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Not a Modest Proposal:
Peter Singer and the Definition of Person

In this paper I take issue with Singer's use of the distinction between the person and the human. In so doing, I first explain Singer's basic position on personhood and sentience, and the relative value of organisms named under these two terms. With this discussion in hand, I then lay stress on a simple and repeated dictum of Singer's: the newborn infant up to the age of one month is not a person. This leads us to the position that the only possible ground for the selective infanticide of disabled infants is that newborn infants, healthy or not, are not persons, primarily because they lack self-consciousness. Then I investigate his ideas of personhood and selfconsciousness as abstractions. Finally, in conclusion, I offer some observations drawn from Jonathan Swift.

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Last update: April 18, 2007