Re: Circumcision and Libertarian Ethics

I'd like to clarify some things regarding this post. While I was a bit vague, I never tried to justify the practice of circumcision on ethical grounds. In fact, I said, "My son was circumcised the day he was born, and my daughter had her ear's pierced at 3 months. Horrors! I'll ask their forgiveness when they're old enough to give 'informed mercy'." This quite clearly shows that I think circumcision is an act of injustice, albeit I considered it a very small, tiny, act of injustice.

But I think I may have been too cavalier about it. Perhaps because I was circumcised, as was my father, I allowed the "normalcy" of it to cloud my judgment. The fact is, circumcision is a form of genital mutilation. I have no problem with my genitals having been mutilated, and I don't think my son will either, but obviously I, nor he, will ever know what life would be like with intact genitals. We simply won't.

What will I do if I have another son? With complete honesty I can say: I don't know. What I won't try to do, and haven't, is justify my decision on libertarian grounds. I believe it would be ethically wrong, but I can't say that that would stop me.

UPDATE: On second thought, I think "genital mutilation" is inaccurate. After circumcision, one's genitals are still completely useful. When I think of mutilation, I imagine something nearly destroyed. Maybe "genital alteration" is more accurate.


  1. Your reflections show honesty. :) I still can't see that scale of decision at hours or days of life being consistent with libertarian ethics, particularly since the foreskin does have a beneficial function (and not just for its owner). The lack of effective anesthesia presents yet another problem I have with the procedure. I just don't see it gelling with libertarian philosophy at all - rather, it seems entirely the opposite - to permanently "alter" anyone else's body at that age (and necessarily sans consent) by removing healthy parts, especially with conscious awareness of the pain and the potential for complications. Our culture totally needs to change...

    1. Krista, I just came across this post that mentions circumcision. Hoppe's "argumentation ethics" is a fairly new concept to me and I'm not completely familiar with it, but if it is logically sound, which I'm leaning towards, then circumcision (and abortion) would be justified under libertarian ethics (argumentation ethics is part of libertarian ethics). I've still got some analyzing to do on the subject, but I thought I'd share:

    2. ..."entirely the opposite" meaning it'd be acceptably consistent with libertarian ethics (defense of self or others who can't defend themselves) to forcibly stop someone from performing the procedure. I should've been more clear.

    3. Hmm... the article you linked to was rather horrifyingly consistent. The author seems to argue for the right of a moral agent to do whatever they please to someone or something who is not - by some authority's definition - a full moral agent.

      That's not my understanding of libertarian philosophy. My understanding is essentially, "don't violate others' rights; and all humans have similar rights." (Yeah, not the deepest understanding, but the only parts I'm sure of so far...)

      I have a hard time equating an embryo or a newborn with a llama, too, since I cannot divorce my understanding of humanity from an understanding of the gift of moral agency, however limited its development or exercise may be. (I'm not saying a human embryo is necessarily a full human being, although I believe it could be in at least some cases; I'm just saying it's a *human* embryo, not a llama embryo.)

      That probably makes me a faux-libertarian hypocrite or something equally flattering by that blogger's standards, but I guess I'm okay with that. ;) It's certainly an interesting argument, and it certainly addresses parental rights; but in the attempt, it's a great way for him to make the concept of liberty morally repugnant...

    4. "It's certainly an interesting argument, and it certainly addresses parental rights; but in the attempt, it's a great way for him to make the concept of liberty morally repugnant..."

      That's a rational reaction, but that doesn't mean it's illogical. I've got to float this by some others that are more familiar with AE than I am. He may not be correct in his reasoning, but he may be.

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