This September, I began two new AS courses which are History and Philosophy. I have only started, but it is safe to say that Philosophy has actually turned out to be the course that is most interesting for me at the moment. One discussion that really struck a chord with me was one of what the argument about Personhood. What is a person? Is it the same thing as human? What is a person like? How do you determine what is a person and what is not?
Through this discussion, I realised something about myself. I am/was “speciesist”. No matter how much eye opening evidence I come across, I find it hard to think of an animal as a person. This is probably along the lines of what P.F Strawson defined the concept of personhood as a primitive and a natural phenomenon. So basically, a person is what I think a person is instinctively [i.e if I speak to or communicate with my cat I have presupposed that it can understand me and is therefore a person to some degree]. However, it is possible for the idea of a person to vary for different persons and this possibility presents a problem.
This idea of persons and personhood is something that is tackled in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, in which clones have to prove their personhood, or rather that they are “human” through their artwork in order to gain a better quality of life. However, it is a losing battle against a majority of “speciesists” like/unlike me, who would rather view them as lesser beings.
Now, if I am replace the clones with animals, we have basically the same situation [http://www.okczoo.com/conservation/art-gone-wild] in the real world. I have watched a number of Youtube videos that have very strong evidence to suggest that animals aren’t quite as inadequate as we’d like to think they are.
Let me imagine a situation that has probably been imagined by many before me. The aliens come to earth! But let’s think about this… would we even know that they were here? In all sci fi films, books and tv series, aliens are embodied in a humanoid form or as some concievable monster, but, if we stop kidding ourselves, what guarantee do we have that they will look anything like any thing on this planet? Everything on earth has a pretty