The picture displays a man, with his eyes closed, submerged in thought. It also shows his head enveloped in a box, with a chessboard. This shows that the picture relates to decision-making, as that is exactly what you do in a chess game. Overall, all these show that the picture relates to a person’s intellect – a defining factor of a person or a human being – therefore I have decided to address the question: What is a person? One possible definition of a person is someone who fulfills the following characteristics: the ability to comprehend complex emotions, make and justify/rationalize decisions.
Out of these two characteristics, I feel that fulfilling one of these characteristics should grant personhood. A possible example that could help clarify is, the fact that most humans can do all of the following but a robot on the other hand, cannot fulfill these because it may be able to read emotions it cannot differentiate between more complicated ones. If it processes someone with tears it will assume they are sad, it does not have the capability to understand whether the person is crying because he/she is sad or because he/she has been laughing very hard at a joke.
Furthermore, even smart animals cannot make complex decisions whilst thinking about further implications. Chimpanzees – reputed for a high intelligence – may be able to create strategies to get what they want, such as playing dead near a predator or stealing from a local village under the cover of the night, but they do not consider the future implication of their actions – too much stealing will mean the villagers will rebel and possibly kill the chimps.
On the whole, all three characteristics relate to the intellect of a someone/something, as intellect is required to fulfill either of these ‘requirements’. This argument has many weaknesses. The fact that the mentally handicapped people have not been addressed is one of the weaknesses. Mentally challenged may not fulfill either of these requirements, meaning – according to the argument – that the mentally challenged are not people. Another, would be the subjectivity of the argument, as it is hard to determine what is a justified decision or a complex emotion.
Another argument for the definition of a person is the following: someone who has good moral judgment. In other words, someone who make out the difference between a good and a bad action, as well as explain why can be considered a person. This argument displays that even the mentally challenged can be considered people because they still have a good understanding of morals. This can be seen clearly when observing any person with mental disabilities, particularly in school.
In a school with a laptop system, these people tend to take out their laptops and watch videos at a loud volume despite the presence of a teacher. However, once the teacher explains this is wrong, they apologize and don’t do so again. This shows that their hindered intellect causes them to make a bad decision (characteristic of the first argument) but they quickly realize that they made a mistake and correct it, making sure never to do it again. This shows that they understand right and wrong once someone explains it to them.
A similarity between this argument and the first one is the fact that both disregard animals as people. The second argument would not consider animals as people either particularly because an animal does not think before killing for food. A lion would readily kill a young calf if it was hungry, but most humans would not dare kill another child as they would consider it morally unjust. Just like the first argument, this argument also possesses many weaknesses. This argument, also suffers from subjectivity, as each person’s definition of good and bad is different.
If a person were to murder the killer of his wife or child, many people would see it as morally wrong (taking a life) and demand punishment, but for him it would seem righteous as he was simply exacting revenge for his lost family. I feel that for the abstract question that was posed, both arguments are presented well, and offer good justifications. I feel that intelligence is a major aspect of personhood but I feel that moral justification is also an important aspect.
Furthermore, I feel that both arguments go into a lot more depth and precision in comparison with the official meaning of a person – all humans automatically attain personhood legally once they receive a birth certificate. Therefore, I feel that the first argument is a better argument but the perfect argument would be one that coalesces both arguments together. Nevertheless, as seen with these questions, there is never a definite answer therefore even a fusion of both arguments would have implications.
Many philosophers may feel that some animals deserve to be given personhood because they can be trained to comprehend emotions or follow commands, or robots should be given personhood because they can begin to comprehend basic emotions (like a baby before the brain develops). On the whole there is no perfect definition of a person but I feel that a person is someone who can comprehend complex emotions, justify/rationalize decisions, differentiate between morals, or has the propensity to fulfill these requirement any of these requirements in the future (a baby).