What is a Person?

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Is a dolphin a person? Most people would automatically dismiss the question, but in reality, this question can be discussed on a very complex level revealing that the definition of a person is not so black and white. Mary Midgley sets the stage to her narrative by telling the story of a specific court case that she uses as a reference on many occasions. In May of 1977, two men set free two dolphins who were used by the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology for experimentation. Kenneth Le Vasseur, one of the men who was standing trial, told how these dolphins were suffering through unfair conditions such as diminishing food rations, isolation from other dolphins, and loss of toys. Based on this information, Le Vasseur and …show more content…
As we have discussed, Aristotle separated the souls into four categories (nutritive, movement, perception, and understanding). Aristotle believed that it is the understanding soul separated humans from their animal counterparts who possessed the three other souls. He thought that because humans possessed the ability to understand their perceptions as well as their own self, they should be granted a higher distinction. Although Midgley does not talk about her ideas on the soul or the self, this example still shows another instance where intelligence was used as the basis for comparison and distinction. However, Charles Taylor had viewpoints that mirror Midgley’s ideas. Taylor used the consciousness as representation as one of his technique to separate persons, agents and mere things. In this instance, consciousness was the defining factor between persons and agents. It could easily be argued that animals have a conscious, thus putting them in the persons category. Taylor’s ideas are the first steps to new ideas on how to classify and categorize persons, agents, and mere things.
Midgley has contrasting views and rejects the idea that intelligence should be the defining factor. Midgley shares her ideas by declaring, “What makes creatures our fellow beings, entitled to basic consideration, is surely not intellectual capacity but emotional fellowship” (Stephens ed. 319). She contrasts