Friday, January 25, 2013

(EA) Subject-of-a-life

A description of Tom Regan's account of personhood (subject-of-a-life) from Blackwell Reference Online:


A term introduced by Tom Regan for individuals who are more than merely alive and conscious. Subjects-of-a-life are characterized by a set of features including having beliefs, desires, memory, feelings, self-consciousness, an emotional life, a sense of their own future, an ability to initiate action to pursue their goals, and an existence that is logically independent of being useful to anyone else's interests. Such an individual has inherent value independent of its utility for others. Because of this inherent value, a subject-of-a-life has rights to protect this value and not to be harmed. Other subjects have a duty to respect these rights. Regan then argues that all mature normal mammals fit the conditions for a subject-of-a-life; so they have inherent value and have rights. We have natural duties toward these animals, and should treat them equally and not interfere with their normal life course. Being a subject-of-a-life is his criterion for inclusion of an individual in the moral community. “Those who satisfy the subject-of-a-life criterion themselves have a distinctive kind of value –inherent value – and are not to be viewed or treated as mere receptacles.” Regan, The Case for Animal Rights


My own view, developed over the years in concert with M. Silliman (see the appendix to his Sentience and Sensibility) applies the SOAL criterion (as correctly identifying the nature of personhood) in a multicriterial (personhood is but one criterion of moral considerability) and incrementalist (many of the requisite criteria are satisfied in degrees) fashion.

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