‘TATEIWA Shin'ya 1997 0n Private Property (2nd edition, 2013)
chapter 5 "The problem of demarcation", Section 3 "The line between what is human and what is not"
1@The human species or the qualifications needed to be human ?
2@People who respond to a being which has been born and raised by people as a person.
3 The limits of approaches based on "qualifications".
The next kind of approach which can be offered, arguments which propose "qualifications"(I give some of my thoughts on how these kinds of arguments has ended up being employed within the discourse in section three of chapter seven), is no more persuasive than the other approaches outlined above.
What proponents of this kind of approach say does indeed have a certain appeal. I think it is true that our sensations and consciousness are important aspects of our lives (I will return to the idea that we cannot discard these qualities later). The reason that I do not want to die seems to be that I still have things I want to do or pleasures I want to enjoy. But this fact is distinct from the claim that it is not wrong to kill beings which (apparently) do not possess consciousness.
First, if we look at the list of beings they say it is acceptable to kill we see that at least some of the beings included are not "insensate" or beings "without consciousness". To begin with they often make judgments about whether or not a being is "insensate" or "without consciousness" in cases where to do so is extremely suspect. This is particularly evident in cases in which I.Q., for example, is offered as a standard of qualification. In other words, even if we assume that the being in question having some particular kind of relationship with itself or the world around it is to be seen as important, in most cases the proponents of this kind of approach define this connection quite narrowly and without indicating any basis for the standard(s) they establish. Even if we assume that higher levels of awareness and consciousness are better, it remains unclear why lower levels of these qualities should make it acceptable to take the life of the being or beings in question.
Second, if in a particular instance this "content" is not expected to be found in the being in question then this is all this approach can say; it cannot be considered an approach based on the being in question itself. If the guiding principle adopted is respect for self determination, it can then be said that"we must not do anything to a being against its will". If so all we can say about the state of lacking consciousness is that self determination and decision making ability are not present; we cannot say, of course, that the being in question has itself come to the decision that dying would be acceptable since to go on living would have no value. Therefore the criterion being put forward here cannot be seen as something that conforms to or is based on the being in question itself. If the judgment of the person in question is to be used as a criterion, then it is not acceptable to kill them [in cases where they cannot exercise self determination]. We are the ones who establish these standards and we are the ones who demand that beings satisfy these conditions in order to be allowed to survive.
The above are some of the problems which arise concerning the connections between the various premises and elements of this approach. Another method which is sometimes employed when this approach is asserted or examined is to describe the connections between a generally accepted principle or common judgment concerning practical situations and the assertion in question. The proponents of this approach attempt to justify their own assertions by either using our "common sense" to gain a foothold for their argument or by appealing to it directly. Should we accept the conclusions drawn from these kinds of assertions?
If we must choose, for example, between killing a very clever chimpanzee or a less clever human being, if the question is one of possessing certain "qualifications" then we will conclude that it is the latter who must die. In other words, asserting the importance of "qualifications" does not justify giving human beings a privileged status. Some people may not have a problem with this (see notes eight and nine) - assuming that all human beings would agree with an assertion regarding this kind of subject is itself difficult, and this is part of the difficulty that must be faced in dealing with this sort of issue. But if this rejection of human privilege is not acceptable to a relatively large number of people then the scheme used by proponents of this approach in which they put forth the validity of their own claims by relying on what is generally accepted will not be successful.
@Furthermore, when they assert that the killing of newborns is not murder (not an unjustifiable killing) because these beings are not yet conscious, while in most cases these beings which are seen as being permissible to kill are beings which will (probably) not ever become conscious, if their logic in allowing the killing of fetuses is held to there should be no problem with killing beings who are at present without consciousness whatever sort of being they might be or become. To kill something without consciousness is to peremptorily cut off the possibility of a life lived in the possession of consciousness before this life itself has begun, and as a result to this extent should not create problems according to this logic. Also, if a being can be modified in such a way that it does not feel pain or experience consciousness, under this approach there is then no problem in killing it or making use of it as, for example, a source of organs for transplantation. There are in fact also those who are consistent on this point and do not accept a right to life for newborns in general. But if we do not accept the killing of newborns, is it because a being which might one day become conscious and fear death is being denied this potential future? Is it because the happiness that would likely be experienced (as a sum total of the happiness of all of the beings killed in this way) is being decreased? If either of these explanations is accepted, however, this potential future experience is something which must not be taken away starting at the point of conception or possibly even earlier. Perhaps the killing of newborns is rejected because, since we too at some earlier time did not possess consciousness, it would amount to a negation of "ourselves". But if we at least are already safe (since we are already self aware) this killing of newborns should not really worry us. Nonetheless, this kind of action is not to be carried out. Do we entertain the sort of complex considerations described above when it comes to the killing of older infants? Also, a sufficiently small child may not be aware of death. If such a child dies the fact that he or she was this kind of being, and as a result could not experience a fear of death, may be of some comfort to us. But can we consider this a good reason to say that it is not wrong to kill such children?
