The Question of Personhood

The concept of individual rights and responsibilities is the basis of the Western democratic tradition. Nowadays, we take the oft-cited phrase from the US Declaration of Independence “All men are created equal” to include all adults in society, including women, blacks, and other minorities. However, the historic battles of suffrage and civil rights activists to secure equal rights for non-white, non-male citizens shows that the question of personhood is far from self-evident. The question of to whom the law applies is equally, if not more fundamental than the actual content of the laws themselves, since laws are meaningless unless they apply to someone. With the prospects of human cloning, stem cell research, and hybridized DNA creations on our doorstep, we must again call the Question of Personhood into the foreground of legal and ethical debate. What is a person? Is personhood dependent on DNA, or is the ability to think a better criterion for personhood status? What is thinking? Is there a particular kind of thinking that distinguishes persons from non-persons? Is such a strict delineation even possible or should personhood be thought of as a scale of degrees instead of a yes/no dichotomy? If indeed artificial persons are worthy of personhood status, how does the law apply to them? The first part of my argument will show that the question of personhood must be anthropologicallyneutral because our current method of following sexual lineage is inadequate since biotechnological creations are not grounded in the same genetic framework as regular humans, both in terms of physical origin and genetic composition. In order to properly and objectively consider the general Question of Personhood, it is necessary to step outside the particular personhood within which we find ourselves. Next, I will show why Alan Turing’s famous criterion for sentience fails to capture the essence of personhood, but that by incorporating Heidegger’s concept of Dasein into the formula, we can arrive at a definition of personhood that is much more robust and satisfying. If we define a sentient being as a Dasein, one with the potential for ontological questioning, we retain the ability to assign personhood status based upon behavior rather than physical constitution and yet still can reject mere symbol-manipulating apparatuses such as Searle’s Chinese Room. Lastly, I will draw upon Orson Scott Card's 'Hierarchy of Exclusion' to sketch a method of classifying personhood and then attempt to place particular real and hypothetical creatures within it. A being’s place within the hierarchy determines the degree to which it is subject to the protections and responsibilities accorded to persons under the law. The Case for Anthropological Neutrality The concept of equality is implicit in Western democracy and law; it seems to be the epitome of injustice if the Law were to apply to certain members of society and not others. In certain exceptional circumstances such as war or emergency we may grant immunity or far-reaching powers to particular individuals, but in general the principle of equality means that the law of the land applies equally to all citizens of the state. However, history shows that the interpretation of the phrase “All men are created equal” is far from self-evident. The original framers of the US Constitution weren’t too sure black men were ‘men’, and they certainly weren’t going to let women be ‘men’, either. The struggle for racial and sexual equality under the law has essentially been a battle over the definition of personhood. Although the original US formulation of personhood was more or less gender- and race-specific, it has since been re-interpreted to include all adult members of the human species. Our modern perspective makes it difficult to imagine a time when “All men

are created equal” was meant to apply, implicitly or explicitly, only to white males, but the reality of ongoing apartheid and genocide around the world suggests that our Western definition of personhood is not so clearly a given assumption as we might believe. Let us politically correct ourselves then and say that “All persons are created equal”, so as to include all members of the human species. However, we must not forget the caveat that children under the age of majority face additional limitations (e.g. driving an automobile, buying alcohol) and protections (e.g. the Young Offenders’ Act, inability to give consent) under the law. We tolerate age-based personhood discrimination because we recognize that a certain level of experience and guidance is required to make proper decisions. A person who is not yet fully formed needs protection from dangerous situations that they themselves may not recognize, and society as a whole needs protection from children who may not comprehend the consequences of their actions. Most people under the age of majority who commit crimes in Canada are tried under the Young Offenders’ Act1. The rationale for this is that young people who do not yet realize the full gravity of their actions should be treated more leniently than someone with the ability to distinguish right from wrong. However, in particularly vicious cases such as murder and sexual assault, the court can override the Young Offenders Act and try sixteen-year-olds as adults. On the other hand, adults with psychological or developmental problems can be given special consideration and leniency by the court in order to recognize their limited or impaired ability to understand the consequences of their actions. This indicates that the concept of maturity and status as a fully-formed person is more dependent on behavior than age, with age being used as a guideline rather than an absolute limit. The idea that personhood is dependent on behavior rather than physical characteristics is a logical consequence that follows from the extension of civil rights towards people with different skin tones and sex organs. We haven’t bothered to update our species-chauvinist ways because determining personhood has always been phenotypical: if it comes out of a female person, it’s a person! The prying open of the human code by human hand, eye, and machines infuses us with a confident sense of ourselves. We have discovered and decoded the actual formula for ourselves and we hold it in our hands. The precise specification of genetic lineages, inherited diseases and fatherhood is now taken for granted, which makes the question of personhood seem like a relic of a bygone era. While on the one hand we possess the unprecedented ability to identify and classify, at the same time we inherit the ability to manufacture, create, and shape the building blocks of nature and ourselves. The fusion of science and actual human material opens up the question of personhood in ways that we must prepare to deal with, but we are dazzled by the glimmering light of our technological achievements. We don’t bother asking about personhood because the answer seems simple: check the DNA test! However, we haven’t yet devised a way to delineate the limits of personhood from the standpoint of acceptable deviation from the norm, and it seems doubtful whether a DNA test for personhood makes sense. It seems a rather simple process to establish certain parameters that would serve as a genetic outline for the human race. The problem with this is that such parameters may assign personhood to a wider range of beings than is prudent. If a person is anything with human DNA, what about stem cells and embryos? We still need to draw a line between what constitutes a person, and what we consider to be a part of person, or a notyet person. The idea of hybridized organisms, the correction of genetic diseases, and the idea of parents selecting characteristics of their children makes the question more difficult to ascertain. How much modification is tolerable within the genetic parameters? Would an otherwise ‘normal’ person found to be outside the acceptable DNA limits be stripped of their personhood status? What would they then become?
1 Young Offenders Act in Canada. Http://

