The Argument From Potential: A Reappraisal
Bioethics. 1997 Jan; 11(1): 1-23.
Several criticisms of the argument from potential are reported. It is noted that such criticisms are inspired by two similarly wrong interpretations of potentiality, one confusing it with possibility and another with probability. A brief analysis of the original Aristotelian context in which the concept emerged shows that potentiality cannot be thought of as indicating the provision of some empirical facts in the future, but must rather be referred to the inherent ontological structure of the being in question. It is then argued that such an Aristotelian concept can be useful to express the dynamic structure of the person, as it must be understood according to contemporary phenomenological personalism. In the light of this philosophical tradition, the embryo can be viewed as a being already possessing the human nature and actively developing its potential for personhood: it also follows that human nature must not be understood as a static and predetermined essence, but rather as the principle of becoming and movement toward further achievements.