How would you distinguish among the following: life, human life, human person, potential life, and actual life

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course, there have been tomes written and philosophical wars waged on distinguishing the point at which human life begins.  Here, however, are some basic definitions for each of the following designations: 

LIFE: Life is characterized by the ability to grow and reproduce. Inorganic matter, like rocks, for example, can do neither of these things.

HUMAN LIFE:  A biological definition. Human life is of the genus "Homos" and the species "sapiens" 

HUMAN PERSON: This is a non-scientific term coined by the pro-life movement that seeks to define human life from the moment of fertilization.  Advocates of human personhood argue that all forms of birth control, from anything that prevents a fertilized egg from receiving sustenance to abortion, are immoral. 

POTENTIAL LIFE:  The term "potential life" is used by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate premature death rates. These statisticians gauge how long a person would have lived had their lives not been cut short by accident or illness. The leading cause of death in people under age 65 is accident, followed by cancer and heart disease. For older people, the leading causes that affect potential life are primarily cancer (the leading cause), followed by heart disease (the second leading cause)

ACTUAL LIFE:  Perhaps another term for "real life," actual life is a way to distinguish real life events from fictional ones or fantasy characters.