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What are the characteristics of personhood?
What does it mean to say a person is `one to whom we ascribe mental and physical
A person is not just a body, they also have a mind. Rocks and plants aren't person because
we can't ascribe them mental characteristics as they don't think and aren't conscious. Persons
feel pain and have beliefs about the world. We all see the world through a different spatial
perspective's and we each have our own take on or interpretation of what we experience.
We have different beliefs, desires, values and plans which give us each a unique perspective
on the world in a metaphorical sense.
What is it to possess a network of beliefs?
Beliefs that represent how the world is (false beliefs fail in this way and true beliefs succeed)
we believe the world is one way or another. We don't form or have beliefs individually, but
in `networks'. Once you are able to form a belief then there are many others you are able to
form as well. These are linked beliefs. Reasoning with belief is also important to the
networking because if a creature doesn't reason, it is just reacting. It would be misleading to
say it form beliefs.
Explain and illustrate three senses of rationality;
(1) Basic rationality is drawing inferences between beliefs. There's a close connection
between having beliefs and being able to reason with them (what it is to have a
particular belief is partly defined by the other beliefs) E.G. you believe this is red, so you
believe it is not yellow
(2) Means-end rationality uses beliefs and desires, and is expressed in actions. E.G. you are
thirsty, so you want water (end) you have beliefs about the world for example where to
find water. You put the two together and know where to go etc... you work out a route
­ this is your means to an end.
(3) A stronger sense of rationality is being able to evaluate our beliefs and desires and to
imagine having different beliefs and desires from the ones we have. When evaluating
desires we weigh it against others, we wonder what we really want and what we should
want. E.G. if we believe green tea is better than normal tea we should be able to imagine
why someone would say normal tea is better
Social being; one whose sense of self emerges in and is created through relationships with
To have a sense of self involves being aware of the distinction between the world and
oneself. The most basic expression of this is being aware that one's body is distinct from
anything else; this is merely a biological sense of oneself. A stronger, social sense of oneself
emerges in relation to others who are also selves. This sense of oneself is not just a sense of
one's body, but a sense of having certain relationships with particular others. E.G. many social
creatures have a leader who is dominant and to whom other submit, or again many social
creatures form special bonds with their family members.
Self-awareness and awareness of oneself as a continuing subject of experience

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Explain self-awareness? In self-awareness, a creature is aware of itself as a self. It is able to
think about itself as something that has experiences. Idea of being conscious of your self as a
subject of experiences requires some conception of ones experience as experience and
sense of having past and a future. Looking forward to a pleasant experience and fearing pain
both express the idea that one might have certain experiences in the future.…read more

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judgement on the basis of understanding the connection between two
beliefs. Making logical connections depends upon having concepts
and, in particular, upon having linguistic concepts.
We can describe animal behaviour in terms of the ability to recognise
and respond appropriately to many objects and situations. But this is
not enough to say they have beliefs. Animals certainly have desires,
and some show some sense of selecting the means to get what they
want through means-end reasoning, and this requires beliefs.…read more

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mental and physical characteristics, are a natural kind of thing. As we come to think of ourselves as
having mental characteristics, we understand that there are other physical characters that do that as
well. If persons were MIND + BODY, a person would not be a natural thing, but combinations of two
things which are, in essence, separate. As we noted before, very many of the characteristics we
ascribe to persons, such as writing a cheque, reading a book etc.…read more

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only, then the characteristics we have discussed are secondary to the definition of a person. We may
not even be able to tell whether something is a person or not.…read more

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Animals: chimpanzees could identify themselves in a mirror as a possible example of
self-awareness. However, it was too closely tied to the mirror and no other behaviour
displayed the self-awareness. On the other hand, the sign language apes has led a number of
thinkers to argue that they do have sufficient first-person perspective to be considered
Machines: Computers don't currently display any form of self-awareness.…read more

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Locke singled out memory as central to personal identity, if I remember doing something I am the
same person that did that thing. He identifies the as;
`that conscious thinking thing... which is... capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for
itself as far as that consciousness extends... Person is the name for this self... this personality
extends it self beyond present existence to what is past only consciousness'
Our consciousness distinguishes us from other persons.…read more

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If a duplicate of me can have complete psychological continuity with me, but without being
me, then psychological continuity is not enough for personal identity. Personal identity must
involve something else.
Physical continuity theories of personal identity
Animal theory being the same person consists in Brain theory says being the same person is a
being the same human animal (usually re-identify matter of having the same brain, not even the
people over time). Fundamentally be the same entire brain just a bit of it.…read more

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Reincarnation; if it occurs, the physical theory of personal identity must be wrong ­ having the same
body, or even brain, is not necessary. On the psychological theory, to be reincarnated is for another
creature or soul to be psychologically continuous with you. This continuity is rarely a matter of
memory. It's usually considered a matter of your psychological characteristics and experiences being
the result of the psychological characteristics, experiences and choices made in a previous life (karma
­ cause and effect).…read more

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The person with [A] continues to exist as me.
Now suppose that instead of [B] being destroyed it is transplanted into another body.
Which of the two people is the same person as me before the operation? Neither. These are both
my `best candidates'. I have ceased to exist, and the two people, with equal psychological continuity
to me, have come into existence.
Parfit concludes that personal identity doesn't matter. What matters is psychological continuity,
which he calls `survival'.…read more


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