Humans and Persons

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Traditional ways of characterizing humans and persons are vague and simplistic. For example, persons are often defined as having free will and responsibility – but what actual powers underlie these vague metaphysical abstractions? Traditional answers like "rationality" and "creativity" are still vague, and also simplistic. Similar traits appear as defining traits of humans, yet we’re far too complex to be distinguished from other species in such simple and tight ways. But there may be a looser hallmark of humans that just serves to best distinguish our complex package of traits from those of other species. It will be argued that while humans and persons differ, the underlying hallmark of both is their innately powerful, symbolically organized minds and societies. This seems to capture what is most distinctive about humans without the vagueness or oversimplification above. It explains how creativity, rationality, etc. arose in stages from precursors, and what is distinctive about their human forms. It also helps clarify what underlies the free will and responsibility of persons. It might also say interesting things about persons that may have evolved elsewhere, for example, that we have similar mentalities and evolutions, and that we are capable of mutual understanding. Finally, it might help weigh our evolutionary importance.
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Archival date: 2010-07-31
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