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What Constitutes "Person"?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by NewGuyOnTheBlock, Jun 17, 2021.

  1. NewGuyOnTheBlock

    NewGuyOnTheBlock Cult Survivor/Fundamentalist Pentecostal Apostate

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    Interesting question placed in another thread, and I thought I'd start one.

    I would say that anything "sentient" is "person"; so now we define the qualities of what would qualify as "sentient".

    For that, I turn to Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek"; where "Sentience" requires at least (3) "soft qualities":

    • Intelligence: the ability to learn, understand, and cope with new situations
    • Self-awareness: being conscious of one's existence and actions or aware of one's self and one's ego
    • Consciousness
    But this, I find a little lacking; as in yet another Star Trek episode, an atrifically intelligent device was deemed "sentience" after showing the quality of
    • Self-Sacrifice
    so I would throw that in the list of requirements.

    I'd also throw in 2 more, possibly:

    • Empathy
    • Demonstrable quality of abstract thinking
    So the proposed list so far is:

    • Intelligence
    • Self-awareness
    • Consciousness
    • Self-Sacrifice
    • Empathy
    • Abstract thought
    Brainstorming and having fun is all I'm doing here ....
     
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  2. Daemon Sophic

    Daemon Sophic Avatar in flux

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    How does one define and/or demonstrate “Abstract thought”. All of the others are qualities found in most, if not all, mammalian species (plus some others).
    Are they also “persons”? Or do you want to find a feature heretofore only found in humanity, but not other mammals?
     
  3. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

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    Memory,
    Reason,
    Recall,
    Will,

    Heart of emotions cares, loves, hates, ambivalences, objectivity, motivation, desires and other capacities of heart,

    Awareness and recognition,
    Unity of all capacities and functions,
    Conceptual capacity,
    Understanding capacity,
    Intelligence capacity,
    Ideas, values, and conscience capacities
    Relationship capacities,
    The ability to identify,
    The ability to distinguish and differentiate,
    Creative capacity,
    Identify, communicate with language capacities,

    Intentionality; which is an act of will,
    The ability to carry out intentions,
    The ability to have no intentions,

    The ability to internalize values, virtues, and capacity to control behaviours,

    The pitfalls of vices, addictions, negative passions,

    Or if you are a determinist, then you can only run nature's program of you, and you have no say in any of your functions and capacities.

    And if you have no free will then you can not choose your own fate or destiny,
     
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  4. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    You may want to have a look at a dictionary instead of a science fiction script.
    Sentient is every being able to feel. Your requirements, especially intelligence, consciousness (depending on your definition) and abstract thought, are important for sapience.
     
  5. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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  6. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    Quite good , but there are exceptions. Trump, for example has no empathy, but is generally considered sentient. ;)
     
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  7. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Let's start with some examples to make some things clear.

    We do not consider dogs and cats to be 'persons'. Why?

    If we ran into a race of beings from another solar system and they had developed science, art, etc, we would be inclined to say they are 'persons'. Why?

    Today it is obvious that all adult humans are 'persons'. In the past, there was debate about the personhood of different races or genders. Why?

    It is clear to me that my dog and cat have consciousness, but maybe not self-consciousness. But my dog may well have more intelligence and empathy than many people. She seems to have difficulty with abstract thinking, but so do many humans.

    One aspect is that personhood is a *legal* construct, not a scientific one. The notion determines which individuals get certain rights, which is why personhood was denied to other races and creeds in the past. The notion is more who is in the 'in crowd' than anything else, it seems.
     
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  8. ecco

    ecco Veteran Member

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    My dog knows not to eat dead rats. That is a sign of intelligence.
    My dog chases his tail. That is a sign of self-awareness.
    My dog can stand unless he is sleeping. That is a sign of consciousness.
    Some dogs will fight a bear to save their owners. That is a sign of self-sacrifice.
    My dog wags his tail when I am happy and sulks when I am not. That is a sign of empathy.
    My dog tries to bring sticks that are too long into the house. So, maybe, he is not so good at abstract thought.
     
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  9. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium अहं ब्रह्मास्मि
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    So far we've proven in this thread that dogs are people, too. :D
     
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  10. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    And even then, there are no specifically human traits that are expressed in early childhood for example. While babies are definitely conscious, capable of learning, aware of their surrounding, they are not exactly all that great when it comes to empathy and basically incapable of abstract thoughts.

    In my opinion a person is something that is conscious, willful, capable of learning, aware of its surrounding, capable of communication and socialization and generally anthropomorphic in thoughts and pattern of behavior. This of course only makes humans "persons" at the moment, but many fantasy aliens or species would also covered. Though I would say the person-animal-living thing is a spectrum not hard categories.
     
    #10 epronovost, Jun 17, 2021
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  11. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    It denotes responsibility. A person is anyone who can be held responsible for something. It is also a divine attribute.

