Legal Personhood

How We Are Getting It Wrong

This Note argues that lawmakers and judges have not been applying the concept of legal personhood correctly, and should divorce the idea of humanity for the legal definition of personhood. The term “legal person” has long been associated with humanity, and even the paradigm of artificial persons, corporations, relies upon analogizing to humanity. Some humans which have been attributed legal personhood status, however, have comparable abilities to exercise rights and duties as many animals, while other humans have no such abilities at all. This implies that one can have the attributes of legal personhood without being a human being, and one can be a human being without being a legal person. The solution is to divorce the capacities-focused definition of legal personhood from the species-based definition of humanity.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.