On seeing our selves and others as persons

Human beings may be the only organisms capable of thinking of self and other in equivalent ways – as selves and persons. Most organisms think about their own activities differently than they do the activities of others. A few large-brained organisms like chimps and dolphins sometimes think of the activities of self and other in the same way. But, only humans think quite generally in this manner. In this paper I give a description of our commonsense notions of self and person, and a scientific framework in which it can be fit. I then provide a phylo- and onto-genetic account of these concepts. Finally, I argue that the theory of reciprocal altruism provides the best account of why the notions of self and person evolved to have the form and function they do with respect to human social life and moral capacities. 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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