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Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́lá, , . Culture and the Principles of Biomedical Ethics
2013, Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, 19 (3): 31-39.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper examines the roles of culture in the principles of biomedical ethics. Drawing on examples from African, Navajo and Western cultures, the paper maintains that various elements of culture are indispensable to the application of the principles of biomedical ethics.

Comment: This text presents a clear introduction to questions about the application of biomedical ethical principles outside of Western medical contexts. It contains a good overview of the Western interpretation and application of autonomy, as well as other, culturally specific, interpretations of autonomy in medical contexts. This makes it useful as a text to introduce students to the way in which conflicts occur over the application of medical ethical principles in context prior to looking at specific cases (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to accept blood transfusions or the well known case of the Hmong medical culture).

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English, Jane, , . Abortion and the Concept of a Person
1975, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5(2): 233-243.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: William Bauer

Introduction: The abortion debate rages on. Yet the two most popular positions seem to be clearly mistaken. Conservatives maintain that a human life begins at conception and that therefore abortion must be wrong because it is murder. But not all killings of humans are murders. Most notably, self defense may justify even the killing of an innocent per- son.

Liberals, on the other hand, are just as mistaken in their argument that since a fetus does not become a person until birth, a woman may do whatever she pleases in and to her own body. First, you cannot do as you please with your own body if it affects other people adversely. Second, if a fetus is not a person, that does not imply that you can do to it anything you wish. Animals, for example, are not persons, yet to kill or torture them for no reason at all is wrong.

At the center of the storm has been the issue of just when it is between ovulation and adulthood that a person appears on the scene. Conservatives draw the line at conception, liberals at birth. In this paper I first examine our concept of a person and conclude that no single criterion can capture the concept of a person and no sharp line can be drawn. Next I argue that if a fetus is a person, abortion is still justifiable in many cases; and if a fetus is not a person, killing it is still wrong in many cases. To a large extent, these two solutions are in agreement. I conclude that our concept of a person cannot and need not bear the weight that the abortion controversy has thrust upon it.

Comment: This is a classic article on the topic of abortion. English argues that the concept of a person is vague and complex, thus she has a more nuanced approach to personhood than some other theorists. She applies this theory to abortion, arguing that degree of personhood correlates with degree of permissibility of abortion. So her paper can be contrasted with, e.g., Thomson (who isn’t concerned with personhood) and Warren (who takes a stricter approach to personhood and a wide view of the permissibility of abortion). It also is useful to contrast with Tooley’s account.

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Imafidon, Elvis, , . Intrinsic Versus Earned Worth in African Conception of Personhood
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 239-254
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Every human being ought to have some form of intrinsic value that she has in herself as well as earned or extrinsic value that she earns for herself. Although not free from contention, the possibility of a human being having certain intrinsic values is essential for the very idea of personhood. It is the reason why it would be wrong not to take a baby as a person simply because she is at that moment unable to earn some value for herself. In this chapter, I interrogate how the idea of personhood dominant in African cultures separates one category of persons from another category. In the first category of human beings, persons are intrinsically valued as persons due to their possession of certain ontological and normative qualities. In the second category, a few other persons are not intrinsically valued as persons due to their lack of certain required ontological and normative qualities needed to belong to the first category of human beings. But in this second category, such persons have the opportunity to earn the value of personhood given to those in the first category. Put differently, the other has the potential of becoming the one if he works tirelessly toward it through individual and group efforts. I explore three specific examples of the second category of persons who have worked to earn some form of worth that the African society in which they live presents as extrinsic to them: persons with albinism, black people, and black women. In this case, a consistent individual lifestyle of rising above expectations and group rights advocacy are essential. I conclude that the African conception of personhood is flawed in its failure to recognize the intrinsic worth and value of all human beings regardless of their ontological and normative status and because it also fails in appreciating the importance of difference in the unfolding of reality.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Kind, Amy, , . Persons and Personal Identity
2015, Polity.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Publisher’s note: As persons, we are importantly different from all other creatures in the universe. But in what, exactly, does this difference consist? What kinds of entities are we, and what makes each of us the same person today that we were yesterday? Could we survive having all of our memories erased and replaced with false ones? What about if our bodies were destroyed and our brains were transplanted into android bodies, or if instead our minds were simply uploaded to computers?

In this engaging and accessible introduction to these important philosophical questions, Amy Kind brings together three different areas of research: the nature of personhood, theories of personal identity over time, and the constitution of self-identity. Surveying the key contemporary theories in the philosophical literature, Kind analyzes and assesses their strengths and weaknesses. As she shows, our intuitions on these issues often pull us in different directions, making it difficult to develop an adequate general theory. Throughout her discussion, Kind seamlessly interweaves a vast array of up-to-date examples drawn from both real life and popular fiction, all of which greatly help to elucidate this central topic in metaphysics.

A perfect text for readers coming to these issues for the first time, Persons and Personal Identity engages with some of the deepest and most important questions about human nature and our place in the world, making it a vital resource for students and researchers alike.

Comment: This book provides excellent discussion of the major theories of personal identity. It could be used as the textbook for a course on personal identity at the undergraduate level, or for a unit on personal identity in an introduction to philosophy course.

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Little, Margaret Olivia, , . Abortion and the Margins of Personhood
2008, Living on the edge: the margins of legal personhood: symposium 2; 331-348.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Publisher’s Note: When a woman is pregnant, how should we understand the moral status of the life within her? How should we understand its status as conceptus, as embryo, when an early or again matured fetus? According to some, human life in all of these forms is inviolable: early human life has a moral status equivalent to a person from the moment of conception. According to others, such life has no intrinsic status, even late in pregnancy. According to still others, moral status emerges when sentience does. Until the fetus is conscious – a point somewhere at the end of the second trimester, it has no moral status at all; after it is conscious, it does.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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McIntosh, Esther, , . John Macmurray’s Religious Philosophy: What It Means to Be a Person
2011, Routledge.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Esther McIntosh

Publisher’s Note: Recent dissatisfaction with individualism and the problems of religious pluralism make this an opportune time to reassess the way in which we define ourselves and conduct our relationships with others. The philosophical writings of John Macmurray are a useful resource for performing this examination, and recent interest in Macmurray’s work has been growing steadily.
A full-scale critical examination of Macmurray’s religious philosophy has not been published and this work fills this gap, sharing his insistence that we define ourselves through action and through person-to-person relationships, while critiquing his account of the ensuing political and religious issues. The key themes in this work are the concept of the person and the ethics of personal relations.

Comment: There are hardly any women working on the concept of the person or on Macmurray’s philosophy. As well as being of use for modules on personhood, this book is useful for philosophy of religion, philosophy of education, feminist ethics and theology.

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Warren, Mary Anne, , . On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion
1973, The Monist, 57 (4): 43-61.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Summary: This paper is a response to Thomson’s influential defense of abortion. Warren argues that Thomson is mistaken that if a fetus has full moral rights, then abortion is still morally permissible. Warren, instead, argues that while fetuses participate in genetic humanity, they do not participate in the category of personhood (the category which defines the moral community). For this reason, abortion is always morally permissible and thus ought to be legally permissible.

Comment: This reading is a good response to Thomson’s influential violinist case. The text is a bit complex, and would be better suited for a course that considered issues of abortion and infanticide in an in depth way.

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