Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Newcomers and Natural Law

Via KiwiPundit, there's another NZ blog on the block: Running Blog Capitalist. And today, he's talking about Abortion (oh god), nodding approvingly at this reply to "natural law" arguments from SOLOHQ (whereever that is):

The real meaning of "natural law" is that entities act according to their nature. Man's nature is to change nature - and therefore to change the consequences of natural law. By building silos, man, according to the nature of his natural law, changes the natural law of crop failures and famines. By surgery and medication, man changes the natural law of pain and disease. And by abortion, man changes the "natural law" of unwanted or inconvenient pregnancy.

While this line of argument has some appeal (after all, what are we if not a species that alters its environment to conform to its needs), I think it's a mistake. As every undergraduate student of Philosophy knows, there's a far better counter to "Natural Law" arguments in ethics, namely Hume's is-ought distinction. This basically points out that you can't go from premises about the world ("is" statements) to conclusions about what we should or shouldn't do ("ought" statements) without some additional linking premise(s) introducing the moral content. If such a premise is not provided, the argument does not follow and can be dismissed. If it is provided, it can be attacked. And given the weakness of the typical linking premises (god, or "natural = good; unnatural = bad"), attacking them is pretty easy.