, Person to Person
, Person-to-person lending
, Very Important Person
, The closet
, Grammatical person
, Model (person)
, Lawrence Person
, Fan (person)
is defined by philosopher
s as a being who is in possession of a range of psychological
capacities that are regarded as both necessary and sufficient to fulfill the requirements of personhood. These are, in general, that it is capable of reasoning
, that it is self-conscious
, and that it has an identity
that persists through time. The English
philosopher John Locke
defined a person as "a thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider it self as it self, the same thinking thing in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness, which is inseparable from thinking, and as it seems to me essential to it" (Essay on Humane Understanding, Book 2, Chapter 27, Section 9).
The most obvious examples of persons are human beings
. Some philosophers, like Peter Singer
of Princeton University
, regard non-human animals
as persons, and argue that some human beings — for example, those with certain types of brain
damage — are not. Beings from other planet
s could also be regarded as persons.
, a corporation
is defined as an artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of a state.
Are all persons human? Are all humans persons?
Firstly, there is the simple and traditional view that the common usage is the correct one: that "person" does indeed mean "human". However, this runs into the problem that the term "person" has a somewhat loaded meaning - we commonly believe that all and only persons have certain rights, for example, the right to life. Some would go so far as to say that all and only persons are sacred
However, we can imagine the hypothetical alien
from another planet, who, despite not being human, nevertheless has every trait that we see as being essential for this protected status that elevates it above mere objects. Thus, many claim that the simple view implies a sort of inadvertent speciesism
. There are also religious views that attribute personhood to supernatural
beings such as gods, angels, demons, and so on. Similar ethical debates centre around the question of animal rights
and artificial intelligence
Steven M. Wise argues that certain primate
s and cetacea
ns (particularly the most highly intelligent
species, such as the Great Apes
and dolphins and killer whales
), as well as elephants, possess enough of the commonly held criteria for personhood to be considered persons.
(crow species) have been recognized as highly intelligent tool users and strategists, while parrot
s display more linguistic intelligence (see also animal intelligence
and animal cognition
). In fact, it is possible to teach a gorilla sign language, as evidenced by the case of Koko
, who has expressed pride and flattery at having been awarded a place in the Guinness Book of Records
for this. (It must be noted, however, that the success of this experiment has been severely contested by several neurolinguists, including some of the experimenters themselves).
Some extend the list still further.
[Samir Chopra and Laurence White, Artificial Agents - Personhood in Law and Philosophy, Proceedings of the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IOS Press, 635-639, 2004]
: In the future sentient programs and computers may emerge, extending the argument beyond all biological realms. The issue of how we might discern whether artificial information processing systems are conscious will likely become a matter of important debate. Alan Turing first suggested that we give convincing machines or programs the benefit of the doubt, using his Turing test
. However, even a simple chatbot
can fool people for a time. The best evidence for consciousness or "sentience" would be the subjective reports of people undergoing gradual replacement of brain tissue with artificial processors (see cyborgs
). For example, surgeons are already beginning to integrate artificial "neural prosthetics" in patients to repair some forms of brain damage
. At some point such a person's cognitive system could require no biological elements. Because the process is gradual, the success or failure of the facilitation of phenomenal elements of conscious experience in a particular device could be reported by a person whom we are pragmatically warranted is considered conscious from the outset. At least in artificial systems designed in the same manner, we would be much more warranted in ascribing personhood than the low standards of the Turing test. Justification would become extremely high for ascribing personhood to any artificial cognitive system that either (1) became artificial through a gradual process of "cyborgization" (permitting subjective reports from a highly trusted source) or (2) was an artificial cognitive system whose design replicated a completely artificial stage of a cyborgization process that has been proven effective, in all relevant respects (e.g. not "personality," but the same type of hardware, organization, and operations).
