R42

Imagine the following two beings:

"Sylvia" has a body that is physically indistinguishable from a human body, but has no human imagination, feelings or desires whatsoever. Sylvia does what Sylviaís told to do, but thatís it. Sylvia makes absolutely no suggestions, absolutely ignores all attempts at conversation, has absolutely no facial expressions, and does absolutely nothing but stand staring at the wall when not following instructions. (This is all there is to know about Sylvia. Donít add things to this description.)

"R42" has an inhuman metal body, but thinks rationally and has all the imagination, feelings and desires of a human being. R42 wants to be an artist, R42 visits the sick, R42 makes up jokes and stories, R42 learns new stuff, and is curious about things in just the same way a smart and happy human being is curious about stuff. R42 observes other people's actions and learns from their mistakes. R42 makes quick but thoughtful decisions about how to respond to new situations and, unlike many humans, thinks independently and creatively. R42 has better values than most humans, and has some tendency to protest or even intervene against inappropriate behavior in others. R42 likes some people and dislikes others, and spontaneously tries to make friends with various people. R42 understands everything a human understands. Unlike Sylvia, R42 pays attention to how people are feeling and tries to respond appropriately.

This is all there is to know about R42. Donít add things to this description. Don't say that R42 lacks something unless this description says he lacks that thing.

Which one(s) logically should be regarded as a person? Why that one? Why not the other? Is it both? Is it neither? (Do not add anything or change the problem. Remember that Sylvia is not "a person who has been injured or brainwashed." Nor is Sylvia "a person who chooses not to socialize." Sylvia is just as Sylvia is described above. Donít make any assumptions about R42 either.)

Please notice that this topic does not ask you which one is human or which one is a human being. It asks only which one is a person. Thus if you decide to write about which one is human you will not be answering the question, and thus you won't really be doing the assignment. Don't attempt this topic unless you can accept at least the possibility that the meaning of the word "person" doesn't automatically include the meaning of "human." If you think that the word "person" is just another word for "human," or "human being," or "human body," don't pick this topic unless you are prepared to either come up with reasons why we should define the word person so that it only includes humans or to possibly change your mind about the definition of a person.

Follow-up questions. These ideas aren't off-limits, if any of them come up in the course of answering your assigned question, go ahead and discuss them in any way you see fit. But I do want you to focus on the question(s) I've assigned to you, so don't make any of these questions your primary topic unless I've specifically assigned you, or given you permission to do that question. If you want to focus on a follow-up question, ask me, and I might give you permission.

Why Human? Why do you think a human-looking body is necessary and/or sufficient to be a person?
Why Not Body? Why do you think a human-looking body isn't necessary and/or sufficient to be a person?
Social Persons Is our definition of a person partially based on morality, society or history? Should it be?
 
 


This Site is Proudly Hosted By:
WEBster Computing Services


Copyright © 2004 by Martin C. Young