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Does this put dogs in a new category?

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http://news.yahoo.com/video/world-15749633/the-dog-who-knows-1-000-words-24138973

Most of this is associative - but there is a test where the dog appears to use the process of elimination - APPARENT deductive reasoning.

Not conclusive, I know - but still - does this have the potential to create a new category for entities as having limited rationality?

Now - if that's true - and coupling that with another story I saw recently which made me sick about sled dogs in canada recognizing that they were about to be killed and turning on their would be killer - is it reasonable to conclude that dogs, if not other animals, in addition to having limited rationality also in a limited sense recognize that our relationship with them is mutual? -- Possibly that's a reach - I'm not sure.

But if so - then would that mean the question of limited animal rights might be back on the table? (to drift out of epistemology and into ethics a bit...)

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Yes, I've been thinking on these lines myself.

It's been shown, apparently, that the brightest dogs (Poodles and Border Collies) have the intelligence of a 2-3 year old child.

How does this correlate with ethical treatment of dogs, and do they merit 'rights'?

(I've always tended that way personally . What's interesting is that as a result of being given the right stimulus and attention, my dog has definitely grown in intelligence. Oh, and he is a Border Collie!)

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I think that "REVERENCE FOR LIFE", and not "animal rights" is what could ease our trouble with animals (higher mammals specially) being tortured.

Animals do not have a self-generated project of life. They are not "becoming". They just are. They do not self-build a character or a life of its own. They do not do it as puppies and they will never do it.

When two dogs are fighting (e.g. for the same mate or food or territory) we would not try to find out which of the two dogs "initiated violence" or which of the two dogs "is having its rights violated". They can't be expected to negotiate on the needs of their survival qua dogs through the use of their minds. Rights would be a meaningless concept.

But "reverence for life" is a concept we as Objectivists could help to promote. It is in line with our appreciation of life as a value, and our identification with living entities as different from the non-living entities. This is hinted by Ayn Rand in the "Virtue of Selfishness"

"A rational man does not forget that
life
is the source of all values and, as such, a common bond among living beings (as against inanimate matter)" (The word in italics is in the original, and for a reason)

When describing psychopaths who do not challenge altruism's basic premise, she says in the same chapter that such men

"are totally indifferent to anything living and would not lift a finger to help a man or a dog mangled by a hit-and-run driver (who is usually one of their own kind"

For the sake of the example of helping a stranger, she puts humans and dogs on the same level. A rational man would try to help them both, in a non-sacrificial way.

So, a rational man is not indifferent to living things. A dog will not be very high on his hierarchy of values, but will still be a value.

We should condemn irrationality towards living things as we condemn, for example, destroying your own brain with drugs. But in both cases, the offenders (he who mistreat an animal or mistreat his own body with drugs) should not be coerced by the State to do otherwise. We can use boycott, persuasion, social isolation (there is other word in English, but it is not comming to my mind: it starts with "o" I think). But never the force of the State.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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What if the reporter says "Darwin" and he smells a certain way, and the dog goes round the corner with that word echoing in his mind and the toy smells the same way? In that case it's just more association. Because that was a science reporter and it was a Darwin toy, so probably he chose it and had it lying around his house a few days before the story, so it smells more like him than any of the other toys.

And look at the way the dog runs off to the pile of toys anyway, even though he has just been told a word he doesn't know! It's like he doesn't even know he doesn't know the word. He just runs over to the pile like he always does and waits for an association to happen between the sound and something over there. No visual one happens in this case so he falls back on his nose.

Re: animal rights, I heard Peikoff make an interesting argument that even though animals don't have rights, you could make the argument that someone who would be wantonly cruel to an animal is possibly psychologically the kind who would be dangerous to people also, and could potentially be locked up or institutionalised on that basis. But that kind of argument could only be made for some kind of sadistic torturer, not someone who simply eats or hunts animals (since there are too many examples of both of these who do respect individual rights).

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The problem of "which of these is not like the others?" is solvable at the perceptual level in conjunction with a good memory. I agree the dog probably fell back on his sense of smell. The dog seemed more uncertain that he had the right one compared to his presentation of the other toys, likely because he had to use a different sense to solve the problem.

But if so - then would that mean the question of limited animal rights might be back on the table? (to drift out of epistemology and into ethics a bit...)

