Chapter 12 Essay Questions
1. Assess the merits of the various arguments that seek to establish that abortion is immoral. Which of these arguments do you think is strongest, and why? Do you think it ultimately succeeds? Why or why not?
2. Assess the merits of the various arguments that seek to establish that abortion is morally acceptable. Which of these arguments do you think is the strongest, and why? Do you think it ultimately succeeds? Why or why not?
3. What is the notion of personhood that is at issue in the debate over abortion? What significance do you think personhood has for this debate? Is it only persons who have moral status? Defend your answers.
4. According to Noonan, what does it take to be human? To what purpose does Noonan put this definition of humanity? Do you think this definition is plausible for this purpose? Defend your answers.
5. Briefly recount Thomson’s violinist case. What does Thomson take the case to show? Raise what you take to be the most serious objection to Thomson’s treatment of the violinist case. How would Thomson respond to your objection? Ultimately, do you think your objection succeeds? Why or why not?
6. How does Thomson interpret the idea of having a right to life? Does she think that fetuses have a right to life? What implications about abortion does she draw from the notion of a right to life? Do you find her account of what it is to have a right to life compelling?
7. Discuss the five criteria of personhood identified by Warren. Do you agree that these are the criteria for personhood? Do you agree that fetuses lack all of these traits? Defend your answers and explain their significance for the permissibility of abortion.
8. How does Marquis’s argument against abortion differ from the “standard anti-abortion” argument he considers at the beginning of the paper? Which argument do you think is stronger? Do you think either argument succeeds? Defend your answers.
9. Write an essay critically assessing Marquis’s argument that abortion is, in most cases, seriously immoral. Reconstruct the argument and then raise what you take to be the most powerful objection to his argument. Do you think your objection succeeds? Why or why not?