Friday, July 26, 2013

Universally Arguable Behavior

There are plenty of bad arguments which have the habit of being quite common. I would imagine that almost all of us feel this way about one argument or another. And I'm sure that quite a few of us would be astonished at the arguments that the others among us find silly. But there is one argument, for me, that sits like a shining emerald centered on the crown of human conceit; the argument that one should not be permitted to argue.

There is a particular and specific instance of this argument that, for me, really concretes how terribly silly this line of thinking is. And what proved surprising for me is that I first heard it from a man, when I was a young adult, whom I might have to regard as the most intelligent person I know. So, at the highest risk of sticking my foot in my own mouth, this is the maligned argument:

"We're men. I don't understand why we have any say at all in regards to abortion and women's bodies."

Ugh. Even typing that out made me cringe.

Let me say first that, as a libertarian, I think I'd have to ultimately come down to the conclusion that abortion should not be illegal - although I have some moral qualms about it. The arguments on both sides have not been completely fleshed out for me in a satisfactory manner. Having said that, this argument really misses the mark for me.

One problem is this; the argument seems to be rooted in the idea that women own their bodies and therefore they should be able to do whatever they want with it - including ending a life growing inside it. Of course, such an argument usually relies on a presumption that underscores the major contention about abortion in the first place. Those who are "pro-life" believe that humans in any stage of development are still humans - with all accompanying rights.

So, to those who believe in human-life at conception, that argument falls apart quickly. We could not make such arguments in favor of a woman who randomly kills a man on a street corner. "Why should we have any say in this? It's her body. It's her hand. If she wants to hold a knife with it and stab someone, why should we have any say in it?" This would not be a particularly convincing argument to most people. And to those who are pro-life, this is exactly the argument being made to them.

At this point the argument devolves into conversations about where human-life begins and the content of our moral obligations as guardians. Of course, those who are pro-choice could still make the more Rothbardian argument about abortion/abandonment and still salvage their self-ownership rhetoric (even if they conceded the "life at conception" point), but they very rarely do.

However, the way in which general arguments regarding abortion play out isn't really my focus at the moment. Rather, my real problem is with the idea that there would be some ethereal partition in a conversation of what constitutes (what I presume to be) universally human rights; on which one side women may offer their view(s), and on which the other side men may not. Now, obviously, men are not (currently) ever put in the position of such a personal moral dilemma. But that says absolutely nothing of their ability to contribute to a discussion regarding the contents of justice.

And we see variant forms of this argument all the time:

- Dismissals of arguments against war because one has not gone to war
- Dismissals of arguments against farm subsidies because one is not a farmer
- Dismissals of arguments against scientific theories because one is not a professional scientist
- Dismissals of arguments against anything because, well, how old are you? You haven't been alive long           enough

All of these are equally fallacious and abysmal; a mistake in criticizing the theorist as opposed to the content of his theories. We could surmise that someone without particularly intimate knowledge or experience is unlikely to have all the proper considerations and justifications ironed out. But that alone does not a bad argument make - even if some very intelligent people get in the habit of calling it as such.

No comments:

Post a Comment