The abortion answer

Consider abortion as answering the question “I’m in no position to bring this baby to term: what should I do?” Looked at this way the answer seems cynical, morbid, and even absurdist. That said, were the pro-life position nothing more than “don’t kill it!” it would be equally morbid and absurdist, and in this case the charge of “being pro-life until birth” would hit the mark. The appropriate response, obviously, would not be to fight among ourselves over whether to kill a human life or not but to ask why the pregnant couple is in no position to bring one to term. The answers will be all over the place since it’s rare for us to know why we can or can’t do something, and any view of our reasons is seen through the distorting clouds of guilt or fear or embarrassment or of being of two minds about pregnancy, and even if this were not an issue our responses will be motivated by what we think we should say to get what we want. In the face of all this confusion, we might be tempted to throw up our hands and say “Well, just kill it then.” or maybe “God says you can’t and that’s it”.

The question to which abortion is one answer is unavoidably a philosophical question, which means that anyone who’s sat in a philosophy class has already seen the first few moves of the discussion. It will take about thirty seconds for some noticeable mass of vocal persons to get exasperated and give up on the problem in different ways. Some guy will tell the class that reasoning will get us no where and so all that is left is for everyone to do their own thing, someone else will defend a ready-made religious answer, some will stay silent out of genuine information overload, others will stay silent out out of contempt for the whole enterprise. I don’t take any of these responses lightly –  when reason fails, what is left to guide behavior except personal desire or higher authority?

Still, the point of putting a teacher in the class is to keep the students from giving up on reason in thirty seconds, and so the point of political leadership in the face of difficult questions should be the same. In this sense Plato did have a point, contra Chesterton, in insisting that kings should be philosophers.

%d bloggers like this: