Teaching Philosophy 28 (3):213-235 (2005)
Judith Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” is one of the most widely taught papers in undergraduate philosophy, yet it is notoriously difficult to teach. Thomson uses simple terminology and imaginative thought experiments, but her philosophical moves are complex and sometimes difficult to explain to a class still mystified by the prospect of being kidnapped to save a critically ill violinist. My aim here is to identify four sources of difficulty that tend to arise when teaching this paper. In my experience, these four sources of difficulty create significant problems for undergraduate students, yet each one is easy for instructors to underestimate. My objective is therefore to identify the problems, explain why they tend to occur and warn other instructors about their potential impact in the classroom
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