That James Franco Video

Download Audio MP3 | 01:41:34

Josh, Tim, and Rachel sit down to discuss the James Franco/Liz Harman video about abortion that was mocked mercilessly by pro-life organizations and advocates recently. We agree with a few conservative philosophers who believe that while Harman’s pro-choice argument is wrong, it’s not as stupid as it sounds. We believe Harman did a bad job explaining her argument in the video. So in this episode, we work hard to understand Harman’s actual views and respond to them instead of strawmanning them.

This is certainly the most philosophical podcast episode we’ve recorded to date. If you’re not interested in getting deep into the weeds with us on Harman’s argument, we’d still like to encourage you to listen to the first and last sections of this episode, where we discuss the problems with the pro-life movement’s general response to this video. Those sections are 00:00 to 21:15, and 1:20:50 to the end.

If you haven’t watched the video of James Franco’s interview with Liz Harman, please watch it before you listen to this podcast:

Here is Harman’s definition of the Actual Future Principle: “An early fetus that will become a person has some moral status. An early fetus that will die while it is still an early fetus has no moral status.

Here are the five intuitions that Harman agrees with and believes that her Actual Future Principle helps to explain:

  1. That some early fetuses are the appropriate objects of caring attitudes;
  2. That some early fetuses are the kinds of things we are prohibited from harming;
  3. That it is understandable to be upset be an early miscarriage;
  4. That the position of a woman genuinely unsure whether she will abort her pregnancy is unique;
  5. That it is reasonable to regret an abortion when one does not regret the choice to abort.

Related Resources:

  • Professor Liz Harman: Creation Ethics: The Moral Status of Early Fetuses and the Ethics of Abortion document:
  • This is her paper on abortion that better explains her argument. Consider reading the paper before listening to our discussion of the paper and then follow along with us while listening to our discussion!
  • Matt Anderson for The Federalist – Why That Princeton Prof’s Argument For Early Abortion Isn’t Entirely Stupid:
  • Sherif Girgis for Public Discourse – In Defense of Elizabeth Harman – Taking Pro-Choice Philosophers Seriously:
  • This is another conservative paper that was helpful to us in prep. If nothing else, read the section toward the beginning on how fairly Harman treated him when helping to grade his paper against premarital sex. It says a LOT about her character.
  • Don Marquis – Why Abortion is Immoral:
  • Jon Ronson – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed:

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