Wednesday, December 26, 2018

I’m Only Human

I'm obsessed with being human.
-        Rachelle Lefevre

Michael Rozeff has written a follow-up post to his previous post on abortion.  My comments on his earlier post can be found here.  I think it is safe to say that Rozeff has come a long way in a few short days. 

Rozeff begins by describing the foundation of his previous view as resulting in a wrong theory:

The result is a confused theory, a wrong theory, that I hereby reject. …A fetus has being (life) even if it’s not capable of living outside the womb by present technology. That fact undermines my theory.

For the purpose of his current blog post, he assumes “that life (being) begins at conception, as soon as the sperm fertilizes the egg. I think everyone has to admit that fact.”  While “being” begins at conception, however, Rozeff suggests that the status of “human” might not:

However, we can define a category called nascent-human (embryonic human, budding human) as a being that will become 100% human (fully-developed) under a normal pregnancy but that currently lacks certain properties, such as brain activity (appears 6 weeks in utero) or a heartbeat (8 weeks in utero) or controlled movement (13-25 weeks) or hearing voices outside (16 weeks) or consciousness (20 weeks).

During these periods (at whatever point you might choose), is the unborn child human, or a nascent human?  Rozeff offers: “Libertarian theory has no generally-accepted answer.”  But why would we expect libertarian theory to have any answer at all on this?  It is not a question for libertarian theory; it is a question for philosophy, religion, or science.  Libertarian theorists can then work through the application of the non-aggression principle to this answer.

The problem is that none of these (philosophy, religion, or science) can offer an objective answer to the question.  Every answer requires an objective definition of the term “human.”  Philosophy or religion can offer a definition, but it will always be debated because it is always subjective.  Science can objectively measure events such as identified by Rozeff, but is not capable of answering the subjective question of humanness. 

As it stands, it is an issue that science is admittedly unable to answer, or where it has answered it has concluded that human life begins at conception.  Either answer, at least if one is to ground an answer to this question in science, is problematic for utilizing Rozeff’s new category of nascent-human as a means by which to bring clarity to this issue. 

We know one thing with certainty: when the child is born, it is human.  We know more: it is human a day, week, month, and several months prior to its birth.  We know even more: we know (when looking backwards in time) that we do not know when this human became “human.”  We don’t know it because we can’t.  I don’t know, therefore, from a non-aggression principle perspective how to treat the unborn child as anything other than human.

The only question remaining is: which human – mother or unborn child – has the right to the womb.  Rozeff does ask the relevant questions from a libertarian perspective:

We can speak in terms of ownership. The mother owns her womb; that is, it belongs to her. Does the life inside the womb own itself; does that life-form (fetus) belong to itself?

A second way is to say that a mother has the right to her womb, it being her property. Does the life on her property have a right to live there until born?

The third way is to use Non-Aggression Principle language. Is the fetus (or life-form) in the womb aggressing against the womb’s owner? Does the womb’s owner aggress against the fetus by expelling it by abortion?

Using libertarian principles, I know of no way to decide the rights-bearing status of a fetus as compared with the status of the woman bearing that fetus.

But I do.  I have answered all of these questions here, all from a libertarian perspective, utilizing contract theory as applied to property and landlord / tenant relationships.  I am afraid to summarize my answers, as any shortcuts only open up the risk to increasing misunderstanding.  But to make a long story short: using libertarian principles, the unborn child has the right to occupy the womb until natural birth.  (If you want to argue with me about this, please demonstrate that you have actually read the subject post.)

Rozeff returns to his new concept, the nascent-human:

If the fetus is human and not nascent-human, then its right to life is unimpaired by being in the womb. Under consensual methods of conception, the mother has no right to abort. Her ownership of her womb doesn’t give her a right to abort. The fetus is innocent. It is not a trespasser.

As the question of being human remains unanswered I think there is only one possible choice from a libertarian perspective:  the mother has no right to abort at any point after conception.

Rozeff offers a very confusing – even troubling – comment:

The demand for abortion from women takes into account many factors not contemplated in an analysis of rights, as women pursue what’s best for them according to their own value-scales.

Can one not say the same thing about anyone who chooses aggression of any form? 