An elaboration on this theme is sometimes called "uploading
", though the term carries baggage. "Uploading" here refers to a theoretical transfer of a mind to an artificial environment. Uploading proposals tend to assume that the mind does not persist through time in a substantial way (usually theoretically grounded on "deep reductionist" arguments that there is no soul or "self") so making a "copy" of brain structures is - in terms of survival - just as good as preserving the original structure. Advocates also tend to believe that such a copy would have conscious experience rather than merely acting as a convincing automaton. Reservations aside though, there does not seem to be any intrinsic reason that, some day, the mind of a human subject could not gradually extend into a functional simulation running on an advanced supercomputer
. Related to this idea are cyberpunk
science fiction (especially Ghost in the Shell
) and the Transhumanist
A human being is a member of the genetic species Homo sapiens
, but there are a lot of things which contain human DNA, which we would not strictly want to call persons. For example, the follicle
of a human hair cell contains DNA which would enable forensic
scientists to identify it as having human DNA. Clearly, a hair cell is not a person, and it is not immoral to discard one's hair or dead skin cells.
Most people would say that the reason a hair cell is not a person is because it has no brain
, and therefore no consciousness
(see criteria for personhood, below.) But vestigial organs
look more human - an extra arm, leg, or other organ is certainly human in its DNA, but again, there is no brain, and so we would not consider that by removing a vestigial arm, that we were killing a person.
The problem is that some vestigial twins
are not merely extra arms and legs, but that there is brain tissue also: in essence, a vestigial twin is a malformed conjoined (Siamese) twin
. There is mixed opinion about whether such a human is indeed a person, and each case needs to be judged on its own merits. There have been cases where vestigial or parasitic twin
s have been removed, much to the outrage of protestors.
Additionally, there is a legal status of persons as those enjoying the basic rights of life and liberty, the ability to manage one's own affairs, the ability to be free to make contracts, etc., the term for which is "Sui Juris
". Generally, it is considered that to enjoy this status, one must be a free adult human
, of sound mind
. There are several classes of humans not recognized to being Sui Juris persons: children
, and the insane
Possible criteria for personhood See also John Locke's definition of personal identity as formed by consciousness
The above points seem to indicate that there may be persons that are not human, and there may be humans that are not persons. For these reasons, many philosophers have tried to give a more precise definition, focusing on some trait or traits that all persons, real and hypothetical, must possess.
The most obvious such trait that individuals considered persons usually possess is a conscious mind, typically (but not necessarily) with plans, goals, desires, hopes, fears, and so on. These traits therefore form a natural set of criteria for personhood.
Despite this, these criteria are controversial. In particular, some have argued that these criteria fail to recognize babies
as Although they meet some of the criteria, such as some degree of consciousness
, and the ability to feel pain, the mental abilities of a newborn baby often seem to some to be no more impressive than many animals not commonly considered persons. Another problematic example is the status of a person in deep sleep, with no consciousness at the moment
, but who upon waking would return to being an entity with full subjective awareness in the future. However, this latter case becomes less problematic with the assistance of theories of embodied subjectivity (mind-brain identity or unity), which allow for the persistence of an intelligent physical system that both has been self-aware in the past and has the capacity to continue being self-aware in the future. A variation of this example is a "reversibly comatose patient," though criteria for reversibility complicate such an analysis. A similar though slightly different variation of this example would be a theory of biological identity. This would allow for a being with the same biological identity as a person to be a person.
Because of these problems, some philosophers suggest that the potential
to become fully thinking beings is sufficient to convey personhood, regardless of present mental A consequence of this view is that an embryo would be considered a person from conception
; but others see the idea of a single cell - with absolutely no mind of any sort - being a person as It is a matter of debate when in development any conscious awareness is possible, as seemingly cognitive behaviour that may or may not be attributable to stimuli can be seen at multiple stages in a pregnancy.
