Review Of "Moral Personhood: An Essay In The Philosophy Of Moral Psychology" By G. E. Scott

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Recent developments in cognitive science have stimulated a considerable body of philosophical writing on the conception of the human mind and of the human person implicit in it. Moral Personhood belongs to this body of philosophical writing, and it builds largely on the work of Daniel C. Dennett (e.g., Brainstorms, 1978; Intentional Stances, CH, Mar'88). Dennett introduced the notion of an "intentional system," a conception proposed in order to reconcile intentionality and materialism. Scott develops Dennett's notion of a "person" as a certain kind of intentional system, a "malleable higher order intentional system." Then, he defines a "moral person" as basically a person who recognizes what are the necessary conditions for bringing into being and for maintaining the higher-order intentional capacities, and who chooses, wherever possible, to act to put or keep those conditions in place. Several chapters are devoted to drawing out the implications of this account of moral personhood for reflections on death, on the quality of life, and (with most detail) on rights. The book contains the fullest account to date of the kind of moral thinking that can be drawn from the view of human nature implicit in research in cognitive science. Thus, it performs a valuable service, and it is clearly written and readily accessible. Critics of the view of persons as intentional systems, however, especially those who think of persons as social beings, will not be pushed to re-think their criticisms by the moral theory of this book, since its force and interest derive almost entirely from its link with cognitive science. Advanced undergraduates and up.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

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