A thought inspired by Monday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Sotah 12
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The moral value of the unborn life.
This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.
The decision to bring new life into the world is a deeply personal and philosophical one, with many people asking: is it morally right to create new life, given the potential for both suffering and happiness? This post, will explore the debate between negative and positive utilitarians, shedding light on the moral value of an unborn life.
Negative utilitarians argue that our primary moral responsibility lies in reducing the suffering of those who are already alive, rather than creating new life in the hope that they will lead happy, fulfilled lives. They would contend that any potential happiness an unborn life may experience is outweighed by the inevitable suffering it would face. For example, imagine a family living in poverty, struggling to provide for the children they already have. A negative utilitarian might argue that it would be more ethical for the family to focus on improving the lives of their existing children, rather than having another child who would likely face similar hardships.
On the other hand, positive utilitarians believe that the ultimate ethical goal is to increase overall happiness in the world. This perspective values the potential happiness and fulfillment of an unborn life, arguing that it is worth the risk of potential suffering. Let’s consider a couple who have stable careers, a loving relationship, and a supportive community. A positive utilitarian might argue that bringing a new life into this environment would contribute to the overall happiness in the world, as the child would likely experience a life filled with love, support, and opportunities for fulfillment.
Some even argue that conscious human beings, capable of understanding and appreciating the beauty of life, loving and being loved and contributing to the greater good, are the ultimate value in the universe. This perspective suggests that our eventual goal is to fill the stars with as many such souls as possible, working to enable more individuals to experience the beauty and wonder of existence.