To repeat what was stated earlier, even in the case of the proponents of these other approaches it is ultimately they themselves as individuals who make the judgment that certain lives may be taken or certain beings destroyed, and the approach I have stated above also involves a person or people making the judgment that certain lives may not be taken. To this extent both are the same. The method used in most cases where the validity of this kind of claim is asserted is to put forward a generally accepted (or rejected) principle or list of individual rules ("in such and such a case we must not do such and such"), and then show a connection between this conventional wisdom and the principles or activities which are problematic and make positive or negative assertions based on these connections. The assertions of those who support these other approaches being discussed can be connected to the sorts of conclusions I have just stated. If someone finds these conclusions unacceptable he or she supports a position contrary to what is being asserted.
What I have stated above is that, even without bringing up approach A, the idea that the human "species" is to be given special stats, or approach B, the proposal of qualifications required to be considered a "person" (and therefore entitled to special consideration), there is another topology (which I will call A? because while in practice the domain of the group of beings to be protected here does not differ from that found in approach A the implication is nevertheless not the same)in which we accept people as beings which are not to be killed. This offers in outline the possibility of an explanation of the privileged status given to humanity, and the explanatory power of this approach does not appear inferior when compared with other arguments of this kind. A preliminary answer is thus provided regarding the topic of this section. We know from the start that the thing in question is a human being. We then subtract from this idea, and after subtracting deny what we had previously known. The concepts of "pleasure and pain" and "rationality" are used as tools in conducting this subtraction. There is then a position which can be taken in opposition to this kind of approach and its addressing of the issue as a question of the "properties" or "qualifications" of the being in question (even if the consideration of such concepts is not necessarily to be rejected). To the extent that this is claimed what is being asserted is a position which more fundamentally acknowledges our "knowing that something is human".
4 The world for the person
Are we then to conclude that those who make these kinds of assertions regarding certain "properties" of human beings are not saying anything? I do not think this is the case. There is a world I could never reach, a world that exists beyond me, which I can sense is opened up for me by the other (let us call this approach B?), and I think that it is indeed true that my seeing things in this way plays a large role in my feeling that this other's life should not be taken. This is not the same thing as the others in question themselves being aware of this existence of a world belonging (only) to them. Whether or not they are aware of or can reflect on themselves, whether or not they can make judgments about what is in their own best interests, there is always some manner in which they are experiencing the world. Nonetheless, here we are assuming the presence of a "property", albeit of a most minimal nature, being present within the being in question (for this reason I have referred to this approach as B?). Earlier I stated approach A? as the assertion that, as beings born from other human beings, people are beings whose lives are not to be taken. At the same time, the fact that there is a world open only to the being in question is an important part of the composition of the other as a human being whose life is not to be taken.
Whenever we draw or do not draw a line [between what is and is not to be killed], and whatever kinds of lines are drawn, the reasons for these decisions always come from within us. It is an "I" that thinks of the other as human and therefore a being which is not to be killed and it is also an "I" that thinks the opposite. To this extent both positions are the same. We must keep this in mind whatever point of view we take. Those who propose various "qualifications" for beings that are not to be killed do not understand this or are ambiguous on this point. What we claim or attempt to claim is not that a being without certain qualifications does not have a right to live, but rather that beings without certain qualifications may be killed. This much even those who put forward these qualifications must accept. This being the case, whichever of these views you adopt all of them can only be described as arising from within human beings. All of them involve my relationship with the other. Both B and A?, the idea that the death of beings who lack certain qualifications is acceptable and the idea that it is not, are ideas conceived of by us. If the method of discourse begun in chapter four and continued in this chapter is one which makes any kind of judgment (for example, that human beings are to be given special status at least to the extent that they are to be considered a set of beings which are not to be killed) regarding our existence (for example, regarding the set of beings which are not to be killed), it would be on the side of approach A?. Whereas B has been already put forward by others as a clearly stated perspective A? has not, and since I furthermore think that the sense asserted by A? exists as a very fundamental value within I have therefore attempted to put it into words.
There is also B?, and what it expresses can be thought of as having special meaning even given the fact that all of these ideas are things we have thought up ourselves. In chapter four I said that there are beings in the world which are not me (I referred to them as "other") and claimed that because of this otherness there is value in accepting the existence of such beings. I would not want to obscure this. But I think that when we consider the existence of what is other not only in this sense but in the stronger sense of the existence of other human beings, along with the simple fact of the existence of something which is not me and the existence of something which is born from a human being, the fact that another world exists within this kind of being is also an important part of our conception of this human other. I think that when we think there is a world inside this other we feel more strongly that its life must not be taken. It is true that even this sense is something conceived of by us, but I think that it is slightly different from something that is merely a conception; the existence of the other appears as a stronger reality and something which cannot be surpassed or overcome. It could be said that what occurs in this other world is also found in the world of what I see and feel, but we are nonetheless aware of the fact that there in the other is a world we ourselves can never experience. Although I can never have direct knowledge of it I believe that in the other there is a world different from my world. I know that at very least a world exists only within the other in the same sense that my world exists only within me.
