Ideas of Judith (Jarvis) Thomson, by Theme

[American, b.1929, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.]

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9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 5. Temporal Parts
Temporal parts is a crazy doctrine, because it entails constantly creating stuff ex nihilo
     Full Idea: Thomson famously objects that the doctrine of temporal parts is 'a crazy metaphysic - obviously false', since it entails that material objects are constantly being generated ex nihilo (or, at least, the stuff of which they are composed is).
     From: report of Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (Parthood and Identity across Time [1983], p.210) by Kathrin Koslicki - The Structure of Objects 2.2
     A reaction: The related objections are to ask what the temporal 'width' of a part is, and whether the joins are visible.
How can point-duration slices of people have beliefs or desires?
     Full Idea: Can one really think that point-duration temporal slices of bodies believe things or want things?
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (People and Their Bodies [1997], p.211), quoted by Katherine Hawley - How Things Persist 2.9 n21
     A reaction: There is a problem with a slice doing anything long-term. The bottom line is that things are said to 'endure', but that is precisely what time-slices are unable to do. Hawley rejects this idea.
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 3. Abortion
The right to life does not bestow the right to use someone else's body to support that life
     Full Idea: Having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person's body.
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971], p.131)
     A reaction: A very nice point. You have a right to your life once you are the sole owner of it.
The right to life is not a right not to be killed, but not to be killed unjustly
     Full Idea: Maybe the right to life consists not in the right not to be killed, but in the right not to be killed unjustly.
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971], p.131)
     A reaction: Sounds tautological. There is no right to life, then, but just the requirement that people behave justly?
Is someone's right to life diminished if they were conceived by a rape?
     Full Idea: Can we say that a person has a right to life only if they didn't come into existence through rape, or that the latter have less right to life?
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971], p.126)
     A reaction: This would clearly be an inconsistency for some opponents of abortion who allow rape as an exception.
No one is morally required to make huge sacrifices to keep someone else alive for nine months
     Full Idea: No one is morally required to make large sacrifices, of health, and other interests and commitments, for nine months, in order to keep another person alive.
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971], p.135)
     A reaction: It is a trade-off. It might become a duty if society (or even a husband) urgently needed the baby.
A newly fertilized ovum is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree
     Full Idea: A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree.
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971], p.125)
     A reaction: This relies heavily on the philosopher's concept of a 'person', but it seems right to me.
Maybe abortion can be justified despite the foetus having full human rights
     Full Idea: Thomson suggests that abortion can be justified without the need to deny that the foetus has the moral rights of a human person.
     From: report of Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971]) by Philippa Foot - Killing and Letting Die p.86
     A reaction: Thomson uses a dubious analogy between pregnancy and being hooked up to someone for life-support. Presumably killing an innocent person is occasionally justifiable, but the situation would normally be more abnormal than pregnancy.
The foetus is safe in the womb, so abortion initiates its death, with the mother as the agent.
     Full Idea: A fetus is not in jeopardy because it is in the womb, so an abortion originates the fatal sequence, and the mother is the agent. Hence Thomson's argument is invalid, and we must return to question of the moral status of the foetus.
     From: comment on Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971]) by Philippa Foot - Killing and Letting Die p.86
     A reaction: The problem would be if a 'person' was safe, but only if I continue some sustained effort which is not required of me by normal duties.
It can't be murder for a mother to perform an abortion on herself to save her own life
     Full Idea: It cannot seriously be thought to be murder if a mother performs an abortion on herself to save her own life (if, say, she had a serious heart condition).
     From: Judith (Jarvis) Thomson (A Defense of Abortion [1971], p.127)
     A reaction: An extreme view might condemn such an action, but it can hardly be based on the 'sanctity of life'.