The Myth of the Right to Life - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

Isrepparttar potential to be alive a legitimate source of rights? Doesrepparttar 122354 egg have any rights, or, atrepparttar 122355 very least,repparttar 122356 right to be brought to life (the right to become or to be) and thus to acquire rights? The much trumpeted right to acquire life pertains to an entity which exists but is not alive - an egg. It is, therefore, an unprecedented kind of right. Had such a right existed, it would have implied an obligation or duty to give life torepparttar 122357 unborn andrepparttar 122358 not yet conceived.

Clearly, life manifests, atrepparttar 122359 earliest, when an egg and a sperm unite atrepparttar 122360 moment of fertilization. Life is not a potential - it is a process triggered by an event. An unfertilized egg is neither a process - nor an event. It does not even possessrepparttar 122361 potential to become alive unless and until it is fertilized.

The potential to become alive is notrepparttar 122362 ontological equivalent of actually being alive. A potential life cannot give rise to rights and obligations. The transition from potential to being is not trivial, nor is it automatic, or inevitable, or independent of context. Atoms of various elements haverepparttar 122363 potential to become an egg (or, for that matter, a human being) - yet no one would claim that they ARE an egg (or a human being), or that they should be treated as such (i.e., withrepparttar 122364 same rights and obligations).

The Right to be Born

Whilerepparttar 122365 right to be brought to life deals with potentials -repparttar 122366 right to be born deals with actualities. When one or two adults voluntarily cause an egg to be fertilized by a sperm cell withrepparttar 122367 explicit intent and purpose of creating another life -repparttar 122368 right to be born crystallizes. The voluntary and premeditated action of said adults amounts to a contract withrepparttar 122369 embryo - or rather, with society which stands in forrepparttar 122370 embryo.

Henceforth,repparttar 122371 embryo acquiresrepparttar 122372 entire panoply of human rights:repparttar 122373 right to be born, to be fed, sheltered, to be emotionally nurtured, to get an education, and so on.

But what ifrepparttar 122374 fertilization was either involuntary (rape) or unintentional ("accidental" pregnancy)?

Isrepparttar 122375 embryo's successful acquisition of rights dependent uponrepparttar 122376 nature ofrepparttar 122377 conception? We deny criminals their loot as "fruits ofrepparttar 122378 poisoned tree". Why not deny an embryo his life if it isrepparttar 122379 outcome of a crime? The conventional response - thatrepparttar 122380 embryo did not commitrepparttar 122381 crime or conspire in it - is inadequate. We would denyrepparttar 122382 poisoned fruits of crime to innocent bystanders as well. Would we allow a passerby to freely spend cash thrown out of an escape vehicle following a robbery?

Even if we agree thatrepparttar 122383 embryo has a right to be kept alive - this right cannot be held against his violated mother. It cannot oblige her to harbor this patently unwanted embryo. If it could survive outsiderepparttar 122384 womb, this would have solvedrepparttar 122385 moral dilemma. But it is dubious - to sayrepparttar 122386 least - that it has a right to go on usingrepparttar 122387 mother's body, or resources, or to burden her in any way in order to sustain its own life.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at

On Being Human

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

Introspection -repparttar ability to construct self-referential and recursive models ofrepparttar 122353 world - is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What about introspective machines? Surely, sayrepparttar 122354 critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection is willed - WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover,repparttar 122355 notion - if notrepparttar 122356 formal concept - of "human" rests on many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding - why presume that men and women (or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were not. A lot separates males from females - genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to these two sub-species that makes them both "human"?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonian Form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence separate fromrepparttar 122357 body. A machine-supported energy field with mental states similar to ours today - would it be considered human? What about someone in a state of coma - is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human - or, at least, fully human - and, if so, in which sense? What about a future human race - whose features would be unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence - would it be thought of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing "human" with "person". The former is a private case ofrepparttar 122358 latter. Locke's person is a moral agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted byrepparttar 122359 continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke's is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human persons (machines, energy matrices) ifrepparttar 122360 functional conditions are satisfied. Thus, an android which meetsrepparttar 122361 prescribed requirements is more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes' objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume that such "souls" possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable. Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a "person" as a "primitive". Bothrepparttar 122362 corporeal predicates and those pertaining to mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to allrepparttar 122363 individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity. Some, like Wiggins, limitrepparttar 122364 list of possible persons to animals - but this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizesrepparttar 122365 personhood of a brain damaged human ("capable of experiencing"). It also incorporates Locke's view of humans as possessing an ontological status similar to "clubs" or "nations" - their personal identity consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at

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