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Why do human babies have rights?

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Myrtok
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The reason we feel horrified by the sight of someone torturing or murdering a full developed fetus, an already born baby, a severily retarded person, an old man with severe dementia, or a gorilla, is because that emotion (horror) is the result of an idea: The idea that when you kill something which is close enough to a fully rational being, you are showing little respect for a fully rational being.

I think our sense of horror is not misleading in this regard. We should take it into consideration, not as a cognitive tool, but as a signal of a deeper cognitive process by means of which we understand what murder/torture/negligence really mean.

YES

If I abhor strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries, there is a great chance I will also abhor blueberries. Why? Beacuse I am very likely to be abhorring the concept of "berries".

But only blueberries deserve rights because we are blueberries and can understand both other blueberries saying "I am I think I chose" and also recognized malformed, young or old blueberries, being blueberries and not strawberries or other berries.

Edited by volco
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You are right, volco.

Only entities who can say the "I am. I think. I choose" have rights.

My proposal is to consider "courtesy rights" or "grights" to be extended to all entities that are pretty close (in time or degree) to say it, or who have said it in the past but are no longer able to.

My proposal is to extend the protection to all berries as a safety net to protect the rights of blueberries.

For more information, please refer to the thread "RIGHTS AND GRIGHTS" in the Ethic sub-forum.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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The essential question the OP asked as I see it hasn't been answered. Why is a baby a human, but a foetus is not a human? Both depend on others for their survival, and both exist because of parental choices, namely choosing unprotected sex produces a foetus and choosing not to abort produces a baby. So unless the woman was raped (i.e. no parental choice) how is it logical to treat a foetus and a baby differently in an Objectivist framework?

Baby is a human because baby can live as separated entity. During the birth process they are about hundred events happening which separate foetus from the mother's body

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Are siamese twins who share vital organs separate entities? Is each of them a person?

So, how the concept of "separate" entities work to make the case of rights?

In addition, When Ayn Rand said that the embryo/fetus is part of the body of the mother she was wrong.

It is fine to admit it without any hesitation.

She was not acquainted with all facts of biology (or astronomy, or physics, or history, for that matter). She was a philosopher, and a giant one. She dealt with the big questions.

Aristotle also made a lot of mistakes regarding facts of nature. Mistakes that later on seemed ridiculous, but that don't take him from his place of greatness.

The baby is before birth no more part of the mother's body than after birth.

Those anatomical and physiological changes are adaptations as any other adaptations we endure through life.

As a matter of fact, the mother also has anatomical and physiological changes during her pregnancy to adapt herself to the baby. Would it mean that the mother is "part" of the body of the fetus?

If the baby is part of the body of the mother, then the million of bacteria I have in my large bowel are also part of me.

The argument of "separateness" is a weak one when debating the ethics of abortion.

Again, try to solve the issue of siamese twins...

conjoinedtwins.jpg

Edited by Hotu Matua
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By the way, the argument of "clash of rights" seems also weak to me.

According to this argument, the mother has the right to have her womb free and empty, so she could get rid of a well-formed late-stage fetus, who is occupaying that space without her permission.

To ilustrate why this is a false case of a "clash of rights", let's examine this situation:

My old mother has a severe neurological condition that requires a lot of attention, time and money from my part. She has to occupy a room in my property, and represents a constant drain in my income. Since I have the right to the product of my mind and to my body and time, I can consider her a parasite and proceed accordingly: I can kill her.

How does this sound to you?

I know it horrifies you. That's your emotion. But what idea is there, behind the emotion?

The idea behind my horror is the following: If I kill my old mother, I am showing profound contempt for entities that were rational, will be rational, could be rational or are close to being rational. It also implies that I can easily despise the life of fully rational beings.

My rights end where the grights of others begin (see my thread of "Rights and Grigths" in the Ethics section of the Forum).

If I violate a gright, I am very likely to extend my violence to rational men and violate their rights.

