In this thesis, 'person' is treated as a term with some moral content (fairly unspecific
to begin with) describing the reader and myself, at least at the present time. I begin
by looking at psychological theories of personal identity, both reductionist and
'Simple', and find that there are good reasons for abandoning both such approaches.
Then I examine different theories on the necessity of origin, concluding that our time
of origin is essential to our existence, and that the actual combination of our parents'
gametes is essential to our origin, whether or not the two coincide. Our particular
thoughts, in contrast, are not essential to our origin or existence; any or all these
thoughts might never have occurred to us.
I then look at theories according to which human persons are physical beings, but do
not originate with the organism itself. Theories according to which personhood is a
stage of an organism are, I argue, impossible to reconcile with the widespread belief
that our personal status is inseparable from ourselves. Thus the organism before
whatever stage is said to mark the onset of personhood will similarly be a candidate
for personal status. On the other hand, the theory that the onset of personhood is
marked by some substantial change with the advent of some new capacity, threatens
us with two superimposed psychological substances: the person, and the organism
which seems to acquire the capacity.
Tracing back the entity which undergoes change, I examine various forms of
potential in relation to very early human development, offering a new theory on the
specific active tendencies which define our existence. Human persons are, I argue,
'rational-type' organisms, whose morally significant interests begin with their origin
as living wholes. In the remaining chapters I look at the content of our personal
status, in general, and at a time close to our origin.