What is the moral status of humans lacking the potential for
consciousness? The concept of potentiality often tips the scales in
life-and-death medical decisions. Some argue that all human embryos
have the potential to develop characteristics--such as
consciousness, intellect, and will--that we normally associate with
personhood. Individuals with total brain failure or in a persistent
vegetative state are thought to lack the potential for
consciousness or any other mental function. Or do they?
In "Potentiality" John Lizza gathers classic articles alongside
newly commissioned chapters from leading thinkers who analyze the
nature of potentiality in bioethics, a concept central to a number
of important debates. The contributors illustrate how
considerations of potentiality and potential persons complicate the
analysis of the moral consideration of persons at the beginning and
end of life. A number of works explicitly uncover the Aristotelian
background of the concept, while others explore philosophical
issues about persons, dispositions, and possibility. The common
assumption that potentiality is intrinsic to whatever has the
potentiality is challenged by a relational view of persons, an
extrinsic account of dispositions, and attention to how extrinsic
factors affect realistic possibilities.
Although potentiality has figured prominently in bioethical
literature, it has not received a great deal of logical, semantic,
and metaphysical analysis in contemporary philosophical literature.
This collection will bring these thorny philosophical issues to the
Incorporating cutting-edge research on the topic of
potentiality, this thought-provoking collection will interest
bioethicists, philosophers, health care professionals, attorneys
engaged in medical and health issues, and hospital and governmental
committees who advise on policy and law concerning issues at the
beginning and end of life.
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