Thus, abortion of a fully developed fetus on the grounds of violation of mother's rights does not seem defendable to me.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Why do human's have rights? Because of their rational capactiy? That is diffently one of the big reasons, but its not the whole story. Humans have rights because like every entity there is a proper actions they have to take if they are going to survive. The actions that the human entity takes is using its mind. Everything that human's need for survival they create with their mind. In order to survive a man must be able to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action by using his mind.

An adult human, a human infant, a mentally challanged human, siamese twins all survive in the same way, and thus they have rights. A fetus however survives differently, and that why it doesn't have rights. Also I think its possible to construct an entity that has rational capacity but does not necesarrly have rights. For example if vampires were real, I don't think they would have rights. Even though they would have exactly the same rational capacity as an adult human, they do not survive by using their rational capacity to create things they need to live. All they need for their survival is blood. Their survival resembles the survival needs of animals.

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For example if vampires were real, I don't think they would have rights. Even though they would have exactly the same rational capacity as an adult human, they do not survive by using their rational capacity to create things they need to live. All they need for their survival is blood. Their survival resembles the survival needs of animals.

Rights aren't about survival specifically as much as it is survival in a social setting. Humans are uniquely able to trade value for value, which enhances survival capacity. In fact, anything with a rational faculty is capable of trading value for value, which can only occur when you respect the rights of others with that same faculty and all their needs of survival. Although vampires are kind of an arbitrary example and entirely fictional, they still need to evaluate how to acquire blood. So, that survival method does not resemble animals, the method would still fundamentally be use of reason. Application of rights can vary though because, for example, a baby is not capable of evaluating contracts.

Edited by Eiuol
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An adult human, a human infant, a mentally challenged human, siamese twins all survive in the same way, and thus they have rights. A fetus however survives differently, and that why it doesn't have rights.

A baby does not survive by using his mind.

He survives by being cute enough to attract the attention of adults who will ensure he is kept fed, warm and safe. He survives by crying in the face of any potentially dangerous stimulus or sensation. He survives as many other baby mammals do: by keeping healthy automatisms and reflexes, like sucking.

So, you can't claim rights for babies on the grounds of their survival mechanism.

A severily mentally challenged man (one that is fully dependent on other for his food and health, for example) does not survive by using his mind: at least, not in the conceptual level as we do.

If they could survive by using their minds, they wouldn't need caregivers or legal representatives: they would be free to use their life projects, lifestyle, etc.

So, you can't claim rights for severily mentally challenged men on the grounds of their survival mechanism.

Regarding siamese twins, I brought the example to attack the argument of "separateness" or "separate entities", not the argument of rationality.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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To ilustrate why this is a false case of a "clash of rights", let's examine this situation:

My old mother has a severe neurological condition that requires a lot of attention, time and money from my part. She has to occupy a room in my property, and represents a constant drain in my income. Since I have the right to the product of my mind and to my body and time, I can consider her a parasite and proceed accordingly: I can kill her.

How does this sound to you?

It sounds to me like you got it wrong. You have no obligation to provide for her needs, but that is not the same as having the right to kill her, even if the end result may be the same. Thus, you could have her removed from your home if she refused to go willingly or was unable to go willingly, you could not pay any medical bills or pay for any of her food, but you could not take a club and bang her head until she is dead ( or some other such method of killing her ).

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"Rights" are what Mao MEANT when he said that "power comes out of the barrel of a gun". Babies have "rights" because adults say that they do, and they back that saying up with lethal force. You offend those baby rights at the risk of your life, just like if you offend the rights of adults. People without the means to make aggressors die/be maimed have no "rights", they only have whatever the aggressors choose to let them have.

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Again, try to solve the issue of siamese twins...

There is no issue. Siamese twins is one entity, however abnormal. In regard to fetus's "rights"-this is stolen concept. "A right is a moral principle defining a man's freedom to act in social context." Fetuses don't act. They even don't breath.

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Rights aren't about survival specifically as much as it is survival in a social setting. Humans are uniquely able to trade value for value, which enhances survival capacity. In fact, anything with a rational faculty is capable of trading value for value, which can only occur when you respect the rights of others with that same faculty and all their needs of survival. Although vampires are kind of an arbitrary example and entirely fictional, they still need to evaluate how to acquire blood. So, that survival method does not resemble animals, the method would still fundamentally be use of reason. Application of rights can vary though because, for example, a baby is not capable of evaluating contracts.

