1. Noonan “How to Argue aboutAbortion”
a. Three things:
i. Criticizes Thompson’s analogical argument, in that she uses many of the
ii. In criticizing Thompson’s analogical argument, he offers another methods
of reasoning and decision through the perception and experiences of the
iii. Believes that abortion is murder (violates the right to the fetus’s life) and
should not be condoned unless the life of the mother is threatened.
b. Why are analogical arguments unreliable? Because the cases used are always
different. Given the cases are different, it is always unreliable to use one case, and
its ethical judgments involved, onto another case.
i. Analogical arguments may be effective, because the two cases compared
to each other may have very identical conditions and circumstances.
1. Noonan claims that the specific violinist analogy is bad, because in
the case of the violinist, we have a kidnapping, and a serious
operation, things that do not happen during a pregnancy.
c. The particular analogy that Thompson uses is weak.
d. Noonan uses a “good Samaritan example” in order to argue that we do have
obligations to other people, sometimes total strangers.
i. Noonan recognizes that in the Thompson example, the two people are
strangers. This is the same example with situations of rape, or unwanted
pregnancy (she does not welcome the stranger of the baby in her body)
ii. However, there are obligations to strangers, based on Good Samaritan
laws/ethics. This applies to many examples where strangers come to the
aid of helpless people (helping homeless people, or aiding people on the
verge of death.) This may imply that there are duties under some
1. Ex: if someone needs aid for an hour or two, then it seems a moral
obligation. However, the greater the inconvenience, the greater the
infringement of that person’s rights (the person who is giving aid.) iii. While this is a different type of example, that focuses on ethics, Noonan
does not deny Thomson’s argument of the sick violinist (Noonan says that
OUGHT to, Thomson says that it would be the decent thing to do, but both
say that it is not an obligation.)
e. One of the key fundamental questions is how do we decide ethical issues?
i. Simply not a gut feeling (as seen with the issue of abortion), but instead
backed by reasoning and, according to Thomson, analogical reasoning.
Noonan rejects analogical reasoning. He believes that ethical choices
should be made on the basis of perception and feeling. This relies much on
experience and perception (experientalism).
1. Ex: When grading the paper, some comments (e.g. this part is
weak) may, while being completely critical, offend the student.
Often we are not aware that we are making decisions and choices,
based on perception and experience.
ii. When applied to the ethics of abortion (Noonan is pro-life) he uses this
perceptual model to argue that abortion is wrong except when the mother’s
life is threatened.
1. He says that you must perceive the various experiences the fetus
during multiple stages, which has become possible with today’s
technology (MRI). When you see/experience the fetus, you will
feel that the fetus is a person with the same right to life as people.
(this does not counter Thomson’s argument, as he automatically
2. The role of balancing perceptions between the many factors play
into decision making. However, when you experience the fetus,
one often outbalances the fetus to all other worries and desires that
even the mother may have.
(Newsweek article is taken from a pro-life standpoint. Helpful in
illustrating Noonan’s argument)
2. Problems with Noonan’sArgument
a. In the specific case that abortion is permissible if the mother’s life is threatened,
we are choosing the life of the mother over the life of the fetus. However, can we corroborate this on perceptual reasoning, when this type of reasoning allows us to
recognize the fetus as a person, with equal rights?
b. In everyday decisions we act based on the method of perception and create
decisions based on these perceptions. However, these perceptions are created
from our upbringing as children. In many of our choices, reasoning is not
required, as instinct and perception are the main factors.
c. The question is, if Noonan’s model of perception works for everyday behavior,
does it work for major ethical issues and controversies, such as abortion? (In this
case, it is also a matter of law, in essence what everybody isn’t or is allowed to
do) It doesn’t(?)
i. When they see a fetus in early stages, they do not experience that the fetus
is not an actual person. They may associate it with strictly biological
terms, such as a zygote or blastocyst. Other people see and feel that it is a
person. In essence, people looking at the same thing can identify what they
see as different things.
1. Noonan introduced the model of perception to resolve conflicting
beliefs. However, in the case of serious ethical issues, conflicting
beliefs may influence one’s perception. (Ex: if you are pro-choice,
you may perceive the picture as not a person, and vice versa.)
ii. Perception is famously fallible, because it can embody bias and prejudice,
beliefs that are irrational. When the perception is influenced by these, it
needs to be corrected and rationalized.
1. Ex: Before Copernicus, everybody saw that the Earth was flat, and
was the center of the universe. It was a bias that they were
important and superior.
2. Ex: Everybody thought they could see that blacks were inferior to
whites. They also thought Japanese were inferior in WWII. Some
people think that women are inferior, especially in war services.
All of them are wrong. The fact that this is wrong requires
a. Defending a pro-choice position, through a form of reasoning, but not analogical
reasoning like Thomson. He appeals to general values of freedom, human
personhood, and the pursuit of happiness. He then gives an analysis of
personhood, and applies it to the ethics of abortion. i. Human beings applies values to ethical situations, but they apply
different values to the ethical values.
b. Criticizes the whole debate of abortion, and the fact that the debate is often
reduced to one-dimension, such as the personhood, or viability of the fetus. It is a
combination of many dimensions of moral ideas. Has three main ideas:
i. He believes the value of freedom, the ability to control your own life, the
capacity for individuals to make their own key decisions. When we
analyze this, he says that women cannot be free without the specific right
to choose an abortion, their self-determination is seriously compromised,
because being a parent is such a large part of a person’s life, this choice
also implies that it will dominate much of your life. He believes that the
freedom to decide motherhood is as important as the freedom of speech,
1. If men could get pregnant, our society would have recognized long
ago that the freedom to choose is required, suggesting that the
debate of choosing is a facet of the inequality of women, because
men seem to have more important roles in society, and women
somehow have been tied to a seemingly unequal, irrational concept
of motherhood and pregnancy.
ii. According to Glover, if women cannot choose, the result is the tragedy of
unwanted kids, and sometimes heritable diseases. Regardless, an
unwanted child is a tragedy to the parents, and is often an
abused/neglected child. It is “misery-producing” to deny the ability of
1. He says these two reasons, while relevant, cannot be sufficient to
face the issue of abortion, because they do not cover all moral
bases. We must consider the state of the fetus, and the fact that an
abortion kills the fetus in this state of technology.
2. If freedom and misery justify abortion, why doesn’t it justify
infanticide? There is a distinction of the