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Over and above fairness, the concept of justice presupposes that in any community no one member's wellbeing or life plan is inexorably dependent on the consumption or exploitation of other members. Renunciation of such use of others constitutes moral sociability, without which moral considerability is useless and possibly meaningless. To know if a creature is morally sociable, we must know it in its community; we must know its ecological profile, its species. Justice can be blind to species no more than to circumstance. Speciesism, the recognition of rights on the basis of group membership rather than solely on the basis of moral considerations at the level of the individual creature, embodies this assertion but is often described as a variant of Nazi racism. I consider this description and find it unwarranted, most obviously because Nazi racism extolled the stronger and the abuser and condemned the weaker and the abused, be they species or individuals, humans or animals. To the contrary, I present an argument for speciesism as a precondition to justice.
In 1977, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) changed the section on abortion in the colonial criminal code which Israel inherited from the British mandate in Palestine. Like most other Western countries who relaxed their laws on abortion in the 1960s-80s, Israel made abortion legal for almost all women who seek it. Nonetheless, the Israeli law on abortion differs substantially from other nations' laws. In no stage of pregnancy does the woman have an absolute right to abort—she always needs an approval from a special committee; yet, the woman's stage of pregnancy is nowhere a relevant legal criterion for permitting or forbidding abortion. The law does not explicitly grant the fetus any value either, as the law speaks only of “termination of pregnancy.” Indeed, Israel has one of the highest rates of late abortions among the developed countries and one of the most liberal laws on the regulation of infertility treatments and research on extra-corporeal embryos.
Jewish religious law (Halakhah) ignores both questions central to the modern ethical, political and legal debate on abortion: the status of the fetus and the autonomy of women. Furthermore, Halakhah is not expressed in the language of rights, such as the rights to life and privacy, but rather in the language of obligations and limitations on action. A rich symbolic world of values and virtues complements halakhic positivist formalism by inspiring and demonstrating desirable ways of life and modes of valuing human action. Regarding abortion, the dialectics between Jewish law (the formal law, which delineates right from wrong) and morality (which inspires and portrays ideal modes of action as part of a largely oral tradition of private counseling and synagogue preaching) reach a powerful climax. The religious law prohibiting abortion is one of the most liberal among human legal systems, but the values of procreation and preservation of human life that inform the moral discussion are fundamental.
“Dissecting Bioethics,” edited by Tuija Takala and Matti Häyry, welcomes contributions on the conceptual and theoretical dimensions of bioethics.
The section is dedicated to the idea that words defined by bioethicists and others should not be allowed to imprison people's actual concerns, emotions, and thoughts. Papers that expose the many meanings of a concept, describe the different readings of a moral doctrine, or provide an alternative angle to seemingly self-evident issues are therefore particularly appreciated.
The themes covered in the section so far include dignity, naturalness, public interest, community, disability, autonomy, parity of reasoning, symbolic appeals, and toleration.
All submitted papers are peer reviewed. To submit a paper or to discuss a suitable topic, contact Tuija Takala at email@example.com.
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