Dogs don't think in language, so still the answer to the question is no. They cannot understand or reciprocate a respect for such an abstraction as rights.

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What if the reporter says "Darwin" and he smells a certain way, and the dog goes round the corner with that word echoing in his mind and the toy smells the same way? In that case it's just more association. Because that was a science reporter and it was a Darwin toy, so probably he chose it and had it lying around his house a few days before the story, so it smells more like him than any of the other toys.

And look at the way the dog runs off to the pile of toys anyway, even though he has just been told a word he doesn't know! It's like he doesn't even know he doesn't know the word. He just runs over to the pile like he always does and waits for an association to happen between the sound and something over there. No visual one happens in this case so he falls back on his nose.

Re: animal rights, I heard Peikoff make an interesting argument that even though animals don't have rights, you could make the argument that someone who would be wantonly cruel to an animal is possibly psychologically the kind who would be dangerous to people also, and could potentially be locked up or institutionalised on that basis. But that kind of argument could only be made for some kind of sadistic torturer, not someone who simply eats or hunts animals (since there are too many examples of both of these who do respect individual rights).

I don't think for an instant that Chaser made his choice by deduction as was suggested - no matter, it's terrific that he can make associations between a specific sound, and visuals/smell, 1000 times over.

That psychopath murderer/animal- torturer corellation has been well established by now.

Thing is, what are you going to lock him up for?

Of course, not for being a potential killer.

And, Hotua and Grames are spot on: objective rights cannot be applied to animals, leaving only social ostracism, civil law where warranted, etc.

I have been also very interested lately in the further aspect Hotua raised, and this is how a rationally moral person perceives life.

It is fascinating for me to discover how much greater my respect for ALL life has become.

This has plenty to do with my hierarchy of values, and still- growing consciousness.

I don't think it's so crazy to conclude that having lived by, and constantly applied (as best I can) rational egoism, my sense of life has heightened - and thereby lifted everything living that's in that hierarchy, up with it too. I've found increased respect for even the lower life-forms.

Domestic animals, especially, and all wild ones as well.

Obviously, this 'reverence for life' is a natural outcome of egoism ; not that surprising, perhaps - except to haters of egoism.

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Yes, I suppose you're all right - there are too many other possible reason's for the dog's selection to jump to deductive reasoning.

I don't agree that verbal language - even in thought - is necessary for a mutual agreement - but that doesn't mean I think the dogs can actually understand the mutual agreement either.

Still - you cannot blame me for WANTING to find a moral way to create laws to protect animals from irrational cruelty. I think it's only a natural offshoot of the reverence for life.

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The dog in question has incredible large memory. That doesn't make it conceptual being. In fact some people called idiot-savants have such an ability, while the rest of their cognitive functions are severely impaired. The thing which separates animals from humans is self-awareness. We are conscious of our consciousness, this is the foundation of volition and conceptual thinking. Animals, though conscious, unaware of it. Dog doesn't know that it is a dog. It doesn't have a sense of self. Otherwise it would necessarily develop conceptual thinking and language to express concepts. This is not a rocket science to find a moral way to protect animals. All conscious life deserves respect.

Edited by Leonid

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That isn't even true for humans.

Yes it is true. Differing degrees of respect still qualify as respect. It is strict egalitarianism that is wrong.

Rabid dogs and convicted murderers are both killed, but the murderer gets the respect of a trial.

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Yes it is true. Differing degrees of respect still qualify as respect. It is strict egalitarianism that is wrong.

Rabid dogs and convicted murderers are both killed, but the murderer gets the respect of a trial.

I should say that I completely agree with Leonid's post up until that last line.

By my definition, things that are deserved must be earned. (I.e. I do not equate them with rights.). Are we operating with different definitions here?

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I also disagree that people 'deserve' respect lacking context. As has been pointed out, deserve implies earned and if I dont know jack about someone, they dont yet deserve my respect. I extend general courtesy to strangers ss i think in most cases it serves my self interest, but respect is another matter.

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By my definition, things that are deserved must be earned. (I.e. I do not equate them with rights.). Are we operating with different definitions here?

Probably. I'm not interested in pursuing it further then.

