What is a "person" ?

In an effort to limit discussion to my intended scope, I shall ask a direct question:

Is there any reason to reject the hypothesis that “All Homo sapiens sapiens are people” ?

All human beings are persons (contrary to Peter Singer’s quasi-Lockean view, which depends on functional abilities). I would go back to the definition held by Boethius and Aquinas: a person is an individual substance of rational nature. By that definition, all humans are persons, even if they are not exercising or cannot exercise their rational natures.

So my direct answer to your direct questions is: No.

I agree for 99% of cases. I would even entertain the idea of expanding it beyond our species (AI for example).

However, I think it is important to define a person as a being that can live on their own, and has the cognitive function to survive. We as a species have very specific characteristics, without which we might as well be a bacterium in a very large body. For instance, I don’t think letting Terry Schiavo’s body die was killing a person, I think the person was already gone. Anyway, that’s where I draw the line… on self preservation. That’s a personal opinion of course :slight_smile:

Edit: I just realized my rule neglected infants and the elderly that cannot take care of themselves! I guess it gets a lot more sticky trying to find a hard definition, but I think you can understand what I mean by my post at least.

But why is it important? Please don’t take offense to these questions, as I do value you as a fellow human-person, but is it because of laziness? Do you just not want to have to take care of these Homo sapiens sapiens? Or have you already assented to abortion and euthanasia in your mind, and then adjusted your logical premises to justify it?

Do you believe an intelligent robot has a right to exist?

Yes, in the sense that “exist” means “continue to exist after it was created”. The lifespan of such a thing could be troublesome though. Also, by intelligent I assume you mean sentient. I think that is an important distinction.

I actually do support abortion (only in very strict cases). I support the death penalty. Euthanasia I support as well, if properly restricted. Why are people so afraid of death? You’re *are *going to die.

However, the death penalty and Euthanasia are destroying a full mind (a person by my interpretation). The same can be argued for Abortion, I’ll leave that alone for this argument. Letting a body die that has no mind left is not murder in my opinion… you’re letting the body go because the “person” is already gone. It’s complicated though… are people with severe Alzheimer still the “person” for instance? What about a person in a coma? I think in such cases, we hold onto them because there is a chance… a *potential *to still be a person. Perhaps that argument for potential is the line?

Does a robot have the right to exist when it ceases to function properly?

The lifespan of such a thing could be troublesome though.

So can the lifespan of persons! Does that mean they (robots and persons) lose the right to life?

Also, by intelligent I assume you mean sentient. I think that is an important distinction.

Intelligence is not necessarily associated with sentience. Why do you think it is related to the right to life?

Depends on the nature of the robot, the functionality involved, and if it could be repaired I guess.

Responding to “Does that mean they (robots and persons) lose the right to life?” - No, I didn’t mean to imply that, it was just a thought I had while typing that giving them the right to live would be troublesome in a logistics and population sense if we constantly made new ones and they lived for 10,000 years each!

I used “sentience” because it is a common term. In reality, it’s not black and white, it’s more of a scale anyway. I didn’t want to use “intelligence” because it implied computers could be respected as people… algorithms are intelligent, but they are not people. Ultimately, I think it’s subjective though, and that we will have to painstakingly define a legal line eventually, but not any time in the near future.

Another interesting question is software… what if the sentient being is software? If you put it on a thumb drive, and shut down the computer, is it dead? What if you then never start up the computer again… it’s still there on disk right? On a DVD install disk perhaps? Would it be dead or alive in such a state? The obvious answer is that answering such questions is hard without knowing the nature of the future technology, which we can’t know yet. Also, considering programs (and robots with interchangable parts) don’t really die naturally as they were not born naturally, so should their death have the same rules that apply to us?

Very interesting, but hypothetical, stuff :slight_smile:

That is a good way to put it, for now… if aliens or intelligent computers came and demanded to enter the discussion, they would probably need to have a say as well. We are the only race that I know of that entertains such an idea, so for now we are defining it. For most species, the object is to survive, not argue about whether they have a “right” to survive.

Basically. Majority opinion, but with respecting the minority… at least in America. It’s a social issue, so it depends on how the society makes rules.

Animals don’t have rights, we give them rights because we like them. Poor baby seals!

The question of rights is very important, but I see this as a social issue… which is why the Nazis decided against it, and why America is very pro animal rights (unlike most of the rest of the world). Have you seen the peta video of what they do to cats and dogs in china? To them, they are just animals… no rights. To us, we personify them… they have rights, because we feel for them.

However, I think it’s interesting that a major tell-tell sign of a serial killer is animal cruelty… I think that to deny animals rights is a sign that a society is declining… I personally think that as the only sentient race here, it is our responsibility not to screw things up, since we have power beyond what all other animals could dream of.

Actually, I think you may be confusing sentience with reason. Sentience means the able to sense, sensory perception - which animals have - animals and people are sentient creatures. They say only animals have the ability to reason, though (but perhaps animals can do that too, in a way we don’t understand). I’m big on animal rights, BTW. :smiley:

Ah, good catch. I actually meant something along the lines of conciousness…

Have we no inalienable rights?

Do you see frogs going around talking about their inalienable rights? Such an idea exists because we exist to make it. Just like Love is a real thing, so are the other ideas we come up with. They are real in that we are real and they effect the world through us. At least, that’s the way I feel about it :shrug:

Well the only people who reject the hypothesis “all humans are persons” are also the ones who want to kill certain humans. It is all highly suspicious; it as if the whole category of human non-person was created to justify murder.

I think morality starts with genetics. We have very basic morality built into us (like a wolf pack has morality) in order to survive as social animals. From there, I think all the complex morality we come up with are entirely social aspects, although they are guided by the genetic aspects so much of it is not unexpected, but always up for debate.

If we don’t like an animal, we kill it. Like mice, roaches, flies, etc. You’ve never looked at our systematic extermination of certain animals that we don’t associate with “nice” ? Killing people is a bit different, because that’s our own species… but we even do that a lot, or haven’t you noticed?

Rights for animals, in my opinion, are a matter of feeling and social upbringing… but also of modern day comforts with no life or death necessities… If you were starving, you would likely eventually eat your pets, although probably not your family (unless your last name is Donner?).

Responsibility should be greater with more power… but that’s not always the case… responsibility is something people should take upon themselves to avoid consequences… from history, it appears those in power (or at least the ones that are exciting to read about - responsible people are rarely exciting) typically end up feeling the consequences of their actions.
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