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Do irrational humans have rights?

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No, but according rights to a human that has shown no greater capacity for rationality than say, a dog, is a deontological premise.

So what's your view on people while they're asleep? Are they rational? Are they irrational? Are they human? Are they dogs?

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How would he have shown it?

By acting in a rational manner.

So what's your view on people while they're asleep? Are they rational? Are they irrational? Are they human? Are they dogs?

I don't know, is sleeping something a rational being would do?

But I seriously doubt that you have ever encountered a human which shows no capacity to be rational. They generally die within hours or days of birth.

Teri Schaivo might count. Someone with a better understanding of what objectivism considers to be rational might disagree.

Edited by Rawls was Right
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Ultimately, this entire discussion is a huge example of concept-dropping. People only need rights because reason does not function automatically--i.e. we all possess equally the capacity to be rational OR irrational. The very concept of rights is genetically dependent upon the volitional function of reason.

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Ultimately, this entire discussion is a huge example of concept-dropping. People only need rights because reason does not function automatically--i.e. we all possess equally the capacity to be rational OR irrational. The very concept of rights is genetically dependent upon the volitional function of reason.

I'm interested in hearing your justification for the bolded claim (bolding mine). Also, I'm going to attempt to unpack your last sentence, please correct me if I flub: the concept of rights only exists because a rational being is able to use reason to determine how it ought to act.

Edited by Rawls was Right
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I'm interested in hearing your justification for the bolded claim (bolding mine). Also, I'm going to attempt to unpack your last sentence, please correct me if I flub: the concept of rights only exists because a rational being is able to use reason to determine how it ought to act.

Oh, excuse me. All of us--except you, since you deny it--possess the capacity to choose to be rational or irrational, within the limitations of our mental capacity, of course.

And, no, rights don't only exist because a rational being is capable of using reason to determine how it ought to act. Imagine, for instance, a mythical perfectly-rational being which has no volition about its rationality/use of reason. (Dr. Peikoff uses this same example in OPAR, I believe). Such a being cannot decide to be irrational, its consciousness is perfect, automatic, and non-volitional.

It is because the use of human reason is NOT infalliable, automatic, and non-volitional that we need rights, NOT because we have reason and can use it to decide what to do, but because we have to CHOOSE to think and constantly monitor how well we think if we're to arrive at a rational conclusion and afterwards act in a rational manner. *Because* we have the capacity to err, either through irrationality or simply a lack of severity or misinformation, we require freedom--freedom to experiment, see the consequences, change our minds, and always pursue better thinking and more rational decisions. Reason is a constant process in motion and a lack of political freedom and respect for rights leads to mental stagnation, the antithesis of human life.

Oh, and in that earlier post it should have been "stolen concept".

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It is because the use of human reason is NOT infalliable, automatic, and non-volitional that we need rights, NOT because we have reason and can use it to decide what to do, but because we have to CHOOSE to think and constantly monitor how well we think if we're to arrive at a rational conclusion and afterwards act in a rational manner.

How do you know the use of human reason is volitional? How do you know someone acting irrationally is not utilizing their capacity to reason to the best of their ability?

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...there is no reason to believe that a human which shows no capacity to be rational has a capacity to be rational, other than a kind of faith in the belief that since most humans have the capacity to be rational every human has the capacity to be rational.

The above statement is true, but it does not lead to the conclusion you are putting forth. Reason, as Objectivists define it, is the tool that allows man to learn how to feed himself, clothe himself, and to learn language. We aren't born knowing how to stay alive or live in society; we learn it, and the only way we can learn it is reason. Thus, anyone who has survived to adulthood (excepting the case of a person in a vegetative who has been cared for since birth) has demonstrated the *capacity* for reason.

Of course most Objectivists would say that most people are irrational in some regards; one of Rand's main points is that people are exceptionally good at compartmentalizing reason, to use it in certain instances and avoid it in others. However, "irrationality" in this sense has nothing to do with the capacity for reason. Anyone who has learned language or how to feed themselves has demonstrated that they possess the capacity.

