Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Monkey-men with maturity problems

Rate this topic


AngrySaki
 Share

Recommended Posts

Since it's my first post: I'm not an objectivist, and i don't totally understand where the morals come from in objectivism, but i think i have vague to general idea. I've argued with some objectivists before, and was almost won over by them at one point, but never totally. I've also never read any books on the subject. I don't have a philosophy i live by/believe in.

The actual post:

From what i understand, in objectivism, what gives a creature it's rights is it's conciousness (i've heard the term concious volition get used i think), which seems all well and good in everyday life, but i if morals are objectively true, then i think they should stand up to any hypothetical situation. So, my situation is:

Pretend it's the year 2100, and a "mad" scientists genetically engineers >1 million creatures (monkey-men) and lets them loose in the world. They are all different types of half monkey half human creatures, ranging in varying intelligence from the level of a monkey, to the intelligence of a human. There would also be creatures that looked like monkeys but were as smart as humans, and vice versa. And also, some of the creatures will stop maturing at varying ages, (eg. some will stop maturing at 1 day old, so they'll have the mental capcity of babies their entire lives).

So the question is how does objectivism dictate which ones have rights and do they have them from birth, or their entire lives? and are they ever forfeit (eg. if it's eventually found that the creature will have the intelligence of a baby it's entire life)?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To begin with, I would suggest that you at least read something of Objectivist ethics before you try to argue against them. Secondly, just because an idea is objectively true, does not mean it must be able to answer irrational hypotheticals. Your hypothetical is pretty unrealistic, to the point where it's laughable. It's like saying "yes, I know gravity prevents people from flying without help, so people should not jump off cliffs, but what if gravity did not exist?" The question is useless because it does not relate to reality.

Now, to answer the bulk of your post, I'd like to first correct an error. According to Objectivism, man has rights not because he is conscious (Unless I'm misunderstanding the term), per-say, but because he has a rational faculty, and furthermore, it is within his nature as a man that he must use his rational mind to survive. If he does not use his rational mind, then he will not survive unless someone else helps him. Physical force (Which includes coercion, fraud, etc) is the only thing that can keep a man from using his mind to it's fullest extent against his will. Since he must use his rational mind to survive, rights exist to allow that -- outlawing the use of physical force among human relationships.

Also, the question must be asked, "Is it a part of this creature's nature that he must use his rational faculty to survive?" If he has a rational faculty, but it is not prominent in his survival, then rights are not required, as he might have other traits, like great physical strength or instincts, that allow him to survive. Rights come into play only since man needs to think rationally to survive. That is all he really has. He has no great strength or instincts to aid him -- he only has his mind. Therefore, he requires rights to be able to survive in a human context.

So, finally, to semi-answer your hypothetical -- it would depend on their nature as thinking beings. Are they dependent on their rational faculty to survive? If not, then rights do not apply.

Mind you, I am still sort of a "newbie" myself at this, but I think that is the gist of it. Once again I advise you to read Rand's work. Or, if you want a slightly more streamlined version, go for "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand," by Leonard Peikoff.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't have a philosophy i live by/believe in.

Actually, in all probability (and I mean that literally) you do a have a philosophy you live by it is just that it probably isn't a formal philosophical system with a name. It is essentially impossible to live day to day without some 'general operating guidelines' that help you go from one decision and subsequent action to the next.

The question is, is your unknown philosophies approach to your life actually good for you?

Edited by RationalBiker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the forum. I'll echo Sarrisan's advice and say that if you want tto understand Objectivism, read some Rand. Pick up "The Virtue of Selfishness" or "Capitalism:" The Unknown Ideal".

As to your question...

Pretend it's the year 2100, and a "mad" scientists genetically engineers >1 million creatures (monkey-men) and lets them loose in the world.

One could take Objectivist ideas and speculate about an answer; but one cannot really answer unless one really sees these monkeys and understands all their features. Objectivism recommends induction: so, it is not too good at these science-fiction examples. Such examples tend to equate the thing (e.g. some hypothetical monkey-man) with a short definition (e.g. some brief description of their mental capacity). However, if these creatures actually existed, they would have all sorts of features that one would consider and take into account.

The question about whether they would have rights at some point or later, etc. also indicates an approach that is quite different from Objectivism. It indicates more of the "natural rights" approach. Actually, rights are not some type of attribute that is infused into men at some point and never gets infused into animals. Rather, we human beings confront the question of how we can live together in society, in a way that is moral in principle. We look at past social systems and see the good and the bad features. From this study, we see that a moral society is one where individual human beings are given certain freedom of action that we call rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The actual post:

From what i understand, in objectivism, what gives a creature it's rights is it's conciousness (i've heard the term concious volition get used i think), which seems all well and good in everyday life, but i if morals are objectively true, then i think they should stand up to any hypothetical situation.

