Personhood and Biography

Gary E. Varner

in Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199758784
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949465 | DOI:
Personhood and Biography

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This chapter and the following chapter defend a moral hierarchy of persons (defined as individuals with a biographical sense of self), near-persons (defined as individuals who lack a biographical sense of self but nevertheless have a robust, conscious sense of their pasts and futures), and the merely sentient (defined as individuals that are “stuck in the present”). The present chapter describes how story-telling gives us a biographical sense of self, and why there is no good evidence that any non-human animals have a biographical sense of self. The following chapter defends the claims that having this biographical sense of self gives the lives of persons special moral significance in comparison to the lives of non-persons, and that having a robust sense of their pasts and futures gives the lives of both persons and near-persons special moral significance in comparison to the lives of the merely sentient.

Keywords: persons; personhood; biographical consciousness; animal language use

Chapter.  13423 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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