Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

What is a human being?

Rate this topic


Maken
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Replies 69
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Let me see if I can help.

Yes, I'm quite familiar with concept formation and genus/differentia definition. Why does the genus have to be "animal"? Why not "living things"? That is the point you are not addressing.

I think there is something you are missing: the CCD or Conceptual Common Denominator or commensurable characteristic. Here is Ayn Rand in ITOE:

All conceptual differentiations are made in terms of commensurable characteristics (i.e., characteristics possessing a common unit of measurement). No concept could be formed, for instance, by attempting to distinguish long objects from green objects. Incommensurable characteristics cannot be integrated into one unit.

A commensurable characteristic (such as shape in the case of tables, or hue in the case of colors) is an essential element in the process of concept-formation. I shall designate it as the “Conceptual Common Denominator” and define it as “The characteristic(s) reducible to a unit of measurement, by means of which man differentiates two or more existents from other existents possessing it.”

The distinguishing characteristic(s) of a concept represents a specified category of measurements within the “Conceptual Common Denominator” involved.

We agree that "rational" is the proper differentia and "rational" refers to a type of consciousness so the genus must refer to those things that possess a consciousness; this is the commensurable characteristic. Plants don't possess a consciousness so they are incommensurable with those things that do. It isn't arbitrary at all.

You don't get to arbitrarily pick one irrelevant feature (the fact that we are animals) over the others.

I think you know that Miss Rand was never arbitrary.

No, I'm arguing that in that context the concept "rational being" (which does not have a word for it) is superior to the concept "man" (= rational animal).

As to the word "being" I think you are going to have to define it better than you have here:

If we start from all existents and differentiate initially between living and unliving we form two initial concepts. Let us call them beings and objects. If we start from all living beings and differentiate between the ones with a rational faculty and the ones without it we can form two more concepts. Rational beings share features that irrational beings do not - they are volitional, they must act by choice to sustain their lives - thus they need ethics, they can live in society to mutual benefit - thus they need politics.

Now explain to me, why is it necessary to form concepts by first subdividing "beings" into types (protozoa, fungi, plants, animals etc.) and then separating the "animals" part into rational and irrational? Answer: it is not.

Plants are not beings. I believe that "consciousness" is implied by the word "being". We already have a word for organisms with a consciousness: animal; so I'm not sure why you want a new one.

Actually, I believe the word "being" connotes more than just consciousness. To me it implies self-awareness or even rationality. So I suspect that you want to include "as yet undiscovered rational consciousnesses" in your new concept. Is that true?

If so, I would say that is fine for the science fiction novel you are developing. But as far as known life forms are concerned, you are proposing a completely arbitrary concept unsupported by any evidence, so it wouldn't be a good idea.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3. you're not aware of the fact that definitions are absolute in our entire context of knowledge, and you keep insisting that in the context of Politics and Ethics men should be defined differently than in the context of biology for instance.

I already explained why definitions can't be changed around to suit your purpose in a given context.(well, I explained that Objectivism doesn't allow you to, but the reason isn't that hard to figure out)

I'm not exactly sure what you are saying here so I'll tell you what my understanding is and see if we agree.

Definition, like knowledge, is absolute, within a context. (This is not an equivocation, this is what "absolute" means and obviously that is what you meant). And our "entire context of knowledge" is what philosophy is about, so, so far I think we are on the same page.

However, definitions do change with context. And sometimes it is appropriate to alter a definition for a certain context. For instance, it might be appropriate to have a more complex definition for man when studying science or a less complex one when talking to an eight year-old.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

However, definitions do change with context. And sometimes it is appropriate to alter a definition for a certain context. For instance, it might be appropriate to have a more complex definition for man when studying science or a less complex one when talking to an eight year-old.

Well, when talking to an eight year old, you are walking a tight rope. On the one hand, you must not mislead him in any way, so the definition of man you are teaching him must not contradict the more advanced definition, on the other hand, you must not force him to accept a truth that he cannot integrate. (you must consider his context of knowledge)

The beauty of reality is that this is always possible, it is never necessary to define something in a way that contradicts the most complex definition available. It is never necessary (and always wrong) to define man in contradiction to one defined in our entire context of knowledge, if you will. The simpler correct definition is always a part of the more complex correct one.

