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 thenelli01

Peter Singer's Argument for "Animal Liberation"

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Wondering if anyone is familiar with this argument and can answer this point:

 

if man's rational nature is the relevant characteristic when determining rights or that distinguishes man from other animals -- why do infants have rights if they are at or below the level of some of the higher animals?

 

If it is the potential for rationality, then isn't this an argument against abortion?

Edited by thenelli01

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Potential for rationality is fine.

 

Abortion is fine also.

 

 

Non objectivists do not understand the law of identity... a thing is what it is not what you try to pretend it to be.

 

A person is an isolated unity a single living entity.   A baby is a person who has potential for rationality.  A pregnant woman is a woman with extra tissues having different DNA.  NOT two people.  Unless and until there is separation, no part attached to the woman has rights as a separate entity.

 

Animals have no potential for rationality... they cannot have ethics and cannot be moral so they cannot participate in a moral society with rights.

 

A is A.

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Non objectivists do not understand the law of identity... a thing is what it is not what you try to pretend it to be.

This is bizarre, equal to saying most people are too stupid. Most people implicitly at the least understand the law of identity fine...

 

*

 

A fetus is not a person, but has the potential to be a person.

 

A baby is a type of person, and like a person, has the potential to be rational.

 

What I'm pointing out here is that babies have a potential characteristic. A fetus has no potential to be a person and therefore no potential to be a "rational fetus" at any point. A fetus have a potential to become a different entity entirely. Only the new entity has a potential to be rational. As far as I know, Singer doesn't think rights have to do with rational potential anyway.

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This is bizarre, equal to saying most people are too stupid. Most people implicitly at the least understand the law of identity fine...

I've noticed this a lot. It always bugs me when Objectivists feel there is value in stating "A is A" when the issue is not one of faulty metaphysics, especially if it's directed at another Objectivist. 

Edited by oso

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This is bizarre, equal to saying most people are too stupid. Most people implicitly at the least understand the law of identity fine...

 

*

 

A fetus is not a person, but has the potential to be a person.

...

A fetus has no potential to be a person...

 

Can you explain this a little bit more, seems contradictory.

 

Doesn't the fetus have the potential to become a rational human being, just as a baby does? The only difference is that an infant is further along the progressive timeline. Can you explain the distinction more thoroughly, please?

 

I don't think the argument for choice in abortion lies in a rights issue -- but, I do think Objectivists tend to go this route. I am just curious how to answer this.

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Doesn't the fetus have the potential to become a rational human being, just as a baby does? 

It all depends on your definition of potential, but the way I most often hear that word used, it just means a chance or possibility that something will happen or exist in the future. And yeah, last I checked, a fetus does have a chance to turn into a person. 

 

But, like Ayn Rand explained, potential does not equal actual. The reason why babies have rights is not because they have a chance to turn into a person, it's because they are a person: they don't just have potential for a rational capacity, they possess a rational capacity (which is what defines a person <=> rights possessing entity).

 

To easily understand the difference between potential and capacity, picture raw clay vs. a vessel made of clay. Raw clay doesn't have the capacity to hold rain water, but it has the potential to become a vessel with the capacity to hold rain water (I believe this use, in Latin, is actually the origin of the word "capacity"). 

 

An empty vessel (and boy there are many, young and old alike:) ) still has the capacity to hold water, and therefor fits a category defined by that trait, whereas clay does not.

Edited by Nicky

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This is bizarre, equal to saying most people are too stupid. 

Understanding and accepting the law of identity is not a question of degree of intelligence, it's a question of rationality. 

 

What StrictlyLogical said is equal to saying that most people are irrational when it comes to matters of philosophy. As they are.

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Yes.

Ok, so where does it end, as per the philosophy of aleph_1? Sperm has the potential to fertilize an egg and become a person too. An amoeba has the potential to eventually evolve into an intelligent life form too. In fact pretty much all atoms and molecules on Earth have the potential to form a human, or for that matter some other kind of intelligent life form, at some point. Do they have rights?

