Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Challenge for My Logic Students

Right now in my MCCC Logic classes I'm teaching out of Vaughn's chapter 2 - Obstacles to Critical Thinking. One type of obstacle that hinders the ability to think rationally and clearly is emotion. Emotion is not against logical thinking, but over-emotion can cloud good thinking.

I like to give examples that stimulate discussion and represent logical reasoning. So tonight I presented a logical argument against abortion.

If a student sends me, by e-mail, a logical evaluation of my argument (either for or against), then I will give them some extra points on the coming exam, plus post their evaluations on my blog (anonymously). Then we'll dialogue about these things in next Tuesday's and Wednesday's classes. (

The argument, in the form I gave it, used hypothetical syllogism, the form of which is:

1. If A, then B.
2. If B, then C.
3. Therefore, if A then C.

For example:

1. If it rains, then the ground gets wet.
2. If the ground gets wet, then we won't have the picnic.
3. Therefore, if it rains, then we won't have the picnic.

All that's needed for the picnic to be cancelled is for the statement It is raining to be true.

Now consider this argument against abortion, following the non-religious reasoning of Baylor U. philosopher and jurisprudential professor Francis Beckwith.

1. If X is a conceptus, then X is a person.
2. If X is a person, then X has a right to life.
3.. Therefore, if X is a conceptus then X has a right to life and abortion is wrong.

All that's needed for abortion to be wrong is for the statement The cenceptus is a person to be true.

The crucial premise is 1. Most agree that 2 is true.

Is the statement The conceptus is a person true?

Here I briefly presented the reasoning of Christopher Hitchens who, though an atheist, argued for the truth of 1. Hitchens stated his interest in the well-being of the unborn person because, as he writes, "I used to be one." All of us, Hitchens says, began our careers as a "blastocyst." All of our needed encoding for life was present, in us. A person's life, thought Hitchens, obviously begins at conception. The fertilized egg ("conceptus") was a person; that person was "us," inchoately.

MCCC students - how would you logically argument against this? Or, what additional logical support could you add to this?