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Philosophy, critical thinking and ‘after-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’
  1. Michael Tooley
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael Tooley, Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado, 169 Hellems, UCB 232, Boulder, CO 80309-0232, USA; Michael.Tooley{at}

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Confronted with an article defending conclusions that many people judge problematic, philosophers are interested, first of all, in clarifying exactly what arguments are being offered for the views in question, and then, second, in carefully and dispassionately examining those arguments, to determine whether or not they are sound. As a philosopher, then, that is how I would naturally approach the article ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’, by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. Very few philosophical publications, however, have evoked either more widespread attention, or emotionally more heated reactions, than this article has. Because of that, I am going to proceed, initially, in a different fashion, and rather than focusing upon the specific arguments that Giubilini and Minerva offer for their conclusions, I am going to suggest that there are crucial background issues that need to be placed on the table, that any thoughtful reader needs to consider. I shall then go on to discuss how philosophers approach the topic of abortion, and attempt to arrive at sound conclusions concerning its moral status. Finally, I shall offer my assessment of the article by Giubilini and Minerva.

What is philosophy? Philosophy and the Socratic challenge

Many philosophy journals, because of their focus on intellectual questions that are quite remote from central human concerns, and also likely to involve, sooner or later, some difficult technical issues, have a readership that consists almost entirely of professional philosophers. This is not so, however, in the case of journals concerned with ethical questions, and especially issues of an applied sort, such as are addressed in ‘After-birth abortion’, where interested readers will include, for instance, professional philosophers, and individuals who work in the healthcare and legal professions, and whose philosophical training may well have been very limited. I want to begin, therefore, with some discussion of the nature of philosophy. The importance of …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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