    Consider dogs: If you had a dog that was smart enough to be responsible for your sheep that would mean it was a person to some degree, because it would understand when held responsible for misbehavior. Dogs have difficulty associating results with past actions. They are not like Lassie from the TV show. They are always in the moment. If your dog does something wrong you have to correct it there and then, or it will only be confused by a future correction. You can point and shout and try to remind the dog of something it did wrong, but it cannot associate its past actions with present corrections and disappointments. It simply won't understand unless it is corrected in the moment it is doing something wrong. If this is unclear read about how to teach a dog not to go into the road. To do this requires watching the dog, anticipating when it is about to go into the road, and stopping it. Then later if it goes into the road while you aren't watching there is no way to explain to the dog that you are displeased about its past behavior. It is not a person.

    You are responsible, so you are a person while the dog is not. A dog may try to please its pack or owner in the moment, but that is the limit of its sense of responsibility. It can't be held responsible for most things it does. Its just too scatterbrained to be responsible.
     
  12. NewGuyOnTheBlock

    NewGuyOnTheBlock Cult Survivor/Fundamentalist Pentecostal Apostate

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    Not so simple a question, it is.
     
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  13. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    I’m still not fully convinced he’s not secretly a terminator robot with two or three wires loose.
    Or an elaborate prank by your Conservative party
     
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  14. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    Because they do not have a rational soul.
     
  15. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    All of these are qualities of the rational soul.

    “The human spirit which distinguishes man from the animal is the rational soul, and these two names—the human spirit and the rational soul—designate one thing. This spirit, which in the terminology of the philosophers is the rational soul, embraces all beings, and as far as human ability permits discovers the realities of things and becomes cognizant of their peculiarities and effects, and of the qualities and properties of beings” Some Answered Questions, p. 208

    The soul is the sum total of the personality so it is the person himself; the physical body is pure matter with no real identity. The soul works through the brain and while we are alive on earth in a physical body, but when we die and no longer have a physical body the soul continues to live. It lives forever, and that is why it is called an immortal soul.

    The person, after he dies and leaves his physical body behind remains the same person, and he goes to the spiritual world where he continues the life he conducted in the physical world. The soul takes on some kind of a spiritual form made up of elements that exist in the spiritual world.
     
  16. Truthseeker9

    Truthseeker9 Active Member

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    However, he leaves the effects the brain had on him behind. I personally could use some those effects behind, though it is hard to untangle the effects of the soul and the brain from the other while we're here. I think you could leave them behind, too.
     
  17. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    A person, if you are talking of humans, is his/her brain. Some straight-forward, some conniving. When brain stops to work, there is no person, just a mass of flesh and bones. Same is the case with animals, vegetation or even stones. They have a 'personality' even if we do not term them as persons. A pyrite is so different from a shale.
     
    #17 Aupmanyav, Jun 18, 2021
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2021
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  18. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    I guess you are thinking of this verse:

    “Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments.” Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 153-154

    The entire passage is on this link: Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXX

    I wrote up my own explanation of the passage because people have asked me about it.
    Every human being has a soul. The soul is what animates the brain and allows the brain to function, but the soul has to work through the brain while we are live in a physical body in order for us to be able to think intelligently.

    Those who have brain dysfunctions still have a soul but the soul is hindered from fully expressing itself because the brain damage interferes with the soul’s functioning. So in the case of Alzheimer’s disease we cannot see the personality of the person express itself, but it is still there, since the soul is the person himself, thus the personality. When that person dies and his soul is freed from the physical body, he will no longer be affected by that brain damage since he will no longer have a brain to hinder the soul from functioning, so the soul will be free to express itself and the personality will be seen.

    If someone did not believe there was a soul, they might think that an Alzheimer’s patient had no personality, but the Baha’i belief is that the soul is hidden as if under a bushel unable to express itself, because of the brain disease which interposes itself in between the soul and the body.

    To recap what I said before, your soul is responsible for consciousness, but while you are alive in a body, your soul works through the brain. The soul communicates its desires through the brain to the physical body, which thereby expresses itself in various ways. The soul is responsible for the mind, senses and emotions as well as physical sensations, but these are expressed through the body. When the brain is damaged hindrances interpose themselves between the soul and the body and cause physical illness. The body is affected but the soul remains unaffected.

    The soul is like the light of the lamp. An external object may interfere with its brightness, but the light itself continues to shine. Or think about the soul as the sun above the clouds. The clouds are simply preventing us from seeing the sunshine, but the sun is shining just as brightly nevertheless.

    Every illness afflicting the body of man is an impediment that prevents the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When the soul leaves the body, however, it will be unaffected by any bodily ailments and it will be able to fully manifest its power.
     
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  19. RestlessSoul

    RestlessSoul Well-Known Member

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    Some trainers of racehorses in the UK don't just refer to the personalities of their charges, they will describe a particular horse as a lovely person, or a mischievous person, or whatever. Understanding the animal's individual 'personality' is key to unlocking it's potential on the race track, it seems.

    An expression you also hear quite a lot , is "He/she is a real Christian". Meaning gentle and obedient. Make of that what you will.
     
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  20. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    How do you know that? What evidence do you have that they don't and that we do? Do chimps have a rational soul? How about gorillas? How could we tell?

    For that matter, what is a 'rational soul' as opposed to just a 'soul'?
     
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