This is where your first error arises. "Objectively true" does not mean stand up to any hypothetical situation. What you are referring to is "Intrinsically true". Objectivism is not intrinsicism. In fact, objectively true is better determined by as you put it "everyday life." That is, the context of living in this world as men. "All well and good in everyday life" would be a better way to think about it.

When you create a fantastic hypothetical, you generally throw out or define out part of the context that makes a certain conclusion "objectively true" or you make assumptions that have no basis in reality. For instance, the big assupmtion that you make in your hypothetical is that intelligence is somehow "linear." That a being of any intelligence is equally possible. It's unclear to me that this is the case at all. You see, the assumption you make artificially makes the problem seem difficult, yet it has no basis in reality.

There appears to be a significant gap between beings that are conceptual and those that are simply perceptual or instinctual. If that is the case, then the split seems much easier, incredible science fiction hypothetical notwithstanding.

So it seems that the fundamental is conceptual and volitional. This trait gives rise to the need for rights since it now shifts the burden of survival onto man's conceptual faculty, but it also appears to give rise to a significant gap in intelligence apart from those beings who do not possess this faculty. That makes the situations all well and good in reality.

Edited by KendallJ
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Too late. Check out our modern political class, intelligentsia, and purveyors of mass culture.

Too late indeed. I was going to say something about manufacturing voters for some party, but now it would be anticlimax...

Anyway, one does not base a system of thought on exceptions, much less on hypothetical (and possibly impossible) exceptions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So the question is how does objectivism dictate which ones have rights and do they have them from birth, or their entire lives? and are they ever forfeit (eg. if it's eventually found that the creature will have the intelligence of a baby it's entire life)?
Your question rests on two broader issues, the ethical question of the source of rights and the epistemological question of concept-formation. These two areas of philosophy come together via the observation that rights are moral concepts; the bulk of your question is really about the epistemological branch, namely refining concepts as your knowledge expands. Given the function of the concept "rights" and the world which we know, there is a perfect match between the concept "man=homo sapiens" and "right-bearing being". However, if you are able to expand our knowledge and show that it is possible for there to exist being with those properties of consciousness that lead to recognition of rights without the specific genetic identification "homo sapiens", then we would need to articulate our moral concepts to include, for example, conceptual volitional fish. This is related to conceptual changes that result from any change in knowledge, such as the discovery of a new species or the invention of new gadgetry.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies.

This is where your first error arises. "Objectively true" does not mean stand up to any hypothetical situation. What you are referring to is "Intrinsically true". Objectivism is not intrinsicism. In fact, objectively true is better determined by as you put it "everyday life." That is, the context of living in this world as men. "All well and good in everyday life" would be a better way to think about it.

Thanks for pointing that out. I was getting the wrong impression from the people i had been talking to. I have to say, that this more or less makes my hypothetical statement pointless.

There appears to be a significant gap between beings that are conceptual and those that are simply perceptual or instinctual. If that is the case, then the split seems much easier, incredible science fiction hypothetical notwithstanding.

I guess that revelation leads me to a slightly different, but similar line of thinking.

Is there a plausible future/scientific discovery*, that would force objectivism to be thrown out the window for something else? Or maybe cause objectivism to be morphed from what it currently is?

If you can think of a plausible one, would objectivism immediately become invalid the instant a new situation arose in reality, or would it gradually become invalid as new situations became more common?

*Ideas that jumped into my head were the understanding of conciousness at a neurological level, or the creation of true artificial intelligence

I know this is more fairly silly speculation, so feel free to ignore me if you like :P

The reason i ask such silly questions is i don't feel like i can really understand a concept unless i understand the "far edges/tipping point" of a concept, which helps me understand what assumptions that concept makes. So in the case of objectivism, i'm not particularily interested with the morals of monkey-men, but more "how silly of a situation do you need to create before objectivism doesn't apply".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Existence ceasing to exist?

Things becoming something that they are not?

Consciousness being unable to discern either of the first two?

*I don't believe that a greater understanding of consciousness would negate the fact that conscious beings perceive that which is...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your question rests on two broader issues, the ethical question of the source of rights and the epistemological question of concept-formation. These two areas of philosophy come together via the observation that rights are moral concepts; the bulk of your question is really about the epistemological branch, namely refining concepts as your knowledge expands. Given the function of the concept "rights" and the world which we know, there is a perfect match between the concept "man=homo sapiens" and "right-bearing being". However, if you are able to expand our knowledge and show that it is possible for there to exist being with those properties of consciousness that lead to recognition of rights without the specific genetic identification "homo sapiens", then we would need to articulate our moral concepts to include, for example, conceptual volitional fish. This is related to conceptual changes that result from any change in knowledge, such as the discovery of a new species or the invention of new gadgetry.

Sorry, i didn't see this before i started typing my response.

