The Sorites Paradox, or the “paradox of the heap” is an ancient Greek puzzle posed by a pupil of Euclid named Eubulides. The paradox demonstrates that the results of human logic depend upon one’s initial assumptions.
The paradox begins with a large pile of sand. The philosopher then removes one grain and asks, “Is this still a pile?” The answer, it would seem, is that it is still a pile because no one missing grain establishes a logical point where a pile of grains can no longer be called a pile.
But then suppose we start with a single grain and add another. Now the philosopher asks, “Has the one grain now become a pile?” Again, it seems perfectly logical to assert that two grains do not magically become a pile, and that no one added grain is a logical point where grains of sand always become a pile.
The paradox of the heap demonstrates how the same logic leads us to two opposite conclusions depending on our initial assumptions. I often think of Sorites paradox when abortion is argued. Two perfectly logical positions, each based on differing assumptions end up with opposite conclusions. If one begins the debate with the abstraction of a fully developed baby in one’s head, there is no point in pregnancy when it would be logical to say, “that is not a life.” But if one begins with the abstraction that pregnancy is an event that happens within a woman, there is no logical point in the gestation process that clearly turns the egg into a person.
Depending on one’s initial assumption the “right to life with no exceptions” and the “abortion on demand” argument are both perfectly logical. Being prochoice means getting beyond these two abstractions. Being prochoice recognizes that both the prolife and pro-abortion position are perfectly logical, but are based on abstractions and so neither has the right to impose itself on the other.
Gestation is a continuum like the Sorites paradox. Depending upon one’s initial assumptions, logic can take honest people to very different conclusions, therefore no one can make the logical case for taking that decision away from everyone else.
Anyone who recognizes the paradoxical nature of the topic of abortion is already well on their way to being prochoice.