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Being a person: raising the bar

December 25th, 2005 (10:40 am)
current song: Genesis: Invisible Touch

A while ago on alexx_kay's journal we talked about what makes an entity a person; or, to put it another way, what obliges us to treat an entity as a person. Alexx's approach is that anything that can communicate is a person.

But it occurs to me that there may be a higher bar involved. The question of what makes something a person is an ethical question. So is it reasonable to demand that, to be considered a person, something have ethics? That doesn't demand that it always act ethically; it just has to be able to.

Straw man definition: To be eligible for human rights, an entity must be able to understand that harm to others is as real as harm to itself, and must be able to learn how to avoid causing harm to others.

Comments

Posted by: Alexx Kay (alexx_kay)
Posted at: December 27th, 2005 01:23 am (UTC)

My first reaction is "Hah! And folks thought *my* definition would be hard to test for!"

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 4th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
Insanity...

You presume all beings believe they're created equal.
Although there are countless examples of fictional self-aware beings which don't value human life, lets take the example of someone who is mentally ill.
Does a mentally ill man who doesn't understand your rule of thumb not deserve human rights? It might be reasonable to argue that any human which is so deranged as to not get this isn't worthy of being called "human." But its not clearcut.

How do you define others?
This would come into play in the case of any being that believes it is "beyond" humans (consider SkyNet from Terminator, or [evil] homo superiors from X-men). Suggesting they are ineligible for rights due to humans not being included in "others" seems like an incomplete definition to me.


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