonstrates, by the way it functions, the necessity for moderation and gives rise to reflections on the proper way to organize this moderation. Either this value of limitation will be realized, or contemporary excesses will only find their principle and peace in universal destruction.

This law of moderation equally well extends to all the contradictions of rebellious thought. The real is not entirely rational, nor is the rational entirely real. As we have seen in regard to surrealism, the desire for unity not only demands that everything should be rational. It also wishes that the irrational should not be sacrificed.

One cannot say that nothing has any meaning, because in doing so one affirms a value sanctified by an opinion; nor that everything has a meaning, because the word everything has no meaning for us. The irrational imposes limits on the rational, which, in its turn, gives it its moderation. Something has a meaning, finally, which we must obtain from meaninglessness. In the same way, it cannot be said that existence takes place only on the level of essence. Where could one perceive essence except on the level of existence and evolution? But nor can it be said that being is only existence. Something that is always in the process of development could not exist—there must be a beginning. Being can only prove itself in development, and development is nothing without being. The world is not in a condition of pure stability; nor is it only movement. It is both movement and stability. The historical dialectic, for example, is not in continuous pursuit of an unknown value. It revolves around the limit, which is its prime value. Heraclitus, the discoverer of the constant change of things, nevertheless set a limit to this perpetual process. This limit was symbolized by Nemesis, the goddess of moderation and the implacable enemy of the immoderate. A process of thought which wanted to take into account the contemporary contradictions of rebellion should seek its inspiration from this goddess.

As for the moral contradictions, they too begin to become soluble in the light of this conciliatory value.

Virtue cannot separate itself from reality without becoming a principle of evil. Nor can it identify itself completely with reality without denying itself. The moral value brought to light by rebellion, finally, is no farther above’ life and history than history and life are above it. In actual truth, it assumes no reality in history until man gives his life for it or dedicates himself entirely to it. Jacobin and bourgeois civilization presumes that values are above history, and its formal virtues then lay the foundation of a repugnant form of mystification. The revolution of the twentieth century decrees that values are intermingled with the movement of history and that their historical foundations justify a new form of mystification. Moderation, confronted with this irregularity, teaches us that at least one part of realism is necessary to every ethic: pure and unadulterated virtue is homicidal. And one part of ethics is necessary to all realism: cynicism is homicidal. That is why humanitarian cant has no more basis than cynical provocation. Finally, man is not entirely to blame; it was not he who started history; nor is he entirely innocent, since he continues it. Those who go beyond this limit and affirm his total innocence end in the insanity of definitive culpability. Rebellion, on the contrary, sets us on the path of calculated culpability.

Its sole but invincible hope is incarnated, in the final analysis, in innocent murderers.

At this limit, the “We are” paradoxically defines a new form of individualism. “We are” in terms of history, and history must reckon with this “We are,” which must in its turn keep its place in history. I have need of others who have need of me and of each other. Every collective action, every form of society, supposes a discipline, and the individual, without this discipline, is only a stranger, bowed down under the weight of an inimical collectivity. But society and discipline lose their direction if they deny the “We are.” I alone, in one sense, support the common dignity that I cannot allow either myself or others to debase. This individualism is in no sense pleasure; it is perpetual struggle, and, sometimes, unparalleled joy when it reaches the heights of proud compassion.

Are you talking about 3rd trimester abortions?

How are animals the same as fetuses?

I am not a PETA supporter because they don’t actually care for animals. In fact, they actually kill animals and criticize no kill shelters.

Again, a fetus is not a person. As one doctor told me, it’s a parasite and after learning about the development of any fetus, be it human or other mammal, the doctor is right. So your logic is mistaken.

That’s nice, but it’s still none of your business what health care choices a woman makes and you have no business being in her doctor’s appt.

I take the same stance with unborn cats and dogs too. That is, if they were capable of making such an informed decision. Cats and dogs, even pigs, cows, whales, dolphins, other apes, etc are more persons than a fetus.

No, nothing went awry. Humanists still follow the science.

And we do, it’s just that you see a fetus as capable of life and looking like a human before it’s born. I hate to break it to you, but a blastocyst, zygote, don’t look like a human. Human blastocysts and zygotes look the same as an elephant, dog, cat, whale, other apes, dolphins, even a mouse blastocyst or zygote.

Without educating yourself, you miss the “par of excellence”.

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Which is how it was under Roe. So what are arguing? Dobbs has made it so women have to carry babies that are essentially dead.

And what does that have to do with women’s health care, of which abortion is part of- safe abortion that is? No one is talking about punching anyone in the nose. How would you like it if the government decided they will dictate what happens in your doctor visit and tell you that you can’t have lifesaving health care? Or health care that will improve your life for a taking care of a family later in life? Or healthcare for whatever reason? What if you wanted a vasectomy and the government outlawed vasectomies?

Actually the government is promoting vasectomies. If women cannot get an abortion the only way not to get pregnant is male vasectomy. Eupraxsophy, are you up for a spouse ordered vasectomy, or no sex?

Personally? Or generally? I’m past menopause so on a personal level, I don’t really care, but in a general level… Why not make abortion legal AND the government pay for vasectomies. All of this would be patient’s choice after a doctor gives them all the information they need to make an informed decision. Over the counter birth control, legal and safe abortions, vasectomies, and alike are all part of healthcare and it’s dangerous to deny any of them. Some women can and will literally die because their right to an abortion is controlled by a bunch of ignorant men in congress. Abortions are not just for terminating an unwanted pregnancy. It also saves lives of women who have life-threatening pregnancies.

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Moreover, population growth has reached its limits and needs to be restricted until a stable population number is achieved.

No one seems to know anything about the exponential function, just as we ignored climate change.
And look what that brought us.

The exceedingly low odds of Vermont’s flooding disaster, visualized

Looks like the odds are changing and this may become “normal”.

Human fetus, 12 weeks, from The National Photographic Society,

Okay, what does that change?

Want me to start pulling up images of neglect and abused kids?
Or piles of bodies piled up after another war?

Yes abortion is the killing, the elimination of a potential human being -
and you can find a dozen other arenas where the taking of a living person is given a pass for one reason or another.

It really comes down to a woman’s rights issue. Who’s to decide?
You, who has your strong biases for whatever psychological reasons we don’t need to get into (same as the rest of us) and have boiled things down to simple right vs. wrong?

Or should I trust that agonizing decision to the potential mother, do I trust her to know what’s the best, using what ever council she trusts, (above all others with opinions that have no room for the issues of the pregnancy woman, or child’s circumstances).

I’ll trust the woman to make the best choice for herself.

Then we go on, as we always do in life, unless of course we die, then there’s nothing to worry about any more, so there’s that.

Myself, it’s the little people who are already here, whom I care and worry about the most.

You know many states are going for 6 weeks now. Look at that sonogram. Most people don’t know they are pregnant at 6 weeks.

No. Your source is giving you misinformation.