In the satirical novella Flatland1, Edwin Abbott used the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to comment on Victorian society, specifically women’s roles and the class hierarchy of men. However, the work stands out for its amusing exposition of mathematical dimensions.
Square, the protagonist of the story, dreams of Lineland, a one-dimensional world. Inhabited by men, comprising of lines, and women, the lustrous points of society. For points and lines, the square is perceived as a set of points on a line2. Hysteria follows, thus the murder attempt of the Square by the monarch of Lineland. At least, that’s the dream.
Abortion and the Political Spectrum
On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade3, the landmark decision making access to abortion a constitutional right. Now, five decades of legal protection remained under the mercy of individual states. Consequently began perhaps the most polarizing political debate in recent history.
Before proceeding further, to clear any ambiguity hereafter – Abortion is morally acceptable, at times even preferable. If safely done, even third-trimester abortions can be justified4. Even the most progressive liberals will denounce the former stance, as it represents the most vulnerable case of the right’s critiques, the one defending the right to life.
Well, let’s examine the routine argument. Conservatives are appalled by the thought of abortion, for the pristine right to life must be defended. Liberals retaliate, hoisting the flags of liberty, as one must have control over one’s body. Further ambushing with claims that sentience dictates the living, not primitive cell biology. Hence, Life takes the central stage in this war. Those indispensable conditions of life, in the moral sense, are subjected to a futile discourse.
Analogy of the Branch
Contemporary politics is perceived to be a spectrum5. Occupying the tail ends – The Left and The Right. Imagine the political spectrum to be the Lineland, inhabited by the lines of left and points of right. For the citizens of Lineland, the other can only be grasped as the distant, antagonistic rival. Sooner or later, the Square appears. Visibly confused by such fierce opposition, one wonders – Do they not see the branch? What are they, but leaves of the same kin? The branch, the kin, of Deontological Ethics 6.
Roughly speaking, Deontological Ethics uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. The inherent flaw with said approach arises from conflict amongst rules. Assuming a set of rules, disputes amongst the rules gain resolutions if, and only if, one rule could be demonstrated to have higher moral value over the other. However, no such competent 7 meta-rule, or process of demonstration, exist in the deontological realm.
Consider the Abortion Debate. Both sides stand for a variant of deontological ethics. The difference being the hierarchy of rules. Life and Bodily Autonomy constitute different moral values, comparatively, relative to the party involved. Ergo, the shortcoming of deontology makes resolution impossible8. Remember, the treatise is not just about Abortion.
- Abbott, E. A. (2022). Flatland: A romance of many dimensions.
- Imagine a square in one dimension. It can either be a line (if the square lines up with the one-dimensional world) or a point (if it is tangential to the world)
- Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 4). Roe v. Wade. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
- The argument comes from a non-deontological non-consequential moral framework. Hence, there is no inherent value to life. The keyword being inherent. To be discussed in another article later
- Note that criticisms have been made for such classification to be too American, proceeds to create a one-dimensional spectrum, and too simplistic, proceeds to create higher dimensional spectrums like the Political Compass
- Alexander, L., & Moore, M. (2020, October 30). Deontological ethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological
- Sure, something like categorical imperative can be considered a meta-rule. However, several ambiguities exist in the process of adopting it
- Not to mention that the Left needs to drop its deontological base to advocate for more progressive positions like positive rights, progressive taxation, and LGBTQ+ social policies.