People Persons

[photo courtesy Google Images]

I‘ll bet that I’ve been listening to debates and arguments about the meaning, nature and possible disabilities of the term “person” for 25 years.  Even after all of that commotion, the meaning and implications of the word “person” is still not precisely clear to me.

However, last night I was reading the Bill of Rights and realized that the key to understanding the constitutional concept of “persons” might be found in the Fourth Amendment to The Constitution of the United States.  That Amendment declares,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Note that the “people” have “persons”.  “Persons” are not “people’.  Instead, “persons” are attributes or capacities of “people”.  “People” are real and primary; “persons” are relational, derivative and/or secondary.

While it’s possible that each of the “people” has only one correlative “person,” I doubt that’s true.

The 4th Amendment implicitly allows that, as one of the “people,” I might have multiple “houses,” multiple “papers” and multiple “effects”–each and all of which are protected against “unreasonable searches and seizures”.  It’s reasonable to suppose that I, and every other member of the “people,” can also have multiple “persons”.

Therefore, I strongly suspect that the 4th Amendment uses the word “persons” to describe the multitude of different “persons”/capacities in which each of the “people” sometimes act.

Written by Alfred Adask
Full report at Adask’s Law

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