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Different interpretations

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Consider the following essay topic on the ethics of abortion. Then look at interpretations of the topic made by two students (A and B).

Whose interpretation, in your view, is more adequate?

Essay topic

Is the right to choose abortion just the right to choose what happens in and to one's own body - as Judith Jarvis Thomson suggests - or is it the right to choose the death of the foetus? Discuss with reference to the unconscious violinist.

Student A's interpretation:

This question is asking about whether abortion is justified or not. In my essay I would consider the arguments on both sides of the debate - the right-to-lifers and the pro-choice lobby - and then present my opinion. I believe that women should have the right to choose. I would also mention the unconscious violinist by Judith Jarvis Thomson.

Student B's interpretation:

This question is concerned with a specific issue in the abortion debate - whether the argument about an individual having rights over their own body is sufficient to justify abortion. This is Judith Jarvis Thomson's position as laid out in 'the unconscious violinist'. In my essay, I will carefully analyse Thomson's argument, along with some objections to it put forward by other philosophers. My tentative position is that whilst 'the unconscious violinist' is a valid enough argument, on its own it does not provide sufficient justification.

Whose is the more adequate interpretation? Why?









Because:

Check your answers

Student A's interpretation:

This is not an adequate interpretation of the topic. First note how this student plans to focus on the abortion issue in general, rather than on the specific issue raised in the question: whether the rights of the carrier of the foetus are the only consideration.

Further, the student doesn't seem to have thought about how 'the unconscious violinist' argument relates to the topic as a whole. One can imagine from this interpretation, that Thomson's argument will be tacked on at the end of the essay, instead of being integrated into the whole work.

The problem with Student A's interpretation can be seen in the following summary:

Analysis information quiz
probing questions analysis
  1. What do I need to make a judgment about?
  • Abortion
  1. What type of judgment(s) do I need to make?
  • Whether abortion is justified
  1. What are some possible judgements?
  • Abortion is justified

Student B's interpretation:

This is a well-considered interpretation of the topic; it can be summarised thus:

Analysis information quiz
probing questions analysis
  1. What do I need to make a judgment about?
  • Judith Jarvis Thomson's unconscious violinist argument
  1. What type of judgment(s) do I need to make?
  • Whether the unconscious violinist is:
    1. a valid argument
    2. a sufficient argument to justify abortion
  1. What are some possible judgements?
  • The unconscious violinist is:
    1. a valid argument?
    2. but is not a sufficient argument

Note that there may be other valid ways of approaching this topic. These however, would need to be based on a careful reading of the topic.

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