Person (8-10)

8.) Person is the rational nature qua unique or incommunicabilis. Human personhood is not always recognized:

a.) Enemies. The enemy is usually a homogeneous and faceless threat – the Terrorists, Islam, the Jews, whatever. They are motivated by the irrational hatreds (*hand wringing* “why do they hate us?”) and will stop at nothing to crush our way of life.

b.) Foreigners. All foreigners look and sound the same to us.

c.) Employees. While we can recognize their individual traits, nevertheless qua employee or one-under-contract we see them as replaceable as soon as they don’t deliver.

Recognition of personhood usually only occurs in ties of friendship, kinship and cult. A nation, to adopt Anderson’s description, seems to be the imagining of these ties in a larger group of otherwise anonymous persons.

9.) In one sense the phrase “human non-person” is a cruel irony or self-contradiction, in another it is the factual recognition that person can only be revealed within a limited social context. It is nevertheless a real moral project to extend the scope of those we view as persons. This is the basic project of Christianity and of other internationalisms, and the fundamental critique given by Nationalisms.

10.) The ideal of recognizing everyone as persons puts pretty severe limits on justifiable sorts of killing. The psychological impediments to recognizing personhood while treating someone as an enemy seem insurmountable.


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