Animal Rights Zone

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On the Very Idea of Criteria for Personhood

Written by Timothy Chappell

Abstract:  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. And that pre-identification typically runs on biological lines. Except in some interesting special or science-fiction cases, some of which I discuss, it is human animals that we identify as persons.

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