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Life Principles: A Model for Teaching the Philosophy of the Pro-Life Movement


The Life Principles Program is a project devoted to explaining the underlying philosophy of the pro-life movement to a secular culture. This uniquely rational and commonly accessible approach has had a powerful and overwhelmingly successful effect on the positive education of pro-life issues around the country. Here following is a short-course in the Life Principles by founder Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.


I. Defining the Human Person
II. The Way of the Heart - The Four Levels of Happiness
III. Ten Categories of Cultural Discourse
IV. Application of the Above Principles to the Life Issues

A. Application to the Abortion Issue
B. Application to the Euthanasia Issue



Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J.

The Life Principles Program is a project devoted to explaining the underlying philosophy of the pro-life movement to a secular culture. We have found that its uniquely rational and commonly accessible approach has had a powerful and overwhelmingly successful effect on the positive education of pro-life issues to the Washington State public. Our program is more than just a written curriculum. We have developed a complete video series, a high school text, a retreat program, audio tapes, pamphlets and display material, and a statewide speaker's bureau to teach the Life Principles in local communities through schools, churches, community groups and private homes. Our program is now available for duplication nationwide.

This paper offers a basic outline of the conclusions of the Life Principles philosophy. This occurs through five steps. The first step consists in formulating a definition of "person" which is grounded in objective evidence. This definition limits the possibility of merely subjective or even whimsical definitions of "person." The importance of this task cannot be underestimated, for "person" grounds our implementation of rights theory, legal theory and social theory, which in its turn affects the culture and the way in which we perceive ourselves.

The second step is concerned with providing the psychological freedom to embrace and act upon the objective definition of "person." It is one thing to understand an objective definition of "person," but quite another to want to make it the pinnacle of our cultural practice. Life Principles provides the reasons of the heart by examining four levels of happiness and purpose in life.

These four levels of happiness (purpose in life) are four levels of the heart's operation. They control the way one looks at oneself, quality of life, even one's view of love, suffering, ethics and freedom. Step three of the Life Principles Program endeavors to show how one's dominant view of happiness influences these categories of cultural discourse.

Step four of the Life Principles Program shows how our interpretation of these categories of cultural discourse influence our view of rights and the common good. This will reveal the foundations of our legal and political principles which we would contend are in need of significant re-assessment.

Step five shows how the previous four steps impact the abortion and euthanasia issues. After examining the individual and cultural harms arising out of these issues, Life Principles shows ways in which we can begin to heal the culture.

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I. Defining the Human Person

An incomplete definition of "person" can adversely affect individual persons and the culture. Such an incomplete notion of "person" can lead to bias or prejudice, or even worse, to the negation of "person" in particular individuals or even whole groups. The cultural consequences of this range from confusion and depression, to inequality, and even violence. It is therefore imperative that we move beyond merely nominal definitions of "person."

Definitions begin with a subjective component, a labeling, so that we might know the datum (the given) which is signified by a particular word. In this case, we look to the data signified by the word "person," and we see that it refers, evidently, to a being of human origin. Of course, this is an abstract generalization from a wide range of experiences. This generalization begins at childhood with associations made between the word "person" and the child's experience of particular phenomena. If we are speaking to children and we want to teach them what the word "person" means, we try to impart this range of appearances to them in the hopes that they can abstract a general category into which these different appearances can fit. "Look, Johnny, there's a person, a man. There's another person, a baby. And another person, a woman." After a while, Johnny gets the point and begins to see that "person" signifies a wide range of appearances that have a human origin. The gender, the race, the stage of development is not of particular consequence to "person," but having a human mother and father is. At this point, the child has formed a nominal definition. He knows what the human community generally means by "person." It is, at this point, still a subjective definition. This is suitable for the child, but rather insubstantial for courts, legislatures, and those having the power to create prejudice or even proscribe rights.

Before we begin the three-fold process of achieving an objective definition, the reader would be well reminded that what we are accomplishing here is a process of discovery, not decision. We are trying to get to the nature of something, a nature which exists in its own right without help of any other human being's intellect or defining power. A real definition is oriented towards discovering what it is, how it is, and what it was meant to be. It is not deciding these things.

We begin with inquiring into a thing's activities and powers for this moves us from the realm of appearances to the realm of nature. Appearances do not get at the nature of things; activities and powers do. We would not want to say that Joe is not a person because, as an adult, he has only achieved a height of four feet. Unusual as this might be, Joe may well display human activities or the information necessary to produce these activities. He may, therefore, have distinctive powers or activities, but an irregular appearance. Again, one would not want to ground Joe's personhood in how much he weighs, or the color of his skin, his eyes or his hair.

What are the distinctive powers of a human person? Here it will suffice to elucidate some of the powers that belong to beings of human origin. We can, of course, see powers which human beings have in common with other animals. We have various biological desires. We engage in metabolic activity, we grow, procreate, and avoid painful stimuli. We are conscious of things outside of us. We are capable of feeling pain. We experience pleasure when certain desires are fulfilled, and we have a capacity for self-movement which is grounded in desire. For example, our desire for sustenance (indicated by hunger) can cause self-motion when we spot a delectable fruit on the tree.

Human beings also have powers going beyond those of even the most highly developed, sentient, conscious beings. We do not want to engage here in a debate about whether higher vertebrates truly experience love or merely a high form of affection. We also wish to avoid the question of whether higher vertebrates are self-conscious or merely conscious. This would go far beyond the scope of this paper and accomplish little with respect to the definitional problem at hand. Hence, we restrict ourselves to what most philosophers would consider to be a reasonable belief: that humans alone seem to be preoccupied with the infinite, the unconditional, and the perfect.

Of course, we cannot say for certain that an eagle is not thinking about the infinite or about unconditional truth, love or beauty. If the eagle is, it certainly does not display frustrations about not having achieved the perfect, despair about not comprehending unconditional love, anger about not creating a perfect utopia, or frustration with the mathematical paradoxes of infinity. They do not seem to cut off their ears when their aesthetic senses cannot be perfectly produced on canvases. Their awareness of the sublime beauty of music seems rather to be an oblivion. They simply do not display behaviors indicating a concern for God or the Infinite itself, for ultimate explanation, or indeed, for the complete set of correct answers to the complete set of questions. It is therefore reasonable to believe that human beings are the unique possessors of these powers among the vertebrate species on this earth.

One is reminded of Bernard Lonergan's cryptic remark that when non-human animals run out of biological opportunities and dangers (food, shelter, reproduction, avoidance of pain and predators, and even affection) they fall asleep. When humans run out of biological opportunities and dangers, they ask questions, questions about their identity, their destiny, their ideals, about optimal love, unconditional truth, perfect social orders, optimal goodness, perfect beauty, and even the Infinite itself, the Sublime itself, the Mystical, the Creator, that is, about God. It is not simply the ability to ask questions, it is the ability to ask questions about what is ultimate, unconditional, perfect, infinite, absolute and eternal with respect to love, goodness, truth, beauty and being. This is what humans seem to uniquely do by comparison with the other members of the animal kingdom. It is reasonable to believe that these powers are unique to beings of human origin. They therefore constitute part of the objective definition of "person."

