Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Can we treat humans without a rational capacity as property?

Rate this topic


fatdogs12
 Share

Recommended Posts

I came across something not too long ago about how in China they skin dogs alive without killing them for faux fur, then discard their alive bodies to live (I assume a short period of time, idk though) without their skin.

That seemed a little disturbing at least because I usually think of dogs with their skin on but it made me wonder.... I believe I understand that the Oist position would be this is a good thing because it's pro-human life (lower costs involved than in killing them themselves, so more productive).

So I was wondering if the same would be true with humans who are so retarded they do not have any rational capacity. Maybe they can walk around, but cannot talk, don't understand concepts (I assume they were born this way) and lets say have less of a brain than a dog. And because of the nature of their problems they will not at any point in the future have a rational capacity

Now assuming no one wants to support this person by charity could this person be bought by companies and have similar things done to it? Like have parts of their skin removed to give it to burn victims, or amputate appendages to give to soldiers, etc?

This would seem moral to me according to Oism since the feeling of pain is not relevant and since they are not rational beings and will never be rational beings.

Edited by fatdogs12
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 76
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I believe I understand that the Oist position would be this is a good thing because it's pro-human life (lower costs involved than in killing them themselves, so more productive).
No, you thoroughly misunderstand Objectivist ethics. You might approach the matter by looking to see what aspect Ayn Rand's writing would support this conclusion, whereupon you would probably discover how seriously mistaken your conclusion is. We needn't go further that this and cross the bright line involving humans, who in addition have rights.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, you thoroughly misunderstand Objectivist ethics. You might approach the matter by looking to see what aspect Ayn Rand's writing would support this conclusion, whereupon you would probably discover how seriously mistaken your conclusion is. We needn't go further that this and cross the bright line involving humans, who in addition have rights.

I guess I'm asking why people who have no rational capacity have rights.

In that from everything I read I thought rights were predicated on a rational capacity. I can quote that part if that is what you mean.

Maybe the issue isn't rights, but morality. I'm trying to find out why/if this is moral.

Here is why I say it:

<a href="http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=New...ws_iv_ctrl=1084" target="_blank">http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=New...ws_iv_ctrl=1084</a>

"How do these advocates try to justify their position? As someone who has debated them for years on college campuses and in the media, I know firsthand that the whole movement is based on a single--invalid--syllogism, namely: men feel pain and have rights; animals feel pain; therefore, animals have rights. "

"This argument is entirely specious, because man's rights do not depend on his ability to feel pain; they depend on his ability to think. "

Wouldn't this mean that if a man can't think at all he has no rights?

Would morality then be different? If we can certainly say a dog would have

no rights and skinning them alive should be legal, then could we say that

morally it's wrong?

Edited by fatdogs12
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"This argument is entirely specious, because man's rights do not depend on his ability to feel pain; they depend on his ability to think. "

I thought this made the issue pretty clear.

I think it's possible you are unintentionally equivocating "man" (as in our species) with "man" (as in a single man). "Man" as in "Man's rights" to our species and the rights garnered because of our nature as rational beings. A particular man's capacity for rational thought may be diminished, but his nature is unchanged; he's still a human being. In the same sense that a child or a baby is incapable of rational thought (to support themselves), you don't just throw away their rights. While no person is obligated to care for them (necessarily speaking), no person gains the right to treat them as if they are not human or "man" in context of their nature.

Where he says "his", he's referring to man collectively as in our species, not a particular man.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's possible you are unintentionally equivocating "man" (as in our species) with "man" (as in a single man). "Man" as in "Man's rights" to our species and the rights garnered because of our nature as rational beings. A particular man's capacity for rational thought may be diminished, but his nature is unchanged; he's still a human being. In the same sense that a child or a baby is incapable of rational thought (to support themselves), you don't just throw away their rights. While no person is obligated to care for them (necessarily speaking), no person gains the right to treat them as if they are not human or "man" in context of their nature.

Where he says "his", he's referring to man collectively as in our species, not a particular man.

So then regardless if a person has a rational capacity or not they should still get the rights afforded to man, because man has the potential of being rational. Though I can't see how that really makes sense that makes the distinction clearer.

So essentially if at some point some monkeys evolved to have a decent rational capacity I would assume we would have to treat all them with rights? Or is it based on how a species is as a whole (i.e. since most humans have a rational capacity, all get the rights)?

Thanks, I appreciate your feedback on this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So essentially if at some point some monkeys evolved to have a decent rational capacity I would assume we would have to treat all them with rights?

