Personhood is a foundational concept in ethics, yet defining criteria have been elusive. In this article we summarize attempts to define personhood in psychological and neurological terms and conclude that none manage to be both specific and non-arbitrary. We propose that this is because the concept does not correspond to any real category of objects in the world. Rather, it is the product of an evolved brain system that develops innately and projects itself automatically and irrepressibly onto the (...) world whenever triggered by stimulus features such as a human-like face, body, or contingent patterns of behavior. We review the evidence for the existence of an autonomous person network in the brain and discuss its implications for the field of ethics and for the implicit morality of everyday behavior. (shrink)
In contemporary free will theory, a significant number of philosophers are once again taking seriously the possibility that human beings do not have free will, and are therefore not morally responsible for their actions. Free will theorists commonly assume that giving up the belief that human beings are morally responsible implies giving up all our beliefs about desert. But the consequences of giving up the belief that we are morally responsible are not quite this dramatic. Giving up the belief that (...) we are morally responsible undermines many, and perhaps most, of the desert claims we are pretheoretically inclined to accept. But it does not undermine desert claims based on the sheer fact of personhood. Even in the absence of belief in moral responsibility, personhood-based desert claims require us to respect persons and their rights. So personhood-based desert claims can provide a substantial role for desert in free will skeptics' ethical theories. (shrink)
This paper examines how three central aspects of personhood -- the capacities of individuals, their normative status, and the social aspect of being recognized -- are related, and how personhood depends on them. The paper defends first of all a 'basic view' that while actual recognition is among the constitutive elements of full personhood, it is the individual capacities (and not full personhood) which ground the basic moral and normative demands concerning treatment of persons. Actual recognition (...) depends analytically on such pre-existing normative requirements: it is a matter of responsiveness to them. The paper then discusses four challenges. The challenges claim that pace the basic view, the relevant capacities depend on recognition, that recognition seems to have normative relevance, and that the basic view cannot as such explain the equality either of persons, or of humans. Responding to these challenges amounts to refining the basic view accordingly. (shrink)
In this essay I describe two of the accounts that Peirce provides of personhood: the semiotic account, on which a person is a sequence of thought-signs, and the naturalistic account, on which a person is an animal. I then argue that these disparate accounts can be reconciled into a plausible view on which persons are numerically distinct entities that are nevertheless continuous with each other in an important way. This view would be agreeable to Peirce in some respects, as (...) it is modeled on his theory of perception, incorporates his categories of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness, and is in harmony with his objective idealism. But it diverges from Peirce in one important respect, viz. its rejection of the idea that some groups of human beings count as persons. (shrink)
In this paper it is argued that the experimental data on commissurotomy patients provide no grounds for denying the singular personhood of commissurotomy patients. This is because, contrary to most philosophical accounts, there is no “unity of consciousness” discriminating condition for singular personhood that is violated in the case of commissurotomy patients, and because no contradictions arise when singular personhood is ascribed to commissurotomy patients.
I argue that the personhood of a fetus is analogous to the the heap. If this is correct, then the moral status or intrinsic value of a fetus would be supervenient upon the fetus's biological development. Yet to compare its claim vis-a-vis its mother's, we need to consider not only their moral status, but also the type of claim they each have. Thus we have to give weight to the two factors or variables of the mother's moral status and (...) her claim to some lesser good (assuming that this is not the kind of case in which the mother would suffer some great harm, such as death). And then we have to consider the fetus's lesser moral status and its claim to some greater good, namely, life. I argue that we do not know how to compare these two-variable claims. This also explains why the central cases of abortion have been so difficult to resolve. I suggest that the problem of animal rights has a similar structure. (shrink)
Article responds to the criticism of speciesism that it is somehow less immoral than other -isms by showing that this is a mistake resting on an inadequate taxonomy of the various -isms. Criticizes argument by Bonnie Steinbock that preference to your own species is not immoral by comparison with racism of comparable level.
This collection of new essays aims to address some of the most perplexing issues arising from death and dying, as well as the moral status of persons and animals. Leading scholars, including Peter Singer and Gerald Dworkin, investigate diverse topics such as animal rights, vegetarianism, lethal injection, abortion and euthanasia.
