Identity, Killing, and the Boundaries of Our Existence
DeGrazia (David)
Source: Philosophy and Public Affairs. Fall 03; 31(4): 413-442
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. The essay addresses central themes of "McMahan (Jeff) - The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life" and "Boonin (David) - A Defense of Abortion".
  2. The most general theme is that philosophical argument can settle some of the "marginal cases" - issues concerning contestable moral status and/or the boundaries of our existence.
  3. McMahan provocatively argues that personal identity theory can illuminate these issues. I reject McMahan's account of identity while endorsing his account of what matters1 in survival.
  4. I also contend that, suitably combined (and modified), McMahan's and Boonin's arguments greatly advance a liberal approach to abortion2.
  5. Finally, I address the definition of death and the authority of advance directives in dementia cases, with special attention to personal identity theory.

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