Friday, March 31, 2006

A reformed argument awaiting refutation...

By: Ed

Ok, after much thought the previous argument presented was erronous on several fronts.
1. It failed to use precise language (personhood is too ambiguous and defining it as I did did not capture the fullness of the word and also created confusion. Besides, using it necessitates my defining it. I would rather force others to do the work while keeping the same type of conclusion. As Dr. Hoffman put it, "why obligate yourself to extra premises when you don't have to?"

2. Premise 1 is faulty. What it should say is the if one can't differentate between two things then they must share the same property. Furthermore, it would require what "differentiate" entails.

So, without further eloquence I come to the reformed argument that I belief rectifies these difficulties. Remember please to criticise the argument. We can discuss the consequenses of the conclusion later, but of immediate importance is whether or not the premises are true and the conclusion follows from them.

P1 However one chooses to distinguish between a human organism, A, with the right to life and a human organism, B, without the right to life (and without B having made a choice to forfeit those rights by B's actions ie: Murderers who are constant threats to others) then one will always find a possible human, C, without the right to life under the deffinition one uses to differentiate between A and B but who in fact has the right to life under the current justice system.

P2 It is illogical, immoral and illegal to distinguish between a human organism, A, with the right to life and human organism, B, without the right to life without 1) Just Cause and 2)being consistent in the deffinition under the law.

In the current system of law, one cannot distinguish between a human organism, A, with the right to life and a human organism, B, without the right to life legally, morally or logically.

Just Cause is defined as:

1) Demonstrating a clear intrinisic difference/change between what one considers human organism A (with the right to life) and human organism B (without the right to life) that provides sufficient reason to deny the right to life to organism B.

2. The argument demonstrating this change must be sound. That is, All mammals are warm blooded means that human organism under 2 can be legally killed is not a sound argument. The conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Just Cause is an integral part of this argument. We easily say that I or whomever is reading this argument has the right to life. Therfore, intuitively we see this need in humanity. Part of the support for this idea of humanities intuitive support for life comes from the fact that humans, for the most part, promote killing another human, x, only when x tries to divert from the aforementioned intuition by either 1) killing another human 2) Threatening to kill another human or 3) Removing another humans quality of life in such a way that a perceived death occurs for other humans. It could also be argued that we have this same intuition (provided someone is not seriously disturbed) for all life. We hesitate to kill without sufficient reason. This is compounded when the killing is of other human organisms. Therfore, I would say that it must be demonstrated why the right to life must be taken from another living thing, especially a human organism. For animals, this can be done a bit more easily. We need them to live. We eat them. It could perhaps be that in more advanced countries this is not so, but in general eating some meat allows at least a healthier life.

Furthermore, the fact that someone must demonstrate sufficient reason to deny the right to life protects racial, gender, religious, ect discriminations from becoming a genocide. Thus the argument puts the burden for defining the difference between organism A and organism B on someone else, while protecting against unjust discrimination.

For example, consider the premise that:
1) All human organisms under 28 weeks old do not have the right to life

This cannot follow. One reason is that time is not an intrinsic change. If it were, I could say the all people over age 90 do not have the right to life. The only way then to differentiate between organism A and organism B is to use a developmental deffinition which I believe, in any possible instance, can fall into premise 1 of the initial argument and then not satisfy condition 2 of premise 2 (consistency).

Furthemore, the current differentiation between organism A and organism B used in the Supreme Court is thrown out by this argument. It is concievable that a possible person C can be at conception put into a machine that simulates the womb. Thus, the human organism is viable. Therfore, the viability argument does not demonstrate intrinsic change in the organism since the womb is just another way for the human organism to recieve nurishment.

It could be argued though that there is a difference between the womb and a machine simulating the womb. This is the argument that the mother does not wish to be used as an environment for the human organism created within her. This is the heart of the pro abortion argument. However, premise 1 comes to the rescue with the idea of possible human organisms currently protected under the law. Let us suppose that siamese twins are born with one twin having all the vital organs necessary to live and the other lacking, say, a heart. The twin with all of the organs necessary for life may not want to be used to keep another alive, but nonetheless they are in that position and the second twin without the heart is protected under the law.

