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Title: The origin of persons : tracing back the moral subject
Author: Watt, Helen
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1993
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In this thesis, 'person' is treated as a term with some moral content (fairly unspecific to begin with) describing the reader and myself, at least at the present time. I begin by looking at psychological theories of personal identity, both reductionist and 'Simple', and find that there are good reasons for abandoning both such approaches. Then I examine different theories on the necessity of origin, concluding that our time of origin is essential to our existence, and that the actual combination of our parents' gametes is essential to our origin, whether or not the two coincide. Our particular thoughts, in contrast, are not essential to our origin or existence; any or all these thoughts might never have occurred to us. I then look at theories according to which human persons are physical beings, but do not originate with the organism itself. Theories according to which personhood is a stage of an organism are, I argue, impossible to reconcile with the widespread belief that our personal status is inseparable from ourselves. Thus the organism before whatever stage is said to mark the onset of personhood will similarly be a candidate for personal status. On the other hand, the theory that the onset of personhood is marked by some substantial change with the advent of some new capacity, threatens us with two superimposed psychological substances: the person, and the organism which seems to acquire the capacity. Tracing back the entity which undergoes change, I examine various forms of potential in relation to very early human development, offering a new theory on the specific active tendencies which define our existence. Human persons are, I argue, 'rational-type' organisms, whose morally significant interests begin with their origin as living wholes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available