Summer 2022: PERSON
Third issue of The New Basics series.

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Publication Date: 12 SEPTEMBER 2022

While philosophers have typically attempted to capture the universal qualities a person must possess – a rational nature, consciousness that persists over time, free will etc. – in order to answer questions related to rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, legal liability etc., this issue aims to considers what it means to be a person in the broadest possible sense, in a way that is in fact indistinguishable from what it means to be a human. As a result, the goal of most of the contributions is not to dig deep and find some ontological bedrock of personhood that is absolutely true for all persons; rather, it is to shed light on what it means to be a person at a time when expressions of personhood seem both more liberated and manifold than ever, while also being precariously poised in the face of violent political repression and technological erasure.  

  • Elvira Basevich considers what it means to be an agent, especially under non-ideal conditions;

  • Joel Michael Reynolds asks why we still judge the worth of a person, and even entire groups, based on their bodies;

  • Nima Bassiri explores the consequences of the fact that the brain has become the truth of the self;

  • Minna Salami asks what theories of desire would look like if women were makers, rather than bearers, of meaning;

  • John Danaher offers an account of the combination of hype and fear surrounding the idea of human enhancement;

  • Carrie Jenkins critiques the way that (a certain kind of) romantic love comes to define what a good life looks like.

  • Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed considers whether madness is a pure deficit or whether it can have value;

  • Francey Russell asks whether accounts of self-knowledge can  illuminate both our self-opacity and our inescapable, essential self-consciousness;

  • Kris Sealey shows how the racialization central to modernity orients otherness in terms of what is human and what is humanity’s “other”;

  • Finn Mackay reviews the history of queer activism and queer theory, while situating this history in the context of our current fraught political situation;

  • Kristina Lepold traces a line of thinking from Hegel to Axel Honneth that considers recognition to be necessary for the experience of true freedom;  and,

  • Kieran Setiya tries to reconcile the idea that philosophers aspire to knowledge with the idea that their temperaments determine what they think.

  • Finally, Samira Abbassy’s wonderful paintings draw on her personal experiences of migration and dislocation, using the canvas as a mirror of inclusion, a place to contextualize herself and establish her identity.

Other highlights include: Brad Evans and Chantal Meza wonder why humans seem to continually desire our own extinction at the hands of technology; Alexander Weich offers a rich overview of the place of longing and non-being in our lives; Samuel Moyn worries that humanising war risks obscuring the possibility of peace; and Robert Leib gives us a glimpse of the extraordinary conversational potential of AI technologies.  

 

In the reviews section, Alexandre Leskanich doesn’t think that Martin Rees sheds much light on the future, while Helena de Bres finds herself envious of the urgency that philosophical questions have in Andy West’s prison classrooms. Adam Ferner and Moya Mapps close the issue with the second instalment of their exciting experimental series on co-authorship.  

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