Edited by Nicky

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Ok, so where does it end, as per the philosophy of aleph_1? Sperm has the potential to fertilize an egg and become a person too. An amoeba has the potential to eventually evolve into an intelligent life form too. In fact pretty much all atoms and molecules on Earth have the potential to form a human, or for that matter some other kind of intelligent life form, at some point. Do they have rights?

 

They are property, unclaimed perhaps, but property nonetheless for those who recognize property rights.  Sperm and egg, fetus and child rightfully belong to the being they came from until they are capable of self-sustaining action.  The relevant issue is whether or not a recognized property owner has the right to decide what to do with property they own, or property they share with another rightful owner.  A potential to act as a property owner doesn't entitle anyone other than the biological parents to act as custodians for the being they are responsible for creating.

 

All other forms of life are property too, with similar considerations in terms of rights.  If an amoeba or an ape can sustain its own life without posing a threat to man or his property, they ought to be left alone to pursue their own happiness.

 

There's no referent for absolute life so it follows, unpleasant as it may be, that there's no recognizable duty to preserve mortal life from death.  Wasting life is a consideration, but primarily in terms of life as unclaimed property, and here again we are speaking in terms of potential.  The actual trumps the potential in every case I can imagine.

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Using Devil's Advocate's argument, we have the right to kill our children until they are living independently of us, say eighteen. To Nicky, words have the potential to form an argument but often do not.

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Using Devil's Advocate's argument, we have the right to kill our children until they are living independently of us, say eighteen...

 

Say fiftyone if you want to.  Using any other argument entitles your neighbor or the state to dictate terms.  And if you're squeamish about death, how do you propose to prohibit miscarriages, or for that matter to punish failed attempts to become pregnant?  All those wasted sperm and eggs, tsk-tsk.

 

What is the referent you are using to promote, thou shalt live?

--

edit: "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 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. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave." ~ Individual Rights, ARL

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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Using Devil's Advocate's argument, we have the right to kill our children until they are living independently of us, say eighteen. To Nicky, words have the potential to form an argument but often do not.

So what you're saying is that you're just trolling. Got it.

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Doesn't the fetus have the potential to become a rational human being, just as a baby does? The only difference is that an infant is further along the progressive timeline. Can you explain the distinction more thoroughly, please?

Sorry, I mis-spoke. I was typing one thing in a different way, and I didn't modify the rest of the sentence with its new logical structure. I think I meant to say "no potential, as a fetus, to be a person that is rational".

A fetus has no potential or even sense of rational capacity. A fetus isn't a type of person, it is an entirely different kind of entity. A rational capacity is a potential to be rational, but in a specific way: by virtue of the type of brain humans have, all people have the mechanisms in place to be rational. In terms of rights, we only care about that capacity and potential, a potential characteristic. A fetus, though, doesn't have any mechanisms for rational capacity. To acquire rational capacity, it needs to become a totally different entity. By its nature, a -fetus- doesn't become rational. It's not as though a fetus is merely a "tiny" person, developmentally it isn't a person.

If a fetus is potentially rational, then so is sperm, so is an egg, so are the elements that make up sperm, so are the stars those elements came from. The part that matters is we can't treat one entity as a type of entity it might become. Epistemologically, it makes no sense. A potential characteristic, though, doesn't always require becoming a new entity. The problem with aleph's post is that there is no distinction among these differences.

Edited by Eiuol

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But, like Ayn Rand explained, potential does not equal actual.

 

Can you really attribute this idea to Ayn Rand?  :mellow:

 

 

The reason why babies have rights is not because they have a chance to turn into a person, it's because they are a person: they don't just have potential for a rational capacity, they possess a rational capacity (which is what defines a person <=> rights possessing entity).

 

To easily understand the difference between potential and capacity, picture raw clay vs. a vessel made of clay. Raw clay doesn't have the capacity to hold rain water, but it has the potential to become a vessel with the capacity to hold rain water (I believe this use, in Latin, is actually the origin of the word "capacity"). 

 

An empty vessel (and boy there are many, young and old alike:) ) still has the capacity to hold water, and therefor fits a category defined by that trait, whereas clay does not.

