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Encyclopedia > Person

The classical defiPENISPENISPENISnition of a person is "a human being regarded as an individual."[1] In modern usage, the term "person" is subject to dispute and re-interpretation based on alternate definitions. This is especially so for uses that are not necessarily synonymous with the classical definition of human or human being. Person can refer to more than one idea or concept: Person in the philosophical sense of personhood. ... This article is about modern humans. ... Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms, or in combinations thereof. ...

For example, in many jurisdictions a corporation may be treated as a "person" under the law. In the fields of philosophy, theology, and bioethics, the definition of 'person' may exclude human beings who are incapable of certain kinds of thought (such as embryos, fetuses with incomplete brain development, or adult humans lacking higher brain functions).[2][3] For other uses, see Corporation (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Law (disambiguation). ... The philosopher Socrates about to take poison hemlock as ordered by the court. ... Theology finds its scholars pursuing the understanding of and providing reasoned discourse of religion, spirituality and God or the gods. ... {{}} Bioethics are the ethics of biological science and medicine. ...

These alternative definitions of what constitutes a "person" include a wide and varying range of alternative defining characteristics, some of which have evolved historically, and continue to shift with time and social context. Some other characteristics used to define a 'person' include personal identity,[4] self-awareness, individuality, and a sense of self that persists through time. Other views centre around the degree to which properties such as agency (both human agency and moral agency) and rights are recognized and acknowledged in society or enforcable by law. The recognition of status as a person is known as personhood. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Self-consciousness. ... As commonly used, individual refers to a person or to any specific object in a collection. ... The self is a key construct in several schools of psychology. ... Agency considered in the philosophical sense is the capacity of an agent to act in a world. ... Moral agency is a term used to denote somebody that has a capacity for making moral judgments and for taking actions that comport with morality. ... For the direction right, see left and right or starboard. ... Young people interacting within an ethnically diverse society. ...

The inquiry into what it means to be a 'person' is the subject of considerable analysis and debate within diverse fields such as religion, medicine, ethics, economic and political theory, human rights, and animal rights. Medicine is the science and art of maintaining andor restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of patients. ... For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ... Economics (deriving from the Greek words οίκω [okos], house, and νέμω [nemo], rules hence household management) is the social science that studies the allocation of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited wants. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political Science is the field concerning the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behaviour. ... Human rights are rights which some hold to be inalienable and belonging to all humans. ... For the album by Moby, see Animal Rights (album). ...



The establishment of 'personhood' represents a complex issue that covers a wide swath of human activities and discourse. Generally, the issue can be categorized by the underlying intended uses of the term "person".

Such intended uses include:

  • Analytic: definitions or prescriptive rules used to delineate personhood in a falsifiable formal system;
  • Normative: moral or deontological arguments to advocate fair and equitable treatment for recognized classes of sentient beings;
  • Conceptual: descriptive, taxonomical, or epistemological inquiry into the fundamental nature, limitations, and scope of personhood; especially as it relates to the examination of living organisms or other intelligences;
  • Metaphysical: esoteric or mystical exposition of personhood; especially as it relates to religion, spirituality, or mythical views and beliefs outside ordinary human experience
  • Artistic: literary, rhetorical or allegorical devices to convey personhood; especially as it relates to fantasy and science fiction[5]

Discourse on personhood may combine different elements of the previous categories in order to coincide with a particular viewpoint or academic theory. For example, a legal scholar and economist might define a person as "any being with the neurological prerequisites to understand moral consequences and take his life morally seriously." (Markovits) The conceptual and normative elements could then be incorporated into established legal doctrine and economic theory, both of which assume some level of individual choice and personal responsibility. This page discusses how a theory or assertion is falsifiable (disprovable opp: verifiable), rather than the non-philosophical use of falsification, meaning counterfeiting. ... -1... In moral philosophy, deontology is the view that morality either forbids or permits actions, which is done through moral norms. ... Sentience is the capacity for basic consciousness -- the ability to feel or perceive, not necessarily including the faculty of self-awareness. ... Etymology Esoteric is an adjective originating during Hellenic Greece under the domain of the Roman Empire; it comes from the Greek esôterikos, from esôtero, the comparative form of esô: within. It is a word meaning anything that is inner and occult, a latinate word meaning hidden (from which... Mysticism (ancient Greek mysticon = secret) is meditation, prayer, or theology focused on the direct experience of union with divinity, God, or Ultimate Reality, or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. ... Literature is literally an acquaintance with letters as in the first sense given in the Oxford English Dictionary (from the Latin littera meaning an individual written character (letter)). The term has, however, generally come to identify a collection of texts. ... Rhetoric (from Greek ρητωρ, rhêtôr, orator) is one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar). ... An allegory (from Greek αλλος, allos, other, and αγορευειν, agoreuein, to speak in public) is a figurative representation conveying a meaning other than and in addition to the literal. ... A plot device is a person or an object introduced to a story to affect or advance the plot. ... For other uses, see Fantasy (disambiguation). ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ...

