Persons: A History

ISBN : 9780190634391

Antonia LoLordo
408 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Oct 2019
Oxford Philosophical Concepts
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What is a person?
Why do we count certain beings as persons and others not?
How is the concept of a person distinct from the concept of a human being, or from the concept of the self?
When and why did the concept of a person come into existence?
What is the relationship between moral personhood and metaphysical personhood?
How has their relationship changed over the last two millennia?

This volume presents a genealogy of the concept of a person.
It demonstrates how personhood-like the other central concepts of philosophy, law, and everyday life-has gained its significance not through definition but through the accretion of layers of meaning over centuries. We can only fully understand the concept by knowing its history. Essays show further how the concept of a person has five main strands:
persons are particulars, roles, entities with special moral significance, rational beings, and selves. Thus, to count someone or something as a person is simultaneously to describe it-as a particular, a role, a rational being, and a self-and to prescribe certain norms concerning how it may act and how others may act towards it. A group of distinguished thinkers and philosophers here untangle these and other insights about personhood, asking us to reconsider our most fundamental assumptions of the self.


Part I
Chapter 1. Funerals, Faces, and Hellenistic Philosophers: On the Origins of the Concept of Persons in Rome (Rene Brouwer)
Reflection - The Minotaur (Greg Hays)
Chapter 2. Persons in Patristic and Medieval Christian Theology (Scott Williams)
Part II
Chapter 3. Persons in Islamicate Philosophy from Sina to Sabzavari (Anthony F. Shaker)
Chapter 4. Medieval Mystics on Persons: What John Locke Didn't Tell You (Christina Van Dyke)
Chapter 5. Persons in 17th and 18th Century British Philosophy (Antonia LoLordo)
Reflection - Persons as Food in Voltaire's Candide (Jennifer Tsien)
Chapter 6. The Concept of a Person in 18th Century German Philosophy: Leibniz - Wolff - Kant (Udo Thiel)
Chapter 7. The Concept of Persons in Kant and Fichte (Owen Ware)
Part III
Chapter 8. Persons in 20th and 21st Century Anglophone Philosophy (Aaron Preston)
Chapter 9. Persons and Selves in Buddhist Philosophy (Mark Siderits)
Reflection - Ghosts in their Shells (Sylvia Shin Huey Chong)
Chapter 10. Persons and Moral Status (Agnieszka Jaworska & Julie Tennenbaum)

About the author: 

Antonia LoLordo is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. She specializes in early modern philosophy. She is the author of Locke's Moral Man (Oxford, 2012) and Pierre Gassendi and the Birth of Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge, 2007).

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