So, I had a long, long, long discussion of this all typed out. However, i typed it in Windows, which promptly gave me BSoD. I'm not about to rewrite the whole damned thing, so here's the reader's digest version. Firstly, a question: Is it desirable for society to protect the wellbeing of its members? I am going to assume you've said 'yes', as otherwise you're not a party to any of the following discussions anyway. Is it desirable to protect the lives of society's member? That's were things get complicated. Today, we'll look at three issues and see how a very simply difference on how this question is answered seems to be the dividing factor. The first position holds that it is desirable for society to protect human life or the life of a human being (using the same definition laid out in earlier discussions). The second position hold that it is the self or the conscious mind that is desirable to protect. We shall examine, in brief because I'm not about to retype a damned essay, how these positions influence policy and position in regards to three matters: abortion, life support and euthanisation of the braindead, and the treatment of certain psychiatric and medical conditions. Firstly, we shall examine the matter of abortion. The first position is perhaps the simplest to examine and hold that it is desirable/ethical to protect a human life. Naturally, the logical implication of this position most readily apparent is that one must object to abortion in all instances at all times. If one also accepts a level of utilitarianism, one might allow exceptions when done in the interest of protecting or saving life (for instance, non-self-terminating ectopic pregnancies). Now, this begs the question of whether a child born without a head or or without a brain is to be kept alive (in the purely biological sense of the term) and, if so, why. That most persons will not take the argument to this extent seems to imply that, despite their language (calling themselves 'pro-life'), they are not truly driven by an interest in protect the life of a human, but rather are in truth arguing from another direction. The second position holds that it is the conscious mind, or the self ('personhood') that it to be protected. This is perhaps the most common argument form the 'pro-choice' side of the debate. This line of thought can be broken into two groups. The first of these positions is that only existing minds (self conscious 'personhoods') qualify for this protection. This, of course, begs the question of how to quantify, measure, or detect self-awareness. Perhaps the simplest explanation is to measure the existence of brainwaves, erring on the side of caution like a lifeguard who acts as though a drowning victim is (still) alive if there is room for doubt. This principle guides all emergency medical personnel and it seems reasonable to follow the reasoning in this instance as well. The latter of these argument (and the position most 'pro-life' individuals seem to actually hold when you apply he Socratic method) is that systems which are expected to result in the emergence of a self-conscious mind are also to be protected (hence the objection to abortion very early in pregnancy or even from conception). Holders of the previous position oft refer to this (evidently unaware of the falsehood of their claims and total inability to express what they seem to actually be attempting to say) as 'potential life'. Now, these positions translate pretty well to the matter of euthanasia and life support. If one holds that it is a human life which is to be protected, then euthanasia is abhorrent (as is all death), whereas holders of the later position(s) can easily reconcile euthanasia with their personal beliefs by seeing the braindead individual as already 'gone' as the self-conscious mind has (by all appearances) ceased to be. Where this gets interesting is cases where either separation of the brain hemispheres or some psychological condition results in two or more distinct 'personhoods' to exist within one 'person' or body. The later position, to be logically consistent, must call for the protection of both 'persons' and oppose any treatment that would destroy any of these 'minds' or 'selves'. That, however, is a matter to be elaborated upon at another time.