I believe a more adequate and common-sense solution is to consider the question of personhood from a behavioral rather than a genetic point of view. The possibility of encountering entirely new and strange types of human beings is a prospect that Western culture hasn’t had to deal with since the opening up of the New World in the sixteenth century. We recognize the colonial injustices done and we continue to see the repercussions of the violent first encounter between First Nations peoples and Europeans in North America, yet we still haven’t formulated a proper account of what went wrong and what we would do again in a similar situation. If we examine the question from both sides of the conflict, as conquerors and as conquered, we will recognize that our perception of the genetic ‘others’ as somehow less human is a trap that leads to violence and war. Surely a new formulation of the question of personhood must take into account the atrocities caused by our past inability to consider personhood from an objective, universal standpoint. If we are prejudiced by our own biology, we will be forced to admit that no alien species, no matter how intellectually, ethically, or technologically superior could ever be worthy of the same respect we grant to our own geno-comrades. Anthropomorphism prevents us from asking the general question of what it means to be a person because it doesn’t allow us to get outside of our own communities, cultures, countries and genetic composition to a universal perspective. A Modified Turing Test +Dasein The need to step outside of our genetic prejudices necessitates examining the question of personhood from a behavioral rather than a physical perspective. Alan Turing's Turing Test is a convenient point of departure to imagine what a behavioral model of personhood might look like 2. Turing asks whether a system of machine-based logic could ever be considered to possess intelligence, with the implication that, given enough computing power, a machine capable of thought would require us to rethink our conception of sentience and personhood, and possibly extend these concepts to include artificial intelligence. The Turing Test is a modified version of ‘The Imitation Game’, a simple party game where an interrogator and two players, one male and one female, are isolated from each other, with the sole method of interaction being written communication, e.g. a pen and a pad of paper or a computer terminal. The interrogator asks questions to players A and B in order to ascertain which player is the male and which is the female. One of the players attempts to trick the interrogator into making a false identification (by pretending to be the other sex), while the other player tries to aid the interrogator. In the Turing Test, the male and female participants are replaced by human and computer roles, with the computer attempting to fool the interrogator into thinking that it is a human. Turing argues that if the success rate of an interrogator playing the modified human vs. computer Imitation Game is equivalent to their success rate playing the original male vs. female version, then there are grounds to believe that the computer exhibits intelligence. It is interesting that Turing's attempt to define the mind from a strict materialist perspective (as opposed to a dualist perspective, with the belief that aspects of the human mind cannot be described in physical terms, i.e. the soul) leads him to define intelligence by behavior rather than physical constitution. One problem with Turing's conception of intelligence is raised by John Searle in his famous 'Chinese Room' response3. Searle imagines a computer program that is able to pass the Turing Test, and in this case it has the ability to speak fluent Chinese. Since the program follows a set of computer-language instructions to

2Oppy, Graham and Dowe, David. The Turing Test. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, 2008. 3Hauser, Larry. Chinese Room Argument. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, 2005.

