Having just attended a seminar where students couldn’t agree that there was a rational basis for arguing that the Holocaust was unconditionally evil, I thought I had witnessed the most absurd manifestation of moral relativism. Then I read Hutchinson’s “Immodest proposal” in the Varsity, where he argues that “the right to terminate the fetus should be extended until after birth.” All indications are that Hutchinson’s argument for infanticide is serious, and not a ploy by a pro-life advocate to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the pro-abortion position.
The situation would be funny if only it was fictional. Students attend university for three to four years, and by the time they graduate they have become so enlightened that infanticide seems like a justifiable position. I think this is an example of what some are calling metaphysical denial.
I am referring to the dogma that ultimate values are at best subjective. This inevitably means that concepts such as personhood and human nature are non-issues, and any attempt to affirm human dignity on a rational basis is dismissed as irrelevant. The human person as a being created in the divine image and therefore possessing infinite value and inalienable rights—at U of T that smacks of intolerance. Better to argue that our children should die, then to concede that human life might be based on an absolute and rational truth.
Metaphysical denial would explain Hutchinson’s position that in regard to infanticide, “nothing stands in the way but convention.” When referring to the human fetus, he acknowledges that it is just as human as a post-born child, but he suggests that since abortion is a current practice, and it is legal, then it must be justified. Hutchinson is in metaphysical denial because he has made the a priori decision that questions of personhood are unimportant. He does not stop to consider that the human fetus might be more than a physical entity, that it might be a person, therefore possessing rights. It would appear from what Hutchinson says about human infants, that he views human beings as little more than physical entities that can be discarded by an arbitrary force of power.
It is ironic that Hutchinson decries the pro-life position as one of barbarism and “naked force.��� As someone who reduces human beings to non-persons, Hutchinson is the one who is most to be feared. I do not understand what purpose our humanities programs serve, if they cannot provide students with rational criteria to decide that life is preferable to death.