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A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as
reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ...
,
morality Morality (from ) is the differentiation of intention Intentions are mental states in which the agent commits themselves to a course of action. Having the plan to visit the zoo tomorrow is an example of an intention. The action plan is the '' ...

morality
,
consciousness Consciousness, at its simplest, is or of internal and external existence. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial, being "at once t ...

consciousness
or
self-consciousness Self-consciousness is a heightened sense of awareness of oneself. In the contemporary sense of the term, self-consciousness is a preoccupation with oneself, especially with how others might perceive one's appearance or one's actions. Historically ...
, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as
kinship In , kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist states that "the study of kins ...

kinship
,
ownership Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive right In Anglo-Saxon law Anglo-Saxon law (Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germ ...
of
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to , alter, , , , , , , , or ...
, or legal responsibility. The defining features of
personhood Personhood is the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law and is closely tied with legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality before the law, equality, and liberty. According to law, o ...
and, consequently, what makes a person count as a person, differ widely among cultures and contexts. In addition to the question of personhood, of what makes a being count as a person to begin with, there are further questions about
personal identity 300px, What does it take for a person to persist from moment to moment—for the same person to exist at different moments? Personal identity is the unique numerical identity In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of genera ...
and
self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness. Since the ''self'' is a reference by a subject to the same subject, this reference is necessarily Subjective character of experience, subjective. The sense of havi ...

self
: both about what makes any particular person that particular person instead of another, and about what makes a person at one time the same person as they were or will be at another time despite any intervening changes. The plural form "
people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field wh ...

people
", is often used to refer to an entire
nation A nation is a community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense ...

nation
or
ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousn ...
(as in "a people"), and this was the original meaning of the word; it subsequently acquired its use as a plural form of person. The plural form "persons" is often used in
philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real o ...

philosophical
and
legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
writing.


Personhood

Personhood is the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
and
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
, and is closely tied to legal and
political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive process resulting in the selection ...

political
concepts of
citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and th ...

citizenship
, equality, and
liberty Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do as one pleases, or a right or immunity enjoyed by prescription or by grant (i.e. privilege). It is a synonym for the word freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without c ...

liberty
. According to common worldwide general legal practice, only a
natural person In jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form ...
or
legal personality In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its b ...
has
rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstandi ...
, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and
legal liability In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its b ...
. Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate, and has been questioned during the abolition of
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property. Slavery typically involves the enslaved per ...
and the fight for
women's rights Women's rights are the and s claimed for and s worldwide. They formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the 19th century and the s during the 20th and 21st centuries. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supp ...
, in debates about
abortion Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring In biology, offspring are the young born of living organism, organisms, produced either by a single organism ...

abortion
,
fetal rights Fetal rights are the moral rights or legal rights of the human fetus under natural law, natural and Civil law (common law), civil law. The term ''fetal rights'' came into wide usage after the landmark case ''Roe v. Wade'' that legalized abortion in ...
, and in animal rights advocacy. Various debates have focused on questions about the personhood of different classes of entities. Historically, the personhood of women, and slaves has been a catalyst of social upheaval. In most societies today, postnatal humans are defined as persons. Likewise, certain legal entities such as
corporations A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capa ...

corporations
,
sovereign states A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relation ...

sovereign states
and other
polities A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of institutionalized social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resources. A polity can be any other group o ...
, or
estates Estate or The Estate may refer to: Law * Estate (law), a term in common law for a person's property, entitlements and obligations * Estates of the realm, a broad social category in the histories of certain countries. ** The Estates, representative ...
in
probate Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or whereby the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy Intest ...
are legally defined as persons. However, some people believe that other groups should be included, depending on the theory, the category of "person" may be taken to include or not pre-natal humans or such non-human entities as
animals Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular Multicellular organisms are organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the L ...

animals
, artificial intelligences, or
extraterrestrial life Extraterrestrial lifeWhere "extraterrestrial" is derived from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around R ...
.


Personal identity

Personal identity is the unique identity of persons through time. That is to say, the necessary and sufficient conditions under which a person at one time and a person at another time can be said to be the ''same'' person, persisting through time. In the modern
philosophy of mind Philosophy of mind is a branch of that studies the and nature of the and its relationship with the body. The is a paradigmatic issue in philosophy of mind, although a number of other issues are addressed, such as the and the nature of parti ...

philosophy of mind
, this concept of personal identity is sometimes referred to as the ''
diachronic Synchrony and diachrony are two complementary viewpoints in linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...
'' problem of personal identity. The ''
synchronic Synchronic may refer to: * ''Synchronic'' (film), a 2019 American science fiction film starring Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie * Synchronic analysis, the analysis of a language at a specific point of time * Synchronicity, the experience of two or ...
'' problem is grounded in the question of what features or traits characterize a given person at one time. Identity is an issue for both
continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awarenes ...
and
analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality ...
. A key question in continental philosophy is in what sense we can maintain the modern conception of identity, while realizing many of our prior assumptions about the world are incorrect. Proposed solutions to the problem of personal identity include continuity of the physical body, continuity of an immaterial mind or soul, continuity of consciousness or memory, the
bundle theory Bundle theory, originated by the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume, is the ontology, ontological theory about Object (philosophy), objecthood in which an object consists only of a collection (''bundle'') of properties, relations or trope ...
of self, continuity of personality after the death of the physical body, and proposals that there are actually no persons or selves who persist over time at all.