Nevertheless, consistent correlative evidence enables us to rule out awareness in the early and middle stages of foetal development with a high degree of confidence. As is reported in the article Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence
[cite journal | author=Lee SJ, Ralston HJ, Drey EA, Partridge JC, Rosen MA | title=Fetal pain: a systematic multidisciplinary review of the evidence | journal=JAMA | year=2005 | pages=947-54 | volume=294 | issue=8 | id=PMID ]
, at 29 weeks of development fetuses have mature somatosensory evoked potentials that indicate that pain signals travel above the spine, through the thalamus and to the somatosensory cortex; and at around 30 weeks of development the brain's EEG
signals suggest the first signs of wakefulness. Wakefulness is a necessary condition for any awareness, including pain recognition, but is insufficient for awareness without a functional somatosensory cortex to recognize pain signals as such - which is lacking for people in permanently vegetative states. Because these two necessary conditions for consciousness do not occur before the 29th week of development, fetuses cannot be consciously aware (and therefore subjects of experience) before the 29th week.
Another view amongst scholars is that personhood is not all-or-nothing: there can be degrees of personhood, based on how close to a fully working mind the individual in question Thus, a typical adult is entirely a person, while a human permanently in a persistent vegetative state
would not be considered a person at all. Partial personhood is tacitly recognized by law in most cultures as reflected by parental rights and obligations, and in legal treatment of minors, the mentally handicapped, and the comatose. However, other philosophers argue that the concept of an incomplete or partial person is dangerous, possibly leading to weakened protection for those not considered complete Others would argue that we are all incomplete or "developing" persons regardless of our developmental
According to Boethius
:Person is an individual substance of rational nature. As individual it is material, since matter supplies the principle of individuation. The soul is not person, only the composite is. Man alone is among the material beings person, he alone having a rational nature. He is the highest of the material beings, endowed with particular dignity and rights
emphasized the idea of a living being that is conscious of itself as persisting over time (and hence able to have conscious preferences about its own future).
In recent years a kind of consensus among secular scholars has emerged, which might be referred to as "personhood This is strongly influenced by Locke's approach. The criteria a person must have in personhood theory are one or more of the following:
# The ability to steer one's attention and action purposively,
-awareness, self-bonded to objectivities (existing independently of the subject's perception of it),
# Self as longitudinal thematic identity, one's biographic identity.Neo-Kantian
philosophers over the last two decades have emphasized that conscious awareness requires both:
# The sensorial capacity to access an environment (and one's own body) in a way that offers the basic qualitative content for subjective experience.
# The intellectual capacity to conceptually interpret sensorial content as representing some thing to oneself.
Both of these capacities are required for a subject
of experience, action, thought, or self-reflection to exist, at least in the physically embodied, world-accessing manner of humans (and presumably other intelligent animals). As Kant wrote:Without sensibility no object would be given to us, and without understanding none would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.
(Critique of Pure Reason
, A 51 = B 75).
For those who consider an embodied capacity for subjectivity as necessary for personhood, these abstract constraints are quite relevant to the personhood theory debate. Advocates of alternative positions, such as a biological species or potentiality criterion, would instead need to provide arguments against embodied subjectivity as a basis for personhood. For example, one might argue that property claims are made by immaterial minds on immature material bodies, though any claim as to the nature of such minds would be necessarily speculative and would typically involve an argument for Cartesian substance dualism (see "mind-body problem
An important part of the fetal rights
debate which encompasses the abortion
debate is when the fetus
achieves personhood. However, due to the conflation
of two or more meanings of the word "person," the issue appears unresolvable. In one sense of "person," any human organism is a person. In other senses, a "person" is a moral or legal designation that generally is assumed to carry with it the right to life
. In the United States
, this would mean at what point does the fetus
gain the rights described in the constitution
Under English and United States common law
, personhood has long been regarded as coming into being at the moment of live birth
. In England, the 1989
case of R v Tait
confirmed this legal view.