I really think this argument works. Let me know and thanks for the input,


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Metaphysical Theories of Substance

By: Ed

I am taking a Metaphysics course right now at UNCG and am doing quite well. It is taught by Dr. Hoffman who, it turns out, has written a book with another faculty member (in fact our main textbook) that solves problems that nobody else has ever solved before.

Metaphysics is a philosophy course that deals with being qua being. That is, with what exists; with what is. Part of this is determining what actually exists and the second part is categorizing and explaining it. I think at this point most people know several philosophical jabs by now having to do with odd philosophies. Mostly these deal with "Does this diploma really exist" types of jokes. These philisophical views always perplexed me until my Metaphysics course. It turns out that substance is surprisingly hard to define. Try it. I did and it appears almost impossible.

For example, one fellow tried to define it in terms of properties. All the properties of a ball (height, color, width, texture, ect) in one place at one time. That is a substance. Unfortunately you can't differentiate then between a ball and the event of a ball being at rest. Events then can become a substance, which simply won't do. Furthermore, a soul in intuitively a spiritual substance and so, having no physical place, cannot be a substance.

To make a long story short, and come closer to the point of this post, the deffinition has to do with a certain unity that substances have. This is easy for a box, but becomes harder for people and organisms. To allow organisms in, a functional type of unity is used. (By the way, these principles stand, and have stood for some time, unrefuted in the world of philosopy)

So, my point...

It turns out that with this deffinition a human organism is the same substance, that is, a human organism, from conception to death even though it goes through tremendous change. (My philosophy teacher also teaches a philosophy of the constitution class which I am taking next semester) The Supreme court affirms this fact. They, however, make the distinction between a human organism and a human person. The human organism that has the property of personhood, they would argue, must be viable from the mother's womb. That is to say, as they define it, must be able to survive outside the mother's womb. This is not counting machines or other implements needed for the child to live. If it were, then anyone on insulin could be killed legally.

So here is the problem. With more scientific research and progress, earlier and earlier premature births can succeed. It could, logically, be that one day a human organism is viable at conception. At least for now, partial birth abortions are out the window by the supreme courts own deffinition.

So here is my argument...

P1 If one cannot differentiate between a human organism and a human organism with the property of personhood then either all human organisms have personhood or all human organisms do not have personhood.

P2 It is not the case that all human organisms do not have personhood (ie: we know we, myself and the reader, have personhood)

P3 It is not the case that we can differentiate between a human organism and a human organism with the property of personhood.

All human organisms have the property of personhood.

Deffinition 1...
Personhood: The same as having rights; of being distinctly human and subject to the protection of the law.

A defense of premise 3....

This is assuming that the viability of a child at conception occurs with more scientific advances. Another deffinition can't replace the current one used in the Supreme Court(at least not that I can think of).

For example, it can't be consciousness because then I could kill anyone who is asleep or in a coma. It can't be a test of mental faculties because then I could kill all mentally handicapped people. It can't be a test of physical functions because then any blind, deaf, sick, elderly or otherwise infirm and handicapped person could also legally be killed.

Certainly we are not at the point where a child is viable at conception, but there are a great deal of abortions that occur when a fetus is viable right now and so the Supreme Court goes against its own deffinition. This can only lead to chaos since the law needs to be specific and enacted as such.

Let me know what you think of this argument,


Friday, March 24, 2006

Iraq: Three Years Later: Pt. 1: "Absolutely No Doubt"

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

Sigh. This is an anniversary I never looked forward to celebrating. Had you told anyone three years ago that in 2006 more than 130,000 American troops would still be in Iraq and would be fighting an uphill battle against insurgents and sectarianism, they would have looked at you like you were crazy. In this post and the next several in this "mini-series," I will attempt to answer the questions: How did we get here? What went wrong? Are we winning or losing? Is it even possible for us to attain anything we'd recognize as "victory" in Iraq? What should we do now? And how has my own thinking about the Iraq war evolved over the past three years?