It should also be noted that the above activities are linked to the goals, ideals, and perfection of the human species. They represent the full perfection of human power. Aristotle called this the "to ti en einai" (the "what it was meant to be"). He called this the best definition of a species. For Aristotle, if one wanted to discover the nature of a thing, one had to uncover not only unique powers or activities but also those unique powers which represented the being in its most perfected state. This constitutes the second step in discovering the objective definition of a thing (i.e. the perfection of its power).

Philosophers and scientists have for years noticed that things come to their perfection by a sort of intrinsic guiding force. Today we would attribute this to genetics for living beings. Acorns seem to possess an intrinsic guiding force towards becoming an oak tree just as human beings seem to possess an intrinsic guiding force to becoming a pursuer of unconditional, perfect, and even infinite love, truth, goodness, beauty and being.

It is one thing to attribute to genetics an acorn's propensity to become an oak tree. It is quite another to attribute to genetics a human being's propensity toward the unconditional, perfect and infinite. Can the desire for the unconditional be attributed to a genetic mechanism which is essentially conditioned by quite precise qualitative and quantitative parameters? Can a human being's desire for the eternal and the infinite be explained by a mechanism which seems to have little "room" in it for the infinite and eternal? We will not attempt to answer these questions here. Suffice it to say that many thinkers believe that these uniquely human powers and desires arise out of more than a merely genetic guiding force. They seem to arise out of a guiding force that is free of strict qualitative and quantitative parameters, akin to what Aristotle would have termed a "soul." Whatever the case may be, human beings seem to have within them an intrinsic guiding force towards the unconditional, perfect, and even infinite which brings their powers to perfection. If this be a "soul" then human beings have a soul. If it is merely genetics, then it would be most interesting to probe and understand the genes for perfection, unconditionality, infinity and eternity.

Whether the guiding force be merely genetic, a soul, or both, the recognition of such an intrinsic guiding force constitutes the third step in discovering an objective definition. This third step then tries to describe real design, that is, real information within a thing about its perfection, its goal, its full actualization. It describes real information and a real power intrinsic to this information to guide a real being from a state of potentiality to a state of full actualization.

By combining the above three steps, we have the essentials of an objective definition of "person," namely, "a being possessing an intrinsic guiding force (whether this be merely genetic, a soul, or both) toward fulfillment through unconditional, perfect and even infinite truth, goodness, love, beauty and being."

This objective definition gives rise to a critical social principle about the interpretation of human "person." Inasmuch as any being should be treated with a dignity commensurate with its nature, persons should be treated with an unconditional dignity commensurate with their nature towards unconditional Truth, Love, Goodness, Beauty and Being. Such a dignity acknowledges the intrinsic worth of a human being. This unconditional dignity is the ground of inalienable rights, which acknowledges a universal duty to protect and promote this unconditional dignity.

In view of the intrinsic, unconditional dignity of the human person, we cannot in any way risk taking it away, for this dignity does not belong to us. It is intrinsic to the person. Furthermore, the harm done would be unconditional and absolute. Hence, we cannot risk violating the Silver Rule (Do no harm), for a harm here would constitute the destruction of unconditional dignity. Perhaps the greatest harm done to persons in human history has been to assume that a being of human origin was not a person (not possessing an unconditional dignity). We can see this with respect to slavery in ancient and recent times, genocide, and totalitarian political persecutions of every kind.

The only way of preventing these kinds of egregious harms is to make a critical cultural assumption: that every being of human origin be considered a person. Doubt about personhood should never be considered a warrant for denying personhood. An error in this regard could lead to every form of genocide, slavery and political disenfranchisement based not on certain evidence, but on doubt. If we as a culture do not together make this critical assumption, we risk the possibility of compromising unconditional dignity, causing irreparable individual harm, and seriously undermining our culture.

The Silver Rule (the absolute ethical minimum for any culture) could be irreparably violated, and the notion of inalienable rights rendered impotent. Given the above consequences, we must restate the critical assumption in even bolder terms: when in doubt, err on the side of assuming and according personhood to every being of human origin, whether or not the activities of that being manifest the above transcendental qualities of personhood. Failure to do this will simply cause us to repeat the errors of history.

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II. The Way of the Heart, the Four Levels of Happiness

We now proceed to the second step in the Life Principles Program: the way of the heart. It is not sufficient to make the above critical assumption from a purely mental point of view. We must care about it enough to defend it and promote it. We need not only the heart's understanding, but also the heart's conviction (the disposition of our wills).

The forthcoming discussion of happiness/desire goes by many names. Many philosophers link the four levels of happiness to four distinctive human powers or to four levels of purpose in life. Some psychologists have called them fulcrums of identity, dimensions of self-actualization or markers of growth. Some theologians have identified them with phases in the journey of the soul, or levels of spiritual life. Sociologists, anthropologists, historians and writers have likewise classified them under still different names. The different names simply reflect different perspectives on the same reality.

One can see these four levels of happiness in the works of such diverse thinkers as Plato and Kierkegaard, Aristotle and Jaspers, Augustine and Buber, Viktor Frankl and Abraham Maslow, and Thomas Aquinas and Lawrence Kohlberg. One may also see them in the scriptures of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Throughout the last 3,500 years, one can see them recur again and again in the cultures of North and South, East and West.

Common sense tells us that no sane person seeks unhappiness. Aside from masochism or significant depression, each of us chooses actions we hope will make us happy. Unfortunately, we are often disappointed. Finding happiness is not so easy. The world is full of options which promise happiness; some actually deliver, many do not. Some deliver fairly well for a while, but decay ultimately into boredom, emptiness or pain.

Ancient philosophers observed that types of happiness could be ranked. What they called "lower" forms of happiness had the advantages of being immediate, intense and apparent, but suffered from being short-lived and relatively narrow in focus. "Higher" forms of happiness had the advantages of being pervasive, enduring and deeply satisfying, but the disadvantages of being more abstract and less rapidly attained than lower forms, and frequently took more effort. Lower forms of happiness were generally more material or physical; higher forms were generally more emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. The lower levels of happiness tended to break down into one form of crisis or another. The very highest levels managed to avoid crises altogether.

Philosophers throughout the ages sought to draw their students away from the lower levels of happiness to the higher levels of happiness, appreciation of which generally requires some developmental maturity. They sought to train hearts and minds to prefer those forms of happiness which are deeper and more lasting over those which are superficial and intense, but short-lived.

The first and most basic level of happiness (in Latin, laetus) comes from an external stimulus. It interacts with one or more of the five senses, gives immediate gratification, but does not last very long. A sensorial pleasure like an ice cream cone or a possession like a new car can impart immediate gratification from these stimuli. We will call this Happiness 1.


