I believe that Dartmouth College philosopher Adina Roskies is right when she suggests "knowing that one part of our biological system for identifying persons is automatically entrained and subject to error should make us more cognizant of its operation and more skeptical of its output as we engage in the countless moral decisions we make each day." If Farah and Heberlein have correctly identified an innate personhood network in our brains, they will have helped free us from its mandates, just as other natural scientists freed us from our misconceptions about the sources of disease and rain. We are not just slaves to our brains' personhood networks -- we can use our rationality to figure out which entities count as persons and which do not. We will most likely conclude that personhood is a continuum, not an all or nothing property. Just where to draw moral lines along that continuum will be a long hard fought debate, but as Sagoff has pointed out moral progress can be made. In the end, Farah and Heberlein are wrong, persons are as real as mountains, diseases, weeds, pets and daylight.
Apr 27, 2007
Ron Bailey critiques a new way to determine personhood: