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Arguments about AbortionPersonhood, Morality, and Law$
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Kate Greasley

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766780

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766780.001.0001

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Personhood Thresholds, Arbitrariness, and ‘Punctualism’

Personhood Thresholds, Arbitrariness, and ‘Punctualism’

(p.105) 5 Personhood Thresholds, Arbitrariness, and ‘Punctualism’
Arguments about Abortion

Kate Greasley

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the punctualist and gradualist theses about the emergence of personhood. Punctualism views the beginning of personhood as something like an ‘existential pop’. On one side of the ‘pop’ there exists only human material, and on the other, a being which is essentially and completely a person. Persons do not emerge vaguely and incrementally, like human anatomy does; the beginning of their existence is instead sudden and absolute. In contrast, gradualism eschews the idea that persons come into existence instantaneously and completely—in the manner of an ‘existential pop’—and claims instead that personhood emerges gradually and incrementally. It is argued that there is good reason to reject the punctualist thesis and to accept the antithetical ‘gradualist’ view.

Keywords:   abortion, fetal personhood, punctualism, gradualism, existential pop

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