“Clump” theory Kant buy an abortion

Perhaps you’ve heard this feminist folly about a human embryo shrilly pronounced in defense of abortion: “It’s just a clump of cells!”

Well, I mean, so are you, dear feminist. If we assume a strictly materialistic and naturalistic account of human beings, each woman, whether pregnant or not, is also “just a clump of cells,” only bigger. Hence, why does a woman, as a clump of cells, have the right to terminate an embryo or a fetus, whom too are clumps of cells? Mere difference in size between “clumps” seems to be an arbitrary reason. For the naturalist and materialist advocate of abortion, the issue is not just how one gets the immaterial goodies of rights and value solely from the material cellular composition of bodies but also why only women-as-clumps (WAC) have them and the unborn-as-clumps (UAC) don’t, much to their lethal expense.

I will now consider some possible responses to these problems implicated by this “clump” theory:

A. WACs are rational beings; UACs are not.
Immanuel Kant famously held within one of his formulations of the categorical imperative that we ought never to treat rational beings only as means but as ends in themselves. So, in a Kantian deontological framework, the hurdle of human dignity and personhood must be overcome to justify abortion. Bifurcating between WAC as rational agents and UAC as non-rational agents accomplishes this as it allows the latter to be used solely as a means — in this sense, subjects to abortion — in service of the will of the former. Under this interpretation of Kant, UAC are not persons and thusly don’t possess rights, such as the universalizable right to life.

I see some troubles with this move:

  1.  It fails to take into account the potential for rationality that inheres within a freshly formed, normal human zygote, that, as being a member of the sort of natural kind that it is, if left unabated in the womb would likely further develop, be born and actualize that potential for rationality over time. This actualization of latent rationality has been, as a matter of common experience, if not scientific observation, readily justified a posteriori. Following from this, it’s arguable (as Bill Vallicella does here) that this inherent potentiality for rationality, “confers a right to life”and thereby Kantian personhood. Thus, treading on this right, as abortion certainly does, given this case, is a moral evil and violates Kant’s categorical imperative.Moreover, Vallicella also notes another issue to which I find myself concurring: The “post-natal,” the newly born, can’t be considered as rational agents. They are utterly helpless and dependent on adults to make judgments on their behalf. Several years must pass before they become apt for rationality and develop the cognitive faculties for reasoning, moral decision-making and the like to the extent they incur the mantle of rational agent. Yet, they are ascribed as persons and possessors of the right to life before all this occurs. This fact seems problematic for the proponent of abortion, especially given any time during pregnancy, say even in midst of labor, the pre-natal baby is still a “clump of cells” with no rights — as per the official platform of the Democrats — but somehow a second after birth becomes a person, fully fledged in inviolable dignity. Both the uterine wall and vaginal canal seem to be very thin membranes constituting the special threshold between personhood and non-personhood. But how and why? Why does the act of being born result in a sudden transformation in ontological status for the fetus-clump?
  2. Secondly, it errs in that Kant is neither a naturalist nor a materialist. Hence, it’s not at all obvious as to how his ethics are compatible with “clump” theory. This all goes back to the first part of the issue — how naturalists and materialists get the immaterial out of the purely material. They would have to provide a compelling materialist basis for rationality as well as value and goodness. These are challenging metaphysical and metaethical quagmires that go far beyond the scope here, and in my opinion, typical attempts at solving them are rife with difficulties. But once again, addressing those attempted solutions is not within the purview of this post.

