THE ETHICS OF HOMICIDE by Philip E. Devine

THE ETHICS OF HOMICIDE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Teasingly mistitled, The Ethics of Homicide is not about homicide at all, unless one already agrees with its basic (and unsupported) assumption that abortion equals murder. Devine, an assistant professor of philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, gives the nod to other aspects of killing: suicide, euthanasia, political assassination (two flaccid paragraphs). But he keeps coming back like a bad penny to the question of abortion which he knows ""by intuition"" to be morally wrong (though he thinks its perpetrators might be prosecuted for manslaughter rather than murder). He takes to task many other contemporary theorists (Michael Tooley, Jonathan Bennett, etc.) and becomes highly--if not rigorously--technical in justifying the popular right-to-life position. Refusing to entertain ""questions of sexual bias,"" Devine contends that ""the unborn, at least as much as women, may be victims of prejudice."" (Birth is the moment at which ""the unborn"" leaves its mother's body taking ""his"" placenta with ""him."") Having posited a class of people (apparently all male) called ""the unborn"" and having assumed that ""fetuses, and other instances of human life from conception onward"" are ""protected by the moral rule against homicide,"" Devine has begged at the starting gate all the significant metaphysical questions potentially at issue. His opportunistic ""ethics,"" capitalizing on a currently hot topic, trivialize what he cannot altogether evade. This is philosophy off key.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press