In this paper the permissibility of stem cell research on early human embryos is defended. It is argued that, in order to have moral status, an individual must have an interest in its own wellbeing. Sentience is a prerequisite for having an interest in avoiding pain, and personhood is a prerequisite for having an interest in the continuation of one's own existence. Early human embryos are not sentient and therefore they are not recipients of direct moral consideration. Early human (...) embryos do not satisfy the requirements for personhood, but there are arguments to the effect that they should be treated as persons nonetheless. These are the arguments from potentiality, symbolic value and the principle of human dignity. These arguments are challenged in this paper and it is claimed that they offer us no good reason to believe that early human embryos should be treated as persons. (shrink)
: The belief persists in philosophy, religion, science, and popular culture that some special cognitive property of persons like self-consciousness confers a unique moral standing. However, no set of cognitive properties confers moral standing, and metaphysical personhood is not sufficient for either moral personhood or moral standing. Cognitive theories all fail to capture the depth of commitments embedded in using the language of "person." It is more assumed than demonstrated in these theories that nonhuman animals lack a relevant (...) form of self-consciousness or its functional equivalent. Although nonhuman animals are not plausible candidates for moral personhood, humans too fail to qualify as moral persons if they lack one or more of the conditions of moral personhood. If moral personhood were the sole basis of moral rights, then these humans would lack rights--and precisely for the reasons that nonhuman animals would. (shrink)
John McDowell has argued that for human needs to matter in practical deliberation, we must have already acquired the full range of character traits that are imparted by an ethical upbringing. Since our upbringings can diverge considerably, his argument makes trouble for any Aristotelian ethical naturalism that wants to support a single set of moral virtues. I argue here that there is a story to be told about the normal course of human life according to which it is no coincidence (...) that there is agreement on the virtues. Because we are creatures who arrive at personhood only by learning from others in a relation of dependency, we cannot help but see ourselves as creatures for whom non-instrumental rationality is the norm. Those who train others in personhood must view the trainee's interests as having a value independent of their interests and must imbue the trainee with a sense of that value. Extending and preserving the sense of self-worth that we must acquire if we are to acquire personhood requires we see ourselves as creatures who need something like the virtues. (shrink)
This essay aims to show that arrogance corrupts the very qualities that make persons persons. The corruption is subtle but profound, and the key to understanding it lies in understanding the connections between different kinds of arrogance, self-respect, respect for others and personhood. Making these connections clear is the second aim of this essay. It will build on Kant's claim that self-respect is central to living our human lives as persons and that arrogance is, at its core, the failure (...) to respect oneself as a person. (shrink)
Marya Schechtman argues that psychological continuity accounts of personal identity, as represented by Derek Parfit's account, fail to escape the circularity objection. She claims that Parfit's deployment of quasi-memory (and other quasi-psychological) states to escape circularity implicitly commit us to an implausible view of human psychology. Schechtman suggests that what is lacking here is a coherence condition, and that this is something essential in any account of personal identity. In response to this I argue first that circularity may be escaped (...) using quasi-psychological states even with the addition of the coherence condition. Second, I argue that there is something right about the coherence condition, and a major task of this paper is to identify its proper theoretical role. I do so by reflection on integration therapies for people with multiple personality disorder (MPD). The familiar distinction between the moral and the metaphysical concept of the person is developed alongside such reflection. Connecting these two issues I argue that coherence acts as a normative constraint on accounts of personal identity, but that the normative dimension of personhood is not essential to our notion of a person tout court. (shrink)
I examine the familiar criterial view of personhood, according to which the possession of personal properties such as self-consciousness, emotionality, sentience, and so forth is necessary and sufficient for the status of a person. I argue that this view confuses criteria for personhood with parts of an ideal of personhood. In normal cases, we have already identified a creature as a person before we start looking for it to manifest the personal properties, indeed this pre-identification is part (...) of what makes it possible for us to see and interpret the creature as a person in the first place. This pre-identification is typically based on biological features. Except in some interesting special or science-fiction cases, some of which I discuss, it is human animals that we identify as persons. (shrink)
Traditionally, it has been assumed that metaphysical and practical questions about personhood and personal identity are inherently linked. Neo-Lockean views that draw such a link have been problematic, leading to an opposing view that metaphysical and ethical questions about persons should be sharply distinguished. This paper argues that consideration of this issue suffers from an overly narrow conception of the practical concerns associated with persons that focuses on higher-order capacities and fails to appreciate basic practical concerns more directly connected (...) to our animality. A more inclusive alternative is proposed. (shrink)
In the Introduction to Self to Self, J. David Velleman claims that 'the word "self" does not denote any one entity but rather expresses a reflexive guise under which parts or aspects of a person are presented to his own mind' (Velleman 2006, 1). Velleman distinguishes three different reflexive guises of the self: the self of the person's self-image, or narrative self-conception; the self of self-sameness over time; and the self as autonomous agent. Velleman's account of each of these different (...) guises of the self is complex and repays close philosophical attention. The first aim of this paper is therefore to provide a detailed analysis of Velleman's view. The second aim is more critical. While I am in agreement with Velleman about the importance of distinguishing the different aspects of selfhood, I argue that, even on his own account, they are more interrelated than he acknowledges. I also analyse the role of the concept of 'bare personhood' in Velleman's approach to selfhood and question whether this concept can function, as he wants it to, to bridge the gap between a naturalistic analysis of reasons for action and Kantian moral reasons. (shrink)
It is intuitively plausible that not every evildoer is an evil person. In order to make sense of this intuition we need to construct an account of evil personhood in addition to an account of evil action. Some philosophers have offered aggregative accounts of evil personhood, but these do not fit well with common intuitions about the explanatory power of evil personhood, the possibility of moral reform, and the relationship between evil and luck. In contrast, a dispositional (...) account of evil personhood can allow that evil is explanatory, that an evil person can become good, and that luck might prevent evil persons from doing evil or cause non-evil persons to do evil. Yet the dispositional account of evil personhood implies that some evil persons are blameless, which seems to clash with the intuition that evil persons deserve our strongest moral condemnation. Moreover, since it is likely that a large proportion of us are disposed to perform evil actions in some environments, the dispositional account threatens to label a large proportion of people evil. In this paper I consider a range of possible modifications to the dispositional account that might bring it more closely into alignment with our intuitions about moral condemnation and the rarity of evil persons. According to the most plausible of these theories, S is an evil person if S is strongly disposed to perform evil actions when in conditions that favour S’s autonomy. (shrink)