Would our theoretical monkeys survival depend on their rational capacity, or would they still depend on their "teeth and claws" to survive?

If the former, my answer would be (in theory) yes. This assumes that their rational capacity does not include taking over the planet though. :dough:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would our theoretical monkeys survival depend on their rational capacity, or would they still depend on their "teeth and claws" to survive?

If the former, my answer would be (in theory) yes. This assumes that their rational capacity does not include taking over the planet though. :dough:

Haha that's funny. Monkeys in the work place...

See though it seems that Ayn Rand supports the position that not all humans are given rights, that you do have to have some rational capacity or a possibility of having one to gain rights:

Q: Do severely retarded individuals have rights?

A: Not actual rights--not the same rights possessed by normal individuals. In effect, they have the right to be protected as perennial children. Like children, retarded people are entitled to protection because, as humans, they may improve and become partly able to stand on their own. The protection of their rights is a courtesy extended to them for being human, even if not properly formed ones. But you could not extend the actual exercise of individual rights to a retarded person, because he's unable to function rationally. Since all rights rest on human nature, a being that cannot exercise his rights cannot have full human rights.

-From Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of her Q&A

It's a "courtesy extended"?... that doesn't really make sense to me

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A: Not actual rights--not the same rights possessed by normal individuals. In effect, they have the right to be protected as perennial children. Like children, retarded people are entitled to protection because, as humans, they may improve and become partly able to stand on their own. The protection of their rights is a courtesy extended to them for being human, even if not properly formed ones. But you could not extend the actual exercise of individual rights to a retarded person, because he's unable to function rationally. Since all rights rest on human nature, a being that cannot exercise his rights cannot have full human rights.

-From Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of her Q&A

It's a "courtesy extended"?... that doesn't really make sense to me

The way I look at this is (to paraphrase Rand a bit too), is that they are treated like children, in that they have rights, but since they cannot exercise them (due to age/retardation) they cannot have all the rights that older or mentally healthy people can, like driving... All humans are to be protected from those that initiate the use of force, whether you are a child, adult, severely mentally retarded, and so forth, because you are a human being.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The way I look at this is (to paraphrase Rand a bit too), is that they are treated like children, in that they have rights, but since they cannot exercise them (due to age/retardation) they cannot have all the rights that older or mentally healthy people can, like driving... All humans are to be protected from those that initiate the use of force, whether you are a child, adult, severely mentally retarded, and so forth, because you are a human being.

What makes human beings so special? As she said they get those rights only because of the possibility of improving. But in a case where we know there is no chance why do they get that right?

THanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What makes human beings so special? As she said they get those rights only because of the possibility of improving. But in a case where we know there is no chance why do they get that right?

THanks

Don Watkins essay on "broken units" is excellent and I'd highly recommend reading it to anyone here on the board, but I cannot find a link to it, and I do not think it'd be appropriote to quote from it, so I won't until I do. I have it in one of my Axiomatic magazines, it deals specifically with this matter, if I remember correctly. (at least epistemologically speaking)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In chat tonight, ~Sophia~ pointed us to a post by Don Watkins (aka "DPS") entitled "The Nature Of Broken Units, What are they and why does it matter?" on OO.Net at <a href="http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=1099" target="_blank">http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=1099</a>

I think this essay sheds some light on this issue.

Edited by Old Toad
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don Watkins essay on "broken units" is excellent and I'd highly recommend reading it to anyone here on the board, but I cannot find a link to it, and I do not think it'd be appropriote to quote from it, so I won't until I do. I have it in one of my Axiomatic magazines, it deals specifically with this matter, if I remember correctly. (at least epistemologically speaking)

That article actually makes my entire point for me. Here is a quote (thanks for Old Toad for finding the quote)

"A brainless baby, on the other hand, has no rights, because rights follow from the characteristic which, in him, is broken, i.e., non-existent – a rational faculty."

This is my entire point

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That article actually makes my entire point for me. Here is a quote (thanks for Old Toad for finding the quote)

"A brainless baby, on the other hand, has no rights, because rights follow from the characteristic which, in him, is broken, i.e., non-existent – a rational faculty."

This article makes my entire point for me. I'll quote him right back at you with this:

"This objection can be refuted very simply: by pointing out that in raising the objection, one concedes that we are able to identify the brainless baby as a baby."

