Andrew Brown (2006) Figure. Oil pastel and charcoal on paper.
How are our perceptions, what we can know about the world, and our self-knowledge limited by chronological age?
What is the relationship between understanding and time? Do we live in the subjunctive rather than the present?
Are consciousness and selfhood vivid illusions? Is the soul an entirely redundant concept?
IDENTITY AND MEMORY
Can a patient with Korsavov syndrome, or other form of severe memory loss, maintain a sense of identity? Is a functional memory for the construal of experience a necessary prerequisite for personhood?
Not all experiential events are of equal weight. What would be the consequences of total recall? We know that memory is necessarily selective. How do we distinguish between what is important and what is trivial?
PERSONHOOD AND MORAL AGENCY
Is language a pre-requisite for personhood? Is a dog a person? What about a human new-born? …a mentally-retarded teenager? …an older person with advanced dementia? …a dolphin? …an African grey parrot? …a crocodile? …a slug? …an entire ant colony acting as a coordinated “super-organism”? …a sentient alien from a distant planet? …a computer that can regularly beat a human chess grand master? …an embodied robot that easily passes the Turing test?
Is personhood an “all or nothing” threshold or can it be partial?
What is moral agency? If personhood loosely equates with moral agency should we think differently about animal rights?
In the future will we be faced with ethical dilemmas with regard to machines? Will it make a difference whether or not such machines are embodied?
Our immediate perceptions, somatic awareness and surface emotions are self-evident and are ours alone. We know that we dwell in a body that is subject to the march of time. We grow, from infancy to maturity; decline, from the peak of maturity to decrepitude; and finally expire, fully aware all the while of own mortality.
We seem to be only partially predetermined by our genes. The genetic hand we have been dealt contains information about the traits common to all human beings and some physical and mental attributes specific to us as individuals. Although it seems that we arrive with certain personality traits already intact, our basic character dispositions, and endowment of raw talent, emerge from the contingent unrolling of our particular genetic potential. These potentialities are modified by social and other environmental interactions that begin in utero.
Andrew Brown (2004) Figure. Oil pastel and charcoal on paper.
Andrew Brown (2003) Figure. Charcoal on paper.