Abortion, sentience and moral standing : a neurophilosophical appraisal

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dc.contributor.advisor Cilliers, P.
dc.contributor.author Van Bogaert, Louis-Jacques
dc.contributor.other Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Philosophy. en_ZA
dc.date.accessioned 2012-08-27T11:35:05Z
dc.date.available 2012-08-27T11:35:05Z
dc.date.issued 2002-12
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52619
dc.description Thesis (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002. en_ZA
dc.description.abstract ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Moral theories on abortion are often regarded as mutually exclusive. On the one hand, pro-life advocates maintain that abortion is always morally wrong, for life is sacred from its very beginning. On the other hand, the extreme liberal view advocated by the absolute pro-ehoieers claims that the unborn is not a person and has no moral standing. On this view there is no conflict of rights; women have the right to dispose of their body as they wish. Therefore, killing a non-person is always permissible. In between the two extreme views, some moral philosophers argue that a 'pre-sentient' embryo or fetus cannot be harmed because it lacks the ability to feel pain or pleasure, for it is 'sentience' that endows a living entity (human and non-human) with moral considerability. Therefore, abortion of a pre-sentient embryo or fetus is permissible. Neurophilosophy rests a philosophical conclusion on neurological premises. In other words, to be tenable sentientism - the claim that sentience endows an entity with moral standing - needs robust neurobiological evidence. The question is, then: What is the basic neuroanatomical and neurophysiological apparatus required to be sentient? The answer to that question requires a fair understanding of the evolution, anatomy and function of the brain. The exploration thereof shows quite convincingly that the advocates of sentientism do not provide convincing arguments to root their theory in neurobiological facts. Their claims rest rather on emotions and on behaviours that look like a reaction to pain. The other shortcoming of sentientism is that it fails to distinguish pain from suffering, and that as a utilitarian moral theory it considers only the alleged pain of the aborted sentient fetus and disregards the pregnant woman's pain and suffering. And, finally, sentientism leaves out of our moral consideration living and non-living entities that deserve moral respect. The main thrust of the dissertation is that the argument of sentience as its advocates present it has no neurophilosophical grounds. Therefore, the argument from sentience is not a convincing argument in favour or against abortion. en_ZA
dc.description.abstract AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Morele teorieë wat handeloor aborsie word dikwels as wedersyds uitsluitend beskou. "Pro-life" kampvegters hou oor die algemeen vol dat aborsie onder alle omstandighede moreel veroordeelbaar is, omdat die lewe van meet af heilig is. Daarteenoor hou die ekstreem-liberale oogpunt, wat deur "Pro-choice" voorstaanders ingeneem word, vol dat die ongeborene nie 'n persson is nie, en as sulks geen morele status het nie. Volgens hierdie standpunt is daar geen konflik van regte hier ter sprake nie; vroue het uitsluitelike beskikkingsreg oor hulle eie liggame. Dus is dit toelaatbaar om onder hierdie omstandighede 'n "nie-persoon" om die lewe te bring. Tussen hierdie twee ekstreme standpunte argumenteer party morele filosowe dat die voorbewuste embrio of fetus nie skade berokken kan word nie, omdat dit nie oor die vermoë beskik om pyn of plesier te voel nie. Dit is juis bewussyn en die vermoë om waar te neem wat morele status aan 'n entiteit (hetsy menslik of nie-menslik) verleen. Dus is dit toelaatbaar om 'n voorbewustw embrio of fetus te aborteer. Neurofilosofie basseer filosofiese gevolgtrekkinge op neurolgiese beginsels. Met andere woorde, so 'n standpunt sal eis dat 'n argument oor bewustheid op betroubare neurologiese feite gebasseer word, om sodoende met sekerheid morele status, al dan nie, aan de fetus of embrio toe te ken. Die vraag is dan: Wat is die basiese neuroanatomiese en neurofiologiese apparatuur waaroor 'n entiteit moet beskik om as bewus beskou te word? Die antwoord op hierdie vraag vereis dan ook 'n redelik grondige kennis van die evolusie, anatomie en funksie van die brein. Wanneer die vraagstuk van naderby beskou word, word dit duidelik dat voorstaanders van die bewustheids-argument oor die algemeen nie hulle standpunte op oortuigende, neurologiese feite berus nie. Hulle beweringe rus dan eerder op emosie en op waargenome optredes wat voorkom asof dit 'n reaksie op pyn is. Nog 'n tekortkoming van die bewustheids-argument is dat dit nie 'n onderskeid tref tussen die konsep van pyn en die van leiding nie, en dat dit as 'n utilitaristiese morele teorie slegs die beweerde pyn van die ge-aborteerde fetus in ag neem en nie die leiding van die swanger vrouw nie. Ten slotte neem die bewustheids-argument ook nie morele status van lewende en nie-lewende entiete, wat geregtig is op morele respek, in ag nie. Die hoof uitgangspunt van hierdie dissertasie is dan dat die bewustheids-argument, soos wat dit tans deur voorstanders daarvan voorgehou word, nie neurofilosfies begrond kan word nie. Dus is die argument vanuit 'n bewustheids-standpunt nie 'n oortuigende argument hetsy vir of teen aborsie nie. af_ZA
dc.format.extent 226 p. : ill.
dc.language.iso en_ZA en_ZA
dc.publisher Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University en_ZA
dc.subject Abortion -- Moral and ethical aspects en_ZA
dc.subject Brain en_ZA
dc.subject Senses and sensation -- Moral and ethical aspects en_ZA
dc.subject Utilitarianism en_ZA
dc.subject Poststructural neurophilosophy en_ZA
dc.title Abortion, sentience and moral standing : a neurophilosophical appraisal en_ZA
dc.type Thesis en_ZA
dc.rights.holder Stellenbosch University en_ZA
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