From Zygote to a Human Person
When we ask what it takes to be a person, the criteria we impose usually leave questions outstanding about some merits of the human species. This paper discusses the questions that concern the status (as persons) of the very young or the unborn, and the extra problems that arise when we consider children born with savage mental or physical impairments. The paper exploits the notion of potentiality to suggest that the title of “person” is relatively unimportant, since our ethical obligations to infants and foetuses can be shown to be as stringent as are those to any adult; and introduces the idea of “an Aristotelian loss” to explain the extent of our obligations to the impaired. It is suggested in conclusion that the development of IVF techniques adds no extra dimensions to this problem.
The article is adapted from a chapter of a forthcoming book on personal identity.