 

But size of the vessel of a baby is the same size, or smaller, as some of the higher animals. The vessel size of a baby and an adult isn't the same size.

 

To make the analogy more accurate, the size of the baby's vessel is the same (or smaller) as some higher animals with raw clay on the side. As they get older and their brain develops, their rational capacity increases (i.e. the raw clay is added to increase the size of the vessel).

 

So, why aren't some of the higher animals treated as the same status as babies, morally and politically?

Edited by thenelli01

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So, why aren't some of the higher animals treated as the same status as babies, morally and politically?

One part of that question is why rational capacity is what counts rather than actually being rational. You'd probably ask why a potential matters here, but not for a fetus having rights. I'm not working to answer this part.

What I am answering, though, is why animals don't have a rational capacity. Answering that also answers why a fetus doesn't either, as long as you agree with my reasoning that a fetus is not just a type of person - and assuming a fetus is a person begs the question that a fetus really has a rational capacity.

Rational capacity is the capability of being rational by virtue of the right types of neural and cognitive mechanisms being available. A baby has this capacity, although it develops over time. Still, they possess the right mechanisms, that's how a baby learns human language. To be clear, I'm just giving a more detailed explanation of capacity than Rand did, she mostly answered the first question above.

Animals like dogs, cows, or alligators don't have the right types of mechanisms. No matter how much you train or teach them, they won't be rational. Their brain literally cannot do it. Their rational capacity can't increase, it's literally not there. You could make a case for elephants and dolphins as some sort of borderline rational capacity, but that's an exhaustive list.

As for a baby, their rational capacity doesn't change. In some sense, it does, as there are changes like greater counting ability, but that's similar to adding RAM to a computer. Yes, it does more, but it still has the same general abilities as before. It still computes answers with the same general methods. Compare your current computer to a quantum computer though, and the general method is different.

The human method is cognition with concepts. The animal method is something perceptual and some type of calculation (it's not behaviorism). These methods even distinguish babies from animals, despite often having similar abilities. The only way for an animal to cross over into the human method is evolution - it's a potential. However! The animal would be a new species, a new entity entirely.

Edited by Eiuol

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TheNelli's question should be reversed: Why aren't some babies treated as well as we treat some of the higher animals?

 

Since none of you possess the knowledge to survive independently given that we live in a division of labor society, by your own reasoning you have no value separated from the hive-mind. If knowledge enabling you to live independently is the test of humanity, then none of you meet this standard apart from the hive-mind.

 

Now, try the following experiment at home: Let your child go through the birthing process and before the umbilical is cut, stick a fork into its belly. As it cries itself to death, tell me that it isn't human. Then bar-b-que the remains and eat it while you tell me that it was just a piece of tissue. As we retch into our socks and you are hauled off to jail, tell us that we have failed at identification.

 

Do some animals possess conceptual knowledge? I know for a fact that they do. When I ask my dogs if they want a bath, they will run into the shower. They have understood an audible label (word) and responded with understanding as to its meaning for them and acted accordingly. Identification, evaluation and response: Was that human cognition? No, but a dog's brain works in ways similar to the human.

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One part of that question is why rational capacity is what counts rather than actually being rational. You'd probably ask why a potential matters here, but not for a fetus having rights. I'm not working to answer this part.

 

Well, that is the part you should answer, because if potential matters in the case of babies (-- i.e. the capacity has the potential to develop into human adult reasoning capabilities--- the capabilities that matter in the context and discussion of rights), then it seems to be a contradiction to say a fetus doesn't have rights because it is a potential, not an actual.

 

But, if the potential isn't what matters in the case of babies, then it seems some of the higher animals, which have reasoning capabilities equal to or greater than babies, should be treated as the same status as babies.

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TheNelli's Question: So, why aren't some of the higher animals treated as the same status as babies, morally and politically?

 

My Question: Why aren't some babies treated as well as we treat some of the higher animals?