Definition, like knowledge, is absolute, within a context.

Within a context of knowledge. I think the distinction is important. I was arguing against changing the definition within the context of a field, such as Politics, from the definition in the context of another field, such as Biology. A change of context causing a change of the definition, in that sense of the word context, would be contrary to Objectivism.

Here's how ItOE (86.) puts it: "a definition is false and worthless if it is not contextually absolute—if it does not specify the known relationships among existents". Note the use of the word "known". It makes the use of the word "context" different from the use of the word context in this sentence: Depending on the context we're talking about, shooting a man can be moral or immoral. It would be wrong to say: Depending on the context we're talking about, the definition of the word is A or B.

P.S. It is also wrong to falsify our context of knowledge, and then pretend you are creating something other than a draft for a science fiction novel. It would be wrong to consider imaginary intelligent beings, as if they were a part of reality and human knwoledge of it, when creating a Philosophy meant to aid human interaction. Not only is it unnecessary, it is a rejection of Reason.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Within a context of knowledge. I think the distinction is important.

I'm not sure how this is different from what I said.

I was arguing against changing the definition within the context of a field, such as Politics, from the definition in the context of another field, such as Biology. A change of context causing a change of the definition, in that sense of the word context, would be contrary to Objectivism.

I disagree. According to Objectivist Epistemology, the definition must be "contextually absolute" meaning that if the context changes, the definition can change (but cannot be contradictory). Philosophy sets the rules for acquiring knowledge, the special sciences expand knowledge, and in that expansion a new definition might be proper as long as it doesn't contradict the philosophical definition.

Here's how ItOE (86.) puts it: "a definition is false and worthless if it is not contextually absolute—if it does not specify the known relationships among existents". Note the use of the word "known".

[...]

It would be wrong to consider imaginary intelligent beings, as if they were a part of reality and human knwoledge of it, when creating a Philosophy meant to aid human interaction. Not only is it unnecessary, it is a rejection of Reason.

Did you read my reply to mrocktor? You should, I acknowledge both of these considerations there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I disagree. According to Objectivist Epistemology, the definition must be "contextually absolute" meaning that if the context changes, the definition can change (but cannot be contradictory).

In my view this next quote for instance shows beyond any doubt that by the statement "contextually absolute" she means that a definition is indeed absolute within a person's context of knowledge, as well as within the widest possible context of knowledge, and is only altered when a man expands his knowledge, not when he uses the term in different contexts:

"Thus the essence of a concept is determined contextually and may be altered with the growth of man’s knowledge. The metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is not a special, separate metaphysical essence, but the total of the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential. An essential characteristic is factual, in the sense that it does exist, does determine other characteristics and does distinguish a group of existents from all others; it is epistemological in the sense that the classification of “essential characteristic” is a device of man’s method of cognition—a means of classifying, condensing and integrating an ever-growing body of knowledge." (ItOE 68.)

I believe the above quote says, without doubt, that within the entire context of knowledge of one man, there can be only one definition of a concept. For one person, at a given point in his learning process, the definition is absolute, it cannot be different for when he talks about Biology than it is when he talks about Politics. "The metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is the total of the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential. "

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe the above quote says, without doubt, that within the entire context of knowledge of one man, there can be only one definition of a concept. For one person, at a given point in his learning process, the definition is absolute, it cannot be different for when he talks about Biology than it is when he talks about Politics. "The metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is the total of the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential. "

There is only one concept, but the definition changes depending upon what differentiations are needed. In modern biology what differentiates species is their genotypes, and man defined biologically as homo sapiens sapiens is fundamentally a genetic code. And yet biologists vote and think politically where knowledge of genotypes has no use whatever. Thus they also rely upon the rational animal definition when they advocate freedom of speech, or other rights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In modern biology what differentiates species is their genotypes, and man defined biologically as homo sapiens sapiens is fundamentally a genetic code.

In that case, the def. of homo sapiens sapiens is not a different definition of the concept man, it's the definition of a different concept. (of the genetic code of men)... (and if they happen to use the same word for it, that's fine, since most English words have more than one meaning.)

