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Old 08-05-2010, 03:52 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 3,921
Default Re: Natural Law (Robert Wright & Robert P. George)

You imply here that advances in biology mean that the whole “ensoulment thing” has to be rejected: since George does not reject modern biology, he must reject ensoulment. Maybe he does, but I don’t think this is a necessary “move,” once one accepts modern biology.
To be clear, I don't know what George's view is on ensoulment. I'd guess that he either believes it occurs at some earlier stage (conception, maybe) or, more likely, that we simply don't know. However, my intended point was simpler -- that whatever the truth is about ensoulment, it's not currently considered a biological (or scientific) question, as no one claims it can be falsified or studied through scientific means. I'm not saying that someone cannot accept modern biology and the theological concept of a soul.

So I think we actually agree on this.

Also, re Mayr and Aristotle, I really didn't intend to sound like I was dismissing Aristotle at all. So when you say:

The general tenor of your remarks is that advances in science have rendered Aristotle a minor thinker.
Absolutely not. If it came across that way I was communicating badly. (In past arguments here I've taken the side of the relevence and importance of philosophy along with science, so it's funny, and unfortunate, that I came across as if I were on the other side.)

That is the point of view to which I reacted violently initially, not the suspicion that you were a radical opponent of abortion, though that came later. Evidence that you think Aristotle is a minor thinker is your pejorative reference to the “ensoulment thing.” I am very unsympathetic to radical critics of abortion, but what troubled me initially about your intervention, and what I still find disquieting, is the “scientism” I detect in your overall attitude to Aristotle, and more generally.
Contrary to this I actually get the sense that you and I have similar views re Aristotle. I am simply interested in arguments used on both sides of the abortion question. (I know people on both sides and find it frustrating that it's basically impossible to get a real and fair discussion on the topic going rather than one side arguing against the other's cariactured position.) Aristotle gets used badly all the time (people like to try to use his conclusions -- or what they assume about his conclusions -- as a trump card, without considering the actual underlying arguments and how they might apply or not to the debated issues). I assumed initially that you were doing something similar, which is why I probably did use more provocative or broader language than I'd otherwise have used (and which I now regret).

I'm also, as a result, somewhat sensitized to some of the common language used in abortion debates, which I thought George was referencing without spelling out, and assumed that you were reading the shorthand the same way I was. (I think he was using such off-hand references because he wasn't really making an abortion-related argument, but trying to quickly explain from where he saw the differences between his position and Singer stemming.)

If thinkers who don't know modern science are ipso facto relatively unimportant, then Plato is also relatively unimportant, and I would have a big problem with that, I might get very emotional. I don't care that much about Aristotle, to be honest, but my rudeness was in part a reaction to a general attitude I detected to the benighted ancients, because I interpreted, reasonably I think, your opening salvo to mean that Aristotle is not pertinent to the abortion debate insofar as that debate concerns personhood, or fully actualized human beings.
Again, that's not my position, and I would never dismiss Aristotle or Plato in any general sense, although I personally am partial to Aristotle of the two (so we disagree there, but let's save any heated discussion on that until later, because I'm tired).

I do not have a clear sense of George’s detailed argument against abortion.
Yes, I don't think he ever made one.

On the other hand, if you and I were friends and having “a friendly discussion” about politics or philosophy or basketball, I might well say to you, if you said something that I found irritating or thought wrong, “That’s bullshit.” You thought that we were having “a friendly discussion.” I did too.
Yep, and knowing you better now, through this, I'll keep that in mind. It's hard to have a discussion solely in writing, without tone and expression and all that. And I admit to a tendency to write too hurriedly.

I accept the fact that the level of incivility I exhibited does not present me in a good light, so I hope that saying all this can suffice as an apology. The least that can be said is that we have strayed quite far from a flame war.
Absolutely, and I'm really happy to have reached this point.

Who are you, anyway?
How does one answer such a question? I used to post here last year (I thought I recognized you from that, but may have imagined it), stopped for several months, because I wasn't keeping up with the diavlogs and was burned out on both religion and partisan politics (which seemed to be some of the bigger sources for debates). I'm usually more interested in the arguments and why people have the ideas they do than the results (i.e., to the extent I'm an activist, it's not on a message board). I'm a lawyer and live in Chicago.
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