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Target Article Personhood and Neuroscience:

By Naturalizing Or Nihilating, Martha J. Farah and Andrea S. Heberlein

Abstract

Personhood is a foundational concept in ethics, yet defining criteria have been elusive. In this article we summarize attempts to define personhood in psychological and neurological terms and conclude that none manage to be both specific and non-arbitrary. We propose that this is because the concept does not correspond to any real category of objects in the world. Rather, it is the product of an evolved brain system that develops innately and projects itself automatically and irrepressibly onto the world whenever triggered by stimulus features such as a human-like face, body, or contingent patterns of behavior. We review the evidence for the existence of an autonomous person network in the brain and discuss its implications for the field of ethics and for the implicit morality of everyday behavior. THE PUZZLE OF PERSONHOOD Many of our most foundational concepts, on which we construct our understanding of the world, lack clear definitions. For example, concepts such as space, time and life may have a clear enough meaning to be useful in everyday circumstances, but efforts to specify their meanings more rigorously have exposed the complexities and contradictions underlying their apparent simplicity. The same can be said of the concept of a person. Ineveryday life we have no problem deciding which entities t

Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.192.698
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