Thus, we are left with only the cases of those who have never demonstrated the ability to form concepts; basically, people in vegetative states, which is a whole other debate.

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How do you know the use of human reason is volitional? How do you know someone acting irrationally is not utilizing their capacity to reason to the best of their ability?

If I may interject. By introspection, to your first question. And to your second question, because the use of reason is not a function of knowledge or intelligence or ability. It is each person choosing to exercise reason. If choice is not involved, then reason is not involved.

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If I may interject. By introspection, to your first question. And to your second question, because the use of reason is not a function of knowledge or intelligence or ability. It is each person choosing to exercise reason. If choice is not involved, then reason is not involved.

Your first answer is HIGHLY subjective and your second makes no sense in the context of the question.

The above statement is true, but it does not lead to the conclusion you are putting forth. Reason, as Objectivists define it, is the tool that allows man to learn how to feed himself, clothe himself, and to learn language. We aren't born knowing how to stay alive or live in society; we learn it, and the only way we can learn it is reason. Thus, anyone who has survived to adulthood (excepting the case of a person in a vegetative who has been cared for since birth) has demonstrated the *capacity* for reason.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. If this is how objectivism defines capacity for reason, then of course any living person must at some point have shown a capacity for reason. My concern now is that the types of things you listed that are characteristic of reason are learned behaviors. Animals, to varying degrees, are able to learn behaviors too. What is it that differentiates person from animal to an objectivist?

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Ah, now we're getting somewhere. If this is how objectivism defines capacity for reason, then of course any living person must at some point have shown a capacity for reason. My concern now is that the types of things you listed that are characteristic of reason are learned behaviors. Animals, to varying degrees, are able to learn behaviors too. What is it that differentiates person from animal to an objectivist?

Complex abstract thought. And I'm sure your next question will be what that is, so, when you decide whether to ask it, consider this: in my opinion you can continue to ask questions about Objectivism on the Internet for the rest of your life, and never come near understanding it. If understanding is what you're looking for, instead of pointless discussions that lead to nowhere, read it.

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Language is abstract and some animals can utilize language.

This has been discussed at length in other threads on this forum. Language requires words; words require concepts; animals do not have concepts. Animals communicate, but not with language.

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Language is abstract and some animals can utilize language.
No animals can utilize language, unless you have a very odd definition of "utilize", or a totally incorrect understanding of language.
Tools are an abstraction of a percieved object and some animals can use tools.
Use is no evidence of a conceptual faculty. The fact that a hermit crab can use an empty corn can as a house does not prove that they have the ability to conceptualize metallurgy, agriculture and commerce.
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The definition of man in Objectivism is literally "rational animal." Pulled straight from line 1 of her Ethical Egoism proof:

(1) |- man(x) <==> animal(x) & rational(x).

In other words, "a being is a man if and only if they are an animal and rational." The moment a being ceases to think rationally, it ceases to be a man. Therefore, when a being requests that I repect its rights while it is not thinking rationally (in this case, the purchase of a drug that will harm it), I am not obligated to respect its rights, precicely because it is not a man and therefore has no rights.

I'm puzzled by this kind of thinking. Here's what I'm getting from you.

If a person wishes to use a harmful drug (cocain for instance) then he should be denied the right to do so because such an act is irrational. Isn't that a contradiction? If a right is identified as the freedom to act as one wishes so long as it does not violate another person's rights (A right is a moral principle that defines and sanctions a man's freedom of action in a social context), then why would the right to act be determined by the irrationality of the act? I thought that the primary characteristic of man's rational faculty that gives rise to the need for rights was his VOLITIONAL nature (the ability to think or not and to choose or not). Isn't his freedom to choose what a right is protecting?

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Normally, I'd close this thread because discussing with Rawls is amazingly pointless, but I'm enjoying reading what the thoughtful members are responding, so carry on. Diana Hsieh had an interesting post a couple of days ago about "volition" in animals.

