Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


The term person is usually used to indicate someone. This meaning is the result of a complex theoretical legacy, which, in many cases, derives from the use of the term person as nomen dignitatis. At the crossroads of theological, philosophical, juridical, and political debate, the concept of person, however, is likely to become equivocal. Specifically, to understand the ethical and anthropological controversy present in bioethics, we have distinguished the analogous concept of person, which can be predicated of several entities, from the univocal concept of human person. In everyday language, the term person already seems to indicate a human being, and therefore, it may seem redundant to write the term human person. In fact, as can be seen from the historical reconstruction, the very distinction between person and human person allows to identify and clarify the meaning of the current debate. The definition of human person extends to every human being at all existential stages: it implies that the human being is always someone. On the contrary, the notion of person indicates a series of qualities which when attributed to an entity make someone. Depending upon usage, the notion of person, in its semantic shifts, can therefore favor maximum inclusion or maximum discrimination between human beings. The debate is therefore open: to clarify the terms is indeed the first condition to promote dialogue and ethical discussion.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Global Bioethics
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • dignity
  • human being
  • identity
  • person

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