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Call That a Ball? Dogs Learn to Associate Words With Objects Differently Than Humans Do

The bottom line: Though your dog understands the command "Fetch the ball," but he may think of the object in a very different way than you do when he hears it. As the authors explain, "Where shape matters for us, size or texture matters more for your dog. This study shows for the first time that there is a qualitative difference in word comprehension in the dog compared to word comprehension in humans."

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Agh. It's not "shape bias". The dog doesn't understand what a ball is, and the kid does. That's all. There's no "bias". The kid also understands what small and big are, and what rough and smooth are.

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Animals do not have a self-generated project of life. They are not "becoming". They just are. They do not self-build a character or a life of its own.

I do not know if this is true. If you want to explore the concepts more carefully, this is an excellent book: http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Lives-Animals-Dale-Peterson/dp/1608193462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353897393&sr=8-1&keywords=moral+life+of+animals

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Agh. It's not "shape bias". The dog doesn't understand what a ball is, and the kid does. That's all. There's no "bias". The kid also understands what small and big are, and what rough and smooth are.

I believe it means a perceptual bias, as in, shape has a greater impact on a human learning to identify a ball than size or texture. The study was if dogs do the same. A dog certainly can hear "ball" and pick a ball just as well as a toddler who hears "ball" picks a ball, but dogs clearly make that identification based on perceiving size or texture, while a child makes that identification based on perceiving shape. These are concretes, a toddler probably does not need to know anything about small/big or rough/smooth (are you sure most toddlers actually know what small/big refers to?)

Edited by Eiuol

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I believe it means a perceptual bias, as in, shape has a greater impact on a human learning to identify a ball than size or texture.

The definition of a ball has nothing to do with size and texture. It's only about shape. Every object that's in the shape of a spehere is a ball.

The reason why a dog doesn't recognize balls is because it can't understand the concept of a sphere.

I believe it means a perceptual bias, as in, shape has a greater impact on a human learning to identify a ball than size or texture. The study was if dogs do the same. A dog certainly can hear "ball" and pick a ball just as well as a toddler who hears "ball" picks a ball, but dogs clearly make that identification based on perceiving size or texture, while a child makes that identification based on perceiving shape.

Dogs don't see shapes as clearly as humans, but they do have 3D vision, and they could differentiate between a sphere and a similar but distinct shape, if they understood the difference.

These are concretes, a toddler probably does not need to know anything about small/big or rough/smooth (are you sure most toddlers actually know what small/big refers to?)

Of course I am. A small child learns an impressive number of words, and does so very easily. The reason for that is because the child doesn't just associate the sound of the word with all the objects he came across that the adults around him referred to with that word (that would make the process tedious). Instead, he integrates the concepts being referred to, and associates the word with the concept. And he does it with enough ease that he can learn the language at the same speed a dedicated adult would learn a second language.

A child dealing only in concretes would be incapable of learning a language that deals in abstracts, that easily.

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The definition of ball has nothing to do with the experiment, because it speaks about identification of a particular object. A dog can recognize a ball; I don't mean the concept ball, but a dog can recognize a ball compared to a bone. Anything with a visual system identifies objects, including dogs, and the point is, dogs make their identifications primarily through perceptual properties of size/texture. This interpretation is perfectly valid because percepts don't require conceptual knowledge on a human level, yet dogs do have a mental capacity that enables them to at least pick out concretes when trained. Even without training, in a dog's mental life, there are still salient properties apparent to a dog's senses that a dog can make decision of what is and is not prey. It's just easier to study that by training a dog, since in either case, a dog is using perceptual information to interact with the world.

Yes, children learn an impressive number of words, perhaps many before they can even speak. But conceptual ability is not the same. That takes time to develop, so it is questionable if a child 24-36 months old really knows anything about rough/smooth. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes longer to grasp those concepts any better than a dog at that age (or at least you need evidence that toddlers know about concepts of textures by that age). This study isn't even talking about concepts, only percepts, that is, what properties a dog's perceptual system uses to distinguish various objects *automatically*. The only way to figure out how any distinctions are made is asking a dog to complete a task. Studies are done on humans in the same way.

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The definition of ball has nothing to do with the experiment, because it speaks about identification of a particular object. A dog can recognize a ball;

Ball is a concept, not an object. And the article is not about recognizing a particular ball. A dog can recognize a particular ball.

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