Before the subject comes up, yes, apparently some apes and possibly dolphins can be taught to use a symbolic "language" to, say, ask for a banana. Supposedly they will even teach this "understanding" to other apes/dolphins in their social unit. However, as David said more briefly, this does not mean that they are conceptualizing. Humans will often use concepts as percepts (Ayn Rand even writes about this in "The Missing Link") without going through the full process of measurement-omission et al. They can form associations and utilize them from memory, but this is not the same as forming concepts out of whole cloth, which quite young humans do with astonishing alacrity. My brother Gareth, for instance, did quite a lot of inventing new words for things and insisting on using HIS words in favor of the English ones when he was a baby.

We know that other humans possess a rational capacity the same way we know everything--though a process of observation and induction. And we know that animals do not in the same way.

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I'm puzzled by this kind of thinking. Here's what I'm getting from you.

If a person wishes to use a harmful drug (cocain for instance) then he should be denied the right to do so because such an act is irrational. Isn't that a contradiction? If a right is identified as the freedom to act as one wishes so long as it does not violate another person's rights (A right is a moral principle that defines and sanctions a man's freedom of action in a social context), then why would the right to act be determined by the irrationality of the act? I thought that the primary characteristic of man's rational faculty that gives rise to the need for rights was his VOLITIONAL nature (the ability to think or not and to choose or not). Isn't his freedom to choose what a right is protecting?

You're assuming that the human in question has the capacity for reason. Also, I'm not saying they should be denied the use of the drug, only that you aren't obligated to let them.

No animals can utilize language, unless you have a very odd definition of "utilize", or a totally incorrect understanding of language.

Use is no evidence of a conceptual faculty. The fact that a hermit crab can use an empty corn can as a house does not prove that they have the ability to conceptualize metallurgy, agriculture and commerce.

Apes can utilize language on the same spectrum as humans can. The difference between the hermit crab and humans that utilize metallurgy etc. is one of positions on a spectrum, not of category.

Edited by Rawls was Right
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Apes can utilize language on the same spectrum as humans can. The difference between the hermit crab and humans that utilize metallurgy etc. is one of positions on a spectrum, not of category.

Not really. This reference might be of interest to you:

Rivas, E. 2005. Recent use of signs by chimpanzees in interactions with humans. J Comp Psych 119: 404-417.

This researcher finds that the chimpanzees trained and filmed by the research team founded by the Gardners (advocates for the ability of their chimps to use language) are using the signs to get what they want, but do not have any semblance of syntax or semantics in the way they use their signs. Instead, the longer the string of signs they make, the more they use repetition of a sign or what Terrace et al. dubbed "wild-card signs" (from his studies with his own animal, Nim Chimpsky) such as their own name sign or that/there/you (which is pointing), which the humans almost always interpret as appropriate given any context of conversation and so hasten to get the chimp what it wants. In other words, it seems the chimps have excellently trained the humans to fulfill their wishes by using these gestures, but they are not using the signs as a language per se. There is no evidence they attribute any symbolic meaning to the signs beyond the behaviors they provoke in their human caretakers. Thus, Rivas concludes that the use of "language" by these chimps is not the same pattern shown by, say, human infants as they acquire language.

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Your first answer is HIGHLY subjective and your second makes no sense in the context of the question.

Introspection is no more subjective than extrospection. One can observe the actions of one's consciousness with the same objectivity as one can observe the action of the sun moving across the sky. In fact, without introspection, how would you tell the difference when you are doing one or the other? Unless you think reality is just a movie screen inside your eyeballs?

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. If this is how objectivism defines capacity for reason, then of course any living person must at some point have shown a capacity for reason. My concern now is that the types of things you listed that are characteristic of reason are learned behaviors. Animals, to varying degrees, are able to learn behaviors too. What is it that differentiates person from animal to an objectivist?

I'm not sure why you are arguing about an issue and philosophy that you apparently have little to no knowledge. Why don't you just pick up one of Rand's books so at least you can have a basis for your analysis. On what basis do you simply take what I (or anyone else) has said as being consistent with Objectivism?

If you want to know what Objectivism says on a subject, I'd suggest some original research: go to a library and read a book about it.

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