The vampire example is arbitrary, I agree. Since vampires are fictional, you can construct one that has rights. My intention was to show that it is possible to have an entity that has rational capacity but does not have rights. The full nature of the entity must be considered before it can be validated that it has rights. For example if you have an immortal vampire that the only thing that he needs is blood. Then the only thing that it is possible for him to value is blood. The concept of life is what makes the concept of value possible, and since the only alternative that this type of vampire has is to have blood or not to have blood, blood is the only thing he can value. Further depending on how he acquires blood, we would be able to decide if he has the right, aka freedom of action to earn blood.

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A baby does not survive by using his mind.

He survives by being cute enough to attract the attention of adults who will ensure he is kept fed, warm and safe. He survives by crying in the face of any potentially dangerous stimulus or sensation. He survives as many other baby mammals do: by keeping healthy automatisms and reflexes, like sucking.

So, you can't claim rights for babies on the grounds of their survival mechanism.

A severily mentally challenged man (one that is fully dependent on other for his food and health, for example) does not survive by using his mind: at least, not in the conceptual level as we do.

If they could survive by using their minds, they wouldn't need caregivers or legal representatives: they would be free to use their life projects, lifestyle, etc.

So, you can't claim rights for severily mentally challenged men on the grounds of their survival mechanism.

Regarding siamese twins, I brought the example to attack the argument of "separateness" or "separate entities", not the argument of rationality.

I think a baby survives like an adult human. Its usings its mind to learn ideas and integrate concepts. Though it can not perform the full actions of an adult human, this is only dew to lack of physical development, and idea integration. The baby is processing its first sensory data.

A mentally challenged person does not survive like an animal. He survives and lives similarly to a normal adult human, he just can not perform rational activity at the same level. However, I think that there are cases when the mental capacity of a person is so gone, and the way he lives becomes like an animal, or even a vegetable, that this person looses his rights. For example a brain dead person lives like a vegetable.

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I think a baby survives like an adult human. Its usings its mind to learn ideas and integrate concepts. Though it can not perform the full actions of an adult human, this is only dew to lack of physical development, and idea integration. The baby is processing its first sensory data.

I invite you to do this mental experiment:

Drop 50 babies in an inhabited island.

Be generous: leave them some matches, lanterns, bows and arrows, some bottles of purified water and a first-aid kit.

Leave them alone and come back one year later.

Tell me how many of them will be alive.

Do the same experiment with 50 people with severe dementia.

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It sounds to me like you got it wrong. You have no obligation to provide for her needs, but that is not the same as having the right to kill her, even if the end result may be the same. Thus, you could have her removed from your home if she refused to go willingly or was unable to go willingly, you could not pay any medical bills or pay for any of her food, but you could not take a club and bang her head until she is dead ( or some other such method of killing her ).

So if I take her to the desert to let her starve there, it is morally OK, while if I use a club to bang her head, it is morally wrong. Is that what you are suggesting?

I know you don't mean it.

Letting her without food and hitting her with a club are both ways to murder her. It would be the same for my old mother with dementia or with my baby.

Both are depend on me for their survival. They can't use their minds as tools for survival.

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I invite you to do this mental experiment:

Drop 50 babies in an inhabited island.

Be generous: leave them some matches, lanterns, bows and arrows, some bottles of purified water and a first-aid kit.

Leave them alone and come back one year later.

Tell me how many of them will be alive.

Do the same experiment with 50 people with severe dementia.

They will all die. Its likely that 50 adult humans might all die as well. There are normal adult humans that will die living in industrial society if someone doesn't tell them what to do. Put 50 full grown lions, or 50 grown cows on a desert island, and they will all die as well. Doesn't mean that they are not cows or lions. The point is that infants, though they can not survive on their own, like majority of any new born animal, still live like a human, they pursue values like a human.