Maybe i'm missing something, but it sort of seems strange that moral concepts would only change when the volitional fish are found. I would expect the moral concepts to change when volitional fish are thought of, but i could very well be misunderstanding something.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, i didn't see this before i started typing my response.

Maybe i'm missing something, but it sort of seems strange that moral concepts would only change when the volitional fish are found. I would expect the moral concepts to change when volitional fish are thought of, but i could very well be misunderstanding something.

But that would lead to arbitrary parameters with regard to rights?

You could get a bunch of people claiming that sentient earthworms exist and demanding that digging in the ground be prohibited because it is an abuse of their rights as conscious beings, when no such beings have ever been proven to exist...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say that a better metaphor for the question would be:

Say humans live thousands, maybe even millions of years into the future as advanced beings. And the chimpanzee still exists. More than that, it is evolving still. Now, at what period during that evolution would it be considered human?

Or, to use the historical account,

What "species" of man (homo erectus, etc) was first considered to have rights? What quality did that man have to possess in order to have rights?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But that would lead to arbitrary parameters with regard to rights?

You could get a bunch of people claiming that sentient earthworms exist and demanding that digging in the ground be prohibited because it is an abuse of their rights as conscious beings, when no such beings have ever been proven to exist...

Oh, sorry, that's not what i was trying to get at, i was more trying to get at the idea of "how would volitional fish be treated in scenarios x,y,z", not assuming they exist without proof.

NickS:

That's way better :P

(the historical scenario is actually what got me thinking about this, but i forgot about it when i started making my convoluted monkey men scenario :)

Edited by AngrySaki
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, the question must be asked, "Is it a part of this creature's nature that he must use his rational faculty to survive?" If he has a rational faculty, but it is not prominent in his survival, then rights are not required, as he might have other traits, like great physical strength or instincts, that allow him to survive.

I know it's a bit belated, but I'd just like to draw attention to this statement, which I think is completely bogus. If some *man* has great physical strength, it does not therefore follow that he has no rights. A creature that *has* a rational faculty is *going* to need to use it and will therefore have rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Objectivism works in any realistic scenario. If an unrealistic scenario became a realistic scenario Objectivism would not suddenly be 'disproven'. In other words, you're not going to find a scenario that doesn't fit into Objectivism because Objectivism reflects reality, if it doesn't fit in with the philosophy, it is not real or possible. If it -is- possible, or real, the philosophy would re-assess itself and induct this new real concept and how it fits in with the philosophy. In effect one of the basic ideas of Objectivism is that we exist in -this- reality, philosophies that do not work in daily life, but can solve unrealistic hypothetical scenarios are in fact invalid because they are based in -some other- reality. If this reality changed somehow, Objectivism would change. However, there is no evidence that this reality has or will change fundamentally in a way that would 'break' Objectivism.

To answer your question, if we discovered a species that used reason as its mode of survival, no matter if it also was capable of lifting buildings, spitting acid, and had camoflauge, it would have rights. Another scenario for this would be if we ever found aliens. Take Starcraft. The Protoss are volitional creatures, and have rights. The Zerg are nonvolitional creatures that survive via instinct. They do not have rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe i'm missing something, but it sort of seems strange that moral concepts would only change when the volitional fish are found. I would expect the moral concepts to change when volitional fish are thought of, but i could very well be misunderstanding something.
You're focusing on the "found" versus "thought of" distinction, I take it. Basically, the Objectivist approach to everything is grounded in facts of reality and not manipulation of words. Man's rights are derived from particular facts of reality, namely those conditions that are necessary for his survival. When we say "Man has the exclusive right to his own life", we are identifying -- at a general, conceptual level, as a rule -- who has this thing. We don't have to add "And that even means Hillary Clinton", nor do we have to say "And that does not include fish". If the moral concept is to be restated, it has to serve the purpose of any concept, namely it has to function with man's method of cognition. Therefore, before we go restating our moral concept to deal with alien fish, we have to adjust that "man" concept in our existing principle. What concept subsumes man plus volitional, conceptual fish who survive by reason and are capable of grasping and following moral principles including the ability to respect the right of others? None.

As an exercise in sci-fi writing, you could invent an alien race like Vulcans which are in most relevant respects instances of "man" and apparently rights-bearing beings. However, the problem of pon farr raises real questions about just sticking the clause "or Vulcan" in your moral principle. I am skeptical that one can sit down and write out an exhaustive treatise on the concept of "rights" which would be applicable to all possible beings and would also serve the requirements or man's cognition (i.e. it's not useful to have an infinite list).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm, i'm still not sure i totally understand.

However, the problem of pon farr raises real questions about just sticking the clause "or Vulcan" in your moral principle.

If it is true that vulcans might not "fit" with human objectivism because of pon farr, could it not also be true of current humans born with genetic diseases/hormone imbalances/brain disorders?

