Thomson’s Samaritanism Constraint

Philosophy in the Contemporary World 14 (2):112-126 (2007)
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Abstract

Judith Jarvis Thomson concludes “A Defense of Abortion” with a discussion of samaritanism. Whereas her rights-based arguments demonstrate the moral permissibility of virtually all abortions, this new consideration of samaritanism provides grounds for morally objecting to certain abortions that are otherwise morally pemissible given strictly rights-based considerations. I argue, first, that this samaritanism constraint on the moral permissibility of abortion involves an appeal to virtue-theoretical considerations. I then show why this hybridization of rights-based considerations and virtue-theoretical considerations has advantages over responses to the moral status of abortion that are either exclusively rights-based, or else exclusively virtue-theoretical. I conclude by offering some thoughts on how to utilize this hybrid strategy outside of Thomson’s particular context, as well as why we might generally favor such a strategy in our moral reasoning.

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