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again, rights as you discuss them here, are nothing more than floating abstractions, without any identity in the real world. The real world "defines' rights as I said, the ability to FORCE others to repect some or other aspect that you INSIST that they respect. Babies and animals can't do this, so they have only such rights that an (adequately fearsome) group insists that they have. If the antiabortionists had 10x as many people, and they killed enough abortionists, there'd be very few abortions. That's why they do what they do. They are aware that only physical manifestations of ideas really matter in this world.

Edited by suryevor
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Human babies (as well as people with profound dementia) would have no chance to survive.

Human adults would have some good chance to survive. They would use their minds to feed themselves, build shelters, etc.

Please accept the point that babies do not survive by using their minds, and that their lives, while babies, is entirely dependent on adults and their own biological automatisms, just like any other baby mammal.

We have come to the point of deciding whether the whole theory of rights is based on the faculty of reason, or upon a human condition/feature other than the faculty or reason.

We could speculate that this "other feature" could be a human genome, a human appearance, or the presence of a human neocortex, whether it works properly or not.

To me, the whole theory of rights crumbles if we try to lay a foundation other than the faculty of reason. The faculty of reason (meaning, the actual capacity for conceptual thinking) is what keeps the theory of rights rooted in reality, in facts.

If this is true, and if it is true hat babies do not have an actual capacity for conceptual thinking, babies just don't have rights. We can't escape that conclusion.

If we don't go around killing babies, it is due to other reasons, and we should discover what those reasons are. Maybe my model of grights is rubbish. Maybe we have to develop a theory of stewardship rights. Maybe killing babies violates stewardship rights. I don't know. What I know is that current theory of rights is not compatible with the notion of rights for babies. I have heard no answer for any of the members of this forum, no single statement in any Objectivist book that explains, in logical way, why babies would have rights. All answers or statements appeal to reasons other than that explicitly stated by Ayn Rand while pronouncing her theory of rights, namely, the faculty of conceptual thinking.

The most frequent argument is that babies have rights because they are human. But what makes them human? There is no answer. If the answer is "because they will develop (eventually and hopefully) conceptual thinking" we are assigning rights to potentialities, not to actualities. And this asnwer would not apply to the person with a sever neuropsychiatric condition and no chance, according to current medical practice, to any future recovery of conceptual thinking. Furthermore, this answer clashes with our position on abortion, which stands on the fact that an embryo is a potential human being, not an actual one.

What makes them human, then? Genome? Neocortex? A mystical soul given by God? Physical appearance? Our feelings?

Any answer?

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Please accept the point that babies do not survive by using their minds, and that their lives, while babies, is entirely dependent on adults and their own biological automatisms, just like any other baby mammal.

A baby will and does use their mind as a means of survival in the long run, even though an adult often takes care of most of the issues *while* the baby is learning. Learning takes a long time, but the method used is still the mind, even if the capacity is extremely underdeveloped. That does not mean a lack of a rational faculty; read posts on the first page, which you seem to have skipped. A faculty of reason doesn't mean platonic perfection of reason, it means that you have a functional brain of conceptual consciousness. Only dead people or people in permanently vegetative states really ever lack that.

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So if I take her to the desert to let her starve there, it is morally OK, while if I use a club to bang her head, it is morally wrong. Is that what you are suggesting?

I know you don't mean it.

Who said anything about taking her to a desert???????? Not at all analogous to what I said.

Not being obliged to provide her food and lodging is NOT the same as taking her into a hostile environment and dropping her off. One is an act NOT TO HELP whereas the other is an act to deliberately cause harm. To put it in the words of Batman, "I'm not going to kill you, but I don't have to save you." You are right, I don't mean that because that is not the same as what I said.

The context under which you are obliged to take care of her is to the extent which she has represented a value to you and you have CHOSEN to assume the burden for her care because of that value. However, the biological connection alone of her being your mother IS NOT a condition which morally causes that obligation.

Letting her without food and hitting her with a club are both ways to murder her.

No, they are quite definitely not the same. One represents a lack an of obligation to help another while the other represents a deliberate injurious act. Do you feel personally responsible for taking care of every bum starving on the street that you see? If you don't feed them, they could die. You could be killing someone everyday. Only YOU can prevent forest fires.

