PH 107 Ethics
December 2, 2009
Abortion: Bentham vs. Kant
Abortion is defined as the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy. Surrounding this practice is passionate debate and heated controversy as to whether a mother has the right to take away the life of a potentially viable human being. Those for abortion take the stance of Pro-Choice; as they believe that the matter falls into the hands of the mother and thus is entirely her decision, or choice. Those against abortion are collectively known as being Pro-Life, because abortion takes away the life of the fetus. To argue each position I will look at the ideas and theories of Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant and make conclusions for each philosopher.
Bentham was a utilitarian, his idea of the greatest good for the greatest number of people and his Hedonistic Calculus theory will be used to determine his position on the issue of abortion. Bentham used his Hedonistic Calculus theory to
determine which pleasures are greater and ought to be pursued over others. This theory is divided into seven different features of pleasure, intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity, and extent. To properly apply Bentham's ideas to abortion we must look at each situation separately, in some scenarios abortion may be permissible and others may not be. For example, if a woman had become pregnant as a result of rape and having the baby would only bring more pain to the mother, her family, and even the baby, therefore abortion would be justifiable because it prevents pain. Bentham would not come to a specific conclusion on the morality of abortion as a whole, but rather multiple conclusions for each individual situation depending on the circumstances.
To examine Kant's opinion on abortion we must look at his three versions of the Categorical Imperative. His first...