Mark Rowlands, Are animals persons?


Rowlands argues that many nonhuman animals are “persons,” contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy which rests on a mistaken conception of the kind of self-awareness relevant to personhood. He argues that self-awareness bifurcates into two importantly different forms — reflective self-awareness and pre-reflective self-awareness — and that many animals can have the latter, which is sufficient for personhood. I agree that there is good reason to think that many animals can have pre-reflective self-awareness, but I think Rowlands is mistaken about its nature. His account runs the risk of leading to an infinite regress objection, and his notion of pre-reflective self-awareness actually sounds more like reflective self-awareness. If Rowlands treats pre-reflective self-awareness as itself conscious, then it is less likely that animals can have even this form of self-awareness.

Author Biography

Rocco J. Gennaro, Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Indiana, specializes in philosophy of mind/cognitive science and consciousness, with interests in metaphysics, ethics, moral psychology, and early modern history of philosophy. His most recent book is Consciousness (Routledge Press, 2017). http://faculty.usi.edu/rjgennaro