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 thenelli01

Peter Singer's Argument for "Animal Liberation"

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A baby's brain is. Yes, of course there is a progression, from a fetus to an adult, as far as brain development is concerned. There isn't one specific point that we can point to with certainty and say: this age is when the non-rational brain suddenly became capable of reasoning.

And, like with all such progressions (see Peikoff's full beard example), we must find a suitable cutoff point where we treat the two types of entities (undeveloped vs. developed brain) conceptually differently. The logical cutoff point is birth, for a variety of reasons (chief among them is that that's indeed when the brain starts to really kick into gear and begins to reason)..

 

None of this implies that we should also start assigning rights to animals, because they can BEHAVE on the level of small children. Small chidren's behavior is not why we value them, and assign them rights. As far as being productive and contributing intellectually, small children are of course just as useless as a goat. But they are working on not being useless. Goats aren't working on that, they're limited to eternal uselessness.

But, why is the fact that reason kicks in relevant if it isn't a baby still isn't far enough in the development stage where "rights" arise? I.e. Potential is not the actual.

 

Edit: And I just read your edit -- Lol at the goats :-|.. I think you sort of answered my question. 

Edited by thenelli01

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But, why is the fact that reason kicks in relevant if it isn't a baby still isn't far enough in the development stage where "rights" arise? I.e. Potential is not the actual.

I edited my post above, to further clarify.

I should add one more thing: "potential isn't actual" should in no way be interpreted to mean that potential doesn't matter. Of course it does. Of course we also value babies (and even fetuses) because of their potential. But we bring politics into it (rather than just personal values), and assign rights to them at birth because

1. that's a good conceptual cutoff point where it makes sense to start talking about an actual capacity to reason

2. they have just taken a massive step towards independence, where they can grow and realize their potential even without the mother's cooperation

I could probably find some other good reasons to have the cutoff point at birth as well, but these two are the main ones.

Edited by Nicky

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None of this implies that we should also start assigning rights to animals, because they can BEHAVE on the level of small children.

Indeed, an adult dog is smarter than young human baby in many ways -- as long as one measures by behavior and ability to respond to the environment.

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As far as I know, Singer doesn't think rights have to do with rational potential anyway.

Rights in general rest on the underlying assumption of a selfish Ethics, because the concept of value rests on it, and we use the concept of rights because we value people relative to ourselves. With any other value system, none of this would make any sense. We could easily find a justification for valuing fetuses, or animals, or a wooden pole, or nothing at all, in religious texts or whatever other arbitrary source we use to derive our values from.

So yeah, it's safe to assume that animal rights activists have nothing in common with any of this.

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A fetus is a human biologically -- i.e. it is the offspring of two humans  -- shares DNA and everything. I don't know why you keep saying a fetus is not a human (unless you mean "Man").

Sure, it has DNA, but it isn't a thing that is a human or any animal. Take a fetus and look at it. There really is no distinction of it being alive like an animal. It doesn't process the world or move. It doesn't broadly fit into an animal category since it isn't even aware of anything. We don't even get to the point of asking if a fetus itself is able to be rational at any point! Basically, it's a different sort of organism. I'd need to see an argument that a fetus is the same kind of animal. DNA isn't a relevant distinction, an animal is not just its DNA.

Their capacity, as in the right kind of conceptual and neural mechanisms that enable rational thought, is there, despite changing. It's not like they get a new brain by shedding their old brain. There are things a baby can do that animals can't, especially learn language. Many theories exist as to why this is, but they all at least agree that it has to do with specific mechanisms and built-in capacities. I don't mean "having room" for rationality, but right now having all the right mechanisms to become rational - a fetus still needs to form the mechanisms in the first place. Many people call this sense of capacity a cognitive architecture. In practice, all you need to do is consider how babies start learning language right away, while a dog has to be trained. Babies need no explicit instructions, dogs do.

Nicky made a good point: "small children are of course just as useless as a goat. But they are working on not being useless. Goats aren't working on that, they're limited to eternal uselessness."  

I know I'm talking about it in developmental terms or brain science terms, but its for the observations.

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Rights in general rest on the underlying assumption of a selfish Ethics, because the concept of value rests on it, and we use the concept of rights because we value people relative to ourselves. With any other value system, none of this would make any sense. We could easily find a justification for valuing fetuses, or animals, or a wooden pole, or nothing at all, in religious texts or whatever other arbitrary source we use to derive our values from.

So yeah, it's safe to assume that animal rights activists have nothing in common with any of this.

 

Rights in general rest on the underlying assumption that we are speaking about human lives and human property.  There's plenty of evidence that animals value their lives and claim property too (even goats :o), but lacking the ability to represent themselves in courts of law, judgements primarily favor the species making the argument.

 

Animal rights activists fail because their argument is delimited to a distribution of human property.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Rere's plenty of evidence that animals value their lives and claim property too (even goats :o), but lacking the ability to represent themselves in courts of law

I lack the ability to represent myself in court too. That's why I use lawyers instead. The goat should call a lawyer...oh wait, it doesn't understand, and never will, what that is. Or how a phone works. Or what a court of law is. Or what property rights are. Edited by Nicky

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I think the point is that what's being discussed here is rights qua human; not qua animal as living beings that have property in themselves.  That a right to property is the only implementation of a right to life begs the question, whose life and whose property?  The discriminating factor isn't one of rationality or instinct, but of independent, self preservation.  Replace the term man with the term animal and you get:
 

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since animals have to sustain their life by their own effort, the animal that has no right to the product of their effort has no means to sustain their life. The animal who produces while man disposes of their product, is a slave. ~ ARL, Individual Rights rephrased

 

And that is exactly what we have done to them.

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I think the point is that what's being discussed here is rights qua human; not qua animal as living beings that have property in themselves.  That a right to property is the only implementation of a right to life begs the question, whose life and whose property?  The discriminating factor isn't one of rationality or instinct, but of independent, self preservation.  Replace the term man with the term animal and you get:

Wait, there's rights qua animals? You're literally claiming animals have rights, but its okay to deny rights! That's a blatant contradiction. Unless of course you think rights are a matter of your ability to wield better force... Besides, how would you know whose rights to protect, and whose rights to ignore? You can't use rationality - and we end up with Singer's point that if a human has rights, so do all animals. Or are you advocating animal rights and Singer's position?

 

I see no question begging. Whose life? A being with a rational capacity. What makes them have that capacity? Their mode of thought. It'd be circular to say having rights is what makes a person rational. The discriminating factor is rational capacity, based on how -humans- need to survive: reason.

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Wait, there's rights qua animals? You're literally claiming animals have rights, but its okay to deny rights! That's a blatant contradiction. Unless of course you think rights are a matter of your ability to wield better force... Besides, how would you know whose rights to protect, and whose rights to ignore? You can't use rationality - and we end up with Singer's point that if a human has rights, so do all animals. Or are you advocating animal rights and Singer's position?

 

I see no question begging. Whose life? A being with a rational capacity. What makes them have that capacity? Their mode of thought. It'd be circular to say having rights is what makes a person rational. The discriminating factor is rational capacity, based on how -humans- need to survive: reason.

 

Animal rights may be inferred from whatever rights man, an animal, enjoys. If the discriminating factor for rights is a rational capacity, then why point to property as their only implementation?  Certainly the statement that, "Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life", is true whether man is rational or not.  And I can't see how man as an animal, is unique in his dependence on retaining the product of his effort in terms of survival.  If man needs rights to defend himself from other men, isn't the same true for animals, and for the same reason?

 

I think a right to property, derived from a need to retain property for survival, is a much clearer expression of why rights, as a moral concept, are necessary and who should have them as independent, self-sustaining beings.  However I recognize man's need for property, in terms of interactions with other animals, relies heavily on being a clever thief.  In that regard, his rational capacity is an asset, and Singer, et al, miss the mark by suggesting animals can compete at that level.

 

All I'm suggesting is that the humane treatment of animals, which is also made possible by having a rational capacity, may provide a more morality consistent application of rights than doing with them as we will because they can't argue the point... yet.

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All I'm suggesting is that the humane treatment of animals, which is also made possible by having a rational capacity, may provide a more morality consistent application of rights than doing with them as we will because they can't argue the point... yet.

Would you please explain what you mean by humane treatment? Does it mean that it is humane to kill an animal for a fur scarf? How do you determine that it's okay to have animal slaves, but not human slaves?

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You begin by accepting that suffering and death are inevitable for mortal life, and that you can only hope to affect the degree and timing of such events.  Actions that are humane are marked by having a respect for life; enslavement isn't.  Moral traders know, or ought to know the difference.

 

I'm out of time now, but will check in again after the holiday.

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For clarity, my position is that advocating animal rights as a distribution of human rights primarily fails by arguing that animals are essentially human, or in Singers case, essentially as good as human children.  We don't question the rights of children because they are our property, and until they are capable of defending themselves, we do that for them.  But animals are not human children, and arguing over rational capacities doesn't make them human children.

On the other hand (or paw), the Objectivist argument for a moral implementation of rights is founded on the fact that the acquisition and possession of property is essential to survival, and that is something common to all animals.  Therefore animal rights to property may be inferred by the evidence of their efforts to claim property (as we do) without requiring them to have a rational understanding of what rights are (as our children don't).

Does that mean we ought to allow animals to wander onto our property and carry off our children?  Of course not, because the defense of property is morally given in the context of that which is necessary to preserve life.  But I argue that for the sake of maintaining moral consistency, we ought to consider animals similarly morally entitled to their means of survival where it doesn't impede our own.  There are other issues to consider, like how I morally justify having a turkey for Thanksgiving, but I'll address that later if necessary, after digesting the evidence.

 

BTW, and I mean this, I hope you all get the bird you deserve this holiday :devil:

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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