Pitfalls in the Constitution of Personhood
Friday, October 17th, 2014
The concept of personhood is bogged down by the entanglement of three closely related questions. In this talk, I disentangle (1) the question of what defines personhood from (2) the question of whether personhood is a feature of the real world. This will then be detached from (3) the question of how personhood is ascribed to others. I argue that ignoring these dimensions conflates ontological and normative considerations as to what constitutes personhood. Particularly, widespread ‘cognitivist’ views are threatened by invalid inferences from normative premises to factual conclusions. I end with some preliminary remarks on how evidence from developmental psychology and social neuroscience may be of use in setting the stage for a more plausible view of personhood.