Sunday, July 17, 2022

A pro-choice inconsistency

Most people I've talked to are neither 100% pro-life nor 100% pro-choice. They all make exceptions under some circumstances. A pro-life person might make exceptions in the case of rape or incest. A pro-choice person might make an exception in the case of viability.

Arguments from bodily sovereignty are the strongest arguments the pro-choice side has going for them. As an honest pro-lifer, I have to admit that they carry some weight. I think we do have a right to bodily sovereignty. The question for me is whether that right is absolute. In other words, are there exceptions to it, and is the preservation of human life one example of an exception?

An inconsistency I've seen in a number of pro-choice people is to insist that the right to bodily sovereignty is absolute, but then to turn around and argue that abortion is morally permissible and should be legal up to viability, but it's immoral and should be illegal beyond viability. If abortion is something a woman does with her own body, and the right to bodily sovereignty is absolute, then to be consistent, shouldn't a pro-choice person who subscribes to these ideas advocate for the morality and legality of abortion right up until birth?

If you think Judy Jarvis-Thompson's violinist argument (or one like it) is a sound argument, then you're essentially saying that abortion would be permissible even if the unborn are full members of the human family. But if you make that argument, then it's inconsistent to turn around and say you think viability should be the cut-off point, and abortions should not be permissible beyond that.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Reasons vs. Justifications vs. Excuses vs. Rationalizations

I was just thinking about these things on my way home today while reflecting on a YouTube video I saw recently. It was a police interrogation, and the person who posted the video would pause it every now and then to give his own commentary. Although I don't remember anything else about the video, one part of it jumped out at me. The person being interrogated explained why he did whatever it is he did. The YouTuber paused the video and commented by saying something like, "He tried to justify his actions by saying. . ." Wait a minute I thought. All he did was explain his reason for acting. He didn't offer that reason as a justification.

As I was thinking about that on my way home, I began to recall times in my life where I've tried to explain why I did something only to have somebody respond by claiming I was making an excuse when that wasn't my intention at all. So I was thinking about the differences and similarities between reasons, justifications, excuses, and rationalizations, and thought, "Hey, I could blog about that!" So that's what I'm doing.

A reason for why you did something is nothing more than an explanation. You can explain your behavior in terms of your desires, your motivations, or whatever. If my reasons for committing a murder is so I can collect insurance money, and I'm open and honest about that, it doesn't mean I'm trying to justify it. I'm just telling you the reason I did it. Everything we do on purpose, we do for some reason, whether we had a good reason for it or not. So you can't automatically assume that if a person is explaining their reason for doing something that they are trying to justify it.

A justification is a kind of reason, though. Hadley Arkes talked about this a lot in his book, First Things. He thought the whole enterprise of morality was rooted in giving reasons for our behavior that are meant to serve as justifications for our behavior. A justification is a reason that's meant to explain why what you did was either good or at least not bad.

Rationalizations are like justifications. They are also reasons that are intended to serve as explanations for why what you did was right or at least not wrong. I think what makes something a rationalization instead of a mere justification, though, is in whether it's being offered honestly. When a person explains that they did something with some supposed good purpose in mind, but the person knows good and well that the purpose they had doesn't really justify their behavior, then it's a rationalization. It's a pretend justification. Sometimes the rationalization is just as much to convince ourselves as it is to convince others. Knowing that we are in the wrong about something makes us feel uneasy, especially if it involves a behavior we really like. It makes us feel even more uncomfortable if somebody else knows about it. So we attempt to rationalize in order to save face in front of others and in order to supress our own feelings of shame and guilt.

An excuse can be a justification or a rationalization. It all depends on how we use it. After all, there are good excuses and bad excuses. The word is mostly used with a negative connotation, though. For example, when somebody says, "That's just an excuse," they mean, "That's just a rationalization." After all, you'd never say, "That's just a justification." If it's legitimate justification, then we take the word, "just," out, and say, "That's a justification."

It's not always easy to tell when somebody is rationalizing and when they are offering a good justification. I sometimes even have to check myself on that. As I said, we all rationalize because none of us are perfect, and we all have a conscience. Most of us don't like to own our bad behavior. We want to find some kind of justification for it that lets us off the hook. But how do we know if we're being honest with ourselves about it? I guess that's just a matter doing some soul-searching and reflection. I think it is possible to fool yourself--to be persuaded of the legitimacy of your own rationalization as if it really justified your behavior.

I have more to say about that, but I think I'll save it for another post another time.