Catherine Dale (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Rethinking Persons

The claims ‘I am a human animal’ and ‘I am a thinking thing’ are the broad forms of the usual answers to the personal identity question, and both have intuitive appeal. I, nonetheless, share in a growing scepticism about the possibility of separating the animal condition from the psychological condition when thinking about persons, and of answering in these terms. The breadth of people’s lives is far greater than the usual focus on us as biological organisms or as self-conscious entities suggests. Young children provide a particular problem for Neo-Lockean accounts – they develop into the kind of entities that traditional accounts of personal identity take us to be, but they are not themselves necessarily entities of this kind. I am interested in considering the ways that accounts of persons that take us to be essentially self-conscious entities or rational agents could accommodate infants and other cohorts that are not ordinarily centred in the personal identity debate. I will suggest that relational features are central to the nature of persons — we are importantly related to other persons, and this is part of us being things of our kind.

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