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Ronald Dworkin on Abortion and Assisted Suicide
Author(s): F. M. Kamm
Reviewed work(s):
Source: The Journal of Ethics, Vol. 5, No. 3, Morality and the Law: The Contributions of
Ronald Dworkin to the Philosophy of Law (2001), pp. 221-240
Published by:
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 F.M.
KAMM
RONALD DWORKIN ON ABORTION AND ASSISTED SUICIDE*
(Received
25
April
2000;
accepted
23
May
2001)
ABSTRACT.
In the
first
part
of
this
I raise
about
Dworkin's
of
article,
questions
theory
to
understand
the
intrinsic
value
of
life
and
about
the
adequacy
of his
abortion
in
proposal
terms
of different
of
valuing
life.
In the second
of
the
article,
I consider
his
argu
ways
part
ment
in "The
Brief
on Assisted
which
claims
that
the distinction
Philosophers'
Suicide",
between
and
die
is
morally
the distinction
between
and
irrelevant,
killing
letting
intending
can
be
morally
so. I
argue
death
relevant
but
is not
that the
killing/letting
foreseeing
always
die
distinction
can be
relevant
in the context
of
assisted
but
also
show
when
it is
suicide,
can
be
morally
not.
Then
I consider
the
distinction
irrelevant
and
why
intention/foresight
an alternative
for
physician-assisted
suicide.
conclude
argument
by presenting
KEY
WORDS:
Doctrine
of Double
and
death,
abortion,
Effect,
foreseeing
intending
on
Assisted
intrinsic
and
The
Brief
value,
die,
inviolability,
killing
letting
Philosophers'
life
value
of
Suicide,
suicide,
physician-assisted
contributions
to the
discussion
of
Ronald
Dworkin
has made
important
the
of abortion
and
suicide.
and moral
legal
problems
physician-assisted
on
as
are
In this
article,
I wish
to consider
his
views
these matters
they
in
his
and
in the "The
book
expressed
Life's
Dominion,1
Philosophers'
is
a
coauthor.2
Brief
on
Physician-Assisted
of which
he
Suicide,"
*
This
article
draws
on material
in
the
articles
the
author:
following
previous
by
(1)
"Abortion
and
the Value
of Life:
A Discussion
of
Life's
Columbia
Law
Review
Dominion,"
95
(1995), pp.
160-221; (2)
"Theory
and
Analogy
in the
Law," Arizona
State Law Review
29
the Doctrine
of Double
405-425;
(1997),
pp.
(3)
"Physician-Assisted
Suicide,
Effect,
and
the Ground
of
Value,"
Ethics
109
(1999),
pp.
586-605;
(4)
"Euthanasia,
Physician
Assisted
and
in M.
R.
Rhodes
and A.
Silvers
Suicide,
Death,"
Battin,
Intending
(eds.),
Suicide:
the Debate
Physician-Assisted
(London:
1998),
pp.
28-62;
Expanding
Routledge,
(5)
"A
Right
to Choose
The
Boston
Review
22
21-23.
Death,"
(1997),
pp.
1
Ronald
Dominion:
An
about
and
Dworkin,
Abortion,
Euthanasia,
Life's
Argument
Individual
Freedom
York:
Alfred
A.
(New
Knopf,
1993).
2
Ronald
Thomas
Robert
John
Rawls,
Thomas
Scanlon
and
Dworkin,
Nozick,
Nagel,
Judith
"The
Brief
on Assisted
New
York Review
of
Books
Thomson,
Suicide,"
Philosophers'
44
41-47.
(March
27,
1997),
pp.
U
The Journal
of
Ethics
5:
221-240,2001.
?
2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Printed in theNetherlands.
f"
222
F.M.KAMM
I
A.
Summary
In his
book,
Ronald
Dworkin
makes
certain
claims
about
Dominion,
Life's
the
nature
of
the
intrinsic
value
of
the nature
of
the
life,
inviolability,
badness
of
death,
and the
grounds
for the
permissibility
of abortion.
I shall
discuss
several
of these claims.
Dworkin
thinks
we
believe
in
the
sacredness
of
individual
life
is
a
form
fetal
life).
