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

  • Author / Creator
    Lenart, Bartlomiej A
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2014-06
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3GT5FQ05
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Philosophy
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Wilson, Robert A (Philosophy)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Nye, Howard (Philosophy)
    • Austin, Wendy (Nursing)
    • Cooper, Wesley (Philosophy)
    • Kittay, Eva F (Philosophy)