This article suggests first that the concept of interpersonal recognition be understood in a multidimensional (as opposed to one-dimensional), practical (as opposed to symbolic), and strict (as opposed to broad) way. Second, it is argued that due recognition be seen as a reason-governed response to evaluative features, rather than all normativity and reasons being seen as generated by recognition. This can be called a response-model, or, more precisely, a value-based model of due recognition. A further suggestion is that there is (...) a systematic basis for distinguishing three dimensions of recognition, depending on whether recognition is given to someone qua a person, qua a certain kind of person, or qua a certain person. Finally, it is argued that recognition is a necessary condition of personhood, but whether it is of direct or indirect relevance depends on our theories of personhood (social vs. capacity-theory) and practical identity (dialogical definition model vs. feature-model). Despite the apparent opposition, it is shown that interpersonal recognition is both a response to value and a precondition of personhood. (shrink)
This collection includes original papers on central philosophical questions concerning personhood. Before introducing the individual contributions, or the specific issues they tackle with, we would like to preliminarily clarify what this collection, as a whole, is about. Saying that the articles focus on personhood is not yet very informative since ‘person’ and ‘personhood’ are words with multiple and often quite unclear meanings. With these introductory remarks we wish to show that behind the multiplicity, there is a unified, (...) even if complex phenomenon, and that it is useful to grasp it synoptically as a whole. Consider the following question. What is the most important thing that you, me, and everyone like us, share and that distinguishes us from everything else? You and I are bound to be similar in many ways; but we are also bound to be different in many ways. Furthermore, you will most certainly consider some of our mutual similarities and differences more important than others, and so will I — and most certainly we will partly agree and partly disagree on what is more and what is less important in our similarities and differences. But is there any chance that we could agree upon a meaningful answer to the posed question: what is the most important thing that you, me, and everyone like us, have in common, and that distinguishes us from everything else? There are two prominent candidates for an answer upon which, initial scepticism settled, we might well end up agreeing on. The first candidate is that despite all our mutual differences, and abstracting from all of our less important similarities, we are humans. The second candidate is that despite all our mutual differences, and abstracting from all of our less important similarities, we are persons. (shrink)
This paper explores the debate between personists, who argue that the concept of a person if of central importance for moral thought, and personists, who argue that the concept of a human being is of greater moral significance. On the one hand, it argues that normative naturalism, the most ambitious defense of the humanist position, fails to identify moral standards with standards of human behavior and thereby fails to undermine the moral significance of personhood. At the same time, it (...) contends that a more focused attention on the morally relevant features of human life may indeed play a crucial role in enhancing our moral understanding. (shrink)
This paper examines how three central aspects of personhood — the capacities of individuals, their normative status, and the social aspect of being recognized — are related, and how personhood depends on them. The paper defends first of all a ‘basic view’that while actual recognition is among the constitutive elements of full personhood, it is the individual capacities (and not full personhood) which ground the basic moral and normative demands concerning treatment of persons. Actual recognition depends (...) analyti- cally on such pre-existing normative requirements: it is a matter of responsiveness to them. The paper then discusses four challenges. The challenges claim that pace the basic view, the relevant capacities depend on recognition, that recognition seems to have normative rele- vance, and that the basic view cannot as such explain the equality either of persons, or of humans. Responding to these challenges amounts to refining the basic view accordingly. (shrink)
A common Western assumption is that animals cannot be persons. Even in animal ethics, the concept of personhood is often avoided. At the same time, many in cognitive ethology argue that animals do have minds, and that animal ethics presents convincing arguments supporting the individual value of animals. Although “animal personhood” may seem to be an absurd notion, more attention needs to placed on the reasons why animals can or cannot be included in the category of persons. Of (...) three different approaches to personhood—the perfectionist approach, the humanistic approach, and the interactive approach—the third approach is the strongest. Personhood defined via interaction opens new doors for animal ethics. (shrink)
This Philosophy Compass article continues the comparison between Confucian and mainstream Western views of personhood and their connection with ethics begun in Confucianism and Ethics in the Western Philosophical Tradition I: Fundamental Concepts , by focusing on the Western self conceived as an independent agent with moral and political rights. More specifically, the present article briefly accounts for how the more strictly and explicitly individualistic notion of self dominating Western philosophy has developed, leading up to a recent debate in (...) modern Western rights theory between Herbert Fingarette and Henry Rosemont, Jr., two contemporary Western philosophers who are both steeped in Confucian thought as well as moral and political philosophy. This discussion elucidates how Confucianism can be compared to, and even contrasted with some basic principles of modern Western rights theory and the more individualistic view of self they entail. In the end, a new view of personhood and "free will"? is offered that synthesizes insights from the Confucian treatment of persons as being essentially interdependent with the Western treatment of persons as being essentially independent. (shrink)
Profiling technologies are the facilitating force behind the vision of Ambient Intelligence in which everyday devices are connected and embedded with all kinds of smart characteristics enabling them to take decisions in order to serve our preferences without us being aware of it. These technological practices have considerable impact on the process by which our personhood takes shape and pose threats like discrimination and normalisation. The legal response to these developments should move away from a focus on entitlements to (...) personal data, towards making transparent and controlling the profiling process by which knowledge is produced from these data. The tendency in intellectual property law to commodify information embedded in software and profiles could counteract this shift to transparency and control. These rights obstruct the access and contestation of the design of the code that impacts one’s personhood. This triggers a political discussion about the public nature of this code and forces us to rethink the relations between property, privacy and personhood in the digital age. (shrink)
This essay has two purposes. The first is to argue that our moral duties towards human embryos should be assessed in light of the Golden Rule by asking the normative question, “how would I want to be treated if I were an embryo?” Some reject the proposition “I was an embryo” on the basis that embryos should not be recognized as persons. This essay replies to five common arguments denying the personhood of human embryos: (1) that early human embryos (...) lack ontological individuation; (2) that they are members of the species Homo sapiens but not yet human persons; (3) that the argument for personhood commits the “heap argument” fallacy; (4) that since human procreation in nature is inefficient, human embryos cannot be persons; and (5) the “burning building” scenario proves that all arguments for personhood are irrational or inconsistent. The second purpose is to set forth and criticize in light of the normative judgement defended in part one the present legal situation of cryo-preserved embryos in the U.S. The essay ends by proposing legislative reforms to protect ex utero human embryos. (shrink)
This paper focuses on Confucian formulations of personhood and the implications they may have for bioethics and medical practice. We discuss how an appreciation of the Confucian concept of personhood can provide insights into the practice of informed consent and, in particular, the role of family members and physicians in medical decision-making in societies influenced by Confucian culture. We suggest that Western notions of informed consent appear ethically misguided when viewed from a Confucian perspective.
