TED Conversations

Kevin Parcell


This conversation is closed.

Is there any essential part of the "human self" that confers on a person human rights? Mind? DNA? Memory? Soul? What I do?

If a person is their parts, and every part is interchangeable, is there still any part that is indispensable to being me, or to my being a person with human rights?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jan 26 2012: I would assert that such a thing exists obviously-- as we (generally) do not have any difficulty clearly defining who it is to whom human rights apply.

    I would also assert that the biological distinctions are a red herring-- and only matter to the extent that they give rise to language. In other words, I am asserting that what makes us special is our ability to use language. In other words, we implicitly agree that other entities with which we can reliably use language to the degree that we have the experience of another consciousness being present is the same threshold we use to determine what "human" is for the purposes of determining where human rights should apply.

    Obviously, this was not always the case, as arbitrary distinctions between races of men have been made for the purposes of subjugating one under another-- but even the ability to do that is a function of language.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.