- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Degrees of Personhood1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Summary" above.
Write-up2 (as at 09/02/2018 22:04:48): Degrees of Personhood
- That personhood may come in degrees – rather than being “all or nothing” – is rather a dangerous thought, at least if applied to human persons4.
- However, if we are inclined to extend the boundaries of personhood to include some higher non-human animals5 (or – in the future – artificial intelligences6) – but don’t want them to be on a par with human beings, for instance in moral accountability – we might have to allow the thought “person – 2nd class”, or something like that.
- It seems clear that the qualities that qualify an individual to be a person (see the list7 in Dennett8, and also the main Note on Persons9), come in degrees.
- The key point is probably whether personhood is an honorific rather than a substance10-term. If it is not a substance-term, as I believe it is not, then we have the option to provide – say – legal protection to the underlying substance – say human animal or human being11, and denying the epithet “person” to some human beings need not have the genocidal overtones that are usually suspected whenever such a thought is expressed.
- So, maybe some persons are “more” persons than others and persons do indeed come in degrees. But maybe they are just better persons according to some criteria – whether ethical or metaphysical – and these criteria need to be sharply distinguished.
- For instance Frankfurt – in "Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" – claimed that wantons12 are not persons, but maybe we should say that (from an ethical perspective) they are poor exemplars of the concept PERSON.
- We can think of an analogy with animals. Some animals (eg. human beings – or, lest we be considered a special case - chimpanzees) are, according to many evaluative criteria, superior to other animals (worms). Yet all are animals. Now ethically and practically, some animals deserve greater consideration than others – it would appear that chimpanzees have a greater capacity for suffering than worms, for instance. So too, presumably, do exemplars of the same species, though not to the same degree except in severely pathological cases.
- The question from the perspective of my research is not particularly the moral dimension – the dangerous thought that some persons may be more valuable than others – but whether there are degrees of personhood, or whether the best way of describing the situation of certain individuals being better qualified to be persons is to say that all are persons, but some are better persons than others.
- This depends on what a person is. If the concept PERSON is itself a substance term (rather than being a property of substances), then we may be right to make the analogy with animals – where ANIMAL is a substance term. Otherwise, the analogy may not be apt.
- The issue is highlighted by the possibility that some of the higher mammals are persons, nearly persons, or persons of reduced degree. If all persons are just persons, period, and all persons have to be treated equally (if that is our ethical outlook), then we might be stuck with duties that seem counter-intuitive (to some, at least).
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read13, include14 the following:-
- "Frankfurt (Harry) - Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person",
- "Lockwood (Michael) - When Does a Life Begin?"
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- To be supplied.
- This is mostly a place-holder15.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (09/02/2018 22:04:48).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- A number of my philosophical Notes are “promissory notes” currently only listing the books and papers (if any) I possess on the topic concerned.
- I’ve decided to add some text – whether by way of motivation, or something more substantive – for all these identified topics related to my Thesis.
- As I want to do this fairly quickly, the text may be confused or show surprising ignorance.
- The reader (if such exists) will have to bear with me, and display the principle of charity while this footnote exists.
- The list is:-
→ intentionality – “predicated of”
→ intentionality – “adopted towards”
→ reciprocation of the personal stance,
→ verbal communication and
→ consciousness of self
- Frequently I’ll have made copious marginal annotations, and sometimes have written up a review-note.
- In the former case, I intend to transfer the annotations into electronic form as soon as I can find the time.
- In the latter case, I will have remarked on the fact against the citation, and will integrate the comments into this Note in due course.
- My intention is to incorporate into these Notes comments on material I’ve already read rather than engage with unread material at this stage.
- I may have read others in between updates of this Note – in which case they will be marked as such in the “References and Reading List” below.
- Papers or Books partially read have a rough %age based on the time spent versus the time expected.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018