The second level of happiness, (in Latin, felix), comes from ego-gratification. "Ego" in Latin means "I." This kind of happiness comes whenever one can shift the locus of control to oneself. Hence, winning, gaining power or control, or gaining admiration or popularity causes happiness. One feels as if one's inner world is expanding. Control relative to the outer world is enhanced. We call this level Happiness 2.

The second level of happiness does not exhaust the scope of human desire. As was noted above, we also desire love, truth, goodness, beauty and being. These desires initially manifest themselves as a desire to contribute. The second kind of happiness tried to shift the locus of control to the self. In this third level of happiness, we try to invest in the world beyond ourselves. We want to make a difference with our lives, our time, our energy and our talent. We call this level Happiness 3 (in Latin, beatitudo).

Strange as it may seem, the third level of happiness still does not exhaust the scope of human desire, for as was noted above, humans not only desire some love, goodness, truth, beauty and being, they can also desire unconditional, perfect, ultimate and even unrestricted Love, Goodness, Truth, Beauty and Being. In the context of faith, one might call this the desire for God. But even if one does not have faith, one can treat it as an awareness of a seemingly unconditional horizon surrounding human curiosity, creativity, spirit and achievement. As noted, this particular desire differentiates humans from all other animals. We call this level Happiness 4 (in Latin, gaude).

This Life Principles Program spends considerable time on these four levels of happiness because it is essential that one embrace Levels 3/4 in order to believe in and act on the definition of "person" mentioned in Section II. If someone is operating essentially out of Level 2 desires (ego driven and comparative) uncomplemented by Level 3/4 desires, a merely intellectual affirmation of the definition of "person" will probably be treated with little significance.

A person operating exclusively out of Level 2 desires will find it extraordinarily difficult to care about the intrinsic goodness and transcendental mystery of a person. They form their identify through comparisons which emphasize tangible characteristics while de-emphasizing intangible characteristics such as intrinsic goodness, lovability, and transcendent mystery. Hence, an essentially Level 2 perspective compels one to view "persons" in terms of exterior characteristics, talents, I.Q., potential for competitiveness, etc. People who possess less of these characteristics seem to be lesser persons. They seem to be less than fully human and fully alive.

In contrast a Level 3/4 perspective (oriented toward contribution, love and the common good) de-emphasizes the tangibility of comparisons by placing emphasis on the intrinsic goodness, lovability and transcendent mystery of a "person." Hence, when one affirms the definition of "person" (given in Section II) one is moved to protect, help, care for and enhance this good, lovable and mysterious being.

There are two other reasons for spending considerable time on the four levels of happiness. First, they can transform the entire direction of our lives. By intentionally developing Levels 3/4 one can move beyond a mode of crisis and problems in relationships (fear of failure, suspicion, jealousy, depression, emptiness, inferiority feelings, contempt, self-punishment, etc.). One can give a more purposeful direction to one's life and even become involved in the pursuit of the common good. The Life Principles Program develops these themes quite extensively.

Another reason for giving extensive coverage to these four levels of happiness arises out of the way they influence the ten major categories of cultural discourse. As will be shown, the way one views happiness will directly affect the way one views "love," "freedom," and "quality of life." Indeed, the culture's dominant view of happiness will also influence the way it interprets these major categories of self-interpretation. The culture's dominant interpretation of these terms becomes the pedagogy of the future, influencing not only children, but adolescents and adults.

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III. Ten Categories of Cultural Discourse

The following diagram shows the natural progression of the heart's conviction about purpose in life to the culture's conviction about happiness and purpose in life.


The first notion to be affected by one's choice about happiness/purpose is "success." If I choose Happiness 3 to be my fundamental purpose in life, then I will very likely shape my view of success in life around it. This view of success will, in turn, influence my view of quality of life. I make judgments about my life every day. Are things going well? Am I progressing? Am I using my time well or am I just wasting my time? Are my talents being utilized, or are they underutilized? Notice how this view is linked also to my sense of self-worth. If I believe that I am underutilizing my talents and time, I will believe that I am underliving my life, which will cause me to underestimate my worth or value. Conversely, when I believe that I have a good quality of life, that I am using my time and talents to the full, that I am hyper-living my life, I will judge my worth and value in a way which gives spirit, creativity and energy.

This view of my self-worth will, in turn, affect my view of "love." We all know the cliche, "The person who does not love himself will be unable to love anyone else." Love may be defined as "gift of self." Therefore, the kind of love I manifest will be determined by the kind of self I want to give away. And the kind of self I want to give away will be determined by the kind of self I have appropriated through my view of purpose and success in life.

My view of purpose, success, self-worth and love will combine to influence my view of suffering. Everyone needs to see purpose in suffering (i.e., to see some good for self, others or the culture in that suffering). If we did not, we would become incurably depressed. A purposeless experience of pain and negation generally leads to a sense of bewilderment, depression and sometimes even despair. But if we see purpose in that pain and negation, if we see a positive horizon for self or others, we not only develop resilience, we can actually move beyond the suffering to new heights of freedom, commitment, love and self-transcendence. Suffering then, is frequently our most poignant moment of decision. The choice we make about it could steep us in bitterness or raise us to new meaning. It could close us to others and to the human community or it could open us to new horizons of the common good and common purpose. It could blind us to everyone else's needs, or it could lead us to a new vision of others, and to a new level of compassion. Suffering can change the whole course of our lives. It can shut us down or liberate us.

One's view of purpose, success, self-worth, love and suffering, in turn, influences one's view of ethics. If I, for example, have a Level 3 purpose in life (desiring to use my time and talents to contribute to as many facets of the world in as many ways as I can) I will likely have a corresponding Level 3 view of self-worth, love and suffering. This, in turn, will motivate me to acquire habits which will help me to achieve this contributory objective (and to avoid pitfalls to achieving it). The ancients called these good habits "virtues." The pitfalls they called "vices" or "deadly sins."

The more one loves contribution, and the people to whom one contributes, the more one will love the virtues (habits) that help to promote this. That same love will, in turn, make me more wary of the vices which threaten it. As will be explained, a Level 2 perspective of happiness, self-worth, love, and suffering will give rise to a more restricted view of virtue and vice than a Level 3 perspective. Similarly, a Level 4 perspective will give rise to an even more enhanced view of virtue and vice.

The combined viewpoint of purpose, self-worth, love, suffering and ethics now influences the notion of freedom. Freedom could be divided into "freedom from" and "freedom for." "Freedom from" tends to resist commitment. If, for example, I believe that my purpose and happiness in life will come almost exclusively from admiration, control and comparative advantage (without regard for the net positive effect I am having or the contribution I am making), I am likely to view freedom as something which will promote ego-gratification. Anything which will enhance my control, autonomy and admiration will be viewed as liberating. I will also view hindrances to control as disempowering. Hence, I will see freedom as escape from constraint and the promotion of independence. This promotion of independence can make me view others as problems. It can, therefore, make commitments seem like a form of servitude. Long-term commitments will seem particularly disempowering and disenfranchising.

