Saturday, June 7, 2014

Distinction: Beginning of Life vs. Beginning of Human Life vs. Beginning of Human Person

This interviewer confuses three distinct notions: 1) when does "life" start (whatever that means); 2) when does the life of a distinct biological organism start (in this case, a human); 3) when does a human being become a human person.

The first two questions posed as they are in this context makes them biological/scientific questions rather than philosophical ones as the interviewer intended because both questions can be answered very easily by science:

1) to ask when life starts without any further qualification is similar to asking whether the chicken or the egg came first; the sperm and ovum must both be alive for there to be any conception; when conception occurs, a distinct biological organism forms that is alive (this is the beginning of the life of this distinct human);

2) to ask when this biological organism becomes human is simple: by referring to the genetic makeup of the organism, we can tell what species it is; in this case, human.

The third question might be philosophical depending on whether or how a person distinguishes the notion of human being from human person. A lot of the philosophical aspect of the abortion debate circles around these concepts. The political aspects focus more on the utilitarian and concrete consequences of either supporting or preventing abortion.

Of course, for Catholics and many realists, the human being is always a human person because although the notions may be logically distinguishable, they are not so and cannot be so in the concrete. We exercise such "distinguish-ables" all the time: e.g. "tree" doesn't simply exist on its own but exists in concrete manifestations of trees: elm tree, birch tree, apple trees, etc.; there isn't just a "car" but specific models and makes: Honda Civic 2013, Ford Fiesta 2012, Volkswagen Passat 2014, etc.

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