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The relational threshold: a life that is valued, or a life of value?

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  • Funding JS was supported for this work by grants from the Wellcome trust WT106587/Z/14/Z, WT203132/Z/16/Z.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • We do not want to claim that biological life below the relational threshold has zero value. Such individuals might have some positive wellbeing. Rather, the idea is that this is a threshold for a particular (and important) kind of value to be realised.

  • In some philosophical contexts, ’self-consciousness’ is taken to refer to a fairly high-level capacity — such as having a concept of self. It’s something that no infant has, even if perfectly normal. But we take it that that high-level capacity is not really necessary for a minimal two-way relationship (and suggest that normal newborn infants do have relational capacity).

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