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Capacity, harm and experience in the life of persons as equals
  1. John Finnis
  1. Correspondence to Professor John Finnis, University of Oxford, University College, Oxford OX1 4BH, UK; john.finnis{at}univ.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

This paper identifies and contests the thesis it takes to be the central premise of Giubilini and Minerva, ‘Why should the baby live?’, namely that rights, subjecthood and personhood have as a necessary condition that the undergoing of a harm be experienced. That thesis entails the repugnant or absurd conclusion that we do not have the right not to be killed in our sleep. The conclusion can be avoided by adding some premise or qualification about actual capacities for experience of harm, but nothing in the Giubilini and Minerva article shows that such capacities do not exist, as actual and not merely potential, in the newly born human infant (and indeed in the unborn human child/foetus). The present paper reviews an earlier philosophical attempt to deploy an awareness criterion of personhood, and proposes objections to some other aspects of the article under consideration.

  • Infanticide
  • Abortion
  • Persons
  • Capacity

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