The Uniqueness of Persons

Journal of Religious Ethics 29 (3):401 - 423 (2001)
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Abstract

Persons are thought to have a special kind of value, often called "dignity," which, according to Kant, makes them both infinitely valuable and irreplaceably valuable. The author aims to identify what makes a person a person in a way that can explain both aspects of dignity. She considers five definitions of "person": (1) an individual substance of a rational nature (Boethius), (2) a self-conscious being (Locke), (3) a being with the capacity to act for ends (Kant), (4) a being with the capacity to act for another (Kant), and (5) an incommunicably unique subject (Wojtyla). She argues that none is capable of grounding both aspects of dignity since they are incompatible kinds of value; it is impossible for the same thing to ground both. Human persons are infinitely valuable in virtue of shareable qualities of their nature, whereas they are irreplaceably valuable because of a nonqualitative feature of their personhood

Author's Profile

Linda Zagzebski
University of Oklahoma

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