In the following, we will try to dig a bit deeper still. That is, we will mainly talk in more detail about the cognitive capacities which we established above as conditions of personhood, and we will broaden the scope by considering motivational and emotive capacities as well. To this end, we once more begin with Kant, who confirms the forensic account of personhood by stating: "Person ist dasjenige Subjekt, dessen Handlungen einer Zurechnung fähig sind."62 Kant stipulates freedom of the will or autonomy as a decisive prerequisite for the kind of imputability that he is considering to be constitutive for personhood. Autonomy stands for the freedom of rational agents to subject only to laws they adopt themselves by exercising reason. And reason, in turn, is viewed by him as located outside the causally determined realm of experience, even if it is - indirectly - operating on it. At this point it may seem as if we could not avoid entering the gargantuan field of debate about free will and its relation to the rival positions of (causal) determinism and anti-determinism. But fortunately we can. Most extant determinists are so-called com-patibilists. Still, compatibilist determinists and incompatibilist libertarians agree that there is free will and responsibility and that the former is a necessary condition of the latter.63 This opens up the possibility of formulating a position which is neutral with respect to the metaphysical issue of whether determinism is true or not.64 In the following, we shall examine in neutral
62 "Metaphysik der Sitten" (Kant 1907/14 [AA VI]:223) - "A person is a subject who is capable of having his actions imputed to him" (translation by W. Hastie). - Taken at face value, this quote might seem to imply that persons are subjects of a certain kind, i.e. constituting a subclass of subjects. However, this interpretation does not fit into the general frame of Kant's philosophy. The way he uses the two terms rather lends itself to the interpretation that all subjects (at least insofar as being a subject is meant to entail being capable of arriving at experiential knowledge) are persons. According to our own analysis, it furthermore seems that "person" and "subject" are not only coextensional predicates, but semantically necessarily so, that is, they in fact express the same concept. Their usage differs only insofar that the expression "subject" emphasises epistemological (theoretical) aspects, while "person" indicates that attention is to be focussed on moral (practical) aspects.
63 That is because compatibilism holds that free will and responsibility are compatible with determinism. Only a minute fraction of philosophers contend that determinism is true and hence there is no free will and hence no one bears responsibility for his or her actions. Sometimes, these philosophers then advocate radical changes in our legal and juridical system to the effect that people should not be sentenced and punished according to "obsolete" categories like guilt, retribution or penance, but rather with respect to the chances of their ^socialisation (i.e. the probability of them abstaining from committing crimes in the future). Of course, one cannot but wonder what performative sense such appeals to reform do make against the background that, if determinism is true, what is bound to happen will happen anyway.
64 In Hartmann (2000/2005) it is argued that determinism is in fact false.
terms what kind of freedom is required for persons so that we may hold them responsible for their deeds.
Our whole practice of blaming or praising each other (morally or legally) for what we did is based on the conviction that - at least under normal circumstances - we could have done otherwise, had we just chosen to do so. By employing this practice we treat each other as persons, that is as beings who are free in a certain respect that can be addressed by the following condition:
Ia) Persons need to be able to refrain from actions. Complementary to this condition of personhood is a second one, namely:
Ib) Persons need to be able to act out their decisions to act.
Both these conditions are already implicit in the concept of agency itself. That is, beings qualify as agents by virtue of these abilities, and the range of things they do, by which they can exercise these abilities, is the range of their actions.65 Being an agent, as compared to a mere stimulus-drive-response automaton, means to not be determined exhaustively by external forces and internal drives. To illustrate this point further, it is helpful to introduce a terminological distinction between behaviour and action (which is not followed very strictly in ordinary language): Responses of persons can be subdivided into two classes. We suggest to call those responses that merely happen to us - like coughing, stumbling or crying - behaviour. Every now and then we may successfully suppress this kind of responses, but only for actions it is apt to say that we can refrain from exhibiting them. This intuitively plausible distinction is strengthened by the different ways of accounting for these two classes of responses in science. While behaviour - at least in principle -is predictable by causal laws that are established by physiology, ethology, and behavioural psychology, this is not the case for actions (Hartmann 1998:42-45).66 That does not mean that actions are events that cannot be the objects of systematically correct predictions. Certainly, one can establish "predictors" for actions as well, insofar as the likelihood for persons to respond with a certain type of action in a situation of a given type usually depends on a number of internal and external factors - especially their system of goals and beliefs. Yet, these factors do not cause actions in a strict terminological sense
65 It follows that not everything an agent "does" is an action. E.g. if you are reading this chapter, you must be an agent. But if you have to sneeze or cough while doing so, these are not "actions" of yours.
