What is a Person?
While biologists can manipulate all aspects of biological, genetic, and psychological make-up, this question can be best answered within the context of philosophical purview. The rationale behind such a declaration lies in the fact that ordinary language interchangeably uses a person and a human being. For example, biologists would refer to, “a persistent vegetative state” as a human being, yet they have ceased to exist. The aspect that they no longer exist may prompt the temptation to say that they are no longer persons. Another example occurs over the abortion debate on whether a fetus is a person or not. These are among the complex questions, which go beyond biology since they tend to be philosophical. The aspect of “being” refers to a persistent vegetative state, which may exist in something human, but that might not be a person.
There is evidence that some entities might be persons, but not humans. For example, some of the great apes such as gorillas had quite complex thinking capacities, are sophisticated enough to warrant them the classification as persons, though they are not human beings. The premise of this argument is that not all human beings are persons, and some persons are not human beings. The underlying assumption brings us to the fundamental question of what constitutes personhood. The traditional philosophy by Rousseau and Kant, from the book Cultivating personhood: Kant and Asian philosophy, examines the aspects of personhood not by describing how we are, but rather how we ought to be. In that regard, they concluded that personhood is defined by the autonomy of the human being. An autonomous being is one that acts for particular reasons, reflects on facts and their interests over time. One can argue, therefore, that an independent being is an entity, which has self-determination and can shape their lives by taking reasoned free choices.
The next question is whether substances such as alcohol and the law interfere with autonomy; the answer is positive. Actions, which one takes when under the influence of any substance, do not reflect the minimum level of autonomy, which defines personhood. Thus, treating someone as a person involves allowing them to exercise their capacity to act for reasons, as opposed to emotions or set rules. Conversely, human beings that are not autonomous in their decisions and actions are not worth to be treated as persons. Everyone agrees that there are reasons, which may make one not to treat another as a person, for instance in the prisons where waders try to make choices for the inmates. However, there are no general reasons for not recognizing the autonomy of individuals. Cloning amounts to external control of human independence hence the products are not persons but human beings with no free will. The natural being in many ways better than cloning creations and we cannot argue that the world would be better with them. The creation of super-humans, who do not pollute the environment or commit crimes depends on natural humans. Hence the argument that we could be better off without humans, who will not contaminate or do crimes, to me is invalid.
In conclusion, a person is defined by the autonomy with which an individual makes decisions on actions. The concept of personhood calls for independence and free will where one makes decisions and accounts for activities in an environment where there are no interferences. All persons are human beings, but not all human beings are persons. For instance, while prisoners, children, and slaves are human beings, we cannot consider them persons as they do not make choices regarding their lives freely and all their actions are controlled by waders, parents, and masters respectively.
I would just like to end this by a poem which I believe truly defines a person:
I am not my body,
My body is not me
I am not my mind
My mind is not me
I am energy,