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© Michael Lacewing Are any non-humans persons? Michael Lacewing.

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Presentation on theme: "© Michael Lacewing Are any non-humans persons? Michael Lacewing."— Presentation transcript:

1 © Michael Lacewing Are any non-humans persons? Michael Lacewing

2 Persons, humans, and souls ‘Person’ refers to human beings. But not obviously to all human beings. Does it pick out some characteristic that non-humans can have? What does it take to be a person? Two related questions: metaphysical and ethical –Don’t assume the ethical question about how to treat persons and non-persons to answer the metaphysical question

3 Having a soul If all persons have souls, and no non-humans have souls, then no non- humans are persons. –No religion defends the view that computers have souls. –But some defend the view that animals do. Reincarnation: Can the same soul be a person in one life and not in another?

4 Characteristics of personhood What determines whether something is a person, if not having a soul? –Self-awareness, having a ‘point of view’ –Language Others: –Beliefs, rationality, social existence, autonomy, self-reflection, individuality

5 Self-awareness Do any animals have a conception of having a point of view, or being a continuing subject of experience? –Monkey mind-readers? Awareness of perspectives v. thinking of oneself as having a perspective –Gallup’s mirror test: Chimps with spots; a limited case?

6 The importance of language Language is necessary for identifying and reflecting on experience. So it greatly extends self-awareness. Autonomy requires the ability to evaluate one’s beliefs and desires. Language is therefore necessary for autonomy. Do any non-humans have language? –Distinguish communication signals from language (latter is conventional)

7 Can computers think? If computers can think, then thinking can occur computationally, i.e. operating on an input using strict rules to produce an output This doesn’t often happen consciously in human beings. But some cognitive scientists say it happens unconsciously.

8 Searle’s Chinese Room The Chinese room: input, output, rulebook At best, a simulation of a mind, not a real mind Reply: understanding is nothing more that interaction, but more complex than this –Brain cells don’t understand anything, but through complex connections, they enable the person to understand

9 First-person perspective Lynne Rudder Baker: ‘a perspective from which one thinks of oneself as an individual facing a world, as a subject distinct from everything else’ A dog has beliefs and desires and can reason about what it wants, so it has a perspective. But it doesn’t think of itself as anything, nor does it have a conception of its own perspective as unique and different from other possible perspectives. The first-person perspective is the ground and origin both of what matters about us and what matters to us.

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