Dmytro Taranovsky
June 16, 2007

The Nature of being a Person

This essay answers basic questions about the meaning of being a person. For brevity, reasons for the answers are not given, but I expect that the essence of this document is an a priori truth, and that the nature of being a person cannot be any other.

The universe includes God, persons, and the physical world.

Each of the following is (except, possibly, in God) equivalent to being a person:

  1. Being a soul
  2. Having feelings
  3. Having free will
  4. Having a universal capacity to think and understand

Once a soul is created, it exists forever and will neither divide nor merge with another soul. The power of free will is absolute in that every person has free will in every choice and every action, regardless of the coercion present. The existence of free will implies a full freedom of thought, and an ability to retain memories and personal identity. In addition, every person has at least a minimal ability to perceive whether the world and the people in it are real. The identity of a person (that is whether I am the same person I was an hour ago) is by metaphysical identity of the soul, equivalently by identity in terms of memories and thoughts.

A soul is created when a physical substrate--usually, the brain--develops a sufficient intelligence and capacity. In humans, this happens around three years after birth. When the substrate is ready, the soul is always created, as if by a physical law. The soul interacts through the physical world primarily through the substrate. Human choices appear like random physical events in the substrate. The interaction with the substrate is not physically localized--at least not completely localized. The substrate does not have a sharp boundary, but rather it is a matter of degree to which the interaction occurs. A soul has a theoretical capacity to interact with matter outside the substrate (extrasensory perception and psychokinesis), but so far there were no confirmed cases of this. Once the substrate is incapacitated, the soul becomes inactive until the capacity is restored. No soul will remain inactive forever. The soul appears bound to the substrate even through periods of temporary incapacity (sleep, coma, etc.) If the substrate is destroyed, the easiest way to reactivate the soul may be to recreate the substrate as it was. The most difficult part of this may be retrieving needed information about the substrate. Also, memories are never deleted, but they can become very difficult to retrieve.

A feeling is an irreducible concept. It is an aspect or property of the soul. However, the essence and identity of every feeling is the thought and understanding about the feeling. For example, the feeling of hunger exists because of the understanding of hunger, and it is this understanding that makes the feeling communicable. Animals (excluding humans) lack true feelings (equivalently, soul) because they lack the requisite capacity to understand.
God cannot simply give (the feeling of) pleasure to humans since without required understanding and suffering, pleasure cannot exist.