Edited by Jake_Ellison
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is the definitive quote:

Prof. A: Then would it be wrong for a biologist to define man as "a rational primate," or would that be correct in his context?

AR: It would be correct in his context, if he remembers that he is speaking here from a professional context. And, as you know, the subdivide even further. Any subdivision within a given science is proper provided it is not substituted for the basic philosophical definition which is valid for all men in all stages of knowledge.

And I see no contradiction or inconsistency between this quote and the one you provided:

"Thus the essence of a concept is determined contextually and may be altered with the growth of man’s knowledge. The metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is not a special, separate metaphysical essence, but the total of the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential. An essential characteristic is factual, in the sense that it does exist, does determine other characteristics and does distinguish a group of existents from all others; it is epistemological in the sense that the classification of “essential characteristic” is a device of man’s method of cognition—a means of classifying, condensing and integrating an ever-growing body of knowledge." (ItOE 68.)

To me, when she speaks of "an ever-growing body of knowledge", Miss Rand is referring to science, that science is a different context than philosophy, and that man may alter the essence of his concepts accordingly to fit his focused observations of certain characteristics of a certain group of existents. All while never contradicting the philosophical definition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In that case, the def. of homo sapiens sapiens is not a different definition of the concept man, it's the definition of a different concept. (of the genetic code of men)... (and if they happen to use the same word for it, that's fine, since most English words have more than one meaning.)

No, it is the same concept. A concept includes all of the attributes of the referents, not just the philosophically important ones. All of the attributes of man, including the rational faculty and the genetic code, are all equally important. Different definitions are not a matter of only differing contexts of knowledge, but also differing perspectives on the same knowledge, where a differing perspective is another sense of the word context. Context is not just the sum of everything you know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, it is the same concept. A concept includes all of the attributes of the referents, not just the philosophically important ones. All of the attributes of man, including the rational faculty and the genetic code, are all equally important. Different definitions are not a matter of only differing contexts of knowledge, but also differing perspectives on the same knowledge, where a differing perspective is another sense of the word context. Context is not just the sum of everything you know.

I agree they are the same concept, in the same sense that reality and existence are the same concept--that they refer to the same existents, but come from two different differentiations. In other words, the difference between homo sapiens and men is not in the referents but in the existents from which the set of referents were differentiated. Homo sapiens are differentiated from the genus Homo, whereas men are differentiated from animals.

Edited by itsjames
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On pages 44 & 45 of ITOE Rand writes "Observe that all of the above versions of man were true, i.e., were correct indentifications of the facts of reality--and that they were valid qua definitions, i.e. were correct selections of distinguishing characteristics in a given context of knowledge. None of them was contradicted by subsequent knowledge: they were included implicitly as non-defining characteristics, in a more precise definition of man. It is still true that man is a rational animal who speaks, does things no other living beings can do, walks on two legs, has no fur, moves and makes sound". (bold is mine).

When people refer to a definition as being "contextual" relative to a particular field of study, I think what they really mean is that they are focusing on one of the non-defining characteristic of a given concept.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Man's values are defined by his animal nature. As I stated earlier, this is in contrast to another 'rational being' such as, say potentially, a machine intelligence.

While a rational being of any variety would necessarily hold the same ethics, the values in question depend entirely on what type of 'being' he is.

In the context of defining a 'human being', I think it is more than appropriate to consider also man's values in addition to mentioning his means of achieving them.

Man is an animal, who depends on biological processes for his survival. Men, as men, must live their lives according to certain rules. We consume food of a specific nature, reproduce a specific way, and on as I have written previously.

While man is certainly of the type 'animal', he also holds values - relevant to his rational pursuits - that are defined by his nature as an animal.

As an animal, man cannot change his nature. His rational enjoyment of life will always occur in the context of his emotions and desires that are often of biological origin. A different form of conciousness might be able to alter its values. A computer could reconstruct its brain into an optical computer rather than one built of electrical circuits. If man were to alter his form, he might still be rational, but not a man.