B. UACs are inside of WACs, violating the latter’s bodily freedom to control their own inner physiological processes, thereby threatening their greater autonomy.
I believe there’s two ideas here: (A) There’s a right to control one’s bodily processes, and prohibiting abortion limits said right; (B) Given the nine months of physical and psychological demands of pregnancy and the years of responsibility caring for a new human person, unwanted fetuses hamper women from actualizing their aspirations, goals, desires and otherwise curtail their abilities to achieve economic and cultural parity with men. In other words, their autonomy — which literally means self-legislation — is diminished…

  1. …Or so the narrative goes. Implicit within A, there’s the assumption that the UAC don’t have the right to life, which is the matter of contention, and begs the question against the Pro-Life movement. It’s undoubtedly uncontroversial that people, regardless of sex, have the right to do with their individual bodies as they please. It’s also true that most everybody accepts there are legal and moral limits with what one can do with one’s meat suit. For instance, murder often involves using your body, whether it’s enacted with hands bare or wielding weapons, but both morally and legally, murder is an impermissible use of one’s body. Furthermore, it’s evident that abortion terminates life, i.e kills. So, once again why does the UAC’s size and location inside women’s wombs make abortion permissible and not murderous? A woman’s rights trump a fetus’ (that is if it’s even recognized as a person)? But that changes nothing, as both are clumps with only relative location and size differentiating the unborn from the woman. Isn’t it arbitrary to favor the woman, especially in lieu of  we often consider the innocent and defenseless — both of which the fetus instantiates — especially warranting special recognition and protection? Well, the fetus isn’t a person with rights. Yet, once more this begs the question against Pro-Lifers and takes us back to the post’s original dilemma about clumps.
  2. As for B, I don’t see how pregnancy impairs or — to borrow a currently infamous term — causes an “undue burden” on feminine autonomy. Women are CEOs, high-ranking government officials, academics, entertainers and all manner of active and successful contributors to society outside of the home. Taking away abortion as a last resort likely wouldn’t “relegate” the fairer sex to domestic servitude in the kitchens. With the mass accessibility of varieties of birth control, including abstinence, pregnancy can be forestalled, parenthood planned. Admittedly, everything doesn’t often occur as planned, but whose fault is that? If you play fast and loose and or gamble with the action that creates life, why should it be unjust that responsibility actually comes a’knocking to collect on that semen deposit with interest? Alas, this is the sort of moral dereliction and accompanying depravity that manifests when you sever freedom from personal responsibility.
  3. Lastly, how does A and B not violate Kant’s principle of universalizability? Is it not the case that aborting a fetus disrupts permanently its control of its bodily processes that grows more independent daily? Moreover, abortion doesn’t just ruin the UAC’s days. It rather definitively puts the kibosh on the greater future autonomy that belongs to the fetuses, many of whom are female. Thusly, A and B seem to be self-vitiating. There’s always the response UAC have no rights, but I hope it’s obvious now there’s a theme of begging the question and continual not moving past Go in such a such a retort.

See, abortion supporters who happen to be materialists and naturalists want morality and rights without invoking God, the supernatural or the transcendental. They love their Kantian dignity, autonomy and equality; that’s why I brought up der Alles-Zermalmer. Pity their precious social justice also faces pulverization but not from Kant. Their mores just are not very compliant to their preferred metaphysics. Atheism, let alone New Atheism, struggles to alchemize blood from this stone.

Clumps get in the way,

Modus Pownens


Michael Hanby on the “Brave New World” of same-sex marriage

Sometimes, other people are simply better at explaining the alleged “bigoted” philosophical opposition against same-sex marriage better than me. Published about a year ago, here are some highlights from Michael Hanby’s article at The Federalist, which should be read in its entirety, about the cultural assumptions that underlie the push for same-sex marriage.

The force with which an idea (same-sex marriage) has taken hold that is unprecedented in human history and unthinkable until yesterday, the speed at which it is sweeping aside customary norms, legal precedent, and the remnants of traditional morality is nothing short of breathtaking. That it should have achieved this feat thanks largely to sentiment, fashion, and the brute power of a ubiquitous global media, with so little real thought about its profound effect upon human self-understanding or its far-reaching practical implications, is more astonishing still. Though its power seems inexorable, we would do well nevertheless to exercise perhaps the last reserve of real freedom still available to us—the freedom to think about the true meaning of things—lest we be deceived about what this moment portends or caught unawares as it washes over us. For beneath the surface of this rising tide of ‘freedom and equality’ lies something very close to the brave new world of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian imagination.

