Potentiality and Disposition in the Discussion about the Moral Status of Human Embryos
Meincke (Anne Sophie)
Source: Philosophisches Jahrbuch 122 (2015), 271-303
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. The argument from potentiality for embryo protection relies on the assumption of a specific developmental potential of human embryos: as human embryos under normal conditions naturally developing into beings whose strong moral status is uncontroversial, namely into human persons, they likewise enjoy strong moral status.
  2. In my paper, I endeavour to spell out the ontological foundations of the argument from potentiality and to discuss them critically in the light of new empirical findings in embryology. Particular attention is hereby paid to recent attempts to analyse the relevant notion of potentiality in terms of dispositions possessed by human embryos.
  3. I argue that, putting aside inappropriate essentialist speculations, there is no straightforward disposition of an embryo to become a person; such a disposition, if any, being rather successively generated in a multi-factored, highly context-sensitive process of biological development.


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