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Title: Explaining the Distinctiveness of Persons
Authors: Register, Christopher
Advisors: JohnstonHelton, MarkGrace
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Keywords: artificial intelligence
moral status
personal identity
Subjects: Philosophy
Cognitive psychology
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: I propose a new explanation of the moral significance of persons and other morally considerable beings. The explanation appeals to a being's capacity for reflexive, valenced mental states that ground the content and weight of that being's interests. In more sophisticated forms, such mental states acquire first-personal representational content, rising to the level of what I call self-concern. Self-concern, I argue, is essential for explaining the distinctiveness of persons. In this dissertation, I motivate the self-concern explanation by showing how it solves a recent puzzle in the metaphysics of persons. I then defend closely connected theories of personal identity from a challenge posed by the cognitive psychology of the self-concept. After developing and defending this theory of why we matter, I show how it enables a sentientist explanation of the moral significance of permanently unconscious humans. Finally, I draw from the theory to develop and begin solving a new problem in the ethics of artificial intelligence.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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