Beginning of human personhood

Human embryo at 8-cell stage

The beginning of human personhood is the moment when a human is first recognized as a person. There are differences of opinion as to the precise time when human personhood begins and the nature of that status. The issue arises in a number of fields including science, religion, philosophy, and law, and is most acute in debates relating to abortion, stem cell research, reproductive rights, and fetal rights.

Traditionally, the concept of personhood has entailed the concept of soul, a metaphysical concept referring to a non-corporeal or extra-corporeal dimension of human being. In modernity, the concepts of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, personhood, mind, and self have come to encompass a number of aspects of human being previously considered to be characteristics of the soul.[1][2] With regard to the beginning of human personhood, one historical question has been when the soul enters the body. In modern terms, the question could be put instead at what point the developing individual develops personhood or selfhood.[3]

Related issues attached to the question of the beginning of human personhood include both the legal status, bodily integrity, and subjectivity of mothers,[4] as well as the philosophical concept of "natality", i.e. "the distinctively human capacity to initiate a new beginning", which a new human life embodies.[5]

  1. ^ Taylor, Charles (1992). Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-521-42949-8.
  2. ^ Foucault, Michel (2005). The Hermeneutics of the Subject. New York: Picador. ISBN 0-312-42570-8.
  3. ^ The question could also be put historically. The concept of "personhood" is of fairly recent vintage, and cannot be found in the 1828 edition of 1828 edition of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, nor even as late as 1913 Archived 10 July 2012 at A search in dictionaries and encyclopedia for the term "personhood" generally redirects to "person". The American Heritage Dictionary at Yahoo has: "The state or condition of being a person, especially having those qualities that confer distinct individuality."
  4. ^ Bordo, Susan (2003). "Are Mothers Persons?". Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. pp. 71–97. ISBN 0-520-24054-5.
  5. ^ Kompridis, Nikolas (2006). "The Idea of a New Beginning: A romantic source of normativity and freedom". Philosophical Romanticism. New York: Routledge. pp. 48–49. ISBN 0-415-25643-7.

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