Philosophy The concept of the person

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In everyday life, human beings conceive of a difference between those considered to be persons, and non persons, such as inanimate objects, plants, and animals. This idea of the person has been developing over many centuries, and as a consequence, a number of different ideas about what a person is, how they should be regarded, and what makes a person distinct from other beings, such as animals.


St Thomas connects the concepts of legal rights, "complete individual intellectual nature" (Clarke, 26-7) and adds the importance of 'acts of existence', to create an ideal of the person as self-possessing. It is important to note that the Christian concept of the person, as described by St Thomas, includes that of 'rights': the idea of personhood as dependant upon legal rights.
Later concepts of the human involved the ideas of St Thomas to some degree: suggestions of Locke include consciousness "Whereby it becomes concerned and accountable"; that is, awareness of self which stirs a sense of responsibility. Rawls's idea of personhood is made problematic by the issue of insanity: "When we declare a man insane we cease treating him as accountablebut still our interactions with him are virtually indistinguishable from normal personal interactions unless he is very far gone in madness" (Dennett). Rawls brings up a complex subject, which goes to the very heart of the philosophy of personhood: the insane, their ability to be people, and how this affects their rights. ...
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