Hanby is so very on the ball here. The meteoric rise of this “civil rights” issue is nothing short of remarkable, and the lack of vetting is indicative of the decline of Western civilization. For a society who once touted the use of reason in making law and public policy, to so readily abandon its application in the face a group of clever people asserting their agenda is merely the next step in “freedom,” “equality,” “civil rights” is disturbing of a nation that crafted something as ingenious, revolutionary and influential as the Bill of Rights.

To accept same-sex unions as ‘marriage’ is thus to commit officially to the proposition that there is no meaningful difference between a married man and woman conceiving a child naturally, two women conceiving a child with the aid of donor semen and IVF, or two men employing a surrogate to have a child together, though in the latter cases only one of the legally recognized parents can (presently) contribute to the child’s hereditary endowment and hope for a family resemblance. By recognizing same-sex ‘marriages’ the state also determines once and for all that ARTs (assisted reproductive technologies) are not merely a remedy for infertility but a normative form of reproduction equivalent to natural procreation, and indeed it has been suggested in some cases that ARTs are an improvement upon nature. Yet if this is true, it follows that no great weight attaches to natural motherhood and fatherhood and that being born to a father and mother is inessential to what it means to be human, or even to the meaning of childhood and family. These are not fundamentally ‘natural’ phenomena integral to human identity and social welfare but mere accidents of biology overlaid with social conventions that can be replaced by ‘functionally equivalent’ roles without loss.

Bingo! This paragraph encapsulates what we “bigots” vehemently oppose about same-sex marriage. It has nothing to do with what Adam and Steve or Mary and Eve do behind closed doors. It has everything to do with what it entails about the family in the eyes of culture and law. We just think it is highly foolish, as a society, to view and treat mothers and fathers as optional. That, social disaster probably will unfold from such a publicly accepted sentiment, i.e., more children growing up without either a mommy and daddy. There is a pretty substantial consensus of data that out of wedlock births correlate with poverty (here and here). And that’s not an insult to single parents — who most undoubtedly are doing the best they can for whatever reason they are raising a child alone — but an acknowledgement of what for millennia was obvious: A child’s life generally is invaluably enriched when he or she knows and lives with his or her biological parents and forever complicated, if not diminished, when one or both of those parents are taken away whether by divorce, death or even in more contemporary phenomena such as adoption and assisted reproductive technologies (surrogacy and in vitro fertilization). That’s what we are being unfairly dubbed as on the “wrong side of history” for. Plus, there’s always the fact we are even entertaining the idiocy of granting the state leeway to effectively determine and regulate what is family and how it’s created — although this, as Hanby also notes, is contradictory as the family existed and preceded the first state — sounds like the happy suicide of individual liberty.

Moving on, Handby continues to strike gold:

…worrisome is the fundamental anthropology—the philosophy of human nature—implicit in it (same-sex marriage and the practical policies to implement “equality)…And to declare that there is no difference between conceiving a child through procreation in a marriage and through the technology necessitated by same-sex unions is to say something definitive about what a child and the human being are, even if this goes unrecognized. Indeed it is all the more definitive the more it goes unrecognized.


To declare same-sex unions marriage and their technological ‘reproduction’ normative is essentially to reconceive the child not as a person but as an artifact. It is to deny that he is essentially the natural fruit of a love inscribed into his parents’ flesh; since love is now a mere emotion with no bearing on the meaning of the body, which has been relegated to the sub-personal realm of ‘mere biology.’ It is to deny that his being from his parents and having a lineage is deeply constitutive of his humanity or his personal identity; since the very notion of ‘lineage’ is confused by these new artificial combinations and since ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are merely names affixed to a social function which can be performed in creative new ways.  And it is to deny that he is his own being with inviolable dignity who cannot be manipulated or controlled; since it was a process of manipulation and control that brought him into being in the first place. The technological dominance of procreation asserts, contrary to the child’s true nature and to his parents’ unquestionable love for him, that a child is essentially a product of human making, an assemblage of parts outside of parts that are the parts of no real whole, whose meaning and purpose, as with all artifacts, reside not in itself but in the designs of its maker.

