'What makes someone a "person" or "being", and not just human?'
To be human is to be a person. To be a person is to be human. Neither is more than the other. The term "being" by itself is not commonly used. "Human being" and "person" are synonyms. "Human" alone can be used as a shortening of "human being".
The questioner should define what he means by "a being". Most people don't use the word "being" that way.
'Are all humans "beings" or "persons", and if so, can other creatures in the universe be "beings" or "persons" too?'
All humans are persons. All persons are human. If a creature is not a human, it is not a person.
I wonder what the questioner means by "person" when he tries to make the term have a different meaning than "human being". I would recommend he name his idea using other words, and leave the term "person" to mean what it does mean: "human being."
Once the terminology is straightened out, I invite the questioner to re-ask his question, using proper terms.
answered Aug 03 '11 at 08:38
John Paquette ♦
As Antonio pointed out above: "A being, in regards to living things, is an independently, self-sufficiently existing living organism, as opposed to an organism's parts, which do not exist independently or apart from it. There are many types of living beings; just observe the wide variety of living organism in our world. But to be a person is to be a human being. Neither beast nor plant nor bacteria are persons."
Now every living creature is a being. What makes us humans? Specifically and almost exclusively our reason. Because we have reason we are selfishly concerned to grow as we want to, as an individual, as a person. Reason it's characteristic of man and what makes it what it is.
As for the word "person" it means human but individually. There isn't any other living being which can be called a person. And no, a robot or even an alien can't be called a person. Person is a human being. Persons are human beings alone and nothing else. There are of course expressions which can refer to other things. But the usage in question here, as I said, it is only possible or correct to apply it to human beings.
"Anything that partakes in being is also called a 'being' ..." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being). As noted in the referenced article, the notion is so broad as to be inevitably elusive and controversial. I'd suggest dropping "being" from the question, though remaining ignorant of "being" controversy details, I'd offer that "human being" seems redundant.
"A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood ..." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person). This asserts that "person" could include other than humans, and that some humans might not be persons. Humans that are "persons" have certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood. This defers the discussion to personhood. As the referenced article notes, "Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate", and "In most societies today, living adult humans are usually considered persons ...". The article links to articles distinguishing "legal persons" from "natural persons", and introduced to me "legal fiction".
"Humans (Homo sapiens) are primates of the family Hominidae, and the only extant species of the genus Homo." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human). Finally a solid base. "Human" refers to a biological classification, "person" does not. Your (rephrased) question has two easy parts, "Are all 'humans' 'persons'?", and "could other creatures be 'persons' too?". Humans are persons only if they have certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood, and there could exist a nonhuman life form that satisfies the requirements of personhood.
answered Jan 23 '13 at 11:42