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Philosophy: The nature of persons
What is a person? This unit examines this philosophical question concerning the nature...
What is a person? This unit 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’.
Having studied this unit 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’
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Philosophy: The nature of persons
This unit 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 unit, 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 unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 22nd June 2011
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