66 The modern habit of classifying actions as a special ("complex") class of ("goal-directed") behaviour has its forgotten roots in behaviourist psychology and thus is reductionistic and deterministic in spirit. However, it is important to see that the classification of a response as an action goes along with the application of a whole range of other termini ("purpose", "intention", "belief" etc.), so that actions are embedded in an altogether different theoretical context compared to behaviour (which is accounted for by using termini such as "reinforcer", "drive", "stimulus", "conditioning" etc.).
(Hartmann 2000:82). Furthermore, there are factors like drives and emotions, which certainly will influence the decisions of agents (for instance, agents who have the choice between finishing some work and accompanying a friend to a restaurant will be more inclined to opt for the latter if they are hungry). But as long as we are considering an event as an action, we take for granted that the agent could have refrained from it, no matter how strong the motivating drives or emotional incentives involved. The same goes for the counterpart, the "acting out" of a decision against opposing drives or unpleasant emotions. This is the reason why we blame agents for their actions or their omissions, but not for their mere behavioural responses.
Compared to Kant's categorical concept of autonomy, the kind of freedom that is postulated by (Ia) and (Ib) allows for degrees. Depending on the extent to which persons actualise the capabilities mentioned in these conditions they can be said to possess a stronger or weaker will.67 Personhood, on the other hand, does not come in degrees. At a given time, a being either is or is not a person. However, there is no need to specify a certain degree to which an agent needs to develop his or her will power in order to be recognised as a person. If someone is at all able to act and capable of taking responsibility for his or her actions, then he or she is, in this sense, a moral agent, i.e. a person. Given these abilities, people are to be recognised as persons regardless of whether they actually act morally, whether they engage in moral deliberations on what ought or ought not to be done, or whether they exercise strong self-control over their inclinations and desires. At this point it might seem about as difficult to judge whether someone has the abilities (Ia) and (Ib) as it was, in the first place, to judge whether someone is a person. However, our account will become more informative once we proceed with our analysis by asking what cognitive and emotive characteristics a being needs to be endowed with in order to develop the abilities to act or refrain from action on decision.
As a first step to further our analysis of personhood we state some rather basic cognitive abilities that, quite uncontroversially, are necessary prerequisites for (Ia) and (Ib):
IIa) Persons need to be endowed with discriminative abilities.
In talking about discriminative abilities we refer to perception as well as to recognition. The reason why we subsume these abilities under this heading is that perception and recognition are ascribed to beings on the basis of the discriminations they make in their responses (comprising actions as well as behaviour). To cut a long story short, if some being responds (or is disposed
67 Since ancient times persons were considered virtuous if they developed these abilities to a high degree. The virtues associated with (Ia) were called temperance or self-control (German: "Besonnenheit"), the ones associated with (Ib) decisiveness or fortitude (German: "Tatkraft"). Taken together, they sometimes are quite aptly named "executive virtues".
