Is the Concept of the Person Necessary for Human Rights?
Jens David Ohlin
Cornell University - School of Law
January 30, 2005
Columbia Law Review, Vol. 105, p. 209, 2005
The concept of the person is widely assumed to be indispensable for making a rights claim. But a survey of the concept's appearance in legal discourse reveals that the concept is stretched to the breaking point. Personhood stands at the center of debates as diverse as the legal status of embryos and animals to the rights and responsibilities of corporations and nations. This Note argues that personhood is a cluster concept with distinct components: the biological concept of the human being, the notion of a rational agent, and unity of consciousness. Use of these component concepts (in lieu of the concept of the person) in legal reasoning would promote greater systematicity and coherence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41
Keywords: personhood, persons, personal identity, concept of the person, human rights, cluster concept, rational agent, human beingAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 23, 2008
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