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"Subjects-of-a-Life," Entelechy, and Intrinsic Teleology

By Josephine Donovan

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This article explores the question of what is a “subject-of-a-life,” Tom Regan’s celebrated term for a living entity to whom, he argued, we humans owe ethical duty. I return to ancient concepts of entelechy and teleological organization, arguing that, stripped of theological implications, they provide a usable basis for modern theorizing about organism and an ethical foundation for condemning such practices as transgenic engineering. Every creature, it is argued, has its own inherited formal identity, which it strives to sustain. This reality is ethically pertinent knowledge which humans are obliged to respect and honor.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Publication Title Between the Species
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 26
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Josephine Donovan (2019), ""Subjects-of-a-Life," Entelechy, and Intrinsic Teleology,"

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  1. Animal welfare
  2. Attitudes about animals
  3. Ethics
  4. open access
  5. transgenics
  1. open access