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Philosophy: The nature of persons

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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.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 15 hours
  • Updated Thursday 14th April 2016
  • Advanced level
  • Posted under Philosophy
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Philosophy: The nature of persons


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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 provides a sample of Postgraduate Level study in Arts and Humanities [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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