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Theses and Dissertations

Shadow People: Relational Personhood, Extended Diachronic Personal Identity, and Our Moral Obligations Toward Fragile Persons Open Access


Other title
Extended Diachronic Personal Identity
Extended Identity
Relational Personhood
Care Relations
Fragile People
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Lenart, Bartlomiej A
Supervisor and department
Wilson, Robert A (Philosophy)
Examining committee member and department
Nye, Howard (Philosophy)
Kittay, Eva F (Philosophy)
Austin, Wendy (Nursing)
Cooper, Wesley (Philosophy)
Department of Philosophy

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This Dissertation argues for a care-centrically grounded account of relational personhood and widely realized diachronic personal identity. The moral distinction between persons and non-persons is arguably one of the most salient ethical lines we can draw since many of our most fundamental rights are delineated via the bounds of personhood. The problem with drawing such morally salient lines is that the orthodox, rationalistic definition of personhood, which is widespread within philosophical, medical, and colloquial spheres, excludes, and thereby de-personifies, a large number and a great variety of human beings such as neonates, young children, the elderly who suffer from dementia, individuals with severe cognitive disabilities, and patients in vegetative states. The reconceptualization of personhood necessary for a more inclusive definition ought to originate with an appropriate moral grounding. To this end, this Dissertation grounds the notion of personhood in the care ethical sphere, thereby emphasizing the role of care relations in the maintenance of the moral consideration of vulnerable individuals. This Dissertation argues that grounding the concept of a person in care relations entails a relational account of personhood, which, along with the insights of the Extended Mind and Social Manifestation Theses, leads to an extended and externalized understanding of diachronic identity, which allows fragile people to be held in their personal identities even if they themselves lack the capacities usually associated with moral personhood. As we trace a person’s identity through time, we track the various relational properties, which constitute personal narratives and thus act as a glue that binds such dynamic and often unique properties into stable, trackable narratives. Since care relations are morally relevant on a care-centric account of personhood, what is lost in cases where such care relating ceases is not merely of sentimental value, but of great moral importance as well. Morally meaningful care relations are not replaceable, and, by extension, neither are the narratives that are constituted by such unique and irreplaceable instances of relating. This Dissertation argues that the constitutive care relational nature of personal narratives makes such narratives irreplaceable and is precisely what makes persons so morally precious.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: Lenart_Bartlomiej_Spring 2014
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