Comparative Analysis Thomson Violinist Analogy

An Evaluation of the Violinist Analogy as Used by Thomson in Defense of Abortion

Thomson makes an assumption that the fetus has similar rights to life just like any human being; but again acknowledges his does not guarantee abortion impermissible. This is based on the premise which derives a difference between the fundamental right to life; and the right to be kept alive by yet another individual’s body. She submits that the right to life does not offer one a right to be kept a life by another individual. To justify her proposition, she offers an analogy below;

"You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you--we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you (Thomson, 1976)."


Thomson presents the concept of unwanted pregnancy and the unconscious violinist as two morally entwined cases. She submits that neither the stranger nor the mother owes the required life support; in that the stranger may unplug himself from the violinist and the mother unplug herself from the child (Thomson, 1976). .

The rationale of the violist in the analogy parallels the fetus conceived after pregnancy. She constructs her submissions on hr notion that a fetus becomes a human immediately after the conception despite the fact she does not accommodate this wholly. In contrast with the violist, the fetus in not able to partake in the chat concerning her condition and abortion. Although initially unconscious, the violist might be able to communicate and draw choices for herself; even the choice of unplugging themselves from you. The analogy employs the concept of unplugging to mean the active killing of the fetus. She perceives the killing of the fetus is hard based on its innocence; someone who has not perpetrated any criminal offence. The replacement of the name fetus with a violist induces a palatable taste than in itself (Wiland, 2000).

According to Thomson, personhood is the fundamental aspect in the abortion debate she is brewing. She perceives that since personhood commences before birth; so then whenever it begins the fundamental rights of both the child and mother ought to be esteemed and upheld with dignity and decorum. In the event where human entities are not persons before birth, she submits that abortion cannot be homicide and based on that view of rights there is no much to discuss. Thomson’s claims are inclined towards holding the perpetrator of rape accountable and culpable (Thomson, 1976).

Her analogy in the realm of reality are not congruent based on the premise that children in most abortions are not merely “Unplugged” and removed from the uterus but instead are consciously killed. They are dismantled from the womb after getting poisoned (Thomson, 1976). Thomson writes; "I am not arguing for the right to secure the death of the unborn child," she says. "You may detach yourself even if this costs him his life; you have no right to be guaranteed his death, by some other means, if unplugging yourself does not kill him." These sentiments present forth a moral discrepancy between killing by force and killing by letting die. Despite Thomson discussing the distinction, she do not subscribe into respecting it. She is eloquent as she is clear in her mind that violent abortions are unfair homicides and ought to be prohibited (Heriot, 1996).

This paper share a perspective that if the analogy by Thomson is to be rendered relevant, it could only be based on few pregnancy cases arising from rape. But Thomson extrapolate this vie even t cases where by sex was consensual. The stranger in the case scenario was not in consensus but was asleep. According to Moulton (1983), the process of conceiving pregnancy happened while no one was a sleep. Besides, the child is not left with an option to decide whether to be aborted or conceived.

The illuminate and justify her argument, Thomson presents unwanted prenatal children as trespassers and aggressors. She likens them to thieves climbing into open windows. Besides she simulates conceiving pregnancy with getting attacked in a person’s house by “people-seeds that drift about in the air like pollen.” Whereas she is informed about the cause and effect linkage between pregnancy and heterosexual intercourse; the she should have developed mastery of understanding that the presence of a child in the womb is a biological concept impacted by parents and which the child has no control of (Thomson, 1976).

The analogy presents the stranger as having nothing to do with the induction of sickness by violinist. The stranger does nothing to cause himself captured and plugged in. Besides, the child is equally the same as a captive in the proposition that she is it the condition involuntarily. To conceive pregnancy and thereafter opt to abort is the same as turning conception into a dangerous trap for the baby. It is like setting the baby into a vulnerable condition which is likely to result into death (Heriot, 1996).

If pregnancy results from rape, it may not be palatable or voluntary for her. However, abortion does not anchor on if the lady conceived willingly or not. The tragedy of rape is an the controversy in it is whether the victimization of a woman, should justify the victimization of the child.

Conception following an eviction from the uterus is comparable with capturing somebody, put him in a plane; and shove him out minus a parachute in mid-flight. No one has the right to infuriate the other without their consent and thereafter negligently or intentionally fail to safeguard them from the harm. Pregnancy and conception are predictable after a careful sex. By conceiving a baby, parents ought to support them. When fertilization occurs, parents are not enslaved; but they have volunteered which may induce the parent and child in a conflict but not a clash of rights between them (Finnis et al., 2004).

Thomson takes cognizance of parents’ obligation and states; "If [the mother] voluntarily called [her child] into existence, how can she now kill it, even in self-defense?” Additionally she writes; "Opponents of abortion have been so concerned to make out the independence of the fetus, in order to establish that it has a right to life, just as its mother does, that they have tended to overlook the possible support they might gain from making out that the fetus is dependent on the mother, in order to establish that she has a special kind of responsibility for it, a responsibility that gives it rights against her which are not possessed by any independent person -- such as an ailing violinist who is a stranger to her (Thomson, 2007)."

The violist analogy justifies Thomson’s position that the right to life by itself does not comprise the right to be kept alive by another person. She attributes this to the fact that if “the right to life by itself did entail the right to be kept alive by making use of another's body, then the violinist would be entitled to use your body even if you didn't want him to.” The analogy brings forth a complex moral question which equally brings forth a mixture of reactions from the school of scholars enthusiastic about the subject.

Human beings cannot be alienated the fundamental right to life and liberty. Entrenched in these rights is the obligation not to aggress because this is the genesis of endangering others without their consent. If the act of aggression results into harm, the perpetrator nt only caused harm but also initiated force. Because no one has the right to initiate force, then as well we do not have the right neither to endanger nor harm others (Gordon, 1999). Conceiving a child is in itself not a sort of endangerment; but a normal rhythm of life. On the eve of conception, parents ought to offer themselves a life or death attitude and power over the baby without the baby’s consent. When the parents willingly or negligently apply their position and power to introduce the baby into harm; they do cause the danger. When the child is harmed, the parents are accountable to the harm then they conceived and compromised on the rights of the child (Beckwith, 2004).

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  • Beckwith, F.J., 2004. Thomson's Equal Reasonableness Argument for Abortion Rights: A Critique. Am. J. Juris., 49, p.185.
  • Finnis, J.M., Cohen, M., Nagel, T. and Scanlon, T., 2004. The rights and wrongs of abortion.
  • Gordon, D., 1999. Abortion and Thompson’s violinist: unplugging a bad analogy. International journal of sociology and social policy, 19(3/4), pp.89-95.
  • Heriot, M.J., 1996. Fetal rights versus the female body: contested domains. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 10(2), pp.176-194.
  • Moulton, J., 1983. A paradigm of philosophy: The adversary method. In Discovering reality (pp. 149-164). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Nelson, J., 1993. Persuasion and economic efficiency: The cost-benefit analysis of banning abortion. Economics & Philosophy, 9(2), pp.229-252.
  • Thomson, J.J., 2007. A defense of abortion. Bioethics: An Introduction to the History, Methods, and Practice, p.331.
  • Thomson, J.J., 1976. A defense of abortion. In Biomedical ethics and the law (pp. 39-54). Springer, Boston, MA.
  • Wiland, E., 2000. Unconscious violinists and the use of analogies in moral argument. Journal of Medical Ethics, 26(6), pp.466-468.

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