Southwest Philosophy Review

Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2023

Tuomas W. Manninen
Pages 95-107

A New Old Challenge to Theories of Personhood: The Curious Cases of Feral Children

Although fantastical thought-experiments about personal identity abound, these seemingly cannot bring home the conviction one way or the other, when it comes to the nature of diachronic (or synchronic) personhood. Per Kathleen Wilkes, these thought-experiments suffer from being divorced from the necessary background conditions. In this paper, I aim to rectify this by developing an empirically-informed thought experiment (that fill in these blanks) focusing on feral children, or children who have grown up in near-complete isolation from all human interaction. After detailing the significance of these cases and discussing a present-day case, I move to construct the background for thought-experiments on these cases. As an upshot, I apply the experiment to a contemporary theory of personhood (namely, constitutionalism), analyze its shortcomings, and make recommendations for future improvements.