Stating things in this way is separate from the debates surrounding approach A - separate from arguments over, for example, whether young infants are not qualified to be considered humans. In practice the domain of what is to be considered a being which must not be killed indicated by approach A? largely overlaps that indicated by approach B?. There are connections between children being born and beginning to live and a world beginning to exist within them. However, if we subtract the state described in approach B? (a world exists within the person in question) from the situation found in approach A? (the person in question is considered a human being because he or she appeared within a human being) a resulting "blank" state is not inconceivable. In such cases we cannot say that a world exists within the other. Even in such cases I am liskely to think of this being as a person and as an other. Since there is only blank space within the person in question, only I am thinking about this other's existence, all that remains is my thinking of it as other, and thus to this extent I think what occurs here can be seen as different from my thinking something based on or conforming to this other itself.
@What are we to make of this state [of blankness]? This question is connected to the difficulties that arise when we think about "brain death". Putting aside all of the questions which are being addressed and must be addressed in regard to the [biological] facts regarding this subject and the verifiability of these facts in practice, and disregarding the dangers of assuming it is possible to measure something which is so difficult to measure and the additional danger of the fact that this dangerousness is bound up with the various interests of those around the person in question, what are we to conclude if it were possible to confirm cases of brain death in which the mind of the person in question is completely blank and there is no possibility of their making any kind of recovery? I think some people would be able to turn off the life support systems of the person in question. Here it is an 'I' that comes to the judgment that this is not a problem. I (we) am also the one who will use his or her organs, and the desire for these organs to be used in this way does indeed come from me (us). Those who on the other hand do not address the problem in the same way also do so according to their own inclinations; once again the judgment in question is made by an 'I'. It is also I (we) who do not think of the body of such a person as a corpse or inanimate object and who continue to think of them as a being which has not died (a being whose life must not be taken) and require the so called "three signs of death" to confirm they are no longer alive. Of course it is in no way the case that the former point of view is correct because it is "scientific" and the latter is incorrect because it is not. "Science" can only provide information regarding the biological state of the person in question, and since both approaches to dealing with this kind of situation arise from our ideas or attitudes it can be said that to this extent they are of equal value.
In addition to this it can also be said that within this blankness all unique or distinctive qualities of the being in question are lacking. Therefore to think that the latter point of view is based on some kind of "cooperation" with the being in question would be mistaken. To cooperate with this being is impossible; on the contrary, could it not in fact be said that this idea, if it is an idea which can only come from me (a criterion or set of criteria different from those based on using the being in question for some purpose or allowing them to die because their continued existence would be somehow inconvenient) is an idea which is in fact more "egocentric" than the other approaches discussed?
What are we then to think having acknowledged the above? On the one hand there are those who when faced with a being in a state of blankness feel that this is a life which must not be taken. We cannot say that in these instances these people's way of thinking is strange or bizarre. If what I have stated earlier is accepted it is indeed true that we (at least some of the time) experience this kind of sense as well. And of course in this case no positive reason will arise to take the lives of those in a state of blankness. B? not being the case does not provide a positive reason to accept the elimination of the being in question. It only serves to weaken the reason that such eliminations should not occur. Do we give priority to A?? To what extent do we take into consideration the fact that the stronger (narrower) condition B? places on what should determine whether the being in question should not be killed is not satisfied in these cases? There is no absolute answer regarding which approach should be taken here. We can think of this as being the case because both points of view are deeply rooted in our actual experience.
Putting aside the topic of organ transplants from people in a state of brain death which is not being addressed here, we can always simply wait for the time required to pass from B? to A?, and as a result leaving the answer to this question undetermined is in practice not so problematic. But it is possible to take our consideration of it a bit further. It is possible to continue thinking of a being as alive and not wanting to destroy it not only after brain death but also after the complete cessation of all biological and physiological life. We may even be able to preserve their body as if it were alive. But what becomes clearer and more explicit in such cases is that these attempts to preserve the being in question arise solely as a result of our own thoughts and desires. Is this attempt to preserve this body, which has already ceased to be something lived in and received by the being in question, not in fact an activity which aims to separate this body from that being which had received it and lived with it and attempt to bring it within my own domain? Can I really be said to posses the right to do this?
At very least, if the individual in question wants to renounce any life that might continue after the world of their experience ceases completely or any preservation of their body after their life has ended, then from the perspective of the claim that we must respect the existence of the other itself and not only the other in the sense of something related to the self we must no doubt adhere to the will of the person in question.
I have somewhat carelessly taken this discussion a bit beyond what I had intended to cover in this section. But I think if I am to consider this topic I must extend it as least as far as I have done above. In chapter nine I will consider the not at all cheerful topics of "prenatal diagnoses" and "selective abortion" and will return to some of what I have stated here as well as exploring other aspects of these issues. I think that to view of all of these issues as the same and as questions of the qualifications or conditions of life which is to be protected is a crude approach, and what is referred to as logic does not address the realities of what we think about and are troubled by - these thoughts, feelings and doubts are no doubt more complicated than what those who manipulate logic for a living would call logic but nevertheless possess a certain logic of their own.