Ben Conroy

Previous Education

BA, Philosophy,  Politics, and Economics, University of Oxford

MA, Philosophy, University College Dublin


Ethics, Practical Ethics, Philosophy of Moral Status, Neo-Aristotelian Naturalism, Political Philosophy, Aristotle, Philosophy of Religion

Recent Courses

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Personhood and Moral Status

Contemporary accounts of ethics often include a notion of “moral status” or “moral considerability.” Beings with moral status are those whose interests must be taken into account in ethical decision-making, or who matter for their own sake. Among the various levels of moral status that a being can have, the highest is “full moral status.” Beings with full moral status are often also referred to as (in a particular sense) “persons.” Persons are taken to have a special or perhaps unique ethical significance.

In this course we will survey the contemporary literature on personhood and moral status to attempt to answer two questions: “What makes a being a person?” and “What ethical implications do different theories of personhood have?”

In trying to answer the first question, we will consider different accounts of the grounds of or criteria for having full moral status: accounts based on cognitive capacities, on morally significant relationships, and on species membership. We will investigate whether personhood is a property that the same being can gain or lose, or whether it is the case that “once a person, always a person.”

To answer the second question, we will look at consequentialist and non-consequentialist ways of understanding personhood and full moral status. We will examine challenges to the notion that all human beings are persons from moral status revisionists like Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan, and responses to them from writers like Agnieska Jaworska, Eva Kittay, and Anselm Mueller. We will also consider the implications of the different theories we’ve discussed for issues like abortion, disability rights, and the treatment of animals.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2024-2025 Autumn