Substantial Goodness and Nascent Human Life

HEC Forum 27 (3):229-248 (2015)


Many believe that moral value is—at least to some extent—dependent on the developmental states necessary for supporting rational activity. My paper rejects this view, but does not aim simply to register objections to it. Rather, my essay aims to answer the following question: if a human being’s developmental state and occurrent capacities do not bequeath moral standing, what does? The question is intended to prompt careful consideration of what makes human beings objects of moral value, dignity, or goodness. Not only do I think we can answer this question, I think we can show that nascent human life possesses goodness of precisely this sort. I appeal to Aquinas’s metaethics to establish the conclusion that the goodness of a human being—even if that being is an embryo or fetus—resides at the substratum of her existence. If she possesses goodness, it is because human existence is good

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Shawn Floyd
Saint Louis University

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