perform this task, it would be possible (if not practical) to print out these formal rules in English on a set of cards and give them to an ordinary person who does not speak Chinese. This person is placed in a room, and told to follow the instructions on the cards upon receiving input. A person outside the room feeds input, i.e. a question in Chinese, into the room through a slot in the door. The person inside the room follows the instructions on the cards in order to produce output data, i.e. a response in Chinese, which is sent back through the slot to the other side. The Chinese Room would pass the Turing Test for intelligence, since, from the outside, the system appears to speak fluent Chinese. Searle asks, is there any part of the system that actually understands Chinese? Certainly the man inside the room doesn’t understand Chinese, and neither do the cards or the room itself! Searle’s point is that while the ability to manipulate symbols may indicate intelligence, without an understanding of what it is processing, of what it is doing, a system really doesn’t possess intelligence in the same way that humans do. Any criterion for intelligence that only takes into account the correct manipulation of symbols fails because it doesn’t encompass the way our own minds have intentionality, the realization that thoughts are about some thing or another. Despite its flaws, the Turing Test has some features that are useful in our discussion of the question of personhood. The most interesting aspect of the Turing Test is its universality. The test takes a strictly functional or behaviorist approach to the question of intelligence, since its aim is to determine whether a machine, i.e. a non-human, could ever possess intelligence. Alan Turing's theory of mind attempts to break away from anthropomorphism. The problem with anthropomorphic theories of mind is that they beg the question. If we define ‘intelligence’ only in terms of what ‘intelligent’ beings do, then the answer to our question is contained in the premise itself! Even the Turing Test falls somewhat into the trap of anthropomorphism. Although it attempts to be neutral with respect to physical constitution, it still defines ‘intelligence’ in terms of how well a machine emulates human behavior and human intelligence, rather than intelligence in general. Often human behavior is unintelligent, and it is ironic that some computers fail the Turing Test because interrogators notice a lack of typing errors. On the other hand, some intelligent behavior is not human, such as the computation of large numbers, so machines in the Turing Test must make sure not to appear to be more intelligent than a regular human. It is interesting that Turing chose the use of language as the criterion for intelligence. Certainly, the ability to communicate and discuss one's thoughts, feelings, and desires is one aspect of the human experience, but is that sufficient? Exactly what are suitable topics for conversation? If one chooses to engage in dialogue that is heavily dependent upon slang, idioms, and specialized vocabulary, I doubt most regular people would be able to carry on such a conversation, let alone a machine carrying out a set of instructions. Would we then be forced to say that those people fail the Turing test and thus lack intelligence? If not, why do machines face a higher standard for 'intelligence' than humans? Should we demote persons who lack interpersonal skills and promote charming computers? The use of language is one step towards the kind of intelligence we are discussing, but merely being able to communicate is insufficient for the question of personhood since many animals already possess this ability but are not treated as persons. The kind of conversation is critical here. Although apes can be taught to communicate using sign language, we intuitively feel that there still exists a gap between us and them. They are certainly sentient, and thus deserving of respect, i.e. we must not inflict unnecessary pain on them, but their mental faculties are certainly not on the same level as our own. Are the deficiencies of animal intelligence simply a matter of their brains being underpowered? Would a simple upgrade of processing speed, and thus more of the same kind of thinking ever satisfy our criterion for personhood? Would having the ability for more animal-level thoughts per second ever

allow them to jump to the level of thinking that is peculiar to humans? What kind of thinking is peculiar to people alone? In Being and Time, Martin Heidegger sets out to uncover the fundamental question of Being, the property of the universe that allows specific instances of Being, or beings, to exist 4. Being is to existence as light is to vision. In the same way that we see light only when it illuminates some thing, we see Being only through beings that exist. He believes that philosophers throughout history have missed the big question of Being because they have been preoccupied with describing the properties of specific beings, and thus never get deep enough to reach the question of Being in general. If we want to describe a forest, we cannot simply stare at individual trees but must be able to stand outside of it. Our attempt to describe Being faces the same difficulty: how can we, as beings necessarily stuck within the forest of Being, ever attain a perspective outside of Being-ness that would allow us to describe this fundamental property of ourselves? Heidegger believes that the realization of the question of fundamental Being, as opposed to individual instances of being, signifies a paradigmatic shift in mental development. Why is the question of Being a problem at all? For Heidegger, the reason that this problem exists is because we are capable of asking it! Humans are unique on Earth in that we are the sole creatures who possess the ability to pose questions about the fundamental nature of ontology, with the implication that we alone may somehow be capable of answering it. Instead of trying to find some exceptional state of non-Being from which to answer the question of Being, Heidegger believes that insight must be gained from understanding regular, everyday ontological questioners, i.e. ourselves. For Heidegger, every being in the world is necessarily embedded within the fundamental nature of Being, and we are thus completely 'thrown' into a universe which shapes us completely. If we are going to understand Being, we need to recognize that, first and foremost, we belong to the realm of existence, we are necessarily 'there' in the world. Heidegger uses the word Dasein (literally, 'being-there', or 'being-in-the-world') to signify the ontological questioner, i.e. ourselves, for whom the general question of Being is an issue of importance. The fundamental quality of Dasein that distinguishes it from other beings in the universe is its ability to formulate questions of ontology, rather than simply ontics. This distinction between ontology and ontics will help illuminate and overcome the struggle to find a functionalist definition of intelligence that doesn't get tripped up by the Chinese Room dilemma. One of the main problems with ontological inquiry is that we have a tendency to lapse into ontics; we treat Being as something within the category of Being, and thus its general description remains vague. It is like trying to describe the general concept of 'dog' by talking about spaniels or poodles. If you can only tell me about a specific type of dog or a certain mode of existence, you aren't really talking about the general category 'Dog', or 'Being'. Another way to think of ontology vs. ontics is to imagine a serene fall landscape. If you asked a regular person to describe the scene, they would probably use broad terminology, e.g. "The wind is blowing", "The leaves are changing color", "The air has a cool, fresh scent". On the other hand, a computer would probably use precise details to talk about the scene, e.g. "The temperature is 12 degrees", "45 percent of the foliage has fallen to the ground", "It is the 8th of November". In both cases, we receive information about the scene, but the two categories of description appeal to different levels of understanding. If we only consider Being ontically, i.e. using precise details like a computer would, we are stuck with describing specific instances of Being, i.e. beings, rather than Being itself. If we fall into the trap of treating ontological questions ontically, we will end up acting "as if they concerned one entity amongst others, and could be sufficiently explained by 'telling a story' (as in a 'history of philosophy') and tracing them 'back in

