On the other hand, I can't see how "more preference = more happiness = more good/utility."
With these preliminaries out of the way, here is Singer's position on abortion: "My suggestion, then, is that we accord the life of a fetus no greater value than the life of a non-human animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc. Since no fetus is a person, no fetus has the same claim to life as a person." (page 151) Note that this is not quite as drastic as it sounds: In the preceding chapters, Singer spends several dozens of pages arguing for a radical upgrade in non-human animals' claim to life.
joefromchicago wrote:On the other hand, I can't see how "more preference = more happiness = more good/utility."
U-oh. I just read a little further, and noticed that Singer justifies the distinction in ways that I haven't yet addressed. I guess I'll just go back to reading the whole book and get back to you after that.
Irresolvable? What part of "self-awareness and rationality" don't you understand?
doesn't mean he's right
That's just one person's definition of "personhood." It's not logically ineluctable, and so there's nothing to say that Singer's definition is correct or that anyone else should accept it.
I have no quarrel with any of that. But as I said, just because Singer is internally consistent with his definition and usage of the term doesn't mean he's right.
Singer's arguments don't depend on anyone's definition of what's a "person" though. They only depend on rationality and self-awareness.
The only type of abortion argument that, to my mind, has any compelling force is one that considers the fetus's personhood to be irrelevant.
We're talking past each other.
Rather, it's that, referring back to the original post, I think anyone using such an argument will, sooner or later, come to the point where the two sides arrive at an irresolvable impasse: i.e. at their dueling definitions of "personhood."
And how are you measuring self-awareness, anyhow?
Well, at the very least, we know that self-awareness depends on a working nervous system.