Alternatively, "freedom for" views commitment as empowering. If, for example, I have a Level 3 purpose in life, I will be living essentially for the net positive effect I can make to others and the world. I will have certain objectives in mind to promote these good effects. These objectives form the basis of my commitments. Commitment, therefore, does not feel disempowering (as it does in the Level 2 perspective). It feels liberating. I do not wish to escape constraint, but rather to engage in whatever discipline is required to actualize my dreams.

"Freedom from" is, therefore, illusory. I may feel free, but that feeling comes at the cost of undermining my capacity to commit, which, in its turn, undermines my capacity to actualize my long-term goals. Again, my view of happiness/purpose affects my capacity for self-actualization.

Thus far, we have been looking at how the various levels of happiness/purpose influence an ' vision, desire, and conviction. Now, we turn to the effects of happiness/purpose on the '. The culture (which transmits our societal values, virtues, and goals) is perhaps most influenced by the concepts of "person," "rights," and the "common good." The concept of "person" is the most important because the notion of "rights" and "common good" are directly dependent on it. The way the culture views "person" is the way it interprets "rights" and the "common good." Narrow notions of "person" lead to equally narrow notions of "rights" and the "common good."

As one moves through the four levels of happiness, one achieves greater appropriation of the objective definition of "person." Recall the definition from Section II: A "person" is "a being possessing an intrinsic guiding force (whether this be merely genetic, a soul, or both) toward fulfillment through unconditional, perfect and even unrestricted truth, goodness, love, beauty and being." This defining characteristic reveals both the fulfillment of a person and what differentiates humans from other animals. It therefore marks the point of transition between the genus of animals and the human species.

As one moves up the various levels of happiness, one becomes more and more disposed to seeing and acting on this objective definition. If, for example, I believe that my purpose in life is to optimize the contribution I can make to others (Level 3) and to involve myself in ultimate Truth, Love, Goodness, Beauty and Being (Level 4), then I would not only readily agree with the above objective definition of human person, I would be free to act upon it.

Conversely, if I view the purpose of life almost exclusively from a Level 1 perspective (pursuit of pleasures and external possessions) and/or a Level 2 perspective (pursuit of ego and comparative advantage), the above objective definition of "person" might seem to be quite bewildering. Even if one did acknowledge the truth of this definition, one would not be particularly inclined to act upon it, for the pursuit of ultimate Love, Truth and Fairness would be antithetical in many respects to ego-gratification, pleasure seeking, and comparative advantage.

Let us now return to the chart. The notion of "person" determines the way in which "rights" and "common good" are interpreted. If we reduce "persons" to merely material entities such as clumps of chemicals (Level 1), we are likely to bias our view of rights in favor of those who have or can enhance their material pleasures and possessions. Even though we may think of ourselves as far more high-minded than that, it might be interesting to check our feelings. If, for example, I believe that the goal of human life is to achieve sensual pleasure and possession, it will be difficult for me to resist the corollary opinion that the poor do not have as good a life as I. This could lead to the consequent opinion that the poor have less worth than I, which, in turn, could lead to the further implicit opinion that they are intrinsically inferior. Even if I cannot bring myself to hold these opinions consciously and explicitly, they could nevertheless be subconsciously present, resisting or working against my conscious opinions every moment of every day. One can never be sure where or how they will manifest themselves.

I do not mean to be accusatory here. Indeed, I do not even want to suggest that Level 1 individuals would not have the best intentions toward their fellow human beings. I only suggest that if a Level 1 individual begins to act merely out of subconscious convictions, he may be inclined to confuse poverty (or even middle class status) with inferiority. This could lead to inadvertently denying personhood to a whole group of people whom he implicitly considers to be inferior. This would clearly affect his interpretation of "rights."

If, for example, a Level 1 individual interpreted a fall in Joe's productivity to be a decline in his intrinsic worth, he might believe that an investment in Joe's health insurance would not be a good use of the world's limited resources. If Joe were to subsequently find himself in the hospital, this Level 1 individual might finally (reluctantly) resign himself to the fact that even though Joe had some worth earlier in his life, his ratio of production to consumption now manifests little of that former state. He might convince himself that it is best to take the most practical way out (i.e. a denial of fundamental health care to Joe). Though it is a hard decision to make, it is socially responsible for it avoids wasting our limited natural resources.

A Level 2 view of personhood can lead to similar proscriptions of rights. Rights would now be conditioned by status, respectability, achievement or power. Again, I am not suggesting that Level 2 individuals would explicitly proscribe the rights of people with lower levels of status, respectability or achievement. However, such individuals might implicitly believe that people of lesser status have a significantly lower quality of life. This bias could affect one's judgment about the worth or worthiness of individuals who are in ambiguous or vulnerable states of life (e.g., the preborn or the elderly). When this occurs, many citizens could easily err on the side of denying rather than according rights.

The ambiguities surrounding the abortion issue also play into this implicit bias. Here we see that the unborn child's right to life comes into conflict with a woman's right to privacy and custody over her own person. The right to life must be considered more fundamental than the right to privacy. For the former is the condition necessary for the possibility of the latter. If one is dead, one's right to privacy is a moot question. Why is it then, that many today have subordinated the less fundamental right to privacy to the more fundamental right to life? It arises out of the so called ambiguity surrounding the personhood of the unborn child. The unborn child does not "look like an adult." She has not actualized much of her full potential. The concrete manifestation of status, power and achievement is so much lower than her mother's, she seems to be "less of a person." Furthermore, she is dependent on her mother, which from a Level 2 point of view, could be construed to be a lack of status and therefore a lack of personhood. This dependency could also be viewed as an imposition on her mother which she has no right to do. An individual with ambiguous personhood should not be allowed to impose on an individual with clear personhood. A Level 2 perspective makes all of these judgments to proscribe the right to life seem tenable.

A Level 3 prospective, however, would be oriented towards the intrinsic goodness, dignity, and lovability of the other. The contributory nature of this perspective moves one to take careful account of the dignity and mystery enshrouded in this being which does not yet have an impressive physical appearance, achievements or status. This Level 3 perspective is free to attend to the presence of a unique guiding force towards fulfillment in unconditional and perfect Truth, Fairness, Love, Beauty and Being. At the very moment one attends to this mystery, one cannot deny its existence, for it seems to characterize beings of human origin.

Thus if one holds to a Level 3 view of happiness, one will probably be inclined to hold to a Level 3 view of "person" and "rights." If one sees the intrinsic dignity, lovability and transcendent mystery in individuals, one will not be inclined to judge their worth on the basis of high achievement, high popularity, high status, etc. One would then be inclined to accord rights to individuals on the basis of this intrinsic dignity. Therefore, this perspective would assess the unborn child's personhood (and therefore her right to life) as more fundamental than the mother's right to privacy.

It should again be emphasized that those who have subordinated the right to life to the right to privacy have frequently done so with good intentions. A Level 2 cultural bias has allowed limited autonomy, physical appearance and actualization to be interpreted as a limit to personhood. This, in turn, has hidden the presence of the guiding force toward unconditional fulfillment which characterizes beings of human origin. As a result, a human person's inalienable right to life has been unwittingly denied. This critical error of omission must be corrected to preserve not only the dignity and rights of countless human mysteries but also the culture itself (see Section IV).

