Essential Properties and the Right to Life: A Response to Lee
Bioethics 2004 June; 18(3): 264-282
In 'The Pro-Life Argument from Substantial Identity: A Defence', Patrick Lee argues that the right to life is an essential property of those that possess it. On his view, the right arises from one's 'basic' or 'natural' capacity for higher mental functions: since human organisms have this capacity essentially, they have a right to life essentially. Lee criticises an alternative view, on which the right to life arises from one's 'developed' capacity for higher mental functions (or development of some other accidental property). I argue that his criticisms of this alternative view are misguided or self-defeating, and that there are good reasons to hold we have a right to life accidentally rather than essentially.
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