Monday, October 03, 2011

Vivisecting the violinist

Consider the violinist analogy again, with the “unplugging” replaced by a means of freeing yourself from the violinist that impinges on his bodily integrity and induces his death. Imagine for instance that you are to separate yourself from the violinist by poisoning him or by taking an ax to his body or by tearing him limb from limb or by putting him through an incredibly powerful suction machine (akin to a jet engine, say) that would leave him in recognizable pieces on the other side. If we were to separate ourselves from the violinist by any of these means, then things begin to look quite a bit different We are not simply separating ourselves or cutting a cord that links us to the violinist. Rather, we are doing something to the body of the violinist who, if he is a person, has as much right to bodily integrity as we do.
In addition, if such violent means were used, the death of the violinist would not come about because of his own underlying pathology. In these cases, the violinist dies because we, or our agents, not only cause but also apparently intend his death through the various means. So the strength of Thomson’s analogy will inevitably depend in part on what methods are actually used for abortion. Is abortion more like unplugging or more like chopping up?

Christopher Kaczor, The Ethics of Abortion (Routledge 2011), 152.

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