It’s this type of reasoning that leads people like Robert Oscar Lopez to conclude that surrogacy and other artificial reproductive industries is the new slave trade. That, the child, dehumanized, is commoditized to be bought and sold. The very fact that these practices have grown into multimillion dollar industries firmly suggests that this use of technology to trump biology is no longer the exception to the rule but is the rule. That Katy Perry, a pop culture icon and a role model to many, says she’ll make a child essentially because she wants one and can just demonstrates how children are thought of not as “created equal,” but as tacitly inhuman enough to be coaxed into the world due to the sufficient combination of whim and money. The recognition of same-sex marriage officially legitimizes it as normal and acceptable, and all of this, the playing God and playing parent, is simply abhorrent.

Of course, I expect the typical proponent of same-sex marriage to bristle and dismiss this insinuation as absurd and offensive, like they do with every principled “hey, wait a second” raised to halt their parade. Note, however, this taking offense doesn’t address the argument and deflects from what’s at issue: Should we redefine marriage, as a society, in such a way that makes familial biology irrelevant and enables the widespread creation and purchase of human beings as not only morally ok but good? If the same-sex marriage cause is so righteous, then its apologists should be able to utter a satisfying answer to this question that irks our liberalized American sensibilities without just resorting to red herring epithets of “bigot” about those who pose it.

Experience also tells me that there are proponents of same-sex marriage also will bring up the heterosexual couples, who for the reason of one of them being infertile, utilize surrogacy or IVF to have a kid. Why can’t two men and two women? In other words, I’m being marked as arbitrary.

Again, this criticism misunderstands several important details. The marriage debate, fundamentally, is the question about whether or not same-sex relationships are meaningfully different than opposite-sex relationships. Two classes, types, categories — or what have you — of relationships are subject to scrutiny here. I repeat: classes, types or categories. Therefore, misguided are the appeals to individual members or the parts of members within these classes, types or categories as having sway over the whole class, type or category. Whether or not some heterosexual couples choose to adopt or use artificial means to achieve pregnancy or if a person is impotent is irrelevant. Such reasoning is a fallacy of composition and subsequently a category error. For all intents and purposes, it’s like saying, because some apples in the barrel are orangish in color, then the whole barrel itself contains orange-colored apples, and due to these discolored apples, the company should ship all apples with oranges with the understanding they’re the same type of fruit. Likewise, the context of what’s being argued and proposed in Hanby’s article, my post here and mostly the issue at large is on the level of society and public policy making, not the realm of individual or relatively small groups of couples as exceptional cases. Referring to them misses the point whether or not we, as a society, ought to regularly utilize artificial reproductive technologies and make motherhood and fatherhood superfluous. Carve them into stone and institutionalize them.

Consequentially, as Hanby astutely points out in this “Brave New World” where people confuse apples with oranges:

Thus deprived of the desire or even the capacity to think about the true meaning of things, and unable to perceive the loss, people will not merely be susceptible to manipulation by sentimental platitudes and sophistic arguments—‘People shouldn’t be discriminated against based on who they are or who they love’—they will be eager for it.

The push for the same-sex marriage is not the cause of what Hanby describes but more likely a symptom. One of the crucial ways it became a political hot topic is because the sexual revolution has trivialized sex to the degree where the ability to procreate, the essence of marriage, has been so castrated from the form of human association to which it is unique, anything that can be construed under the nebulous notion of love rings of wedding bells. Same-sex unions naturally fit the bill. Logically speaking, so do polygamy, incest, pedophilia and bestiality, all of which further render successively marriage an even more meaningless and non-distinctive relationship. If the LGBT lobby is truly invested in civil rights and desires to be ineffectual on the traditional family and marriage, civil unions are the apt compromise.

That’s the “brave new world” we ought to live in,

Modus Pownens

P.S. As I have co-opted Handby’s incisive words, I urge you to read it in his intended context.