Development of the concept

In ancient Rome, the word ''
persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and med ...

persona
'' (Latin) or ''
prosopon Prosopon (, ;"prosopon"
'' The concept of person was further developed during the
Trinitarian The Christian theology, Christian doctrine of the Trinity (, from "threefold") defines God in Christianity , God as being Monotheism, one god existing in three wikt:coequal , coequal, wikt:coeternal , coeternal, Consubstantiality , consubsta ...
and
Christological In Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religio ...
debates of the 4th and 5th centuries in contrast to the word nature. During the theological debates, some philosophical tools (concepts) were needed so that the debates could be held on common basis to all theological schools. The purpose of the debate was to establish the relation, similarities and differences between the /''Verbum'' and God. The philosophical concept of person arose, taking the word "
prosopon Prosopon (, ;"prosopon"
'' Greek theatre Ancient Greek drama was a theatrical culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, Social norm, customs, ...
. Therefore, Christ (the /''Verbum'') was defined as a "person" of God. This concept was applied later to the Holy Ghost, the angels and to all human beings.
Trinitarianism The Christian theology, Christian doctrine of the Trinity (, from "threefold") defines God in Christianity , God as being Monotheism, one god existing in three wikt:coequal , coequal, wikt:coeternal , coeternal, Consubstantiality , consubst ...
holds that God has three persons. Since then, a number of important changes to the word's meaning and use have taken place, and attempts have been made to redefine the word with varying degrees of adoption and influence. According to Noller, at least six approaches can be distinguished: "(1) The ontological definition of the person as "an individual substance of a rational nature" (
Boethius Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius (; also Boetius ; 477 – 524 AD), was a Roman Roman Senate, senator, Roman consul, consul, ''magister officiorum'', and philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born about a ye ...

Boethius
). (2) The self-consciousness-based definition of the person as a being that "can conceive itself as itself" (
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * ...

John Locke
). (3) The moral-philosophical definition of the person as "an end in itself" (
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
). In current analytical debate, the focus has shifted to the relationship between bodily
organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological me ...

organism
and person. .The theory of animalism (Eric T. Olson) states that persons are essentially animals and that mental or psychological attributes play no role in their identity. .Constitution theory ( Lynne Baker), on the other hand, attempts to define the person as a natural and at the same time self-conscious being: the bodily organism constitutes the person without being identical to it. Rather, it forms with it a "unity without identity". . .. Another ideafor conceiving the natural-rational unity of the person has emerged recently in the concept of the "person life" (Marya Schechtman)." Other theories attribute personhood to those states that are viewed to possess intrinsic or universal value.
Value theory In the social sciences Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant ...
attempts to capture those states that are universally considered valuable by their nature, allowing one to assign the concept of personhood upon those states. For example, Kelly argues that the value that is intuitively bestowed upon humans, their possessions, animals, and aspects of the natural environment is due to a value monism known as “richness.” Richness, Kelly argues, is a product of the “variety” and the “unity” within an entity or agent. According to Kelly, human beings and animals are morally valued and entitled to the status of persons because they are complex organisms whose multitude of psychological and biological components are generally unified towards a singular purpose in any moment, existing and operating with relative harmony. Primus defines people exclusively as their desires, whereby desires are states which are sought for arbitrary or nil purpose(s). Primus views that desires, by definition, are each sought as ends in and of themselves and are logically the most precious (valuable) states that one can conceive. Primus distinguishes states of desire (or ‘want’) from states which are sought instrumentally, as a means to an end (on the basis of perceived ‘need’). Primus’ approach can thus be contrasted to Kant’s moral-philosophical definition of a person: Whereas Kant’s Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative states that rational beings must never be treated merely as a means to an end and that they must also always be treated as an end, Primus offers that the aspects that humans (and some animals) desire, and only those aspects, are ends, by definition.


See also


References


Further reading

* Cornelia J. de Vogel (1963). ''The Concept of Personality in Greek and Christian Thought''. In Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy. Vol. 2. Edited by J. K. Ryan, Washington: Catholic University of America Press. pp. 20–60 * * * Stephens, William O. (2006).
The Person: Readings in Human Nature
'. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. . * * Jörg Noller (2019)
Person
In: Thomas Kirchhoff (ed.): Online Encyclopedia Philosophy of Nature / Online Lexikon Naturphilosophie. Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg: https://doi.org/10.11588/oepn.2019.0.66403. * Eric T. Olson (2019)
"Personal Identity"
In: Edward N. Zalta (ed.): The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 Edition), URL = .


External links


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Main topic articles Metaphysical theories Metaphysics of mind