 

Claims that mine is not the reverse are disingenuous. I don't want to be diverted from an honest discussion by focusing on trivialities. The real point of my post was threefold. The idea that value derives from an ability at independent existence quickly leads to collectivism. Advocates of abortion on this site have made monstrous statements. And many animals possess conceptual knowledge. The difference between us and dogs is not of kind but of extent.

Edited by aleph_1

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TheNelli's Question: So, why aren't some of the higher animals treated as the same status as babies, morally and politically?

 

My Question: Why aren't some babies treated as well as we treat some of the higher animals?

 

Claims that mine is not the reverse are disingenuous.

 

Or, I was thinking you were referring to the question in the OP.

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Well, that is the part you should answer, because if potential matters in the case of babies (-- i.e. the capacity has the potential to develop into human adult reasoning capabilities--- the capabilities that matter in the context and discussion of rights), then it seems to be a contradiction to say a fetus doesn't have rights because it is a potential, not an actual.

 

But, if the potential isn't what matters in the case of babies, then it seems some of the higher animals, which have reasoning capabilities equal to or greater than babies, should be treated as the same status as babies.

A human might be rational or not, but by its nature, has a capacity to be rational.

 

A fetus cannot be rational or not. By its nature, it has no capacity to be rational. A fetus is not a type human.

 

So what I'm saying is that potential entities cannot be treated as though they are the entity. Equally so, potential characteristics cannot be treated as though the entity has the characteristic. But that doesn't say a potential characteristic isn't itself a characteristic. A fetus being a "potential human" is also a characteristic, except in aleph's case, the entity is ALSO treated as having human characteristics right off the bat.

 

If knowledge enabling you to live independently is the test of humanity, then none of you meet this standard apart from the hive-mind.

I agree that it's a bad test. But so are cries of suffering, or feeling sick from eating it. If that is your test, you've proven animals have rights.

 

And many animals possess conceptual knowledge. The difference between us and dogs is not of kind but of extent.

No. The difference between us and dogs is one of kind. A dog is not going to create items to live, or make an abstraction as opposed to merely some "sense" of a thought, or even have a type of brain to think about its own thoughts. Yes, a dog understands some words, but in different way than any human.

 

An animal may have "reasoning capabilities" as in problem solving, but that alone doesn't demonstrate a conceptual mode of thought. So I'll work on the tougher question next.

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A human might be rational or not, but by its nature, has a capacity to be rational.

 

A fetus cannot be rational or not. By its nature, it has no capacity to be rational. A fetus is not a type human.

 

So what I'm saying is that potential entities cannot be treated as though they are the entity. Equally so, potential characteristics cannot be treated as though the entity has the characteristic. But that doesn't say a potential characteristic isn't itself a characteristic. A fetus being a "potential human" is also a characteristic, except in aleph's case, the entity is ALSO treated as having human characteristics right off the bat.

 

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").

 

A baby doesn't have the capacity to be rational in the context that gives rise to rights. It has the potential to be able to reason as adult humans do, but until then they are around the level of some higher animals.

 

I don't see the difference between having rational capacity on a VERY low level, but having the potential to develop to the rational capacity of an adult human (baby) vs. having the potential to develop to the rational capacity of an adult human (fetus).

 

What does it matter if a baby has some degree of rational capacity if it isn't actually the degree of adult humans if it isn't for potential? Unless you are arguing that babies do have the same rational capacity as adult humans or at the least the level in which notions of "rights" arise, it seems both are on a progressive timeline towards rational capacity with babies only being a bit further. 

Edited by thenelli01

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But size of the vessel of a baby is the same size, or smaller, as some of the higher animals.

Why would you say that? No other animal has the capacity to be rational, except humans. Animals don't possess any kind of a rational capacity. Their brains are not structured in a way that could accommodate that.

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.

To make the analogy more accurate

I've made no analogy. I explained the difference between the words potential and capacity using the example of a vessel, but I never suggested vessels and humans are analogous in any way (I did make a joke about it, which I made sure to put a smiley face at the end of, to avoid the implication that I'm seriously making that analogy).

But I don't find an analogy between vessels and humans useful to explain my position on abortion.

Edited by Nicky

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