Environmental Ethics

Volume 45, Issue 1, Spring 2023

Andrew Frederick Smith
Pages 71-92

An Ecological Conception of Personhood

Centering Indigenous philosophical considerations, ecologies are best understood as kinship arrangements among humans, other-than-human beings, and spiritual and abiotic entities who together through the land share a sphere of responsibility based on both care and what Daniel Wildcat calls “multigenerational spatial knowledge.” Ecologically speaking, all kin can become persons by participating in processes of socialization whereby one engages in practices and performances that support responsible relations both within and across ecologies. Spheres of responsibility are not operable strictly within human relationships, nor do what count as responsibilities necessarily center on the human. No being is born a person or automatically earns this status. Personhood must be gained and can be lost. Indeed, under current ecological conditions across the planet, we arguably inhabit a world full of marginal cases.