What is a life? And what is human life?

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Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 05:44 am
In a great number of ethical debates, the big question has revolved around the fundamental question of life. For instance in the debate over abortion- is a newly fertilised egg a life? And if so is it a life in the sense of a plant, an insect, a cell or a fully fledged human being? Does life depend on the soul, on conciousness or the ability to survive independantly?
I find it hard to imagine a few cells as human, but what about a foetus? At what point, if not conception do we say 'now this being is human and to kill is murder? When does ensoulment happen or does it happen at all?
 
Khethil
 
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 06:18 am
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
I find it hard to imagine a few cells as human, but what about a foetus? At what point, if not conception do we say 'now this being is human and to kill is murder? When does ensoulment happen or does it happen at all?


Ensoulment; nice word. That point in which the living tissue gains whatever we defined to be 'a soul'.

It's such an emotionally-loaded issue; and so filled with ethical implications. I think it's also a great subject to use as a way to examine ones' own ethical structure. But anyway, I posted my views here.

Good Topic, thanks Avatar
 
xris
 
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 06:35 am
@Khethil,
I dont think ethics can draw on beliefs but act in a logical manner.If a child is capable of independent life from its mother it deserves the protection of the law.If medical science can sustain a child out of its mothers womb at a given time period, that is the moment we consider, in my opinion.I believe in the possibility of a soul but when that soul enters or leaves the body is only a guess, so i dont intend to impress that view on a secular society.
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 08:48 am
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7;59356 wrote:
When does ensoulment happen or does it happen at all?


Of course the question of when ensoulment had happened would surely be an interesting, but somewhat more likely unresolvable mental exercise; and I use past perfect due to its having happend in the far, far past.

Otherwise, every cell is a soul, just as every 'conglomerate' of cells as an entity is a soul. The gamates that swim are souls, the eggs that recieve are souls--the earth is a soulful place (and it does make some good music too).
 
avatar6v7
 
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 10:59 am
@xris,
xris wrote:
I dont think ethics can draw on beliefs but act in a logical manner

So what basis for ethics, or indeed morality, do you have?

xris wrote:
If medical science can sustain a child out of its mothers womb at a given time period, that is the moment we consider, in my opinion.

So your view is that what constitutes a life is determined by whether we can keep it alive? But surely if the mother can keep it alive how can you draw the distinction between her doing so and somthing else doing so?
 
Dylan phil
 
Reply Wed 22 Apr, 2009 04:12 pm
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
For instance in the debate over abortion- is a newly fertilised egg a life? And if so is it a life in the sense of a plant, an insect, a cell or a fully fledged human being? Does life depend on the soul, on conciousness or the ability to survive independantly?
I find it hard to imagine a few cells as human, but what about a foetus? At what point, if not conception do we say 'now this being is human and to kill is murder? When does ensoulment happen or does it happen at all?


If a newly fertilized egg has a heartbeat, then yes, I would declare it a "life" or "being". Whether or not we could know if it has similarities of a plant, an insect, a cell, or a human being is by first being able to examine this egg extensively and monitoring specific things such as organs and other things to even begin to classify such things. As for the question about what it would depend on is, is stated in the last sentence, just needs to be rephrased.
A fetus I would indeed label as a "being". In order to say that ending the pregnancy is murder I would have to say is never. Although the fetus may be a "being", we cannot prove whether or not it even has consciousness, memories, knowing that it is indeed alive, et cetera. If we have proven such a thing, then I am sorry for the last statement, I just haven't heard of such a thing being tried. The only time I would indeed call it murder is when the child has came out of the fetus, and which it indeed does have consciousness, et cetera. I do not believe that such a thing called "ensoulment" would happen because it is something that Christians believe in, and I am not a Christian.
 
avatar6v7
 
Reply Thu 23 Apr, 2009 01:09 am
@Dylan phil,
Dylan wrote:
If a newly fertilized egg has a heartbeat, then yes, I would declare it a "life" or "being". Whether or not we could know if it has similarities of a plant, an insect, a cell, or a human being is by first being able to examine this egg extensively and monitoring specific things such as organs and other things to even begin to classify such things. As for the question about what it would depend on is, is stated in the last sentence, just needs to be rephrased.

Your basis for life is the heart- why? What differentiates it from other vital organs? What about people with artificial hearts- are they less alive, less human?
Dylan wrote:

A fetus I would indeed label as a "being". In order to say that ending the pregnancy is murder I would have to say is never. Although the fetus may be a "being", we cannot prove whether or not it even has consciousness, memories, knowing that it is indeed alive, et cetera. If we have proven such a thing, then I am sorry for the last statement, I just haven't heard of such a thing being tried. The only time I would indeed call it murder is when the child has came out of the fetus, and which it indeed does have consciousness, et cetera.

But what do you mean by 'comes out of the foetus' - there is no clear cut point where you can say 'this is the moment that a life begins'.
 
Dylan phil
 
Reply Thu 23 Apr, 2009 01:20 am
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
Your basis for life is the heart- why? What differentiates it from other vital organs? What about people with artificial hearts- are they less alive, less human?


I'm not quite sure why I used that, but I would say anything that is living is a life, and anything that is living normally has a heart. I'm not a biologist or anything but IMO nothing differentiates it from other vital organs, it is just the first one that comes to my mind so I listed it. Anyone with something that is artificial is not less alive, but just living with an artificial part in their body. They could be considered less human because they may have a robotic heart, et cetera. (Futuristic, but is on the point.)

avatar6v7 wrote:
But what do you mean by 'comes out of the foetus' - there is no clear cut point where you can say 'this is the moment that a life begins'.