The normative principle of absolutism is often combined with an analytic definition of persons as co-equal participants in a given society, based on citizenship, nationality or common humanity. This combination is very common in such instruments as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... “Citizen” redirects here. ... In English usage, nationality is the legal relationship between a person and a country. ... Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: Revolutionary patriotism borrows familiar iconography of the Ten Commandments Wikisource has original text related to this article: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (French: La... Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ...

Analytic definitions

A person can have recognition, existence and legal capacity under the law (legal personhood). There are various legally operative definitions for personhood, but they all rely on formal, prescriptive definitions that must eventually be evaluated and falsifiable. Most such definitions form the basis of specific rights that may be exercised or enforced (such as human rights, custody, conservatorship and suffrage). Such definitions may also impose obligations or duties which carry a penalty if they are breached. Capacity and incapacity are legal terms that refer to the ability of persons to make certain binding dispositions of their rights, such as entering into contracts, making gifts, or writing a valid will. ... A juristic person is a legal fiction through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if it were a single composite individual for certain purposes. ... For the direction right, see left and right or starboard. ... Human rights are rights which some hold to be inalienable and belonging to all humans. ... Child custody and guardianship are legal terms which are sometimes used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the parent to make decisions for the child, and the parents duty to care for the child. ... Categories: Templates for deletion | Articles which may be biased | Law stubs ...

Some legally operative definitions of 'person' go beyond the scope of establishing rights and obligations for individual human beings. For example, in many jurisdictions, any artificial legal entity (like a school, business, or non-profit organization) is considered a juristic person. As another example, the United States Constitution has historically applied different definitions of 'person' for the purpose of allotting seats in the House of Representatives. A juristic person is a legal fiction through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if it were a single composite individual for certain purposes. ... Wikisource has original text related to this article: The United States Constitution The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. ... Amendment XIV in the National Archives The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XIV) is one of the post-Civil War amendments (known as the Reconstruction Amendments), intended to secure rights for former slaves. ...

Normative views

Recognition as a 'person' is significant in society because it goes to the heart of many debates over the status, respect, rights, and treatments, which are obligatory to different types of living beings. It is closely connected to the societal concept that sufficiently intelligent or self-aware beings should be respected and have their rights enforced for this reason, whereas a degree of exploitation is permissible for entities lacking it. Such exploitation has at times taken the form of slavery or medical torture for humans, and cruelty and vivisection for animals. Personhood is directly connected to issues such as rights and the capability to protect those rights by law or to have them protected on one's behalf if incapable. The term exploitation may carry two distinct meanings: The act of utilizing something for any purpose. ... Slave redirects here. ... Medical torture describes the involvement and sometimes active participation of medical professionals in acts of torture, to either to judge what victims can endure, to apply treatments which will enhance torture, or as torturers in their own right. ... Cruelty to animals refers to treatment which causes unacceptable suffering to animals. ... Etymologically, Vivisection refers to the dissection of, or any cutting or surgery upon, a living organism. ... For the direction right, see left and right or starboard. ... For other uses, see Law (disambiguation). ...

Conceptual views

Human beings represent the most prevalent conceptual definition of 'person'. Some philosophers, like Peter Singer of Princeton University, regard certain types of animals with high cognitive abilities and a degree of societal development as persons, and argue that some human beings — for example, those with certain types of brain damage — are not. Should other intelligent life ever be discovered beyond those known to science, similar questions would be relevant in establishing personhood. Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms, or in combinations thereof. ... For other persons named Peter Singer, see Peter Singer (disambiguation). ... Princeton University is a private coeducational research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. ... For other uses, see Animal (disambiguation). ... In animals, the brain or encephalon (Greek for in the head), is the control center of the central nervous system, responsible for behaviour. ... For other uses, see Intelligence (disambiguation). ...

Metaphysical views

Personhood is held by some to be an attribute of more than just human beings. Some religions specify deities as occupying the place of personhood in many different forms. It is not uncommon for spiritual and archetypal roles to be depicted as "persons".

For example, in the Book of Proverbs the attribute Wisdom is personified: The Book of Proverbs is one of the books of the Ketuvim of the Tanakh and of the Writings of the Old Testament. ...

Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:

Scripture scholars differ on whether and the extent to which this and other similar personification represents an attribute of the Divine Nature as made manifest in the form of a distinct 'person'. This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ...

Artistic depictions

Personhood is frequently examined through any of several artistic modalities, especially in literary works. In fictional works, fantasy and science fiction often explore the question of personhood by relaxing one or more of the common characteristics associated with it, and then exploring the ramifications and possible consequences. For example, Isaac Asimov introduced the three laws of robotics by relaxing the assumption that personhood is restricted to biological organisms. As another example, David Brin explored the attributes of personhood; especially identity, autonomy, and agency, by depicting a world in which characters could "copy" themselves in the novel Kiln People.[5] For other uses, see Fiction (disambiguation). ... Isaac Asimov (January 2?, 1920?[1] – April 6, 1992), IPA: , originally Исаак Озимов but now transcribed into Russian as Айзек Азимов) was a Russian-born American Jewish author and professor of biochemistry, a highly successful and exceptionally prolific writer best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. ... This cover of I, Robot illustrates the story Runaround, the first to list all Three Laws of Robotics. ... Glen David Brin, Ph. ... Kiln People is a 2002 science-fiction novel by David Brin. ...

Personhood in philosophy and theory

Philosophers have expounded on every dimension — from the purely analytical to the metaphysical — in discourses on personhood. Conceptually, a person is defined by the characteristics of reasoning, consciousness, and persistent personal identity. 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 philosopher Socrates about to take poison hemlock as ordered by the court. ... For other uses, see Reason (disambiguation). ... Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and ones environment. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ... For other persons named John Locke, see John Locke (disambiguation). ...

Personhood theory

According to Boethius: Boethius teaching his students (initial in a 1385 Italian manuscript of the Consolation of Philosophy). ...

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.

John Locke 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). This article does not cite any references or sources. ... The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the self-aware essence unique to a particular living being. ... For other persons named John Locke, see John Locke (disambiguation). ...

In recent years a kind of consensus among secular scholars has emerged, which might be referred to as "personhood theory".[citation needed] This is strongly influenced by Locke's approach. The criteria a person must have in being a person are one or more of the following:

  1. Consciousness,
  2. The ability to steer one's attention and action purposively,
  3. Self-awareness, self-bonded to objectivities (existing independently of the subject's perception of it),
  4. Self as longitudinal thematic identity, one's biographic identity.

Neo-Kantian philosophers over the last two decades have emphasized that conscious awareness requires both: Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and ones environment. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Self-consciousness. ... Neo-Kantianism means a revived or modified type of philosophy along the lines of that laid down by Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. ...

  1. The sensorial capacity to access an environment (and one's own body) in a way that offers the basic qualitative content for subjective experience.
  2. 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: Subject (philosophy) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ...

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). Title page of the 1781 edition. ...

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"). To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ...

In addition speculatively, there are three other likely categories of beings where personhood might be at issue:

  • Unknown intelligent life-forms - for example, should alien life be found to exist, under what circumstances would they be counted as 'persons'?
  • Artificial life - at what point might human-created life be considered to have achieved 'personhood'?
  • Modified living beings - for example, how much of a human being can be replaced by artificial parts before personhood is lost?
  • Further, if the brain is the reason people are considered 'persons', then if the human brain and all its thought patterns, memories and other attributes could also in future be transposed faithfully into some form of artificial device (for example to avoid illness such as brain cancer) would the patient still be considered a 'person' after the operation?

Such questions are used by philosophers to clarify thinking concerning what it means to be 'human', or 'living', or a 'person'. The existence of extraterrestrial life remains hypothetical though human beings continue to search Extraterrestrial life is life that may exist and originate outside the planet Earth, the only place in the Universe known to support life. ... Artificial Life, (commonly Alife or alife) is a field of study and art form that examines systems related to life, its processes and its evolution through simulations using computer models, robotics, and biochemistry [1] (called soft, hard, and wet approaches respectively[2]). Artificial life complements traditional Biology by trying to... A United States soldier demonstrates Foosball with two prosthetic limbs In medicine, a prosthesis is an artificial extension that replaces a missing part of the body. ... In animals, the brain or encephalon (Greek for in the head), is the control center of the central nervous system, responsible for behaviour. ... A brain tumor is any mass created by an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells either found in the brain (neurons, glial cells, epithelial cells, myelin producing cells, etc. ...

Implications of the person, non-person debate

The 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. {{}} Bioethics are the ethics of biological science and medicine. ...

