Liz Harman's Interview: A Lesson I Didn't Expect to Learn

Back in August 2017, my Facebook newsfeed was peppered throughout with mocking criticisms of Elizabeth (Liz) Harman's appearance on Philosophy Time, a series of philosophy-themed interviews featuring actor James Franco and his co-host Eliot Michaelson (see video embedded in this post).  Harman's ideas came under such scrutiny partly because of her position at Princeton University as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values.  I'll admit, after viewing her interview, I was also unimpressed and mystified that someone so distinguished could represent what seemed to me to be to be a totally incoherent position.

Recently, I read a response written by Sherif Girgis, a graduate of Yale Law School and PhD candidate in Philosophy at Princeton.  Girgis disagrees with Harman's argument, which makes the title of his article all the more intriguing: "In Defense of Elizabeth Harman: Taking Pro-Choice Philosophers Seriously."  As a former student of Harman's during his undergraduate years at Princeton, Girgis starts his article with a stinging critique, not for Harman, but for the pro-life advocates who have ridiculed her and her arguments since the release of the video on July 25th.

Reading Girgis' article was a humbling, poignant reminder to me of the importance of listening to understand, even when the ideas a person represents seem completely ridiculous.  All of us, pro-life and pro-choice alike, can learn from this.  I think we can also learn from Girgis's excellent critique of Harman's position - a position which he represents much more fairly than I've yet seen it represented from any other pro-life advocate since the release of Harman's Philosophy Time interview. 

Questions to Consider

  • Have you felt misrepresented in a discussion of abortion? Have you misrepresented someone else's view in pursuit of refuting it?

  • Do you agree with the point of this post that no matter what our view on abortion is, we need more "listening to understand" in discussions about abortion?

Further Reading