The epistemological and sociological consequences of post-modernity include the inability to show moral strangers, in terms they can see as binding, the moral wrongness of activities such as abortion. Such activities can be perceived as morally disordered within a content-full moral narrative, but not outside of the context it brings. Though one can salvage something of the Enlightenment project of justifying a morality that can bind moral strangers, one is left with moral and metaphysical views that can be recognized as (...) impoverished and incomplete by those who live their lives within the embrace of a content-full moral narrative. The cardinal dualism of post-modemity is not that which separates mind from body, but the gulf between the morality binding moral strangers and that binding moral friends. Keywords: dualism, human embryo, personhood, post-modernity CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
There has been much debate whether computers can be responsible. This question is usually discussed in terms of personhood and personal characteristics, which a computer may or may not possess. If a computer fulfils the conditions required for agency or personhood, then it can be responsible; otherwise not. This paper suggests a different approach. An analysis of the concept of responsibility shows that it is a social construct of ascription which is only viable in certain social contexts and (...) which serves particular social aims. If this is the main aspect of responsibility then the question whether computers can be responsible no longer hinges on the difficult problem of agency but on the possibly simpler question whether responsibility ascriptions to computers can fulfil social goals. The suggested solution to the question whether computers can be subjects of responsibility is the introduction of a new concept, called “quasi-responsibility” which will emphasise the social aim of responsibility ascription and which can be applied to computers. (shrink)
My interlocutor is anyone who denies peisonhood to the embryo on the grounds that a human person can exist only in conscious activity and that in the absence of consciousness a person cannot exist at all. I probe personal consciousness to the point at which the distinction between the being and the consciousness of the human person appears, and argue on the basis of this distinction that the being of a person can exist in the absence of any consciousness. I (...) proceed to argue that it is not only entirely possible for the embryo to be a human person, but that, given the embodied peisonhood of us human beings, this is the only reasonable assumption which we can make. Keywords: human embryo, personhood, being, consciousness, embodiment CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Three of the articles included in this issue of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy - Ron Amundson and Shari Tresky's "On a Bioethical Challenge to Disability Rights"; Rachel Cooper's "Can It Be a Good Thing to Be Deaf?"; and Mark T. Brown's "The Potential of the Human Embryo" - interact (in various ways) with the concepts of disability, humanity, and personhood and their normative dimensions. As one peruses these articles, it becomes apparent that terms like "disability," "human being," (...) and "person" carry with them great normative significance. There is, however, much disagreement concerning both the definition and the extension of such terms. This is significant because different terms and definitions are associated with different sets of normative requirements. In what follows we reconstruct the argument of each of the articles, and then offer some brief critical analysis intended to stimulate further thought about and discussion of the issues that each raises. (shrink)
Theories of the liberal tradition have relied on independence as a norm of personhood. Feminist theorists such as Eva Kittay in Love's Labor have been instrumental in critiquing normative independence. I explore the role of corporeal vulnerability in Kittay's account of personhood, developing a comparison to the role it plays in Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan. Kittay's crucial contribution in Love's Labor is that once we acknowledge the facts of corporeal vulnerability, we must not only acknowledge but also affirm dependency (...) in a genuinely inclusive affirmation of personhood. While endorsing Kittay's “dependency critique,” I discover difficulties that beleaguer Kittay's development of new norms of personhood. I trace these to a dependency of Kittay's account on a crucial premise of the liberal model it resists. I argue that in order to affirm dependency in a manner that departs more thoroughly from the criticized aspects of liberal personhood, we must cease to position it in a dichotomy of power and vulnerability. I suggest that attending to the corporeality of vulnerability can aid us in developing the terms of a discourse affirming relational personhood while undermining that dichotomy. (shrink)
Within the Western bioethical framework, we make adistinction between two dominant interpretations of the meaning of moral personhood: thenaturalist and the humanist one. While both interpretations of moral personhood claim topromote individual autonomy and rights, they end up with very different normativeviews on the practical and legal measures needed to realize these values in every daylife. Particularly when we talk about the end of life issues it appears that in general thearguments for euthanasia are drawn from the naturalist (...) interpretation of moral personhoodwhile the arguments against euthanasia, for their part, are derived from the idealistand/or humanist understanding of the same concept. This article focuses onexamining the metaphysical assumptions and internal contradiction found behind the opposingarguments presented by two prominent philosophers of these two traditions:Peter Singer and Ludger Honnefelder. The author claims that neither side of thedebate succeeds in defending its normative position without reconsidering how to takethe social aspects of moral personhood into account. The author holds that, despite ourneed to set individual's decision making into social context, the currentcommunitarian narrative concept of personhood fails to offer a convincing alternative.Instead of merely trying to replace psychological and atomistic view of personhood with acollective understanding of an individual's moral identity, we need to discuss thenormative relation between the concept of `moral personhood' and the demand for respect ofindividual autonomy in Western bioethics within a wider philosophical perspective. (shrink)
What kind of animals are human beings? And how do our visions of the human shape our theories of social action and institutions? In Moral, Believing Animals>, Christian Smith advances a creative theory of human persons and culture that offers innovative, challenging answers to these and other fundamental questions in sociological, cultural, and religious theory. Smith suggests that human beings have a peculiar set of capacities and proclivities that distinguishes them significantly from other animals on this planet. Despite the vast (...) differences in humanity between cultures and across history, no matter how differently people narrate their lives and histories, there remains an underlying structure of human personhood that helps to order human culture, history, and narration. Drawing on important recent insights in moral philosophy, epistemology, and narrative studies, Smith argues that humans are animals who have an inescapable moral and spiritual dimension. They cannot avoid a fundamental moral orientation in life and this, says Smith, has profound consequences for how sociology must study human beings. (shrink)
