A person is an expression, I think. Just for the record, I'm not at all sure that we actually exist. An object can be created or destroyed. Bodies can be created and destroyed, but I don't think that we are nothing more than our bodies. (Yeah, it's a double negative. You got a problem with that?) I'm not saying that what we are exists, though. I am aware of how nonsensical that sounds. Not to get overly artistic, (I _hate_ flowery philosophies) but I think we may be something like songs.
A song is made up of sounds and/or the patterns of sounds, it has a physical component that can be, in one sense, said to be the entirety of the thing. It begins and ends, but is not really created or destroyed. In one sense, it is the movement of the air from the sound waves, and nothing else. In another, it is either pleasant or not, loud or soft, soft or harsh, or any combination of those things at different times. Much like people. It is imagined, conceived, then expressed. The vibrations of air that are its sounds which are analogous to a 'body' are simply the carrier of what a listener would call the song. What we are, I think, is much like that. Our minds and bodies are our possessions, but what we actually are is what they do.
I'm thinking that people are the sum total of their actions. Everything else commonly associated with what a person is are parts of them that can be labeled and owned, things that can be lost, broken, or separated from them. Your mind, your body; it's even common to hear one's soul discussed as if it were a possession, which I think indicates that generally, the soul is considered a separate thing, as opposed to being the thing referred to when one says, "I". When you've lost all that can be named, what you are is what remains... As far as I can reason it out, what would remain would be what one had done, or did do, as they don't exist in a sense that is subject to manipulation or destruction. (We need a new word, I think. A synonym for "exist" that does not imply a physical component... Feelings, thoughts, courage, abilities, skills - these things do not "exist", but they are no less real for all of that. We need a new word, or perhaps I need an expanded vocabulary)
I've been thinking about this for a while, and the more I think about it, the more it seems that people, and to some extent I have no chance of quantifying, all living things, are more like expressions than things.
See, when someone dies, it's their actions, their patterns that you miss. If they were a lover, then you miss their body, too, but that's more like missing your own feelings and actions, or the potential of the same. You can miss the things that they provided or did for you, but that is also separate from missing them.
If you lose your hands or your memories, you're still you. Losing a chunk of your brain to surgery or illness, if survived, could well change your personality, but what is changed in that circumstance is the personality that belongs to
you, and therefore is separate from, you
. It's not as fine a distinction as it may at first seem, I think.
These are just unordered thoughts, and have not been formed into what I'd call a theory, or even an idea capable of standing on its own. I'm just sketching an outline here, to see if something worthwhile can develop. Thoughts or debates welcome.