Life in a Cage

The Philosophers' Magazine 76:72-77 (2017)
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Personhood is not a redundant category, but a social cluster kind. On this view, chimpanzees have their own kind of personhood profile. Seeing that chimpanzees have a personhood profile allows us to argue that chimpanzees like Tommy are individuals who deserve rights under the law. If chimpanzee personhood is a matter of public policy that needs to be decided by society, then learning more about the person profiles of chimpanzees will be essential in making this case. As the public learns what scientists have come to see, and with public conversations about what counts as a person, our society can make another ethical transformation that will be recognized by the courts. But without the metaphysical personhood concept to rely on, we will have a difficult time showing that chimpanzees should count as persons under the law.
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