Finally, if I hold to a Level 4 view of happiness, I am likely to hold to a Level 4 view of personhood, in which case I would be likely to see the presence of the intrinsic guiding force toward unconditional, unrestricted, and perfect Truth, Love, Fairness, Beauty and Being in every being of human origin. Level 4 goes beyond Level 3 by attending to both creation and the spiritual in human beings. Most Level 4 individuals would hold that the guiding force toward fulfillment in unconditional and perfect Truth, Love, Fairness, Beauty and Being is a transcendent soul. Many religious traditions would hold that this soul is made in the very image of God and that all of us, therefore, are linked to each other and to God in our spiritual origins. We are co-responsible for each other as if we were "spiritual kin." The Level 4 perspective, then, acknowledges more than the intrinsic goodness and dignity of beings of human origin. It acknowledges our inextricable interrelationship and interdependence. This interrelationship should not be viewed so much as an obligation to be co-responsible, but rather as an invitation to allow this co-responsibility to motivate a love that will eventually give rise to eternal joy in our interrelationship with one another. Thus, Level 4 goes beyond the acknowledgment of dignity to the eternal interrelatedness and lovability of all beings of human origin. Such dignity, interrelatedness (kinship) and lovability illicit a transparent and spontaneous judgment of eternally significant personhood which flows into a conception of not only inalienable but eternal rights grounded in an eternal dignity and destiny.

What does this do to my view of rights? Everything. I no longer assume that human essence and dignity are present in a being of human origin; I can actually connect with it through the very transcendental qualities I recognize in myself. I desire to attribute transcendental dignity to this transcendental being of human origin. Such transcendental dignity grounds and guarantees, with remarkable force, the words of Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all (beings of human origin) are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...." To the degree that we recognize Level 4 within ourselves (our fulfillment and happiness coming from the five transcendentals), we will recognize our own spirit. And to the degree that we recognize our own spirit, we will connect with and recognize the spirit of others. At this point human rights truly are, in Jefferson's words, "self-evident," and so is the equality upon which they are premised.

There is another area of rights affected by the levels of happiness: the reciprocity between rights and responsibility. In Levels 1/2 the emphasis tends to be either on possession or ego-gratification, both of which are oriented towards oneself. If Levels 1/2 are the only grounds of my identity, it will tend to bias my understanding of rights towards what is owed to me rather than what I owe to others. As a result, I might tend to forget the responsibility entailed by every claim to rights. If this view of rights becomes culturally normative, it could undermine the common good, for the common good requires at least some Level 3 commitment. We cannot seek the good for all of us unless we are committed to seeking a good beyond ourselves (Level 3).

Levels 3/4 help us to be free for the common good. Therefore, any view of rights which embraces a Level 3/4 perspective will see rights as protecting and promoting this common good. Rights are not merely a vehicle to protect me, they are a vehicle to protect all individuals in the culture.

Rights viewed from a Level 3/4 perspective hold to the intrinsic value of each individual, while holding to the necessity of the common good. In this way, the good of the whole is neither exaggerated to the detriment of the individual nor the good of the individual exaggerated to the detriment of the whole.

Hopefully, this brief look at the interrelationship among the ten major categories controlling both individual and cultural self-conception and self- actualization has shown how the four levels of happiness and personhood affect rights, the common good and the culture. If we truly want to protect inalienable rights of all citizens, if we truly want the common good to supplant mere egocentric interests, if we really want our quality of life to be enhanced by generative and transcendental concerns; indeed, if we really want our beliefs about ethics and freedom to influence the way we live, then we will have to come to the best possible understanding of "person," and then, using true freedom of the heart, live out of that understanding so that our common welfare may flourish.

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IV. Application of the Above Principles to the Life Issues

Up to this point I have discussed how abortion and euthanasia cut short the full manifestation of the individual human mystery in our midst. Inasmuch as each of us contributes positively to the emergence of the history of our families, friends, community and even the world, these actions have negative "world changing" consequences. The negative consequences of these actions also extend to the culture (the medium through which societal values are transmitted). As long as we continue to engage in and entertain the possibility of these negative actions, we will continue to maladjust our culture's views of "person," "ethics," "freedom," "quality of life," "rights," and "the common good." This maladjustment could eventually cause the culture to move towards Levels 1/2 with such intensity that Levels 3/4 could be altogether forgotten. The net result would be that our culture would call us to our lower selves and to forget our higher selves, making it the undoing of the human mystery.

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A. Application to the Abortion Issue

Let us first examine the cultural consequences of the abortion issue. The following diagram indicates the cycle of individual and cultural harms resulting from abortion.


Such a cycle of individual and cultural harms could occur from any one of a number of negative issues (e.g., racism, avoidable poverty, accepted political oppression, etc.). Hopefully the elucidation of the deleterious consequences of the life issues will alert readers to the same cycles occurring in these other issues.

As noted above, abortion cuts short the full manifestation of the individual human mystery in our midst. Any culture which attempts to legalize a harm to an individual must provide some rationale for why we (as members of the culture) should act contrary to our intuitive recognition of the Silver Rule (Do no harm).

People who operate at Level 3/4 (i.e., contribution towards others and the common good) will not knowingly legislate a harm. If abortion is a harm to individual human persons, to the dignity of the individual, and to the culture, one must ask why so many Level 3/4 people seem to be indifferent to or even in support of it. In my view the answer is linked to four contemporary opinions about human personhood and rights. These opinions cannot be justified from any objective, systematic point of view. Perhaps worse, they lead to a myriad of new individual and cultural harms which go far beyond the abortion and euthanasia issues. Each of these opinions redefines "person," and "inalienable rights" in a more subjective, Level 1/2, and potentially destructive way. It does not matter whether these opinions (redefinitions) have been forwarded intentionally or unintentionally, the fact is that they are currently doing harm and will inevitably do more harm in the future. Therefore, they must be immediately corrected and re-grounded in a systematic and objective base. They may be summarized as follows:

1. "Person" is divorced from human life

2. "Person" is linked to a specific quality of life or development

3. The redefinition of "inalienable rights"

4. The subjectivization of the intrinsic ordering of rights

As explained in the previous section, these re-definitions will influence the other cultural categories which will, in turn, focus the culture on Level 1/2 concerns (possessions, power, and ego-gratification) to the exclusion of Level 3/4 concerns (contribution, the common good, love, intrinsic human dignity, and the Ultimate). This refocusing of cultural concern opens the way for other harms arising out of exaggerated Level 1/2 desire which, in its turn, opens the way to additional cultural harms, etc.

