Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” at Forty

That’s the title of my latest entry over at The Catholic Thing. It is adapted from portions of my August 3, 2011 presentation at the University of Colorado symposium commemorating the 40th anniversary of Thomson’s article. Here’s an excerpt:

What Thomson is granting, then, is a view of personhood consistent with the pro-life position only insofar as it is aligned with a minimalist understanding of autonomy and choice. That view isolates the individual from other persons – generationally, contemporaneously, and institutionally – except as those relationships arise from the individual’s explicit choice. But that is not the pro-life view of personhood.

You can read the whole Catholic Thing entry here.

For those who are interested, the August 3 symposium went very well. Chaired by David Boonin, the other participants (besides me) were Don Marquis and John Martin Fischer. As I noted in my opening comments that evening, if this panel were the Beatles, I would be Ringo. It was truly an honor for someone with my modest accomplishments to be included with such giants in the discipline.

  • ProfBob

    All the arguments seem to be the self-centered ethical basis of the primacy of a woman’s choice versus the unprovable opinion that humanness (read soul) starts at conception.
    The debate on abortion is merely opinion. Moral values are based on either self-centered, God-based or society-based non-provable basic assumptions. For the Catholic viewpoint let me excerpt from the free ebook series “And Gulliver Returns” ( The Abortion chapter in Book 4 elaborates the pros and cons of the 3 ethical assumptions. Let me attempt to summarize the changing Catholic position. From the 13th Century the views of St. Thomas Aquinas, that male embryos got their souls about 4 weeks after conception, females somewhat later, were the standard. His was a Christianized view of Aristotle’s ideas.
    The crux of the modern idea, that the soul is infused at conception, might be traced to St. Paul (Romans 5:12) who started the ball rolling on ‘original sin.’ 500 years later St. Augustine popularized the idea. But the Blessed Virgin was born without original sin, her Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX declared this in 1854. Then in 1870 he decided that popes were infallible in church doctrine. So was his pronouncement retroactive?
    Recent popes have generally followed Pius’s idea that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception. This brings with it some theological problems. Since many fertilized ova never implant in the uterus what happens to these little souls?
    If you are really interested in the question, see the aforementioned chapter. It is done in detail.

  • 4661899

    4661899 beers on the wall. sck was here