A Life Not Worth Living?

Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 1-20, 2003

21 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2007 Last revised: 28 Jun 2010

See all articles by Craig Paterson

Craig Paterson

Independent Scholar; Complutense - Faculty of Information Sciences

Date Written: 2003


The work of Dan Brock and Helga Kuhse is typical of the current stream of thought rejecting the validity of sanctity of life appeals to instill objective inviolable worth in human life regardless of the quality of life of the patient. The context of a person's life is supremely important. In their systems life can have high value, yet the value of life can be outweighed by the force of other disvalues. The notion of quality of life has increasingly come to signify the measurement of the worth of a person's life itself. Having a life equals personal life. Any objectivity to life resides in 'personal', 'biographical', or 'creative' life, not mere biological life. Personal life represents the minimal threshold for any objective worth. In responding to this challenge, John Finnis has argued extensively that life is an intrinsic good - a basic human good. Following from our grasp of human life as a basic incommensurable good, it cannot be practically reasonable both to affirm that (a) 'human life is a basic human good', and (b) that 'human life qua human life can be intentionally acted against to its destruction'. Yet, if the good of human life can be considered self-evident, the self-evidence of the basic human good qua good does not mean that dialectical reasoning cannot be engaged in to indirectly support the practical reasonableness of respecting the good of human life in the deliberative choices that persons make concerning their actions. It is to the use of such dialectical reasoning, supportive of the status of human life as such a basic human good, that the article is primarily concerned to draw out and articulate.

Keywords: Value of Life, Intrinsic Goods, Primary Goods of Persons, Killing and Letting Die

Suggested Citation

Paterson, Craig, A Life Not Worth Living? (2003). Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 1-20, 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1029225

Craig Paterson (Contact Author)

Independent Scholar ( email )

Topanga, CA 90290

Complutense - Faculty of Information Sciences ( email )

Carretera de Humera s/n
Madrid, Madrid 28223

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