to respond) discriminatively to a presently given difference, then we may say that it perceives that difference. And if we can account for a being's responses towards a presently given difference only by assuming that it has been exposed to it before, then we may draw the conclusion that the being recognises that difference.68
In fact, most if not all perceptions involve recognition, and recognition is in turn the most basic function of the faculty of memory, be it in the form of recognition of types of situation ("F again") or of objects ("a again")69. If a being does not have recognitional capacities, it is not a person, not so much because there is a direct connection between recognitional capacities and executive virtues (though there is), but rather because a being that does not perceive/recognise much of what is going on around it will not be able to exercise very subtle forms of behaviour, let alone action. Still, obviously perception and recognition do not exhaust what is required for personhood. Taking responsibility for one's deeds presupposes another form of memory, the ability to remember what one did. For example, a decision one made is an event in one's life. If one cannot remember such events, how is one ever to act out one's decisions? Occasionally, we blame persons specifically for their forgetfulness, for instance when someone forgets having given a promise. But this is because we assume that the person would have remembered if she had only exercised some care. On the other hand, beings which cannot ever remember what they have done in the past will not be treated as responsible for their responses at all. Not only will they not be able to commit themselves to anything by promise or assent (because they will forget at once that they did); they will obviously be unable to lead any form of autonomous life. So, persons need to be able to recall their actions and, more generally, past experiences, that is they need to have episodic memories:
IIb) Persons need to be endowed with episodic memory. Closely related to memory is another requisite for personhood:
IIc) Persons need to be endowed with learning abilities.
Quite often it is only a matter of point of view whether we refer to a being's memory abilities or its learning abilities in order to explain its responses. If we want to emphasise the process of acquisition of a behav
68 See Hartmann (1998:II.2.1) and Galert (2005:Ch. 2) for a more elaborate account. One important advantage of that account is that it provides a fairly clear understanding of how to ascribe these psychic functions to a being even in situations where (because of a lack of communicative abilities on the part of the respective being) it is not possible to simply ask it what or whether it is perceiving or recognising.
69 It is important to see that (despite the examples in brackets) these basic functions of recognition do not yet presuppose the use of language. That is, "recognition" in this usage does convey the same meaning as the German "wiedererkennen", but not the same as "erkennen" in the sense which results in "Erkenntnis" ("knowledge"). The latter has to be of propositional structure and is therefore bound to language.
ioural modification (in the widest sense), we talk about learning. If, on the other hand, we want to emphasise the retention and retrieval of a behavioural modification, we talk about memory. A recourse to basic forms of learning is already involved at least in the scientific ascription of discriminative abilities as expounded above under IIa - for it is primarily in the context of learning (conditioning) experiments that we can acquire data that seman-tically warrant the ascription of specific abilities of perception and recogni-tion.70
Neither discriminative abilities, nor simple forms of learning and memory require possession of language on the part of the discriminating/learning/remembering being. Even episodic memories need not necessarily assume a linguistic form. On the contrary, we would find it rather strange if we could "tell" what we did, but would lack any accompanying re-presentations in the visual, tactual, auditory or olfactory modes of imagination. However, there are nevertheless independent reasons for stating that:
IId) Persons need to be endowed with language abilities.
To hold a being responsible for what it does we need to assume some understanding of what it means to be responsible for one's deeds on the part of that being. One important aspect of being "capable of having one's actions imputed on oneself" is to be able to get engaged in the kind of interaction that is constitutive of interpersonal relationships. These relationships comprise, inter alia, the assertion and justification of claims against each other, the making of commitments, the granting of rights, the exchange of reasons for one's actions, the justification or questioning of actions with respect to rules, or the justification and questioning of those rules themselves. All these features of interpersonal exchange require the medium of a shared lan-guage,71 however keeping in mind that the possession of language abilities is not to be equated with the ability to speak. The different systems of sign language for deaf mutes, for instance, basically fit the same purposes as do spoken and written forms of language.
Finally, language abilities are indispensable for persons as they are the decisive prerequisite for a final cognitive ability that we consider to be a necessary condition for personhood:
IIe) Persons need to be endowed with deliberative abilities.
70 For a more general account of different forms of learning see Hartmann (1998:II.1.1.2). The relationship between the psychology of learning and the psychology of memory is dealt with ibid.:II.2.5.
71 For the purposes at hand we do not need a clear-cut distinction between mere communicative abilities and language abilities in the strict sense. For a tentative account of some distinctive features of language see Hartmann (1998:167-168). However, it is clear from the examples given in the text that the communicative abilities of (at the very least) most animals lack the complexity required for typical interpersonal interaction.
