WHO IS A PERSON AND WHY? A STUDY OF PERSONHOOD IN THEORY AND THE LAW
Chandler Garcia, Lynne Marie
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This study concerns what it means to be a person and the role the law plays in bestowing the status of person. The purpose of this dissertation is to further our understanding of how courts in the U.S., and especially the U.S. Supreme Court, have defined "person" as a legal construct within Constitutional law. In order to achieve this, court decisions concerning the personhood of key entities with a claim to personhood are analyzed and compared in order to yield a more meaningful understanding of the word "person." The entities studied include slaves, corporations, fetuses, and higher-order animals. To focus the study, several theoretical dichotomies are presented that unite the scholarship of personhood as it pertains to each of these entities. These include the dichotomy between a human being and person; property and person; and inclusion or exclusion in a community of persons. Each of these entities is then thoroughly examined in terms of the theories of personhood that are applicable to that entity, the particular historical and political circumstances that surround each entity, and finally the court decisions that determined that entity's status as a person. Through careful analysis of court documents, the study tests to see if the legal decisions reflect the dichotomies between person and human being or person and property. Further, these legal decisions are compared in order to determine if the courts have been consistent in the bestowal of personhood. Through a thorough analysis of judicial decisions concerning personhood combined with a theoretical foundation of the interdisciplinary discussions that inform and affect judicial and moral personhood, this study seeks a more concrete answer to the question, "Who is a person and why?"