Since modern movements emerged to oppose animal cruelty (and advocate vegetarian or vegan 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 exceptionalism" (also referred to by its critics 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). For animals adapted to eat primarily plants, sometimes referred to as vegetarian animals, see Herbivore. ... Hens kept in cramped conditions — the avoidance of animal suffering is the primary motivation of people who become vegans A vegan is a person who avoids the ingestion or use of animal products. ... Human exceptionalism refers to a belief that humans are exempt from some principles shared between species, due to their very nature. ... The relevance of particular information in (or previously in) this article or section is disputed. ... Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic or national group. ... Sterilization is a surgical technique leaving a male or female unable to procreate. ...

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-people") or had awareness, but could never have awareness again due to massive and irrecoverable brain damage (some would call these "post-people"). The Vatican has recently been advancing a human exceptionist understanding of the personhood theory, while other communities such as Christian Evangelicals in the U.S. have sometimes rejected the personhood theory as biased against human exceptionism. Of course, many religious communities (of many traditions) view the other versions of the personhood theory perfectly compatible with their faith, as do the majority of modern Humanists. Evangelicalism, in a strictly lexical, but rarely used sense, refers to all things that are implied in belief that Jesus is the savior. ... Humanism is a system of thought that defines a socio-political doctrine (-ism) whose bounds exceed those of locally developed cultures, to include all of humanity and all issues common to human beings. ...

The theoretical landscape of the 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 a person changed so much as to no longer be considered members of the human species (whatever standard is used for this determination). Transhumanism is an emergent school of speculative philosophy analysing or favouring the use of science and technology, especially neurotechnology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, to overcome human limitations and improve the human condition. ... Morphological freedom is, according to neuroscientist Anders Sandberg, an extension of one’s right to one’s body, not just self-ownership but also the right to modify oneself according to one’s desires. ... The hierarchy of scientific classification. ...

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 people are expected to be ethically responsible, and that all people deserve a varying degree of individual rights. There is less consensus on whether only people deserve individual rights and whether people deserve greater individual rights than non-people. The rights of animals are an example of contention on this issue. Individual rights represent the moral rights of individuals in society prior to government. ... For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ... Almanac · Categories · Glossaries · Lists · Overviews · Portals · Questions · Site news · Index Art | Culture | Geography | Health | History | Mathematics | People | Philosophy | Science | Society | Technology Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written by its users in over 200 languages worldwide. ... Human rights are rights which some hold to be inalienable and belonging to all humans. ... For the album by Moby, see Animal Rights (album). ...

See also

Look up person in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. ... Anthropocentrism (Greek άνθρωπος, anthropos, human, κέντρον, kentron, center), or the human-centered principle, refers to the idea that humanity must always remain the central concern for humans. ... Anthropology (from Greek: ἀνθρωπος, anthropos, human being; and λόγος, logos, knowledge) is the study of humanity. ... In ontology, a being is anything that can be said to be, either transcendantly or immanently. ... Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and ones environment. ... Advocates of Great Ape personhood consider common chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans (the hominid apes) to be persons. ... A non-person is a person or a member of a group who lacks, loses, or is forcibly denied social or legal status, especially basic human rights, or who effectively from a point of view of traceability, documentation or existence, ceases to have a record of their existence within a... Look up people in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article is about the philosophical movement. ... Subject (philosophy) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ... The phrase theory of mind (often abbreviated as ToM) is used in several related ways: general categories of theories of mind - theories about the nature of mind, and its structure and processes; theories of mind related to individual minds; in recent years, the phrase theory of mind has more commonly...


  1. ^ Person, from the Compact Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ Strawson, P.F. 1959. Individuals. London: Methuen: 104.
  3. ^ Locke, John. 1961. Essay Concerning Human Understanding. London:Dent: 280.
  4. ^ This may also include corporate identity in some jurisdictions.
  5. ^ a b (see e.g., Kiln People Brin, David (2003). Kiln People. Tor/Forge. ISBN 0765342618. 

  Results from FactBites:
Personality psychology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1702 words)
Personality psychology is a branch of psychology which studies personality and individual different processes - that which makes us into a person.
One criticism of trait models of personality as a whole is that they lead professionals in clinical psychology and laypeople alike to accept classifications, or worse offer advice, based on superficial analysis of one's profile.
Personality psychology is often closely associated with social psychology.
Personality disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1380 words)
Personality disorders are seen by the American Psychiatric Association as an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it.
Personality disorders are represented on Axis II of the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, or DSM-IV as it is currently in its fourth edition).
Persons under 18 years old who fit the criteria of a personality disorder are usually not diagnosed with such a disorder, although they may be diagnosed with a related disorder.
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