The Troublesome Concept of the Person

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 20 (4):347-359 (1999)
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In today'sbioethical debates, the concept of the person plays a major role. However, it does not hold this role justly. The purpose of this paper is to argue that the concept of the person is unsuited to be a central concept in bioethical debates, because its use is connected with serious problems. First, the concept is superfluous. Secondly, it is a confusing concept and it lacks pragmatic use. Thirdly, its use leads to simplifications. Finally, the concept can easily be used as a cover-up concept. Therefore, it is argued that relinquishing the concept of the person could enhance the clarity and quality of bioethical debate. Moreover, the historic origin of much of the present confusion surrounding the concept of the person is clarified. It is demonstrated that three influences resulting from Locke'sideas on the person and personal identity can be determined as contributing factors to the confusion and controversy within the present bioethical debates centering around the person.



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Bert Gordijn
Dublin City University

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