The moral implications of the ontological status of persons.

Project Details


The project consists of a philosophical analysis of the foundations of the different perceptions and approaches in the literature of the problem of non-existing persons. All moral theories include a certain conception of the person and this conception seems unable to structure the situations in which the apparent subject is a non-existing person. The major objectives are: (1) structuring the different modal categories of a person ( potential, future, possible etc.) and the criteria used to distinguish these categories, (2) looking for a unifying and common framework by eliminating possible inconsistencies in the approaches, and (3) revealing the principles and conceptions underlying the various philosophical perspectives. Three philosophers can be cited as major protagonists in the debate: Derek Parfit, Jan Narveson, and Joel Feinberg. In order to cover the topic as completely as possible, we wlii consider the approaches on all domains in which the issue of the modal statusof the person presents itself. This is the case in four domains; (1) population and environmental issues connected to future generations, (2) prenatal diagnosis and "wrongfull birth" cases, (3) existince-inducing acts and medically assisted procreation, and (4) postmortal harm and rights. The method of the wide reflective equilibrium will be used. It was originally proposed by John Rawls and later elaborated by, amongst others, Norman Daniels. This coherence model for the justification of ethical theories is based on the construction of a dynamic equilibrium between the moral judgements, the moral principles and the relevant background theories (like the theory of the person). This methodology should help us to clarify the complex structure of moral theories and may facilitate a rational choice among moral conceptions.
Effective start/end date1/01/9931/12/03


  • Bioethics
  • moral theories
  • beginning of life

Flemish discipline codes

  • Philosophy, ethics and religious studies