What makes a difference in the universe? People, almost certainly, everyone would agree. Animals? Probably, but most critics would place them after humans, perhaps lined up by some measure of the creature's level of sophistication. (Dogs trump frogs which beat bugs, etc.) Plants? They count some, but less than (most) animals --- again, the degree seems tied to size and complexity. Rocks? Not much to write home about there (unless you're a geologist!?) ... though some configurations of rocks (e.g., the Grand Canyon) seem to matter more than others. And perhaps the totality of a world, even one without life, is viewed as worth preserving even if individual lumps aren't significant.

Why? Do we worship complexity, or mutability, or potentiality, or just similarity to ourselves? Do things count only as they stand in relationship to people? And what are the sources of debate on various levels of the hierarchy? That is, what are "persons": infants? the sleeping? the senile? the unborn? the dead? those not yet conceived? corporations? fictional characters in stories? ....

Over recent millennia, the trend seems to be toward greater inclusiveness. "Personhood" has been conferred on those who aren't of the same social class, sex, race, etc. of the ruling clique, at least in many nations. Is this a trend, or a fluctuation? Does it have room to continue? In the long run, what counts?

Wednesday, November 24, 1999 at 06:22:49 (EST) = 1999-11-24


(correlates: BirdBrains, CenturyHence, ObitCode, ...)