The first three of the above four opinions may be examined together. The first opinion (divorcing "person" from human life) emerged shortly after the Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade. The proponents of abortion had to divorce personhood from human life because they could not deny that a human life existed at conception. It was clear that the conceptus is a life (for it is metabolizing, growing, sub-dividing, surviving, etc.). It is also clear that the conceptus is uniquely human, for it possesses the complete genetic structure of a unique human being and even the sequencing of cell divisions leading to that fully-developed human being (See Jerome Lejeune, M.D., in Junior L. Davis and Mary Sue Davis v. Ray King, M.D., dba Fertility Center of East Tennessee, Third Party Defendant "Custody Dispute Over Seven Human Embryos" August 1989). Therefore a single-cell embryo is a unique human life. Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision a "person" was implicitly identified with a "unique human life." However, in order to justify abortion, human personhood was distinguished from "unique human life." It became almost commonplace to hear that "even though a unique human life was present, human personhood was not." Since it was further contended that rights belonged only to "persons," it fell to the courts to define when personhood occurred. This had two effects: 1) it undermined the objective ground of human personhood, and 2) it gave the courts the unprecedented power to decide when personhood (and inalienable rights) exist.

This separation of human personhood from human life opens a cultural Pandora's box. If rights do attach themselves to persons, and there is no objective ground of the definition of "person" (i.e., the occurrence of a unique human life), then personhood (and inalienable rights) could be defined in any arbitrary way that a legitimate or powerful authority wills it. By changing the definition of "person" one can define who should get rights and who should not. By losing the objective ground of personhood (i.e., the occurrence of a unique human life) one automatically undermines the inalienability of the right to life and all other subordinate rights.

We have given our most important social possession (the source of our freedom and protection within society) over to an external authority. Will it stop merely with the abortion issue? Could a court some day define person as a "being who has reached the age of reason," or a "being who has a reasonable degree of independence," or a "being with a minimum 98 I.Q.," or even a "being incapable of being depressed"? Why not? The Roe v. Wade decision and its aftermath has allowed any of the above subjective definitions of "person" to become a future reality. According to the Court, we are no longer intrinsic rights holders at the moment our unique human life occurs. We are extrinsic rights recipients at the moment the Court declares our personhood to exist.

The Constitution of the United States has always rested on an implicit definition of inalienable rights declared to be self-evident in The Declaration of Independence. This notion of inalienable rights seems to have been implicitly recognized by important members of the U.S. judiciary throughout our short history. But the occurrence of the Roe v. Wade decision combined with an ever increasingly positivistic jurisprudence seems to have obscured the intrinsic nature of our right to life and its objective ground. If the culture should become dominantly Level 1/2 it could lead to any arbitrary proscription of any inalienable right to any individual or group based on any subjective characteristic which the cultural authority deems to be indicative of personhood.

The fourth of the above opinions (the subjectivization of the ordering of rights) must be examined separately for it concerns a different aspect of the Court's reasoning in the Roe v. Wade decision. Abortion has been justified by placing the clear liberty rights of a mother over the "unclear" life rights of the unborn human being. Once the personhood of the unborn human being had been negated or thrown into question, it was simple for proponents to add that the mother's right to custody over her own body carried greater weight.

This reasoning runs contrary to good philosophy and common sense. It also contradicts the implicit ordering of rights used by the legal system throughout the last two hundred years. This implicit ordering of rights has not always been strictly adhered to (e.g., in the Dred Scott decision) but it has generally carried the day.

The right to life has, throughout history, been implicitly ranked above the right to liberty. This is certainly evidenced in John Locke's and Thomas Jefferson's lists which acknowledge the primacy of the right to life above the right to liberty. An objective criterion for this ranking can be taken from Kant's necessity criterion: "the condition necessary for the possibility of." If Right X is a condition of the very possibility of Right Y, then Right X should be considered to be objectively more fundamental than Right Y. With respect to the case under discussion, the right to life is clearly a condition necessary for the possibility of the right to liberty. If one is dead, one's right to liberty is irrelevant. Hence, the right to life should be considered objectively more fundamental than the right to liberty.

The Courts favoring of a liberty claim over a life claim seems prima facie to be a violation of the above objective criterion. Then why did the Court propose it? It seems that the ambiguous status of the unborn human being's personhood allowed the court to think that the clearer status of the mother's liberty claim outweighed the less clear status of the unborn human being's life claim. This reasoning is unsound because clarity is a matter of subjective apperception. If a person declares, "A2 + B2 = C2 is not clear to me," does this mean it is not true? Should the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem be subject to a particular person's clear apperception of it? Clarity cannot replace necessity as a criterion for resolving rights conflicts. The former is subjective, the later, objective.

There is yet another reason why clarity is not a decisive criterion for the resolution of rights conflicts; namely, moral necessity (the obligation to minimize harm in accordance with the Silver Rule). When one is unclear about what to do in a moral dilemma or a rights conflict, one ought to err in favor of the least possible harm. A court would not be convinced by a nuclear power plant's case resting on the following reasoning: "We were unclear about whether core meltdown would take place. So, in the absence of objective evidence to the contrary, we took a chance and killed 200,000 people." The abortion case is not much different: "We were not clear about whether an unborn human being is a "person;" therefore, in the absence of any clear mitigating criterion, we took a chance and killed eight million of them."

Whenever we have used the "clarity argument" to subordinate objectively more fundamental rights to less fundamental ones, we have caused great civil disorder. The Dred Scott decision subordinated Afro-Americans' liberty rights to others' property rights. Whenever this invalid subordination is done, it undermines the Silver Rule which leads to a perception of injustice which, in turn, leads to civil strife. This, in its turn, leads to greater violations of the Silver Rule until the fundamental error is rectified. How can it be rectified? Through a three-step program:

1. Refusing to subordinate an objective criterion (a necessity criterion) to a subjective criterion (the clarity criterion).

2. To resolve rights conflicts through use of the necessity criterion whenever possible.

3. In times of uncertainty, erring in favor of according rights and personhood. To do otherwise could deny the right to life not only to individuals but whole groups.

How did our legal system get to the point of forgetting these seemingly elementary objective criteria? I believe it has arisen out of a fundamental failure to study objective legal criteriology in the areas of personhood and inalienability. These issues seem so abstract and philosophical that they are frequently relegated to (and hidden in) the domain of the philosophers. Since more positivistic methods of legal argumentation cannot replace objective criteriology in the areas of "person," "inalienability" and "rights," law professors and the judiciary will have to resurrect the study of criteriology to prevent not only needless prejudice and death, but also civil strife and the decline of the culture.

Why will the culture experience further decline if the above error is not rectified? Two major reasons may be adduced. First, it was mentioned above that once the definition of "person" is detached from "occurrence of a unique human life," any subjective redefinition can occur (e.g., an I.Q. of 98 plus).