He
sacredness
of
intrinsic
value
says
(including
early
of whether
it serves
interests
He
independent
anyone's
instrumentally.
says
intrinsic
value
is also
value
of whether
value,
anyone
objective
independent
cares
about
it. The
he
says,
is nonincremental
value:
that
sacred,
something
sacred
is
valuable
is
not a reason
to
produce
more
of
it,
but
is reason
to treat
what
exists
of
it
properly.
"Sacred"
a
of
suggests
religious
interpretation
value
for this is
INOV);
intrinsic,
nonincremental,
(my
acronym
objective
a
secular
he
means
Dworkin
identifies
term
that,
he
says,
what
conveys
by
sacred:
"inviolable."
What
makes
have
INOV?
Dworkin
considers
the
sacred
something
in terms
of
the
of
the
and human
God,
Nature,
primarily
history
entity.
the
more
action
as creative
forces
INOV
to
many
of
their
give
products;
in the
entities,
the more
value
have.
investment
of these creative
forces
they
a bad
cause
can
an
of
intrinsic
Dworkin
looks
Also,
value;
deprive
entity
on
that
a
fetus
from
intrinsic
the view
that results
rape
has
less
favorably
than one
that does
not.
value
an
with
INOV
has
But when
Destroying
entity
always
negative
weight.
a
does
it have
more,
and when
Dworkin
less,
presents
negative
weight?
thesis,
which
I call
the Investment
Waste
Thesis
(IWT).
Roughly,
special
a death
becomes
worse
as
the ratio
between
the outcome
of
a creative
if
one
investment
and
the creative
investment
itself
decreases.
However,
in
an
has
invested
but
it has
returned
creatively
entity,
already
completely
in
it,
or
will
on
the
investment
in
it,
will
never
return
on
the
investment
on
is
not
bad. He
not return much
the investment
in
it,
then
its death
very
of
a
creative
we
writes:
"We
the waste
investment
not
for what
regret
just
do not
have,
but because
of the
badness
of
great
effort
frustrated."3
special
of
a
is less bad
than
that of a
So
the death
sixty-year-old
person
twenty
more
we
we
have
invested
in the
person;
year-old
though
sixty-year-old,
a
return
on our
but
we
a
lot
in
have
also
have
invested
investment,
reaped
a return.
In
the
case
of
an
the
without
fetus,
early
twenty-year-old
reaping
in
it,
so
there
much
life
is lost
if it
dies,
but
little has
been
invested
is
3
Dworkin,
79.
Dominion,
Life's
p.
RONALDDWORKINON ABORTIONAND ASSISTED SUICIDE
223
not much
waste.
The
older
the fetus
the more
investment
is lost
becomes,
return.
without
A
crucial
for
abortion,
in
Dworkin's
two
is that at least
view,
problem
-
different
of creative
investment
exist
(or God-driven)
types
biological
-
and human
and
a woman
and
a
fetus will
both
to
greater
types
embody
and
lesser
For
some
God's
or nature's
is of
investment
degrees.4
people,
and the continued
existence
of that natural
or God
paramount
importance,
a
offers
For other
the human
given
component
significant
payoff.
people,
creative
investment
and
the
in terms
of
human
are
achievement
payoff
more
these
sources
of INOV
and
their
(sacredness)
important.
Balancing
in
the
fetus,
in
the
woman,
and
in
anyone
else
affected
presence
positively
or
negatively
an
abortion,
is not
a
matter
Dworkin
of
philosoph
thinks,
by
ical
it comes
to a matter
closer
of
belief
argumentation;
(where
religious
this does
not
imply
belief
in
God).
necessarily
the
woman
The
fetus
and
different
instances
of
and
INOV,
represent
the two can
conflict,
is
more
since
there
human
investment
in the
woman,
and
God's
or nature's
in the fetus.
investment
The
IWT
also
primarily
a
woman's
has
for
whether
or other
losses
implications
death,
deciding
suffered
without
an
abortion,
is
worse
than the death
of her fetus
if aborted.
Dworkin
that at least in the view
of
some,
more
has been
in
invested
argues
the
woman
than in the
fetus,
and so it is worse
if
she,
rather than the
fetus,
is not
the
opportunity
to return on an
investment.
the
woman
But
also
given
has
interests
and
since
she
is
a
person
in a
philosophical,
a
moral,
rights,
and
a
constitutional
sense.