Values are relevant to politics, aesthetics, and more. I would think that philosophy and ethics would be common between any rational being, but the aforementioned elements not. Politics requires a common set of values - property for instance must be defined according to areas of competition for value. While a society of men and AI might have a combined set of rules, the two societies separate might have very different politics. Aesthetics is particularly relevant, as I have stated, because it relates to what is valued in particular.

To define men outside of the context of his values is to not define what a man is. These are not 'applications'. If the question is "What is a human being?" The answer is: "A Rational Animal". Defining both the sort of values men have in common (obtain nourishment from biological compounds through motion in an ecology), and the common method they possess for gaining them (reason).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To define men outside of the context of his values is to not define what a man is. These are not 'applications'. If the question is "What is a human being?" The answer is: "A Rational Animal". Defining both the sort of values men have in common (obtain nourishment from biological compounds through motion in an ecology), and the common method they possess for gaining them (reason).

What then is being defined by the biological apellation homo sapiens sapiens, which distinguishes it homo sapiens neanderthalensis? The neaderthals are gone now, but they apparently had the same mode of living as the early modern humans, using their wits to aid in hunting, gathering, and socializing. The neanderthals were rational animals too.

I think you are trying to reach the equivalent of an absolute best definition for all purposes by trying to delegitimize any alternate context.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, it is the same concept. A concept includes all of the attributes of the referents, not just the philosophically important ones. All of the attributes of man, including the rational faculty and the genetic code, are all equally important. Different definitions are not a matter of only differing contexts of knowledge, but also differing perspectives on the same knowledge, where a differing perspective is another sense of the word context. Context is not just the sum of everything you know.

How do you reconcile your statement with the Ayn Rand quote I gave earlier?

"The metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is the total of the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential. "

If a biologist decides to not use the same definition of man as the rest uf us, for his studies, how exactly does ho plan on making sure he's studying the same thing? The fact that you're not looking at the one and only definition of "man" already caused you to suggest Neanderthals weren't men, because their genetic code is different.

Yet, the one proper definition of man does not differentiate between homo sapiens sapiens and homo sapiens neantherthalis. The concept man, defined as "rational animal", includes both groups (and some other extinct ones), it differentiates them from the category animals. By defining men as "life-forms with the genom of homo sapiens sapiens", you would have to conclude that our ancestors and some of the genetic branches that failed to survive weren't men. So, they are clearly different concepts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If a biologist decides to not use the same definition of man as the rest uf us, for his studies, how exactly does ho plan on making sure he's studying the same thing?

A biologist verifies his special definition picks out from within a scientific context the same referents as the philosophic definition does in the philosophic context. The philosophic context is the important context where there can be no contradiction. Philosophic definitions are accessible to all men in all contexts and cannot rely on special scientific knowledge. The philosophic definition of man as a rational animal is not employed for scientific work, that is not the function of that definition. There is no need to differentiate the observed from the unobserved, and a long extinct species is the unobserved. It is precisely the failure of the philosophic definition to distinguish between the species we observe today and extinct species in the scientific context which studies those extinct species and treats them as observed that justifies a more detailed consideration of the essential. Genetic codes are also unobserved in the philosophic context but are part of the total of knowledge used to establish the essential by fundamentality for scientific purposes.

It is not a contradiction to a philosophic definition that a borderline case might be classified differently by a scientific definition. The referents of the concept of man implicitly do not encompass extinct species in the philosophic context because they do not appear there, and the scientific definition explicitly excludes them when they do appear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What then is being defined by the biological apellation homo sapiens sapiens, which distinguishes it homo sapiens neanderthalensis? The neaderthals are gone now, but they apparently had the same mode of living as the early modern humans, using their wits to aid in hunting, gathering, and socializing. The neanderthals were rational animals too.

I think you are trying to reach the equivalent of an absolute best definition for all purposes by trying to delegitimize any alternate context.

As for what is described by homo sapiens sapiens <-- there is the name for it.

Yet, if I say man, or human being, I would be refering to a philosophical/ethical definition of an entity. Neanderthals, if they were truly rational, were men - sharing the same values and the same means, identically, of obtaining them. Rational animal is an ethical definition of a being, identified by its values and method for obtaining them. Isn't that what one considers in the context of ethics?