4 Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., New York, 1962, 2008.

origin to some other entities, as if being had the character of some possible entity'" 5. We must be careful not to allow our consideration of ontology, i.e. the nature of Being, to stray onto the path of ontics, i.e. the nature of specific beings. The ontologic / ontic distinction is crucial to answering the question of personhood. In a very intuitive sense we feel that the Turing Test is inadequate; there is an aspect of human intelligence that a symbolmanipulating system like the Chinese Room lacks, namely, ontological understanding. As Searle's response shows, a computer possesses ontic knowledge, i.e. it can properly relate certain symbols to other symbols and thus carry out a conversation, but it lacks ontological knowledge, i.e. what the symbols actually mean. Searle's Chinese Room could define a Chinese character in terms of other Chinese characters, but it could never step outside of those symbols and define them in terms of something else. If we ask the machine "What does A mean?", it must respond by saying that "A means B." If we continue and ask, "Well, what does B mean?", the computer might respond with another synonym, "B means C". Although the computer may be able to continue like this for some time, at some point it will run out of synonyms and have to circle back to the beginning of the inquiry, by saying that "C means A". The program's lack of meta-understanding, of its being unable to step outside of the formal logic of its machine language, shows that it cannot conceive of the Chinese characters in terms of something other than other Chinese characters. It is an ontic wizard, yet it is completely void of ontologic understanding, which is one of the key aspects (I will argue the key aspect) of personhood. Dasein is an appropriate way to characterize personhood for a number of reasons. First, it satisfies our need for an anthropologically-neutral definition, in that "when we designate this entity with the term 'Dasein', we are expressing not its "what" (as if it were a table, house or tree) but its Being" (Heidegger p 67). In order to approach the larger question of Being, one must first take into account the nature of the entity who poses the question of Being. The difficulty for Dasein lies in the fact that the deeper question of its ontology, i.e. what it means to Be or to exist, has historically been passed over in favor of questions concerning its ontics, i.e. the history of its being throughout the ages. The real question of Being remains obscure, and it "is rather conceived as something obvious or 'self-evident' in the sense of the Being-present-at-hand of other created Things" (Heidegger, p 75). The essence of Dasein is therefore not the ability to trace a linear causality further and further back in time, but rather the ability to speculate on the nature of Being or existence itself. If we modify Turing's criterion for intelligence to encompass the qualities of Dasein, we have a much more robust theory of personhood. First, it is anthropologically neutral. It allows for the possibility that machines, animals, and alien beings could be considered intelligent persons, which I believe is the most valuable aspect of the Turing test. If behavior (rather than genetics) is what distinguishes people from lower forms of life, we can escape from the circular logic of 'Humans are intelligent, therefore intelligence requires human DNA', and we can avoid the unenviable task of having to first establish arbitrary genetic limits of personhood and then having to enforce those criteria. Secondly, we can overcome the Chinese Room problem by having the ability to distinguish between mere symbol-manipulating entities and entities that possess higher levels of understanding. If our criteria for personhood is simply the ability to use language, we face two problems. First, the topic of conversation is arbitrary. Many clearly intelligent humans could not carry on a conversation about the World Series or about the latest fashion trends out of Paris. Would these folks therefore lack intelligence? I don't think so. It is necessary to define what the topic of conversation should be if we expect to have a consistent, fair method of evaluation. The second problem is that symbol-manipulating

