Grzegorz Hołub

Personhood in Bioethics

12/1 - Spring 2007, pages 157–175
Date of online publication: 15 juin 2007
Date of publication: 01 juin 2007


The concept of personhood has been recently strongly criticized by some bioethicists. The present article aims at refuting these criticisms. In order to show how the notion of personhood operates in bioethics, two understandings of it proposed by an Italian bioethicist Maurizio Mori are sketched: a person as a part of the cosmological order and a person as an autonomous-like entity. It is argued that none of the proposed understandings is adequate. The cosmological concept perceives the person as a derivative of the empirical processes. The autonomous-like, in turn, conceives the person as a freely acting subject. This paper endeavours to prove that both conceptions are one-sided. In order to do that, the thought of German philosopher Robert Spaemann is deployed. He convincingly points out that the person must be considered from a so-called “modus existendi” stance. It means that to be a person is to possess a unique way of being. That being encompasses the material content (body) not as a casual factor but as an indispensable mean of expressing itself. The final thesis is that the person's being is man's life. Drawing upon such a conclusion, it is taken up a critical discussion with the views rejecting the usefulness of the concept.


Cite this article

Hołub, Grzegorz. “Personhood in Bioethics.” Forum Philosophicum 12, no. 1 (2007): 157–175. doi:10.5840/forphil200712129.


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