The lives of persons are valuable, but are all humans persons? Some humans—the immature, the damaged, and the defective—are not capable, here and now, of engaging in the rational activities characteristic of persons, and for this reason, one might call their personhood into question. A standard way of defendingit is by appeal to potentiality: we know they are persons because we know they have the potentiality to engage in rational activities. In this paper I develop acomplementary strategy based on (...) normativity. We know that the humans in question are persons because we know that lacking the here-and-now ability to engage in rational activities is—for them, unlike for tulips or kittens—a falling-short of some norm. Their personhood, in other words, is established on the basis of their being subject to the norm of having those here-and-now capacities. (shrink)
The distinction between persons and things reflects the opposition between reason and nature that is characteristic of modern thought: persons are constituted by rationality, self-consciousness, free will, and moral agency; things are taken to be merely natural or material beings, devoid of reason and the products of entirely mechanistic forces. Persons, as ends in themselves, alone deserve moral consideration; things (including all plants and animals) deserve no moral consideration. Accordingly in much modern thought, nature, including the human body, becomes a (...) mere object to be manipulated for human use. This paper challenges this narrowly anthropocentric idea by outlining a view, grounded in classical philosophical and Christian thought, called the “analogy of personhood.” This view offers a hierarchical but non-dichotomous approach to reality that rejects any radical opposition between reason and nature. The philosophical basis of this approach is developed as found in Aristotle, Plotinus, Proclus, and finally, the Christian Neoplatonist Pseudo-Dionysius. (shrink)
In the course of its preparation, the 1997 convention on human rights and biomedicine adopted by the Council of Europe instigated a widespread debate. This article examines one of the core issues: the notion of the human being as depicted in the convention. It is argued that according to the convention, this being may exist in three different legal categories, namely 'human life', 'embryo', and 'personhood', each furnished with an inherent set of somewhat different rights, yet none of them (...) clearly defined, thus leaving it to domestic law to regulate at what point a human being belongs to which category. While this approach is understandable from a political point of view, it creates a vicious circle, since law thereby has to define its own foundation and, in the case of the convention, to protect a being that it cannot define. It appears that this form of life is seen rather as a given entity, taking precedence over the interests of society and science, and its dignity and identity forming criteria for the subsequent systems of culture, simply because this life is human and nothing else. Thus, the convention approaches a natural law position. (shrink)
Public policy decisions concerning embryos and fetuses tend to lack reasoned argument on their moral status. While agreement on personhood is elusive, this concept has unquestioned moral relevance. A stipulated usage of the term, the psychic sense of ‘person’, applies to early human prenatal life and encompasses morally relevant aspects of personhood. A ‘person’ in the psychic sense has (1) a minimal psychology, defined as the capacity to retain experiences, which may be nonconscious, through physiological analogs of memory; (...) and (2) the potential to become a person in the full sense. Psychic personhood merits attribution of moral personhood because (1) the experience of a ‘person’ in the psychic sense has continuity with the experience of a full person; and (2) this experience begins to determine the development of the personal psychological characteristics of that individual. Psychic personhood is a rationally defensible boundary for invasive research involving human embryos and fetuses. Lacking precise empirical knowledge, policy makers could attribute psychic personhood at the time of earliest brainstem activity, that is, during the seventh week of fetal development. Keywords: personhood, fetal moral status, fetal psychology, potential person, human experimentation CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
There are many calls for a definitions personhood, but also many logical and Wittgensteinian reasons to think fulfilling this is unimportant or impossible. I argue that we can consider many contexts as language-games and consider the person as the key player in each. We can then examine the attributes, presuppositions and implications of personhood in those contexts. I use law and therapeutic psychology as two examples of such contexts or language-games. Each correlates with one of the classic “theories” (...) of ethics-deontology and consequentialism. But each is a large enough cluster to consider them as paradigms in a sense related to Thomas Kuhn's notion in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Showing the presuppositions about and “takes” on personhood together with the connections involved in the paradigms deepens the dilemmas we already know to be present. (shrink)
: This paper examines the ethical status of animals and nature within the thought of Mary Whiton Calkins. Though Calkins held that her self-psychology and absolute personalistic idealism were compatible in many ways, the two schools of thought offer different conceptions of personhood with respect to animals and nature. On the one hand, Calkins's self-psychology classified animals and nature as non-persons, due to the fact that self-psychology viewed animals and nature as physical entities bereft of the psychical qualities necessary (...) for personhood. On the other hand, Calkins's absolute personalistic idealism classified animals and nature as persons, due to the absolute personalistic idealist understanding of the universe as ultimately mental and personal. Because Calkins's ethics requires the ethical individual to will for the benefit of all human beings, an ethics that adopts Calkins's psychological conception of personhood promotes an anthropocentrism that views animals and nature as possessing merely instrumental value, while an ethics that adopts Calkins's philosophical conception of personhood views animals and nature as possessing intrinsic value. (shrink)
A widely adopted approach to end-of-life ethical questions fails to make explicit certain crucial metaphysical ideas entailed by it and when those ideas are clarified, then it can be shown to be inadequate. These metaphysical themes cluster around the notions of personal identity, personhood and humanness, and the metaphysics of substance. In order to clarify and critique the approach just mentioned, I focus on the writings of Robert N. Wennberg as a paradigm case by, first, stating his views of (...) personal identity, humanness, personhood, and the relations among them; second, offering a comparison of a view of humans as substances (understood in the classic interpretation of Aristotle and Aquinas) vs. a view of humans as property-things; third, applying the metaphysical distinctions surfaced in the second section towards a critique of Wennberg. (shrink)
The paper explores the philosophical anthropology and the moral grammar of recognition. It does so by examining how the formation of the self is informed by social recognition, the result of which can motivate individuals and groups to engage in struggles for recognition. To pursue this task, the discussion focuses on the insights of Honneth, who grounds his theory of recognition in the intersubjective relations between persons. The idea that recognition impacts the formation of personal identity is regarded as susceptible (...) to the charge of reducing recognition demands into demands for satisfying psychological needs. Contrary to this worry, the central claim of the paper is that such an identity-based understanding of recognition can still be salvaged. More precisely, this can be done by conceiving of demands of recognition as demands for inclusion into personhood through which the moral dimension of recognition struggles is properly understood. This article concludes that despite its potential ambiguities, the notion of personhood and its relation to recognition remains philosophically defensible. (shrink)
