Last Updated 01 Apr 2020

What Is a Human Person?

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What Is Human Person? ” Essay What is a person? A seemingly easy question, however, once looked into, the ideas and presumptions that people have are filled with contradictions and controversies. Many people, religions, organisations, and governments have a differing opinion on what qualities an entity must possess to be a person, however, there are many similarities. Many religions, for example, believe a person, houses an immortal ‘soul’ or spirit, capable of eternal life.

There is also the question raised – are human beings the only ones who can be a ‘person’, can animals and machines also be, or become persons? Philosophers generally agree that there are several key characteristics that can be discussed concerning personhood. The characteristics are as follows: A soul (or spirit), embodiment of the mental and physical (the question of the mind being separate to the body), the idea of beliefs and morals, rationality, self awareness, the use of language and meaning, self reflection (and imagination), and exploring what different societies and peoples, view as a full and whole person.

Religions house some of the oldest beliefs and explanations of this world, and hold a key way to understanding the people of the past, as well as their ways of thinking and explanation. Whilst modern science had proven a lot of religious beliefs (such as the origins and complexities of the of the universe) to be false, many people base their view of a person on that of their religions. For example, Christianity.

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The belief of the Christian Church is that every human being in born with a soul, this soul the dwells within them is unobservable, however, it is the immortal, personal link between themselves and God, connecting through prayer and reflection, and is believed that every person possesses this, thereby rendering a soul as a component of personhood. However, since the soul is unobservable, there is seemingly no way to tell whether or not a person has one, or if they exist at all.

However, the Catholic Church also teaches that human beings were created in the image of God, therefore making every human a sacred being, and possessing a soul, their spiritual link between themselves and the divine. Therefore, a soul, spirit or equivalent is a required part of personhood to the spiritual or religious person. Another key point of relevancy is one’s mind, the question of the mind and body, are they one thing, or do they exist separately from each other?

The mind is the term often referring to the higher functions of the brain, the totally of conscious and unconscious mental activity that controls the way we think, feel judge, our intellect and consciousness, perception, emotion, memory, imagination et cetera. The mind resides within the brain, and is central to our being, it controls us, it is us. The brain is the one part of the body that humans have been unable to create via artificial means – scientific progress has allowed the body to function using artificial means, such as machines aiding, or sometimes in place of our internal organs.

Given time, research and money, it is theoretically possible for the brain to function outside the body, through a machine (A body could almost be considered a machine, as the brain sends out electrical signals to control the rest of the body). In this sense, yes, the mind is a separate being to the body, able to function outside of the flesh when given an adequate source of power. The body, in a sense, is a battery, and output source for the mind, much like a gaming console and a game disc.

The disc holds the functions, and the console executes them. The mind relies on the body to function, however they are two different entities. This theory completely disregards the mortal body as being a part of personhood, or rather, everything but the brain and it’s processes. This raises the question of whether or not an animal or robot (machine) can be a person. Following on from the previous paragraph, the idea that a person’s mind can exist and function within a machine poses the question of a machine being a person in itself.

As modern science has enabled virtually every part of the body (except the brain) to be reconstructed and function as a machine, it is not entirely implausible for science to get as far as to reconstruct the brain through mechanics, the brain consciousness, activities and functions, electrical currents, being uploaded into the ‘mechanical brain’. The human mind, being present in the machine knows itself to be a person, observes itself as a person therefore classes itself as a person. It has the mind and processes of a person, therefore sees itself as a person.

A vital part of personhood may in fact acknowledging oneself (and others) as people. In a Descartes like manner, “I think I am a person, therefore I am a person. ” The ability to be able to reflect on one’s self and being, an ability that only human beings possess, can be considered another trait of personhood. The human’s ability to the reflect, sympathise and empathise with each other and other beings is something that is specific (as far as scientific progress has proved) to humans alone.

From these stem the ideas of ethics and morality, which again branch off to the law of society behaviour. An animal, for example, will not stop preying on other animal because they see it as morally wrong, the animal sees the other simply as food, to eat. A human however, has a respect and value for life, thus why some people choose to become vegetarians. An animal does not process this, and continues to kill other animals to sustain nourishment. This respect for life, and others, has led to the creation of laws to maintain an orderly and fully functioning society.

Society and laws have differing opinions on what a person can or cannot do. These vary country to country, even state to state. Age regulations and restrictions restrict what a person of a certain age or ability can or cannot do. This may influence thinking that people of a certain age or ability are not full people, but underdeveloped, or not people. The subject of personhood is a difficult one, if one defines a person as having the qualities or w, x, y, and z, it is certainly possible for some animals to qualify as persons, or some people to not. owever, if one defines a person as a human being, then one has to then define a human being. The English language reinforces the theory of a human being the sole entity capable of personhood as the word ‘person’ and ‘human being’ are used interchangeably. Although modern secularism and the more traditional religious views have differing ideas, it all comes down to the individual’s opinion. This also comes back to individual beliefs and truths, as well as the person’s ability to think and reflect on a subject.

If one believes a person has qualities x and y, then all things with these qualities are persons. If one believes a person is a human being, then human beings to them are persons. And argument could be made that the ability to think, reflect, argue and to form an opinion through observation, belief and personal values over what is a person makes one a person themselves, thereby making anyone agreeing or disagreeing with these examples a person.

Bibliography. Law, Stephen, 2007. The Great Philosophers, Quercus Publishing Plc, London. Handouts from class: What is a Human Person? Summary Notes Problems of Knowledge: The Brain in the Vat The Weekend Australian Magazine: January 30-31st, 2010: Can animals think? The Human Being: Roman Catholic perspective Metaphysics Handout Handout with exerts from various stories: I, Rodney Brooks, am a Robot, How Smart is the Octopus, Spanish Parliament… Etc.

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What Is a Human Person?. (2018, Feb 20). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/what-is-a-human-person/

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