March 01, 2006

David Boonin: A defense of abortion

This book is an exhaustive survey and criticism of the arguments levelled against the permissibility of abortion in general, and one particular classic pro-choice thought experiment in particular. While I'm not an expert, so I can't say whether Boonin has overlooked anything, I can't recall a single reasonable argument directed towards a general audience I've come across that is not completely shredded here (read: unless you're opposed to abortion on religious grounds, Boonin probably shows how your view is self-defeating).

Boonin's style is precise and direct -- even more so than my own -- and he does an excellent job of offering the abortion critic every possible charity before attacking. This actually gets somewhat annoying, as in later chapters excessively pedantic qualifications and methodological statements will be repeated several times to no real benefit. It also tends to make him sound rather dispassionate about the debate, leading to some rather unnerving moments, particularly reading from a feminist perspective. Still, this probably makes the logical strength of his arguments that much clearer to the hostile reader, and should be counted as an asset overall.

Another asset is his avoidance of jargon and the highly capsulated structure of the book -- each section deals with a single argument, or a narrow family of arguments, and thus is almost entirely self-contained. Indeed, I can recommend this as a handbook for a layperson (non-philosopher) interested in debating abortion: just look up your opponent's argument, and run through Boonin's criticisms. Of course, that's not necessary -- I would recommend it highly for anyone interested in seeing the most rigorous defense of abortion around.

David Boonin: A defense of abortion

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