You argue that in the modern context, man clearly refers to only one class of hominids - our own. Yet, in the modern context there is only one surviving relevant class of hominids. In the modern context, the term rational animal refers only to homo sapiens sapiens. If there are others that fit under this label, we are not aware of them.

In support of your comment, my justification for the use of 'animal' might be considered arbitrary. Why not say rational 'vertebrate'?

My reason for why animal is the appropriate level of generalization is that non-animal biologicals, if rational, would not have the means of obtaining values by reason. A rational tree would be forever doomed to grow on its spot of ground, pondering the world around it, with no means (locomotion, animation) to alter its fate no matter how well it knew the proper method for doing so.

A rational animal is the appropriate name for what a human is in an ethical context.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As for what is described by homo sapiens sapiens <-- there is the name for it.

Yet, if I say man, or human being, I would be refering to a philosophical/ethical definition of an entity. Neanderthals, if they were truly rational, were men - sharing the same values and the same means, identically, of obtaining them. Rational animal is an ethical definition of a being, identified by its values and method for obtaining them. Isn't that what one considers in the context of ethics?

Man, human being, and homo sapiens sapiens have the exact same referents and so are the exact same concept. Man and homo sapiens sapiens invoke different contexts and different definitions of the same concept. (not entity)

To answer your question: Yes, in ethics. There is more to life than philosophy, however, so that definition is not (heh) definitive.

A word is associated with a concept, which in turn references something else which is actual content. For a first level concept such as man, the referents are the people around you, and yourself, and everyone else sufficiently similar to them living or dead whether you have met them or not. First level concepts are ostensive, they can be demonstrated. That makes definitions for first level concepts rather superfluous in a sense, the definition is not needed to simply possess the concept. Definitions are required to relate the concept to any other concept. Depending on what you need to relate to, the definition can change.

Since the definition of a concept is formulated in terms of other concepts, it enables man, not only to identify and retain a concept, but also to establish the relationships, the hierarchy, the integration of all his concepts and thus the integration of his knowledge. Definitions preserve, not the chronological order in which a given man may have learned concepts, but the logical order of their hierarchical interdependence.

First level concept definitions identify the closest genus to which the subject matter is similar and the essential differentia which distinguishes the subject matter from other members of the genus by the rule of fundamentality. In this case, we do not say "rational primate" because primate is already invoking a scientific context, but we can't require a theory of evolution before having a philosophy. Even saying "vertebrate" is too much. To any nonscientific mind, plants and animals are the two categories of organism and people are self evidently types of animals. So "rational animal" it is.

If neanderthals were alive today there would be a word for the genus encompassing the two similar peoples, and the differentia would be something other than rationality. Rationality would be what differentiated the new genus from the rest of the animals.

Or maybe things would be completely unchanged. Since even the Greeks could hardly bring themselves to consider women, slaves, and Persians as human, a different species so similar to humans might not strike them as more exotic than other forms of barbarian peoples in any important respect.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While it is legitimate to say that all rational animals are homo sapiens sapiens, and all "men" or "persons" are homo sapiens sapiens and rational animals, this likely will not stay this way for more than another couple of decades. We will likely develop artificial intelligences as sophisticated as humans, or genetically engineer some great ape specimens with significantly larger brains (perhaps even human-esque vocal cords granting them proper speech abilities), etc. This isn't idle speculation, there is every reason to believe this will occur and in the relatively near future. Considering what ethical and political ramifications this would have is something that has some importance.

