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Matthew Jernberg

What's your favorite account of the nature of persons?

It needn't be a classical conceptual analysis with necessary and sufficient conditions, so a prototype model would help with my question. I'm mainly just looking for references.

Marcus Arvan

This sounds like a really engaging approach, so much so that I really want to give it a try the next time I teach this stuff. Thanks so much for sharing, and to Helen for putting the series together!

Nathan Nobis

I do something similar; here's the two activities, from a chapter:

". . Some claim that fetuses are persons, from conception or soon after, and so they are prima facie wrong to kill. Others deny that fetuses are persons, especially early fetuses. These disputes sometimes lead to shouting and violence, with different sides merely insisting on their definition. There are more rational ways to help determine the essence of personhood, however, by thinking about what makes us persons.

First, consider this:

We are persons now. Either we will always be persons or we will cease being persons. If we will cease to be persons, what can end our personhood? If we will always be persons, how could that be?

Both options give insights into personhood. . .

A second activity . . :

Make a list of things that are definitely not persons. Make a list of individuals who definitely are persons. Make a list of imaginary or fictional being which, if existed, would be persons: these beings that fit or display the concept of person, even if they don’t exist. What explains the lists?

The chapter is here:



' a 90-year-old scientist who has just discovered a cure for cancer but has not yet passed it along,'

Isn't that making it too easy? How about a 60 year old scientist whose work has saved 1000's of people already. Should he be rewarded with being saved?


Thanks for sharing this really great idea! I'd be curious to hear a bit more about the nuts and bolts. Am I understanding correctly that you identify two candidates for the bottom position, solicit reasons, then hold a class vote after which the bottom position is decided? Do you repeat the process (next two candidates for second to last position on the list, solicit reasons, vote...) until you have the whole ordering down?

Eva Dadlez

MJ: Jeff McMahan -- embodied minds.
MA: thanks!
NN: Nice. Will try.
Justpassing: Well, just as there are two different reasons for taking up a negative stance toward the serial killer (retributive v. danger-to society utilitarian), so there two different issues in play in the 2 cases to which you refer.
Anon: Students volunteer victims and there is seldom a consensus. Usually candidates number three or two -- shouting typically establishes how many we vote on.

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