5Monk, Ray and Raphael, Frederic. The Great Philosophers: From Socrates to Turing. Weidenfeld and
Nicholson, London, 2000, p. 298.

apparatuses with no intentionality could pass the test. If we augment the criterion for personhood from simply 'the ability to converse' to 'the ability to converse about the question of Being', we now have a definition that includes humans and excludes Searle's Chinese Room and, presumably, other animal species. One of the strengths of defining personhood in terms of Dasein is that it leaves the door open for the discovery of animal, machine, and alien Daseins, even though at present, we know of only one type of Dasein, ourselves. One may object that my definition excludes human embryos, infants, and the mentally impaired: Are they not persons as well? To this, I should clarify that Daseins aren't constantly questioning Being; even the most intelligent people are able to immerse themselves and become lost for a while in the simple pleasures of life. Daseins are beings with the potential ability to question Being. Thus undeveloped or unrealized Daseins are still Daseins, in the same way that a monarch caterpillar still belongs to the same family of organisms as the monarch butterfly, even if the caterpillar dies before it undergoes metamorphosis. Working up the Hierarchy of Exclusion A further property of Dasein is that the "...Being which is an issue for this entity in its very Being, is in each case [its own]"6. In other words, Dasein arrives at the general question of Being through first questioning the riddle of its own existence. When it finds all ontic or causal explanations to be insufficient, it turns to the ontological issue of the nature of existence itself. These 'big questions' about one's own existence and about existence itself are what separates the intelligence of persons from the thought processes of lower forms of life, i.e. animals and symbolic machine logic. However, this leads us to ask: What exactly are ontological questions, anyway? If an animal, machine or alien began to ask these questions, how would we react? Would we have to grant them personhood status? Would we be allowed to kill them? How can we classify sentient, pre-sentient, and non-sentient life forms, and how should the law apply to them? The point of Searle's Chinese Room response to the Turing Test is to illustrate how our common sense notions of personhood cannot be ignored in the discussion. After all, we are persons, and one of our key features is the ability to recognize intelligence in others. A criterion for personhood that doesn't make sense to most people is probably a failure. Although a system with only the ability to manipulate symbols seems insufficient to deserve personhood status, how would the argument change if the criterion for passing the Turing Test were extended to include the character of Dasein? If the same initial conditions were preserved, i.e. a man in a closed room with a set of instructions to follow, and somehow this system began outputting questions about the nature of Being, would we still agree with Searle that the Room lacks true intelligence? If an animal, machine, or alien began to ask 'big' questions, like 'What happens when I die?', 'Where does the Universe come from?' or 'What is outside of the Universe?', it would certainly be disturbing, and would likely cause us to call into question whether the being we are conversing with is merely mimicking human behavior or has stepped towards full human intelligence. I will not attempt to spell out the full range of what constitutes an ontological question, other than to say that we seem to feel the weight of these questions more so than regular ones. When we try to fathom concepts like the edge of the Universe, time before the Big Bang, Nothingness or Infinity, we experience a feeling of existential vertigo, an overwhelming sense that our lives are insignificant and meaningless within the vastness of the void of space. Historically, we have dealt with these questions by appeal to supernatural deities, gods and spirits who control various aspects of the world we live in. Religion and spirituality reflect Dasein's quest for ontological understanding, they are ways of plugging the dam to hold back the existential

6 Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., New York, 1962, 2008, p. 67.

