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,