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Friday, September 25, 2015
Book Review: Aborting Aristotle: Examining the Fatal Fallacies in the Abortion Debate by Dave Sterrett
There are a lot of great books out there defending the pro-life position. There are also some great books to help you get started in pro-life apologetics. Dave Sterrett's book really functions as a pre-starter book, whereas in introductory books the information you learn about are the basics that you need, Aborting Aristotle gives a grounding, the sort of metaphysical basement, for our pro-life views. You won't learn how to defend the pro-life view, that's not its purpose. You'll learn about why the pro-life position works and why pro-choice thinkers fail to justify abortion by jettisoning an Aristotelian framework.
There is a lot of great information contained in this book. His discussions on how naturalistic metaphysics is self-refuting is especially important to understand. His chapter on personhood was also very good. Usually discussions of personhood certain around who counts as persons, but it seems that rarely do these discussions get to the heart of what the concept of "person" actually means. Sterrett shows admirably that our personhood, while different than our humanity, cannot be separated from it. He even talks about some common ground that we can find with pro-choice people in his concluding chapter, which is an excellent thing for pro-life people to keep in mind when talking to pro-choice people.
The only main problems I had with the book are:
1) There was no real discussion about substances and why humans count as substances. It really seems like you'd need at least a basic familiarity with Aristotle in order to know what he's talking about, even in his excellent rebuttals of naturalistic philosophy.
2) There was no real discussion about potentiality and actuality. It was mentioned, but not really discussed. This does seem like a glaring omission, since not knowing what potentiality actually means leads even modern philosophers to make bad arguments against the personhood of the unborn. Two examples are when Michael Tooley, in his book Abortion and Infanticide, argues about injecting a rationality serum into cats, and when Singer, I believe in his book Practical Ethics, argues that potential presidents don't have the same privileges and duties as actual presidents. If Sterrett does a second edition, I think a chapter on potentiality vs. actuality would be in order.
3) The 17.00 price tag is a bit steep for a 120-page book. Granted, this is not the fault of the author, the publisher sets the price tag.
There are a couple of other minor issues that should probably be corrected for future editions. In at least a couple of the chapters, I felt the endings weren't tightened up. They seemed to just end abruptly. Additionally, for many of the quotes regarding Aristotle, he used secondary sources, not the primary sources, themselves. This may affect credibility.
I am an Aristotelian/Thomist in my view of metaphysics. As such, I think this is an important book to add to the discussion. It's a helpful primer on the metaphysical grounding of the pro-life position.