Rozeff raises the point of rape:

Under non-consensual origins like rape, then the mother’s right to abort takes precedence.

I have, for the most part, stayed away from dealing with this specific aspect when it comes to abortion.  If libertarians cannot generally agree to the issue of responsibility and aggression when it comes to consensual intercourse, there is no point to try to attack this much more complicated issue. 

Of course the mother is innocent in such a case; it is also true that the unborn child is innocent.  The issues raised by this reality are far too complex and perhaps almost impossible to address in any manner that I can express.


  1. ... or, you can look at it with this thought experiment:

    Suppose a close relative is beaten senseless and left in your yard. They are in such a condition that they will die unless they receive immediate help. From a NAP perspective, the actionable choices are many. From a human perspective, there is only one choice - you call for an ambulance and render such help as you can. Any other choice is uncompassionate and inhuman.

    A fetus is very much in the same condition - and the choice of the mother, especially in cases of consensual fertilization, reveal what sort of person she is.

    To tell you the truth, true liberty is incompatible with humans being inhumane and very few people would want to live in such a society.

    1. You invite a relative for a boat ride across the ocean. It will last nine months.

      A month in, you throw him overboard - claiming it is your property and you never said he could join for all nine months. Maybe you just wanted his help loading the boat.

    2. Good analogy, BM.
      At least Rozeff jas admitted to the humanity of the fertilezed egg ... sort of.
      Some humans are more nascent than others.
      Worse justification for abortion in my view.

    3. Both Rozeff and Block accept the humanness of the fertilized egg. Eventually, I want to think, this will get them to the right moral and NAP-consistent answer on this topic.

  2. Allowing abortion in the case of rape opens up a new can of worms.

    The first is the definition of rape. Especially today we can see the widening of the definition to the point that rape can be declared after consent was given.

    But the second -and imo more important- point is this: Allowing abortion in the case of rape decreases the need for preventive behaviour. And I will argue that preventive behaviour is essential to maintain our original western culture.

    1. Let's start by throwing out the modern definition of rape and using a clear-cut NAP definition, shall we? I think we can all agree here that the modern definition is a corrupt cultural construct created by feminists to emasculate men.

      I highly recommend the YouTube videos of Karen Straughan, AKA "Girl Writes What" for a great analysis of the entire man / woman issue. On this topic, she might say that sex is the method in which men pass on their genetic code and in cases of actual [NAP] rape, she would likely say that abortion of the fetus along with appropriate punishment of the man would go a long way towards discouraging that sort of behavior.

      My idea of justice in cases of actual rape would be the removal of scrotum and prostrate and denial of hormone treatment for clear-cut offenders, with the abortion left up to the victim. However, one must always be careful when making law or defining punishments, since all good intentions can be warped and twisted by the state to meet its own ends and any power granted to the state can be turned against the citizen.

    2. WB: I can -on an emotional level- understand the appeal of allowing abortions of rape pregnancies. However removing negatives has the problem of also "stimulating" the behaviour of which the negative has been removed. And no, I do not think that allowing abortion for rape cases will make it OK to rape, but I am pretty sure that the mindset necessary to avoid rape at all cost is more beneficial than the rape-case abortions would be.

  3. I'm still missing how this fits into libertarian theory. So everyone has finally agreed the baby is human at all times. This dispute seems to get in the way of logic every time anyone talks about abortion.

    The real question is whether it has the same rights as an adult human. I don't know of any NAP provision that grants limited rights to an individual. So, if the fetus has rights, it has ALL the rights of an adult, and if a fetus has those rights then 6 year old children do as well.

    So your 6 year old wants to go play in the street. What gives you the right to prevent him from doing so, or to discipline him for disobeying? "But your Honor, he's my child, I have a right to punish him for disobeying". Are we libertarians going to allow the courts decide how we raise our kids as well? It's a simple extrapolation any CPS lawyer can perform.

    (For the record, I'm extremely anti abortion IRL)

    1. I offer two thoughts: First, based on contract - nothing to do with age of the child, yet taking into account the age of the child - the unborn child has the right to the womb. Full stop. But I will welcome comments to the contrary, based on my analysis.

      Second, libertarian theory is inherently muddy regarding minors. This, in many ways, comes down to culture and tradition.