No doubt, there are theoreticians who stand up for the possibility of thought without language (see e. g. Weiskrantz 1988). Once again, we cannot delve here into the reasons why we consider this position to be ill-founded, but we set them forth elsewhere (see Hartmann 1998:172-176). The need for deliberative abilities is already implied by what we just said concerning interpersonal relationships. So, we only would like to add that it is mostly by deliberation that persons arrive at decisions to act in spite of internal or external hindrances, or at decisions to refrain from acting in spite of certain immediate satisfactions or benefits that an action might bring about.
Considering the cognitive requirements for personhood we deduced above, it is obvious that animals will hardly qualify as persons and that infants are not yet persons. Animals as well as infants may be considered to have "personalities" in the weak sense that they can have individual character traits, that is certain relatively stable bundles of dispositions for behaviour of a certain kind (especially traits that are traditionally regarded as constituting the "temper", like aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, curiosity etc. - see Section 5.4.3 for more on this). But we will limit our use of the term "personality" to the character of persons. Our account of the cognitive criteria for personhood also explains why, in the introductory section of this chapter, we came to the conclusion that human beings in persistent vegetative state can no longer be regarded as persons. For these people as well as severely mentally challenged people do not fulfil most of the conditions we found to be constitutive for personhood. However, there is no doubt that, according to our criteria, most people who are considered to suffer from some mental disability will have to be regarded as persons as long as they are able to get engaged in social interactions to such an extent that they can grasp the meaning of responsibilities and mutual obligations. After all, a requirement like the demand of language abilities is not to be understood in such a way that a person would need to be able to comply with the highest standards of linguistic perfection. Finally, we also would like to reinforce the point we made above that by denying a human being the status of a person he or she is deprived of all duties and responsibilities, but not of his or her moral and juridical rights.72 A common way of stating this is to say that the range of moral objects is broader than the range of moral subjects. Furthermore, it should be noted that by distinguishing between the moral category "person" and the biological category "human" the possibility is left open for there to be persons that are not humans as well. It is only a contingent fact that so far we never came across any nonhuman beings that would fulfil the cognitive criteria for personhood.
With our account of the cognitive prerequisites for personhood completed, we will ask what else might be required of persons besides these cog
72 Except, of course, such rights whose execution entails one's taking over certain duties - for example the right to negotiate and submit to a contract.
nitive abilities. We already stated that being a person is by no means a private affair, and now we would like to add that it is no ghostly affair either:
III) Persons need to be embodied.
This provision in fact follows from what we established already in this chapter, namely that persons must be locatable within the frame of objective space-time through which they run their course as long as they persist. The embodiment condition might seem trivial to some, but facing the long standing debate on persons as immaterial souls it certainly is not. However, given that persons are moral agents in the sense that they are capable of having their actions imputed on them, embodiment is obviously indispensable for being a person: Even if we grant, for the moment, that immaterial beings could effectuate changes in the material world, this would at once confront us with insurmountable problems in the context of actually ascribing such changes to mere spirits. If you think of a typical ghost story featuring some invisible poltergeist tossing down books from the shelves and so on, how are we to hold a particular poltergeist responsible for these nasty deeds? After all, it could be a dozen of them! By adding some recognisable ghostly voice coming out of nowhere and commenting on the deeds, the scenario certainly gets more "personish" (and scary), but it nevertheless won't be a candidate for serious consideration, because we would still lack the means for establishing a reliable connection between the invisible source of the voice and the intangible originator of the "actions".
The requirement of a body does, however, not presuppose even a remote resemblance to the human body. The body of a person may be of any matter, structure, shape and size as long as it is endowed with sense organs (not necessarily ours) and executive organs that allow actions in general and linguistic interactions with us (i.e. the community of human persons) in particular. We need not even assume the existence of a brain, although - at present - we don't know of any structure other than a brain that could warrant implementation of the functional requirements we postulated before.73 We emphasised the indeterminacy of condition (III) in order to counterbalance any impression of "species chauvinism" that our account of the cognitive prerequisites for personhood might have created. On the other hand, since this study deals with interventions in human beings, the question of which degrees of freedom there are with respect to the way persons can be embodied is not of great relevance for the purposes at hand.
