Maybe you know the Definition of a Person from Dennett:

(1) persons are rational. (2) they are the subjects of Intentional ascriptions. (3) a certain stance or attitude must be taken towards them, a point that introduces the idea that persons are, inter alia, moral objects. (4) they can reciprocate when such a stance is taken, which similarly introduces the idea that they are, inter alia, moral agents. (5) they are language users. Finally, (6) they have a special kind of consciousness, perhaps self-consiousness.

More here.

Now I wonder if there is a possibillity to find this 4. part of his definition: "the reciprocity" in recognition, which can be found in social networks like Facebook & Co, in situations like:

  • Like Buttons
  • Comments
  • Friendship requests

I think there trivially is a connection in some sense, but recognition must not be reciprocal.

The forth part refers to "when such a stance is taken", which leads to (3), "a stance must be taken towards them", while "them" is defined in (2) as "internal ascriptions"

So basically, (4) is in fact talking about the posibility of reciprocal recognition in the sense of (a stance towards) internal acriptions. That really is what the instruments you mentioned are made for and what makes networks "social" ones, as there are social communities and interactions in there which rely on the reciprocal recognition of internal ascriptions:

Like buttons: Something representing/containing/implying an internal ascription is posted, in this post, the internal ascription as recognized by someone who endorses it by using the button and by this makes the reciprocity possible.

Comments: Basically the same as like buttons, but with the possibility of disagreement and more differentiated propositional content.

Friendship requests: While not necessarily used as such (more like "seen one time, ok friendship request!"), the idea seems to be that two people reciprocally recognize each other as having a bond in the sense of at least some internal ascription.

Using the example of the friendship request: Making it already fulfils recognition, denying implies a lack of reciprocity.

  • Philip I think I understand your answer. But to me the whole issue of the question - employing Dennet's thoughts to characterize the role of buttons etc. in social networks - seems a bit exaggerated. Simple things should be kept simple :-) – Jo Wehler Jan 13 '16 at 15:42
  • @JoWehler: Actually the philosophy of society is struggling to include social networks and the like into their theories (e.g. Honneth's theory of recognition), because they are in fact social phenomena, but harder to be based on material facts as the status is more independent from the social status (traditional concept) of the individual. This includes the concept of persons, being central to these theories. Therefore I have to kindly disagree with your comment ;) – Philip Klöcking Jan 17 '16 at 22:42

This is an interesting question, though not very tightly formed. I don't know enough about Dennett to respond on the basis of his assumptions--in other words, he is not a "D-Person" for me.

The origin of the word "persona" may help here. It comes from Greek drama, where the voice or "sonic" element is identified by the "mask" or "thing before the voice." The voice of the actor was both amplified by the mask and placed under that identity or "pronoun" indicated by the mask. This was then transferred into the law courts where someone else could speak as the representative of a "person."

So the "person" is at least doubly "represented." Always through and in virtue of a "mediating" object, if only words or faces. But if this medium or "mask" is essential to the construction of a "person," we cannot assume all such mediations are equally transparent to "recognition," especially in the moral sense.

Dennett, like many raised in the tradition of "rational agency" is insensitive to the problems of "recognition" through media. The social media singles-hunter, internet gamer, and military drone operator may construct a mediated "person" on the other side of the screen. But no meaningful value system is necessarily carried through as "recognition."

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