Capacities, Potentialities, and Rights

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (4):653-665 (2014)
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IntroductionRights-ethicists intensely debate what properties of an individual are necessary and sufficient in order for that individual to have moral rights. At the heart of this important debate is the issue of whether individuals such as human foetuses, infants, and unconscious adults have moral rights, and if so, what these rights are. This paper focuses on the moral status of unconscious adults, as well as human foetuses, which are potential agents in the sense that they follow a “normal” path of development towards agency. Using Michael Tooley’s (Tooley 1983) and Jeff McMahan’s (McMahan 2002) influential discussions on this topic as a point of departure, this paper defends two claims. (1) Possession of the capacity for autonomous agency that is temporarily “blocked” by sleep or coma is sufficient in order for an individual to have intrinsic worth and thus, moral rights. (2) If possession of the blocked capacity for autonomous agency is sufficient in order for an individual to hav



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References found in this work

Knowing One’s Own Mind.Donald Davidson - 1987 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (3):441-458.
Abortion and infanticide.Michael Tooley - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (1):37-65.
Knowing One's Own Mind.Donald Davidson - 2003 - In John Heil (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.
Abortion and Infanticide.Michael Tooley - 1984 - Philosophy 59 (230):545-547.

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