THE MSSING SUBJECT ARGUMENT

Let me repeat, for the 108th time, that I’m not pro-Life. As I‘ve labored to make clear, I’m anti-Life. I want a world consisting of nothing but inanimate objects. But I have to admit that pro-Lifers have at least one argument going for them, were they savvy enough to deploy it. And that’s the oddity of the pro-Choicer claims according to which it’s not okay to abuse it if it’s born, but it’s perfectly okay to kill it before it is.

The way round this for the pro-Choicer is to say that, whereas the child likely has a preference not to be abused, the fetus is not the kind of thing that can have any preferences. It’s what philosophers call “the problem of the missing subject”.

But the missing-subject argument is the same argument that would allow me to be indifferent to how a loved one wants her body to be dealt with after she dies. I promised her I’d cremate her, but now I’m wondering to whom would I be breaking that promise? So the missing-subject argument can cut both ways. If I can abort the fetus because there’s no one being harmed, neither is anyone harmed by ignoring a loved one’s dying wish. And that seems, if nothing else, just a tad counterintuitive.

My advice to the pro-Choicer, then, is to steer clear of the missing-subject argument, and avail herself instead of whatever else, anything else, she might have in her quiver.

2 thoughts on “THE MSSING SUBJECT ARGUMENT

  1. You wrote: “I promised her I’d cremate her, but now I’m wondering to whom would I be breaking that promise?”

    As a lawyer I had to deal with what happens to legally binding promises when the promisee dies. If there was a commercial benefit like rent or dividends that could be passed on it would go to her estate. If it was a personal benefit like “you can sing at Carnegie Hall for a percentage of ticket revenues” that would end with her life.

    Assuming your promise was a moral one but to be treated by you as if legally binding, what now? It is morally binding on you but what is the benefit to the deceased?

    If it could be passed on, assuming you are her only heir, you would be disadvantaging yourself by depriving her of an inheritable benefit. Sounds a bit circular. Also, you could as an heir waive the benefit, so that no one is deprived of anything.

    If it could not be passed on and she is not around to enjoy the benefit or suffer the detriment then it doesn’t matter to her whatever you do.

    So, to whom you would be breaking the promise matters, ultimately, only to yourself. The promisee doesn’t care, but the promisor probably does.

    So when you say ….”neither is anyone harmed by ignoring a loved one’s dying wish..” is counterintuitive you could go further to consider who “anyone” is. Looks like someone might be harmed if it causes the promisor to feel guilty for his neglect of his promise, even if the promisee doesn’t care. (Unless there is an afterlife, and she sees that you have not kept her promise, and is annoyed. Then her ghost may come back to haunt you.)

    Like

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