A brainless baby, can't think, which it's supposed to be able to. A baby born deaf, is still a baby, one that can't hear like it should be able to. These are instances of "broken units" which does not change the definition of what a baby is, or a human being as such. As Watkins says: "A broken unit, in other words, is one that lacks a characteristic it should have but doesn’t." A baby should be able to hear or think, by virtue of being a baby qua human being, but it lacks a particular characteristic, but that characteristic isn't the only one that make it a human being.

(edit to add: fatdogs, your point had to do with retardation, not brainlessness.)

Edited by intellectualammo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This article makes my entire point for me. I'll quote him right back at you with this:

"This objection can be refuted very simply: by pointing out that in raising the objection, one concedes that we are able to identify the brainless baby as a baby."

A brainless baby, can't think, which it's supposed to be able to. A baby born deaf, is still a baby, one that can't hear like it should be able to. These are instances of "broken units" which does not change the definition of what a baby is, or a human being as such. As Watkins says: "A broken unit, in other words, is one that lacks a characteristic it should have but doesn’t." A baby should be able to hear or think, by virtue of being a baby qua human being, but it lacks a particular characteristic, but that characteristic isn't the only one that make it a human being.

So because something 'should' be something but isn't it gets rights? I don't see that point making any sense.

Why should something be given just because it "should" have that?

That's a pretty strange dichotomy to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It might still be a human being, Fatdogs isn't discrediting that, but why does it gain rights on virtue of being human? Rights are meant to protect man's mode of survival, but someone with no conceptual faculty, or one diminished beyond use, would have no mode of survival, let alone a rational one.

Reading through this, I'm siding with Fatdogs as well, because I thought rights were given to all men, on the presumption that they can only survive by reason - not because they are bi-pedal, 20-digited, opposable thumbed (etc) creatures, born of previous bi-pedal, 20-digited, opposable thumbed (etc) creatures.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So because something 'should' be something but isn't it gets rights?

No, because it IS something that it gets rights; a human being. Whether or not a person can excercise them is a different issue, whether or not they contain any broken units is a different issue. The fact is they are born a human being and by our defintion of human being, they are whether as a baby or as an adult, a deaf baby or a severely retarded adult, but have different rights due to age/maturity/developmental differences, but all are protected by virtue of being a human being.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reading through this, I'm siding with Fatdogs as well, because I thought rights were given to all men, on the presumption that they can only survive by reason[...]

No, they are upon birth, upon becoming an actual human being. Whether or not or to what extent they can excercise their rights, is a separate issue.

Edited by intellectualammo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, because it IS something that it gets rights; a human being. Whether or not a person can excercise them is a different issue, whether or not they contain any broken units is a different issue. The fact is they are born a human being and by our defintion of human being, they are whether as a baby or as an adult, a deaf baby or a severely retarded adult, but have different rights due to age/maturity/developmental differences, but all are protected by virtue of being a human being.

This really doesn't follow. We are protected by virtue of being a human being... That seems to be the answer, but there doesn't seem to be a reason why they should be protected. Meaning simply: Why are human beings granted the rights they are to begin with? If they are granted these rights because of because they look the same, breath the same and move around then they are being granted rights which have nothing to do with their ability. As Tenure says I thought rights are meant to protect man's mode of survival...

I guess in this case they are just handed out to those who don't have that basic thing that sets man apart from things like dogs, cats and everything else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, because it IS something that it gets rights; a human being. Whether or not a person can excercise them is a different issue, whether or not they contain any broken units is a different issue. The fact is they are born a human being and by our defintion of human being, they are whether as a baby or as an adult, a deaf baby or a severely retarded adult, but have different rights due to age/maturity/developmental differences, but all are protected by virtue of being a human being.

But why? Why does a human being have rights?

And you're putting up a false analogy by talking about deaf babies. A human's fundamental method of survival isn't his hearing -- it's his conceptual faculty, his reasoning ability. If you take that away, what exactly do rights mean to him?

As for a child, I can understand a child having reduced rights, because whilst it doesn't yet have mature mental faculties (something we can argue, biologically, a human doesn't have until about 20 years old), it still does possess the rational faculity, and that faculty will still grow (barring interference or accident - but then we don't live our lives based on the premise that something bad like that will happen).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, you thoroughly misunderstand Objectivist ethics. You might approach the matter by looking to see what aspect Ayn Rand's writing would support this conclusion, whereupon you would probably discover how seriously mistaken your conclusion is. We needn't go further that this and cross the bright line involving humans, who in addition have rights.

Aristotle teaches that Man is a Rational Animal. Then something without reason (I mean functionally and structurally devoid of reason, not temporarily disabled) is not Man. How do rights apply in this case?