Many proponents of "pro-choice
" believe that a fetus should achieve personhood only after birth, or at least after it is viable
, or can live for a sustained period outside the mother with assistance from life A fetus is generally considered viable 24 weeks after conception
. Some proponents of this point of view would argue that the fetus is no different from an appendage of the mother, because, like an organ, the fetus cannot live if
Many proponents of "pro-life
" believe that personhood begins at Proponents of this point of view point to the development of the fetus as evidence of its human personhood. An additional argument is sometimes made based on identity If the fetus is the same being as a grown human, and the grown human is a person, then that person's life would have started at fertilization. However if the fetus is not a person, then the fetus's life would not be that of a person.
Implications of the personhood debate
Personhood theory has become a pivotal issue in the interdisciplinary field of bioethics
. While historically most humans did not enjoy full legal protection as "persons" (women, children, non-landowners, minorities, slaves, etc.), from the late 18th through the late 20th century being born as a member of the human species gradually became secular grounds for an appeal for basic rights of liberty, freedom from persecution, and humanitarian care.
Since modern movements emerged to oppose animal cruelty (and advocate vegetarian
lifestyles) and theorists like Turing have recognized the possibility of artificial minds with human-level competence, the identification of personhood protections exclusively with human species membership has been challenged. On the other hand, some proponents of "human exceptionism" (also referred to as "speciesism
") have countered that we must institute a strict demarcation of personhood based on species membership in order to avoid the horrors of genocide
(based on propaganda dehumanizing one or more ethnicities) or the injustices of forced sterilization
(as occurred in the U.S. to people with low I.Q. scores and prisoners).
While the former advocates tend to be comfortable constraining personhood status within the human species based on basic capacities (e.g. excluding human stem cells, fetuses, and bodies that cannot recover awareness), the latter often wish to include all these forms of human bodies even if they have never had awareness (which some would call "pre-persons") or had awareness, but could never have awareness again due to massive and irrecoverable brain damage (some would call these "post-persons"). The Vatican
has recently been advancing a human exceptionist understanding of personhood theory, while other communities such as Christian Evangelicals
in the U.S. have sometimes rejected personhood theory as biased against human exceptionism. Of course, many religious communities (of many traditions) view the other versions of personhood theory perfectly compatible with their faith, as do the majority of modern Humanists
The theoretical landscape of personhood theory has been altered recently by controversy in the bioethics community concerning an emerging community of scholars, researchers and activists identifying with an explicitly Transhumanist
position, which supports morphological freedom
even if some people change so much as to no longer be considered members of the human species
(whatever standard is used for this determination).
Individual rights and responsibility
Closely related to the debate on the definition of personhood is the relationship between persons, individual rights
, and ethical responsibility
. Many philosophers would agree that all and only persons are expected to be ethically responsible, and that all persons deserve a varying degree of individual rights (see human rights
). There is less consensus on whether only persons deserve individual rights and whether persons deserve greater individual rights than nonperson
s. The rights of non-person animals are an example of contention on this issue (see animal rights
Corporations as persons See also legal entity (artificial person) and natural person
Largely separate from the discussion of "real" persons are considerations regarding artificial person
s such as corporation
s and state
s. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company
the United States Supreme Court
ruled that a corporation is considered a person for many legal purposes. Many question the wisdom of this; the philosopher John Ralston Saul
said, "If you are a person before the law and Exxon
is also a person, it is clear that the concept of democratic
legitimacy lying with the individual has been mortally wounded." It must be emphasized that corporate personhood is a legal fiction
-- in other terms, a convenient assumption adopted for practical reasons that is not necessarily accepted as true (see also the documentary film The Corporation
*Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
*http://www.iep.utm.edu/ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
*http://bioliberty.inno.bme.hu/proposal-en.html Bioliberty: Proposal for the Declaration of Intelligent Beings' RightsCategory:HumansCategory:Personal lifeCategory:Philosophical terminology bn:ব্যক্তিcs:Osobada:Personde:Personet:Isikes:Persona humanafi:Henkilöeo:Personogl:Persoalt:Asmuoja:人民pl:Osobapt:Pessoa (biologia)ru:Личностьtl:Pagkataozh:人民