Argument on the criteria of personhood & its moral implications: Mary Anne Warren - Essay Example

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Mary Anne Warren was an American philosopher who was famous for her cognitive criterion of personhood, presented to recognize the difference between a person and a human being.According to her, the list was not exclusive but at least some of the characteristics must be possessed by the person to be called as a human being. …
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Argument on the criteria of personhood & its moral implications: Mary Anne Warren
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Argument on the criteria of personhood & its moral implications: Mary Anne Warren was an American philosopher who was famous for her cognitive criterion of personhood, presented to recognize the difference between a person and a human being, as stated below: “ (a) Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain; (b) Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems); (c) Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control); (d) The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many possible topics; and (e) The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both.” (Warren) According to her, the list was not exclusive but at least some of the characteristics must be possessed by the person to be called as a human being. She was in favor of abortion and claimed that as a fetus does not posses any of the above characteristic, it can not be called as a human being. The question is that many grown up individuals lack the above characteristics due to different mental deficiencies so should it be permissible to kill them as they are not human beings as per the above criteria? Dr. Mollenkott is an American feminist who is notably recognized due to her work in feminist, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender theologies. Mollenkott presents her point of view which is very similar to the Warren’s Cognitive criteria. She stated that: “But in all truthfulness, the most that biology can claim is that the fetus is genetically human.... The issue of personhood is one that must be addressed through religious reasoning. Hence, the Lutheran Church in America makes a qualitative distinction between the claims of the fetus and the rights of a responsible person made in God’s image who is in living relationships with God and other human beings. Except in the most materialistic of philosophies, human personhood has a great deal to do with feelings, awareness, and interactive experience” (Mollenkott) However Tooley, like Warren, elaborates more extensive criteria of human personhood. Tooley claims that an organism possesses a serious right to life only if it possesses the concept of a self as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states, and believes that it is itself such a continuing entity. He further explains that being a person does not imply to have a right of continued existence unless that person possesses the concept of a subject of experiences, temporal order, and the identity of things. He arguments that killing of non-humans i.e., animals is permissible for consumption and leather usage however torturing them for a time is not only an unethical act but also punishable by law so a fetus or a deformed infant is similar to these non-humans as they have no awareness of their self. Both Mollenkott’s and Tooley’s gave the philosophical arguments that only Homo sapiens that possess certain connection with their environment have a full right to life. This argument possesses some logical weakness. Jane English has reasoned out that non?persons do not have responsibilities or rights as persons despite of their place in the law of ethics so comparing them with persons is unrealistic and unorthodox. “If our moral rules allowed people to treat some person?like non?persons in ways we do not want people to be treated, this would undermine the system of sympathies and attitudes that makes the ethical system work.” (English) John Robertson also refused to accept Tooley’s view of ‘killing is better than torture’ theory for fetuses and deformed infants. Robertson arguments that human species is greater than any other species in the world which implies that they have different terms and rights to survive. He also explains that a sleeping mind, a deranged person or a suicidal person may also do not possess the desire of continued existence but it does not imply that they can not have such desire in future. The same applies to a fetus or an infant that they possess the desire of continued existence after they fully grow up. However Robertson agreed on one point that treating the deformed infants may cause more damage than repair. Such infants have to endure not only repetitive physical pain but also they will get no place to be fit in a society. One considerable point is that such infants are not only living a painful life without getting the meaning of life but they also become a burden on their parents. Apart from low self-esteem and heavy medical expenses, such a scenario may deprive not only the child but also of his parents from getting involved in social life. This deprivation may cause stress due to loneliness and the absence of a normal human life processes. Apart from parents, the other family members also get influence because of such a tragic happening in their family. Shame, fear and anger become a permanent part of their lives and trigger their insecurity of social acceptance. . He stated that: “The initial reactions of guilt, grief, anger and loss, however, cannot be the true measure of family suffering caused by care of a defective infant, because these costs are present whether or not the parents choose treatment.” (Robertson) Robertson said that withholding treatment from deformed children is only allowable in extreme conditions where there will be no hope of recovery to a normal life. However Tooley may rejects his claim of preserving human life over preserving the cost that can be utilized in more beneficial places. Tooley believes that if killing a fetus is not a crime and no ethical questions arise on it then the principle of consistency demands the implementation of rule to impaired people in other life stages. Bibliography English, Jane. “Abortion and the Concept of a Person”, Biomedical Ethics, ed. Thomas A. Mappes and Jane S. Zembatty, New York, McGraw?Hill, 1981:430 Mollenkott, Virginia Ramey. "Reproductive Choice: Basic to Justice for Women." Christian Scholar Review March 1988: 286-93. Robertson, John. "Involuntary Euthanasia of Defective Newborns." Pence, George. Classical works in medical Ethics. n.d. 218-228. Warren, Marry Anne. "Biomedical Ethics." Warren, Marry Anne. Biomedical Ethics - 4th Edition. n.d. 434-440. Read More
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