Now, "rational animal" is a perfectly good definition of "man." But "man" is not necessarily the ideal concept to use in the context of defining a philosophy that will suffice for the foreseeable future. Intelligent beings based on electronics for example will not be included in "man" but would, it would seem, be a being with all of the characteristics necessary to require all of the Objectivist virtues for its continued life, a morality of rational egoism, and a politics with simply bans the initiation of force. Now, its values are likely to be very different from ours, but that does not change the principles of the ethics. Transhumanists (who argue that we should use technology to improve ourselves, i.e. lengthening life, boosting intelligence, eliminating disease, and the conditions of life) have generally adopted a "personhood" definition of rights, stating that any living entity which is self-aware and has the capacity to be rational, is granted all of rights a "man" in the Objectivist sense has (they don't reference Objectivism, obviously, but that is the essential meaning). I generally use the term "person" to identify mrocktor's concept of "rational being" or my preferred "rational entity". For now, "person" is identical to "man" because it refers to the same thing. But it is specifically constructed so as to be applicable to all possible beings that by their nature would need a rational egoist morality and a have "human" rights. It avoids confusion when discussing such things as fetuses or the brain dead, "uplifted" animals or conscious machines, or interactions with alien species.

The term "person" makes clear things that "human" or "man" do not: fetuses are not people, but might be thought of as "human" since they have human genetic material (only for someone unclear on philosophy, but as most people are, it helps); the brain dead are not people, they cannot be said to have a "person" in there, there is no conscious entity any longer, so they no longer have rights; a "uplifted" animal (an animal like a chimp or dolphin engineered to have human level intelligence and rational capacities) can be said to be a person, they are self-aware and can communicate, have personalities, pursue values rationally, etc.; an intelligent machine is a person for much the same reason; and an alien species along the same lines. "Person" isolates what one might call the "soul" from the physical form which it springs, forms, resides in, etc. It doesn't muddy any philosophical waters, but instead makes clear that non-homo sapiens sapiens who have the capacity to reason (which will certainly come into existence in this century) have rights as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While it is legitimate to say that all rational animals are homo sapiens sapiens, and all "men" or "persons" are homo sapiens sapiens and rational animals, this likely will not stay this way for more than another couple of decades. We will likely develop artificial intelligences as sophisticated as humans, or genetically engineer some great ape specimens with significantly larger brains (perhaps even human-esque vocal cords granting them proper speech abilities), etc. This isn't idle speculation, there is every reason to believe this will occur and in the relatively near future. Considering what ethical and political ramifications this would have is something that has some importance.

Now, "rational animal" is a perfectly good definition of "man." But "man" is not necessarily the ideal concept to use in the context of defining a philosophy that will suffice for the foreseeable future. Intelligent beings based on electronics for example will not be included in "man" but would, it would seem, be a being with all of the characteristics necessary to require all of the Objectivist virtues for its continued life, a morality of rational egoism, and a politics with simply bans the initiation of force. Now, its values are likely to be very different from ours, but that does not change the principles of the ethics. Transhumanists (who argue that we should use technology to improve ourselves, i.e. lengthening life, boosting intelligence, eliminating disease, and the conditions of life) have generally adopted a "personhood" definition of rights, stating that any living entity which is self-aware and has the capacity to be rational, is granted all of rights a "man" in the Objectivist sense has (they don't reference Objectivism, obviously, but that is the essential meaning). I generally use the term "person" to identify mrocktor's concept of "rational being" or my preferred "rational entity". For now, "person" is identical to "man" because it refers to the same thing. But it is specifically constructed so as to be applicable to all possible beings that by their nature would need a rational egoist morality and a have "human" rights. It avoids confusion when discussing such things as fetuses or the brain dead, "uplifted" animals or conscious machines, or interactions with alien species.

The term "person" makes clear things that "human" or "man" do not: fetuses are not people, but might be thought of as "human" since they have human genetic material (only for someone unclear on philosophy, but as most people are, it helps); the brain dead are not people, they cannot be said to have a "person" in there, there is no conscious entity any longer, so they no longer have rights; a "uplifted" animal (an animal like a chimp or dolphin engineered to have human level intelligence and rational capacities) can be said to be a person, they are self-aware and can communicate, have personalities, pursue values rationally, etc.; an intelligent machine is a person for much the same reason; and an alien species along the same lines. "Person" isolates what one might call the "soul" from the physical form which it springs, forms, resides in, etc. It doesn't muddy any philosophical waters, but instead makes clear that non-homo sapiens sapiens who have the capacity to reason (which will certainly come into existence in this century) have rights as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While it is legitimate to say that all rational animals are homo sapiens sapiens, and all "men" or "persons" are homo sapiens sapiens and rational animals, this likely will not stay this way for more than another couple of decades. We will likely develop artificial intelligences as sophisticated as humans, or genetically engineer some great ape specimens with significantly larger brains (perhaps even human-esque vocal cords granting them proper speech abilities), etc. This isn't idle speculation, there is every reason to believe this will occur and in the relatively near future. Considering what ethical and political ramifications this would have is something that has some importance.

