De persoon met dementie

Abstract

The person with dementia: A plea for a relational notion of personhoodIn this article we explore the notions of personal identity and personhood, using concrete descriptions of the experiences of people living with dementia as a case study. From an analytical point of view we argue against memory or psychological-continuity criteria of personal identity as too cognitive. Instead we focus on embodiment. The person with dementia, as an embodied human being, is numerically the very same person he was before. Moreover, we argue against a metaphysical notion of personhood. Personhood is constituted by the reactive attitudes of other persons: someone becomes a person and remains a person by being received, and almost literally incorporated, in a community of persons. From a phenomenological point of view we show that embodied intersubjectivity is crucial for the recognition of one person by another. We use Merleau-Ponty’s notion of intercorporality to show that there are ways of keeping people with dementia within this community of persons, of keeping in touch with them, even when many of their cognitive capacities are gone, for instance by singing or dancing together. As long as there is still a shared world, it is up to us to keep recognising someone with dementia as a person, and not as ‘an empty shell’.

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Monica Meijsing
Tilburg University
Jenny Slatman
Maastricht University

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