Thursday, November 22, 2012

Can Animals Be Persons?

Here’s a provocative article on animal rights and the definition of “personhood”:
When Does an Animal Count as a Person?
As one of the quoted experts points out, defining “person” in a way that includes some animals has pitfalls, mainly the hazard that the definition would exclude some human beings (as, in fact, bioethicist and animal rights radical Peter Singer deliberately does, if I understand him accurately). Can we have "degrees" of "personhood," so that dolphins and chimps can be included on a sort of sliding scale?
This weekend I’ll be attending the Darkover Grand Council, as usual. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt


  1. It seems closed minded to have to refer to intelligence in other species as a person or non-person. Surely intelligence goes beyond the human experience. Perhaps this categorization is a human thing–– we don't currently treat all human beings as equal and valued. When the dolphins and chimps lobby to be included in human rights, I'll have a listen, assuming translation is available.

    I'm reminded of a title to an old Rob Zombie song- "More Human Than Human."

    Thanks for the interesting thoughts...

  2. Well, yes, the question is whether a non-human life form can be a "person," a term that is broader than "human." After all, in law corporations and governmental entities are persons for many purposes. And sometimes "person" has been defined as less broad than "human"; e.g., unborn fetuses often aren't persons under the law (depending on the jurisdiction you're in, I guess).

    Animal rights activist Peter Singer would make some animals legal persons and entitled to some rights now reserved for "human beings." Unfortunately, from the viewpoint of most people, he would also deny personhood to some categories of already-born human beings.