Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CFP: "Limits of Personhood," Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyvaskyla, June 6-8, 2008.

Although the line between persons and non-persons may seem relatively clear in everyday life, advances in the experimental and theoretical sciences have shed a different light on the issue. There is more and more evidence to suggest that non-human animals, predecessors of the species Homo sapiens, and even some artificial creatures, possess or have possessed many of the features often considered unique to human persons. With regard to the knowledge supplied by neurosciences, biology, developmental psychology etc., it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish persons from non-persons. And even clear cases, paradigmatic persons, have their personal capacities dependently on sub-personal mechanisms, which seem to be governed by the same laws that govern the rest of nature – so perhaps persons are not that unique after all? The criteria applied by modern philosophy, which focus on distinctive forms of rationality and self-consciousness shared by persons, are no longer as evident as they used to be. New scientific findings also compel us to reconsider the moral status of non-human animals. It is the task of philosophers to try to bring conceptual clarity to the field by assessing the principal consequences of the growing knowledge concerning the features that are taken to explain the differences between living persons and non-persons. The aim of the conference is to explore and reconsider the borderline between persons and non-persons. The topics of the conference involvethe following features which are central as regards the borderline: intentionality, self-consciousness, autonomy, emotions, rationality, normative and moral relations, and recognition from others. The general starting point of the conference is the observation that these features seem to allow degrees and therefore provide no easy demarcation between persons and non-persons. Yet most of the contemporary theories of personhood make a simple dichotomy between persons and non-persons by using these features as criteria. We welcome papers that analyse the ways in which the features inquestion allow degrees, and examine where and how the line between personal and sub-personal, and personal and non-personal, should bedrawn. We also encourage papers discussing the history of views concerning the limits of personhood and the graduality of the central features – if possible, there will be special section(s) devoted to historical treatments of the features pertinent to the topic of the conference. Naturally, we also encourage papers (historical and other), which suggest an approach which could avoid the problems related to determining the limits of personhood. The questions to be addressed in the conference include:
  • Are there actual non–human persons?
  • If the following three claims contradict, which one should we drop or revise: 1) the moral status of persons is based on a certain set of characteristics C, 2) all humans do not in fact have characteristics C, 3) all humans have the moral status of persons.
  • What is the relation of sub-personal mechanisms and personhood? How dothe sub-personal layers enable or constitute personal-level phenomena?
  • In what ways do the features of personhood allow degrees and in what sense do humans share them with non-humans? To what extent and in what precise form does this overlapping vary from feature to feature?
  • In what ways are the features inter-connected? How does a transition within one feature indicate transitions in other features, perhaps inall of them?
  • In what ways is the graduality bodily origin? How do the modern theories of personhood (mis)recognise their graduality?
  • What consequences regarding moral and legal statuses should be drawn from the fact that the capacities central to personhood come in degrees?
  • In what sense do changes in the interplay of actual life forms, articulated scientific knowledge and ontological and epistemic commitments influence the limits of personhood?

Invited Speakers:

  • José Luis Bermúdez,
  • Michael Quante,
  • Ralf Stoecker,
  • Tim Thornton,+ TBA.

Deadline for abstracts: February 8

Length of abstracts: ca. 500 words

Send abstracts to jpkaukua@cc.jyu.fi

Notifications of acceptance: February 15

The conference is organized by the “Limits of Personhood" research project run by the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, and financed by the Academy of Finland. More information about the project can be found at: http://www.jyu.fi/yhtfil/fil/limits/index.htm.

The members of the organizing committee are Jussi Kotkavirta, Mikko Yrjönsuuri, Arto Laitinen, Petteri Niemi, Jari Kaukua, Vili Lähteenmäki, Heikki Ikäheimo, Mimosa Pursiainen, Juhana Toivanen and Pessi Lyyra.

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