Potential and foetal value



Publication Details

Burgess, J. A. 2010, 'Potential and foetal value', Journal of Applied Philosophy, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 140-153.


The argument from potential has been hard to assess because the versions presented by friends and those presented by enemies have born very little resemblance to each other. I here try to improve this situation by attempting to bring both versions into enforced contact. To this end, I sketch a more entailed analysis of the modern concept of potential than any hitherto attempted. As one would expect, arguments from potential couched in terms of that notion are evident non-starters. I then ask how the modern notion of potential needs to be supplemented in order to produce a more convincing argument. I then enquire whether the supplementations utilised in the most distinguished recent presentations of the argument have anything better than an ad hoc role to play in contemporary metaphysics. I conclude that the rehabilitation of the argument is unlikely; in any event, the onus of proof seems to be on the friend of that argument to show that is uncontrived. Finally, I argue that the (modern) notion of potential has an important role to play in an plausible account of foetal value.

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