The essay argues that narrative approaches to human personhood which conceptualize the goal of human personhood in terms of the fulfillment of a capacity for self-constitution by means of deliberate choices tend to make inordinate and inhuman claims for human agency. The narrative approaches of the psychoanalyst and psychoanalytic theorist, Roy Schafter, and of the theologian and ethicist, Stanley Hauerwas, illustrate this. Both thinkers implicitly deny the permanent vulnerability of human agency in the area of the appropriation of (...) narratives. In the case of Hauerwas, this also implies a denial of theneed for God’s grace in the area of the appropriation of narratives. The work of the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, serves as a contrast to Schafer and Hauerwas and demonstrates that a narrative approach to human persons does not need to make inordinate claims for an autonomous human capacity for self-constituion. The last part of the essay shows how the rejection of the need for God’s grace in the area of the appropriation of narratives is connected to a rejection of the idea of innocent suffering. (shrink)
The President’s Council on Bioethics has addressed the moral status of human preembryos in its reports on stem cell research and human therapeutic cloning. Although the Council has been criticized for being hand-picked to favor the right-to-life viewpoint concerning human preembryos, it has embraced the idea that the right-to-life position should be defended in secular terms. This is an important feature of the Council’s work, and it demonstrates a recognition of the need for genuine engagement between opposing sides in the (...) debate over stem cell research. To promote this engagement, the Council has stated in secular terms several arguments for the personhood of human preembryos. This essay presents and critiques those arguments, and it concludes that they are unsuccessful. If the best arguments in support of the personhood of human preembryos have been presented by the Council, then there are no reasonable secular arguments in support of that view. (shrink)
Through extensive readings in philosophical, legal, medical, and imaginative writing, this book explores notions and experiences of being a person from European antiquity to Descartes. It offers quite new interpretations of what it was to be a person—to experience who-ness—in other times and places, involving new understandings of knowing, willing, and acting, as well as of political and material life, the play of public and private, passions and emotions. The trajectory the author reveals reaches from the ancient sense of (...) class='Hi'>personhood as set in a totality of surroundings inseparable from the person, to an increasing sense of impermeability to the world, in which anger has replaced love in affirming a sense of self. The author develops his analysis through an impressive range of authors, languages, and texts: from Cicero, Seneca, and Galen; through Avicenna, Hildegard of Bingen, and Heloise and Abelard; to Petrarch, Montaigne, and Descartes. (shrink)
This book offers a rich variety of thoughtful explorations on the nature of the human person especially as related to health care, medicine, and mental health. Rarely are so many different viewpoints collected in one place about the intriguing puzzle that is the concept of person, human dignity, and the special place human beings hold in the goals of healing and the social structures of medical delivery. Ramifications of the theory of personhood are presented for bioethics, genetics, individuality, uniqueness, (...) international law, feminism, and human rights in health care. Intended for professionals in the fields of philosophy of medicine, law, and bioethics, this book will also appeal to psychologists and medical anthropologists. (shrink)
'Ideologies of Discrimination' considers the implications of the new genetics for understandings of personhood and for understandings of the relationship between people in groups. In particular, the essay delineates and examines the emerging notion of a 'genetic group' and considers the social implications of redefining families, racial groups and ethnic groups through express, and often exclusive, reference to a shared genome. One consequence of such redefinition has been the justification and elaboration of stigmatizing images of and discrimination against such (...) groups-especially those, such as Jews and African-Americans, that have long been identified with specific somatic characteristics. A few worrisome trends begin to emerge in the response of the American legal system to the notion of genetic groups. Among these is a shift in the locus of privacy and identity from the autonomous individual to the genetic group. This shift challenges (and threatens) long-standing Western values (including equality and liberty) that depend upon the ideological centrality of autonomous individuality. (shrink)
In this paper I want to ask whether human evolution as such might provide us with important links to theological anthropology and thus to a positive and constructive way of appropriating Darwinian thought for Christian theology. From a more philosophical point of view I am asking whether Darwin's perspective on human evolution can help us move forward to more constructive, holistic, notions of self and personhood? I will argue in this paper that in the history of hominid evolution we (...) find surprising answers to the enduring question of what it means to be a self , a human person. In fact, what we now know about key aspects of hominid evolution affirms and confirms what Darwin argued for as crucial aspects of humanness. To this end I want to consider the problem of human evolution and its potential impact on theological anthropology by tracking a number of challenging contemporary proposals for the evolution of crucially important aspects of human personhood that were all of great significance for Darwin: the evolution of sexuality, the evolution of music and language, the evolution of morality, and the religious disposition. I will then argue that the evolution of these crucial aspects of human personhood converge of the issue of the moral sense, or morality, which then might give us an interesting, if not intriguing, transversal connection of religious belief and theological reflection. My argument will then unfold by specifically focusing on two important questions: first , what do we learn from evolutionary history about the evolution of morality and moral awareness in humans? and second , what do we learn from evolutionary history about the way we construct our moral codes and our ethical systems? The evolution of morality is, of course, closely related to the evolution of religion, with which I have not dealt with in this paper. (shrink)
Peter French has argued that conglomerate collectivities such as business corporations are moral persons and that aggregate collectivities such as lynch mobs are not. Two arguments are advanced to show that French's claim is flawed. First, the distinction between aggregates and conglomerates is, at best, a distinction of degree, not kind. Moreover, some aggregates show evidence of moral personhood. Second, French's criterion for distinguishing aggregates and conglomerates is based on inadequate grounds. Application of the criterion to specific cases requires (...) an additional judgment of a pragmatic nature which undermines any attempt to demonstrate French's thesis that actual conglomerates are moral persons and aggregates are not. Thus, French's theory is seriously lacking both empirical basis and empirical relevance. (shrink)
In this paper it is argued that the experimental data on commissurotomy patients provide no grounds for denying the singular personhood of commissurotomy patients. This is because, contrary to most philosophical accounts, there is no “unity of consciousness” discriminating condition for singular personhood that is violated in the case of commissurotomy patients, and because no contradictions arise when singular personhood is ascribed to commissurotomy patients.