We will now inquire if there are - beyond the cognitive prerequisites and the embodiment condition - motivational and emotional prerequisites as well. Let's first consider whether a person necessarily needs to have certain
73 But maybe we can at least conceive of possible designs for intelligent "no-brain-ers". Think, for instance, of a being with a web of ganglia (or just ganglia- like structures) evenly pervading its body.
motifs. Now, motifs come in many different varieties, so that a satisfactory answer to this question would require us to introduce a number of concepts. As this would go beyond the scope of this paper, we can only give some hints as to what we take to be an appropriate answer. First, being an agent, a person will necessarily entertain certain purposes. This is a conceptual need, for once we acknowledge a being's responses as actions, we describe them as being motivated by purposes (and, furthermore, as being guided by beliefs, see Hartmann 1998:237). By "purposes" we simply mean the states of affairs that actions are meant to bring about.74 Accordingly, as agents, persons necessarily are motivated by purposes:
IVa) Persons need to entertain purposes.
With respect to the contingent75 fact that all known persons are living beings, we can state some more motivational necessities: Living beings exhibit a number of responses which repeatedly bring about certain states of affairs that are of importance for the maintenance of their life or for the maintenance of their species. These states of affairs can be said to constitute a living being's natural needs (Hartmann 1998:50) and the related responses (if effective) can be called satisfactions of natural needs. Against this background, we now can say that having the disposition to satisfy natural needs is a constituent of a living being's continuing existence. Albeit not endowed with the same kind of conceptual necessity as (IVa) and the preceding conditions, we can note:
IVb) As living beings persons need to have the disposition to satisfy their natural needs.
Motivational aspects are closely linked with emotional ones and emotions are as varied as are motifs. Sensations constitute one (primitive) type of emotions that is already involved in learning. One of the basic forms of learning, operant conditioning, requires reinforcement and inhibition -"reward" and "punishment" in ordinary parlance. More generally speaking, a living being would lack the motivation to learn anything if it did not prefer certain situations over others, if it did not seek certain situations while avoiding others. We would like to call such sensations accompanying the perception of situations of reinforcement sensations of like. Correspondingly,
74 Cf. Hartmann (1998:66). - By way of further analysis one can come to distinguish "interests" and "goals" as different kinds of purposes (ibid.:67). Furthermore, in order to account for actions that failed to bring about their purposes the terminus "intention" is required (ibid.:71-73). However, for the present context we do not need to introduce these distinctions properly.
75 However, if we call to mind that any embodiment of psychic functions will require transformation of energy as well as a certain sort of "maintenance", the following considerations would, for the most part, hold for any persons, be they biological organisms, or systems which, for one reason or another, could not ter-minologically be addressed as "life forms".
sensations that a living being has while perceiving situations of inhibition we call sensations of dislike.76 It is important to note that sensations, in our understanding, do not come along as a mere corollary to perceptions. Rather, the need for the term "sensation" is already given with the distinction between an "objective world" (intersubjectively constituted - see above) and the "subjective experience" of it. Perception in an actual sense only takes place when what a living being's senses convey to it pass as a veridical "representation" of the world - one cannot perceive what is not there. However, as we all know, cases of illusion and other sorts of sensory misrepresentation abound. For the affected being these misrepresentations are often not easily recognised as such. To that being it seems as if something was the case which in fact is not.77 We account for situations of this kind by saying that the being has the same sensations that it would have if what appeared to it was actually the case. In other words, instances of sensory illusion and corresponding instances of perception are indistinguishable sensation-wise (Hartmann 1998:116-119). Hence the requirement that persons need to have sensations already follows from (Ila), the requirement of discriminative abilities in the particular form of sensory perception. Regarding motivation, the sensations of like and dislike are particularly noteworthy as they represent a necessary prerequisite for (Ilc), the ability to learn. Therefore:
IVc) Persons need to have sensations of like and dislike.78
It seems questionable to qualify any further particular types of sensation as being necessary for personhood. Remember that, when discussing the requirement of discriminative abilities, we did not postulate that persons need to be endowed with any particular mode of perception. A type of sen
76 See Hartmann 1998:215.
77 In order to distinguish facts from mere sensory appearance, intersubjective agreement regarding the appearance frequently won't help. For if all those who negotiate the facts are affected by the same illusion by virtue of them sharing the same sensory apparatus, then an illusion will not be recognised as such. To get a grip on the facts it takes reference to transsubjective standards, e.g. the overriding status of other sensory modes, or of measurements. Only with respect to such overriding standards can intersubjectively reproducible illusions be regarded as illusions in the first place.
