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  1. #1
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    Aug 2004
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    The Cliff: a thought experiment on abortion

    Imagine this scenario:

    A person is dangling from the edge of a cliff. They're using their right hand to hold on for deer life. In their left hand is a child.

    The person holding onto the cliff has the ability to let go of the child. If they do so, the child will surely/100% die. Zero chance for survival. They child 100% is dependent on the person's arm for life.

    The person does not want to hang from the cliff. The person wants to get up from the where they are. If they try to climb up with the child, there is a small chance both of them will fall. This chance, though, is minimal. However, if the person struggles to bring he child up from the cliff, the person's wallet will fall out of their pants go sailing over the cliff and cause significant financial hardship going forward. Their lifestyle will be forever changed if that happens. But if they let the child fall, they can save their wallet from falling and go on with the same lifestyle they'd always had.

    Question for debate: without changing the context of the scenario, what is a morally/ethically sound reason to allow the child to fall to their death?

    My argument is there isn't one. Not without changing the context. If we allow for the context to be changed (Which I'm not) the closest we could get would be, "Well, if BOTH the person and the child will fall into the cliff with a high degree of certainty, it's acceptable to let the child fall because two people dying is worse than one person dying."

    I cannot stress enough that you may not change the context of the original scenario. If you wish to do that, start your own thread. Answers that begin with things like, "Well if the kid were evil" or "if there were two kids" or "I'd call for help and wait" or anything beyond the scenario presented will be ignored.

    The scenario is mean to be a metaphor to abortion. The mother is the person and the child is the fetus. Climbing back up (with it's small, but real risk of death. Giving birth can be fatal...) is giving birth. Letting the child go to fall to their death is abortion. As with changing the context, insisting that the scenario means other things/doesn't represent abortion will be ignored as it's just another attempt to change context.

    Please be as thorough with your reasoning as possible. Present me a case as to why it should be acceptable to let the child go and explain.

    ---

    Just to pre-empt the upcoming "A FETUS IZNT A CHILD!!!" objection: That's not what we're here to discuss. Yes. A large number of fertilized human eggs fail to become humans all on their own. I accept that. We're not here, though, to discuss biology. We're here to discuss choices. In an abortion a woman is making a very clear choice. Regardless of her reasoning, the choice is, "I am stopping a person from happening". I don't believe that to be a moral choice. Ultimately it doesn't matter if a fetus is a small baby or a cluster of cells: when a woman chooses to have an abortion she is choosing to make sure another human doesn't happen so insisting that the human is "just a clump of cells" (or however the objection is worded) isn't relevant to our discussion.

 

 

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