Human Being: The Boundaries of the Concept
Becker (Lawrence)
Source: Philosophy and Public Affairs, 4.4 (Summer 1975), 334-359
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

    I propose here what I take to be decisive, morally neutral definitions of the boundaries of human life - that is, of the distinction between human becomings and human beings, and the distinction between human beings and human has-beens. I give reasons for thinking that, for moral theory, these definitions are preferable to ones framed in terms of "morally relevant" characteristics. I argue, against life-cycle and personhood accounts, that the becoming/being boundary lies at the completion of the metamorphic phase of (biological) generative development; and, against brain-death accounts, that the being/has-been boundary lies at the functional disintegration of the human (biological) organism.
Section Headings
  1. Problems of Definition
  2. The Becoming/Being Boundary
  3. Objections to Metamorphic Definition:
    … 3.1 Imprecision
    … 3.2 Mutation and Arrested Development
    … 3.3 Alternatives to Metamorphic Definition
    … 3.4 The Moral Emptiness of the Definition
  4. The Being/Has-Been Boundary
  5. Conclusion

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