Essay on What is a Person?

Essay on What is a Person?

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What is a Person?


What am I? On the surface, this question seems so ridiculously simple that one may feel that it is unnecessary to even supply a verbal answer. I am, obviously, a human being, a person. However, when using this label "person" to describe myself, I am hurling myself into one of philosophy's most heavily debated topics since the existence of mankind.
The primary task when dealing philosophically with person, or "self", is to clarify what exactly the term embodies and represents. As Taylor said, "Selves are, indeed, about the strangest inhabitants of nature that once can imagine—except that, as sometimes described in philosophy, they are not even imaginable in the first place." Most people harbor no doubt that their self exists, but very few stop to question what exactly that means. To address this vagueness, it seems necessary to address the question of the actual nature of the self. Historically, there have been two opposing schools of thought, the first claiming that the self is an entirely mental entity, while the second asserts that the self is purely physical. These views, respectively called mentalism and materialism, have fueled the so-called mind/body problem for hundreds of years. The lone similarity between these oppositions lies in the fact that those who embrace either view completely deny the possibility that the other has any function in the self. By this, I mean that materialists feel that the self is entirely physical and encompassed bodily, and that mental activity does not exist independent from the body, and vice versa for the mentalists. With these two radically contradictory views, the question of the self has been widely debated, and in this paper I will not choose one ...


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...t. For the materialist, I would suggest reading Descartes, and for the mentalist, Taylor should give them something to think about. No matter how dedicated a person is to a particular idea, when met with an opposing view that is as sensible as his or her own, an intelligent person must admit the possibility of being incorrect, at least to a certain degree. To that person who agrees that the person is the perfect blend of mind and body, I ask that they share their own views and reasons with me, for it is always intriguing to get another perspective on a similar viewpoint on a subject such as this. I realize now that I forgot to acknowledge a fourth possible response, which is that from a person who rejects all the above possibilities. And what shall I say to those people? I honestly don't know. However, I am eagerly waiting to hear what THEY have to say to ME.

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