78 Although our way of introducing the concept of sensation should probably have made this clear enough already, we would like to state explicitly that by (IVc) we do not identify sensations with what philosophers have come to dub "qualia" and, hence, IVc) does not at all state or imply that persons need to be endowed with such things. Indeed we would maintain that the concept of qualia as it is discussed within contemporary philosophy is devoid of meaning. For a thorough critique see Hartmann (1998:121-123). Whereas behaviour of any complexity is alleged to be conceptually compatible with the total absence of qualia (or their varying widely between beings), and hence one can (allegedly) "never know" about the qualia of a being without actually being that being, the simple fact that a living being seeks/avoids certain situations semantically suffices to say that it has the according sensations of like/dislike.
sation would classify only if it could be shown that its loss would imply the negation of one of the conditions Ia-IVc. To test this, let's examine one prima facie-candidate: Given the presupposition of self-consciousness, the need for discriminative abilities, and condition (III), that persons need to be embodied, it may seem quite conclusive that persons need to possess proprioceptive abilities. Else they would perceive their own body, especially the orientation of their body parts to one another, only through the "outer" senses, and how could they then exercise the sort of cybernetic control needed for the execution of even the most basic actions? However, this reasoning is challenged by some (very rare) cases of people who suffered a complete, yet selective, loss of the sense for their own bodies due to a viral infection. Certainly, these people are severely disabled since vision is their only source of feedback for controlling movements of their bodies. Only by arduous exercise can they reacquire a limited range of bodily actions. However, the published reports on such cases leave no doubt that these patients, in spite of their disabled condition, still show all the marks of personhood we established above.79 Maybe another candidate to consider would be the capability to feel pain, which is a particularly salient type of sensation of dislike.80 Still, cases of congenital insensitivity to pain (see e.g. Sternbach 1968:95) clearly show that sufferers from this sensory deficit, as unfortunate as they are, nevertheless satisfy all criteria of personhood. That neither the possession of bodily sensations in general, nor of pain sensations in particular passes the test for being a prerequisite of personhood seems to us sufficient evidence for the assumption that in fact no particular mode of sensation is thus required.
Also, the realm of sentiments does not offer any firm grounds for postulating further requirements for personhood. A person that does not feel joy, sorrow, fear, anger, disgust, despair, hate, love, etc, surely will strike us as a person with a serious disorder, but will still be a person. It may be asked whether the capacity of having sensations of like and dislike together with the capacity of having purposes and linguistic abilities will not conceptually ensure that there will be at least some sentiments, even if there are no specific ones. As a warrant for this we could cite that a host of sentiments are constituted at least in part cognitively through the interpretation of one's sensations (e.g. accompanying the perception of one's vegetative state) in the light
79 One such case was described by Oliver Sacks in his famous collection of neurological abnormalities "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" (1985), under the heading "The disembodied lady". In another case study, Jonathan Cole (1995) portrayed the heroic struggle of a man who lost his sense of proprioception at the age of 19. Both these patients acquired their peculiar sensory deficit. Accordingly, one could still raise the question whether a human being that is born without pro-prioceptive abilities could at all develop into a person.
80 For those who are in doubt whether pain sensations are necessarily to be disliked, see Galert (2005:3.3.4.).
of situational factors ("causal attribution"), which then leads to further responses, etc. However, we are inclined to think that this does not suffice to show that persons actually must have sentiments thus constituted. People may lose or altogether lack the ability to make causal attributions pertinent to emotions without at the same time lacking the cognitive and motivational capacities required for personhood. Or something may be wrong with their physiology in such a way that they lack the background of bodily sensations as a basis for further interpretation in the first place.
