Monday, April 5

Voting for life. The Mitigated & the Unmitigated.

[The brief introduction to this exchange is posted on April 19 as VOTING FOR LIFE: PREAMBLE. The following was written on April 16.]#13
Fanni: The second premise of your argument goes to the essence of your way of thinking. It is as follows:

Robert: "Abortion is an unmitigated evil which harms women healthwise, as 31 years of medical research regarding abortion on demand has demonstrated, as well as killing their children."

Fanni: Using this second premise to conclude that, unlike the mitigated evil of corporations, abortion is an unmitigated evil, begs the question both of what is meant by "the evil of corporations" and of what makes abortion an evil "unmitigated." What does "unmitigated" mean here? The etymology of "mitigated" suggests softening or alleviating, and not, as your argument would suggest, "multi-faceted, more abstract than the act of destroying a fetus" (in accordance, specifically, with your qualification, "Like any large organization..."). The question is, then: how is any other violence or "evil" mitigated, softened, alleviated? Certainly a specific act or form of violence perpetrated by a corporation is not alleviated by the organizational structure of the corporation. The confusion you have raised through your argument stems from assimilating "corporations" and "unmitigated evil done by corporations." These two must remain distinct. Agreeing that there are often wholly pernicious acts perpetrated by corporations would not mean agreeing that the corporations themselves are evil in nature; all I agree to is the assertion that corporations, whose driving principle is profit-making, often commit reprehensible deeds that endanger and cost the lives of innocent people, and in my message I asked if this fact could ever enter into your calculations of how best to respect life. I have never argued that corporations are an unmitigated evil; thus, my agreeing with the premise that "corporations are a mitigated evil (because they often commit unmitigated evil but do positive things as well)" does not mean that I hold that corporations are themselves, in every respect, evil. Nor does it render illegitimate my questions concerning what is meant by the "unmitigated evil" of abortion. Those questions include the following and, if you would kindly address them, they would offer substance to our discussion:

Is abortion always, in every context, and from every possible perspective, unmitigated? If so, why can't other forms of violence be unmitigated, whether committed by corporations or by other means? Or can they? And if they can, how have you established that they, either singly or as the whole, are less important than the unmitigated violence of abortion?
The two things that you have likened to one another in your argument are disproportionate. One could attempt to return some degree of proportionality to the equation by replacing "corporations" with "the destruction of an innocent civilian by U.S. fire power." Or, on the other side, we could replace "abortion" with "health care services" and try to liken health care services in some respect to "corporations." At least, there, the semblance of proportionality would have been respected. You may revile the phrase "health care services" or the institutions that correspond to it and see a slaughterhouse where others see a health care center, but it does not commend your argument in the least for you to find something to praise about the multi-faceted practices of corporations, and then to conclude that, compared to this, the act of destroying a fetus is definitely worse – an unmitigated evil.

I am uncertain what is entailed by this idea of "unmitigated evil," and I grant that there may be something more to it than it appears at present, but even if both premises were acceptable, it does not follow that the institutions that support abortion are an unmitigated evil simply because you state in the second premise that abortion is an unmitigated evil – I point this out even if that is not what you said – just as it does not follow that a corporation is an unmitigated evil if a corporation has been found to poison a child, or push the government into unjust war-making that has cost the lives of thousands. We would agree, wouldn't we, that it is the poisoning, the killing, and the aborting that – if I understand exactly what "unmitigated" means for you – constitute unmitigated evils. Therefore, your task is not to exculpate corporations by offering mitigating depictions of their multiple functions and to use this as a way to argue for supporting the lesser evil (Bush's corporatism). Rather, it is to explain to me how it is that abortion, as an unmitigated evil, enjoys massive attention and priority when compared to other unmitigated evils; or, if you do not allow for the existence of the latter, to explain why abortion is the only truly unmitigated evil.

As I said, it does not follow by implication from your comments that the corporate and political institutions that support the indiscriminate killing of civilians or the intentional destruction of fetuses are themselves unmitigated evils. Certainly you would be able to find something positive to say about the institutions that support abortions and provide health care of multiple kinds, generally speaking, just as you have about corporate practices, generally speaking? You will say, "No, it's not medicine; it's murder!" And I would offer, in the same terms, that "unnecessarily polluting the air I breathe is not a benefit to everyone; it shortens my lifespan and increases asthma in measurable ways among urban youth in particular," or that "destruction by unjustified and reckless U.S. firepower of a two-year old Iraqi girl is not a victory for democracy, it's murder!" In short, we need to put these pseudo-arguments aside if we are going to advance our discussion.[1]

[1] One could easily offer this same appearance of an argument on any number of issues and use it against Bush. For example: Ralph Nader fights for a living wage for America's workers and would certainly propose legislation to see it come about, while most Republicans argue that paying workers a living wage will hurt employers' bottom line and thus limit their hiring capabilities; therefore, the idea of a living wage is perhaps a mitigated evil, since allowing people to earn enough to live on for their full-time labor obviously has a positive ring about it, too; on the other hand, it has been rigorously documented that Bush's decision to let irrigators deplete the waters of the Klamath River, in the face of massive protests and warnings from environmentalists and others about the harm this would have on the salmon population, led to the sudden death of more than 35,000 salmon, or nearly 30 percent of the river's salmon population. Now, since this caving-in to business interests to the detriment of the natural environment and God-given life forms is not only an unmitigated evil, from the perspective of each one of those 35,000 fish and in consideration the richness of life that the natural habitat provides all humans (which is a commonwealth not belonging to any commercial interests), but is also typical of the Bush administration, observable in hundreds of other cases, and precisely the sort of corporate-driven destruction of the environment against which Nader has the knowledge and will power to fight, it behooves us to support the candidate who will argue for the mitigated evil of a living wage for full-time working Americans and to remove the fish-killer from office.