This sounds alot like the Precautionary Principal as applied to epistomology. Without evidence of the existence of other rational "beings" we ought not modify our existing definitions. A possible future "context" cannot and should not be included in the current context which serves as the basis of our concept formation/definitions. Once you start thinking along this line, where do you stop? What concept or definition could NOT be altered based upon this premise? We should only tackle the issue when and if the time comes.

As an aside, I don't agree at all that "we will likely develop artifical intelligences.... or genetically engineer some great ape specimens with significantly larger brains...". Human intelligence is so specific to the entire human being, incorporating multiple systems (neurological, endocrinal, somatic, sense perception, visceral perception etc.) that it's almost certain that we will never create another consciousness that resembles our own -- either electronic or biological. Are there other conscious entities somewhere in the universe? I don't have a clue. But I'm pretty certain that if they do exist they will be unlike anything we can ever imagine and there is no reason to believe that we will share any values.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This isn't idle speculation,

It is idle speculation, along with the flying cars and routine space travel we are already supposed to have. The people making those estimates have no clue what the hell they are doing, they are just projecting lines on a chart. That is the same "reasoning" behind global warming.

Anyway, the ethics appropriate to an artificial entity are as fully engineered as any other aspect of it. It could be anything, rational egoism is one one option among many.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is idle speculation, along with the flying cars and routine space travel we are already supposed to have. The people making those estimates have no clue what the hell they are doing, they are just projecting lines on a chart. That is the same "reasoning" behind global warming.

Anyway, the ethics appropriate to an artificial entity are as fully engineered as any other aspect of it. It could be anything, rational egoism is one one option among many.

If it is an independent rational entity capable of self-generated self-sustaining action, then it must necessarily follow a rational egoist ethics, because those are the characteristics of man which lead to that ethics in the philosophy of Objectivism. Now, you can claim that it is impossible for that to occur, but that would mean it would be impossible for us in principle to reproduce by design what nature produced through evolution, and any such claim seems dubious at best. Just because man created it does not mean that it cannot attain independent existence. We do it with children all the time, haha.

The claims you put forward were not based on any actual projections of current technological trends, but on pure imagination and/or were dependent on massive sustained governmental support (something no one has any reason to believe will occur for much of anything).

This sounds alot like the Precautionary Principal as applied to epistomology. Without evidence of the existence of other rational "beings" we ought not modify our existing definitions. A possible future "context" cannot and should not be included in the current context which serves as the basis of our concept formation/definitions. Once you start thinking along this line, where do you stop? What concept or definition could NOT be altered based upon this premise? We should only tackle the issue when and if the time comes.

Not a "possible", i.e. conceivable, context, an imminent and foreseeable one. There are very few situations where this applies, because most extensions of definitions or formations of new concepts occur from an increase in knowledge. That increase is inherently unpredictable. In this case, we can foresee a high likelihood for such things to come to pass in the future. And, I think, it is more meaningful to talk of "persons" and "rational life forms" than to talk of "man" and "human" when it comes to basic principles of ethics and politics. It even helps clear up categories that are odd cases in the case of humans, such as the mentally retarded, fetuses, and the brain dead. It may (though probably does not, in my opinion) muddy up matters for dolphins and the "higher" apes. But since it is a concept which is created so as to serve as a category for all entities of any sort which deserve legal rights of any sort (surely an important thing), I think it serves such a role better than an ambiguous and limited concept such as "man" in ethics. We can easily foresee "man" needing to be dumped for a better, broader concept to define ethical and political principles with. Why not go ahead and do it?