pressure of Being from flooding our rational minds with its unanswered (and unanswerable) questions. As Dasein becomes more aware of its world through science and exploration, it has less of a need to appeal to supernatural causes, but as Kurt Godel's Incompleteness Theorem demonstrates, the logical impossibility of knowing everything means that one can never fully free oneself from superstitious and untestable hypotheses 7. The tendency for scientists and philosophers to relegate religion to the dustbin of history robs us of the opportunity to investigate the ontological questioning of various cultures. Questioning someone's religious beliefs is an extremely sensitive and tricky thing to do because it releases a torrent of existential uncertainty upon the one being questioned. Religion and faith are tools that deflect ontological dilemmas so that one can escape the terrifying helplessness and meaninglessness that confronts us when we question the nature of Being. Religion is an indicator of humanity's shift from basic biologic intelligence to the ontological intelligence of Dasein. The prospect of a computer posing ontological questions is unnerving because it cuts to the very essence of how we define ourselves. We have created computers with the ability to learn and to pose questions. Is it not fathomable that they eventually work their way to ontological questions? I believe most people's feelings about their trusty home computer would change if the computer began asking them 'big' questions. Searle's Chinese Room response succeeds against the regular Turing Test, but I'm not sure how well it would fare against a modified Turing Test incorporating the essence of Dasein. What about animals? We know that higher-level apes have the ability to communicate using sign language, but while they do possess the ability for self-reflection, empathy and deception, it is doubtful that they ontologize. However, we have only scratched the surface of our quest for linguistic communication between humans and animals. How would our perception of life on Earth change if we learned that other species, such as dolphins or squids, wonder about the same 'big' questions as ourselves? Do animals have religious beliefs? How can we be sure that it isn't they who think we are primitive? One may object that my definition of personhood is too inclusive, that it allows for the possibility that almost anything capable of thought be considered worthy of personhood. If zoologists discover one chimpanzee capable of ontological reasoning, wouldn’t we be forced to concede that personhood status be conferred to all chimps? Wouldn’t we then have to consider the possibility that all simians possess this potential ability? Where would personhood end? This leads us to consider that personhood may not be a 'black and white' distinction; there may be degrees of personhood which need to be elaborated. The idea of degrees of personhood is not as counter-intuitive as it appears at first glance. We often humanize animals: many people speak of their pets as having distinct personalities, and many people treat their pets as members of their families. On the other hand, we often speak of serial murders in a dehumanizing way, of them being ‘monsters’ or ‘animals’ without souls, or lacking conscience. In a very literal sense psychopaths lack a defining characteristic of human behavior: empathy. Our laws, in fact, reflect this personalization and de-personalization. While it is nothing out of the ordinary for a farmer to kill a cow or chicken for meat, it is illegal to kill a domestic cat or dog for the same purpose, barring extreme circumstances, of course. While it is illegal for the state to infringe upon the freedoms of a regular citizens, it is appropriate to imprison (and in some cultures, execute) citizens who have contravened criminal law. We assign degrees of personhood (or lack of personhood) to animals and people, and this appears to be based on the degree to which they exhibit ‘humane’ (or inhumane) behavior. The same person who grieves over the loss of the family dog with an elaborate burial ceremony may simply flush a dead goldfish down the toilet. A jaywalker may experience little to no loss of freedom, while a serial rapist may receive a life sentence or even execution. This
7 Hofstadter, Douglas. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Basic Books, USA, 1979.

reinforces the idea that behavior is the determining factor for personhood. The final section of my discussion will draw upon Orson Scott Card's 'Ender Series', specifically his 'Hierarchy of Exclusion', in order to formulate a basis for a universal criteria for assigning personhood based on behavior. The Ender Series begins near the climax of the third and decisive battle between human beings and the 'Buggers', an alien race with a hive-like mentality controlled by a Queen who communicates instantaneously across space to her drones8. The Buggers have sent a final wave of attacking ships in order to strike a finishing blow and wipe out humanity. The protagonist, Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin, is a child soldier who is unknowingly manipulated into destroying the Buggers' home planet, thus destroying the Buggers, saving humanity, and becoming a worldwide hero. After the Bugger War, Ender flees Earth to avoid being co-opted by the factions on Earth who, now that the threat of alien war is gone, are vying for power and plotting war against each other. On a distant planet, Ender discovers the last remaining Bugger Queen, with whom he learns to communicate9. Upon hearing the tragic story of the nearly extinct alien race, Ender writes a history of the Buggers, or 'Formics', in which he reveals that the war was a grave misunderstanding, where both sides mistakenly thought the other was hostile and incapable of inter-species communication. As the true history and nature of the Formics becomes understood on Earth, humankind's attitude towards the alien species changes and the war is recognized as a tragic error rather than a grand success. Instead of being worshiped as a hero, the legendary Ender is now reviled as the one responsible for destroying an entire species of intelligent life, and becomes known as 'Ender the Xenocide'. The second and third installments of the Ender series focus on the struggle to establish a system for identifying, classifying, and interacting with life forms having different degrees of sentience, which becomes known as the 'Hierarchy of Exclusion'. Card's system establishes four main categories of life forms, not including familiar members of one's own species and world. The first two categories, Utlanning and Framling, both designate strangers of one's own species, with the first group coming from one's own planet, and the second group coming from another planet. From our perspective, an Utlanning would be a human from Earth and a Framling would be a human from another colonized planet. The next two categories of life forms, Ramen and Varelse, both include beings from other species. Ramen designates those species that are capable of communication and peaceful co-existence with other intelligent species, while Varelse are incapable of communication with other forms of life10. The distinction between Ramen and Varelse is the philosophical and ethical issue that permeates the rest of the Ender Series. At this point, you may be wondering what the debate about alien intelligence has to do with life on Earth. If we concede that the prospect of artificially-created human beings is immanent, we must recognize that a potentially new kind of being is on the way. The Ramen / Varelse distinction applies to life forms of another species which thus might include, depending on how modified one's DNA is, genetically modified humanoids. Our ability to modify human genotypes takes breeding to an unprecedented level. Up until now, we have only been able to select for phenotypes, i.e. the outward characteristics of a being. Genetic alteration was bound by the physical realities of animals: trying to mate a tiger and a bumblebee was impossible because it simply wouldn't work. Now, the possibilities are limitless. We have decoded the actual building blocks of life, and have the power to stitch together DNA from various sources or even to create entirely new genetic strands. The line between what is, in genetic terms, an artificial 'human' and an artificial 'other' has yet to be
8 Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. Tor Books, USA, 1985. 9 Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. Tor Books, USA, 1986. 10 Card, Orson Scott. Xenocide. Tor Books, USA, 1991.

