Personhood and Deities

Alternative title: What I’m blogging about for the Otherfaith this week that has me both confused and fascinated in turn.

I’ve really become interested lately in this notion of personhood. What is it that makes a person? Who decides, and by what standards? And what implications does that have on those of us with religions or philosophies that respect personhood?

As an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy, I’ve long been exposed to the notion of there being people who aren’t the same species as I am. Robots, androids and AI programs; elves, dwarves, and qunari; turians, Vulcans, and Wookiees; gods, land spirits, tutelary ancestral spirits, and fairies. I know that Brighid is a person, like me, but someone who experiences a different kind of personhood than my own. I know that not all humans have access to the same rights and recognitions of personhood due to systematic oppression of race, gender, class, ability, and other axes of vulnerability. I also know that there are a great number of animals – especially whales, the great apes, corvids, and elephants – who many argue are people, and thus deserving the rights and protections that human people already (theoretically, ideally) possess. Fetuses and corporations are at times allotted this category of personhood as well – in America, at least.

Right now I have more questions than I have answers. I’m looking at the Wikipedia articles on personhood and transhumanism, though I have the feeling I can barely scratch the surface for the essay I want to write for the Otherfaith. I could easily write an entire series, or even create a brand new blog, just to tackle the ramifications of personhood in Pagan religion(s).

There are important ramifications of approaching the gods, local land spirits or fairies, and animals, plants, and geological features as people we can be in relationships with. And for the Otherfaith, with its pro-technology stance and its discouraging of seeing humans, nature, and technology as somehow being separate from each other, that personhood would extend to all things – cars, cities, urban parks, computers, trash heaps. We are in relationship with all things whether we acknowledge this or not.

So is that my “answer” to personhood? That a person is anyone or anything we can have a relationship with? It does let me avoid defining personhood in terms of sapience or sentience, which.. may or may not be a good thing.

It also occurs to me that this is one of the Serious Questions of Philosophy that humans have been grappling with for ages and I’ve only started to untangle my own assumptions about it.


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