I'll start with the last question first. I have always disliked and distrusted George W. Bush. Yet, along with most Americans, I rallied around him after 9/11 when our nation went to war in Afghanistan and I supported our initial invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, despite my dislike and distrust towards Bush and against my better judgement in the case of Iraq. The administration claimed that Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction--specifically stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program that was but weeks, if not days away from having a nuclear weapon when we attacked on March 19 (March 20 in Iraq). Vice President Cheney said on March 16, 2003 that "We believe he [Saddam] has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons." That was why we couldn't wait for the inspectors to finish the job in Iraq: Saddam already had the bomb! I can't think of another possible meaning for "reconstituted nuclear weapons."

But Bush apologists (some of them readers and contributors to this blog) have countered that the administration never said it was certain that Saddam posed an immediate threat to us, just that he might someday down the road. Others before have long since debunked that stale canard, but just to set the record straight:

On August 26, 2002, in a speech at the VFW National Convention, Dick Cheney said, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." [italics mine] What part of "no doubt" do you not understand? What part of "now" do you not understand? What about "against us?" There is no wiggle room in Cheney's words. When the Vice President of the United States says that there is no doubt that a dictatorial ruler has WMD and is planning to use them against us, Americans, especially after 9/11, are inclined to believe that there really is no doubt.

When the White House press secretary says that, "We know for a fact that there are weapons there," and that, "there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly," Americans draw the natural conclusion.

When the general in charge of the Iraq war, Tommy Franks, says that, "There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction," most Americans wouldn't think to second-guess such a statement about which there is "no doubt."

When the Secretary of Defense states that "We know where they [the WMD] are," Americans might logically assume that he does, in fact, know where they are.

When the Secretary of State tells the UN that "Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence," people around the world believe him because of his almost mythic persona.

Powell went on to report that [all of the following is from Powell's February 2003 presentation to the UN. I have taken snippets out of it to give a picture of the whole. A thorough reading of the entirety of his remarks will show that I have taken no liberties with the substance of his remarks.] :

"We know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq....The truck you also see is.... a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong.... One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.... The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War....

"Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters.... Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoon-full of this deadly material.... It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX....Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent.... Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons.... And we have sources who tell us that he recently has authorized his field commanders to use them...."

When the President of the United States says on the eve of war in an address to the nation that, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Americans, especially after 9/11, are inclined to beleive that there really is no doubt. When he goes on to state that, "Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed," Americans, especially after 9/11, are inclined to believe that no one can possibly claim that Iraq has actually disarmed. When he further states that, "Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it," Americans, especially after 9/11, are inclined to believe that the administration really has done everything possible to avoid war and will prosecute the war in a competent manner. When he states that, "The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now," Americans.... well, you get the picture.

Bush apologists also point out that he never said that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 plot. This is true, but irrelevant. Here is what he said in just one of his many speeches leading up to the war:

"It [Saddam's regime] possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism.... On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its vulnerability--even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth.... We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren't required for a chemical or biological attack; all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it. And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups....

"We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.... We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.... Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.... If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.... He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists....

"We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon. Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof--the smoking gun--that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

One more time. When the president of the United States repeatedly invokes 9/11 when talking about Saddam Hussain, WMD, threats to America, and a "mushroom cloud," Americans, ESPECIALLY AFTER 9/11, are inclined to beleive that our commander-in-chief knows what he is talking about.

These were the claims that convinced most Americans, myself included, to support our initial invasion of Iraq. If it were true that there was "no doubt" in the intelligence agencies about any of the above statements before the war, the "we were all decieved by the bad intel" excuse would be persuasive. Unfortunately, all of the administration's claims outlined above--all of their claims about Iraq, in fact--were disputed, inside and outside the U.S. government, at the time they were made; many of them were debunked before the war, which didn't stop the Bush administration from continuing to repeat them as "solid fact" about which there was "no doubt." All of the claims about Iraq's WMDs and ties to terrorists turned out to be either gross distortions, lies through omission or outright lies. As this post has gotten rather lengthy, I'll save the debunking of these lies for the next post in a day or so. Stay tuned.