Dementia and the Boundaries of Secular Personhood


  • Nicholas Covaleski Graduate Program in Religion, Boston University, MA, USA



dementia, secularism, bioethics, biopolitics


For many, dementia disrupts basic ideas about what it means to be human, raising profound philosophical and theological questions on the nature of personhood. In this article I ask what dementia might reveal about personhood in a “secular age.” I suggest that the ill-fitting relationship between Western bioethics, with its emphasis on autonomy, and dementia throws into relief the boundaries of a secular self, and I tease out the ethical implications of the limits of those boundaries by highlighting a biopolitics of secularism. Lastly, I offer a theological account of dementia that situates dependence as a central feature of the human condition, and enriches a secular biomedical understanding of this neurocognitive disorder.


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How to Cite

Covaleski, N. (2021). Dementia and the Boundaries of Secular Personhood. Philosophy of Medicine, 2(2).