Rene Descartes believed that human intelligence was innate and that human knowledge was based on the knowledge acquired by insight and induction. Descartes’ Discourse on Method written in 1697 provides an important theory of human understanding and life. In the letter, Descartes accepts the life (Cogito Ergo sum) translated as “I think so I exist” and admits, with certainty, the existence of God who is the first source. Descartes assigns to Heaven both life and morals. Fundamentalist philosophers admit the presence of a literal and unquestionable reality. Deontologists believe that human beings should behave objectively, and human decisions should be dictated by self-knowledge. Coming to the contentious issue of abortion, debates have evolved about the morality of the act of abortion. Applying the concept of dualism it is evident that humans are made up of the body and mind which are interdependent. The essay will use Descartes concept of Cartesian dualism to discuss the morality of fetal abortion.
The issue of the mind and body is a pertinent issue in philosophy. Defining the duality of the human body and mind is the basis for understanding morality. Morality is the choice of action which determines which human actions are right and wrong. The age-old question about abortion is whether the practice is right or wrong. For example, when faced with the decision whether to procure an abortion or not then the issue of morality arises. Different people will develop different arguments about abortion and whether it is right or wrong . The position an individual holds about the position and rights of the fetus and abortion are inextricably determined by one’s mind. Practical wisdom theory is what stressed the issue of virtue as proposed by Aristotle. Aristotle argued that it is possible to achieve happiness and virtue if people follow the set of rules of morality . Using the issue of virtue ethics and the natural laws then the fetus has the right to life because it exists. Natural laws demand that all animals have the right to life which should be preserved at all costs. Biologically, the fetus has life and belongs to species and there is no moral defense for abortion.
Descartes argues about the human existence is based on the knowledge of the self. Descartes compares the notion of animals and humans and says that animals are not thinking things and they act out of necessity. He compares animals to robotic machines that can be pushed around since humans can predict their actions and behavior . In contrast to animals, humans have both material and immaterial matter. The existence of immaterial matter is the basis for believing that humans have a soul. In his Cartesian approach, Descartes concludes that animals have no mind and souls and lack consciousness. If the argument about human consciousness is right then God exists and humans are part of His creation . In Descartes, the pursuit of knowledge about the self he concludes that humans have a body and mind and possess feelings. As such, the fetus is human because it has a mind and body and based on the natural laws it has the right to life.
The main argument advanced by Descartes against abortion concerns the personhood of the fetus. However, the issue of the personhood of the fetus is philosophically debatable because the fetus lacks personality. Whatever the questions about the causal nexus of the fetus and its human-hood is debatable. For example, the dualist theory proposed by Descartes does not give the ontological differences that exist between the fetus and a human . The flaw brings in the moral argument about the different stages of fetal development and justification of abortion at specific stages. The contestation to Descartes views about human life is his physical separation of the body and the mind. Pro-abortion supporters argue that the self is separate from the body and this begs the question whether the fetus has rights over the mother. The assumption in Descartes understanding about the dualism of the human body is this separation. As argued by Hume, humans cannot have knowledge of the self and as a result, lack the control over the self . According to Hume, Descartes knowledge of the self is flawed and he is guilty of not proving the nature of the human mind.
In brief, Descartes concept of material dualism condemns the whole idea of fetal abortion based on the natural laws. According to Descartes, humans are thinking things and this forms the basis for existence. Understanding the self is the initial step towards understanding selfhood. The fetus is seen as a human and termination of the life of the fetus is considered like murder. The fetus life cannot be likened to an animal because it possesses a mind and soul. The mind is the center of consciousness which guided people on what is right and wrong. Considering the concept of dualism, abortion is ethically wrong and it is against the principles of natural law.
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