the violinist hypothetical

In a recent article by Barton Hinkle he references Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous-violinst hypothetical (in “A Defense of Abortion”). Hinkle describes the hypothetical as such:

Imagine you wake up one morning “back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours . . . .To unplug you would be to kill him . . . Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it?”

Of course, the professor Thomson is making a parallel to finding a new little baby growing inside a woman. The claim is that the person has no right to leach off of you for support. The baby is equated to the violinist (why a famous violinist when an analogy to any innocent human should suffice?), and both are labeled as leaches. Answering the hypothetical, I would argue the violinist has no right to leach off of you for support. With that being said, abortion is still evil.

Here is another hypothetical: Pretend a woman has a newborn child (as a father of three, I know more than anyone that newborns are entirely helpless). Pretend she looks at her baby and decides that she does not want the responsibility of caring for a newborn. Pretend also that no one else in society wants to take care of that child, or pretend she is on a deserted island. She could have ample supplies or not, it does not matter. Would that mother be evil for abandoning her child?*

Ignoring that most pregnancies are the result of consenting sexual relations, and that when engaging in these relations people are acknowledging responsibility for potential children (similar to when people sign a contract to adopt children), the special cases still do not warrant exception. Parents have a moral obligation to their children, whether they want it or not. An unborn baby is no different.

When a mother or father takes active steps to kill their own children (pretend in the violinist hypothetical that upon waking the patient decided to disconnect the violinist by chopping off the violinist’s arms and legs) this is decidedly more evil.

The violinist hypothetical is a shallow attempt to blindside Christians with a novel argument.

*If this is answered “yes, because she accepted responsibility initially.” The Christian should ask why that backsliding is different than backsliding on what type of ice cream to have for desert. When debating atheists, remember that all morality is subjective to them, and, therefore, their positions are inherently inconsistent and arbitrary. Why is life valuable? Why is their concept of morality to be valued over Jeffery Dahmer’s? What makes our lives more valuable than other animals? They will never answer the “why’s” to their beliefs.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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