Abstract

When does a human being begin to exist? Barry Smith and Berit Brogaard have argued that it is possible, through a combination of biological fact and philosophical analysis, to provide a definitive answer to this question. In their view, a human individual begins to exist at gastrulation, i. e. at about sixteen days after fertilization. In this paper we argue that even granting Smith and Brogaard's ontological commitments and biological assumptions, the existence of a human being can be shown to begin much earlier, viz., with fertilization. Their interpretative claim that a zygote divides immediately into two substances and therefore ceases to exist is highly implausible by their own standards, and their factual claim that there is no communication between the blastomeres has to be abandoned in light of recent embryological research.

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