Abortion is a Language and Concept Controversy

I created and posted this picture to reddit, making the point that abortion, in the minds of many, perhaps most, is a rights versus rights issue. Those who are uncomfortable with that will just define away the unborn, which is unconvincing to many, perhaps most, of us. The following on abortion, and then language, ensued.

Hefty-Barber-8256: Women don’t live in wombs.

Skyler: I was playing off of the original words so I used woman instead of female. Rhetoric.

Hefty-Barber-8256: An important difference. Women are not fetuses. They are fully grown born individuals. Individuated from the body of another.

Skyler: I would have written female but it would not have played against the graphic as well. This was simply a choice of rhetoric. Not a big deal.

Hefty-Barber-8256: Of course. It would have exposed your intellectual error. Fetuses are not individuals. The unborn are not either and neither deserve rights. Women are and have moral right to fully bodily sovereignty.

Skyler: That’s obviously the contention. Everyone has their own standard on what constitutes a person, a life, an individual deserving of having their rights and life respected, for humans and non-humans. Why should your standard prevail?

Hefty-Barber-8256: Because it is logically consistent. Coherent. Correct. That is, Right. Individual. Human. Rights. Such pertains only to an indepent human organism capable of living life by such rights. It is not a mere “codependent human ish etiquette”.

Skyler: Sounds to me like children aren’t humans deserving of the protection of their rights and life. That’s where your standard differs with my standard.

Hefty-Barber-8256: Children are already born, individual, from the mother. That is the reason why they can be argued to deserve a level of legal protection in the first place. It has the capacity to be individual in the first place.

However it is still the fully developed individual with the fully independent mind that is the only proper standard. Not “life” as a nonhuman arbitrary belief in “nature” and/or beings therein, or another incoherent one such as in the “soul”.

Your standard is not objective. It is your subjective opinion. The method is not a good one. It leads to the taking away of the actual right of the woman, who does not want to be a mother, of her own body to act as a mere vessel for an entity parasitical on her.

That is what is called involuntary servitude.

Skyler: Every standard is subjective, however reasonable or logical it may be (or seem). I have never once argued that a woman should not ultimately have the choice on this. They should. Here’s my essay if you missed it: https://everything-voluntary.com/my-personal-views-on-abortion

Hefty-Barber-8256: There is a definite, see objective, see validated, meaning to every term. Objective is not subjective or vice versa. Objectivity is something achieved by human beings, not pertaining to gods, the naturally given or the inevitable.


There is a definite, see objective, see validated, meaning to every term.

That’s demonstrably not true. Define “feminism” and try not to piss off the various waves of feminism.*

The solution: define your terms clearly before using them to make arguments. That’s as good as we can do.

*See this post by Caplan on this: https://everything-voluntary.com/against-argumentative-definitions-the-case-of-feminism

And something I wrote from that: https://everything-voluntary.com/feminism-masculinism-neither

Hefty-Barber-8256: Truth is not established through mass appeal or scepticism. It is only established through an objective process. Whoever gets the most pissed off is not my concern here.

Skyler: Language isn’t objective in the way you think. It’s mentally and socially constructed. I demonstrated that in my links.

Now if somebody reads the words I just typed to you and they don’t speak English there’s no objective meaning to them, right? Duh.

Hefty-Barber-8256: Constructed using objective methods.

There are many rules in the proper use of language. Some of them are taught in high schools, yet others only known to poets or philosophers. Many more minor generalizations have significant exceptions, yet are integrated into the language as a whole.

English is a systematized manner of both thought and vocal or literal expression. Whatever the nuances of ones particular context, it is integrated according to specific criteria — not subjective.

Skyler: You’ve described intersubjectivity. If you think the people you’re speaking to understand the words you’re using exactly the way you’re using them, you’re wrong. Even in philosophical papers when words are clearly defined other people come along and misunderstand and offer critiques that end up being equivocations or straw men. That’s why those are two logical fallacies that are at the top of the list of logical fallacies!

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. People clearly disagree on when life begins and when rights-deserving humanity begins. Fuck, people, scientists and philosophers, can’t even define life consistently. As a result people have very different feelings about the practice of abortion. That’s just the way it is.

Hefty-Barber-8256: No, you are as wrong as the ‘philosophers’ in academia that whisper in your ear.

Skyler: I have no idea why you just went creepy on me.

Hefty-Barber-8256: I did not. They and your mistaken respect for their subjectivist witch craft (metaphorically speaking, that last part of course) made you disregard human, individuated, life for the sake of just any life. A woman’s right traded away for the sake of an unthinking parasite to feed from inside of her body against her will.

Skyler: Now I know you haven’t read my essay. Try again. https://everything-voluntary.com/my-personal-views-on-abortion

Hefty-Barber-8256: You are wasting my time. You’ve had your pulpit right here and you didn’t convinced anyone. You were not even open to understanding, let alone opening a simple dictionary.

Skyler: You are wasting your own time. Don’t put your prerogatives on me. Duh.

The fact that you said I was willing to force women against their will to bear an unwanted child proves that you haven’t read what I’ve written, that you don’t know how I feel about this. Duh.

The abortion debate is not as simple as “words are objective”, obviously.

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Founder and editor of Everything-Voluntary.com and UnschoolingDads.com, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children. His writings include the column series “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” and “One Improved Unit,” and blog series “Two Cents“. Skyler also wrote the books No Hitting! and Toward a Free Society, and edited the books Everything Voluntary and Unschooling Dads. You can hear Skyler chatting away on his podcasts, Everything Voluntary and Thinking & Doing.