With the savagely ideological “Supreme” Court prepared to erase the rights of actual human beings on on no other account than that they are women (and consequently, don’t count), it seemed like a timely moment to set down my other projects and cast an eye upon the subject of abortion. Now, Whitehead himself never addressed the topic, so no pretense can be made to declare what his thoughts on the subject might have been. We can say, however, that his personal conclusions, were he to have any, are not really relevant here, as we want to develop a view of the subject within the context of process metaphysics, and not any one scholars individual declaration. That being said, it must also be added that other ways of working out conclusions other than those offered here will also be possible within the stated domain.
First off, what is a “person”? We should immediately drop any thought of conflating “person” with “human being.” “Properly developed” human beings seem clearly to be persons, but not all persons will be human beings, developed or otherwise. Non-terrestrial intelligences, for you science fiction enthusiasts, are clearly persons without being human. But many would argue that terrestrial non-human animals are also persons, deserving of our care and ethical considerations. These (humans) would be those variously involved in animal rights activism and concerns. It is a tricky subject that I’ll not pursue here, though I admit to being a little troubled by my failure to embrace vegetarianism. I’m sure you’ll have noticed by now that I’ve not tackled the previous scare-quoted qualifier “properly developed.” I promise, we will get back to that.
But more needs to be said about “person.” A person is an agent, and an agent is something capable of intentional activities, behaviors, and/or stances. There is a philosophical school known as “Personalism” that takes this as a metaphysical “primitive,” which is to say, first premise. There is what we might call the “lite” version, that argues persons are metaphysically primary because there can be no interpretation of the world without intentional agents actually interpreting the world. As stated, this position is very hard to dispute, since any attempt to do so cheats by presupposing an interpreter in the form of a “God’s eye view on the world,” while pretending to be “objective.” But that “God’s eye” is an interpreter, an intentional agent. Then there is the “Heavy” version of personalism that says everything is a person (in some sense.) An electron is “interpreting” it’s world via it’s electromagnetic field. This is a trickier position, but one that deserves serious treatment, regardless of one’s final conclusions. But the subtleties are beyond the scope of this current essay (or pretty much any essay of only 1450 words.)