In the following article I present a basic proposal that is intended to provide the ground for a broader program in which I attempt to explain and characterize the foundations of the normativity generally regarded as implicit in the notion of a "person." I intend to argue that these foundations are natural in the sense that they are derived from basic behavioral and cognitive patterns which are particularly characteristic of human beings especially during their infancy. Among these basic patterns I (...) take that known as dyadic engagement to be merely the foundational stage at which embryonic personhood emerges. Dyadic engagement is a very primitive and special form of social competence which has been identified by some cognitive developmentalists and comparative psychologists as a particular kind of sensitivity for contingencies which are experienced from the very beginning in the various processes of communicative interaction. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett's two interpretations of Kant's Third Paralogism are shown to be inadequate. The Third Paralogism attempts to show that rational psychology provides an inadequate basis for the application of the concepts of "personhood" and "substance". The criteria for the application of "personhood" and "substance" must be empirical, and in the case of "personhood" they are bodily criteria. These criteria are available to each of us but only upon pains of abandoning what Bennett calls the Cartesian basis, (...) i.e. rational psychology. (shrink)
Drawing on insights from the medieval theologians Duns Scotus and Hervaeus Natalis, I argue that medieval views of the Incarnation require that there is a sense in which the divine person depends on his human nature for his human personhood, and thus that the paradigmatic pattern of human personhood is in some way dependent existence. I relate this to a modern distinction between impairment and disability to show that impairment -- understood as dependence -- is normative for human (...)personhood. I try to show how medieval theories of the resurrection of the body can provide, within this context, plausible accounts of what it might be for human persons to be redeemed. (shrink)
The concept ‘personhood’ lies at the center of contemporary disputes concerning whether certain biological interventions are ethical. Thus, if ‘personhood’ could be located or its existence evidenced by observations available to biologists, then each of these controversies could be resolved in biology’s own terms. I argue that this is a fruitless task. The attempt to track down a material object, ‘personhood,’ reveals ignorance of an important metaphysical presupposition underlying contemporary culture’s Cartesian/Kantian concept of ‘personhood.’.
Machine generated contents note: 1. Introducing persons and the psychology of personhood Jack Martin and Mark H. Bickhard; Part I. Philosophical, Conceptual Perspectives: 2. The person concept and the ontology of persons Michael A. Tissaw; 3. Achieving personhood: the perspective of hermeneutic phenomenology Charles Guignon; Part II. Historical Perspectives: 4. Historical psychology of persons: categories and practice Kurt Danziger; 5. Persons and historical ontology Jeff Sugarman; 6. Critical personalism: on its tenets, its historical obscurity, and its future prospects (...) James T. Lamiell; Part III. Social-Developmental Perspectives: 7. Conceiving of self and others as persons: evolution and development John Barresi, Chris Moore and Raymond Martin; 8. Position exchange theory and personhood: moving between positions and perspectives within physical, sociocultural and psychological space and time Jack Martin and Alex Gillespie; 9. The emergent ontology of persons Mark H. Bickhard; 10. Theorising personhood for the world in transition and change: reflections from a transformative activist stance on human development Anna Stetsenko; Part IV. Narrative Perspectives: 11. Identity and narrative as root metaphors of personhood Amia Lieblich and Ruthellen Josselson; 12. Storied persons: the double triad of narrative identity Mark Freeman. (shrink)
Despite the prevalence of human rights discourse, the very idea or concept of a human right remains obscure. In particular, it is unclear what is supposed to be special or distinctive about human rights. In this paper, we consider two recent attempts to answer this challenge, James Griffin’s “personhood account” and Charles Beitz’s “practice-based account”, and argue that neither is entirely satisfactory. We then conclude with a suggestion for what a more adequate account might look like – what we (...) call the “structural pluralist account” of human rights. (shrink)
: In this paper, I consider objections to advance directives based on the claim that there is a discontinuity of interests, and of personal identity, between the time a person executes an advance directive and the time when the patient has become severely demented. Focusing narrowly on refusals of life-sustaining treatment for severely demented patients, I argue that acceptance of the psychological view of personal identity does not entail that treatment refusals should be overridden. Although severely demented patients are morally (...) considerable beings, and must be kept comfortable whilst alive, they no longer have an interest in receiving life-sustaining treatment. (shrink)
In this paper, I consider the claim that a corporation cannot be held to be morally responsible unless it is a person. First, I argue that this claim is ambigious. Person flags three different but related notions: metaphysical person, moral agent, moral person. I argue that, though one can make the claim that corporates are metaphysical persons, this claim is only marginally relevant to the question of corporate moral responsibility. The central question which must be answered in discussions of corporate (...) moral responsibility is whether corporations are moral agents or moral persons. I argue that, though we can make a case for saying corporations are moral agents, they are not moral persons, and hence, we can hold them responsible. In addition, we need not treat them the way we would be obligated to treat a moral person; we needn't have the same scruples about holding a corporation morally responsible as we would a moral person. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to argue that the tactic of granting a fetus the legal status of a person will not, contrary to the expectations of opponents of abortion, provide grounds for a general prohibition on abortions. I begin by examining two arguments, one moral (J. J. Thomson's A Defense of Abortion) and the other legal (D. Regan's Rewriting Roe v. Wade), which grant the assumption that a fetus is a person and yet argue to the conclusion that (...) abortion is permissible. However, both Thomson and Regan rely on the so-called bad samaritan principle. This principle states that a person has a right to refuse to give aid. Their reliance on this principle creates problems, both in the moral and the legal contexts, since the bad samaritan principle is intended to apply to passive refusals to aid; abortion, however, does not look like any such passive denial of aid, and so it does not seem like the sort of action covered by the bad samaritan principle. In defense of the positions outlined by Thomson and Regan, I argue that the apparent asymmetry between abortion and the usual type of case covered by the bad samaritan principle is only apparent and not a genuine problem for their analyses. I conclude with a defense of the morality of the bad samaritan principle. (shrink)
