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What is a person? This free course, Philosophy: The nature of persons, examines this philosophical question concerning the nature of personhood. You will examine whether a 'person' is the same as a 'human being', and look at whether it is our free will that in the end defines us as a 'person'.
After studying this course you should be able to:
- discuss what it means to be a person;
- read and understand arguments discussing this question;
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Introducing the concept of the 'person' and 'persons'
- 2 Determinism and free choice: a brief résumé
- 3 Peter Strawson: ‘Freedom and resentment’
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Philosophy: The nature of persons
This free course asks what it is to be a person. You will see that there are several philosophical questions around the nature of personhood. Here we explore what it is that defines the concept. As you work through the course, you will notice that this area of enquiry has developed its own semi-technical vocabulary. The plural of ‘person’ is, in this area of enquiry, ‘persons’ rather than ‘people’. It is easy to see the reason for this. The question ‘What are people?’ is potentially confusing. It could mean ‘What is it to be a people (as opposed to simply a collection of individuals)?’ This, like the question of what it is to be a state or a nation, falls within the province of political philosophy. This is not the question we want. Instead, we want ‘What is it to be a person (or one of the kind of thing that are persons)?’
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 22nd June 2011
Last updated on: Monday, 16th November 2015
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
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