Since we started out in our conceptual analysis by designating persons as moral agents, so-called moral sentiments - such as contempt, indignation, guilt, shame, resentment and compassion - may seem to deserve some special consideration. However, we continued by asking for the prerequisites for acquiring the concept of responsibility, emphasising that a person need not necessarily be virtuous or, in fact, act according to moral standards of any kind. Hence, it would be a mistake to demand of persons that they need to have moral sentiments, for such sentiments will arise only if a person actually adopts the concept of responsibility as her own. In the same vein, a lack of empathy does not disqualify anyone as a person, either. For instance, one symptom of autism is a more or less severe disability to "read other people's minds" by inferring emotions from facial expressions and the like (see e.g. Baron-Cohen 1997). An impairment of that kind will severely affect one's de facto responsiveness to others' needs, but it does not as such negate any of the conditions of personhood. And though it will make it more difficult, it certainly does not preclude paying due respect to others, attending to one's duties and so on. Therefore, provided someone suffering from autism meets the other requirements of personhood, there is no reason for denying him or her that status on account of his or her lack of empathy.81
Compared to the cognitive requirements for personhood, the demands regarding emotional and motivational traits appear to be fairly low. However, this only underscores the point we repeatedly made that the conditions for being and remaining a person do differ from the conditions for remain
81 This might be a good place to remind the reader that the connotations of expressions like "withholding/denying a status" and "conferring/granting a status" can easily be misleading - the first sounding intrinsically like a sanction, the second intrinsically like a benefit. On the basis of such connotations, it might seem mandatory to be always and only cautious when "denying" someone person status. However, to confer person status to someone who does not satisfy the prerequisites would in truth not be a beneficial deed at all. For it would mean regarding them as fully responsible even though they in fact can't help it! As an example, think of cases where parents, essentially because they mistakenly interpreted the responses of their much too young babies and toddlers as intentional actions in the full sense, believed to be fully warranted in resorting to harsh measures of "punishment" or even "retribution". So, depending on the circumstances, withholding person status can actually mean protecting someone when conferring person status would mean doing them harm.
ing the same person. For considerable change in someone's emotional/motivational profile may indeed give rise to concerns regarding the persistence of his or her personal identity. This will be so, even if there is no concomitant change in the cognitive domain. These considerations already link to the subject matter of the next section, but before we finally try to clarify the criteria of persistence for persons it will be helpful to summarise, briefly, our account of personhood:
Being a person basically means to be capable in principle of entering into the sphere of mutual commitments and thus taking responsibility for one's actions. Being a person means to be a moral agent, that is, a (potential) subject of duties, in contrast to a moral object who only has rights. Holding on to this pivotal point, in a transcendental approach we inquired about the conditions of the possibility of beings of that kind. The concept of responsibility presupposes a community of beings each having a concept of themselves, that is self-consciousness, as well as a concept of "others like me". Having established the general framework allowing for the existence of persons, we then changed the perspective by putting the single person into focus. We asked what psychic conditions each and every moral agent needs to fulfil in order to be able to take responsibility for his or her actions and hold others responsible for their actions. The concept of agency in and of itself requires a certain kind of "freedom of the will" on the part of possible agents, that is they need to be able to exercise a degree of control over their responses: At least in some situations they need to be able to act on decision, but also to refrain from an action. We then proceeded by enumerating cognitive prerequisites for persons as moral agents, from the rather basic to the more exclusive ones. The basic skills - which persons share e.g. with many animals - are discriminative and learning abilities. The more exclusive ones comprise episodic memory, language and deliberative abilities. Commenting on the debate on persons as immaterial souls we established that persons need to be embodied. Finally, we considered the motivational and emotional conditions that persons need to fulfil. As agents, persons will be motivated by purposes. Furthermore, persons will be motivated to satisfy their natural needs, at least when we consider living beings. Pertaining to emotions we found only a very basic condition to be tenable, which is that persons need to have at least sensations of like and dislike. As mentioned before, we do not claim that our list of necessary conditions for personhood is in any sense complete. However, any suggested further provision will need to be considered in the light of its necessity for enabling a being to take responsibility for its actions.
