|Source: Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Garrett, Brian (1998). Persons.|
|Paper - Abstract|
- We are all persons. But what are persons? This question is central to philosophy and virtually every major philosopher has offered an answer to it.
- For two thousand years many philosophers in the Western tradition believed that we were immaterial souls or Egos, only contingently attached to our bodies. The most well-known advocates of this view were Plato and Descartes.
- Few philosophers accept this view now, largely because it is thought to face a number of intractable metaphysical and epistemological problems (for example: how can an immaterial soul or mind interact with the material world? How can I know that you have a soul?).
- The recoil from Cartesianism has been in three different directions.
- One direction (the animalist1) emphasizes the fact that persons are human beings, evolved animals of a certain sort.
- A second direction (the reductionist2) is represented by David Hume: the self or person is not a Cartesian entity, it is a ‘bundle of perceptions’.
- Finally, there is a theory of persons influenced by the views of John Locke, according to which persons are neither essentially animals nor reducible3 to their bodies or experiences.
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