determined. Biologists consider two animals as belonging to the same species if they can mate and produce fertile offspring. If one were to create a genetically modified humanoid that, other than being infertile, was typically 'human', would they therefore belong to a different species and thus not receive personhood status? My argument is that a behavioral criterion for personhood is essential because a strictly genetic definition is inadequate. Any delineation between species based on pure genetics will not only be flawed by its arbitrariness, it will be unable to encompass all the potential forms of otherwise 'human' forms of life that might come about, and it precludes the possibility of non-organic beings to possess intelligence. The biologist's definition of species is based on behavior, and our definition of personhood must follow suit. The distinction between Ramen and Varelse must be clarified. Simply being able to communicate is not a sufficiently robust criteria for full 'intelligence', as Searle's Chinese Room argument shows, but the other aspect of Ramen is its ability for peaceful co-existence with other species. How can we define one's ability to peacefully co-exist? Here is where Dasein returns to the story. If the essential quality of Dasein is its ability to ontologize outside of its own ontic history, then part of being a Dasein is the recognition of and respect for other Daseins, regardless of their physical constitution. "Dasein's 'average everydayness' can be defined as 'Being-in-the-world which is falling and disclosed, thrown and projecting, and for which its ownmost potentiality-for-Being is an issue, both in its Being alongside the 'world' and in its Being-with-Others'" 11. Dasein's ontological structure as Being-alongside-other-entities-within-the-world leads to the recognition of care as its distinctive and essential feature. For Heidegger, care "embraces the unity of these ways in which Being may be characterized"12, and thus Dasein's concern for itself necessarily includes a concern for the welfare of the world within which it finds itself. Essential to Dasein is its ability to consider other beings whom it exists alongside as possible Daseins who are therefore worthy of respect and deserving of harmonious coexistence. Not surprisingly, humans have a special knack for recognizing intelligent pattern and behavior in other creatures, artifacts, and phenomena, and the difficulties faced by those who, due to impairments in the brain, illustrate how essential this skill is in our everyday lives. We are so enamored of this that we often ascribe intelligence and intentionality to clearly non-intelligent processes, such as weather and machines, when we say "The sea is angry" or "My computer is acting crazy". Our striving to find other sources of intelligence shows the care of Dasein in action. Thus Ramen are defined as non-human species who exhibit the qualities of Dasein, while Varelse are non-human species who exhibit intelligence but do not ontologize. This definition satisfies the need for anthropological neutrality and is robust enough to exclude systems that lack intentionality, like the Chinese Room. The fundamental question that remains is the problem of observation, for it places an onus of responsibility on ourselves to make the effort to detect signs of intelligence and personhood. According to Card, "The difference between Ramen and Varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging. When we declare an alien species to be Ramen, it does not mean that they have passed a threshold of moral maturity. It means that we have"13. Indeed the aim of this paper is not solely to judge the worth of other creatures, but to increase our own level of ethical maturity with respect to the beings whom we are in the process of creating. Should we not consider the consequences of our actions before we commit them? A parent is deemed neglectful if they do not provide the means for their child to live and prosper in the world, are creations of science not worthy of the same care and respect? It is vitally important that we act as Ramen,

11Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., New York, 1962, 2008, p. 225.
12 Ibid, p. 237. 13 Demosthenes' Letter to the Framlings. Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. Tor Books, USA, 1986, p. 1.