      With this said, putting a gun to the head of a tenant who is fully abiding by the terms of the lease, and pulling the trigger, strikes me as an unequivocal violation of the NAP.

    2. JB: "What gives you the right to prevent him from doing so..."

      He himself, but in retrospect. When dealing with minors we have to assume the consent as given under the condition that in retrospect the adult (that the child will become) will thank us for doing what we did.

      This is just about the same situation as the following: Somebody is standing on the sidewalk with headphones on, and you see a falling piano that will crash on top of him. You are allowed to use force to remove him from the spot under the reasonable assumption that he will thank you for this.

      The only point where this libertarian rule is in contrast with the current rules is that you will be responsible for what you did. If he sues you for hurting him in the process you are liable.

      However the current practise is in fact superior to the libertarian approach: society will clear you from guilt even when he decides to seek damages from you in court.

      (Another example of parasitism of libertarianism on the commons?)

    3. Rein: "He himself, but in retrospect. When dealing with minors we have to assume the consent as given under the condition that in retrospect the adult (that the child will become) will thank us for doing what we did."

      I think I could put holes in this, but honestly it's the best explanation I've read.

      "However the current practise is in fact superior to the libertarian approach: society will clear you from guilt even when he decides to seek damages from you in court."

      Given today's society, I'm not so sure it is superior to the libertarian approach.

  4. Hmm, I got "whoops, that's an error" when I hit post. I'll try to recreate what I sent..

    BM, I do agree with you, but how does on insert the limitation into a culture that thinks killing the fetus is OK? Telling them they can't intervene in cases of harsh (in their view) punishment, but interventions is needed to prevent abortion isn't going to go over well. And again, the NAP isn't exactly clear on either case.

    I remember reading a justification for intervention in cases of dementia and similar illnesses I thought might be applicable, but was unable to find it.

    1. Sorry, that was supposed to be a response to BM in my post above. My mistake..

    2. I separate the issue: 1) apply the non-aggression principle, 2) enforcement / punishment. I do not concern myself with the second until there is some reasonable consensus (at least among libertarians) on the first.

      But such a problem of a corrupt culture has been tackled successfully before:

      The west might be too far gone for this today. Unless / until church leaders do their job, I think there is little hope.

  5. All: Rozeff has made a new, far clearer, statement:

    " 2nd post places the burden of proof not on the anti-abortion side but on the pro-abortion side. It’s clear that life begins at conception....Therefore, the only way that a pro-abortion advocate can justify abortion is to argue in some way that the being, the fetus, is not human, that it falls into some such category like nascent-human or whatever terms they wish to use. They have to show that this category lacks the right of life and/or that the woman’s right supersedes it."

  6. To me the interesting thing about the abortion issue is the question it provokes: Do people act on the abstractions articulated in juridico-philosophical discourse or to the contrary, is not action largely the product of and conditioned by the all too real socio-economic circumstances people find themselves in ? Now in the past nearly everyone could depend on a large extended family whose members lived in close proximity. As well most babies died during childbirth or in infancy. Industrialization destroyed that social order. The law was used to drive people out of their rural agricultural existence and into an industrial urban factory existence just as industrialization pushed life expectancy way up. Socialism arose in response to this industrial coercion even as its effect was mass impoverishment. The end point is an atomized, alienated, isolated individual living in poverty. And so one has to ask whether it is not the oppressiveness of grim socio-economic reality that is the driver of abortion rather than any improperly or unconvincingly articulated juridico-philosophical discourse on the subject ?

  7. It is important to think through things like the NAP and human-ness and rights when discussing abortion. But the ideas that never seem to come into the discussion are just as important for determining the proper attitude and action: covenant and love.

    Covenant because children are to be conceived/born within the covenant of marriage made between God and 2 people and the 2 people themselves. The primary idea within that covenant is one of duty. The duty of the people before God and one another. Then once the 2 create human life that duty is extended to the children. The duty is to act selflessly for benefit of those in the covenant.

    Love because all law and justice is fulfilled by love. When people do things out of love, they perform just acts.

    Science and logic and political ideology have lots to say about the issue of abortion, but if the discussion is limited to just those types of things we will never truly understand it.