Or is it that since these are such rare cases, objectivism is not concerened with them for it's ethical framework?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or is it that since these are such rare cases, objectivism is not concerened with them for it's ethical framework?
The central point is that it is unquestionably in the nature of "man" to survive by reason, which leads to a general concept. Various genetic flaws don't negate that fact, although they may make it more difficult for a given individual to consistently exercise his rational faculty. The only human bodies which actually lack a rational faculty die at most a few days after birth.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

However, the problem of pon farr raises real questions about just sticking the clause "or Vulcan" in your moral principle.

Various genetic flaws don't negate that fact,

I guess to me these to statements seem at odds in a way (unless you don't think you can equate pon farr/vulcans to genetic flaws. If a special case may need to be made for vulcans' "known" lack of rationality in certain cases, then it makes me think a special case should be made for certain people's "known" lack of rationality in certain cases. Or is it truly because genetic flaws are so uncommon that they don't require a special case?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since it's my first post: I'm not an objectivist, and i don't totally understand where the morals come from in objectivism, but i think i have vague to general idea. I've argued with some objectivists before, and was almost won over by them at one point, but never totally. I've also never read any books on the subject. I don't have a philosophy i live by/believe in.

The actual post:

From what i understand, in objectivism, what gives a creature it's rights is it's conciousness (i've heard the term concious volition get used i think), which seems all well and good in everyday life, but i if morals are objectively true, then i think they should stand up to any hypothetical situation. So, my situation is:

Pretend it's the year 2100, and a "mad" scientists genetically engineers >1 million creatures (monkey-men) and lets them loose in the world. They are all different types of half monkey half human creatures, ranging in varying intelligence from the level of a monkey, to the intelligence of a human. There would also be creatures that looked like monkeys but were as smart as humans, and vice versa. And also, some of the creatures will stop maturing at varying ages, (eg. some will stop maturing at 1 day old, so they'll have the mental capcity of babies their entire lives).

So the question is how does objectivism dictate which ones have rights and do they have them from birth, or their entire lives? and are they ever forfeit (eg. if it's eventually found that the creature will have the intelligence of a baby it's entire life)?

If we can genetically engineer monkeymen, then why can't we just invent technology to give all monkey-men the intelligence they need to have rights? Then all of them will have a very basic rights system, like the rights of children, until they're given the intelligence by some kind of technology? It's that simple. If something has the potential to become intelligent, even if that potential will only become actual through the use of technology, they have rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If we can genetically engineer monkeymen, then why can't we just invent technology to give all monkey-men the intelligence they need to have rights? Then all of them will have a very basic rights system, like the rights of children, until they're given the intelligence by some kind of technology? It's that simple. If something has the potential to become intelligent, even if that potential will only become actual through the use of technology, they have rights.

The potential that a normal, healthy child will develop into an adult human with rational faculty is almost positively 100%, barring accidents. The likelihood that we will ever 'uplift' monkeys or apes or any other animal to that level is far slimmer. There arise questions between point A and point B, like "Why do it?", "Is it right do to it?", "How difficult will it be to do it?", "What are the consequences?". Just because the slim possibility that someone will maybe, possibly uplift an animal to the intelligence of a human being far in the future does not mean we should give rights to members of their species who will never possess it, right now. I think this is a reversal of the logic of cause and effect.

Edited by Lazariun
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
Now, to answer the bulk of your post, I'd like to first correct an error. According to Objectivism, man has rights not because he is conscious (Unless I'm misunderstanding the term), per-say, but because he has a rational faculty...

That's pretty close. The way Miss Rand put it (and I am paraphrasing, I think): The concept of life necessitates the concept of value(s). As such, only living entities can possess values. The fact that man chooses his values - the fact that man possesses volition or free will - necessitates the concept of morality, and thus "rights".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there a plausible future/scientific discovery*, that would force objectivism to be thrown out the window for something else? Or maybe cause objectivism to be morphed from what it currently is? ...

*Ideas that jumped into my head were the understanding of conciousness at a neurological level, or the creation of true artificial intelligence

As I've studied Computer Science formally off and on across a quarter of a century or so, I can tell you that people in the field don't really try to tackle issues of volition in a productive way. Robots become more sophisticated. Languages become more user-oriented i.e. better for programmers, but at the end of the day... none of that has much anything to do with human volition...., and I suspect that that will be the case for quite some time.

All of the gear has to be originated by one or more human minds. The tech is oriented towards human usage and understanding. Those things are human tools i.e. things used by humans; they are not things that emulate humans. First, you would have to have a whole battery of engineers who even have so much of a clue about Rand's theory of concepts... these days... FAT CHANCE! ...so future tech is relegated to a certain sphere which _does not in any way_ eschew the need for human minds (in the least!)

i.e. There ain't gonna be a HAL-type system in our lifetimes. Believe it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

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...