Secondly, legal definitions of "person" find their way back into the definitions of the other nine categories of cultural discourse (happiness, success, quality of life, love, suffering, ethics, freedom, rights, and the common good). Why? Because what becomes legal becomes normative, and what becomes normative becomes moral. For example, if the legal system should define personhood in terms of "degree of independence from others," then less independent people, by implication, would have to have a lesser quality of life. This lesser quality of life, in turn, would further imply less opportunity for happiness and success, which could be viewed as a life of intrinsic suffering. Should we allow these more dependent people to come into a world filled with such a burden? Would it not be the more "loving" and "virtuous" thing to head their inevitable misery off at the pass. Would it be "ethical" to use scarce resources to benefit them when there are other more independent people in the world? It seems that the "common good" would dictate that we ought to subordinate the life rights of the more dependent to the liberty and property rights of the more independent. At this juncture the life of the more independent has been deemed by the culture to be more worthy than the life of the more dependent. Any number of negative social consequences, including genocide, can follow from this reasoning.

This reasoning, with all of its negative consequences, abounds in our contemporary culture. It can be found in current journals of ethics, law, and medicine, and heard daily on the radio and television. If the culture as a whole is going to move out of this mindset, it must recover the above principles of personhood and make a concerted effort to bring itself back to Level 3/4 thinking. Perhaps the reverse is more appropriate. We must first recover Level 3/4 thinking so that our hearts will be disposed to looking for the objective truth about personhood. This is precisely the purpose of the Life Principles Program.

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B. Application to the Euthanasia Issue

The euthanasia issue may be viewed in a similar way. As you may know, the Hemlock Society and other organizations have, in the last five years, proposed Initiatives and legislation for physician-assisted suicide and lethal injection for persons gripped by terminal illness. This is a significant departure from previous legislation which attempted to allow people freedom from unwanted life-prolonging measures. In the past the medical profession was faced only with the decision of giving a person extraordinary life prolonging treatments. Current initiatives and legislative efforts would now allow physicians to administer life ending drugs to people who would not die of natural causes. Physicians would now be able to administer death as well as healing. The following diagram indicates the cycle of individual and cultural harms which would follow upon these new political initiatives.


What are the individual harms which would follow upon these initiatives? First, the literature of pain and symptom management indicates that the vast majority of requests for physician assisted suicide are reversed when pain and depression are treated adequately.1 Since pain and depression can be relieved in the vast majority of cases of terminal illnesses2 to the satisfaction of patients, then most suicide requests would be reversed if medical professionals were simply able to carry out their functions with the benefit of modern technology. Therefore, these suicide requests, if honored, would have been terrible mistakes in the view of those making them. Even Derick Humphry (co-founder of the Hemlock Society and author of Final Exit, the controversial "self-help" suicide book) admits that "only a small percentage of terminal physical pain cannot be controlled today."3 In the same vein, Dr. Pieter Admiraal (an anesthesiologist, clinical pharmacologist and leading Dutch advocate of legalized euthanasia) admitted to Dr. Carlos Gomez that pain control and alertness can be achieved in practically all cases given sufficient effort and sophistication on the part of all involved and that euthanasia for pain control is therefore both unnecessary and unethical.4

The second harm to individuals arising out of euthanasia is the potential for abuse. The relatives and friends could convince a vulnerable dying person to "move on with the inevitable" in order to facilitate an inheritance. A physician could persuade a patient to avail herself of assisted suicide or lethal injection if he were angry or felt she was unjustifiably consuming medical resources. Marginalized or less wealthy people could be persuaded by health insurance costs to select assisted suicide more often than their wealthier counterparts. No matter how many protections we try to build into the law, they can all be accidentally or intentionally circumvented to the detriment of the dying person.

The third harm to individuals is concerned with the possibility of involuntary euthanasia as The Report of Dutch Physicians on Euthanasia5 makes clear. In Holland, the Dutch government report cited thousands of cases of involuntary euthanasia in 1990, initiated and carried out by doctors, without patient knowledge or request, because the doctors thought it appropriate. This, despite carefully thought-out, written safeguards supposedly ensuring patient control and fully informed consent. Evidently, given the Dutch experience, euthanasia appears to be uncontrollable. Their situation should have been a best-case scenario: a small country without significant racial conflict or economic pressure on the heath care system, with carefully constructed safeguards (much tighter than those proposed thus far in the English-speaking world). And yet, perhaps 1 in 10 deaths there is involuntary, at the hands of doctors.6

Dutch physicians expressed a wide range of motives for perpetrating involuntary euthanasia: anger towards the patient, a belief in the unworthiness of the patient, the low quality of life of the patient, the declining condition of the patient, etc. The moral belief of physicians outweighed those of the patient. Since involuntary euthanasia is easy to cover up, the high incidence of it was not discovered until physicians admitted it in the Dutch Report.

My intention here is to show how individual harms can lead to cultural harms which in turn open upon even greater individual harms. What are the cultural harms arising out of the above three individual harms? Three cultural harms are of particular significance:

1. View the last months of life as wasted or insignificant.

2. The imposition of the duty to die.

3. Negative effects on the ten categories of cultural discourse.

The first cultural harm is connected with the devaluation of the last months of life. According to advocates of euthanasia, the last months of life can frequently be degrading and debilitating. Loss of autonomy, mobility and self-sufficiency can make a person feel that they are nothing but an encumbrance. The result is a severe decline in their feeling of self worth. If one is living simply for possessions, power, and ego- gratification, then loss of the ability to compete, to seek new opportunity or to be independent or autonomous could be viewed as the loss of all purpose and meaning in life.

People having a predominately Level 3/4 perspective frequently view the last months of life as the most poignant. From this perspective, loss of one's Level 2 potential can frequently lead to a heightened capacity for Level 3/4 activities (reconciliation, forgiveness, intimacy, generativity, reflection on the Ultimate, faith, sharing of personal wisdom, etc.) The patient is not the sole beneficiary of these activities. Children, friends, colleagues, churches, and community organizations can sometimes benefit more from these activities than the dying person. An over-zealous policy of honoring suicide requests could not only deprive Level 3/4 people of the most poignant time of their lives, it could also hinder Level 2 individuals from freely and naturally moving to Level 3/4. The dying and those surviving them could be adversely affected for generations.

The devaluation of the last six months of life can also undermine the ability to deal with suffering. If one feels that life is fundamentally possession, power, ego-gratification and autonomy, the loss of these things in terminal illness will be interpreted as meaningless suffering. Deprivation of the powers necessary for one's whole purpose in life will seem to be an irreversible decline in dignity. If one equates suffering with nothing more than self-deprecation, one will be severely tempted to end it quickly.

A Level 3/4 perspective, however, is open to higher meaning and good in suffering. For example, suffering can be viewed as a means of purifying one's attitudes to reach a deeper, more humble, and more comprehensive capacity for love, wisdom, faith, and the pursuit of the common good. This is manifest in many of the sayings of our popular wisdom: "There is no cheap wisdom." "Wisdom comes from assessing both success and hardship." "There is no love without humility." "One's ego must be tempered in order to give oneself away." "Idealists can become ruthless without humility and love."

From a Level 3/4 point of view, then, suffering initiates the process of humility, depth, and new perspectives which opens upon a greater capacity for wisdom, love and faith. This enables us to optimize the positive contribution we can make with our lives.