This paper offers two new arguments for a version of Reflection, the principle that says, roughly, that if one knew now what one would believe in the future, one ought to believe it now. The most prominent existing argument for the principle is the coherence-based Dutch Strategy argument advanced by Bas van Fraassen (and others). My two arguments are quite different. The first is a truth-based argument. On the basis of two substantive premises, that people’s beliefs generally get better over (...) time and that being a person requires having knowledge of this fact, it concludes that it is rational to treat your future selves as experts. The second argument is a transcendental one. Being a person requires being able to engage in plans and projects. But these cannot be meaningfully undertaken unless one has Reflection-like expectations about one’s future beliefs. Hence, satisfaction of Reflection is necessary for being a person. Together, the arguments show that satisfaction of Reflection is both rational and necessary for persons. (shrink)
A caveat: The topic of abortion is both highly controversial and extremely complex, and I certainly cannot hope to address all of its important ethical aspects in the brief notes that follow. Readers are urged to consult a good annotated bibliography such as the one compiled by James DeHullu for references to more extensive scholarly treatments of abortion.
This paper traces the intellectual development of the workplace privacy construct in the course of American thinking. The role of technological development in this process is examined, particularly in regard to the information gathering/dissemination dilemmas faced by employers and employees alike. The paper concludes with some preliminary considerations toward a theory of workplace privacy.
There is ample evidence for this claim, both in time-honoured works and in recent publications. Before I concentrate on some of the old stuff, let me briefly turn to recent examples. The following sample of quotations from a Nobel Laureate, a leading neuroscientist and a German professor of ‘neuro-didactics’ may illustrate how deep the confusion about what a person is can go among the educated, even today. Francis Crick stated his Astonishing Hypothesis as follows: “You” [...] are in fact no (...) more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: “You’re nothing but a bunch of neurons.” This idea is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can truly be called astonishing.1 A few years later, this ‘idea’ seemed not anymore astonishing to Michael Gazzaniga who prefers to put it this way: Some simple facts make it.. (shrink)
Simon Evnine examines various epistemic aspects of what it is to be a person. Persons are defined as finite beings that have beliefs, including second-order beliefs about their own and others' beliefs, and are agents, capable of making long-term plans. It is argued that for any being meeting these conditions, a number of epistemic consequences obtain. First, all such beings must have certain logical concepts and be able to use them in certain ways. Secondly, there are at least two principles (...) governing belief that it is rational for persons to satisfy and are such that nothing can be a person at all unless it satisfies them to a large extent. These principles are that one believe the conjunction of one's beliefs and that one treat one's future beliefs as, by and large, better than one's current beliefs. Thirdly, persons both occupy epistemic points of view on the world and show up within those views. This makes it impossible for them to be completely objective about their own beliefs. Ideals of rationality that require such objectivity, while not necessarily wrong, are intrinsically problematic for persons. This "aspectual dualism" is characteristic of treatments of persons in the Kantian tradition. In sum, these epistemic consequences support a traditional view of the nature of persons, one in opposition to much recent theorizing. (shrink)
A closer look at the theories and questions in philosophy of technology and ethics of technology shows the absence and marginality of non-Western philosophical traditions in the discussions. Although, increasingly, some philosophers have sought to introduce non-Western philosophical traditions into the debates, there are few systematic attempts to construct and articulate general accounts of ethics and technology based on other philosophical traditions. This situation is understandable, for the questions of modern sciences and technologies appear to be originated from the West; (...) at the same time, the situation is undesirable. The overall aim of this paper, therefore, is to introduce an alternative account of ethics of technology based on the Confucian tradition. In doing so, it is hoped that the current paper can initiate a relatively uncharted field in philosophy of technology and ethics of technology. (shrink)
In this essay we show how certain tendencies of theself are enhanced and hindered by technologicallyorganized places. We coordinate a cognitive andbehavioral technology for the control of personalidentity with the technologically totalizedenvironments that we call synthetic sites. Weproceed by describing Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi''sstrategy for intensifying experience and organizingthe self. Walt Disney World is then considered as theexample, par excellence, of a synthetic sitethat promotes ordered experience via self-shrinkage. Finally, we reflect briefly on problems andpossibilities of human life lived in a world (...) that canbe described with increasing accuracy as anarchipelago of synthetic sites. (shrink)