Is that my heart? A hylomorphic account of bodily parthood.


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This dissertation investigates the metaphysics of human body parts; particularly, the epistemic conditions under which something can be said to be a “body part of” some particular human being. In this dissertation I draw on the hylomorphism of Aristotle and John Duns Scotus to argue that a necessary and sufficient condition on human bodily parthood is an object’s functioning for the sake of the whole human being and the maintenance of her biological life. I argue that, on this view of bodily parthood, at least some prostheses or artificial organs (“artificial body parts”) are truly body parts of the human beings in whom they operate. I defend this view in reference to both Aristotelian and Scotistic hylomorphism, as well as answering objections raised by some contemporary views of bodily parthood as merely conventional. I argue that this has important implications for medical ethics, including potentially restricting medical interventions in end-of-life care and heightening the legal ramification of damage done to prostheses. I argue that investigation into the metaphysical questions surrounding body parts and their composition can illuminate hitherto underappreciated dimensions of ethical questions in medicine.



Metaphysics. Medical ethics. Hylomorphism. Aristotle. Artificial body parts. John Duns Scotus. Human person.