As an aside, I don't agree at all that "we will likely develop artifical intelligences.... or genetically engineer some great ape specimens with significantly larger brains...". Human intelligence is so specific to the entire human being, incorporating multiple systems (neurological, endocrinal, somatic, sense perception, visceral perception etc.) that it's almost certain that we will never create another consciousness that resembles our own -- either electronic or biological. Are there other conscious entities somewhere in the universe? I don't have a clue. But I'm pretty certain that if they do exist they will be unlike anything we can ever imagine and there is no reason to believe that we will share any values.

Worst case we simply emulate all of those things you just discussed in a computer system. They are physical systems, and with enough computing power it is at least possible to form such an emulation. Best case we really come to understand those systems and create new systems with similar or identical properties for our purposes.

It seems that many place certain things beyond human understanding, such as how consciousness arises, or how intelligence arises, etc., even on this board. It is profoundly surprising, since Objectivism is arguably a philosophy which gives man the tools to bring literally everything under his understanding, influence, and control. Betting against human ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity is never a good idea. Especially for an Objectivist. It seems obvious that we will one day do what I described in my previous post (since it does not violate the laws of nature), and given that, why would you not define the terms in your philosophy to be applicable forever, since that is just what the philosophy is supposed to be capable of? The term that best encompasses the nature of man that Objectivism as a philosophy addresses is "person" as I described it or "rational being" as mrocktor described it. "Human" is not what the philosophy is about. That is what its application is about, for humans. But the philosophy applies equally well to any independent rational "living" (in the Objectivist, not biological, definition) entity. The metaphysics is always the same. Regardless of the type of senses you have, the epistemology is the same. The ethics and therefore the politics will be the same (in principle, if not in all their applications, but this is no different than for various people). Objectivism does not change for any entity fitting the above description that may ever exist, including humans. So "human" when defined as identical to "homo sapiens sapiens", independent of any future creations or discoveries, is not a good concept to use in defining the philosophy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems that many place certain things beyond human understanding, such as how consciousness arises, or how intelligence arises, etc., even on this board.

While possible, the difficulty of the task is being grossly underestimated. A brain has 100 billion neurons, and about ten times that many, or one trillion, glial cells. Each cell is connected to about 104 other cells. The brain is a three dimensional structure. The state of the art in design by Intel is a 2 billion transistor chip, and transistors or nowhere near as complex as cells. State of the art in interconnect technology is on the order of 10-100. All current designs are planar arrays of devices that are basically switches. There are multiple orders of magnitude increases in capability required just to get in the ballpark with the hardware, and there is no theory as to how to wire the stuff together even if we had it. The theory is the biggest hurdle.

Don't hold your breath for the AI revolution.

why would you not define the terms in your philosophy to be applicable forever, since that is just what the philosophy is supposed to be capable of?

It is not applicable "forever", it is applicable to all men. If the context changes by substituting some other being for humans everything has to be rederived inductively based on the new facts.

"Human" is not what the philosophy is about.

It is the only thing philosophy is about, or even can be about. If you want to invent xeno-philosophy, go ahead but it's just speculation until you get a specimen to dialog with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't hold your breath for the AI revolution.

It is a big project, but the exponential growth in computing probably isn't going to be slowing any time soon. We'll get their eventually.

It is not applicable "forever", it is applicable to all men. If the context changes by substituting some other being for humans everything has to be rederived inductively based on the new facts.

Well I suppose I understand the logical structure of Objectivism as independent of the nature of "man", except for the qualities in my "person." If you are a rational, self-aware volitional life form, it applies to you. So, Objectivism, while based on "man" as in "human", is based on the certain qualities man has that makes him a person (obviously a concept derived from the concept "man"). Perhaps the best way to explain it is that my understanding of Objectivism makes the ethics and politics a simply deductive consequence of the fact that it is discussing a rational, self-aware volitional life form. Humans are such life forms (in fact, the model by which we created the concept of such life forms in the first place, but humans do not exhaust all the possibilities which fit under the concept), so Objectivism obviously applies. I don't see anything in the nature of man which is not contained in the above description which influences Objectivist ethics or politics in terms of principles. Their application will be very different of course, since the context is different, but the virtues of Objectivism and the prohibition of force are a logical requirement arising from the qualities in my idea of "person."

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...