When one is terminally ill, one is virtually compelled to accept help from one's friends. At first this can feel disempowering and humiliating. However, this difficult task can have profound benefits. If one aims to purify one's love through this seeming disempowerment, it shatters the pretense of the ego and allows one to grow in the humility so necessary for love. This, in turn, helps one to enter into a community of interdependence. By fostering humble interdependence, suffering orients both individuals and groups toward common cause, common ideals, and a community of mutual respect and care.

The predominant obstacle to these Level 3/4 ideals is our inability to accept help. Yet when one allows others to help, one finds oneself growing in freedom and contributing more to unity, community and the common good. If we do not stem the tide of euthanasia, we may lose this all-important benefit of suffering. What will the next generation think of love then?

The second cultural harm arising out of recent euthanasia initiatives may be termed "the duty to die." Proponents of assisted suicide and lethal injection frequently claim that it is their right to have this option. Those who do not want this option, it is contended, do not have to avail themselves of it. Why take it away from those who want it? Is this not another instance of pro-lifers unjustly interfering in the lives of others?

The answer to these questions lies in what by now is an old socio-political and legal clichè: "One person's option is another person's duty." This clichè correctly acknowledges that every new option carries with it an implicit or explicit duty. Once society legalizes the option of euthanasia, certain groups within the society might feel that it is not simply an option but a duty. Vulnerable people could be pressured to avail themselves of an option that they would not have otherwise wanted. What could be the source of this pressure? Feelings of being a burden to their family, a burden to society, a burden to the doctor, an illegitimate consumer of resources, etc. In short, people can feel obligated by an option if others or the society suggest that it is the moral or appropriate thing to do. The new option opens the way for a new duty imposed on those who would formerly not have been inclined to even think about suicide.

The people who would be most vulnerable to this new unwanted duty would be those who have judged themselves to be less worthy to live. These would include the clinically depressed, the marginalized or economically deprived, those with low self- esteem, those who feel themselves a burden to their families, and those with a heightened sense of anxiety from their illness. Indeed, even those suffering from reversible depression7 could also find themselves vulnerable. Hence a significant portion of the population could find itself pressured to commit suicide when they are not suffering, depressed, or desirous of the option.

The third cultural harm concerns the ten categories of cultural discourse. By now it must be evident that the legalization of euthanasia will inevitably affect our view of quality of life, suffering, and love. If we as a culture accept more incomplete and even superficial interpretations of these central concepts, we will collectively think less of ourselves. We will undervalue our intrinsic goodness, dignity and mystery which is grounded in our view of suffering, freedom and love. This undervaluation of our worth will lead to an undervaluation of the goals of our lives. This, in turn, will lead to an underestimation of the value of commitment (freedom) which will, in turn, lead to an undervaluation of the virtues necessary to achieve the deepest aspects of wisdom, love and faith. This will lead to an undervaluation and superficial understanding of ethics which, in the end, will lead to a superficial understanding of rights. The culture is perilously close to embracing a philosophy which does not understand the need for ethics and which views rights as "what is owed to me" instead of "what I owe to others." If this cultural philosophy becomes pervasive, it will open the way to a myriad of new individual and cultural harms, and the cycle will continue.

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The goal of the Life Principles Program is to help the culture move out of this self-destructive momentum. If this is to be done, we must get our bearings. As a culture we must choose the meaning and level of discourse which we believe to be most indicative of our human potential (Level 3/4). Once this is done we must acknowledge the objective definition of "person" which is most consistent with this choice. When this is accomplished, it must be conveyed to our judiciary and our legislatures so that these two servants of the culture will not act counter to what we believe and hold about ourselves and our destiny. In communicating to our judiciary and legislature, we must indicate clearly what we mean by "person," "inalienability," "rights," and "the objective ranking of rights." We must further ask that all antithetical laws and court decisions be reversed. When this is accomplished, a healing cycle will ensue.

The future of the pro-life movement lies in a comprehensive education grounded in a profound grasp of life's purpose. The more deeply we grasp the meaning of life, the more profoundly we will grasp its value, dignity, and mystery.

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  1. See, for example, Kathleen M. Foley, MD, "The Relationship of Pain and Symptom Management to Patient Requests for Physician-Assisted Suicide", Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, vol.6 (1991) p.290. "We frequently see patients referred to our Pain Clinic who have considered suicide as an option, or who request physician-assisted suicide because of uncontrolled pain. We commonly see such ideation and requests dissolve with adequate control of pain and other symptoms, using combinations of pharmacological, neurosurgical, anesthetic, or psychological approaches."

  2. Cancer and Palliative Care, bulletin of the World Health Organization, Geneva, 1990.

  3. Derek Humphry. Let Me Die Before I Wake: Hemlock's Book of Self-Deliverance For the Dying (1984) p. 76

  4. Carlos Gomez, MD, personal communication from Pieter Admiraal.

  5. Richard Fenigsen, MD, "The Report of the Dutch Governmental Committee on Euthanasia," Issues in Law and Medicine 7:339-344, 1991. I. Van der Sluis, MD, "The practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands," Issues in Law and Medicine 4:460-471, 1989. B.A. Bostrom, JD, "Euthanasia in the Netherlands: A model for the United States?" Issues in Law and Medicine 4:471-486, 1989. Medische Beslilssingen Rond Het Levenscinde (Medical Decisions About the End of Life), ISBN 90399011244, 2 volumes, The Hague, 1991.

  6. ibid.

  7. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. On Death and Dying, New York: MacMillan, 1969. The whole of the chapters devoted to anger and depression are quite elucidating with respect to this issue.

This is J. Fraser Field, Founder of CERC. I hope you appreciated this piece. We curate these articles especially for believers like you.

Please show your appreciation by making a $3 donation. CERC is entirely reader supported.



Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. "The Life Principles: A Model for Teaching the Philosophy of the Pro-Life Movement." University Faculty for Life (1999).

This article was originally published in LIFE AND LEARNING VIII: Proceedings of the 1998 University Faculty for Life Conference. Ed. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., Washington, D.C.: UFL, 1999. The Center for Life Principles reprinted this article with permission. Users have permission to print and use this article for personal or educational purposes (1) as long as no information whatsoever is altered in any way; (2) as long as proper credit is given to the copyright holder (University Faculty for Life - see above), the author (Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D) and the Center for Life Principles; and (3) as long as the reprint is not sold for profit. Booklets of this article are available from the Center for Life Principles for $5.00 each. Please call toll free 1-877-345-LIFE or email with requests. Visit the Life Principles website

The Author

Spitzer73spitzer7Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. is President of the Magis Center of Faith and Reason and the Spitzer Center for Ethical Leadership. He is the author of New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, Spirit of Leadership: Optimizing Creativity and Change in Organizations, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life: A Practical Guide to Prayer for Active People, Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues, Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues, as well as videos such as Suffering and the God of Love, and Healing the Culture.

Copyright © 1999 University Faculty for Life

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