In Dworkin's
it is
obvious
the fetus
has
view,
no
or
rights.
that
no one
interests
Dworkin
could
believe
that the
argues
fetus has either
or
rights
interests
that
protect
those
since
it
early
interests,
has
never
had mental
states.5 When
rather
than
an
preserving
destroying
entity
with
on
the
rights
of
a
full-fledged
INOV would
and interests
impose
then the INOV
is
overridden.
person,
B.
Questions
are some
Here
about
Dworkin's
views:
questions
(1)
Does
a
Dworkin
have
of the intrinsic
value
of
life?
really
theory
a
sacred
is
to be
valuable
Although
entity
supposed
intrinsically,
Dworkin
it is sacred
because
of
its
history.
that "the
nerve
He
says
says
of
the
we
sacred
lies
in the value
attach
to a
process
or
or
enterprise
rather
than to its results
considered
from
how
project
independently
they
4
p.
91.
Dworkin,
Dominion,
Life's
5
16.
Dworkin,
Dominion,
Life's
p.
224
F.M.KAMM
were
One
that the value
of
life
is not
intrinsic
if
argue
produced."6
might
is
at
its
core,
seems
for
this
to situate
the
in relation
(life)
history
entity
to
else
the combination
of which
has
value.
This
(a
process),
something
means
that life would
have
extrinsic
not
intrinsic
that
is,
value
condi
value,
on
part
of
a
certain whole.
tional
its
being
This
is consistent
with
its
being
valuable
as an
end,
rather
than as a mere
instrument
(similarly,
happiness
be
valuable
on
merit,
but
conditional
is
sought
for
might
only
happiness
its own
not
as an
Dworkin
makes
the mistake
sake,
instrument).
merely
of
that intrinsic
is to be contrasted
with
instrumental
and
value,
thinking
he
is
to
that
life
is valuable
not
merely
eager
argue
But,
instrumentally.
as
Christine
is
to
be
has
instrinsic
contrasted
with
Korsgaard
argued,7
not
is
to
be
instrumental.
What
is instrumental
contrasted
with
extrinsic,
what
is an end.
Hence,
Dworkin
seems
to have
a
theory
about
the
extrinsic
but noninstrumental
value
of
life.
in its
cause
(2)
Does
the value
of
to
changes
in the
way
something
respond
that
Dworkin
describes?
It
may
be
in the case
to tell
if
of
many
possible
things
(e.g.,
persons)
have
value
their
properties
of their
they
by examining
independent
history.
as a
person
on
one's
if
one
one's
value
Then
Suppose
depended
history.
were
and
one
had been
as a
rational
deceived
about
one's
created
and
past,
one
second
some
one
self-conscious
rape
of
nature,
being
ago by
perhaps
would
not have
the intrinsic
value
one
one had. This
seems
incor
thought
rect.
Likewise,
in
some
instances
of life itself
views,
people's
(independent
of
their
histories,
have
intrinsic
value
because
fetuses,
e.g.,
caterpillars),
of
their
or other
characteristics.
If Rembrandt
had
animation,
complexity,
created
The
under
would
the
painting
have
been
coercion,
any
Nightwatch
less valuable?
If
not,
we
should
doubt
Dworkin's
that the
fetus
that
claim
results
from
rape
has
less
intrinsic
value
because
it
began
in the frustration
of the woman's
life.8
an
intrinsic
(3)
Can
value
be nonincremental?
that
we
A
crucial
in
dealing
with Dworkin's
claim
do not have
question
a reason
to
add
more
is the
of what
is
undoubtedly
valuable
following:
we
believe
that
the world
has
so far contained
Suppose
through
history,
in it. Then
we
discover
that in fact we miscal
forty
billion
happy
people
in the
same
culated
and
there have
been
billion
time
really
eighty
people
lives
no better
or worse
than the
forty
billion.
each
of whom
lived
period,
6
p.
78.
Dworkin,
Dominion,
Life's
7
See
C.
"Two
Distinctions
in
Goodness,"
The
Review
92
Philosophical
Korsgaard,
(1983), pp.
169-195.
8
p.
96.
Dworkin,
Dominion,
Life's
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