Personhood, Potentiality, and Normativity

The lives of persons are valuable, but are all humans persons? Some humans—the immature, the damaged, and the defective—are not capable, here and now, of engaging in the rational activities characteristic of persons, and for this reason, one might call their personhood into question. A standard way of defendingit is by appeal to potentiality: we know they are persons because we know they have the potentiality to engage in rational activities. In this paper I develop acomplementary strategy based on normativity. We know that the humans in question are persons because we know that lacking the here-and-now ability to engage in rational activities is—for them, unlike for tulips or kittens—a falling-short of some norm. Their personhood, in other words, is established on the basis of their being subject to the norm of having those here-and-now capacities
Keywords Theories of Personhood
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