Sunday, 15 June 2008

Limits of Personhood

Last weekend I went, as one of the invited plenary speakers, to the Limits of the Personhood conference at Jyväskylä, Finland (home of the Moomins, of course). In truth outside the very applied discussion of person-centred care in psychiatry, ‘person’ isn’t a term I much use in philosophy. In the wonderfully useful phrase of Rorty’s, it isn’t in my index. And thus I went armed with a paper which picked up the idea of limits, but not of the individual person but rather of 'mindedness' in general. In other words, it was an instance of my long standing interest in Jonathan Lear but modulated through McDowell’s rejection of the endogenous given. (In the end, however, and after a vote, I gave a different paper I happened to have which better fitted the discussion.)

Michael Quante, another invited speaker, gave an interesting history-of-ideas-based paper which suggested that the very notion of the person derived from its role to distinguish first second and third person moods of verbs, coupled with the Christian Trinity, as part of an always-already philosophical notion. It was never, in other words, a conceptually innocent notion. This seems to me to justify never discussing it in what aims to be therapeutic philosophy.