Even if rights do not apply, there is always the question of how to treat such unfortunates. Are we ethically bound to be humane?

Bob Kolker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Im with Fatdogs and Tenure on this one. I dont think anyone here is denying that they are human, that is an obvious fact that it would by silly to deny.

But why do HUMANS have rights? Because it is necessary in order to live as a rational being. But if they have no rational faculty, then this reason does not apply to THAT human, even though that person is still human.

I dont think it makes sense to say a human has rights, irrespective of what it is about humans that entitles them to rights. If your going to claim they have rights, I think your going to have to provide some reason as to why THAT sort of human has rights even though he has no rational faculty, and never will. Its not enough to say "hes human". Sure he is, but the reason humans in general have rights does not apply to him as a special case. So what other reason does?

Edited by Prometheus98876
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What makes human beings so special?
I don't think humans are special. It is just that humans are an essential context. We come to the idea of rights by asking: how can human beings live together in a society that is moral? We look at everything we know about how humans have tried to organize such societies in the past. We figure that monarchy might be fine and dandy for the king, but not for the serf. We find that democracies too can be unjust to minorities. Seeking a rule from all this, we figure that if we apply a principle of individual rights, where each of us is allowed to pursue our interests without molesting someone else, we end up with a social system that is moral and practical. More importantly, it is moral and practical in principle. This last means that we can apply a John Rawls type of "ovarian lottery" thought experiment and still conclude that this is indeed the society we want, were we to face such a lottery.

... if at some point some monkeys evolved to have a decent rational capacity I would assume we would have to treat all them with rights?
If we imagine a monkey evolving into a being that is manlike in all ways that allow it to function in a society comprised of such monkeys and humans, then yes. In other words, if we assume that the rationality and other aspects of the monkey's nature are human-like enough in all sense of human qua member of society, then yes. If not, then one might well have to modify the rules, with special rights, or special restrictions, or whatever -- it's really tough to say unless one knows the facts.

Our full-fledged notion of rights is based on a typical adult human. When it comes to young children we realize that they cannot sign contracts and so on, but we still defend their basic right to life and to be left unmolested, allowing them to grow into adults.

If an adult suffers a severe stroke and is in a vegetative state, we still recognize that adult as having some basic rights. For instance, if they have left instructions (assuming away the complex task of ensuring such instructions are genuine and clear) that they should be allowed to die on becoming vegetative, then we honor that. The tough question is: what if they have left no instructions? Could a reasonable guardian, acting in the best interests of that person, conclude that they would have preferred to die rather than (say) suffer from some terminal illness. I think so, though the hard part is: how does one codify the law to make things really objective and not presumptuous about a person wishing to die?

This chain, then, finally brings nearer the underlying question raised in this thread: what if it is impossible to know or guess at the person's intentions? For example: a baby born with some terminal illness. What about people not born with a terminal illness, but just without the capacity to live above very much above the level of animals?

I think that in both cases, the law should essentially act as a "stand-in" decision-maker for that person. This might mean hastening the death of a terminally ill baby or someone who is a truly vegetative state. For others, it might mean allowing volunteers to take care of some children and some adults who will be perpetually children. I know those are the rules I would want, if I were playing the ovarian lottery.

Added: In the Rand quote above, I think she goes beyond the idea of simply having the law allow people to take care of such disabled adults. It sounds at if she might be saying that the government should actually ensure that such care is provided.

Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It isn't right to treat dogs like that, so it isn't right to treat retarded humans like that. The reason being that it is wrong to make an animal suffer by torturing it so our ends our met. It is one thing to kill them for food or clothes, quite another to torture them. What the Chinese do is torture and thus wrong. Therefore, it is wrong to treat retarded people that way even though they have no rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This chain, then, finally brings nearer the underlying question raised in this thread: what if it is impossible to know or guess at the person's intentions? For example: a baby born with some terminal illness. What about people not born with a terminal illness, but just without the capacity to live above very much above the level of animals?

I don't think that is the issue of the thread though. We are talking someone who simply has no rational capacity nor has ever had one, nor will ever have one.... And we are also talking about someone below the level of most animals.

EDIT: Of a number of animals.

I think the situations you mentioned relative to this are fairly cut and dry. If someone at some point had a rational ability, then yes that would make sense. Here though, simply they never did and won't in the future.

Essentially we are talking about a person lower than a dog as far as abilities mental and otherwise go,

definitely far below a monkey.

Edited by fatdogs12
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...