What is a person? This is a different question from personal identity, What is it to be the same person over time?. What is it to be a person at all, at any time? What is the concept person a concept of? One answer: a person is a soul.
Persons as souls Souls in the sense of distinct substance - needs no other thing (the body) in order to exist One interpretation of traditional religious doctrine, e.g. I am a person, and I survive death Descartes: I can doubt whether I have a body, but I cannot doubt whether I exist. –To be me is to exist as a thinking thing, a mind/soul.
Persons: mental and physical But persons have both mental and physical characteristics, e.g. height, weight, sex. –We engage in activities that require both mental and physical properties, e.g. talking, writing a cheque. The soul theory entails that we are not, strictly speaking, mental-physical unities. –Strictly speaking, we should ascribe mental characteristics to the mind and physical characteristics to the body. –Could we do this?
Strawsons argument No: we cannot attribute mental characteristics to the mind in the first instance: –How can we identify other minds (rather than persons) so as to attribute characteristics to them? –We only experience minds via bodies. So we have to ascribe mental characteristics to something that also has physical characteristics (persons).
Objection From Descartes: I know my mind, and can know it without having to ascribe physical characteristics to myself. Reply: to ascribe mental characteristics to myself, I must be able to use words referring to mental states. But for this, I must also be able to ascribe mental states to other people. –By definition, no type of mental state is mine alone. –E.g. to understand pain, I must know what it means to say of someone else, he is in pain.
Person as primitive So we must have the concept of something with mental and physical characteristics (person) before we can form the concept of something with only mental characteristics. Persons are not soul + body; souls are persons - bodies. The concept of person is logically primitive.
Person as natural The concept person picks out a natural category. –Our experience of the world includes experience of persons (one thing, with mental + physical characteristics). If persons were mind + body, the concept person would not pick out a natural thing or unity, but a combination of two things.
What is a person? A person is something with both mental and physical characteristics. This is necessary, but is it sufficient? one to whom we ascribe mental and physical characteristics possessing a network of beliefs rationalityone whose sense of self emerges in relationships with others self-awarenessa language user being reflective about ones experiences, feelings and motives as well as those of others creativity, autonomy and/or individuality one who is responsible, accountable and possesses rights in virtue of autonomy
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