Potential Persons

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The notion of a potential person is central to many debates in what, following Heyd (1992), we might call “genethics” – the domain of moral inquiry that is concerned with the creation of persons. Some genethical questions concern the number of people that we bring into existence. Do we have moral reasons to create as many people as we can? Do we have moral reasons to create as few people as we can? Or is morality indifferent to the number of people that we create? Another set of genethical questions concern the types of people
that we create. Should we try to create certain kinds of people? Should we attempt to avoid creating certain types of people? Or, again, is morality relatively indifferent to the kinds of people that we bring into existence? A third set of questions concerns the ways in which the interests of possible people should be balanced off against the interests of actual people. Should the interests of actual people always trump those of potential people, or are there situations in which the interests of potential people ought to take precedence over those of
actual people? As we shall see, these questions raise acute challenges for existing moral theories, and are very far from being solved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Ethics
EditorsHugh LaFollette
Place of PublicationChichester West Sussex UK
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9781405186414
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • future generations
  • practical (applied) ethics

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