and not as Varelse, in our dealings with non-human forms of intelligence, whether the beings are humanoid, animal, machine, or alien. Let us now consider how different types of intelligent beings would fit under my ontological criterion for personhood. At the risk of appearing species-ist and/or igniting the abortion debate, it seems logical to posit that all developed and developing humans who possess a full set of DNA, i.e. adults, children, fetuses and embryos but not egg or sperm cells, have the potential to become ontologizers and thus deserve personhood status. This supposition is not based upon genetics, but rather the behavioral tendencies of the human species. Human cell cultures may possess a complete DNA set but are not in the process of development and thus are not persons. Less clear-cut examples may include cell cultures which contain stem cells, and thus do have the potential to develop into specialized types of cells, including brain cells. Although there is room for debate, I believe that if the cells can be kept from developing further without being killed in the process, then as long as they remain in their non-realized general state, their potential for becoming a person is under control and they therefore are not deserving of personhood status. This distinction has particular consequences for biologists who are studying ways to replace damaged tissue and organs by growing and harvesting human stem cell cultures. As long as the tissue remains in its original state and is unable to progress beyond being a stem cell, then it is not a person and using it for research is acceptable. Using humans, humanoids, or modified humans who have human brains would be unacceptable because those beings do have the potential to exhibit the qualities of Dasein, given the opportunity. Another area for discussion is hybridized or genetically-modified humanoids. Here the myriad of possible types of organisms necessitates a case-by-case consideration based upon behavior. It is prudent to err on the side of caution here, by taking the default position that any being containing traces of human DNA be considered to be persons, unless thorough observation proves otherwise. Although it may be determined that the hybrid animal does not, in fact, possess the potential for ontological questioning, it does not imply that they are not worthy of any rights, only that the scope of protections extended to them might be lesser than those conferred to persons. Imperative in this determination is our willingness to investigate thoroughly and to be sensitive to attempts by the subject to communicate. The developmental process of the humanoid may take as long (or longer) than that of a regular human being, thus such a venture is a serious undertaking that must be done under strict supervision with the rights of the subject in mind. If we expect a teenage mother to adhere to a certain level of care for her child over the course of decades, surely the onus of responsibility of professionally trained scientists towards their creations should be much greater! A scientist who murders a person should be treated no less leniently than a doctor who kills a patient. In the case of machine intelligence, it seems doubtful that we would ever legislate against the killing of a computer, although if we were ever to encounter an ontologizing machine, it might make us second-guess our biologic prejudices. If a machine began asking questions along a line of inquiry like "What happens when I die?", how might we react? Could we ever use machines to help us gain insight into the fundamental question of Being? If we had a computer (or a computer program) that could do such a thing, would we ever want to kill it? At what point would software become its own species? Computer software already possesses the ability to self-replicate, to learn, to deceive, and to fight for its own survival, so how different is a computer virus from a flu virus? Would computers ever create myths to explain the unexplainable? At this point, most of these questions still exist in the realm of speculative fiction, although a time may come when the answers to them are essential for human existence.

Conclusion The Question of Personhood is vital from a legal, ethical, and existential perspective because it sets the ground upon which all of these higher concepts apply. It is absolutely essential to decide to whom the law applies, not only what the law should be. We are entering a new paradigm of biotechnological development, one which will thrust the Question of Personhood to the forefront of public debate. We must not allow our ancient prejudices or our modern technological achievements to blind us from the need for a definition of personhood that is based upon neutral, rational principles rather than genetics. A behavioral criterion for personhood is essential if we are to prepare our world and ourselves for the new types of humans we are now capable of creating. We have the ability to create new species of humanoids, must we not also prepare our minds and our social system for their arrival? Dasein provides a useful framework for personhood because it incorporates the ontological way of thinking that excludes mere animal and discrete-state types of intelligence. Dasein's fundamental element of care means that it can see the world and itself as necessarily entwined and demands that Dasein be responsive and respectful to the needs of the beings alongside whom it exists. There can be no Dasein without the world, and thus care for oneself entails care for others. The need to define others in terms of Dasein and non-Dasein, or Ramen and Varelse necessarily places the onus of responsibility on the observer to take all necessary steps to reach out towards other forms of intelligence. It is imperative that we first examine our own moral maturity before we judge others. The Question of Personhood requires us to first look into ourselves in order to discover what makes us what we are, and only then can we properly reach out to other forms of life with the hopes of welcoming them into our domain.

Works Cited

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., New York, 1962, 2008. Krell, David Farrell. Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings. HarperCollins Publishers, USA, 1977, 1993. Monk, Ray and Raphael, Frederic. The Great Philosophers: From Socrates to Turing. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 2000. Oppy, Graham and Dowe, David. The Turing Test. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Http://, 2008. Hauser, Larry. Chinese Room Argument. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, 2005. Hofstadter, Douglas. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Basic Books, USA, 1979. Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. Tor Books, USA, 1985. Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. Tor Books, USA, 1986. Card, Orson Scott. Xenocide. Tor Books, USA, 1991.

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