Potentiality and persons at the margins of life

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John P. Lizza

Abstract

The concept of potentiality is often invoked in debate over the moral status of human embryos. It has also been invoked, though less prominently, in debate over the moral status of anencephalic infants, individuals in permanent vegetative state, and the whole-brain dead. In this paper, I examine some of the theoretical assumptions underlying the concept of potentiality invoked in these debates. I show how parties in the debate over the ethical significance of potentiality have been talking past each other to a large extent because they rely on different concepts of potentiality. The conceptual differences are traced to different assumptions about the nature of persons and whether external factors may affect determinations of possibility and therefore potentiality. Any assessment about the ethical significance of potentiality therefore requires an evaluation of alternative concepts personhood and the connection between possibility and potentiality.

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How to Cite
Lizza, John P. 2010. “Potentiality and Persons at the Margins of Life”. Diametros, no. 26 (December):44-57. https://doi.org/10.13153/diam.26.2010.414.
Section
Special topic – Right to life
Author Biography

John P. Lizza

John P. Lizza, Ph.D. is a Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Persons Humanity and the Definition of Death (2006) and editor of Defining the Beginning and End of Life (2009), both published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.
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