What are the Ten Criteria for Human Personhood?

They are the seven criteria for biological life plus three more criteria specific to human people.

1. Organized Structure

2. Metabolism

3. Growth

4. Response to Stimuli

5. Homeostasis

6. Reproductive Capability

7. Evidence of Adaptation Through Evolution

8. Human Genetic Code

9. The Ability to Think Thoughts

10. The Ability to Feel Emotions

 

To be fair and just, the criteria for the start of a person's life must also make sense in the context of death. The Ten Criteria for Human Personhood achieves this distinction. When your brain ceases to function—that is, when your brain ceases to have the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions—your life as a person ends. Likewise, when your brain gained this function—that is, the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions—your life as a person began.

 

The Ten Criteria for Human Personhood were carefully balanced to include all indisputable peopleincluding babies, disabled people, and unconscious people—while excluding individual human cells, which were problematically counted as people by Noonan’s genetic criterion.

After hearing the Ten Criteria for Human Personhood for the first time, some people ask, "How do the Ten Criteria measure up to an unconscious person?" The simple answer is that the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions is not the same as consciousness. For example, you can think thoughts and feel emotions while dreaming, but while dreaming you aren't conscious. Furthermore, there is a difference between having an ability and actively using that ability. For instance, someone who has the ability to sing like an angel still has that ability even when they're simply relaxing on a couch and watching TV instead of singing. There is also a difference between having an ability and having a memory of using that ability. Case in point, we do not have memories of every single thought and emotion from when we were two years old, but the fact that we don't remember does not negate the fact that we did have the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions when we were toddlers. This distinction affirms that infants are indeed people (and answers the question, "How do the Ten Criteria measure up to infants?"). Likewise, an unconscious person may not remember many thoughts or emotions from the time they were unconscious, just like a person may not remember all of the dreams they had last night, but not remembering is not proof that thoughts were not thought and emotions were not felt. This distinction also affirms that people who have Alzheimer's are, in fact, still people, too. In summary, the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions is a characteristic of all indisputable people because a) it's not contingent on consciousness, b) it's not contingent on active use, and c) it's not contingent on memory of use. What it is contingent on, however, is having a brain. For as long as a person is not brain dead or severely brain-damaged, they'll have the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions. Ultimately, the Ten Criteria for Human Personhood is a simple but useful philosophical standard to differentiate persons from non-persons. If a living thing does not have the ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, it is not a person.

Do you know what it is called when someone believes that an entity without the ability to think thoughts or feel emotions is a person? Imagination.