To conclude this section, we would like to address some possible doubts concerning the practical applicability of our considerations. After all, we postulated a number of necessary conditions for personhood which all relate to abilities that allow for degrees. Consequently, the question arises how to decide, when actually confronted with people who are severely impaired in one or more of the relevant abilities, but without having lost them alto gether, whether they are still to be regarded as persons. We clearly have to admit that we will not be able to frame very explicit criteria that would allow to decide each and every borderline case of that kind, not because we wouldn't be eager and willing to do so, but rather because we are in doubt whether the problem of recognising someone's status as a person is approachable, in principle, through something like an operationalised aptitude test. However, we can offer some hints as how to handle borderline cases.
As we saw, the concept of personhood is constituted in a context of mutual recognition. If someone is not at least implicitly82 able to call for recognition as a person, the community of persons will hardly have a reason or - depending on the way you look at it - the right to convey to him or her the person status. This already settles the problem of further specifying the required language abilities for personhood. For, if someone has got the linguistic means (mind you, not necessarily means of speech!) for raising the claim to be recognised as a person, he or she already demonstrates thereby sufficient mastery of language. As language and deliberative abilities are most intimately linked, this line of argument can be applied to the latter as well: If someone has got the deliberative resources to understand what is at stake when his or her status as a person is - explicitly or implicitly - under discussion, and as long as someone is capable of standing up for their recognition as a person, they fulfil requirement (IIe) to a sufficient extent. Now, if someone actually calls for recognition as a person, it will certainly be a delicate decision to nevertheless deny them that status.83 Reasons for doing so, with respect to the cognitive domain, will most likely relate to the requirement of episodic memory, for a violation of the other conditions within that group will hardly leave language abilities unaffected.
Suppose now somebody's episodic memories are utterly and irretrievably wiped out in a case of severe retrograde amnesia. Persons with that condition will no longer be the same (at least we will argue for this view in the next section), but as long as their other cognitive abilities remain unaffected, and provided they are able to store new episodic memories, we have no reason to
82 Remember that being a person means having one's responses imputed on oneself as genuine actions. Accordingly, something as simple as an offer to make a promise is already an implicit way of claiming this status, for such an offer implies a claim to the right to take on commitments.
83 On the other hand, this is also a quite common situation - at least in the context of raising children. Long before they can be held responsible for their responses, in the full sense, children will start to try out actions of "promising" and "keeping promises", or to implicitly claim other rights that go along with taking on duties. Legal status aside, family, kindergarten and elementary school will (or at least should) provide the sheltered environment where such capacities can be learned, developed and put to test until a child, at about the time it reaches legal age, is concomitantly able to act and refrain from actions, has grasped the concept of responsibility, and is thus able (in principle) to take his or her commitments and duties seriously.
question their personhood. They will be able to keep promises they gave after the traumatic event and, in general, can be held responsible for what they are doing. More challenging is the situation of individuals suffering from anterograde amnesia, who no longer are capable of forming new memories. There are tragic cases of this kind where an individual is confined to a time frame of a few minutes. According to what we said above, if someone is lacking the ability to remember his or her deeds, they cannot take any responsibility for what they do. Still, as long as an individual knows what he or she is doing, reflects upon the consequences of his or her deeds for others, and has some understanding of the miserable situation he or she is trapped in, we still have to regard that individual as a person. The last condition (i.e. being able to have an understanding of one's own cognitive limits) is quite important, as persons should be aware of the extent to which they can take responsibility for their actions. An amnesiac should know, for instance, what promises he or she is able to keep - and certainly will be very limited in that respect. Anyway, the general requirement of episodic memories is not undermined by these considerations. For one thing, a person who is struck by anterograde amnesia at some point in her life needs to have acquired the concept of responsibility when she was still capable of forming episodic memories.84 A child that is loosing that capability - say at two years of age -surely could not develop into a person. Furthermore, even though the time frame for keeping new memories may be very limited in anterograde amnesia, it is not nil. If someone indeed immediately forgot what he or she was doing right after initiating an action, this would not only prevent them from taking responsibility for their actions, but rather would deprive them totally of their capacity to act.
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Have you ever been envious of people who seem to have no end of clever ideas, who are able to think quickly in any situation, or who seem to have flawless memories? Could it be that they're just born smarter or quicker than the rest of us? Or are there some secrets that they might know that we don't?