Against the moral agency of women:Ross Douthat,Todd Akin and President Obama by Queer Atheist

The cult of the worship of the blastocyst, the embryo, the fetus as constituting human life, not just it's elementary beginnings, and therefore providing a window on the perception of sacred core of humanity, has become a standard moral position, of the political irrationalism of Conservative Catholics and their Fundamentalist allies. That the moral position of the advocates of life can be succinctly described as men lecturing women on morality is reflective of paternalism, in an unapologetic form. It seems that men in the conservative world don't take seriously the moral agency of women. One can measure this lack of faith in that agency by the quality of lecture in the commentary of conservative intellectuals like Ross Douthat. His essay The Democrats’ Abortion Moment starts with a 'thought experiment' provided by philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson. It deserves to be quoted in full:

Imagine, wrote Thomson, that you awoke to find yourself lashed to a famous violinist. The violinist suffers from a lethal kidney disease, and because only your blood type can save his life, his admirers have kidnapped you and looped your circulatory systems together. If you consent to remain thus entangled for nine months, he will make a full recovery. Disentangle yourself, however, and he dies.

Thomson suggested that a woman facing an unintended pregnancy is in a similar position. Her body is effectively being held hostage, and while carrying the unborn life to term might be a heroic act, it cannot be required of her, any more than you could be required to meekly accept your fate as a prisoner of the violinist.”

Professor J.J. Thomson's grotesquely cartoonish, even utterly irrelevant,'thought experiment' whether in support of abortion or not, is so much garnish to Mr. Douthat's effort to place the spotlight elsewhere, rather than squarely on Todd Akin and his Know-Nothing theology.(Note the salient fact that Professor Thomson is a woman, who uses a very sophisticated, if monstrous, analogy as a 'thought experiment' that opens Mr. Douthat's essay, proving, without doubt, that a woman is capable of demonstrable moral agency and argument.) And the hold that that theology has on the Conservative moral imagination, and by definition the Republican Party. The point of conception and the resulting fertilized egg are in that moral universe a 'person'.

Let us move to the more revelatory aspect of the politics of Mr. Douthat's essay which might be described as being an adaptation of Rovian Politics: misdirection being it's first rule. Mr. Akin's remarks about 'legitimate rape', meaning in fact forcible rape, were absolutely in line with the Republican political theology. Mr. Douthat's essay points to the Democrats and away from Todd Akin's ideological pronouncement. A net plus, in terms of misdirection, although not very effective. The second rule of Rovian politics is to attack the strengths of your opponent. One might speculate that the members of the Democratic Party believe that women are capable of exercising their autonomous moral agency, without the guidance of men: not to say that a woman would not seek the advice of someone she trusts, man or woman. One could also say that the modern Republican Party is peopled with bible based Christian Fundamentalists, among other Conservative and Christian factions. Catholics like Mr. Douthat are some of the most vocal supporters of the Republican Party, because of it's Pro-Life politics and it's exaltation of male power: a corollary of the Catholic Church's exclusively male hierarchy. Here is the last sentence of Mr. Douthat's tortured piece of maladroit propaganda, chock-a-block with the stale political/moral posturings of Conservative thought, and casting himself as the mean between the two extremes of Todd Akin, as Conservative radical, and President Obama as Left wing radical, on the issue of abortion, and framed on that burning question of the political moment, according to Mr. Douthat and his political allies:

Hence the dangerous (for liberals) question lurking beneath the surface of the Akin controversy. If the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri is an extremist on abortion, what does that make the president of the United States?”

Queer Atheist

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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