It would be the same for my old mother with dementia or with my baby.

Not only "not", but "absolutely not". You did not make a deliberate choice to bring your mother into this world, whereas, you probably did make a deliberate choice to bring your baby into this world KNOWING the condition under which ALL babies are brought into the world, helpless and dependent. Your whole argument reeks of assuming an unchosen obligation and altruism. Lacking a more specific context of why you in particular owe your mother the care of which you speak, your position is the complete antithesis of Objectivist ethics.

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They will all die. Its likely that 50 adult humans might all die as well. There are normal adult humans that will die living in industrial society if someone doesn't tell them what to do. Put 50 full grown lions, or 50 grown cows on a desert island, and they will all die as well. Doesn't mean that they are not cows or lions. The point is that infants, though they can not survive on their own, like majority of any new born animal, still live like a human, they pursue values like a human.

I cannot see the point of this experiment. In pre-industrial society over 50% of the children died before age 5 and people with dementia didn't survive at all.

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Human babies (as well as people with profound dementia) would have no chance to survive.

Human adults would have some good chance to survive. They would use their minds to feed themselves, build shelters, etc.

Chance of survival has nothing to do with the entities identity. Like I illustrated a lion that has 0% chance to survive is still a lion.

What makes them human, then? Genome? Neocortex? A mystical soul given by God? Physical appearance? Our feelings?

Any answer?

I think Eiuol answered this question, read his post.

The same thing that makes a human a human, is what makes a baby a human. How do you know that a chair is a chair? It looks very similar to a table or a stool. But for some reason we still know it’s a chair. Because a chair has a lot of characteristics and some defining characteristics. Similarly a human has the same thing. The faculty of reason is one of the defining characteristics and is very imporant. However, you can have a human with faculty of reason that doesn't have rights, such as a criminal. A human with faculty of reason that survives through the initiation of force has no rights. Though faculty of reason is an important characteristic that gives human's rights, it is not the only one.

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Dear fellows:

I have read some few articles on how children make concepts, and I am coming to the conclusion that babies are always actively building a conceptual conciousness and that the first basic concepts appear between 6 to 9 months of age.

A very important flaw in my reasoning is that, while small babies do not have the faculty for conceptual thinking, this faculty does not just arrive overnight. There is no clear threshold in which we could say "NOW the baby has arrived to his first concept". Indeed, babies start a process as soon as they are born, by means of which they form the concept of "self" versus "non-self" and quickly advance into separating objects in groups, performing the very first acts of differentiation and integration.

In conclusion, born babies do have a faculty in the making, and therefore have rights. It is not just a mere potentiality.

The difference between a potential faculty and a faculty in the making is that in the former there is no evidence of a process taking place.

Babies are feeding day after day their "operating system" (if we were to use computers as a metaphor of the mind) which is "processing" information. Even if the "screen" is still "blank", the computer is ALREADY working and soon will start "opening windows".

If I use my comparison with the faculty to run, I would say that a toddler that is giving his first steps is quickly developing the faculty to run. There is a clear process in place that will inevitably lead to the expected result. It doesnt happen overnight.

The fetuses, as far as I know, are not still building a self vs. non-self concept since they do not recognize themselves as beings different from their mother (their "environment"). Therefore, as they are not actively building a faculty of reason, they are out of the scope of rights.

Most people with neurological damage or dementia are able to form concepts at some level. Their computer is not in the OFF mode, but just working very slowly and very bad. And it is very likely that they have also a basic "self recognition" faculty. As a consquence, they have rights.

I don't know whether apes have a conceptual capacity. Information I've found is ambiguous.

Finally, I still need to gain a better understanding of the concept of stewardship. While babies may have SOME conceptual capacity, it is obvious that that level of thinking doesn't help them much in terms of survival. They depend on adults. When adult's stewardship should stop? When is it no longer moral to take decisions on behalf of our children?

I therefore abandon the model of "grights".

I thank you a lot for your patience, insight and feedback.

I will keep on sharing thoughts with you on the bioethics realm

Edited by Hotu Matua
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