There may be no clear cut point where one can say that it is when life officially begins, but in my opinion that is when it does. Once the being is out of the womb and can come in contact with society itself, I would say that is living ( has consciousness (I guess? Can't necessarily prove it.), et cetera) / life as a human being. Until there is a scientific theory that can be proven, the only thing that could answer such a question is an opinion.
 
xris
 
Reply Fri 24 Apr, 2009 03:46 am
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
So what basis for ethics, or indeed morality, do you have?


So your view is that what constitutes a life is determined by whether we can keep it alive? But surely if the mother can keep it alive how can you draw the distinction between her doing so and something else doing so?
My ethics or morality can only ever be formed by necessity in this difficult subject.I was asked when life should be considered not why or when we should allow abortion.The distinction is in the detail.A women raped, a damaged foetus, all have or could give a reason.
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 06:59 pm
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:
In a great number of ethical debates, the big question has revolved around the fundamental question of life. For instance in the debate over abortion- is a newly fertilised egg a life? And if so is it a life in the sense of a plant, an insect, a cell or a fully fledged human being? Does life depend on the soul, on conciousness or the ability to survive independantly?
I find it hard to imagine a few cells as human, but what about a foetus? At what point, if not conception do we say 'now this being is human and to kill is murder? When does ensoulment happen or does it happen at all?

I you want to know what human life is; it is time, even for the unborn... But if you are looking for the meaning of life, and at what point one life should give way for another, then that is surely another question... And it is a problem beyond resolution because we cannot asign a true value to any moral concepts.. They are all subjective considerations, to a point, and that point is that we cannot live without moral values...
 
avatar6v7
 
Reply Wed 29 Apr, 2009 09:11 am
@xris,
xris wrote:
My ethics or morality can only ever be formed by necessity in this difficult subject.I was asked when life should be considered not why or when we should allow abortion.The distinction is in the detail.A women raped, a damaged foetus, all have or could give a reason.

Firstly how can you determine what is neccersary in ethical dillemnas such as abortion- which was simply one of the best examples of an ethical dillemna that forces us to consider what life is, rather than my central question- if you do not have any idea of what the stakes are- i.e. is somthing a life, what life is.
Fido wrote:
I you want to know what human life is; it is time, even for the unborn... But if you are looking for the meaning of life, and at what point one life should give way for another, then that is surely another question... And it is a problem beyond resolution because we cannot asign a true value to any moral concepts.. They are all subjective considerations, to a point, and that point is that we cannot live without moral values...

Too vague, please clarify.
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 29 Apr, 2009 10:45 am
@avatar6v7,
avatar6v7 wrote:


Too vague, please clarify.

If the question is one of law, then it is also a question of rights, and when ever anyone dies of violence it is for lack of rights...For capital punishment the prisoner must go through a process of being removed from his rights and protections... Now; life does not begin at conception...That is a notion out of metaphysics, that all men are created...Instead, life carries on in the child, if that is what people desire.... The question then, is not one of when life begins, because life bagan long ago and is only passed from one form to another... The question is one of rights and when people get rights... Since rights usually begin with an independent existence, to try to give the infant rights while in the womb means to deny rights to the mother...If any person is not free int heir own body, and what they do with it they are not free, which means most of us are not free unless we take that freedom in secret, and because we have no privacy...But rights and freedom are also a heritage, and one can only give to children the rights one has... So, if we want people to have rights, and children to have rights then the mother needs rights, and so the benefit some hope to give to the child they take from the mother...In fact, only the state grows more powerful at the expense of mother and child; but if the question is of abortion, then the problem is the want of rights, because with rights comes wealth, and power, and freedom... And who would not want to share rights with a child, since all good flows from them??? But slaves have always practiced infanticide, because who wants to share slavery and misery with ones own children -while they curse their lives and the mother who bore them????
 
YumClock
 
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 08:48 pm
@avatar6v7,
It's rather hard for me to read Fido's posts due to the use of periods and lack of hard line breaks.

I don't understand at all how people think that a fertilized egg is not "alive." Bacteria are alive. They're just as small.
It's all very Watchmen/Einstein, you can look at life like nothing's a miracle, or like everything is.
So the only reason we have stronger laws against killing humans is becuase we are humans.
Point is, the cell is human even before it's fertilized. But why cry over killing it? A healthy woman does it every month. And every sperm a man ever makes dies, minus one for each child he has.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 1 May, 2009 08:58 pm
@avatar6v7,
Sure the fertilized egg is alive...So is the unfertilized egg and sperm alive..It is life we pass on, and all your wanting to glorify it only makes the problem worse...It is not about life, but about rights, and rights are what living, independent people need to survive, and without their rights, and not surviving, their eggs and sperm become so many moot points... The problem in this world is not that zygotes have not enough rights, but that potential mothers do not have enough rights...There is no one having rights that does not want children... People without freedom having luxury do not want children, but rights are freedom and power, and since no one can live forever having no children, we want to give these powers as gifts to their own so they can enjoy them, and with them, enjoy life...No slave wants to share their misery, and it is possible to be a rich slave, or a luxurious slave...But the want of freedom is true poverty, because that is life without hope...
 
 

 
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